Charlotte Brontë's 1850 Preface to Wuthering Heights


After Emily Brontë’s death in 1848, her sister Charlotte Brontë issued this 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey containing her Preface to the former novel. Also included was a biographical notice of Emily and Anne.  

Its significance lies in the fact that this is the first official, public confirmation of the authors’ true gender. After the first publication of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey under the male pen names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, respectively, critics and the public at large debated whether each novel was written by a man or woman, single or multiple authors. In addition, the Biographical Notice provides the background to their route to publication and acknowledges the prejudices facing women writers.

Throughout the Preface, however, Charlotte veers between praising Emily's novel and cautiously approaching its controversial elements such as Heathcliff's violent character, writing:

Whether it is right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliff, I do not know: I scarcely think it is.

Yet in her descriptions of the novel Charlotte, drawing on metaphors from nature, does capture its strange, unique wildness: it is a novel 'hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, out of homely materials’, 'moorish, and wild, and knotty as a root of heath’.

Full title:
Wuthering Heights; and Agnes Grey / by Ellis and Acton Bell.
1850, London
Emily Brontë, Charlotte Brontë
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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