The Best Writing of the Week – Wuthering Heights

Sometimes you come across passages that remind you again of what good writing is.

I just started the classic Wuthering Heights last night (yes, you need to read the classics) and was taken aback by a passage not just because of the quality of the prose but also by the tone.

It was like the description of a house in a horror novel.

Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling, ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there, at all times, indeed; one may guess the power of the north wind, blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few, stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving the alms of the sun.

Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights, page 2

That’s just two sentences. And that second one, now that I’m re-reading this, is pure gothic dread.

I am a bit surprised by the tone at the start of the book, as I was expecting a sort of sappy victorian romance. What I found instead is rather a book full of tropes usually associated with horror; a narrator in a new place which is described as intimidating, he clearly feels unwelcome and there is an incident of danger; an attack by a pack of dogs.

I mean, just re-read the second part of the second sentence again.

“…the excessive slant of a few, stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving the alms of the sun.” 

Wow.

Have you read it? What am I in for?