Saturday, August 30, 2008

The wuthering wind in the willows

Newspapers today seem to be in a Wuthering Heights mood. To begin with, The Telegraph wonders how Wuthering Heights got its name.

Emily Brontë explained the origin of the word 'wuthering' in the novel itself: 'Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliffe's dwelling. "Wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed, in stormy weather.'
Wuthering means windy, then. But is there more to it?
According to Emily's biographer Winifred Gérin, the author based Heathcliffe's dwelling on a local Elizabethan farmhouse, Top Withins. This must surely have been a crucial influence on the name of house and novel, 'Top' suggesting 'Heights' and 'Withins' suggesting 'Wuthering'.
'Withins' is in fact a Yorkshire word for 'willows' (it seems that Emily was inspired by nothing less than the wind in the willows), and even today the proper exclamation to make when seeing a particularly well-pollarded group of willows in the Haworth area is 'Top withins!' (Gary Dexter)
It's not quite as simple as that, to be honest. Gérin didn't exactly say that Wuthering Heights was based on Top Withins, rather that the location she might have had in mind was similar to that of Top Withins. The architecture of both houses has nothing in common.

The the Guardian picks the top ten of 'unconsummated passions'. And the winners are...
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Why are Heathcliff and Cathy among the most vividly remembered pairs in all of fiction? Because they never consummate their love. Kindred spirits they may be, but Cathy marries the genteel and drippy Edgar Linton, just to torment Heathcliff. However, the two would-be lovers do seem to get it together after death, as ghosts.
The Independent (Ireland) reviews A Dance in Time by Orna Ross. The reviewer finds similarities with Wuthering Heights:
Ultimately, the novel is cynical about humanity. It's Wuthering Heights without Heathcliff's come-hither. Cruelty defines most of the male characters, and the whiff of child abuse is pervasive. (Mary Shine Thompson)
And a lot of newspapers and news sites, such as the Miami Herald, relay the news of the death of stuntwoman Hazel Warp. While she is better known for tumbling down the stairs as Scarlett O'Hara, she also featured in Wuthering Heights 1939.

The Times offers advice on possible filming locations for future Brontë screen adaptations: Staffordshire, where The Duchess is set, is found promising.
We explore the village [Longnor] with Sam Kidd and professional guide Cathryn Walton. Up this alley, down that one, across another... all so rugged and tightly packed and dark-stoned that the village would be perfect for a Brontë television adaptation. Paths lead nowhere in particular, except to glorious views dotted with sheep and ramblers. (Stephen McClarence)
The St Petersburg Times explores the new TV season in the United States. When trying to decide whether America's Next Top Model is worth it they come up with the following 'anecdote':
... another is a literature major from Harvard who couldn't answer questions about Jane Eyre. (Eric Deggans)
They obviously decide against watching it.

And there is just one blog today but really worth your time: Creative Writing Ideas posts at length about Jane Eyre and Illness.

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