Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday, March 03, 2006 10:33 am by M. in , ,    14 comments
Los Angeles Times publishes an article about good bad books. The author, Stephen Bayley, explains his views about such books that "you could be amused or excited by what the intellect despises". Reading this interesting article is worthwhile. The Brontë reference that brings it to this blog appears at the end:
Alberto Manguel, Jorge Luis Borges' amanuensis, explained how the writer used to treasure terrible lines from literature. One was a character in John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi" who says, "We are merely the stars' tennis balls." Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights" contains this shocker: "I had no desire to aggravate his impatience, previous to inspecting his penetralium." (The quote is from Chapter 1)

Well, even Emily has her bad days...

Note: Penetralia: 1. The innermost parts of a building, especially the sanctuary of a temple. 2. The most private or secret parts; recesses: the penetralia of the soul.

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  1. Yes, true, the MISquote is from Chapter 1....but it's 'penetrate THE penitralium' NOT 'his'.

    By such cheap methods do authors aggrandise themselves and poke fun at extracts more innocent than they would have us believe.


  2. Yep, it's true... it's a THE. I'm sure Borges is laughing out loud wherever he is.


  3. The interesting thing here is that Bronte's may be one of only two uses in English of the word "penetralium." The only other I know is from John Keats, in his Negative Capability letter. I've blogged about Keats' use here.

    I'd love to hear what you know about "penetralium" and what it means (it has no direct antecedent; as far as I can tell in Latin only the singular "penetralia" was used). Keats and Bronte used the word in very different, but perhaps parallel, senses. Thoughts?

  4. I am so interested in Emily's use of the word penetralium, that I've become almost obsessed. It turns out that penetralium is an integral part of the holy grail of online searches...the Google 1 result! Wow!!! If you Google retromingent penetralium, you only get one result. I did it! I did it! I did it! Thanks only to Emily and her captivating word choice. Time wasters may stand down!

    1. Cristina La Spina12/31/2016 11:16:00 am

      Wuthering Heights is both a Gothic and realistic novel. The use of a Latin word such as "penetralium" is an example of language used to create an atmosphere of mystery, describing the place as nearly sacred. The narrator gives a vivid picture of the entrance: "I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date '1500,' and the name 'Hareton Earnshaw.' This description could suit a Gothic church or cathedral and the date, 1500, confirms the time of late Gothic art.

  5. she has to be talking about the house but she just got there?

  6. You misguided lot wat she mean is dat lockwood didnt want to aggravate heathcliff before inspecting the inner part of the house
    Its perfectly correct english for the public

  7. It is to do with the narrator. The narrator Lockwood is a pompous and irritation narrator and therefore uses a word that is hardly used anywhere, is not necessary, and perhaps is not even used correctly. Bronte is making fun of him and we are supposed to be clever enough to realise that.

  8. "Bronte is making fun of him and we are supposed to be clever enough to realise that."

    And we know that Bronte is mocking Lockwood with absolute certainty because...?

  9. I agree that Bronte is mocking him and that he's meant to be a rather clownish character, like Austen's Mr.Collins. The text gives us clues to this by his contrariness. Inwardly, he claims to consider himself quite the "recluse" yet the first thing he does upon taking possession of Thrushcross Grange is call on the neighbors and endeavor to befriend them. And despite his cool reception, the dearth of decorum in which every person present makes no attempt to put him at ease or even attempt polite conversation, and upon his leave-taking he mentions returning on the morrow, and Heathcliff specifically "evidently wished no repetition of my intrusion. I shall go, notwithstanding." He's an idiot. It's quite likely she worded it thus, to assert his general foolishness.

  10. I don't think Lockwood is a fool but he is an outsider, conscious of coming from a more genteel and polite world. He believes himself superior in manners and education to everyone he meets in this rural wilderness, though its directness and brutality confuse and intrigue him.

    Apparently 'penetralium' was a back-formation from the more usual - in high-falutin' circles - word 'penetralia', innermost part of a building. People who knew a little, but not a lot, of Latin assumed 'penetralia' was a neuter plural with a singular form ending in '-um': it wasn't. But whether Bronte was making a very subtle point about Lockwood being less educated than he thinks he is, or just mistaken herself, is a trickier question.

  11. I agree more with slam2011's comments than with others'. Emily B. seemed to inject a measure of ambiguity here. (BTW: I hope my beloved English professor, an expert in Victorian literature, at the Univ. of Kentucky, with whom I studied the Bronte sisters more than 20 years ago, would not be disappointed by my shallow reply here.)

    Dienyih (Gilbert) Chen