In making war on theories I cannot hope to escape a countercharge of theorizing. Exception may be taken to my own suggestion as to the effect of Wuthering Heights on Charlotte Bronte’s genius. If anybody likes to fling it on the rubbish heap they may. I may have theorized a little too much in laying stress on the supernatural element in Wuthering Heights. It is because M. Dimnet has insisted too much on its brutality. I may have exaggerated Emily Bronte’s “mysticism”. It is because her “paganism” has been too much in evidence. It may be said that I have no more authority for my belief that Emily Bronte was in love with the Absolute than other people have for theirs, that Charlotte was in love with M. Heger.
Finally, much that I have said about Emily Bronte’s hitherto unpublished poems is pure theory. But it is theory, I think, that careful examination of the poems will make good. I may have here and there given as a “Gondal” poem what is not a “Gondal” poem at all. Still, I believe, it will be admitted that it is in the cycle of these poems, and not elsewhere, that we should look for the first germs of Wuthering Heights. The evidence only demonstrates in detail—what has never been seriously contested—that the genius of Emily Bronte found its sources in itself.
10th October, 1911.
The Three Brontes
It is impossible to write of the three Brontes and forget the place they lived in, the black-grey, naked village, bristling like a rampart on the clean edge of the moor; the street, dark and steep as a gully, climbing the hill to the Parsonage at the top; the small oblong house, naked and grey, hemmed in on two sides by the graveyard, its five windows flush with the wall, staring at the graveyard where the tombstones, grey and naked, are set so close that the grass hardly grows between. The church itself is a burying ground; its walls are tombstones, and its floor roofs the forgotten and the unforgotten dead.
A low wall and a few feet of barren garden divide the Parsonage from the graveyard, a few feet between the door of the house and the door in the wall where its dead were carried through. But a path leads beyond the graveyard to “a little and a lone green lane”, Emily Bronte’s lane that leads to the open moors.
It is the genius of the Brontes that made their place immortal; but it is the soul of the place that made their genius what it is. You cannot exaggerate its importance. They drank and were saturated with Haworth. When they left it they hungered and thirsted for it; they sickened till the hour of their return. They gave themselves to it with passion, and their works ring with the shock and interchange of two immortalities. Haworth is saturated with them. Their souls are henceforth no more to be disentangled from its soul than their bodies from its earth. All their poetry, their passion and their joy is there, in this place of their tragedy, visible, palpable, narrow as the grave and boundless.