Last month at The New Yorker Festival, Patti Smith signed copies of the new Folio Society edition of Wuthering Heights. She wrote the introduction.
What a brilliant pairing, I thought! Smith, the iconic rocker and memoirist, and Emily Bronte, the most intense, poetic writer of the nineteenth century.
At the Folio Society blog, the editorial director, Tom Walker, writes, “I’m still not quite sure how we persuaded her to write an introduction to it, but I do know that …she had an unbelievable determination to craft and hone every line of her piece until she was ready to submit. And then craft and hone some more. My kind of writer.”
It is a story of doomed love: Heathcliff, an orphan, is raised with “saucy” Catherine Earnshaw, and they are like one person. After Catherine’s father dies, Heathcliff is “degraded” by her older brother, Hindley, and denied education, and Catherine ditches him for the refined Edgar Linton.
…heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth, and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights, where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other. I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s so handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”
Heathcliff’s sadistic degradation of the second generation, his own son, Catherine and Edgar’s daughter, Cathy, and Hindley’s son, Hareton, is gruesome. But there is a twist.
The Folio Society edition of Wuthering Heights is pricey at $69, though I would be interested in reading Smith’s introduction. Amazon is sold out of the book.
There are many, many editions of Wuthering Heights. I have a hardcover edition, published by Heritage Press in the early 1940s, with lithographs by Barnett Freedman. (The Heritage Press published affordable editions of classics published by the Limited Editions. Hurrah for the egalitarians!) I picked this up cheaply at a used bookstore.
Here is the first edition I read (Dell). It fell apart.
Then there’s the new Penguin:
Here’s the old Signet:
Which edition do you have?