Wuthering Heights

In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Emily Bronte (1818-1848) and her only novel, published in 1847 under the name ‘Ellis Bell’ just a year before her death. It is the story of Heathcliff, a foundling from Liverpool brought up in the Earnshaw family at the remote Wuthering Heights, high on the moors, who becomes close to the young Cathy Earnshaw but hears her say she can never marry him. He disappears and she marries his rival, Edgar Linton, of Thrushcross Grange even though she feels inextricably linked with Heathcliff, exclaiming to her maid ‘I am Heathcliff!’ On his return, Heathcliff steadily works through his revenge on all who he believes wronged him, and their relations. When Cathy dies, Heathcliff longs to be united with her in the grave. The raw passions and cruelty of the story unsettled Emily’s sister Charlotte Bronte, whose novel Jane Eyre had been published shortly before, and who took pains to explain its roughness, jealousy and violence when introducing it to early readers. Over time, with its energy, imagination and scope, Wuthering Heights became celebrated as one of the great novels in English.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Karen O'Brien 16 episodes
    Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford
  • John Bowen 6 episodes
    Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of York
  • Alexandra Lewis 2 episodes
    Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Aberdeen

Reading list

  • Oxford Companion to the Brontes
    Christine Alexander and Margaret Smith (Oxford University Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Brontes
    Juliet Barker (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994) Google Books →
  • Acts of Memory: The Victorians and Beyond
    Ryan Barnett and Serena Trowbridge (eds.) (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination
    Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (Yale University Press, 2000) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to the Brontes
    Heather Glen (Cambridge University Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • The Classic: Literary Images of Permanence and Change
    Frank Kermode (Harvard University Press, 1975) Google Books →
  • The Bronte Myth
    Lucasta Miller (Vintage, 2002) Google Books →
  • Cambridge Companion to English Novelists
    Adrian Poole (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Brontes in Context
    Marianne Thormahlen (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2012) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b095ptt5

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b095ptt5

Auto-category: 823.8 (English fiction - 1837-1900)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, published in 1847 when she was 29, is widely seen as one of the great English novels, to some the very greatest.