Wuthering Heights: Notes

A note on the dialect: Although confusing at first glance, Joseph’s speeches, and most of the phonetic Yorkshire dialect in Wuthering Heights, can be understood if sounded out. Readers may also wish to consult the following publications by K. M. Petyt: Emily Brontë and the Haworth Dialect, available from the Yorkshire Dialect Society, 1970, http://www.leeds.ac.uk/english/activities/publications/yds.html or “The Dialect Speech in Wuthering Heights,” Appendix VII to Wuthering Heights, ed. Hilda Marsden and Ian Jack (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 500–513. A good general introduction to Yorkshire speak may be found online at http://www.yorksj.ac.uk/dialect/.

Chapter One

  1. I “never told my love”: Twelfth Night, 2.4.122. Lockwood is essentially exaggerating and making light of his own romantic feelings.
  2. The herd of possessed swine: Refers to the story of Legion in Luke 8.27–34, who is possessed by a herd of devils. It doubles as an allusion to the story of Circe, who transformed Odysseus and his men into swine in Homer’s Odyssey.

Chapter Two

  1. N.B.: Nota bene is Latin for “Note well.”
  2. the Black Art: Necromancy is the art of conjuring spirits from the dead in order to magically reveal or influence the future.
  3. smacked of King Lear: The allusion to the Shakespearean hero refers to Lear’s wrath: “I will do such things— / What they are, yet I know not, but they shall be / The terrors of the earth.” King Lear 2.4.280–83.

Chapter Three

  1. scroop: The back cover of a book.
  2. ‘owd Nick’: The devil.
  3. Seventy Times Seven: Matthew 18:21–22, in which Christ speaks about forgiveness.
  4. that the place which knows him: Job 7:10.
  5. Thou art the man!: 2 Samuel 12:7.
  6. employing an epithet as harmless as duck . . . : Refers to the convention of leaving portions of epithets blank, d——n.

Chapter Four

  1. indigenae: Native[s] of the country.
  2. It’s a cuckoo’s, sir: Refers to the cuckoo’s practice of laying its eggs in other birds’ nests. This is Nelly’s way of saying that Heathcliff is an interloper, encroaching on the lives of the Earnshaws.
  3. the three kingdoms: The kingdoms of Great Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales.
  4. flighted to death: Frightened to death.

Chapter Five

  1. self-righteous Pharisee: See Matthew 23 for a description of Pharisees as hypocritical and self-important.
  2. A wild, wicked slip she was: Wicked, meaning quick, or lively.

Chapter Six

  1. but I knew nothing . . . portended: In the nineteenth century, consumption was the name used for tuberculosis, the disease that eventually claimed the life of Emily Brontë as it had earlier killed her sisters Maria and Elizabeth, and later, her brother Branwell and sister Anne.
  2. basement: In this case, the raised stonework around a foundation.
  3. out-and-outer: A total scoundrel.
  4. a little Lascar: Of East India origin. Although Heathcliff’s racial makeup is left vague, he is called at various times a gypsy and “a regular black” by Nelly. During the period in which the book is set, and during Brontë’s lifetime, the rise of English imperialism and colonialism influenced racial prejudices against darker complexioned peoples.

Chapter Seven

  1. Christmas-box: On December 26, Boxing Day in England, it was the tradition for employers to present their servants with small gifts of money.
  2. “devil’s psalmody”: Hymns to the devil.

Chapter Eight

  1. such a rush of a lass: Slender as a reed, a “wisp of a girl.”
  2. marred child: Spoiled.

Chapter Nine

  1. It was far in the night . . . mools heard that: Sir Walter Scott, a beloved poet of Emily Brontë, used the lines of this old ballad in a note to his famous poem, “The Lady of the Lake.”
  2. the fate of Milo: A Greek athlete and soldier (sixth century B.C.) who tried to show his strength by tearing a tree in half. His hands were trapped inside and he was eaten by wolves.
  3. Noah and Lot: According to biblical Scripture, God saved the lives of these men, instructing Noah to build the famous ark that saved him from the flood and telling Lot to flee from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  4. The Jonah: According to the Book of Jonah, Jonah tried to disobey God’s command and fled to hide on a sailing ship. God sent a massive storm, which the sailors on the ship rightly assumed was Jonah’s fault. They cast him out into the waters, where he then famously met the whale that swallowed him. Here, Nelly refers to the bad luck Jonah brought upon his shipmates.

Chapter Ten

  1. sizar’s place: To earn a sizar’s place in England meant that one had passed a special exam and was basically exempt from paying college tuition and fees. Lockwood wonders whether Heathcliff got an extravagant education in Europe, was a charity student closer to home, whether he was a highway robber in England or fought in the American Revolution.

Chapter Twelve

  1. pigeons’ feathers in the pillows: As the Yorkshire superstition goes, a person cannot die if they are lying on pigeon’s feathers. Cathy’s description of the various feathers recalls Ophelia’s famous mad speech in Hamlet when she describes the flowers: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.” (Hamlet 4.5.188–224.)
  2. elf-bolts: These are stone arrowheads. According to superstition, fairies shot “elf-bolts” at cattle.

Chapter Fourteen

  1. labour of Hercules: Hera, wife of Zeus, commanded King Eurystheus of Mycenae to order Hercules to perform twelve impossible labors, including fetching Cerberus, the three-headed hound guarding the gates of Hades. Hercules defied all expectations and successfully completed each task.
  2. dree: Sad.

Chapter Seventeen

  1. ‘so as by fire’: 1 Corinthians 3:15.
  2. basilisk: If looks could kill . . . This snake was said to have the power to kill victims with a single look.
  3. an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth: Exodus 21:24.
  4. buried at the cross-roads: Until 1823, those who had committed suicide were customarily buried at the crossroads.

Chapter Eighteen

  1. Galloway: This small yet strong breed of horse is bred in the Scottish district of the same name.
  2. near: Meaning cheap, miserly, tight with his money.

Chapter Twenty-one

  1. moor-game: Red grouse.
  2. nab of heath: A summit; an abrupt ending to a range of uplands.

Chapter Twenty-two

  1. starved and sackless: Feeble.
  2. a canty dame: Lively.
  3. Slough of Despond: This reference is taken from John Bunyan’s seventeenth century puritanical tale The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Slough of Despond is a mud pit meant to symbolize drowning in discouragement and melancholy. It is one of the first obstacles that the hero pilgrim, Christian, must overcome in order to reach the Celestial City.

Chapter Twenty-seven

  1. among the ling: Heather.
  2. cockatrice: A poisonous snake, much like a basilisk.

Chapter Twenty-nine

  1. catgut: String made from sheeps’ intestines and used to string musical instruments.

Chapter Thirty

  1. “thrang”: Busy.
  2. train-oil: Oil from whales or seals used for cleaning guns.

Chapter Thirty-one

  1. Chevy Chase: This ancient Scottish ballad predates 1550 and was written to commemorate the battle of Chevy Chase, also called Otterbourne, in 1388, won by James, the second Earl of Douglas, against the English. The ballad is collected in Bishop Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, an anthology of folk ballads published in 1765.

Chapter Thirty-two

  1. devastate the moors: Meaning, to go hunting for game birds.
  2. jocks: jugs.

Chapter Thirty-three

  1. levers and mattocks: Tools of sustained demolition, used for wrenching, prying, and digging out.

Chapter Thirty-four

  1. Titan: According to Greek mythology, the race of Titans was the ancient race that came before the gods.


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