Stoics and Romantics: A Review of Two Books

Anyone who likes to write must spend time reading because there is no writing without reading. Of the many books that I have taken up recently on the search for ideas or entertainment, two rise above the rest as thought-provoking and engrossing. (Footnote to self regarding the rejects: do not bother reading anything else by Harold Bloom.  One book by him is enough; he reworks the same stuff in the same manner, and his identity looms large: from childhood he has been unbearably brilliant, he is unable to write without the word “daemon,” and thinks Shakespeare is the greatest.)  My two favorites center the frame of my interests in Stoicism and Romantic literature: Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm and Romantic Lives by Daisy Hay.

To the Stoics among us, Seneca must be of interest, and the outlandish and horrible antics of the Roman emperors wonderfully described by Romm, through whose reigns Seneca managed to survive for many years, should captivate a historically-minded reader of any philosophical persuasion. The author writes in an engaging and fast-paced style, anticipating and addressing the questions that come to mind about the motivations and inner most thoughts of Seneca, a Stoic who had to reconcile his philosophy with the actions he took to survive and possibly to maintain some check on the cruelty of his one-time pupil, Nero. For anyone who remembers the PBS series of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius or who read the book, the joys of learning fact (or most likely fact) from fiction abound in this book.

Romantic Lives hits the most interesting biographical points of the lives of a number of Romantics — Hunt, Shelly, Mary Shelly, a little bit of Keats, Byron — and the parts of their lives that intersect. In some cases, Hay gives an equally or even more vivid picture of the personalities of her various subjects than biographers manage in hundreds of more pages on a single individual. Keats plays a small role in this book, so he needs his own biography, but Hunt, Byron, Shelley, and Mary Shelly are fully developed. Hay zeros right in on the details that reveal the most and interest the most. What I found as the special treat is her attention to the “ordinary” people (ordinary only to distinguish them from the literary greats) who existed within the orbit of Shelley and Byron. I had developed a particular curiosity about the post-Shelley existence of Claire Claremont, which the final pages of this book fully satisfied.

With a focus on the intersecting lives during a certain period of time, the author is not obliged to treat at much length or at all the childhood or forbears of any individual, but only those parts relevant to a rather limited period of especial interest.  Having read the several biographies of the personalities involved, there was some repetition, but more often Hay used common material to clarify the events, motivations, and relationships of the parties and to depict the iintense drama, of which there is no short supply, as well as a canonical 19th century novelist. Again, beyond basic biographical endeavor, Hay digests the difficulties of a situation of complexity and long duration into a perfectly insightful and (seemingly) accurate pithy assessment. For example, she sums up the Shelleys’ marital problems: “The tragedy of Shelley and Mary’s marriage lay in her inability to convey to him the depths of her emotional attachment, and in his failure to understand how much pain his actions caused her.”  Likewise, her voice is an added value when she steps back to assess the impact for better and for worse these individuals had on each other.

It is always a wonderful side effect if a book does more for the reader than the author meant to achieve or the reader had reason to expect. That statement assumes that Hay did not mean for us to evaluate the importance of sociability in our own lives. Such was my experience in the following way. A major premise of the book is the importance of a “co-operative sociability” to creative influence.  She definitely makes that point stick in the case of Percy Bysshe Shelley, although at times she concedes that it is in solitude and only through thinking about or corresponding with friends that he derives his inspiration.  The notion of the importance of friends to creativity struck me as worthy of consideration because I had been a proponent of the opposite, believing that genius leads to solitude and in that state the great writer sounds his or her imagination.  I had embraced that paradigm from the example of Emily Bronte, who, in her amazing self- resourcefulness, seemed to find within herself the inspiration for her novel and poetry.  However, even in her case, one could point out that she did have the creative camaraderie of her sister Anne, who was her partner in Gondal. Closer to home, the idea that connecting with others is an essential source of inspiration reminded me of my own isolation. I have no like-minded coterie to share literary or philosophical ideas. My mother was a literary compatriot, but by the time I got around to developing my interests, I had scant years before she could not even recollect who Walter Pater was. The two professors from literature classes to whom I made overtures ran for the hills — or would have, but saved themselves the trouble by just ignoring my emails.

My isolation brings me back to the first book on a beleaguered Stoic, as Stoicism again proves useful. I have no “co-operative sociability,” but the dispassionate mind can accept that reality because sociability has its drawbacks as well as its benefits, there is no changing the situation so liking it is better than lamenting it, and I share that situation with many others, past and present. Last, there are books such as these to offer the eternal, virtual cooperative sociability of reading.

Setting the Record Straight, Part II

Once again a sloppy statement full of inaccuracies offered as total fact about a Brontë.  This time the unjustifiable statements are tossed in the direction of Emily Brontë. “Emily Brontë herself remains a shadowy, enigmatic figure, who lived a life of almost complete seclusion in a Yorkshire parsonage wrote a few poems of mystical ecstasy or impassioned romantic loneliness, and died at the age of twenty-nine.” This was written by Elizabeth Drew, a purported scholar, who had published two successful literary guides, including the one I had perused, The Novel: A modern Guide to Fifteen English Masterpieces.  In case we might defend her as a specialist only on novels, the cover of that book crows that she is also the author of a “successful” guide to poetry. This book hales from the 1960s, but that is no excuse: Emily’s poetry was available in the 1960s. This author either did not read Emily’s poetry at all or came across a few selections in some edition that she flitted through with little understanding.

How is she wrong? Let me count the ways.  The word “few” is vague, purposefully no doubt because the author did not check how numerous Brontë’s poems are, but under any understanding of the word, it is grossly inaccurate. Emily Brontë wrote poetry her entire life — before during and after writing Wuthering Heights.  She was foremost a poet, both in her view of herself and in her literary output.   In my book, The Poetic World of Emily Brontë, I selected eighty-six poems to discuss and had to leave many, many poems behind.  Next, Drew reduces the topical scope of Brontë’s work to two topics, suggesting Brontë dabbled a little to indulge her own mystical feelings and romantic loneliness. Brontë wrote poems on a variety of topics; I found it possible in my book to name eight topical categories and within those topics arrange poems that treat the subject from various perspectives, giving thematic statements on all sides of a topic. Brontë’s negative capability (the ability to be outside of herself and in myriad minds) is a hallmark of her oeuvre. Further, in terms of diversity, her poems take a variety of forms: dramatic monologues, dialogues, lyrical poems, long narrative poems.  The “mystical” feelings could be found in a few poems, but the term “mystical” bears scrutiny. Just because Brontë developed her own belief system, is she “mystical?”  Brontë’s beliefs and the power of her imagination, blended with her genius-inspired self-sufficiency underlie those poems on spirituality, which should not be reduced to the facile label of “mystical.” Worse yet, is the statement that her poems expressed romantic loneliness.  If Drew had used a capital “R” we might think she was making a somewhat valid connection to a literary period.  As written, she implies that Emily Brontë wanted a boyfriend.  Brontë wrote a precise number of poems in which love figures at all as a central topic.  They are Gondal poems, not lyrical poems in the author’s own voice, and they cover all stages in the course of a relationship, including betrayal, break-up, and separation from various causes. “Few” (and now this word serves correctly) could be interpreted as presenting romance and none would I describe as treating “romantic loneliness” even on the part of a character in the poem, much less her own.

As for the trifles standing in for biographical information – Brontë’s secluded lifestyle and enigmatic nature — they are true enough, but given that they are only two, are they the most meaningful? At least throw in a few more: a literary genius, she had little formal education, learning at home from her father and through her own reading: she was an accomplished pianist; she was artistic; she loved animals and nature; she reveled in the power of her own imagination; she was obsessed with death.  The enigma idea comes from a lack of traditional biographical information: letters, anecdotes of others, acquaintances. Although she did not socialize, have school chums, a job outside her home, or correspond, she is more knowable than has been generally assumed possible. The best source to become acquainted with her personality and thoughts (the incidents of what she did and where she went being the least of her life) is her literary work. Her poetry opens a window to her mind, as I insist in my book.  It is a continuing mystery to me why people, such as Drew, can be so little bothered to do Brontë the justice and themselves the pleasure of reading it.

Emily Bronte, the Poet

The Poetic World of Emily Brontë, published by Sussex Academic Press, is out and available on Amazon. Who might enjoy this book? Anyone who has read Wuthering Heights, has an interest in the Brontës, or 19th Century poetry, or likes poetry, biography, or discussions of literature. Unlike any other collection of Brontë’s poetry, this book arranges selected poems by thematic topic: nature, mutability, love, death, captivity and freedom, hope and despair, imagination, and spirituality. It gives a biographical and literary context for Brontë’s poetry and interpretations or explanations after each poem, with many references to Wuthering Heights.

Book on the Poetry, Life, and Novel of Emily Bronte

The Poetic World of Emily Brontë

Poems from the Author of Wuthering Heights

Laura Inman
Emily Brontë is known as a novelist, but she was first and equally a poet. Before during and after writing Wuthering Heights, she wrote poetry. Indeed, she wrote virtually nothing else for us to read – no other work of fiction or correspondence. Her poems, however, fill this void. They are varied, lyrical, intriguing, and innovative, yet they are not well known. The Poetic World of Emily Brontë brings an unjustifiably marginalized poet out of the shadows and presents her poetry in a way that enables readers, even those who shy away from poetry, to appreciate her work.

Unlike any other collection of Brontë’s poetry, this volume arranges selected poems by thematic topic: nature, mutability, love, death, captivity and freedom, hope and despair, imagination, and spirituality. It provides literary and biographical information on each topic and interpretations, explanations, and insights into each poem. Fans of Wuthering Heights wanting more from Emily Brontë will discover that her poetry is as memorable and powerful as her novel.





August 2014




200 pp. 216 x 138 mm


Laura Inman is an independent scholar who has long been fascinated by Emily Brontë and has written about Wuthering Heights and Brontë’s poetry in Brontë Studies and Victorians: Journal of Culture and Literature.  She is a freelance writer, whose essays and fiction appear in online magazines and blogs, including her own blog, Formerly she practiced law, holding a J.D. degree from The University of Texas Law School. She lives in Rye, New York.



In the united states, Direct phone orders: (312) 337 0747 In canada and asia, Direct phone orders: (312) 337 0747 In the UK & ROW, direct phone orders  +44 (0)1524-68765

The Self-sufficiency of Emily Brontë

I would not make a case that Emily Brontë was an accidental Stoic, as I did for John Keats in the article “The Stoic Philosophy of John Keats,” that appears in this blog under “ Start Here.”  The expressions of philosophy in Keats’s life and poetry echo Seneca’s Stoic statements so precisely, it would seem that Keats had been influenced by him, although he never read a word of any Roman Stoic and held his philosophical notions through his own invention. One can only feel that there must be arch-ideas in the human realm that great minds discover coincidentally and naturally. Emily Brontë wrote no letters, as Keats did, but her view-point on life, if not her philosophy of life, can be discerned from her poetry. That process of defining her character from the lines of her poems figures largely in my book The Poetic World of Emily Brontë, published by Sussex Academic Press, which will appear in August 2014. On the whole, Bronte does not fit even unevenly into the Stoic pattern.

However, there is one truly Stoic element to Brontë’s personality, which is of great interest not just because it is Stoic but because it explains an essential character trait: she was exceedingly and unusually self-sufficient.  As I have written before, the value of self-sufficiency of a personal and intellectual nature is one of the most modern and invigorating ideas Seneca propounds as a Stoic virtue. He exhorts his acolytes not only to read or listen to others, but to develop a philosophy, guiding principles, and a way of living for themselves, independent of what others have stated. “Don’t be led, create something of your own,” he suggested vehemently.  It is in this context that he reminds his readers that ideas belong to no one, so that in formulating one’s own scheme for living, any idea that is good is available for adoption.

Why was self-sufficiency of spirit such a formative and essential trait for Emily Brontë? Consider that she had almost no formal education, learning mostly from her father and on her own at her home. She had no encouragement in her writing: no mentors, no college associates, no editors, no apprenticeships, no validation from the outside world, literary or otherwise. She, herself, relying only on her own powers and inner resources wrote Wuthering Heights, a giant in the literary canon, and a large work of powerful, distinctive, and intriguing poetry. That epitomizes a kind of magnificent self-sufficiency.  Not surprisingly, that character trait of self-fostering cropped up in other areas, and those are more precisely of the kind Seneca had in mind. She developed her own religion in which she, through her imagination, answered her own prayers and reconciled herself with death.  More on how she accomplished that can be found in my book.

Emily Brontë, Another Stoic

I have been immersed in a world of immoderate emotion because for quite some time I have read, thought about, and written about poetry, Emily Brontë’s poetry. I am writing a book about her poetry called The Poetic World of Emily Brontë. Her poems lavish anguish, pain, suffering, sorrow, nostalgia, passion, and despair on the pages. The Stoic mind in confronting such feelings might struggle to remember that they do not have to hold sway over our lives. I wrote in an earlier post how Byron was the Anti-Stoic: suffering nostalgia; lamenting; and sighing—yet what beautiful lines. I would say the same for Emily Brontë, except it does not always seem that the emotions filling the pages are actually her own, but rather frequently those of some poetic character.

I have, it turns out, surfaced from her poetic world with Stoic principles intact, maybe because I have made great use of them during this project. When undertaking something that has been long in the works, such as this book, one might tend to become ecstatic and have certain hopes. First, ebullience is distracting, at best. Also, it will end one way or another and then one will feel like something was lost, when nothing was ever possessed. As for various hopeful scenarios, focusing on how others might react to my work represents the epitome of pointless thinking. Some may like it, others could not care less, some might wonder how the thing got published—who knows and really what difference could it make.  One might say—oh there might be money.  There will be no remuneration, but even if there were, my imagining it and hoping for it has no effect on whether it comes and can only set me up for a defeated sensation, even when there never was a battle. I wrote it for myself and, as for readers — few are enough, one is enough, none is enough.

My observation about poetry opposing Stoicism does not pertain, however, if a poem has as its theme an overt or tacit endorsement of the precepts of the philosophy, which does occur. I wrote an article, “The Stoic Philosophy of John Keats,” which appears on this blog under the “Start Here” heading.  Part of it identifies the Stoic statements in Keats’s poems; the rest reveals how Keats was coincidently a compatriot of Seneca in his approach to life and death.  I found it fascinating how two minds could arrive at the same point without the path of influence. Emily Brontë is not a candidate for that kind of scrutiny, but she does make some pointedly Stoic statements in a few poems, which not surprisingly, echo at times lines from Keats’s poems. In particular she observes that the trivial and treacherous in life defeat tranquility and that mirth beguiles because, “Every phase of earthly joy will always fade and always cloy.” As for joy, it is simply “the shortest path to pain.” Those are her ingredients for unhappiness; however, on the other hand, she endorses things that are worth pursuing for a tranquil life: learning, friendship, self-sufficiency, and a love of nature.  Emily Brontë was rather a Stoic after all, in her own way, despite imagining all those emotion-roiled characters in her poetry and in her novel.





The Mutability Poems of Emily Bronte
Poetry does not have to be sad; it can joyfully celebrate an occasion, express the transports of some kind of love, or simply make observations on life. Yet, when tragedy, personal or large-scale, or loss, sudden or inevitable, strikes, writing poetry gives vent to sorrow and reading it brings a measure of consolation. Poems addressing change and loss–otherwise referred to as “mutability”–fall under the literary term “elegy” and have a long and constant history, from Greek and Roman works, through the poetry of today. Elegies have also come to include more particularly a sustained lament in verse upon the loss of a certain person.
As for the second and narrower use of the term, Emily Brontë did not write an elegy to any one of the several family members and close acquaintances whose deaths she experienced. When she does mention the death of a particular individual, he or she frequently seems to be a fictional Gondal character (Gondal was a land that Emily and her sister Anne imagined and filled with characters about whom they created stories throughout their lives). The staging of the fictional setting is a vehicle allowing her to express feelings of loss without making the poem a direct memorial of her own. I find the Gondal framework largely irrelevant, because the emotion of the poet comes through whether or not names and setting have an imaginary origin.
Emily Brontë wrote a number of poems that deal thematically with mutability and that can be termed elegies in the first and broader sense. Love lost, childhood past, dreams and plans failed— various experiences and stages of life that were special and dear, but that are gone forever—appear in these poems. Bronte creates the mood of nostalgia through settings of autumn and mists and through diction, using words that look back in time, such as “long-forgotten,” “earlier days,” and “old feelings.” There is on the whole little consolation for the sadness brought by change, and the various poetic personae must struggle under the tyranny of happy memories.
In these poems, particularly, music and musical instruments play a notable part, and quite appropriately given the ability of a song to take a person back to another time and place. Also, Bronte would have included music in her poems because she was musical. There was a piano at the parsonage, and she was the most musical member of the household. When she went to study French with Charlotte in Brussels, staying there eight months, when she was twenty-three, she had the opportunity to take lessons from an accomplished musician and became a good pianist. The upright piano was in Mr. Brontë’s study. As a visitor to the Brontë Parsonage, you can stand at the threshold of his study, see the piano still tucked against the left wall, and imagine how the loud and soft must have resounded and floated through a house that had stone floors and no curtains or carpets.
Here are some of her poems in the category of elegy, first a short overview, then the poems themselves for the Hatfield edition.
“Harp of wild and dream-like strain” depicts two layers of nostalgia. One is for that time in the past when the speaker of the poem could play the harp without feeling any sadness. The other is for the era when he or she still had the “long-forgotten things” of which the absence produces a sorrow that darkens the summer sky. Memories are the culprit; the sounds of the harp are tinged with memories darken the daylight. To me, this poem, with the harp and the word “lays” for songs, evokes an image of the Middle Ages. A woman, in medieval sleeves and trailing hem, her fingers still curled above the strings of her Aeolian harp, falls into reverie, while, through the gothic window behind her, the sky moves into shades of grey. My Pre–Raphaelite vision serves as an illustration that the reaction to a poem is subjective and personal and that poetry can be very visual.
“For him who struck thy foreign string” is a monologue in which a female voice questions how she can still feel sadness at the memory of “him” when she thought she was long beyond caring. It is a Gondal poem, and the speaker is Augusta Geraldine Almeda, as indicated by the initials A.G.A. at the top of the poem. Beyond telling us that the speaker is a woman, the Gondal origin has little or no relevance to one’s appreciation of the poem and its imagistic expression of nostalgia. Apparently, an unnamed man from the past played the guitar; now years after she ended her relationship with him, she herself has strummed the guitar or heard someone else playing it, and “its magic tone,” associated with him, revives the past.
The use of the word “ween” in the first stanza is an archaism—the word means “think” and was not used in current speech even in Brontë’s time. Likewise, Brontë frequently writes “thy,” “thine,” and “thou” (although not in this poem), which she would not have used in speaking.
This poem contains two beautiful and apt images to express the feeling we all have had– it just seems like things should still be as they once were. In the first, “the parent orb” (the sun) should still be lighting up the glen. In the second, the willow tree that used to border a stream, even after many years of absence, should still be reflected in the glassy waters.
“Where were ye all? And where wert thou?” depicts how memories of a long lost person arise upon meeting someone who bears some similar trait, in this case, similar eyes. The speaker’s anxious words conjure the feelings of eagerness and pain that occur upon seeing some similarity to a person who is gone–the momentary comfort and the fast following sadness. As in many of the poems in this group, the past has a dreamlike quality.
This poem is identifiable as a Gondal poem by the letters A.G.A, which appear under the date; they are the initials of a Gondal character that is a mainstay of the saga, Augusta Geraldine Almeda. As noted before, that fact has little if any relevance to one’s reading of the poem.
“Mild the mist upon the hill” presents the idea that an aspect of the natural world, here a misty damp evening, can transport one back to an earlier time when such a misty day occurred in the happier days of childhood. So, music, a similar pair of eyes, and here a misty day can all conjure thoughts of the past. In this poem and the immediately preceding one, the thoughts of the past are described as having a dream-like quality; here the scent of the rain is “dreamy,” and in the first of these poems, the harp’s music has “dreamlike strains.” The past is also a dream in the immediately following poem. One also encounters a variation of the notion that the past is like a dream in a poem that I would place in the chapter on “Love and Friendship,” in which, looking ahead rather than back, the speaker projects, in some of my favorite Brontë lines, that she will become like a dream to her former lover: “Day by day some dreary token / Will forsake thy memory / Till at last all old links broken / I shall be a dream to thee.” A life inhabited by waking dreams reminds me of Keats’s lines: “Can death be sleep when life is but a dream, / And scenes of bliss pass as phantoms by?”
“It is too late to call thee now” differs in its expression of mutability from her more usual view in that there is a clear consolation at the end for the pain brought by change and loss: childhood and knowing how fortunate he or she was to have shared those early years with the person who is now gone. However, before the poem takes that conciliatory tone, the speaker decries remembrance because the ensuing pain outweighs the dream-like joy. In the second stanza, Brontë depicts the idea of the finality of change with the image of a bare mountain on which the morning sunshine no longer glows.
“The wind, I hear it sighing” begins by creating a somber feeling: the season is autumn, the leaves are withered, and even the wind makes a wistful sound. Sometimes wandering off in thought brings an escape and joy, but not in his poem. The thoughts of the past descend like vultures. To capture the idea of irrevocability, Bronte compares retrieving the past to the inability of an aged person to appear childlike again. This poem is particularly interesting in expressing the idea that memories are deadly, even happy memories. In the wonderfully symmetrical and alliterative lines in the penultimate stanza, the speaker declares that he or she would be willing to give up all of the happy memories to eliminate even half of the pain caused by the loss—here, it seems the loss of a beloved person. That sentiment stands quite contrary to the famous lines written years later by Alfred Lord Tennyson in In Memoriam: “I hold it true what’er befall / I feel it when I sorrow most / Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.”

Harp of wild and dream-like strain,
When I touch thy strings,
Why dost thou repeat again
Long-forgotten things?

Harp, in other earlier days,
I could sing to thee;
And not one of all my lays
Vexed my memory.

But now, if I awake a note
That gave me joy before,
Sounds of sorrow from thee float,
Changing evermore.

Yet, still steeped in memory’s dyes,
They come sailing on,
Darkening all my summer skies,
Shutting out my sun.

For him who struck thy foreign string,
I ween this heart hath ceased to care;
Then why dost thou such feelings bring
To my sad spirit, old guitar?

It is as if the warm sunlight
In some deep glen should lingering stay,
When clouds of tempest and of night
Had wrapt the parent orb away.

It is as if the glassy brook
Should image still its willows fair,
Though years ago the woodman’s stroke
Laid low in dust their gleaming hair.

Even so, guitar, thy magic tone
Has moved the tear and waked the sigh,
Has bid the ancient torrent flow
Although its very source is dry!

Where were ye all? And where wert thou?
I saw an eye that shone like thine;
But dark curls waved around his brow,
And his stern glance was strange to mine.

And yet a dreamlike comfort came
Into my heart and anxious eye;
And, trembling yet to hear his name,
I bent to listen watchfully.

His voice, though never heard before,
Still spoke to me of years gone by;
It seemed a vision to restore
That brought the hot tears to my eye.

Mild the mist upon the hill,
Telling not of storms to-morrow;
No; the day has wept its fill,
Spent its store of silent sorrow.

Oh, I’m gone back to the days of youth,
I am a child once more;
And ‘neath my father’s sheltering roof,
And near the old hall door,

I watch the cloudy evening fall,
After a day of rain:
Blue mists, sweet mists of summer pall
The horizon’s mountain-chain.

The damp stands in the long, green grass
As thick as morning’s tears;
And dreamy scents of fragrance pass
That breathe of other years.

It is too late to call thee now:
I will not nurse that dream again:
For every joy that lit my brow
Would bring its after-storm of pain.

Besides, the mist is half withdrawn;
The barren mountain-side lies bare;
And sunshine and awaking morn
Paint no more golden visions there.

Yet, ever in my grateful breast,
Thy darling shade shall cherished be;
For god alone doth know how blest
My early years have been in thee!

The wind, I hear it sighing
With Autumn’s saddest sound;
Withered leaves as thick are lying
As spring-flowers on the ground.

This dark night has won me
To wander far away;
Old feelings gather fast upon me
Like vultures round their prey.

Kind were they once, and cherished,
But cold and cheerless now;
I would their lingering shades had perished
When their light left my brow.

‘Tis like old age pretending
The softness of a child,
My altered, hardened spirit bending
To meet their fancies wild.

Yet could I with past pleasures
Past woe’s oblivion buy,
That by the death of my dearest treasures
My deadliest pains might die,

O then another daybreak
Might haply dawn above,
Another summer gild my cheek,
My soul, another love.

The Books, a short story

The Books

And now, retracing his steps, he evaded all mischance,

and Eurydice, regained, approached the upper air,

when he stopped, and forgetful, alas, on the edge of light,

his will conquered, he looked back, now, at his Eurydice.

In that instant, all his effort was wasted.  ‘Orpheus,’ she cried,

‘what madness has destroyed my wretched self, and you?

See, the cruel Fates recall me, Farewell, now: I am taken,

wrapped round by vast night, stretching out to you, alas, hands no longer yours.



The departure lounge at the Tucson Airport had changed very little over the last thirty years that Gwen had arrived at and departed from it.  All departure gates plotted a u-shape at the end of one concourse, after the gift shop, the Mexican restaurant, and the shoe shine alcove.

“Is this seat taken?” Gwen asked eyeing a single seat between a dispirited, worried-looking woman, her feet guarded by three bags pretending to be carry on size, and the column marking the end of that row of plastic seats. A barely audible “no” was the answer.

“We will start boarding flight 742 shortly, beginning with first class,” declared a distant microphoned female voice.

Gwen pulled the boarding pass half-way from her sweater pocket to confirm that she was part of  “group two” of coach and still had  a few minutes to delve into the book that she had been hauling along in her carry-on bag. Although it was the size of a dictionary, she had selected it to bring on the airplane from among the many books that she had sorted through to keep for her mother, leave for the estate sale, or appropriate for herself.  She had spent much of the last three days triaging books as part of moving her parents into their downsized apartment after fifty years in the family home: the scene of the lives of an English professor, with the inability to discard any relic of the past, including books; her two children, who had not only been avid readers but gone through the university and left their course books; and a school principal, who had read and shelved away his fair share of books, particularly those on American history.

When Gwen had walked through the kitchen doorway on her mission, a thick nostalgia filled her senses like a miasma from a swamp.  From the kitchen to the hallway, she quickly glanced to her right at the living room, a space of lonely beach at lowest tide, a few items of detritus left clinging after the movers had receded.  Down the still hallway, memory lurked like the intruder that she used to fear might be waiting in the shadows when she came home at night alone years before. To her right was the study, where a worn and sad carpet bereft of furniture could not hide its discolorations. Entering it was attending a euthanized pet at its last moments, when the world is only memories and relics. With all the strangeness of a nightmare, the room held no expectation except of quiet and loss.  Gwen felt herself the raider of a sepulcher, and gave herself brief minutes, as if the heavy stone would roll back to cover the opening.  The raid also had to be carried out surgically, since many books would have to stay behind, not because there would not be space as much as bringing them was futile, a postponement until a later and certain purge.

Gwen surveyed, flipped through, and reached a decision on books in all possible currents of life: books used for teaching, for learning, for pleasure; books purchased because the author was an acquaintance, colleague in the department or the field; books of poetry, fiction, women’s studies, gay studies, history; literary criticism; books in French and even a few in Arabic, including a decorative Koran from Cairo. There were the beautiful Romantics; the Victorians–early, late, and middle–with their lyrical verses, sprawling novels, and essays in elegant long-sentences; the Edwardians, and a few that snuck in from 20th Century, particularly if they were written by women; anthologies and editions; books bound in hardcover with decorative cardboard cases for display and old paper backs with yellowed pages that smelled like the stacks of the library; books studied, perused, underlined, hardly used, or beloved. Art books that Gwen remembered seeing as a little child spread on the kitchen table late at night as the backbone of a developing Humanities lecture and she had wondered out loud:  “Why are the private parts so small?  Why does the statue have such large hands?  Why are the women so fat?” Clustered under the Victorians were books showing in color plates the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, dreamy-eyed figures with short upper lips and abundant wavy hair–images that were scarcely contained by the edges of the canvass.  And then there reigned on the shelf her mother’s household god, the pole star of her mother’s career, the great Walter Pater. Gwen had snatched a set of his works to remain enshrined in her mother’s new bedroom bookcase, albeit destined to remain unopened for the years ahead.

The books were helplessly waiting on the shelf, subject to her draconian decimation. She knew them well; not all were old friends but there was not a new spine in the lines. The most recent she noted was the biography of John Keats that she had given to her mother about three years before; she had become disconcerted then saddened that her mother had not finished it, had simply forgotten about it.

She took a volume of the poetry of John Keats from the shelf and had to decide if this older version was worth saving, given that she owned a newer one. She saw her brother’s marginalia from an English class.  In faint pencil, in a seeming attempt to not permanently deface the pages, he had noted the date of the Eve of St. Agnes; he had jotted next to the third part of Ode to a Nightingale, “The only way to be happy is to be unthinking.” She paused, despite her haste to escape, at this kindred statement connecting a moment in an English class from the 1970s to this moment, when she could proclaim such a thought as near gospel.  Well, she thought, the wrong kind of thinking, yes, must be avoided, any thoughts dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. He had been the English major not her; he had been the one to write a poem or clever story, a screenplay or a memoir before and in between the bouts of alcoholic madness.  Her eye fell on the book’s neighbor, the Poetry of Swinburne. Swinburne was known to her by name and she had, even without personal knowledge of him, conceived a measure of respect for him, as for a relative she had heard talk of but had never met.  She flipped through to evaluate and found that her mother’s pencil had visited many pages in uniform and tidy cursive writing.  Gwen indulged a few moments of perusing the pages and stopped at one notation.  In the margin her mother had written “These 3 lines” next to a few lines in the middle of a long poem: “There is no help for these things; none to mend / And none to mar; not all our songs, O friend, / Will make death clear or make life durable.”  Gwen memorized them. As a teenager, at the time of the Iranian hostage crisis, she had begun memorizing poetry, thinking that if she was ever taken hostage it would be good to be able to recite poetry to herself.  She had never been taken hostage or even been trapped in an elevator or a car in a snowstorm, but it turned out such extraordinary circumstances were not a necessary prerequisite to needing poetry in her head. She put Swinburne in the pile to keep for herself.

Then from the shelf to the drawers, there were the fledging books:  eager manuscripts resting in slender boxes typed on onion skin paper, the product of meticulous editing and skilled striking of the keys of the Underwood typewriter marking the minutes into the deepest night when class preparation gave way to scholarship. How could they, of value to no one, be cast into oblivion?

“Any passengers who are platinum or gold or in the military, in uniform, please board at this time.”

This hefty tome of literary criticism that now filled her hands was not the only book she had selected to take for herself—many would be shipped or were set aside for her return trips that promised to be every other month. She had decided this book was worth taking on the airplane despite its size because she had read another work by the same  author, a sweeping survey of great literature that had brought to mind several authors scarcely known or forgotten whom she rediscovered with a passion.  She was hoping to find a reference to a writer who addressed her important questions or offered a kindred spirit. However, after a glance at the opening chapter, the table of contents and a few random pages, she found that this book was a prequel to the great work she had already read.  Of course she thought; the magnum opus is the product of   a lifetime of writing on the same subjects.  The grand finale would be nothing new as much as a compilation of various previous forays into scholarship, such as this hefty fellow. Now what to do with it? Glancing around she saw a trash can over her left shoulder, but the opening was a circle too small to accommodate the book. Putting it in the trash seemed inappropriate anyway, not to mention a gross infraction of recycling. After a moment’s reflection, she casually and surreptitiously let it slide down from her chair and rest on the ground between the chair and the column separating her row of seats from another.  She nearly looked up to see if she had been caught in the act. Then she realized that anyone would assume that she had dropped it unintentionally and might point that out to her.  After seconds, she was certain no one had noticed.

That left her with one book to read. She extracted a small paperback from her bag– her lesson book, her guide to living.  Just perusing certain lines refreshed her precepts: value the living moment because death can happen to anyone at any time; appreciate that adversity makes us who we are; know that things can always get worse and that there is scarcely a situation on which the dispassionate mind can gaze without some consolation if reason is brought to bear; there is no point in thinking pointlessly and reflecting on the past the past and anticipating the future, neither of which we can control, constitutes pointless thinking.  She reflected on the natural and common suffering of all humankind.

“We are now ready to board passengers in group one.”

Still time to find a few choice passages of Seneca and take in his direct, simple and profound observations. Like a book mark, resting between pages 50 and 51 of Essays and Letters of Seneca was another boarding pass from another trip to Tucson. She was not surprised that she had made sure to bring Seneca on that trip. December 6—the date of the trip made from Tucson with her parents.  Why could she not visualize their all three being at this very point, ready to board the airplane, probably through the same gate, at the same time?  Although that flight was a void, the three days preceding the departure was a montage of scenes as clear as those of a movie watched for the fourth time the night before. The scenes had all the horrible wrongness of a nightmare and they ran one into another in a frenzy. Relatives and acquaintances to contact, the  coroner to call, funeral arrangements, choosing a casket, packing her mother for the tip to Oklahoma, going out to dinner and trying for a few minutes to cheat pain. She wondered if any other event could rival funeral arrangements for the degree of logistical planning.  A wedding didn’t compare—for that, there were long stretches of time to prepare and no jumping up to busy one’s brain.  With death, activity was necessity– get things done, get worn out, and don’t stop to reflect or the surreal sadness will catch you.

She glanced up from Seneca and made a note to herself to remember how it felt to know something had happened but to have no clear memory of it at all as a window to understanding in some small degree what it must be like for her mother.  She had gone well beyond her impatience from the earlier days of her mother’s dementia in describing in surprised or frustrated tones to her some event that it would seem impossible to forget or some conversation that had just taken place.  She took it for granted now that most of what transpired would be forgotten. The culminating point of that trip was as vivid as the prequel: Dallas airport where they met up with her husband and fifteen-year old son.  What a relief she had felt to see them and to let her husband take over some responsibility and drive them all in the rented van to the rural wilds of Oklahoma for her brother’s funeral. Their rendezvous was easy and precise.  It would turn out that all of the events of the next two days would luckily be that way.  People would gather on time, from near and far, without the drama of a delay or impediment, under a vast western sky of grey, warming clouds and slivers of sun. Four months ago…not long, but long enough to dull the shock of sudden death and break down some of the old links—still recent enough to reflect on the sad beauties of a gathering of people so disposed to remember only the best and pour out a love for his sake that would have been denied him while he was living.

Time to board, but with her trusty Seneca placed on the top of the unzipped bag.

“The captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign.  Please make sure that all of your carry-on baggage is securely stowed in the overhead compartment or the seat in front of you.”              After a pause, the young male flight attendant continued: “We have found a book in the departure lounge.  If anyone has lost The Literary Canon please ring your attendant call button.”

Gwen felt a sharp surprise and a sudden twinge of guilt as if she had been caught in a wrongdoing, such that she almost, without thinking, reached for the button prepared to pretend to she had lost the discarded item.

The voice resumed in a jocular tone after a space of silence, “Okay, if not, it will stay in Tucson.”

Reason quelled her feelings, and the book with many other things stayed in Tucson.





Emily Bronte, The Person and the Poet


Emily Bronte and John Keats are my household gods, and one of my goals with this blog to promote their poetry; Keats needs it less than Bronte, however, who is not generally known as a poet, but as the author of  Wuthering Heights. Knowing something about Emily Brontë adds to the appreciation of her poetry because the person behind the words was an unusual, iconoclastic, enigmatic individual, and a literary genius. Further, as a general matter, it is important to get to know the poet to round out the poetry-reading experience, particularly when reading a body of work, rather than a few random poems. More than prose fiction, poetry is a personal matter that invites the reader to feel a rapport with the author, who can become a compatriot soul and sharer of sentiments. I relate to her biography, in large part, because she was a nonconformist, developed her own system of spiritual thought, experienced the era-transcending difficulties of an alcoholic in the family, and failed in her attempts to attract a publisher and gain popular acclaim.

As for the outward incidents of her life, Emily Bronte lived for twenty-nine years, from 1818 to 1848, which period saw the close of the Romantic era and included the early Victorian era. Her father, extremely intelligent, caring, and hardworking, was the minister of the Anglican Church in Haworth, having risen from the extreme poverty of his boyhood in Ireland to become an ordained minister and consequently an English gentleman—although, a poor one. Her mother died when Emily was three, leaving six children: Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. Her two oldest sisters died in 1825, at the ages of eleven and ten, after a disastrous stay at Cowan Bridge School, a boarding institution for the daughters of poor clergymen, which turned out to be a harsh, cold, and unhealthy place. Charlotte and Emily were also there at the time their sisters became ill, Emily, at five, being the youngest student on the premises. Tuberculosis caused the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth and eventually claimed Emily and Anne, who died within five months of each other. It also most likely caused or contributed to Branwell’s death, three months before Emily died, and Charlotte’s, in 1855. Mr. Brontë lived to the age of 84.

Except for a very few brief periods when Emily was away at school or at a boarding school attempting to teach, she was at the parsonage, her beloved home, situated at the edge of Haworth, England, and a stone’s throw across a crowded cemetery from her father’s church. The back door of the two-story brick parsonage opened onto the moors, vast, open rolling, brown earth, tufted with wild grass–a wilderness of hills, masses of boulders, and springs in green valleys bordered by trees, all of which Emily knew like a long-tenured game-keeper. Her home still stands today, maintained by the Brontë Society, with rooms of Brontë artifacts–a place well-worth the visit. Emily never married. None of the Brontë children did except Charlotte, but her marriage ended with her death after only nine months.

When the three sisters were in their twenties, the necessity of making a living preyed upon them. Once their father died, they would be without a home. There was no annuity or savings; Mr. Brontë, although frugal, had never had sufficient means to do more than survive. It might be difficult for the modern mind to imagine the solid and impenetrable lack of opportunity that surrounded the Victorian woman. Particularly for a “lady,” which Emily would have been considered since her father was a clergyman, there were no paths to pursue except marriage, living as a dependent on a family member, or teaching, whether as a governess or in a boarding school. These choices were grim for Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. None of the three seemed likely to marry. In fact, historically, there was a shortage of men in England at the time, and Haworth was not a social hotspot. Branwell, the son, was not going to support his sisters; his attempts at various careers ended in failure. Charlotte and Anne had tried to accept the fate of a governess, although with the utmost hatred; but Emily could not bear to be away from home, much less interact with strangers in the subservient role of governess. They would attempt at one point to operate their own school in the parsonage, but would not receive a single expression of interest. The Brontë sisters also were not suited to follow the path of women who immigrated, where in the comparative freedom and opportunity of Australia or America they could better make their own way, such as by owning a shop. One very slight opportunity existed for a few remarkable women–writing and publishing a novel. Poetry and theater were male bastions, but the novel was fairly new to the time, and women, such as Anne Radcliff, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen had successfully exploited the opportunity.

As the question of their financial future grew desperate, one surprising twist to the plot of their lives occurred. Their mother’s sister, who had lived at the parsonage since the time of Mrs. Brontë’s death, left, upon her death, a small sum to the three sisters. It was astonishing to all, and although the sum was not enough to live on for long, it did give them the funds to publish a volume of poetry in 1846, containing poems by Charlotte, Emily and Anne, using their pseudonyms for the first time: Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. One reviewer noted the beauty of Emily’s lyrical voice, and Charlotte and Anne acknowledged Emily as the most gifted poet among them. Despite the merit of Emily’s poems, the volume went unnoticed, selling only three copies. Poetry was the family hobby; Mr. Brontë had written and had published some poems, many of a religious nature, although he also would include a clever and thoughtful poem to a friend in a letter. Charlotte and Anne, as noted, had poems handy to contribute when Charlotte discovered Emily’s poems one day and promoted the idea of the volume containing the work of all three sisters. Branwell yearned to be a poet, but he met with no success in any of his endeavors, owing in large part to his addiction to alcohol and opium. His presence in the parsonage, frequently raving drunk and in debt, created great unhappiness and tension.

After the failure of the volume of poetry, the legacy left by their aunt also allowed them to attempt to become novelists and be free, at least for a while, of the dreaded prospect of serving as governesses. Every night after Mr. Brontë went to bed at nine o’clock, the three sisters gathered at the table in the parlor. With ink wells, nib-tipped pens, and reams of paper, which constituted a considerable expense, they wrote their lengthy novels by the firelight from the grate and the glow of candles. At the end of 1847, Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne’s Agnes Grey appeared in print together as a three-volume set. Emily and Anne, after numerous rejections by publishers, had paid a large sum of money to publish their novels, greatly diminishing their meager legacy. Charlotte’s first novel, The Professor, was not accepted for publication even at her own expense, and she had turned her attention to writing her second novel, Jane Eyre. It appeared even before her sisters’ novels because Charlotte’s publisher was far more reputable and productive than Emily and Anne’s. Jane Eyre was a great success, and the financial worries would have been allayed; however, one can wonder how much that mitigated for Emily the failure of Wuthering Heights, as unappreciated as her poetry had been. Her sisters, critics, and the public disliked and, apparently, failed to understand it. A year after its publication, Emily died and was laid to rest in Haworth Church under the stone slab that served as the family burial vault.

Those are the facts, in a condensed format. To arrive at any greater detail, biographers of Brontё must deduce and suppose from the bare incidents because there is an amazing lack of information about her. In an era notable for letter writers, she wrote only a couple of notes to her sister Anne and a few brief lines once to a friend of Charlotte. She did not keep a diary, and she had almost no acquaintances outside of her family. The few who had met her never knew her well because she kept to herself, and, of course, they would not have known at the time that she would be worth remembering. The source for much of the information about Emily comes from Charlotte, who wrote letters, knew and conversed with people, and even became a person of renown before her death. Yet, the more I have learned about Charlotte, the less I trust her view of Emily, and, upon further reflection, the unreliability of a sibling’s account should not be a surprise. Charlotte and Emily had very different natures, and there is reason to believe that they did not see eye to eye on many things, despite the fact that all three sisters were very close.

Looking to the unbiased outward incidents of her life and reflecting upon her writing, one gleans much about her formative experiences, intellect, frustrations, religious beliefs, sense of humor, preoccupations, joy, and sorrow. For a start, it would be in keeping with Emily Bronte’s philosophy to assume that her childhood experiences—the loss of her mother and her two sisters and the near isolation at the parsonage, almost entirely in the sole company of her family—had a tremendous impact on her personality because she depicted in Wuthering Heights and in her poems the everlasting imprint of childhood on a lifetime. From a twenty-first century perspective the importance of childhood might sound axiomatic; yet, consider that Emily Bronte lived a hundred years before Freud pronounced the request, “Tell me about your childhood.” In her time, the idea predominated that breeding, pedigree, lineage, and blood were, like for racehorses, the important factors in determining a person. Also current was the notion that a person’s outlook and actions could be determined by following Christian precepts. From the expression in her work of the importance of childhood, then, we can deduce not only that her childhood affected her, but can also see a recurring and salient aspect of Emily Brontë: she was a great forward thinker, as her insights and ideas, expressed in her literary work, were ahead of her time. She wrote a novel that must owe part of its negative reception to the fact that it was not appropriate to its time and place: the story has many scenes of domestic abuse, drunkenness, and violence, presents as its central figure an anti-hero, lacks didactic moral content, does not extol Christian virtue, and depicts a frank and unflattering portrayal of various forms of love. Regarding that last topic, the plot of the novel also lacks a traditional love story trajectory so popular with the Victorians.

In further exploring her thoughts, one can wonder if Brontë was distraught by the negative reception of her novel. The facts suggest that she was. Charlotte and Anne took up a second novel promptly at the lack of success of their first. After Charlotte’s first novel, The Professor, was not accepted for publication under any terms, she rather promptly wrote Jane Eyre, and Anne turned her attention from a flagging Agnes Grey to write The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. There is only speculation that Emily had made some sort of start on another novel at the time of her death, and it is likely that she had not. Perhaps she was more doggedly attached to her novel to give-up on it and write another; or she might have been disgusted with the experience of rejection. In any event, the “failure” did seem to affect her differently than it did her sisters. Failure as a novelist, however, did not keep her from writing poetry; even though her poems had never sold more than three volumes she continued writing poetry up to her illness, from which one easily concludes the importance of poetry to her life. In summation, the facts speak of a person who was deeply affected by her early years, who developed psychological and literary ideas ahead of her time, who was probably troubled or disgusted by the failure of her work, but who always found her consolation in her “slave, her comrade and her king,” her alter egos for imagination, and I think particularly imagination voiced in poetry.

Looking at her novel and her poetry for clues to her personality, we see from her novel that she must have had a sense of humor—satiric and dry, but nearly irrepressible at times, contrary to the view one might have of a shy, reclusive, spinster for life. To create the sermon of Jabes Branderham in Lockwood’s dream, she must have had a sharp satirical sense of humor, eager to poke fun at sermonizing ministers. Also, I have to imagine her chuckling to herself when she wrote the scene recounted in the letter of Isabella of her exasperating encounter with Joseph upon her arrival at Wuthering Heights in her newly acquired state of Mrs. Heathcliff. Likewise, when Joseph complains to Heathcliff about the loss of some shrubs and laments that he might actually have to think about “leaving the old place” Shakespearean comic relief comes to mind. Speaking of Joseph, we know also that Brontë had an uncanny ability to recreate the accents and speech of others and had to be an acute observer and listener. Also, she did not seem to be the sentimental type, as she depicts three instances of love as downright foolish–Edgar’s for Catherine, Isabella’s for Heathcliff, and Young Catherine’s for Linton. Even Hindley’s and Frances’s deep affection for each other as newlyweds is described as a bit silly. Heathcliff’s attachment to Catherine is explicable given his unloved and outcast situation, but his love only achieves tragic and great proportions once he is a mourner. Which brings me to another feature of her personality revealed by the novel–death must have occupied a large part of Bronte’s thoughts; how could it not, given that in her novel she has twelve characters die and creates the greatest mourner in literary history, who is driven to unearth and embrace a corpse even after eighteen years. She explored in the novel, like no novelist had done before and perhaps none have done since, the topics of death and grief like (quite naturally) a poet.

As noted at the beginning of this piece, knowing about the poet adds to the understanding of the poetry, and, to complete the circle, by reading the poetry one comes to know the author. Therefore, Brontë’s poetry, like her novel, reveals a lot about her. There is a caveat to that statement, but only in part. Not every poetic expression of a sentiment can be strictly speaking attributed to Brontë as her own. She wrote poems from various perspectives, developing themes from several facets of a topic. Critics have recognized that approach as her “negative culpability,” a term that the poet John Keats originated to describe the ability of a poet to be outside himself and in the minds of other people or even creatures. Also, many of her poems have an underlying fictional world called Gondal that she and Anne invented as children and continued imagining in discussions, in poetry, and perhaps also in prose stories throughout their lives. Therefore, proper names that appear in poems are Gondolian, and often the emotions expressed are attributed to a character. For biographical purposes, that she looked at events and ideas from various angles and expressed a variety of emotions reveals a fascinating and unusual aspect of her personality as a poet and a person: she was highly empathetic and sympathetic. In any event, Gondal does not subsume her voice; in reading her entire body of poetry, her personal expressions are discernable, separate from the fictitious dramatic monologues in certain poems. Perhaps her “negative capability,” or simply her imagination, underlies expressions of romantic love in her poems. Some fans of Emily Brontë have been desperate to find a love interest for her. I have never felt that she needed one to write what she wrote, nor is neither any factual evidence of one.

Brontë’s poetry garners rich stores of information about her, but for an initial, broad sketch of the person from the poetry, I will note a few features. She was an intense lover of nature, and a person who developed her own sense of spirituality and her own guiding notion of eternity, but who had little use for conventional religion. She could not deny omnipresent hardship and suffering and at times had a grim and sorrowful view of human nature and daily life, but she faced her reality not without compensations—nature, associations formed in childhood and, most notably, the power of imagination, which could defeat even death.

The Mysteries of Wuthering Heights, Fun Quiz

There is so much more to Wuthering Heights than the love story that many insist is in the novel (and which I would contend is imported by reader bias and Hollywood).  Here are some non-love- story aspects of the novel to consider.  I will provide answers to the questions in my next post.

1.    It is well known that there are two principal narrators in Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean and Lockwood. There are two other characters who serve as narrators as well.  Who are they?

2.   Many readers have considered Wuthering Heights to be a gothic novel and have relished the presence of ghosts, considering that the child at the window,  crying to be “let in,” is a ghost  and not just a product of Lockwood’s dream.  What important fact argues against considering the apparition as the “ghost” of Catherine?

3.   How many characters die in Wuthering Heights? Count them and consider whether there is any other novel that has as many.  Is there any meaning to the number of deceased characters?

4.   Emily Bronte died of consumption (tuberculosis) shortly after completing the novel. She describes the demise of three characters from the same disease in the book, in an eerie portent of her own fate.  Who are the three characters?

5.   When Heathcliff dies few would be sorry, but there are two characters who have a notable reaction to his death:  one is sincerely grieved and the other is jubilant. Who are these two and why do they have their strong emotions?

6.   Emily Bronte was first  (if not foremost) a poet.  The following poem could have been spoken by one of the characters in Wuthering Heights.  Which one and why?

If grief for grief can touch thee,

If answering woe for woe,

If any ruth can melt thee,

Come to me now!


I cannot be more lonely,

More drear I cannot be!

My worn heart throbs so wildly

Twill break for thee.


And when the world despises,

When heaven repels my prayer,

Will not mine angel comfort,

Mine idol hear?


Yes, by the tears I’ve poured thee,

By all my hours of pain,

O I shall surely win thee,

Beloved, again!