Children's Writings in Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey

Stream: Session G
Date: Friday, 22 July 2022
Time: 10.30 am – 12.00 pm
Speaker(s): Annette Harman

In Wuthering Heights, Cathy Earnshaw writes the story, in her Testament, of her first rebellion with Heathcliff, against the tyrannical rule of her brother, Hindley. She writes notes to her cousin, Linton Heathcliff, when she discovers he is living at Wuthering Heights, three miles from Thrushcross Grange. At first, her notes are short and direct, but then when she receives love letters from Linton (written by Heathcliff) hers become more communicative and in the same vein. Catherine’s writings to Linton are filled with excitement, romance, fun and planning. Linton’s writings to Catherine were written under duress from his father, filled with complaints and a desire to meet his cousin again. His letters were written when Linton was very ill and in pain, then written by his father when he didn’t find them eloquent enough to maintain Catherine’s attention.

In Agnes Grey children are made to write when they don’t want to. Their writing exercises are perfunctorily completed, used to resist the teachings of the governess, and written without proper letter formation, humour or to record family events with drama and emotion. Tom Bloomfield, one of the first of Agnes’s charges, does not care for his writing lessons: “Sometimes he was determined to do his writing badly; and I had to hold his hand to prevent him from purposefully blotting or disfiguring the paper... I…. had finally to resort to the expedient of holding his fingers upon the pen, and forcibly drawing his hand up and down, till, in spite of his resistance, the line was in some sort completed.”

ANNETTE HARMAN has been a member of the Australian Brontë Association since 1994. She has given presentations to the ABA on a variety of topics, including, “Moors, Shores and Indoors–Landscape and the Brontës” (2019), and regularly contributes articles to The Thunderer and the ABA Newsletter. She is interested in pedagogy, children, and religion in the writings of the Brontës.