In this kill you darling (or DVD extra), I am visiting my great-great-great grandfather’s William Litt’s birthplace, Bowthorn Cottage.
Above the door were carved the date ‘1685’ and the initials ‘E.M.S.’
I suddenly felt as if I were standing outside Wuthering Heights – over the principal door of which is carved the date ‘1500’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw’.
This was a point of connection with William. I imagined him, as I had often imagined myself, sitting near the fireplace in the kitchen of the Heights.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to write a six word autobiography. What I came up with was:
My first proper girlfriend: Emily Brontë.
The set books for my ‘A’ Level in English – the books that made me want to be a writer – were about as bleak and perverse an assembly as English Literature houses: Thomas Hardy’s Emma Poems, ‘Hamlet’, Webster’s ‘The Duchess of Malfi’. Death, death and a smidgeon more death. To this, as extra-curricular reading, you can add Shakespeare’s other tragedies, T.S.Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, and The Poems of John Keats. But it was within Wuthering Heights that I desired to dwell, and it was Emily Brontë I wanted there with me. I read her poems, and Winifred Gerin’s biography. I imagined contributing further romances to the epic manikin literature of Gondal. I listened to Cocteau Twins’ ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’ and Treasure, as if their swirlingness and Emily’s were somehow the same thing.
The English teacher who led us throughWuthering Heights was keen – for reasons of his own – to douse our self-love. Like a sandy-haired Abraham Lincoln, stiff in body and accent, he stood at the front of class. ‘I don’t know about you,’ he said, ‘but for myself I have the humility to know that I’m more Edgar Linton than Heathcliff.’
Edgar is wild Cathy’s fake husband – a disgusting, sickly milksop; Heathcliff, you already know. There they are, the mental man and the physical man – the main two figures in Wrestliana. And we, as schoolboys, were being told not to aspire to being truly embodied. The kitchen of the Heights was not a place we should pretend, even to ourselves, that we would fit in.
At university, still obsessed, I wrote her a poem.
The Dark Interpreter has come, to rid
you of yourself & of yourself. The blue
& moon-mottled doorstep has felt his shadow
fall & pass, the dog was chasing dream-
rabbits & did not wake to his dark blue
shadow, the stairs have groaned for him, their dark
made darker by his dark blue shadow. He
& only he possesses you & you.
Into his shadow, through the dark, the blue
& then through his shadow to where the light
is clear, to where the light is black with light,
& then into the light, to find him there.