"WE ARE SPELL-BOUND, WE CANNOT CHOOSE BUT READ": RARE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS, PUBLISHED ONLY FIVE MONTHS AFTER THE VIRTUALLY UNOBTAINABLE LONDON FIRST EDITION
BRONTE, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1848. 12mo (5 by 7-1/2 inches), contemporary three-quarter brown calf gilt, raised bands, black morocco spine label. Housed in a custom three-quarter calf clamshell box.
Extraordinarily important and rare first American edition (published less than five months after the virtually unobtainable London first edition) of Emily Brontë's passionate masterpiece.
"Like Poems, Wuthering Heights was presented to an uncomprehending public without preface, introduction or explanation and it was left to Charlotte, ever her sister's apologist, to insist that it was simply a tale of 'the wild moors of the north of England'… There was a constant litany of complaint about the brutality and violence of some of the scenes [particularly involving Heathcliffe] and about the use of expletives, which, contrary to custom, Emily had written out in full rather than indicated by a dash… An American reviewer wrote in the Literary World: 'Fascinated by strange magic we… are made subject to the immense power of the book… we are spell-bound, we cannot choose but read'" (Barker, 502, 539-40). G.W. Peck wrote of it that "if the rank of a work of fiction is to depend solely on its naked imaginative power, then this is one of the greatest novels in the language." One year after her only novel's publication, Emily Bronte was dead of consumption. "Wuthering Heights stands alone as a monument of intensity owing nothing to tradition, nothing to the achievement of earlier writers. It was a thing apart, passionate, unforgettable, haunting in its grimness… Bronte has a sure and certain place for all time" (Britannica). Although the title page of the 1848 Wuthering Heights states, "By The Author of 'Jane Eyre,'" it was, of course, Emily's older sister, Charlotte, who authored Jane Eyre. Not until the famous Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell, by Charlotte Bronte, in 1850 did Charlotte clearly address the matter of the pseudonyms and the true authorship of the works: "It has been thought that all the works published under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were, in reality, the production of one person…[O]n [this] occasion…I am advised distinctly to state how the case really stands." The first London edition, was published December 4, 1847; this edition was published April 21, 1848, simultaneously as two parts in wrappers and as a single, clothbound volume. Smith, 74-75. Early ink correction below "By The Author of 'Jane Eyre'" on title page reading "No. By Ellis not Currer Bell." Pencil owner signature on title page. Tiny bookseller ticket. Bookplate. Evidence of label removal.
Faint dampstaining to latter half of text, not affecting readability, scattered foxing to interior, rear blank excised, front joint starting but strong, wear to binding. An extremely good copy.