Hindley’s ‘reckless dissipation’: Making Drunkenness Public in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Pam Lock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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This paper discusses the place of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) in contemporary public discourses about male drunkenness and alcoholism. Much has been written on the sisters’ experience of their brother Branwell’s drinking in relation to the harmful habitual drunkenness depicted in their novels. However,. propose that the pivotal role of alcoholism (a term only coined in 1849) in the Brontë sisters’ writing was. product, not only of personal experience, but of their knowledge of contemporary medical and public discourses on harmful drinking. The ‘coarseness’ of Emily’s descriptions of Hindley’s decline into dissipation shocked critics at the time, but are commensurate with contemporary medical and temperance accounts. Emily’s artistic interpretation of contemporary theories on the complex progression of comfort-drinking into compulsive inebriation addresses and challenges received ideas about ‘alcoholism’, grief, marriage, class and heredity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-81
Number of pages14
JournalBronte Studies
Issue number1
Early online date17 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • Alcohol
  • Coarse
  • Drunkenness
  • Emily Brontë
  • Grief
  • Suicide
  • Wuthering heights

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