Books: More News of the Dark Foundling

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That sounds a lot like the Heathcliff that generations of readers have loved. Even those unfamiliar with Wuthering Heights can enjoy Heathcliff's crackling prose and rapid pacing. Inevitably, though, the information that Caine contrives detracts something from the legend that Brontë invented. Heathcliff was not meant to dally, however rudely, with Lon don ladies. Heathcliff also suggests that its hero is more pussycat than tiger. For all his violent talk ("I kicked him in the mouth, rattling his teeth nicely, like dice in a cup"), Heathcliff kills no one. His one violent act, cutting off the hand of an enemy who had tried to kill him, goads him into a shamefaced apology to Catherine. The real Heathcliff would never explain or apologize.

Except, of course, that there never was a real Heathcliff. The power of great fic tion makes such facts unimportant, and both L'Estrange and Caine have paid trib ute to that power. The trouble is that both writers hint of further tributes to come. Pinnacle does more than hint; it promises "additional volumes chronicling the lives and loves of the descendants of Heathcliff and Catherine." The prospect of some nine generations of Heathcliffs yet to come is horrifying, and not in a way Emily Brontë would admire. A Heathcliff in the factory, another in the trenches, yet another on the dole and, finally, a Heathcliff as the lead singer in a group of punk rockers: it will be too much. Heathcliff should remain in the state Bronte left him, buried under the moor while his spirit roamed, exactly where it belonged, around Wuthering Heights.

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