THE Yorkshire-based novelist, playwright and lecturer Dr Michael Stewart – intimately familiar with the moorland landscapes that inspired the Brontës – has reimagined and retold the story of Heathcliff, the brooding anti-hero of Wuthering Heights. It led to his inclusion in a new anthology curated by Kate Mosse, author of the multi-million selling Languedoc Trilogy.
Dr Stewart, who teaches creative writing at the University of Huddersfield, is the author of the critically-acclaimed Ill Will, a bold account of Heathcliff that supplies the missing years of Emily Brontë’s character.
This led to Kate Mosse inviting him to join the roster of 16 leading authors who would contribute their responses to Wuthering Heights in the anthology I Am Heathcliff. After a successful debut in hardback – and a launch event at Haworth Parsonage – the paperback version is out now.
Also, it is possible to buy the individual chapters in e-book form, including Dr Stewart’s Heathcliff Is Not My Name.
Told in the first person by the character, it is an unstinting and earthy account of Heathcliff’s early years at Wuthering Heights before he embarks on the wanderings that made him a rich man on his return.
Dr Stewart explained that his contribution to I Am Heathcliff is an expanded version of the opening chapter of Ill Will, also now out in paperback. And his story is the only one in Kate Mosse’s anthology that is set in the period of the original novel.
“Generally what the other authors have done is write contemporary reactions to Heathcliff,” said Dr Stewart. “There is a theme of toxic masculinity running through their stories, as a response to the MeToo movement. And Heathcliff is a fit with this.”
Some readers of the anthology and Michael Stewart’s story have professed themselves shocked by the uninhibited language and frank sexuality. But he believes that he is following a precedent set by Emily Brontë herself, who was accused of bad language in her day and denounced by some as a coarse writer.
“She certainly wasn’t afraid of censure. She often pushed what was acceptable. If she was around today she would be pushing the envelope,” said Dr Stewart, whose latest project is a non-fiction book that will explore the locations that inspired the Brontë sisters.