Category Archives: Free Classics in the Public Domain

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

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Cover of Standard eBooks version of Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights: Spoiler-Free Synopsis

As a young man, Heathcliff, an orphaned gypsy, is adopted by the Earnshaws, who live at Wuthering Heights, an isolated farm on the moors, where he becomes devoted to the pretty but spoiled daughter Catherine Earnshaw. In her turn, Cathy claims to love Heathcliff, but she longs for the money, education, and culture she sees in the Lintons, their neighbors at Thrushcross Grange. In an attempt to escape her narrow, abusive home-life, Cathy encourages Edgar Linton’s love and a proposal, arousing Heathcliff’s violent jealousy. Meanwhile, Edgar’s sister Isabella, though she has a pampered and luxurious life, wants to escape Thrushcross Grange, and she finds Heathcliff desperately exciting, arousing Cathy’s angry possessiveness. In this violent yet engrossing revenge tale, Heathcliff and Cathy’s tempestuous relationship threatens the lives of everyone in both families, as well as those of their descendants and the story’s multiple narrators. Can anyone survive their destructive passions?

The only undisputed portrait of Emily, by her brother Branwell Brontë.

Author Emily Brontë

One of the famous Brontë sisters, all authors, Emily was noted for her shyness, her love of nature, and her tendency to befriend stray neighborhood dogs. When a typhoid epidemic swept her boarding school, she was sent home (where two of her sisters died soon after) and educated at home. Emily wrote from a young age, mostly poetry and world-building with her sister Anne, and became a teacher at age 20. When Emily’s health suffered from the strain of teaching, she returned home. In 1848, shortly after the sudden death of her beloved brother Branwell, she took ill with an inflammation of the lungs from (undiagnosed) tuberculosis. She died in December 1848, only one year following the publication of Wuthering Heights, the novel for which she is famed.

1847 edition title page of Wuthering Heights with author’s pseudonym Ellis Bell

Critical Reception of  Wuthering Heights

Contemporaneous reviews (1847-49) of Wuthering Heights were not kind. While a few critics remarked on the terrific story (New Monthly)  and powerful writing (Tait’s Edinburgh Review), most critics declared Wuthering Heights  a strange book (Examiner), a disagreeable story (Athenaeum), or a strange, inartistic story (Atlas). Comparing the novel with Jayne Eyre, critic James Lorimer was brutally dismissive:

Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read. (North British Review)

Contemporary critics sometimes still compare Wuthering Heights to Jane Eyre (Virginia Woolf, 1916), liken its protagonists to Shakespeare’s villains (Joyce Carol Oates, 1983), and confess to loving its “strange cruelty and enchantment” (Anne Rice, 2004).

Still, Wuthering Heights, though warped into a strangely violent love story by Hollywood and some readers, is now generally accepted as a classic. While acknowledging the novel’s structure as famously complex, critics have begun to more closely analyze the multiple, unreliable narrators, questioning the identity of the real villains of the story. Many critics now view Wuthering Heights as arising from yet altering the patterns of its Gothic predecessors, with their ghosts, isolated castles or fortresses, and captive heroines, creating a more complex and ambiguous world than that found in Gothic novels, and portraying females as more than persecuted Gothic heroines. Like Jane Eyre, written by Emily’s sister Charlotte, Wuthering Heights deals honestly and critically with social issues, especially those concerning women and children, causing both Wuthering Heights and its author to now be revered as feminist icons.

Standard eBooks cover for Wuthering Heights

Free Public Domain Versions of Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is available free online because it is in the public domain: the work was not originally copyrighted, the registered copyright has expired, or the author has been dead for more than 100 years; like the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, the book is considered to belong to the public. Since it is not possible to copyright a work already in the public domain,  some publishers provide a short author BIO, an Introduction, or footnotes to their edition of a public domain work; publishers  can then copyright only that particular edition of the public domain book.

Gutenberg, Standard Ebooks, and WikiSource  are all dedicated to keeping public domain books completely free of charge and available to all readers: you can search any of their sites by author or title of the book.

You can read Wuthering Heights online or legally download a free copy from the following sites:

• Standard Ebooks provides a quality edited version with an artwork cover, available in ePub, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony editions. Detailed instructions for which version to download and how to put the book on your portable e-reader are included.

• Gutenberg.org provides an HTML version  (which can be read online) as well as PDF, plain text, ePub, and Kindle versions, all of which can be downloaded to your devices.

• WikiSource provides a 3-volume version of the 1847 first edition of Wuthering Heights (in two volumes; volume 3 of this edition is sister Anne’s Agnes Gray), available 0nline, for any device. This edition, unfortunately, has typographical errors (via the publisher, who was renowned for his carelessness), and, at this time, WikiSource does not yet have the 1849 second edition, corrected (and editorially revised) by the author’s sister Charlotte after the author’s death. The WikiSource unsourced edition may be the one upon which the Gutenberg edition is based. Both the first and the unsourced editions are available to read online.

• Amazon has an Amazon Classics ebook version (with a very brief, 2-paragraph biography of the author), but this public domain version is free only to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. (The other “free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers” version of the novel has a warning that it contains quality issues, i.e., numerous errors.)

Though the book is also available on many other sites, I have not included any sites which have intrusive or misleading ads. The following sites offer Wuthering Heights free, but I have not examined these versions for typographical or editorial errors.

• ManyBooks provides the Gutenberg.org 1910 edition of Wuthering Heights, available online only, although you can change the font size.

• FullTextArchive has the novel, divided into 7 parts, available to read online or as a pdf to download to any device.

• Freeditorial offers an online, pdf, and epub versions. You can also send a copy of the file to your Kindle or Kindle app by providing your unique Kindle email address.

Other Free Wuthering Heights Information: Wikipedia’s Wuthering Heights has a plot summary, novel timeline, character list, and family relationships chart.

Audiobook: Although Amazon offers audio versions of many of the books in its classics series, the digital-mechanical voices “reading” the books are often stilted and distracting. The higher quality audiobooks are rarely free or even discounted. If you are not yet a member of Audible, however, you receive two free titles during your trial membership, one of which could be Audible’s exclusive version of Wuthering Heights, read by Joanne Froggart (of Downton Abbey fame). Additionally, both the Juliet Stevenson and Janet McTeer narrations of this novel are also excellent audiobooks, and you could choose one of those as your free title. Any free audiobooks acquired during the Audible trial remain in your library even if you cancel your membership.


Related Posts

Looking for other classic poems, stories, novellas,
novels, or nonfiction books in the public domain?
See my Free Classics page

 


• Portrait of Emily Brontë, by Patrick Branwell Brontë. Photo @ Wikipedia

• 1847 (first edition) title page of Wuthering Heights with Brontë’s pseudonym “Ellis Bell.” Published by Thomas Cautley Newby. Photo @ Wikipedia

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A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities: Spoiler-Free Synopsis

In Paris, about a decade before the French Revolution, a traumatized and physically broken Dr. Manette is released from the Bastille after being unjustly imprisoned for eighteen years. He is reunited with his daughter, Lucie, who was born in France but grew up in England believing she was an orphan. While taking her father back to England to live with her, Lucie meets the young French émigré Charles Darnay.

In London, Darnay, who has rejected his aristocratic family’s heritage and changed his name, is arrested and put on trial for his life, accused of being a spy. One of the attorneys defending him, Sydney Carton, who is brilliant but cynical and disreputable, so physically resembles Darnay that it is remarked upon in court. Darnay and Carton become friends, and both men fall deeply in love with Lucie Manette. Lucie comes to love both men in return, but she cares for Carton maternally rather than as a potential spouse.

After the French Revolution breaks out and the Reign of Terror begins, a former family servant begs Darnay for help. After returning to France, Darnay is arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death despite his rejection of his family’s abusive exploitation of peasants. One of the most vengeful revolutionaries, Madame Defarge, who hates all French noblemen and who also knows the reason for Dr. Manette’s 18-year imprisonment, is insistent that Darnay be executed. Further, Madame Defarge plans to denounce both Dr. Manette and Lucie as “traitors” so that they will also be executed.

Can Carton, spurred by his love of Lucie and his friendship with Darnay, save them all from the guillotine?

 

Dickens at his desk, 1858. Photo by Watkins.

Author Charles Dickens

Dickens’ father John, who constantly lived beyond his means, was confined in Marshalsea, a  debtors’ prison, and 12-year-old Charles, a voracious reader who was enjoying a private school education, was forced to quit school and go to work. At that time, there were no Child Labor laws nor even laws limiting any adult’s working hours. Dickens worked 10 hours a day at a blacking factory while paying for his own keep at a boarding house. Dickens later wrote (to his 1892 biographer) that he “wondered how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age.”  After his father received funds upon his own mother’s death and was released from debtors’ prison, Charles’  mother wanted him to remain at work, and Dickens later wrote of this: “I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget.”

This early family grief, overwhelming adult responsibility at the age of 12, dreadful factory experience, and being forced to work to help support his mother and siblings because of his father’s profligate living were repeatedly portrayed in Dickens’ literary work.  His grim portrayals of crime, poverty, and unjust but all-powerful social institutions deftly revealed some of the horrors of life for the working class in Victorian England.

1859 cover of A Tale of Two Cities. Photo © Christie’s Auction House

Critical Reception of  A Tale of Two Cities

Beginning with the famous lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’ best-known historical novel, about the period before and after the French Revolution.  Many writers, like Tolstoy and George Orwell, praise Dickens’ writing as well as his social commentary, but some writers, such as Virginia Woolf and Henry James, bemoan the “lack of psychological depth and loose writing” in Dickens’ novels. Contemporaneous lawyer, judge, and critic James Fitzjames Stephen called the novel a “dish of puppy pie and stewed cat which is not disguised by the cooking.” Author Jorge Louis Borges quipped that Dickens was so much a British resident that, despite its title, A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’ novel is really only about one city: London.

Despite the wide-ranging critical reactions, A Tale of Two Cities is considered the bestselling novel of all time, with an estimated 200 million copies sold worldwide. The novel has been adapted for film, television, stage, musicals, radio, and opera. The book was the acknowledged inspiration for the screenplay of the 2012 Batman story The Dark Knight Rises.

A Tale of Two Cities has become a classic, not only because of its complex characters but because the novel deals honestly and critically with social issues, especially those arising during times of great political upheaval and change.

Free Public Domain Versions of A Tale of Two Cities 

A Tale of Two Cities is available in its entirety free online because it is in the public domain (the work was not originally copyrighted, the registered copyright has expired, or the author has been dead for more than 100 years; like the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, the book is considered to belong to the public). Since it is not possible to copyright a work already in the public domain, some publishers provide a short author BIO, an Introduction, or footnotes to the work; publishers can then copyright that particular edition of the public domain work.

Gutenberg, Standard Ebooks, WikiSource, and the University of Adelaide (where you can search by author or title) are all dedicated to keeping public domain books completely free of charge and available to all readers: you can search these sites by author or title of the book.

You can read A Tale of Two Cities online or download a copy from the following sites:

• Standard Ebooks provides a quality edited version with an artwork cover, available in ePub, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony editions. Detailed instructions for which version to download and how to put the book on your portable e-reader are included.

• The University of Adelaide provides a short biography of Dickens and has the complete book available to download, read online,  or as ePub and Kindle books.

• Gutenberg.org provides HTML version  (which can be read online) as well as PDF, plain text, ePub, and Kindle versions, all of which can be downloaded.

• WikiSource provides the 1898 edition, also called the Gadshill Edition, with the original illustrations, available 0nline, for any device, while Wikipedia’s Tale of Two Cities has several of the book’s original illustrations along with the plot summary and character list.

• Amazon currently has a free Kindle ebook, but before clicking Buy, make sure the price is still $0.00 as Amazon, which is not a non-profit organization, has a tendency to charge for any public domain books that are being frequently downloaded.


Related Posts

Looking for other classic poems, stories, novellas,
novels, or nonfiction books in the public domain?
See my Free Classics page

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• Photo of Charles Dickens at desk, 1858, by Watkins. Photo @ Wikipedia

• Cover of 1859 edition of A Tale of Two Cities, published by Chapman & Hall.
Photo ©  Christie’s Auction House; Reproduction of Photo @ Wikipedia

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Filed under Authors, Books, Classics, Classics in the Public Domain, E-books, Free, Free Books, Free Classics Available Online, Free Classics in the Public Domain, Free Stories Available Online, Free Stories in the Public Domain, Public Domain Classics, Public Domain Works Online