Ellen “Nelly” Dean
Ellen, or Nelly Dean, is the housekeeper of Thrushcross Grange as the novel begins and is the servant of both Catherines. Intelligent and compassionate, she is often more of a friend or relative to the characters in the book than a servant. Consequently, she knows more of the story than anyone else so is able to fill Mr Lockwood in on events.
|Parents: few details. Her mother had nursed Hindley and lived to eighty||Siblings: unknown|
|Date of birth: 1757||Place of birth: unknown|
|Married: unknown. Lockwood refers to her as "Mrs Dean" in 1801 but there is no other mention of a husband. It is probably a polite term applied to all housekeepers.|
|Physical description: stout when older, short of breath|
|Occupation: when young, her mother was nurse to Hindley so Ellen acted as a servant-cum-companion to Hindley and Catherine, playing with them and running errands. Considered herself a foster-sister to Hindley and Catherine.|
Came to Thrushcross Grange in 1783 to act as Catherine's maid. Stayed on after her death as a housekeeper.
|Notes: her first name may have come from Ellen Nussey, a close friend of the Brontës.|
(Childhood) … I was almost always at Wuthering Heights; because my mother had nursed Mr. Hindley Earnshaw … and I got used to playing with the children: I ran errands too, and helped to make hay, and hung about the farm ready for anything that anybody would set me to.
(1801, aged 43) At this diabolical violence I [Ellen] rushed on him furiously. 'You villain!' I began to cry, 'you villain!' A touch on the chest silenced me: I am stout, and soon put out of breath; and, what with that and the rage, I staggered dizzily back and felt ready to suffocate, or to burst a blood-vessel.
(1801, aged 44) ' … you [Ellen], my good friend, are a striking evidence against that assertion. Excepting a few provincialisms of slight consequence, you have no marks of the manners which I am habituated to consider as peculiar to your class. I am sure you have thought a great deal more than the generality of servants think. You have been compelled to cultivate your reflective faculties for want of occasions for frittering your life away in silly trifles.'
' … but I [said Ellen] have undergone sharp discipline, which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy, Mr. Lockwood. You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got something out of also …'
Wuthering Heights Housekeepers
|Aug. 1771||Mrs Earnshaw||Heathcliff arrives|
|May 1773||Ellen Dean||Mrs Earnshaw dies||Ellen takes over, aged 15|
|Mar. 1783||None||Catherine and Edgar marry||Ellen moves to Thrushcross Grange soon after the marriage. No replacement as Hindley does not want any women in the house.|
|Oct. 1784||Name unknown||Hindley dies||Joined after the death of Hindley (chapter 18)|
|July 1799||Zillah||Housekeeper leaves||Previous housekeeper left two years after Linton arrived|
|Nov. 1801||Zillah||Lockwood's first visit||Zillah had been there "a year or two"|
|Jan. 1802||Ellen Dean||Zillah leaves|