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Though he was brought home by Mr. Earnshaw following a journey to Liverpool, there is no definitive answer to his ethnicity. Liverpool by 1740 had surpassed Bristol and London as the slave-trading capital of Britain. Did Emily Brontё envisage him to be a black man by mentioning Liverpool? Nelly once said to Heathcliff: “If you were a regular black …”. He was also described as a “dark-skinned gypsy”, or “a little Lascar”, and dark haired, with a “half-civilized ferocity” that “lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire”, and with dusky skin. Were these references merely meant to imply foreignness, otherness, and, frankly, danger and nothing to imply race? What was his ethnicity?

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Heathcliff's precise ethnicity is still open to debate. In the mid-nineteenth century, the term "gypsy" could refer to a Romani individual, or it could more be used to describe someone who appears "non-English". Perhaps he is either Eastern or Southern European, or part-Indian.

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