Portrait by her brother
|Born:||July 30, 1818 |
Thornton, Yorkshire, England
|Died:||December 19, 1848 |
Emily Jane Brontė /bɹɑnti/ (July 30, 1818 – December 19, 1848) was a British novelist and poet, best remembered for her only novel Wuthering Heights, a classic of English literature.
Emily was born at Thornton in Yorkshire to Patrick Brontė and Maria Branwell. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontė and the fifth of six children. In 1820, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily's father was perpetual curate, and it was in these surroundings that their literary talent flourished. In childhood, after the death of their mother, the three sisters and their brother Branwell Brontė created imaginary lands (Angria, Gondal, Gaaldine), which were featured in stories they wrote. Little of Emily's work from this period survived, except for poems spoken by characters (The Brontės' Web of Childhood, Fannie Ratchford, 1941).
In 1838, Emily commenced work as a governess at Miss Patchett's Ladies Academy at Law Hill Hall, near Halifax. Later, with her sister Charlotte, she attended a private school in Brussels. Both of them later opened up a school at their home, but had no pupils.
It was the discovery of Emily's poetic talent by her family that led her and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, to publish a joint collection of their poetry in 1846. To evade contemporary prejudice against female writers, the Brontė sisters adopted androgynous first names. All three retained the first letter of their first names: Charlotte became Currer Bell, Anne became Acton Bell, and Emily became Ellis Bell.
In 1847, she published her only novel, Wuthering Heights, as two volumes of a three volume set (the last volume being Agnes Grey by her sister Anne). Its innovative structure somewhat puzzled critics. Although it received mixed reviews when it first came out, the book subsequently became an English literary classic. In 1850, Charlotte edited and published Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel and under Emily's real name.
Like her sisters, Emily's health had been weakened by their harsh life at home and at school. She died on December 19, 1848 of tuberculosis, having caught a chill during the funeral of her brother in September. She was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels family vault, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.
In 2005, Australian writer Daniel Wynne wrote "Emily," a quirky short story about a struggling author who attempts to get his novel published by claiming to be Bronte's reincarnation. The story was performed at the 2005 Brisbane Writers Festival and later published in the Spring 2006 edition of literary journal The Griffith Review.