About Emily Jane Brontë
The Brontës were a 19th century literary family associated with Haworth in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. The sisters, Charlotte (born 21 April 1816), Emily (born 30 July 1818), and Anne (born 17 January 1820), are well known as a trio of sibling poets and novelists. They originally published their poems and novels under masculine pseudonyms, following the custom of the times practised by female writers. Their stories immediately attracted attention, although not always the best, for their passion and originality. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte, was the first to know success, while Agnes Grey, then The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne, and Wuthering Heights by Emily were later to be accepted as great works of literature.
The three sisters and their brother, Branwell, were very close and they developed their childhood imaginations through the collaborative writing of increasingly complex stories. The confrontation with the deaths, first of their mother, then of the two older sisters, marked them profoundly and influenced their writing.
Their fame was due much to their own tragic destinies as well as their precociousness. Since their early deaths, and then the death of their father in 1861, they were subject to a following that did not cease to grow. Their home, the parsonage at Haworth in Yorkshire, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum has become a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Patrick and Maria Brontë had six offspring:
Maria, the first of the Brontë children, was born in Clough House, High Town on 23 April 1814, died at the age of eleven in Haworth on 6 May 1825. She suffered hunger, cold, and privation at Cowan Bridge School, as well as the tyranny of the older pupils and the mantras of the teachers on being damned to eternity and the flames of Hell (fire and brimstone). She returned with an advanced case of tuberculosis. Charlotte, especially, describes her as very lively, very sensitive, and particularly advanced in her reading and in her leisure .
Elizabeth (1815–1825), the second child, joined her sister Maria at Cowan Bridge where she suffered the same fate. Elizabeth was less vivacious than her brother and her sisters, and apparently less advanced for her age. However, her premature death could not foretell what her future would have been, had she been able to cultivate the intellectual and studious passions of her family. She died on 15 June 1825 within two weeks of returning home to her father.
Charlotte, born in Thornton near Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire on 21 April 1816, was a poet and novelist and is the author of Jane Eyre, her most well known work, and three other novels. She died on 31 March 1855 just before reaching the age of 39.
Patrick Branwell was born in Thornton on 26 June 1817. Known as Branwell, he was a painter, writer and casual worker. He became addicted to alcohol and laudanum and died at Haworth on 24 September 1848 at the age of 31.
Emily Jane, born in Thornton, 30 July 1818, was a poet and novelist. She died in Haworth on 19 December 1848 at the age of 30. Wuthering Heights was her only novel.
Anne, born in Thornton on 17 January 1820, was a poet and novelist who died at the age of 29. She wrote a largely autobiographical novel entitled Agnes Grey. Her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) was far more ambitious. She died on 28 May 1849 in Scarborough, North Riding of Yorkshire.
Cowan Bridge School
In 1824, the four girls entered Cowan Bridge School, which educated the children of less fortunate members of the clergy, and which had been recommended to Mr Brontë. The following year, Maria and Elizabeth fell gravely ill and were removed from the school, but died shortly afterwards within a few weeks of each other on 6 May and 15 June 1825. Charlotte and Emily were also withdrawn and returned to Haworth. The loss of their sisters was a trauma that showed in Charlotte's writing. In Jane Eyre, Cowan Bridge becomes Lowood, the pathetic figure of Maria is represented by the character of the young Helen Burns, the cruelty of the mistress Miss Andrews by that of Miss Scatcherd, and the tyranny of the headmaster, the Rev. Carus Wilson, by that of Mr Brocklehurst.
Tuberculosis, which afflicted Maria and Elizabeth in 1825, was the eventual cause of death of the surviving Brontës: Branwell in September 1848, Emily in December 1848, Anne eight months later in May 1849, and finally Charlotte in 1855.
1847, a bountiful year
Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights, and Anne's Agnes Grey, appeared in 1847 after many tribulations, again for reasons of finding a publisher. The packets containing the manuscripts often returned to the parsonage and Charlotte simply added a new address and did this at least a dozen times during the year. The first one was finally published by Smith, Elder & Co in London, of which the 23-year-old owner George Smith had been specialised until then in publishing scientific revues aided by his perspicatious reader, William Smith Williams and remained faithful to the family. Those of Emily and Anne were confided to Thomas Cautley Newby who intended to compile a three-decker, more economical for sale and for loan in the circulating libraries the two first volumes to include Wuthering Heights and the third one Agnes Grey. Both the novels attracted critical acclaim, occasionally harsh about Wuthering Heights, praised for the originality of the subject and its narrative style, but viewed with suspect because of its outrageous violence and immorality - surely, the critics wrote, a work of a man with a depraved mind - fairly neutral about Agnes Grey, more flattering in spite of certain commentators denouncing it as an affront to morals and good mores, for Jane Eyre which soon became what would be called today a bestseller.
Emily Jane Brontë
Emily Jane Brontë (1818–1848) has been called the Sphynx of Literature, writing without the slightest desire for fame, and only for her own satisfaction. She was obsessively timid outside the family circle to the point of turning her back on her partners in conversation without saying a word.
With a single novel, Wuthering Heights and poems of an elementary power, she reached the heights of literature. Almost unknown during her life, posterity classes her as 'top level' in the literary canon of English literature.
Above all, Emily loved to wander about the wild landscape of the moors around Haworth. In September 1848 her health began to decline rapidly. Consumptive, but refusing all treatment, with the exception of a visit from a London doctor - because although it was already too late, her relatives insisted - she died in December on the sofa in the dining room. It is possible that she left an unfinished manuscript which was burned by Charlotte to avoid such controversy as followed the publication of Wuthering Heights. Several documents exist that allude to the possibility, although no proof corroborating this suggestion has ever been found.
The complete poems of Emily Bronte. Click to view & read.
Emily Brontë's poems
Emily's poems were probably written to be inserted in the saga of Gondal, with which she identified herself with several of the characters right into her adulthood. At the age of 28 she still acted out scenes from the little books with Anne while travelling on the train to York. Remembrance was one of the 21 of Emily's poems that were chosen for the 1846 joint publication before which, Emily had deleted all references to Gondal.