Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë (July 30, 1818 – December 19, 1848), British author and poet, was the sister of Charlotte and Anne Brontë. She was the fifth child born to Maria Branwell Brontë and Reverend Patrick Brontë. Though she only lived to age thirty, she left the world an accomplished novel of passion and tragedy — Wuthering Heights. Her only novel, it’s an enduring classic. A rather dark study of desire and passion, it also touches upon economic, social, and psychological issues and is often cited as the ideal “romantic novel.”

Like her sisters, Emily was born in the West Yorkshire village of Thornton in England. They moved to the quiet Haworth setting where they grew up, along with their brother Branwell. Their mother, Maria, died while the children were still young, and her sister was enlisted to care for the Brontë brood.

The Brontë children all had vivid imaginations and together told stories and acted out tales. They read extensively, but had only an intermittent formal education, always cut short by economic uncertainty and family deaths.

First publishing venture

Her first venture into publishing was when Charlotte attempted to publish a collection the three sisters’ poems. They used male pen names for their collection, and, unable to secure a publisher, printed it themselves. Published in 1846, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell sold but few copies and faded away quickly.

With her poetry, Brontë  focused on descriptions of feeling and mood rather then accurate details of settings, allowing readers to visualize their own place based on their interpretation.

emily bronte

You might also like: No Coward Soul is Mine: 5 Poems by Emily Brontë

Publication of Wuthering Heights

The following year, still writing as Ellis Bell, Wuthering Heights was published (December 1847. The brooding and complex story follows the intersection of two families — the Earnshaws and the Lintons. Heathcliff and Catherine have ever since sparked romantic imaginations as star-crossed lovers whose dramas reverberate into the next generation. With its ultimate ending shrouded in mystery, Brontë leaves the reader to draw their own conclusion.

Reviewers of the time were rather perplexed by the novel. Charlotte felt that her sister Emily’s magnum opus was poorly understood and supplied her own preface to a later edition of Wuthering Heights. Needless to say, its reputation and staying power grew over the years. It was first made into a film in 1939, and has had several screen adaptations since.

Emily Bronte stamp

A 19th century tribute

An extensive article in the Chicago Tribune (June 28, 1885) went into great depths about the Brontë family some 30 years after the death of Charlotte, who had survived all of her siblings. “Emily Brontë was perhaps the most original of the Brontë children in character; and it is thought by many that she was possessed of an even more striking genius than Charlotte. She was of a peculiarly reserved nature, and never during her life made any friend outside her family.”

The article states that of the three sisters, “Emily’s poems are by far the best, and show poetical genius of a high order, though crude and imperfect … The is one called ‘Remembrance,’ which sets us wondering if even the strange and shrinking Emily, whose life was so secluded as to give almost no opportunity for even an acquaintance with those of the opposite sex, had a romance in her life.”

“Of a sternly independent disposition, she would receive no favor or consideration at the hands of any but her own kindred, and very little from them.” The article goes on to say that Keeper, “a great savage bulldog, was her greatest friend.” And on Wuthering Heights: “There is something weird, uncanny, gruesome about that book that is hardly human.”

Untimely death

Emily Brontë was only thirty when she died of tuberculosis in 1848, so close on the heels of Wuthering Heights’ publication that it remained her first and last novel.

Emily Brontë quotes

You might also like: Quotes from Wuthering Heights

More about Emily Brontë on this site

Major works

Read and listen online

Biographies about Emily Brontë (and the Brontë sisters)

More information

Articles, News, Etc.

Film and television adaptations


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