Emily Jane Bronte
Emily Jane Bronte remains a mystery. Very little is known about her. There is
little information, and much of what we have is contradictory. She is the author
of only one novel and a few bits of poetry. This gives people little to build on.
The majority of what we know about her comes from her sister, Charlotte, who is
another well known author. From what is known, it would appear that Emily led an
ordinary life of a nineteenth century female. She attended boarding school and
learned domestic skills at home. In other ways her life was unusual and even
eccentric, contributing to the originality of her great novel.
Emily Jane Bront was born on July 30, 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire. She
was the fifth child and fourth daughter of Reverend Patrick Bront and Maria
Branwell Bront . When she was two years old, the family moved to Haworth. This
remained her home until she passed away in December of 1848 at the age of thirty.
Both of Emily’s parents influenced her literary education. Her mother
published one essay, and her father published four books and a little poetry. In
1821, Maria died of cancer, leaving Emily and her four siblings motherless. Her
sister, Elizabeth, came to live as a housekeeper and was responsible for
training the girls in the household arts.
While at home doing housework, Emily secretly worked on poetry. In 1845,
Charlotte discovered some of Emily’s poems and confessed that she, too, had
written some poetry. As it turned out, so had Anne. After much persuading, the
poems were published in a small book entitled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton
Bell. Pseudonyms were used because the girls wanted their poetry to be taken
seriously. Only two copies were sold. The failure led all three to begin work on
novels: Emily on Wuthering Heights, Charlotte on Jane Eyre, and Anne on Agnes
Grey. All three novels were successful and published in 1847 and 1848.
During this time, their brother, Branwell, had become addicted to
alcohol and drugs, and was dying. Emily, the one closest to him, was the only
one tried to help, not judge him. She beat out the flames with her bare hands
when he wrapped himself in a blanket and set it on fire while he was drunk.
Despite all of Emily’s efforts, Branwell died in September of 1848. He was only
thirty years of age. Emily caught a cold at his funeral and never left home
again. She died on December 19, 1848 at the age of thirty. She never knew of the
great success of her one and only novel, Wuthering Heights.