Emily Jane Brontë was born on July 30, 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire, England. She was the fifth of six children born to Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell Brontë.
The Brontë family moved to Haworth in 1820 when Patrick was appointed perpetual curate of St Michael and All Angels’ Church. Emily’s mother Maria died of cancer in 1821, leaving her sister Elizabeth to help raise the children. Emily had four surviving siblings: Charlotte, Branwell, Anne, and Elizabeth (who died in 1825).
Emily was very close to her siblings, especially Charlotte and Anne, with whom she created the imaginary world of Gondal and wrote stories and poems about the characters. As children, the three sisters and Branwell wrote stories, articles, and poems to chronicle the lives and romantic adventures of the inhabitants of their imaginary kingdoms.
|Emily Brontë born on July 30 in Thornton, Yorkshire, England
|Family moves to Haworth where Patrick Brontë is curate
|Mother Maria dies of cancer on September 15
Education and Early Works
In 1824, Emily joined her sisters at Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge. The harsh conditions and poor food at the school led to the deaths of her two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, from tuberculosis. After the deaths, Emily was briefly homeschooled by her father and aunt before enrolling at Roe Head school in 1831.
|Enrolled at Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge with Charlotte and sisters Maria and Elizabeth
|Maria and Elizabeth die of tuberculosis contracted at school
|Attends Roe Head School
Emily had a hard time adjusting to life at Roe Head and was withdrawn and isolated from the other students. After three months, she was sent home and replaced at Roe Head by younger sister Anne. During this time, Emily and Anne created the imaginary world of Gondal and began writing Gondal stories and poems.
When their aunt died in 1835, Emily returned to Roe Head as a teacher while Charlotte went to Belgium for further studies. Emily disliked teaching and was reportedly prone to bouts of rage with students. She resigned within six months.
Later Life and Writing Career
After leaving Roe Head, Emily was free to focus on her writing. She wrote many poems about the imaginary land of Gondal which she shared only with her family.
In 1845, Charlotte discovered Emily’s poems and proposed that she and Emily publish a collection together. Emily initially refused the idea but eventually relented. Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell was published in 1846 under the pen names Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell. The volume only sold two copies.
|Returns to Roe Head as teacher
|Resigns position at Roe Head
|Poems published under pen names Bell siblings
The next year the sisters published a joint collection of poetry and novels. Emily’s only published novel, Wuthering Heights, met with mixed reviews and opinions ranging from scorn to wonder. Today it is recognized as one of the greatest novels in English literature.
Around this time, Emily’s health began to decline. It is speculated she contracted tuberculosis like her older sisters. Her condition worsened over the next year until her death on December 19, 1848 at the age of 30.
Writing Style and Themes
Much of Emily Brontë’s poetry was written about the imaginary world of Gondal she created as a child with her sister Anne. Her poems reflect the passionate Gondal characters and feature mythical imagery combined with emotional power.
In her only published novel, Wuthering Heights, Emily continued to employ poetic devices and visual imagery to add to the mood and tension of the dark, gothic tale. She displayed a remarkable ability to make the natural landscape reflect and amplify the stormy, passionate emotions of the characters and their turbulent relationships.
Her writing explored many themes like passion versus rationality, benevolence versus cruelty, patricide and incest, doubling of characters, and love transcending death. She also delved into gender roles, class hierarchy, education, and religion and how societal pressures affect human nature.
Death and Legacy
Emily Brontë died on December 19, 1848 in Haworth at only 30 years old. Modern day scholars believe she contracted tuberculosis like two of her older sisters, although it is also speculated that stomach cancer or hyperemesis gravidarum may have contributed to her death.
Emily Brontë left an immense legacy, particularly through her seminal novel Wuthering Heights which continues to intrigue modern readers. She produced a relatively small body of work, but her evocative imagery, poetic mastery, and exploration of passion and cruelty cement her as one of the greatest Gothic writers and visionary artists in English literature.
An intriguing figure
Emily Brontë lived a relatively brief and quiet life marked by tragedy, but she left behind an enduring legacy with her only published novel. Her reclusive nature and untimely death have made her an intriguing figure.
The dark passion and strangeness of Wuthering Heights sparked much speculation into her interior world and life experiences growing up in an isolated parsonage on the Yorkshire moors.
An innovative Gothic novel
Though she had a short writing career before her death at 30, Emily Brontë revolutionized Gothic literature through her singular novel Wuthering Heights. This emotionally turbulent tale broke Victorian novel conventions with its exploration of taboo themes like domestic abuse, incest, class divides, gender roles, and the supernatural. Its anti-hero Byronic protagonist, brooding plot, and stark Yorkshire setting were also highly original for its time and influenced many subsequent writers.
A tragic upbringing
Emily Brontë experienced significant childhood trauma which likely informed her later writing. She witnessed her mother and two older sisters die of tuberculosis exacerbated by horrifying conditions at boarding school.
She was extraordinarily close to her surviving siblings Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell but was also isolated living on the remote Yorkshire moors. To cope, the children invented imaginary fantasy worlds and wrote stories about them, laying the foundation for the Brontës’ creative collaboration.
In her short yet extraordinary life, Emily Brontë nurtured an intense inner world which she transmuted into the seminal Gothic novel Wuthering Heights as well as visionary poetry. Her untimely death from suspected tuberculosis left many unanswered questions about her isolated upbringing, secret writings, personal relationships, and ultimate legacy as a pioneering woman writer who helped expand the conventions of Victorian literature.
Though Wuthering Heights received mixed reviews when first published, it has since become one of the most highly regarded English novels for its stark romanticism and emotional potency. Emily Brontë’s rendering of the windswept Yorkshire moors remains as evocative a backdrop today as it was during the nineteenth century. And her complex characters retain their ability to enthral modern readers and ignite debate.
While much of her motivation and psychology remains an intriguing enigma, Emily Brontë’s fearless exploration of dark and taboo themes left an indelible impact. Her dramatic imagination and lustrous prose opened the door for more diversity and female empowerment in Victorian and Gothic literature. Even in death, her original voice and vision burn as brightly as ever.
Frequently Asked Questions About Emily Brontë’s Biography
Who were Emily Brontë’s siblings?
Emily had five siblings: Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, and Anne. The three sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are most remembered and accomplished for their writing under the originally ambiguous pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
What was the imaginary world Emily created with her siblings?
Emily and her siblings created an imaginary world called Gondal when they were young. Emily and Anne in particular wrote stories and poems about Gondal and its inhabitants throughout their lives. The passionate, dramatic characters and events in Gondal likely inspired later works like Wuthering Heights.
What were the causes of deaths of Emily’s family members?
Emily experienced significant childhood trauma. Her mother Maria died of cancer in 1821 when Emily was just three years old.
Her older sisters Maria and Elizabeth died in 1825 at ages 11 and 10 respectively from tuberculosis likely contracted at the Clergy Daughters’ boarding school which had harsh conditions.
What was Emily Brontë’s personality like?
Contemporary accounts describe Emily as shy yet stubborn, creative, intelligent, private, and principled. She was known for being extremely attached to and protective of her family, but also detached from those outside her family circle. Her solitary walks on the moors likely contributed to her contemplative, mystical inner world.
Why is Wuthering Heights considered Emily’s masterwork?
Wuthering Heights is Emily’s creative masterpiece for many reasons. She brought the romantic mysticism of Gondal to life in the haunting Yorkshire setting.
Her poetic devices and unprecedented thematic content created an emotive, dark, and strange romantic epic. The antihero Byronic protagonist, socioeconomic commentary, and star-crossed lovers also helped revolutionize Gothic fiction.
What is Emily Brontë’s legacy?
Though she only published one novel before dying at 30, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights transformed literary landscapes with its brooding, high romanticism and fearless, taboo themes. She paved the way for more diversity in Victorian era writing while fostering interest in Gothic and female-centered narratives with her surreal imagination and evocative style. Her brevity of life and secretiveness also spark continual intrigue.