Friendship Poems

Emily Bronte Biography

Emily Bronte was born on July 30, 1818 in Thornton, in Yorkshire, England to Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell. She was the younger sister of famed author Charlotte Bronte and the fifth of six children. In 1824, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily’s father was perpetual caretaker and it was in these surroundings that their literary oddities flourished. During their childhood, after the death of their mother, the three sisters and their brother Patrick Branwell Bronte created imaginary lands, which were featured in stories they wrote. Unfortunately little of Emily’s work from this period survived, except for poems spoken by characters.

In 1824, Emily, along with her four sisters, entered the Clergy Daughter’s School at Cowan Bridge, near Kirkby Lonsdale. When Maria and Elizabeth died there of tuberculosis in 1825, she and Charlotte quietly returned home to Haworth. Their father was a reclusive man and often spent his spare time alone, thus the motherless children entertained themselves reading the works of William Shakespeare, Virgil, John Milton and the Bible, playing the piano, doing needlepoint and telling each other stories.

In 1842, Emily began work as a governess at Miss Patchett’s Ladies Academy at Law Hill School, near Halifax though she left after about six months because she was homesick. Later, with her sister Charlotte, she attended a private school in Brussels that was run by Constantine Heger and his wife, Claire Zoe Parent Heger. She and her sister later tried to open up a school at their home, but had no pupils.

When her sister, Charlotte, discovered Emily’s poetic talent, it led her and her sisters to publish a joint collection of their poetry in 1846. To evade contemporary prejudice against female writers, the Bronte sisters cleverly adopted androgynous first names. All three of the women retained the first letter of their first names: Charlotte became Currer Bell, Anne became Acton Bell, and Emily became Ellis Bell. In 1847, Emily published her only novel, Wuthering Heights, as two volumes of a three volume set, the last volume, Agnes Grey , was written by her sister Anne. However its innovative structure somewhat puzzled critics. Although it received mixed reviews when it first came out, the book went on to become an English literary classic. In 1850, Charlotte went on to edit and publish Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel under Emily’s real name.

It is interesting to note that Bronte’s own home in the bleak Yorkshire moors provides the setting for the at-times other-worldly passions of the Byronic Heathcliff and Catherine. Despite the initial mixed reviews of Wuthering Heights it is still in print today and has inspired numerous television and feature film adaptations. As with most of the Bronte sister’s popular novels, many readers have tried to find biographical parallels in them. Emily has often been characterized to mythic proportions as deeply spiritual, free-spirited and reclusive as well as intensely creative and passionate, an icon to tortured genius.

Emily’s health, similar to her sisters’, had been weakened by the harsh local climate at home and at school. She had caught a cold during the funeral of her brother in September, which led to tuberculosis. Refusing any medical help, she died on December 19, 1848 at about two in the afternoon. She was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels family capsule, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.

Emily Bronte is popularly regarded as the epitome of the talented writer who died after only a short blaze of genius, more so than either of her sisters. Allusions to her in popular works are very frequent. The Hollywood film Devotion that was filmed in 1943 but not released until 1946, was a loosely historical biography of the sisters, with Emily portrayed by Ida Lupino and Charlotte by Olivia de Havilland. References continue to abound in literature, movies and even theater.

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