Books: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
Introduction: The biography of Emily Bronte is very concise. She remains enigmatic because so little is known about her, and what is known is contradictory. She only produced one novel and a little bit of poetry, which gives one very little upon which to build. Most of how Emily is seen is through the eyes of her sister, Charlotte, another well known author. From the information available, her life seemed to be of "dreary conformity." In some ways, Emily led an ordinary life of a nineteenth century female, attending boarding school for a bit of education and learning domestic skills at home. In other ways, her life was unusual and even eccentric, which contributed to the originality of her great novel.
Birth and parents: Emily Jane Bronte was born on July 30, 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire. She was the fifth child and fourth daughter of Reverend Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell Bronte. When she was two years old, the family moved to Haworth which remained Emily's home until she passed away in December of 1848 at the age of thirty.
Parental influence: Both of Emily's parents had literary leanings
- Her mother published one essay, and her father wrote four books and a
little poetry. None of the literary attempts were successful, but the urge
for written expression was present.
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.
Environmental influence: The village of Haworth was very isolated and intensely Yorkshire. The people were blunt, practical, stubborn, sparing of speech, vigorous and very harsh. They were the products of the moors - the tracts of rocky land, where the north wind shrieks mercilessly, and the only softening influence is the sheep, the purple heather, and the ferny bracken. It was these moors that built the spirit of the Brontes and filled their souls with love of liberty. This was especially true for Emily.
Education and personal: In 1824, the four eldest daughters were sent to Cowan Bridge School, a school for daughters of impoverished clergymen. The conditions here were wretched and an epidemic broke out, taking the lives of Maria and Elizabeth. Charolette becames very ill as well, and she and Emily returned home. Bout this time, Branwell, the only boy in the family, received a box of twelve wooden soldiers, and the children began to write stories about them, called "Young Men" plays. In 1835, Charlotte went to teach at Roe Head school and took Emily along as a student. Emily, however, could not stand being away from her beloved moors, and became violently homesick. As a result, she returned home and her younger sister, Anne, took her place.
Publication: While at home doing housework, Emily secretly worked on poetry. In 1845, Charlotte discovered some of her poems and confessed that she too had written some poetry. As it turned out, so had Anne and after much persuading, the poems were published in a small book entitled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Psuedonyms were used because the girls wanted their poetry to be taken seriously. Only two copies were sold, and 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.
Death: During this time, their brother, Branwell, had fallen
prey to alcohol and drugs, and was dying. Emily, the one who had been closet
to him, was the only one who withheld judgement and tried to help him.
It was she that beat out the flames with her bare hands when he wrapped
himself in a blanket and lit it on fire while drunk. Despite all of her
efforts, Branwell died in September of 1848 at the age of thirty. Emily
caught a cold at his funeral and never left home again. She died on December
19, 1848 at the age of thirty, and never knew of the great success of her
one and only novel Wuthering Heights.