Emily Bronte, born in
1818, was the fifth child of a family of six children, five girls and a
boy. Their father was a clergyman, and from 1820 they lived in Haworth,
a village deep in the moors of Yorkshire, very much cut off from the outside
world. The moors were both beautiful and wild. The local people
were strong-minded and rough-spoken.
When Emily was three her mother died, and four years later her eldest two sisters died of Tuberculosis. The four remaining children ? Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne ? were brought up and educated by their father and an aunt. Their intelligent minds were hungry for knowledge ? from books, from argument and from nature. Their quick imaginations led them into worlds of their own making through play-acting, story-writing and endless talk. The words of the household, the moors and their imagination made up their lives.
All three sisters took various jobs as teachers. In 1842 Charlotte and Emily made their first real journey away from home to go as pupils to a school in Brussels. With the extra qualification gained there they hoped to start a school of their own in Haworth in 1844, but no pupils applied to them.
Meanwhile all three sisters had been writing poetry, and in 1846 they published a book of their poems. Two copies only were sold. They therefore next tried to publish their novels. And so it was Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Anne’s Agnes Grey were all published in 1847.
Wuthering Heights was not popular at first. It was too new and unusual for the ordinary reader to appreciate it at once. Many were shocked by it. When people did begin to realise the greatness of Wuthering Heights and it did become successful, Emily Bronte was already dead; for she too died of tuberculosis, in 1848 at the age of thirty, a few months after the publication of the one and only novel she ever wrote.
As you read Wuthering Heights you will realise how Emily Bronte put the deepest experiences of her own life into it. The moors are there in all their weathers and moods. The characters, good and bad, reflect the people she knew in Haworth. The disease which killed her sisters, her friends and herself plays its part. We feel sadness and anxiety with which Emily and her sisters watched and nursed their brother Branwell as he drank and drugged himself to death at the age of thirty-one.
From these realities of her own everyday life Emily Bronte created a most carefully constructed story, neat and exact in every detail, yet filled with the magic of her own imagination with which, from childhood, she had been able to make fantasy seem as real as fact.