Emily Brontë

Biography of Emily Brontë, author of “Wuthering Heights“, the novel that became a classic of English literature and is currently immediately identified with this young woman, who was 26 years old at the time.

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Emily Brontë is the author of “Wuthering Heights”

Wuthering Heights” has been one of the most famous films since the times of silent cinema.

One of the most successful versions was the one that William Wyler directed in 1939 with Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon and David Niven in the leading roles.

In 1953 Luis Buñuel made an adaptation of the novel, even better than William Wyler’s.

Buñuel’s characters are not as seductive as in the 1939 version, but in this version their character is better perceived.

Wuthering Heights
Image from the movie “Wuthering Heights” by William Wiler in 1939 . Credit: Wikipedia

This magnificent film showed the world the existence of an extraordinary novel, written by an exceptional woman: Emily Brontë.

The novel is considered one of the best stories in the English language, and the masterpiece of the Victorian romantic narrative.

Wuthering Heights” was the only novel written by Emily Brontë.

Childhood and family of Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, in 1818.

She was the fifth of six siblings: Mary (1814), Elizabeth (1815), Charlotte (1816), Branwell (1817), Emily (1818), and Anne (1820).

Iglesia
Saint Mary’s Church of Thornton, Yorkshire. Credit: photographer Maigheach

The whole family was very sick in nature. In fact, the mother died of cancer on September 21, 1821.

The father, Patrick Brontë, was an Irish Anglican clergyman.

After the mother’s death, the children were left in the care of a maternal aunt.

The second of the sisters, Elizabeth, despite being a child, had to take care of the whole family, especially her brother Branwell.

In August 1824, Patrick Brontë sent his four older daughters to the Clergy Daughters College, on Cowan Bridge (Lancashire), where they fell ill with tuberculosis.

Within a year, the two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, became seriously ill and had to return home; died of tuberculosis in 1825.

For this reason, and due to the terrible conditions at school, the family removed Charlotte and Emily from boarding school.

Charlotte Brontë was inspired by this school to describe the sinister “Lowood” school that appears in her novel “Jane Eyre”.

Escuela
The Coward Bridge School founded in 1820 to educate daughters of middle-class clergy. Credit: Wikipedia

In the midst of these sad circumstances, a wonderful and fruitful union arose between the three Brontë sisters: Charlotte, Emily, Anne; along with their brother Branwell.

Between the four of them, they invented a fictional world made up of three imaginary countries: “Anglia“, “Gondal” and “Glass Town“.

Anglia” was owned by Charlotte and Branwell; “Gondal” belonged to Emily.; “Glass Town” was owned by Anne.

They used to play to invent fantastic stories, set in these kingdoms; and to write verses and poems.

Notebooks of Charlotte’s hand-written “Anglia” chronicles are still preserved.

Charlotte
Portrait of Charlotte Brontë author of the beautiful novel “Jane Eyre” and sister of Emily Brontë. Credit: ABC Cultural. Bruno Pardo

Emily Brontë took over the family home

In 1838, Emily (20 years old) worked as a governess at Law Hill, near Halifax.

Soon after, her father sent her, along with her sister Charlotte, to study at a private school in Brussels, with a view to earning a living from teaching.

When the maternal aunt died, the father made them return to England.

From then on, Emily Brontë was left in charge of the family home.

The three sisters continued to write, each on their own.

And when they were able to publicize their abilities, to avoid the prejudices that existed at that time with regard to women writers, they decided to use male pseudonyms: Currer Bell, Ellis Bell and Acton Bell.

The general opinion was that “literature is not a women’s issue and should never be“.

It was that simple to disdain a whole host of women who would have made that world a better world.

To take back some of that contempt, the three wrote novels with intelligent, brave and independent female protagonists; who lived very passionate love stories.

Their stories and characters were not very well seen in their time, especially by men, or by many women; and if they had known that the novel was written by a woman, the censorship would have been greater.

Only when their books were successful did the Brontë sisters decide to reveal their true identity to the world.

In 1846, the three Brontë sisters decided to publish a joint poetry book.

Literary criticism has considered Emily Brontë as one of the best poetesses in England.

Anne’s poems, although not of such a high standard, are also superior to those of Charlotte, whose talent was essentially fictional.

Ironies of history, only two copies of the book of poetry were sold, but the courageous sisters were not discouraged and decided to write a novel each.

Anne Brontë
Portrait of Anne Brontë, the youngest of the three sisters. Credit: Viquipedia

In that same year 1846, Emily published “Wuthering Heights“, the novel that became a classic of English literature.

Today, this novel is immediately identified with Emily Brontë, who was 26 at the time.

Also in 1846, Emily wrote poetry lyrical expansions of her soul filled with tenderness, love, and romance.

Thanks to Charlotte’s interest, they were published in a collection of poems by the three sisters, titled: “Poems by Curre, Ellis, and Acton Bell“.

Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë, was the most active novelist of the three sisters. Credit: Wikipedia

Emily’s great concern in her later years was the care of her brother Branwell, who had become a failed man as a painter, totally devoted to drinking and consuming opium.

Emily attended to him until the end of his days.

She stayed awake at home, until Branwell, drunk and raving, returned home; what often happened late at night.

Helped him lie down and tried to calm him in his terrible fits of anger.

It seems that many pages of “Wuthering Heights” and some of her poems, were written during these vigils.

Branwell passed away in September 1848, a victim of delirium tremens.

Brandwell Brontë
Brandwell Brontë. Portrait by John Feather. Credit: Art UK. John Feather

Death of writer Emily Brontë

Emily’s health, like that of her sisters, was always very delicate.

She died on December 19, 1848, of tuberculosis, as a result of a severe cold that she contracted during her brother’s funeral.

When she died, Emily was barely 30 years old.

She was buried in the church of St Michael of All Saints in Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.

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