Emily Brontė

(1818 - 1848)

Short Biography


Portrait of the three Brontė sisters painted by their brother Branwell. Emily is in the centre.

Birth
Emily Brontė (1818 - 1848) was born in Thornton, Yorkshire. Her father, Patrick Brontė, married Maria Branwell of Penzance in 1812, and by 1820 (2), when he moved to Haworth in Yorkshire as rector, there were six children : Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. 

Mother dies
Maria Brontė (senior) died in 1821 (3), and Patrick asked her elder sister, Elizabeth, to come and look after the children, which she did until her death in 1842 (24). 

Education
Emily attended the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge between 1824 (6) and 1825 (7), but when her two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in 1825, she was withdrawn from the school, and thereafter educated largely at home by her father, her aunt, her elder sister Charlotte, and by drawing and music masters who visited the parsonage. 

First writings
Emily’s first literary endeavours were the Gondal sagas, stories, plays and games written by the Brontė children in tiny books. The prose stories of Gondal are now lost, but the poems were transcribed by Emily, and formed the basis of her contribution to the sisters’ first publication. 

Roe Head School
In 1835 (17) Emily went to study at Roe Head School near Dewsbury (where her sister Charlotte had also been a student and was now teaching), but suffered with homesickness, and returned home after 3 months. 

Teaching post
In 1837 (19) she became governess at Miss Patchett’s School in Law Hill near Halifax, where she appears to have been told the story of Jack Sharp, who was to be the basis for the character of Heathcliffe in her novel Wuthering Heights. Once again, Emily returned home after a few months. 

Travels to Belgium with her sister, Charlotte
In 1842 (24) Charlotte and Emily conceived a plan to open a school of their own in Haworth, and, in preparation, Emily accompanied her sister to Belgium, where they studied French and German at the Pensionnat Heger, from which period nine of Emily’s French essays survive. They give eloquent testimony to her lively intelligence. 

First publication of poetry and novels
The sisters returned to Haworth when their aunt died later that year, and in 1846 (28), together with Anne, published at their own expense Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Only two copies were sold during the first year, but the commercial and critical failure of their poetry only encouraged them to complete the novels they had begun, and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was published in 1847 (29), followed by Anne’s Agnes Grey and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre was an immediate critical and financial success, but Wuthering Heights was condemned for its uncompromising, sometimes brutal passions. 

Death
Her brother, Branwell, who had become an alcoholic and opium addict, died in September 1848 (30). Emily herself died of tuberculosis shortly afterwards.


Emily Bronte Biography : Links

Site of the Bronte Parsonage Museum and Bronte Society : http://www.bronte.org.uk


 

 

 

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