"I'll walk where my own nature would be leading: It vexes me to choose another guide." -- Emily Bronte
Emily Jane Brontė ( or ) (30 July 1818 — 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, now best remembered for her novel Wuthering Heights, a classic of English literature. Emily was the second eldest of the three surviving Brontė sisters, between Charlotte and Anne. She published under the androgynous pen name Ellis Bell.
"A good heart will help you to a bonny face, my lad and a bad one will turn the bonniest into something worse than ugly.""A person who has not done one half his day's work by ten o clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.""Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.""Having leveled my palace, don't erect a hovel and complacently admire your own charity in giving me that for a home.""Honest people don't hide their deeds.""I am now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.""I cannot express it: but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be, an existence of yours beyond you.""I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.""I see heaven's glories shine and faith shines equal.""I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after.""If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results.""Love is like the wild rose-briar; Friendship like the holly-tree. The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms, but which will bloom most constantly?""Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.""Terror made me cruel.""The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don't turn against him, they crush those beneath them.""Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."
Emily Brontė was born in Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire, to Maria Branwell and Patrick Brontė. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontė and the fifth of six children. In 1824, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily's father was perpetual curate, and it was in these surroundings that their literary gifts flourished.
After the death of their mother, the older sisters Maria, Elizabeth and Charlotte were sent to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, where they encountered abuse and privations later described by Charlotte in Jane Eyre. Emily joined the school for a brief period. When a typhus epidemic swept the school Maria and Elizabeth caught it. Maria, who may actually have had tuberculosis, was sent home, where she died. Emily was subsequently removed from the school along with Charlotte and Elizabeth. Elizabeth died soon after their return home.
The three remaining sisters and their brother Patrick Branwell Brontė were thereafter homeschooled by their father and aunt Elizabeth Branwell, their mother's sister. In their leisure time the children created a number of paracosms, which were featured in stories they wrote and enacted about the imaginary adventures of their toy soldiers along with the Duke of Wellington and his sons, Charles and Arthur Wellesley. Little of Emily's work from this period survived, except for poems spoken by characters (The Brontės' Web of Childhood, Fannie Ratchford, 1941).
At thirteen, Emily and Anne withdrew from participation in the Angria story and began a new one about Gondal, a large island in the North Pacific. If they wrote stories or novels about Gondal, these were not preserved. Some "diary papers" of Emily's have survived in which she describes current events in Gondal, some of which were written, others enacted with Anne. One dates from 1841, when Emily was twenty-three: another from 1845, when she was twenty-seven. Anne made a list of Gondal names and places which also survives.
At seventeen, Emily attended the Roe Head girls' school, where Charlotte was a teacher, but managed to stay only three months before being overcome by extreme homesickness. She returned home and Anne took her place. At this time, the girls' objective was to obtain sufficient education to open a small school of their own.
Emily became a teacher at Law Hill School in Halifax beginning in September 1838, when she was twenty. Her health broke under the stress of the 17-hour work day and she returned home in April 1839. Thereafter she became the stay-at-home daughter, doing most of the cooking and cleaning and teaching Sunday school. She taught herself German out of books and practiced piano.
In 1842, Emily accompanied Charlotte to Brussels, Belgium, where they attended a girls' academy run by Constantin Heger. They planned to perfect their French and German in anticipation of opening their school. Nine of Emily's French essays survive from this period. The sisters returned home upon the death of their aunt. They did try to open a school at their home, but were unable to attract students to the remote area.
In 1844, Emily began going through all the poems she had written, recopying them neatly into two notebooks. One was labeled "Gondal Poems", the other was unlabeled. Scholars such as Fannie Ratchford and Derek Roper have attempted to piece together a Gondal storyline and chronology from these poems.
In the fall of 1845, Charlotte discovered the notebooks and insisted that the poems be published. Emily, furious at the invasion of her privacy, at first refused, but relented when Anne brought out her own manuscripts and revealed she had been writing poems in secret as well.
In 1846, the sisters' poems were published in one volume as Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. To evade contemporary prejudice against female writers, the Brontė sisters had adopted androgynous first names. Emily used the name "Ellis Bell". The poetry received mediocre reviews. In the meantime they had begun work on their first professional novels.
In 1847, Emily published her only novel, Wuthering Heights, as two volumes of a three-volume set (the last volume being Agnes Grey by her sister Anne). Its innovative structure somewhat puzzled critics. Although it received mixed reviews when it first came out, and was often condemned for its portrayal of amoral passion, the book subsequently became an English literary classic. In 1850, Charlotte edited and published Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel and under Emily's real name.
Emily's health, like her sisters', had been weakened by unsanitary conditions at home, the source of water being contaminated by runoff from the church's graveyard. She caught a cold during the funeral of her brother in September 1848. Refusing medical help, she died on 19 December 1848 at about two in the afternoon. She was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels family vault, Haworth, West Yorkshire.