I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy, and free.
Emily Jane Brontë was a British novelist and poet, now best remembered for her only novel Wuthering Heights, a classic of English literature. Emily was the second eldest of the three surviving Brontë sisters, being younger than Charlotte Brontë and older than Anne Brontë. She published under the masculine pen name Ellis Bell.
Emily was born in Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire to Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë 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 oddities flourished. In childhood, after the death of their mother, the three sisters and their brother Patrick Branwell Brontë created imaginary lands (Angria, Gondal, Gaaldine, Oceania), which were featured in stories they wrote. Little of Emily’s work from this period survived, except for poems spoken by characters (The Brontës’ Web of Childhood, Fannie Ratchford, 1941).
In 1842, Emily commenced work as a governess at Miss Patchett’s Ladies Academy at Law Hill School, near Halifax, leaving after about six months due to homesickness. Later, with her sister Charlotte, she attended a private school in Brussels. They later tried to open up a school at their home, but had no pupils.
It was the discovery of Emily’s poetic talent by Charlotte that led her and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, to publish a joint collection of their poetry in 1846, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. To evade contemporary prejudice against female writers, the Brontë sisters adopted androgynous first names. All three retained the first letter of their first names: Charlotte became Currer Bell, Anne became Acton Bell, and Emily became Ellis Bell. In 1847, she 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, 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.
Like her sisters, Emily’s health had been weakened by the harsh local climate at home and at school. She caught a chill during the funeral of her brother in September, and, having refused all medical help, died on December 19, 1848 of tuberculosis, possibly caught from nursing her brother. She was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels family capsule, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.(less)