Emily Jane Bronte was an English poet and novelist who is universally known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights. She was born in Thornton, West Yorkshire, England on 30th July 1818 and died in Haworth, Yorkshire on 19th December 1848 aged 30.
“Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell” (1846)
“Wuthering Heights”. (1846)
Emily was born on 30th July 1818 at The Parsonage, 74 Market Street, Thornton, Yorkshire, England. She was the daughter of a cleric Patrick Bronte and his wife Maria (nee Branwell) who was originally from Cornwall. She was the fifth of their six children. Patrick was the son of a poor tenant farmer who had left Ireland in 1802 in order to study at Cambridge. Emily was a sister to Branwell, Charlotte and Anne. The family were always short of money relying on her father’s small income.
She was educated at the Clergy Daughter’s School in Cowan Bridge, Yorkshire and at Miss Wooler’s School, Roe Head and at home at Haworth.
1820: The Bronte family move to the Parsonage at Haworth during April.
1821: Death of her mother on 5th September eighteen months after the move to Haworth. Her elder sister Elizabeth Branwell had come from Penzance to nurse her and now takes up permanent residence with the family.
1824: The four eldest Brontë girls are sent to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge. Conditions at the school are harsh with poor food and little heating. Discipline was also harsh. Several pupils are sent home ill, among them her elder sisters Maria and Elizabeth who both succumbed to tuberculosis. Emily and Charlotte return to Haworth.
1833: Emily and Anne probably develop the fantasy world of Gondal at this time. Emily is by now fourteen. Gondal is a large imaginary island in the Pacific Ocean.
1834: The earliest surviving diary paper written jointly with Anne on November 24th describes life in the parsonage and intersperses it with the goings on in their imaginary world of Gondal. Branwell paints the famous painting of his three sisters now known as the “gun group” as he was studying portraiture at the time.
1835: She goes with Charlotte to Roe Hall but after three months of being miserable there she becomes ill and her father calls her back home and her place is taken by Anne.
1836: Writing of the earliest poem on 12th July which still exists.
1838: She goes to Halifax, Yorkshire to teach at Law Hill School for six months. The spartan regime there makes her ill and she returns to Haworth
1839: In August a handsome new curate, the Revd William Weightman, arrives at the parsonage. Emily seems to be the only one not seduced by his charms and is given the nickname “the Major” for defending Charlotte’s friend Ellen against Weightman’s advances.
1840: Tabby Aykroyd, the Brontë’s servant since 1824 leaves the parsonage after a fall and Emily takes on many of her household duties.
1842: In February Emily goes to Brussels with Charlotte to study at the Pensionat Heger, and they are accompanied by their father. After only nine months there Charlotte and Emily are summoned home by the death of Aunt Branwell.
1843: Charlotte returns to Brussels but Emily remains and becomes the official housekeeper at the parsonage. She continues to write and produces a large amount of poetry.
1844: She divides her Gondal work from her non-Gondal work into two separate notebooks. She tries to open a school in Haworth with Charlotte but there are no takers for such an isolated spot.
1845: Her last diary entry is written on 31st July. Branwell suggests to his sisters that novel writing is more profitable than poetry.
1846: “Poems” by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell” (The sister’s pseudonyms) is published in May with the family paying the costs with money from their Aunt’s will. Only two copies were sold. The novel “Wuthering Heights” is finished during July and was heavily influenced by her Gondal stories
1847: Thomas Cautley Newby accepts “Wuthering Heights” and “Agnes Grey” for publication but not Charlotte’s but not “The Professor”. “Wuthering Heights” received hostile reviews and was described as being savage and sales were so poor that none of the authors received any payment. It was not until the 1870’s when the poet Algernon Swinburne championed “Wuthering Heights” that it was seen as a ground breaking work and became a classic.
1848: She withdraws from life. Her brother Branwell dies from consumption on 24th September. Emily leaves the Parsonage on 1st October for the last time to attend Branwell’s funeral and catches a severe cold which becomes an inflammation of the lungs. It is clear that she also had tuberculosis but she refused any medical help and continued with her household duties to the end.
Emily Bronte died on 19th December 1848 in the Parsonage at Howarth and is buried in the churchyard next door.