About the Author

Portrait of Emily Bronte

Perhaps the greatest writer of the three Brontë sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Emily Brontë published only one novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), a story of the doomed love and revenge. The sisters also published jointly a volume of verse, Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, but only two copies of the book were sold.

Emily Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in the north of England. Her father was the rector of Hawort from 1820. After their mother died in 1821, the children spent most of their time in reading and composition. To escape their unhappy childhood, Anne, Emily, Charlotte and their brother Branwell created imaginary worlds - perhaps inspired by Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726). Emily and Anne created their own Gondal saga, and Bramwell and Charlotte recorded their stories about the kingdom of Angria in minute notebooks. Between the years 1824 and 1825 Emily attended the school at Cowan Bridge with Charlotte, and then was largely educated at home. Her father's bookshelf offered a variety of reading: the Bible, Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Scott and many others. The children also read enthusiastically articles on current affairs and intellectual disputes in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Fraser's Magazine, and Edinburgh Review.

In 1835 Emily Brontë was at Roe Head, but suffered from homesickness and returned after a few months to the moorland scenery of home. In 1837 she became a governess at Law Hill, near Halifax, where she spent six months. To facilitate their plan to keep school for girls, Emily and Charlotte Brontë went in 1842 to Brussels to learn foreign languages and school management. Emily returned on the same year to Haworth, where she stayed for the rest of her brief life.

Unlike Charlotte, Emily had no close friends. She wrote a few letters and was interested in mysticism. Her first novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), a story-within-a-story, did not gain immediate success as Charlotte's Jane Eyre, but it has acclaimed later fame as one of the most intense novels written in the English language. In contrast to Charlotte and Anne, whose novels take the form of autobiographies written by authoritative and reliable narrators, Emily introduced an unreliable narrator, Lockwood. He constantly misinterprets the reactions and interactions of the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. More reliable is Nelly Dean, his housekeeper, who has lived for two generations with the novel's two principal families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons.

Emily Brontë died of tuberculosis in the late 1848. She had caught cold at her brother Branwell's funeral in September. After the appearance of Wuthering Heighs, some skeptics maintained that the book was written by Branwell, on the grounds that no woman from such circumscribed life, could have written such passionate story. In 1848 Charlotte and Anne visited George Smith to reveal their identity and to help quell rumors that a single author lay behind the pseudonyms. After her sisters' deaths, Charlotte edited a second edition of their novels, with prefatory commentary aimed at correcting what she saw as the reviewers' misunderstanding of Wuthering Heights. The complex time scheme of the novel had been taken as evidence by the critics, that Emily had not achieved full formal control over her narrative materials. However, her model in layering narrative within narrative may have been Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818). Emily's refusal to reduce ambiguity to simplistic clarity did not have any immediate influence on the novel form until Wilkie Collins experimented with multivocal first-person narratives in such works as The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868).

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