Emily Bronte was born on the 30th of July 1818 to Maria Branwell and Patrick Bronte who was a Vicar. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Bronte who wrote the novel Jane Eyre. Her mother died in 1821 when Emily was only three years old. Also when Emily and her sisters went off to Clergy Daughters School Maria and Elizabeth Bronte were victims of a Typhus epidemic both of whom died of the illness. This may explain why death is a common theme in her writing. It was at this point that the Bronte sisters started to develop their interest in storytelling and writing because from then on they were educated at home and in their leisure time the children created a number of fantasy worlds which featured in stories they wrote and enacted about imaginary adventures of their toy soldiers along with the duke of Wellington and his Sons.
In 1846 Emily and her sister’s poems were published in a collection called ‘Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell’ adopting pseudonyms for reasons which Charlotte Bronte stated; “we did not declare ourselves women because…we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.”
Emily Bronte was a solitary woman but missed nothing of the harshness of life occurring around her. She was accustomed to starkness and bleakness, her brother, for instance was a drunkard. Except to go to church or take a walk on the hills nears where she lived she rarely left home. She never sought much conversation with the people around her but as her sister Charlotte stated; ‘And yet she knew them; knew their ways, their language, their family histories…’ Therefore although she was a very lonely person she was clearly highly observant and intelligent.
Critical Reception of Emily Bronte’s Work
The work that Emily Bronte is most famous for, Wuthering Heights, was originally met with mixed reviews because although she was praised for her rich imagination and vision in her writing of the novel critics also stated that the text was ambiguous, the narrative confusing and containing some highly nasty characters. Therefore in 1847 when her work was released it was seen as controversial. One critic even said, "How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters is a mystery.” However, now ‘Wuthering Heights’ is considered a great classic of tragic literature.
Her poetry on the other hand was well received by critics for its power, maturity and intelligence.
The fact that Wuthering Heights is more highly praised now than it was when it came out perhaps shows how Emily Bronte’s writing was ahead of its time. She wrote an incredibly mature and powerful novel despite still being very young – around 28 years old. It is therefore a tragedy to the literary world that she died at the age of 30. Her collections of poetry are intelligent, as well as brave pieces because she doesn’t seem afraid to hit upon difficult subjects such as loss or death.
Image: Steve Partridge [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons