Emily Brontë

The only undisputed portrait of Brontë, from a group portrait by her brother Branwell.

Emily Jane Brontë (July 30, 1818 – December 19, 1848) was an English novelist and poet who is best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature

Emily Brontë was born on 30 July, 1818 to Maria Branwell and an Irish father, Patrick Brontë. The family was living on Market Street in the village of Thornton on the outskirts of Bradford, in the West Riding of YorkshireNorthern England. Emily’s older siblings included, eldest to youngest, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Branwell, making Emily the Brontë’s fifth child. In 1820, Emily’s younger sister Anne, the last Brontë child, was born. Shortly thereafter, the family moved eight miles away to Haworth, where Patrick was employed as perpetual curate In Haworth, the children would have opportunities to develop their literary talents.

Only a few months later, Brontë’s mother died of cancer; her death came nearly nine months after the birth of her sister, Anne. Her mother’s sister, Elizabeth Branwell, came to live with the family to help care for the children.

At the age of 6, Emily was sent to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge with Charlotte and her two oldest sisters, Elizabeth and Maria. Both Elizabeth and Maria became seriously ill at school and returned home, where they died of tuberculosis in 1825. Brontë’s father removed both Emily and Charlotte from the school as well.

At home in Haworth, Brontë enjoyed her quiet life. She read extensively and began to make up stories with her siblings. The surviving Brontë children, which included brother Branwell, had strong imaginations. They created tales inspired by toy soldiers given to Branwell by their father. In 1835, the shy Emily tried leaving home for school. She went with Charlotte to Miss Wooler’s school in Roe Head where Charlotte worked as a teacher. But she stayed only a few months before heading back to Haworth.

Coming from a poor family, Brontë tried to find work. She became a teacher at the Law Hill School in September 1837, but she left her position the following March. Brontë and her sister Charlotte traveled to Brussels in 1842 to study, but the death of their aunt Elizabeth forced them to return home.

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights was first published in London in 1847 by Thomas Cautley Newby, appearing as the first two volumes of a three-volume set that included Anne Brontë‘s Agnes Grey. The authors were printed as being Ellis and Acton Bell; Emily’s real name did not appear until 1850, when it was printed on the title page of an edited commercial edition. The novel’s innovative structure somewhat puzzled critics. Even though the novel 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. Emily Brontë never knew the extent of fame she achieved with her only novel, as she died a year after its publication, aged 30.

Emily Brontë remains a mysterious figure and a challenge to biographers because information about her is sparse due to her solitary and reclusive nature. She died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848, nearly two months after her brother, Branwell, succumbed to the same disease. Her sister Anne also fell ill and died of tuberculosis the following May.

Interest in Brontë’s work and life remains strong today. The parsonage where Brontë spent much of her life is now a museum. The Brontë Society operates the museum and works to preserve and honor the work of the Brontë sisters.

No Coward Soul Is Mine, by Emily Brontë is one of the last poems she wrote before the creative upsurge of Wuthering Heights. She is praising an immortal deity, while preparing her own immortal life as a writer.