A Chainless Soul (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
At a time when the fad in literary biography is for huge tomes detailing every moment in a writer’s life and speculating exhaustively on every ambiguity, it is refreshing to read a study of a major literary figure that emphasizes essential events and a strong narrative line Nevertheless, one may rightly ask why, after Winifred Gerin’s four-volume treatment of the Brontë siblings, a new study of Emily Brontë is warranted. Katherine Frank raises and squarely answers this question herself asserting the need to correct “the rhapsodic, storm-tossed, fundamentally sentimental version of the family’s story.” Her interpretation presents Emily as neither Romantic rebel nor passive victim but as a courageous, willful, secretive, and very often abrasive woman of great but often self-destructive integrity.
The essential facts of the Brontës’ story are well known and not much in dispute. Patrick Brontë, born in Ireland, raised himself from the peasantry to become first a student at the University of Cambridge and then an ordained clergyman of Evangelical temper. He accepted a call to his second parish in Haworth, Yorkshire, in 1820 and remained there until his death in 1861. His wife’s death in 1821, followed by the deaths of his two oldest daughters in 1825, left his remaining four children essentially orphaned and deeply affected, for neither Patrick nor his sister-in-law Elizabeth Branwell could provide the parental affection necessary to...
(The entire section is 1894 words.)
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