Emily Brontë Additional Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Emily Jane Brontë was born at Thornton, in Bradford Parish, Yorkshire, on July 30, 1818, the fifth child of the Reverend Patrick and Maria Brontë. Patrick Brontë had been born in county Down, Ireland, one of ten children, on March 17, 1777. He was a schoolteacher and tutor before he obtained his bachelor of arts degree from Cambridge in 1806, from where he was ordained to curacies, first in Essex and then in Hartshead, Yorkshire. He married Maria Branwell, of Penzance, in Hartshead on December 19, 1812, and in 1817, they moved to Thornton. The other children in the family at the time of Emily’s birth were Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Patrick Branwell; another daughter, Anne, was born two years later. Charlotte and Anne Brontë also became writers.

In early 1820, the family moved to Haworth, four miles from the village of Keighley, where the Reverend Brontë was perpetual curate until his death in 1861. Maria Brontë died on September 15, 1821, and about a year later, her elder sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved in to take care of the children and household. She remained with them until her own death in 1842.

Life at Haworth was spartan but not unpleasant. There was a close and devoted relationship among the children, especially between Charlotte and Emily. Reading was a favorite pastime, and a wide range of books, including the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the poetry of William Wordsworth and Robert Southey, as well as the more predictable classics, was available to the children. Outdoor activities included many hours of wandering through the moors and woods. Their father wanted the children to be hardy and independent, intellectually and physically, indifferent to the passing fashions of the world.

Maria, Elizabeth, and Charlotte had already been sent away to a school for clergymen’s daughters, at Cowan Bridge, when Emily joined them in November, 1824. Emily was not happy in this confined and rigid environment and longed for home. Two of the sisters, Elizabeth and Maria, became ill and were taken home to die during 1825; in June, Charlotte and Emily returned home as well.

From 1825 to 1830, the remaining Brontë children lived at Haworth with their father and their aunt, Miss Branwell. In June, 1826, their father gave them a set of wooden toy soldiers, a seemingly insignificant gift that stimulated their...

(The entire section is 968 words.)


(19th-Century Biographies)

ph_0111201939-Bronte_E.jpg Emily Brontë Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Early Lives

Patrick Brontë was a powerful force in his family’s personal and creative life. He was born in Ireland in 1777 and overcame poverty to attend Cambridge University in England. The self-disciplined, hard-working young man became a minister in the Church of England and married Maria Branwell in 1812. They had six children in seven years: Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily Jane, and Anne. In 1820 Patrick moved his family to Haworth, England, where he was appointed minister for life. Maria died of cancer in 1821 at age thirty-eight, leaving Patrick with six small children.

Even after they became adults, the Brontë sisters seldom ventured far from Haworth, the center of their creative lives. The Brontë home was cold and damp, and the town suffered from the effects of open sewers and industrial pollution. Cholera and tuberculosis were common, and the average life expectancy in Haworth was only twenty-six years. It was a rough provincial town, and the family, while respected and well liked, had little social contact with townsfolk. The Brontë children turned to each other for companionship and entertainment. Although early Brontë scholarship portrayed Patrick as a tyrannical father, later research presented him more favorably. Defying the patriarchal values of his day, he educated his daughters and encouraged them in their creative efforts.

After Maria died, Patrick sent his four oldest daughters to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge, probably the model for Charlotte’s vivid portrayal of the harsh conditions in Jane Eyre’s boarding school. After the two oldest girls became ill, Patrick brought his daughters home. Within a five-week period in 1825, Maria and Elizabeth died from tuberculosis. During the next six years Patrick educated the children himself.

The children found the outside world intimidating. In 1831 Charlotte went to Roe Head, a private school that she first attended as a student and then later returned to briefly as a teacher. Emily and Anne attended Roe Head for a short time but were unhappy away from home. In 1842 Charlotte and Emily attended a private school in Belgium, where Charlotte remained until 1844. The three sisters sometimes worked as governesses, which enriched their writing by exposing them to diverse social situations and giving them insights into aspects of human nature from which they were sheltered in Haworth.

Life’s Work

While the young Brontë women found their ventures out into the world emotionally trying, their intellectual and creative lives blossomed in Haworth. In 1826 Patrick gave Branwell twelve toy soldiers. Each child chose a soldier and named it after a personal hero and then wrote and performed plays about the character. They set their stories in an imaginary African kingdom called Angria; later Emily and Anne created their own realm, which they named Gondal, and located it on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Their fantasy worlds satisfied their emotional needs more than their bleak surroundings did. Charlotte did not free herself from her obsession with Angria until 1839, and Anne and Emily were still writing about Gondal in 1845. Angria and Gondal served as a deep well for the Brontës’ creative lives. They populated their kingdoms with people from history and from contemporary society pages. They laid out cities, devised geographies and drew maps, wrote their kingdoms’ histories, and incorporated the social and political controversies of their own day into Angria and Gondal. They painted and wrote poetry, drama, prose, and historical narrative.

Charlotte had a wider audience in mind. In 1845, she convinced Emily and Anne to join her in publishing a collection of their poetry, entitled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846). Since the patriarchal Victorian society seldom took female writers seriously, they published their book under male-sounding pseudonyms: Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell. Even before the poems appeared, the three sisters decided that each, using their pseudonyms, would publish a novel, to be published jointly in a three-volume work. Anne wrote Agnes Grey (1847), which drew on her experiences as a governess. Emily contributed Wuthering Heights (1847), whose dramatic characters and emotionally charged plot derived from her Gondal writings. Charlotte’s The Professor (1857) was enriched by her work as a teacher, especially from her years in Belgium.

Publisher Thomas Cautley Newby refused The Professor but published Anne’s and Emily’s novels. Anne’s book was warmly accepted by the public. She was concerned with incorporating morality and religion into daily life. Agnes Grey provided trenchant criticism of a society that allowed mediocrity to triumph over excellence and that tolerated an ignorant and insensitive upper class that had little understanding of the hard-working, decent people that surrounded and served them.

The first reaction to Wuthering Heights was that it was powerful but coarse and disturbing. In the novel, Heathcliff, a wild, abandoned child, is brought...

(The entire section is 2123 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Emily Jane Brontë (BRAHN-tee) was born on July 30, 1818, in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, the fifth of six children, five of whom were girls. Her father, Patrick Brontë, was an industrious Irish clergyman who accepted a permanent post at St. Michael and All Angels Church when Emily was two years old. Her mother, Maria Branwell, a Cornish merchant’s daughter, died shortly after the move to Haworth, after which her devout and capable sister Elizabeth Branwell joined the family to care for the Brontë children.

Growing up in the parsonage shaped Brontë’s life enormously. She was secluded from all but her family. The few accounts to be had of Brontë’s character confirm that she was outwardly reserved, almost...

(The entire section is 806 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Emily Brontë is a master at exploring human emotion. In the annals of world literature, her status is unique. Her standing as a major novelist rests on the merits of Wuthering Heights, yet no examination of English fiction can afford to ignore it. The book’s character and settings are embedded within the heritage of Western culture. Her poetry, infused with the Romantic ideal of transcendence, depicts the soul’s desire to travel beyond the limits of time and space in order to find liberation.

The moorland in which she grew up gave her a language of expression that is powerful as well as beautiful. Charlotte Brontë best expresses the originality and power of Emily’s work:With time and labour, the crag took human shape; and there it stands, colossal, dark, and frowning, half statue, half rock: in the former sense, terrible and goblinlike; in the latter, almost beautiful, for its colouring of mellow grey, and moorland moss clothes it; and heath, with its blooming bells and balmy fragrance, grows faithfully close to the giant’s foot.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Emily Jane Brontë (BRAHNT-ee), the fifth child of the Reverend Patrick Brontë and his wife, Maria Branwell, is best remembered as the author of one of the most enigmatic novels in English, Wuthering Heights. The close relationship she enjoyed with her sisters Charlotte and Anne, both acclaimed novelists in their own rights, shaped her life and determined the subject and quality of her writing.{$S[A]Bell, Ellis;Brontë, Emily}

Brontë spent her adult life at Haworth parsonage, the home to which her father moved when she was not yet two years old. Raised by her Aunt Elizabeth after Maria Brontë died of cancer in 1821, she came to love the barren Yorkshire moors and to appreciate the Romantic literature that...

(The entire section is 585 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Emily Bronte Published by Gale Cengage

Emily Brontë, born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in northern England in 1818, is considered by Nineteenth Century Literature as a...

(The entire section is 662 words.)