Emily Brontë was an English novelist and poet who is most well known for her novel Wuthering Heights, a classic of English literature. Emily was the third eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and her brother Branwell. She wrote under the pen name Ellis Bell. Born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, on July 30, 1818, Emily Jane Brontë lived a quiet life in Yorkshire with her clergyman father; brother, Branwell Brontë; and two sisters, Charlotte and Anne. The sisters enjoyed writing poetry and novels, published pseudonymously. As “Ellis Bell,” Emily wrote her only published novel, for which she is best remembered, Wuthering Heights, in 1847. It garnered wide critical and commerical acclaim. She was not the only creative talent in her family?her sisters Charlotte and Anne, and her father, enjoyed literary success too.
Emily was the fifth child of Reverend Patrick Brontë and his wife, Maria Branwell Brontë. The family moved to Haworth in April 1821. 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, reading extensively and creating 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 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.
Some of Emily’s earliest known works in prose and poetry involve a fictional world called Gondal, which she created with her sister Anne. Her sister Charlotte discovered some of Emily’s poems and sought to publish them. The three sisters used male pen names for their collection – Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
It was only after Brontë’s death that Wuthering Heights developed its reputation as a literary masterwork. She died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848, nearly two months after her brother, Branwell, succumbed to the same disease. Interest in Brontë’s work and life remains strong today, and the parsonage where Brontë lived for most of her life is now a museum.