Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell)

Emily Bronte was born at Thornton in Yorkshire to Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë and the fifth of six children. In 1820, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily's father was perpetual curate, and it was in these surroundings that their literary talent flourished. In childhood, after the death of their mother, the three sisters and their brother Branwell Brontë created imaginary lands (Angria, Gondal, Gaaldine), which featured in stories they wrote. Little of Emily's work from this period survived, except for poems spoken by characters (The Brontës' Web of Childhood, Fannie Ratchford, 1941).

In 1838, Emily commenced work as a governess at Miss Patchett's Ladies Academy at Law Hill Hall, near Halifax. Later, with her sister Charlotte, she attended a private school in Brussels. Both of them later opened up a school at their home, but had no pupils.

It was the discovery of Emily's poetic talent by her family that led her and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, to publish a joint collection of their poetry in 1846. To evade contemporary prejudice against female writers, the Brontë sisters adopted androgynous first names. All three retained the first letter of their first names: Charlotte became Currer Bell, Anne became Acton Bell, and Emily became Ellis Bell.

In 1847, she published her only novel, Wuthering Heights, as two volumes of a three volume set (the last volume being Agnes Grey by her sister Anne). Its innovative structure somewhat puzzled critics. Although it received mixed reviews when it first came out, the book subsequently became an English literary classic. In 1850, Charlotte edited and published Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel and under Emily's real name.

Like her sisters, Emily's health had been weakened by their harsh life at home and at school. She died on December 19, 1848 of tuberculosis, having caught a chill during the funeral of her brother in September. She was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels family vault, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England. Her favorite stuffed toy, Dave the Monkey, was interred with her, but was subsequently removed and placed in the Haworth Parsonage museum.

Charlotte Bronte
Anne Bronte
Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell
Editor's Preface to the New Edition of 'Wuthering Heights'
Poems by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte
 

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