Emily Jane Brontë was born on 30 July 1818 and she died on 19 December 1848 .
She was an English novelist and poet, best remembered for her only
novel, Wuthering Heights. Now, considered 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.
Early life and education
The three Brontë sisters, in a 1834 painting by their brother Patrick Branwell. From
left to right: Anne, Emily and Charlotte. (Branwell used to be between Emily and
Charlotte, but subsequently painted himself out.)
Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818 in the village of Thornton, Yorkshire, in
the North of England, to Maria Branwell and Patrick Brontë She was the younger
sister of Charlotte Brontë and the fifth of six children, though the two oldest
girls, Maria and Elizabeth, died in childhood. In 1820, shortly after the birth of
Emily's younger sister Anne, the family moved eight miles away to Haworth, where
Patrick was employed as perpetual curate; here the children developed their literary
After the death of their mother in September 1821 from cancer, when Emily was
three years old, the older sisters Maria, Elizabeth and Charlotte were sent to the Clergy
Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, where they encountered abuse and privations later
described by Charlotte in Jane Eyre. At the age of six, Emily joined her sisters at school for
a brief period. When a typhoid epidemic swept the school, Maria and Elizabeth caught it.
Maria, who may actually have had tuberculosis, was sent home, where she died. Emily was
subsequently removed from the school, in June 1825, along with Charlotte and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth died soon after their return home. The three remaining sisters and their
brother Patrick Branwell were thereafter educated
at home by their father and aunt Elizabeth Branwell,
their mother's sister. Their father, an Irish Anglican
clergyman, was very strict, and during the day he would
work in his office, while the children were to remain
silent in a room together. Despite the lack of formal
education, Emily and her siblings had access to a wide
range of published material; favourites included
Sir Walter Scott, Byron, Shelley, and Blackwood's
Magazine. In their leisure time the children began to
write fiction at home, inspired by a box of toy soldiers
Branwell had received as a gift, and created a number
of fantasy worlds, which were featured in stories they wrote – all 'very strange ones'
according to Charlotte – and enacted about the imaginary
adventures of their toy soldiers along with the Duke of Wellington and his sons, Charles
and Arthur Wellesley.
At seventeen, Emily attended the Roe Head girls' school, where Charlotte was a
teacher, but managed to stay only a few months before being overcome by
extreme homesickness. She returned home and Anne took her place. At this
time, the girls' objective was to obtain sufficient education to open a small school
of their own.
Constantin Héger, teacher of Charlotte and Emily during their stay in Brussels, on
adaguerreotype dated from circa 1865
Emily became a teacher at Law Hill School in Halifax beginning in September
1838, when she was twenty. Her health broke under the stress of the 17-hour work
day and she returned home in April 1839. Thereafter she became the stay-at-home
daughter, doing most of the cooking, ironing, and cleaning and teaching Sunday
school . She taught herself German out of books and practised piano.
In 1842, Emily accompanied Charlotte to the Héger Pensioned
in Brussels, Belgium, where they attended the girls' academy run by Constantin
Héger. They planned to perfect their French and German in anticipation of opening
their school. Nine of Emily's French essays survive from this period. Héger seems
to have been impressed with the strength of Emily's character, and made the
She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have
deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong
imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never
have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of
argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman... impairing this gift was
her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her
Emily believed that her health, like her sisters', had been weakened by the harsh
local climate and by unsanitary conditions at home, the source of water being
contaminated by runoff from the church's graveyard. She caught a severe cold
during the funeral of her brother Branwell in September 1848 which led to
tuberculosis. Though her condition worsened steadily, she rejected medical help
and all proffered remedies, saying that she would have "no poisoning doctor" near
her. On the morning of 19 December 1848, Charlotte, fearing for her sister, wrote
She grows daily weaker. The physician's opinion
was expressed too obscurely to be of use –
he sent some medicine which she would not take.
Moments so dark as these I have never known –
I pray for God's support to us all.