Emily Brontë (1818-1848) was born on this day, 30 July 1818 in the rectory at Thornton in Yorkshire to the Reverend Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell Brontë, the 5th of their six children and the only daughter to be given a middle name. Unfortunately her mother died when she was only 3 years old and shortly after her aunt moved in to help look after the young family.
The only poems by Emily Brontë that were published in her lifetime were included in a slim volume by Brontë and her sisters Charlotte and Anne titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846), which sold a mere two copies and received only three unsigned reviews in the months following its publication. Brontë’s 21 contributions to Poems represented only a fraction of the nearly two hundred poems collected by C. W. Hatfield in his noteworthy edition, The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë (1941).
Best-known for her novel Wuthering Heights (1847), it creates a world of passionate intensities, in which particular events are burned on the characters’ and readers’ memories beyond reason. Terror stalks the book and defines so many of its central relationships, one review at the time dismissed it as ‘coarse and loathsome’. Emily began another novel, but it was destroyed by Charlotte after Emily’s death, aged 30, from tuberculosis in December 1848. Wuthering Heights was only rescued from obscurity in the 1880s, championed by Algernon Swinburne, Matthew Arnold, and G K Chesterton, who described it as ‘written by an eagle’.
Emily Bronte is one of the very few authors to be an important poet as well as a major novelist, and there is a close relationship between the two bodies of work. Here is one of her poems: