This edited article about the Brontes originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 731 published on 17 January 1976.
Emily Bronte was a strange woman – one of the most mysterious writers in the history of our literature.
Born in August 1818, she was one of six children of an Irish parson, who had changed the family name from Brunty.
Their mother died, leaving the Reverend Patrick Bronte to rear his brood of five girls and one boy.
He persuaded his late wife’s sister to do the housework at least temporarily – and succeeded so well in his pleas that she remained at their home, Haworth Parsonage, Yorkshire, for the rest of her life.
Emily loved her home, the dour parsonage, and left it only briefly – once to attend a school, then to spend a short term as a teacher, and once to spend a year in Brussels with her sister, Charlotte.
Although there were servants in the parsonage, Emily was mistress of the kitchen, and her home-made bread was famous in the little town.
When occasionally her sisters realized that she was absent from the house, they knew where to find her.
She would be walking the wild, bleak moors which surrounded the village. There in the open countryside she seemed to find a quality which matched what was within her.
But for most of the time she was content to knead the family bread, sleeves rolled up and arms flour-whitened, at the same time studying a textbook.
Emily had loathed school, but not learning, and she spent much of her free time studying.
It was not until Charlotte found an accidentally-dropped notebook that anyone knew what Emily did with the rest of her time. The notebook, which Charlotte read in her own room, was filled with poetry which Emily had written.
When it turned out that Charlotte, Emily and Anne (the other sisters were dead) were all three engaged in writing poetry, they pooled their efforts.
The resulting book, called Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell was published at their own expense. Despite some good reviews, the book sold only two copies.
Within a year however, each of the sisters had completed a novel – Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre, Anne wrote Agnes Grey and Emily wrote Wuthering Heights.
The same publisher printed Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights together, holding them back until Jane Eyre was a success. Even so, the combined volume lost money, and it was not until long after Emily’s death that her work began to enjoy any real popularity. Apart from the poetry and a few essays, Wuthering Heights is all Emily wrote.
Perhaps she planned a second book. But if she did it is lost, and hints about it are part of the mystery.
Emily caught a cold and succumbed rapidly to tuberculosis, which had now killed her brother and two of her sisters. In time, Charlotte was also to die tragically, in childbirth, soon after she had married.
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