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Emily Jane Brontë (pronounced /ˈbrɒnti/ or /ˈbrɒnteɪ/) (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet. She published under the androgynous pen name Ellis Bell. Brontë was the second eldest of the three surviving Brontë sisters, between Charlotte and Anne.
Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818 in Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire, to Maria Branwell and Patrick Brontë. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë and the fifth of six children. In 1824, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily's father was perpetual curate, and it was in these surroundings that their literary gifts flourished.
After the death of their mother, 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. Emily joined the school for a brief period. When a typhus 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 along with Charlotte and Elizabeth. Elizabeth died soon after their return home. 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.)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. In their leisure time the children created a number of paracosms, which were featured in stories they wrote and enacted about the imaginary adventures of their toy soldiers along with the Duke of Wellington and his sons, Charles and Arthur Wellesley. Little of Emily's work from this period survived, except for poems spoken by characters (The Brontës' Web of Childhood, Fannie Ratchford, 1941).
When Emily was 13, she and Anne withdrew from participation in the Angria story and began a new one about Gondal, a large island in the North Pacific. If they wrote stories or novels about Gondal, these were not preserved. Some "diary papers" of Emily's have survived in which she describes current events in Gondal, some of which were written, others enacted with Anne. One dates from 1841, when Emily was twenty-three: another from 1845, when she was twenty-seven. Anne made a list of Gondal names and places which also survives.
At seventeen, Emily attended the Roe Head girls' school, where Charlotte was a teacher, but managed to stay only three 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.
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 and cleaning and teaching Sunday school. She taught herself German out of books and practiced piano. Constantin Heger, teacher of Charlotte and Emily during their stay in Brussels, on a daguerreotype dated from circa 1865In 1842, Emily accompanied Charlotte to Brussels, Belgium, where they attended a girls' academy run by Constantin Heger. They planned to perfect their French and German in anticipation of opening their school. Nine of Emily's French essays survive from this period. The sisters returned home upon the death of their aunt. They did try to open a school at their home, but were unable to attract students to the remote area.
In 1844, Emily began going through all the poems she had written, recopying them neatly into two notebooks. One was labeled "Gondal Poems"; the other was unlabeled. Scholars such as Fannie Ratchford and Derek Roper have attempted to piece together a Gondal storyline and chronology from these poems.
In the fall of 1845, Charlotte discovered the notebooks and insisted that the poems be published. Emily, furious at the invasion of her privacy, at first refused, but relented when Anne brought out her own manuscripts and revealed she had been writing poems in secret as well.
In 1846, the sisters' poems were published in one volume as Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The Brontë sisters had adopted pseudonyms for publication: Charlotte was Currer Bell, Emily was Ellis Bell and Anne was Acton Bell. Charlotte writes in the "Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell" that they chose "Christian names positively masculine" to dissuade any bias on the premise of their gender. The poetry, which was mostly if not all of Emily's, received unfavourable reviews. It was this that drove them to begin their first professional novels. In 1847, Emily 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. The Climb to Top Withens, Yorkshire, 2007.Although it received mixed reviews when it first came out, and was often condemned for its portrayal of amoral passion, 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.
Emily's health, like her sisters', had been weakened by unsanitary conditions at home, the source of water being contaminated by runoff from the church's graveyard. She caught a cold during the funeral of her brother in September 1848. She soon grew very thin and ill, but rejected medical help and refused all proffered remedies, saying that she would have "no poisoning doctor" near her. She died on 19 December 1848 at about two in the afternoon. She was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels family vault, Haworth, West Yorkshire.
Emily was reserved and taciturn, but she is also noted for her remarkable force of character.
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