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Free Study Guide-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-Free BookNotes
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY

EMILY BRONTË

The fifth of six children, Emily Jane Brontë was born on July 30, 1818. She was brought up in the stone parsonage at Haworth, Yorkshire. She died on December 19, 1848 after a brief but harrowing illness and was buried in the church where her father was curate from 1820 until his death in 1861.

As a child Emily was described as "a pretty little thing." She was the tallest of the sisters and had dark hair and gray eyes. Her love of Haworth and the moorland about it was all consuming. In November of 1824, Emily, with two of her sisters, attended the Clergy Daughter's School at Casterton. Conditions there were very bad. As a result Maria and Elizabeth died, and Charlotte became very ill. The children remained there until June of 1825. With the exception of three months at Roe Head in 1835, Emily had no further formal schooling. Her sister, Charlotte, was teaching there at the time, but the younger Emily was homesick and growing ill; therefore, she was sent home. The education of Emily and Anne was left mainly to Charlotte. A six-month period of teaching near Halifax, Yorkshire, in 1837-38, and an eight-month stay in Brussels at the Pensionnat Heger, in 1842-43, were Emily's only absences from her beloved Haworth and its wild and lonely moors. She loved the moors, because she was fond of nature and animals, especially of Keeper, her pet bulldog, who mourned for months after her death.


During her early years, Emily, like her sisters, had done a good deal of writing. Poems of the three sisters appeared under pseudonyms in 1846 when Emily was twenty-eight years old. Only Emily's poems, hinting at mystical experiences, had any intrinsic merit. Later her mysticism returned fitfully and dimly, and she called it "rapturous pain" and "divinest anguish." Emily turned her attention away from poetry and tried her hand at fiction writing. In 1847, at the age of twenty-nine, she published Wuthering Heights under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell. The book went almost unnoticed; and those who read it were shocked by the violent behavior of the characters it described. This unique novel has served as a battleground for critics for over a century. Somerset Maugham considers it among the ten greatest novels in the English language.

In 1848, Emily attended the funeral of her dissipated brother, Branwell. Soon after the funeral, Emily became ill and eventually developed tuberculosis. With great fortitude she continued her round of duties, rising at seven and retiring at ten. On December 18, 1848 she attended to her duties for the last time, for she died the next day.

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