Emily Jane Brontë (//, commonly /-/; 30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet who is best known 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.
Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818 in Market Street in the village of Thornton on the outskirts of Bradford, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, in Northern England, to Maria Branwell and an Irish father, Patrick Brontë. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë and the fifth of six children. 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 talents.
After the death of their mother on 15 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 on 25 November 1824, 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. A shy girl, Emily was very close to her siblings and was known as a great animal lover, being especially noted for befriending the stray dogs she found wandering around the countryside. 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 (including 'Angria') which 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. Little of Emily's work from this period survives, except for poems spoken by characters. When Emily was 13, she and Anne withdrew from participation in the Angria story and began a new one about Gondal, a fictional island whose myths and legends were to preoccupy the two sisters throughout their lives. With the exception of their Gondal poems and Anne's lists of Gondal's characters and place-names, the writings on Gondal 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. The heroes of Gondal resemble the popular image of the Highlanders of Scotland as a sort of British version of the "noble savage", being romantic outlaws who were capable of more romanticism, nobility, passion and bravery than those from "civilization". One of the fictional works produced by the Brontë siblings was Branwell's The Life of Alexander Percy, which tells the story of how he and his wife have such a complete love and understanding for one another that eventually their love becomes self-destructive. Her brother's story was to become the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.
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. Charlotte later stated that: "Liberty was the breath of Emily's nostrils; without it she perished. The change from her own home to a school and from her own very noiseless, very secluded but unrestricted and unartificial mode of life, to one of disciplined routine (though under the kindest auspices), was what she failed in enduring... I felt in my heart she would die, if she did not go home, and with this conviction obtained her recall." She returned home and Anne took her place.[a] 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, ironing, and cleaning. She taught herself German out of books and also practised the piano.