Saturday, May 25, 2013

Extraordinary Victorians - Emily Bronte

It is no secret that I adore Victorian literature. I have enjoyed reading the works of Dickens, Jane Austin, and the Bronte sisters since I was a child. One of my favourite books in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I actually first read this book when I was in grade 5. I took it out of the school library. I went back a week later and asked to borrow it for another week and the librarian did not believe I had read it!
She asked me questions about the book and seemed shocked I actually was reading the book!
I know this book is not everyone's favourite, but there's no denying that Emily and her sisters were extraordinary talents.

Emily was born in July 30 1818 in Thornton Yorkshire, England. She was the second youngest of six children, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and their brother Patrick Branwell (often called Branwell) were older. her younger sister Anne was a couple of years younger then Emily. They moved when she was two, to Haworth, Yorkshire, where father was a pastor. Her mother died a year later, when she was three of what was probably cancer.
After her mother's death the three older girls, Maria, Elizabeth and Charlotte were sent to a school called Clergy Daughters school, where they experienced hardship and abuse. Emily was sent there at the age of six, but was only there a year when a typhoid epidemic went through the school. Maria was sent home ill first, and may have actually had tuberculosis. She died shortly after returning home. The other girls were sent home, but unfortunately Elizabeth died shortly after her return as well. These experiences are recounted in Charlotte's work "Jane Eyre".

Emily, Anne and Charlotte, Branwell painted himself out.
From there on the children were educated at home. Their mothers sister Elizabeth Branwell, helped with this, as did their father. Both her aunt and father were very strict and reclusive. They would eat meals alone, away from the children and make them spend hours in a room being quiet while their father worked. It was in these conditions the children developed a love of reading literature like Milton, Scott and Byron. They also wrote a series of stories about Branwell's toy soldiers set in a fictional world called Angria. When Emily was 13, she and her sister Anne started writing their own stories about a fictional world called Gondol. Unfortunately not much survives of these stories except character and place names, and some poetry.
At age 17, she went back to school, one where her older sister Charlotte was teaching. She lasted less then a year before returning home due to homesickness. Her sister Anne then replaced her. It was at this time the thee girls decided they wanted to open up a school.
At 20 she became a teacher in Halifax, but returned after a year to become a stay at home daughter. Their brother Branwell was also becoming more difficult due to alcoholism and possible opium addiction. He apparently had boughts of depression and mad raving. Emily did not abandon her teaching dream though, and at 24 went to Brussels with Charlotte for further studies in French and German. Their teacher was very impressed with Emily and said she had remarkable reason and should of been born a man. He also remarked that she was stubborn and headstrong.
Both Emily and her sister were offered teaching positions, but returned home because their aunt was ill, and later died.

Emily as painted by her brother.

At age 26 she decided to go through the poems she had written when she was younger, and after some persuasion her sister Charlotte encouraged her to get them published. The three sisters poems were published under the names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, as they could get them published under male names. They got some good reviews but were told only two copies had sold.
Not to be discouraged at age 29, she published Wuthering Heights, the work she is best known for. It was thought to have been written by a man because of the raw passion, and brutality expressed in the work. It wasn't until two years after her death that her real name was revealed as the author.
Emily was reported to have been very shy and reclusive but courageous. She loved walking on the moors, wildlife and animals and rarely spoke to those outside of her circle. As such she remains a bit of a mystery. She was reported to be quite stubborn. After the death of her brother, she caught a bad cold at the funeral and contracted tuberculosis. She refused a doctor, until it was too late, and died in 1848, never seeing the huge success her book was to become.

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1 comment:

  1. I have always wished I could meet Emily, I love the sound of her, she sounds wild, passionate, and reclusive, all traits that I like in others. I am a bit odd myself, I think we might have got on.