BOOK REVIEW / Desperately Seeking the Mysterious Emily: 'Emily Bronte: Heretic' - Stevie Davies: The Women's Press, 8.99 Pounds
Miller, Lucasta, The Independent (London, England)
EMILY BRONTE is notoriously elusive. In life she does not seem to have made a single friend outside her immediate family, and she has been equally unwilling in death to share herself with her biographers. Unlike the other literary giants of the 19th century, she left almost nothing in the way of letters and diaries. But she did leave a single novel that has tantalised generations of readers. The apparent enigma of Wuthering Heights has left Emily ripe for mystification, and many writers have trawled their own imaginations for the missing links.
Stevie Davies is best known as a novelist, and this is more an extended work of criticism than a straightforward biography. The known facts of Emily's life are so sparse, and her contribution to literature so great, that this seems the most sensible way to approach her. Charlotte Bronte once wrote of her sister that an interpreter should have stood between her and the world. And Davies is far more concerned with re-reading Emily's personality in the light of her works than with rewriting the events of her life.
Emily has justly been called a sphinx, but Davies is at her best when she resists the temptation to solve her riddle, and celebrates the paradoxes in her nature. This was a woman whose poems suggest a self-sufficiency taken to the point of solipsism, yet who was pathetically dependent on her family; who refused point-blank to be ladylike, yet who found a 'delinquent' freedom within the home and its domestic duties; who devoted her life to the written word, yet who could not talk to strangers; and who was, in Davies's reading, profoundly aware of her own femaleness but utterly uninterested in the feminist struggle for social change.
Davies connects these paradoxes with the philosophy of contraries she explores in Emily's work, quoting Blake's idea that 'Without contraries is no progression. …