See also Brontë, Emily.
Emily Brontë was born in July 1818, the fifth child of Patrick and Maria Branwell Brontë. Brontë was well acquainted with grief and loss early in her life; her mother died when Emily was only three, and her two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, both died of tuberculosis in 1825. Brontë's childhood was largely shaped by the imaginative worlds that she and her remaining siblings created. Charlotte and her only brother, Branwell, created a fantasy world—Angria—peopled by characters with distinctive personalities and made manifest with a set of wooden soldiers given to Branwell by their father. When Charlotte left home for Roe Head School, Emily and the youngest, Anne, created their own world, Gondal. The imaginative richness of their mythic world was sufficient to hold their interest for years to come and was the seedbed of Emily's body of poetry. The Gondal poems are intimately connected to the work that was to become Wuthering Heights (1847), Brontë's only novel.
Brontë's poetry came to light through the midwifery of her own sister Charlotte. In 1845, Charlotte accidentally found a volume of Emily's verse and encouraged her to seek publication. Charlotte describes the poems as “condensed and terse, vigorous and genuine” and with a “peculiar music—wild, melancholy, and elevating” (315). In time, the three Brontë sisters published their poetry under the “positively masculine” names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte explains, “we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise” (315). Though the volume of poetry garnered favorable reviews, it sold only two copies. Each of the three sisters next offered the publishing world a novel; Charlotte's The Professor was declined, but Anne's Agnes Grey and Emily's Wuthering Heights were published in 1847.
By 1848, their brother Branwell, wasted by a life of dissolution and addiction, died in the Brontë home of consumption. Emily nursed him until the end but soon after his death became ill herself and within two months was dead on December 19, 1848.