EMILY BRONTE, 1818-1848
EMILY BRONTE was a woman singular in the midst of a singular family. Few women can have resembled her, and her writings are as unique as her personality. Charlotte said of her that "an interpreter ought always to have stood between her and the world." Perhaps it was with something of this object that she painted the portrait of Shirley. She tries to dazzle us with Shirley's brilliance. We hear that she was wistful and careless, fond of animals, childlike and queenly, with "odd points and grand points" about her. We know that her charms were able to soothe even the Rev. Peter Augustus Malone, and we are told that she had dreams and fancies of a unique quality. -- "Indolent she is, reckless she is, and most ignorant, for she does not know her dreams are rare -- her feelings peculiar; she does not know, has never known, and will die without knowing, the full value of that spring whose bright fresh bubbling in her heart keeps it green." Still, with the possible exception of her dreams, this bright Shirley Keeldar does not seem like the forbidding Emily Bronte whose personality stands gaunt behind her writings. Shirley cannot represent Emily as she was, but as she might have been. We feel there is something else which has never been fully told. Attempts have been made, but competent critics and scholars have condemned them as exaggerated or fantastic. Mr Clement Shorter, who probably knows more about Emily than any living man, has called her "the sphinx of our modern literature." There is nothing for it but to resign ourselves to the certainty that we shall never know the whole truth concerning Emily Bronte.
We know this much -- she was an entirely different being from her sister Charlotte. As children they played their game of "The Islanders," each choosing a real island, and real inhabitants, and then setting their imaginations loose to work out the unguessed future. Charlotte went south, and