Emily Brontë Emily Brontë

Charlotte Brontë described her young sister Emily as an unrelenting genius, an idea which Elizabeth Gaskell translated into still-standing myth in The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857).

Emily Brontë's reputation as such now rests overwhelmingly on her one novel, Wuthering Heights (1847). With its storm-darkened moors and roiling psychological landscape, Wuthering Heights combines some of the most popular mid-Victorian genres -- realism, fantasy, horror, and melodrama -- to produce a novel influenced by the Romanticism of the 19th century's first three decades. Influencing the physically and psychologically violent "sensation novels" which would become so popular in the century's second half, the novel remains singular and category-defying in the canon of British literature.

Except for Charlotte's few anecdotes about Emily, little is known about the younger Brontë's life: she left no correspondence or journal, and only the one novel, a few poems, and her elaborately drawn juvenile writings -- composed with Charlotte, their younger sister Anne, and brother Branwell -- about the rival kingdoms of Angria and Gondal.

Brontë returned to Haworth, their Yorkshire home, where she was educated with her sisters and brother after a one-year stint at Cowan School. Brontë's other attempts at school, as both student and teacher, generally ended quickly, due to her poor physical health and homesickness. Her stay in Belgium with Charlotte, beginning in 1842, was cut short for the same reasons.

In 1846, the three sisters pseudonymously published The Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, but only Emily's poetry is considered to be of any lasting merit. The Brontës's lives were famously marked by loss: Their mother died in 1821; the two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died within months of each other in 1824; and Anne died in the spring of 1849 at the age of 29. Less than a year earlier, Branwell had succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction at the age of 31; at Branwell's funeral, Emily took ill and died within three months, in December 1848.