Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
orn on July 30, 1818 at Thronton, Bradford Yokshire. She was the 5th child of 6 children. When Emily was just three years old, her mother dies and her Aunt come to live with the family to take care of the children. Not much is know about Emily, except she was a very secluded and shy girl. Some information is collected about her from the few exisitng diary entries and letters, as well as her poems. Most
of the information that is known about Emily is from her sister
Charlotte’s biography as well as letters written to and from Charlotte
to her friend.
Since there is not a lot of information known about Emily Bronte, people have speculated on how Wutheirng Heights came to be written by Emily. When Mr. Bronte returned from a trip on time, he brought Emily’s brother, Branwell, a box of wooden soldiers. The Bronte siblings began writing stories and plays about these soldiers, which some have said influenced Emily’s writing of Wuthering Heights later on in her life (Vine 6). Harold Bloom believes that “early marriage and early death [which are seen in Wutheirng Heights] are thoroughly High Romantic, and emerge from the legacy of Shelley, dead at thwenty-nine, and of Byron, martyred to the cause of Greek independence at thiry-six” (Bloom 8). Maggie Bewrg suggests that the character of Heathcliff was influencecd by “Byron’s anti-heroes, although he outdoes the Byronic hero in his romantic rebellion” (5). Because there is not much information on Emily, her influences for the book are just speculation.
We do know that Emily wrote poems and when her sister found them, she persuaded Emily to publish them in a volume that included some of Anne and Charlotte’s poems also. The book was published under the psuedonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. The book only sells three copies. After Wuthering Heights was written, the sisters tried to find someone to publish it along with Anne’s novel Agnes Grey. They had trouble finding a publisher, and finally were able to convince Thomas Newby to publish it. He published Wuthering Heights as Volumes I & II, and Agnes Grey as Volume III. They had to pay money upfront for the publication, and contracted Newby to print 350 copies. However, Newby proved himslef to be a horrible published by only printing 250 copies and ignoring the proofing sheets submitted by Emily. This led to the first edition having many errors in the print. This first edition was published in December, 1847.
Wuthering Heights was first received by critics with hostile reviews. Five reviewers were found in Amily’s desk after her death and were reprinted in William Sale’s edition of Wuthering Heights. The first review was published in January 1848 by the Atlas. The Atlas review begins by calling Wuthering Heights a "strange, inartistic story…[that] is inexpressibly painful." The reviewer briefly touches on the mystery of the author of Wuthering Heights and whether it was written by a man or woman, and if the same person wrote Agnes Gray. He calls the questions of authorship "matters really of little account" but does assert his "private conviction" that the names of Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell are "mere publishing names." The writer of the review asserts that there has never been a work of fiction that "presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity." The author believes that had there been a few "glimpses of sunshine" in the book, it would have "increased the reality of the picture and given strength rather than weakness to the whole." He describes every character in the book as "hateful or thoroughly contemptible" which makes the readers hate and despise them. He claims that even the women of the book "turn out badly." He ends his review by stating that the work of Ellis Bell is not a "great performance" like that of her sisters in Jane Eyre, but that it is "only a promise, but it is a colossal one."
With regard to the rusticity of Wuthering Heights: I admit this charge, for I feel the quality. It is rustic all through. It is moorish, and wild, and knotty as a root of heath. It is rustic all through. Nor was it natural that it should be otherwise; the author being herself a native and nursling of the moors (Sale 320).
Like many other reviewers, Charlotte agrees that if Emily had lived longer, she would have produced many other great works. She writes:
Had she but lived, her mind would of itself have grown like a strong tree, loftier, straighter, wider-spreading, and its matured fruits woulod have attained a mellower ripeness and sunnier bloom; but on that mind time and experience alone could work to the influence of other intellects, it was not amenable (Sale 321).
After the second edition was published, there were many other reviews published about the book.
Berg, Maggie. Wuthering Heights: The Writings in the Margin. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996.
Bloom, Harold, Editor. The Brontes.New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Sale, William M. and Richard J. Dunn (Editors). Wuthering Heights: Third Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1990.
Vine, Steve. Emily Bronte. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.
Visick, Mary. The Genesis of Wuthering Heights. England: Ian Hodgkins & Co. LTD, 1980.