Fact of the day: 30th July

On this day in 1818 Emily Brontë, English author and poet, was born.

Emily Brontë remains a mysterious figure and a challenge to biographers because information about her is sparse, due to her solitary and reclusive nature.

She does not seem to have made any friends outside her family.

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Her sister Charlotte remains the primary source of information about her, although as Emily’s elder sister, writing publicly about her shortly after her death, Charlotte is not a neutral witness.

Emily’s unsociability and extremely shy nature has subsequently been reported many times.

According to Norma Crandall, her “warm, human aspect” was “usually revealed only in her love of nature and of animals”.

In a similar description, Literary news (1883) states: “[Emily] loved the solemn moors, she loved all wild, free creatures and things”, and critics attest that her love of the moors is manifest in Wuthering Heights.

Over the years, Emily’s love of nature has been the subject of many anecdotes. A newspaper dated December 31, 1899, gives the folksy account that “with bird and beast [Emily] had the most intimate relations, and from her walks she often came with fledgling or young rabbit in hand, talking softly to it, quite sure, too, that it understood.”

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights was first published in London in 1847, appearing as the first two volumes of a three-volume set that included Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey.

The authors were printed as being Ellis and Acton Bell; Emily’s real name didn’t appear until 1850, when it was printed on the title page of an edited commercial edition. The novel’s innovative structure somewhat puzzled critics.

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Wuthering Heights’s violence and passion led the Victorian public and many early reviewers to think that it had been written by a man.

According to Juliet Gardiner, “the vivid sexual passion and power of its language and imagery impressed bewildered and appalled reviewers.”

Even though it received mixed reviews when it first came out, and was often condemned for its portrayal of amoral passion, the book subsequently became an English literary classic.

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