|The only undisputed portrait of Emily is in a group portrait by her brother Branwell|
I never joined the Brontë cult. I had to read Emily's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte's Jane Eyre for a class and they didn't capture me. I never read anything by Anne Brontë. But they have a cultish following and many screen versions of those books. The Brontë birthplace in Thornton is a place of pilgrimage and their later home, the parsonage at Haworth in Yorkshire is now the Brontë Parsonage Museum and gets hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Today is the birthday of Emily Brontë, born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, on this day in 1818.
Her sisters were Anne and Charlotte and she had a brother, Branwell, who was an artist and poet. Emily's mother died when Emily was three, and the children were left mostly on their own. Somehow, they didn't get into trouble but were reading Shakespeare, Milton, and Virgil, playing the piano, and telling each other stories.
All three Brontë sisters were writers and they published under male-sounding pseudonyms: Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell. Emily only produced one novel. Though well known now, it was not well-reviewed at the time as critics found Wuthering Heights "brutal and dark."
As far as we know, she wasn't writing about her own life in the novel. There is very little else that she wrote that remains and what we know of her mostly comes from what others said and wrote about her..
I don't immediately think of her as a poet but Charlotte discovered some of Emily's notebooks in 1845 and they were filled with poetry. Charlotte convinced both her sisters to self-publish their secret poetry as Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell in 1846. Reviews were only fair but one fan was another secret poet, Emily Dickinson, who requested that "No Coward Soul is Mine" be read at her funeral.
Like some characters in a 19th-century novel, Emily ended up caring for Branwell, who had become alcoholic and drug-addicted and had tuberculosis. She caught a cold at his funeral, refused all medical attention and died three months later.
Charlotte said that "No Coward Soul is Mine" was the last thing Emily ever wrote.
No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven's glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear
O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.