Emily Brontë lived an eccentric, closely guarded life. She was born in 1818, two years after her sister Charlotte and a year and a half before her sister Anne, both of whom were also authors. Her father worked as a church rector, and her aunt, who raised the Brontë children after their mother died, was deeply religious. Emily Brontë did not take to her aunt’s Christian fervor; the character of Joseph, a caricature of an evangelical, in her most famous novel Wuthering Heights, may have been inspired by her aunt’s religiosity. The Brontës lived in Haworth, a Yorkshire village in the midst of the moors. These wild, desolate expanses—later the setting of Wuthering Heights—made up the Brontës’ daily environment, and Emily lived among them her entire life. She died of tuberculosis in 1848, at the age of thirty.
As witnessed by their extraordinary literary accomplishments, the Brontë children were a highly creative group, writing stories, plays, and poems for their own amusement. Largely left to their own devices, the children created imaginary worlds in which to play. Yet the sisters knew that the outside world would not respond favorably to their creative expression; female authors were often treated less seriously than their male counterparts in the nineteenth century. Thus the Brontë sisters thought it best to publish their adult works under assumed names. Charlotte wrote as Currer Bell, Emily as Ellis Bell, and Anne as Acton Bell. Their real identities remained secret until after Emily and Anne had died, when Charlotte at last revealed the truth of their novels’ authorship.