I’m fascinated – almost obsessed – with the whole Bronte family even though, strange to say, I’m not the biggest fan of their writing. I’ve read and re-read Juliet Barker’s The Brontes and it remains the best biography I’ve ever read. But it’s not quite the last word on the family I thought it would be for me, since I’ve just finished reading A Life of Emily Bronte by Edward Chitham. You need to be a major Bronte fan to really get into it, because there is so little substantial biographical material to go on in her case that any writer has to really pick at the bones of what is available.
But if you are at all interested, this is a good read and Emily is in a way the most enigmatic and intriguing of the Brontes. She was very self-contained and stoical, and seemed much more comfortable in nature and with animals than she was around people – something I can identify with! But she took it to the nth degree and you just feel like you want to give her a hug – while at the same time knowing that in reality she would have been appalled by such intimacy and familiarity. Which all go to make her last days so moving. She refused not only medical help but any offers of physical or emotional support, highlighted by an incident on the evening before she died. She insisted on going to the kitchen to feed her dog as usual, collapsed and had to be caught by an anguished Charlotte and Anne who had been following her, realising what would happen.
Her father apparently believed she was the genius of the family. Who knows what she would have written after Wuthering Heights had she lived beyond the age of 30?