Wuthering Heights is the only novel by Emily Brontë (1818-1848), one of three sisters who literary productions caused a minor sensation when they began appearing in the late 1840s. Born to Patrick Brontë, a Yorkshire clergyman, and his wife Maria, Emily, Anne, and Charlotte Brontë were precocious readers and writers. The three sisters spent years writing for their own pleasure and amusement, then published a volume of poetry in 1846. Fearing that the volume’s reception would be biased if the authors were known to be women, the sisters adopted the names Ellis (Emily), Acton (Anne), and Currer (Charlotte) Brontë. Their poems did not sell well but garnered some positive reviews—Ellis Bell’s poems were said by one critic to demonstrate “a fine quaint spirit…which may have things to speak that man will be glad to hear” (Allott, p.61). The following year Wuthering Heights was published as the first two volumes of a three-volume set, which also included Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey. Wuthering Heights was initially over shadowed by the greater acclaim that greeted Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, published earlier that same year, but has since been recognized as a great work in its own right. Emily Brontë died of tuberculosis in December 1848, barely a year after the publication of Wuthering Heights. Her novel, recognized as an original masterpiece soon after her death, involves issues of slavery, family relationships, and gender in ways that remain fresh and provocative.

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Copyright © 2000 Gale Group. This chapter first appeared in World Literature and Its Times III: British and Irish Literature and their Times.

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