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Emily Brontë


More challenging questions!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 4 March 2014
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This is a poem about love and loss. It is centred on the death of a loved one (or of an imaginary loved one) some 15 years previously. The poet says she is only just getting over the death, yet she has convinced herself that she will never feel whole again without her loved one, cannot face the empty world without him by her side.


Emily Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in July 1818. She was the fourth daughter of six children. In 1824, the family moved to the bleak village of Haworth, where Emily's father was appointed rector of the local church.

Upon the death of her mother, Emily was sent for a time to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, a place that developed a reputation for abuse. She was removed from the school, however, when a typhus epidemic broke out. Emily's sister, Elizabeth, would die of it -- although some commentaries put it down to tuberculosis.

The remaining sisters and their brother Patrick Branwell Brontë would then be home-schooled by their father and an aunt. The children created bizarre stories of adventure and fantasy for their own amusement, and often acted them out. They also penned numerous poems.

While in her late teens, Emily was sent to the Roe Head girls' school but her life of isolation in Haworth did not equip her to socialise. She was soon troubled by homesickness and, after only three months, she returned to the seclusion of Haworth once more.

At the age of 20, Emily began work as a teacher in Halifax but the very long working hours -- sometimes as much as 17 hours a day -- broke her health and she once again returned home. She now remained with the family, while venturing out only occasionally.

In the meantime, the three sisters -- Charlotte, Emily and Anne -- had written numerous poetry. In 1847, Emily was persuaded to publish hers as part of a volume of poetry called Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.

The names "Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell" were nom de plumes in a world where only men published. Emily chose "Ellis Bell" as her name.

Later that same year, Emily published her one and only novel, Wuthering Heights, a bleak tale of doomed romance set in the dark and windswept moors of Yorkshire. The book would be condemned because of the heated passion portrayed between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw.

The Brontë home was situated next to the town's graveyard and their drinking water was polluted by the decaying bodies. It is possible that Emily's health declined steadily as a result.

She died in December 1848, although cause of death is usually given as tuberculosis. She was buried in the family vault within the village graveyard. She was then just 30 years of age.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"Cold in the earth -- and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring."
  • How old was the young poet when this person died? How do you know? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on the word "wild" in "fifteen wild Decembers". (4)

[Need help?]

  • The poet's spirit would appear to reflect the gloom of the moors. Explain how. (2)

[Need help?]

"Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world's tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!"
  • Why would the poet appear to be desperate for forgiveness? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is the "world's tide" that is bearing the poet along? (2)

[Need help?]

  • The poet dwells in this stanza on happiness. What words does she use to promote this image? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Yet there is a definite negative side to this image. Explain what it is. (2)

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