The grief of Emily Bronte
By: By Don Harold Lawrence
While recently re-reading the section of the life and writings of Emily Bronte in my college textbook in English Literature, I was reminded of the profound grief she experienced during her short lifetime.
Emily was born to Patrick and Maria Branwell Bronte on July 30, 1818, in Thornton, a village in Yorkshire, in the north of England. She was the fifth of six children.
Various biographers have characterized Emily as “tormented,” “genius,” “free spirit” and “rebel.” In my opinion, her powers of perception and expression were incredible.
One does not have to study her life very long before discovering numerous examples of the grief and unhappiness she experienced during her lifetime. After her mother died in 1821, her father withdrew and ate his meals alone in his room. Her mother’s sister moved to their home to help raise the children; however, she also took her meals alone in her room.
Emily’s sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in 1825 due to harsh weather conditions and illness.
Due to isolation, stress and grief in her home environment, it is not surprising that Emily developed anorexia. Further evidence of the impact these problems had on Emily, Charlotte, Anne and their brother, Patrick, is seen in their retreating into a fantasy world they created in their imaginations, along with imaginary characters who populated that world.
Patrick became addicted to opium and alcohol and often threatened to murder their father and commit suicide.
However, in spite of all the negative aspects of her life and environment, Emily Bronte gave the world several literary masterpieces. In 1846, a collection of poems by Emily and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, was published. In 1847, her only novel, Wurthering Heights, was published and became a classic in English literature. Some scholars strongly speculate that she had written another novel that was destroyed by Charlotte after Emily’s death because she feared that its content would damage Emily’s reputation.
In her final poem, “Last Lines,” she rises above all the loneliness, isolation, unhappiness and grief she had experienced throughout her life and expresses her deep belief in Someone who is greater than human suffering and death. She was writing about her belief in eternity and a Reality that is not affected by death.
During the funeral service for her brother in September of 1848, Emily caught a cold and died of tuberculosis on Dec. 19, 1848. She was only 30 years of age. On Dec. 22, she was interred in the family vault in Haworth Church.
Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is www.shackelfordfuneraldirectors.com.
Published in The Messenger on 12.20.07