Emily's 200th birth anniversary observed

Emily Bronte

London: One of the greatest books in English literature - Wuthering Heights - was discussed on Monday at literary events in Britain and many other parts of the world to mark the 200th birth anniversary of its author, Emily Bronte.

This tale of dark passion set against the background of the windswept Yorkshire moors has been adapted into film on many occasions but never more memorably than in the 1939 version, with Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as his Cathy.

One admirer, Swati Sharma, quoted a remark made by Cathy in the novel: "He shall never know I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made out of, his and mine are the same."

Emily was born in Thornton, West Yorkshire, on 30 July 1818, and died, aged 30, of TV on 19 December 1848 in Haworth, her Yorkshire home - now a museum - for most of her life.

She was the fifth of the six Bronte children. After the loss of her mother in 1821 and her two oldest sisters in 1825 she, Anne, Charlotte and her brother Branwell, with only five years separating them, became a close and exclusive band. They neither went to school, nor made friends, in the village. Their playgrounds were the open moors at the back of the house, and their own imaginations.

Wuthering Heights was published in London in 1847, appearing as the first two volumes of a three-volume set that included Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey.

The authors were printed as being Ellis and Acton Bell; Emily's real name did not appear until 1850.

Kitty Wright, Bronte Society executive director said: "Emily is perhaps the Bronte sibling most associated with the dramatic, bleak and beautiful moorland surrounding their home." A weekend of celebration in Haworth started with writers led by the best-selling novelist, Kate Mosse, gathering for I Am Heathcliff, a special commission featuring 16 short stories inspired by the most enduring character in Wuthering Heights.

Mosse said she first read it when she was in her teens, like countless others around the world. "It's a story of obsession, of passion, of revenge, but it's also a story of domestic violence and a story of racism and society.

"Since then I've read it again and again and it's a novel I've read every decade of my life first as a reader and more recently as a writer and I see something different in it every time.

"There are very few novels where characters step outside the pages of the book and come to life in their own right."

Lecturer Jenny Farrell called the novel "an amazing, creative challenge to the personal cruelties and oppressions based on class, gender and ethnic background which were being generated by the hardening class divisions of English society in the 19th century".

According to academic Amber Pouliot, "one reason for the longevity of this fascination is the air of mystery that envelops the author and her work."

"Who was Emily Bronte? What does her famous novel, Wuthering Heights, mean? And how could a reclusive curate's daughter, living on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, have written this mysterious tale of passion and revenge?"

Among other events to mark the anniversary, Sunday saw the world premiere of Balls, a short film exploring the character of Heathcliff that has been made by the model and actress Lily Cole, the Bronte Society's creative partner for 2018.

The celebrations culminated on Monday when a range of well-known writers gathered to celebrate her work and legacy under the banner What Emily Means to Me.

There was also a 14-mile walk over the moors, taking in Oxenhope, Nab Hill, Top Withins, Alcomden Stones and Ponden Clough, where Emily found her inspiration.


Back to top icon