Emily Bronte was the most enigmatic and mysterious of the three Bronte sisters. She was known to wander for long periods of time across the moors near her home in Yorkshire, in all weathers and at all times, day or night. She would often wear men's clothing, ride horseback at at an alarming gallop, shoot pistols and was fiercely protective of her solitude.
She died of tuberculosis at the age of 30, a year after the publication of Wuthering Heights.
Charlotte would go on to enjoy a life of celebrity, while Anne, the youngest sister, also succumbed to tuberculosis at an early age.
Emily never knew how great she was as a writer. She did not pursue publication with the maturity of Charlotte, nor sought a more enriching life beyond Yorkshire as Anne did.
It was the dark, tempestuous moors that were her most familiar companions. Rough holly, stubborn wildflowers, rocky crags and fields of bristling heather were her domain. In Wuthering Heights the moors are haunted and sinister, ghostly and forbidding. They were also the place of impossible obsession and fatal destiny.
Just as the moors haunted Emily, Emily haunts me. Since my early college days when I was assigned Wuthering Heights in an English class, and through the William Wyler film, the strange and magnificent despair of Emily's story of regret and redemption has always been there, like a familiar feeling one gets when the sun sets just so at the end of the day.
People who are not made for the times they live in are a continual fascination for me. Perhaps this is something I believe about myself. I often wonder about antiquated, forgotten things that seem to be nothing more than shrugs today: honor, sacrifice, loyalty, what it means to abide, what it means to declare oneself, what it means to live in contradiction.
In this sense, Emily is a kindred spirit. A young woman of genius trapped in a world where what she had to offer was not wanted, and what she believed and pondered was not considered.
I appreciate the surname the Bronte sisters chose for their nom de plumes: Bell.
Bells that ring for birth and death, bells that ring for faith and for warning, bells that fall silent, bells that toll slowly in the darkening end of the long, strange day.
Belles, who are beautiful.
What stories might Emily have shared with us if she had lived into her thirty-first year and beyond? Alas, those words, like Cathy's voice whispering across the wintery moors, are not to be heard, but only felt.