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Emily Brontë

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English Literature

When Wuthering Heights was published in 1847, its author, 'Ellis Bell,' had only one more year to live. Readers were taken aback when they discovered that Ellis Bell was in fact Emily Brontë, the quiet, studious daughter of a clergyman, as well as the powerful, imaginative author of an entirely new kind of novel.

Emily Brontë Timeline

Emily Bronte, Timeline, StudySmarterEmily Bronte TimelineJ.W. A StudySmarter Original created on Canva.com

...a dark tale, darkly told;’ a book that seizes upon us with an iron grasp, and makes us read its story of passions and wrongs whether we will or no.”

(The Literary World: A Journal of Society, Literature, and Art, 1848)

Emily Brontë's Biography

Emily Jane Brontë (1818-1848) was born in Thornton, Yorkshire and is universally recognised for her poetry and her novel Wuthering Heights.

The works of the Bronte sisters showed a new perception of the interior emotional life of women, and led the way for other novelists to explore the female mind and individuality. Their writings indicated a distinct shift away from the victimhood of earlier classical heroines. They also moved away from the pensive restraint of Jane Austen, illustrating instead the emotional depth of extreme passions such as love, jealousy, and hatred.

In the case of Wuthering Heights, the main theme is revenge, coupled with a portrayal of humans as the embodiment of natural elements. They are part of the cosmos, and as such, are neither good nor bad, but simply act as their natures dictate.

Emily Brontë: Background

Emily Brontë was born during the Georgian period, a year after Jane Austen died, and barely three years after the Battle of Waterloo. Wellington and Nelson were national heroes, and popular King George the III (the Mad King) lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle, while his less popular son Prince George acted as Regent.

King George III was known for suffering from a rare disease that caused him to behave in an unorthodox manner. Rumour had it that he talked to trees. There are various theories on the nature of this mystery illness; one posited that he suffered from porphyria. The symptoms of porphyria include anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. However, more recent research suggests he suffered from acute mania instead.

Emily Bronte, Historical context, StudySmarterHistorical contextJ.W. A StudySmarter Original created on Canva.com

This was also the age of the Romantics: Lord Byron was travelling and writing poetry in Italy (to escape London debtors), a young William Turner was making a name for himself at art exhibitions, and Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein was published.

Emily Brontë: Education

Emily Jane Brontë was one of six children born to middling, well-off clergyman Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell. In 1820, Patrick Brontë moved with his family to Haworth, an overcrowded industrial town on the edge of the moors.

After Brontë’s mother died (1821), the children were brought up by their aunt Elizabeth. They were mostly homeschooled by their father and aunt, Elizabeth. The Brontë household was a lively one, filled with intellectual activity; when not outside exploring the countryside, the children engaged in play-acting, writing stories, and creating imaginary countries.

The Brontë children grew up surrounded by the dramatic scenery of the Yorkshire moors (and its uncertain climate). At home there were books and a piano, which Emily in particular excelled at. When they were weary of study, they had the outside world - with its brooding skies and eccentric personalities - to explore.

Growing up in these inspiring surroundings, the Bronte children let their imagination loose and created a whole fantasy kingdom of their own, which they dubbed ‘Angria’. Some of the characters inhabiting this imaginary kingdom (later called 'Gondal') may have been prototypes for several of the main characters in their later novels.

In 1824, the four oldest sisters (Elizabeth, Maria, Charlotte, and Emily) were sent to Cowan Bridge School. After typhoid fever broke out in 1825, Patrick Brontë immediately fetched his daughters, but it was too late for Elizabeth and Maria, who both died a few weeks later.

The remaining four Brontë children continued to be homeschooled, until Emily Brontë accompanied Charlotte to Roe Head School in 1835. Emily Brontë grew intensely homesick and returned home after only three months.

Emily Brontë: Brussels and Pensionnat Heger

Brontë's next attempt to be formally educated was on a study trip to Brussels as part of a plan to open a school at the family home. Emily and Charlotte Brontë attended the Hegers’ Pensionnat in Brussels. Brontë was initially very critical of Monsieur Heger’s teaching, but in time a mutual respect developed. Read Heger’s assessment of Emily Brontë:

...she should have been a man …her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have been given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman…[but]impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned.

Constantin Heger (E.Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë,1857)

How different do you think Emily’s life might have been if she had never travelled to Brussels (and met Heger)?

Fun fact: Emily Brontë was very handy with a rifle. Her father Patrick had a gun and taught her how to shoot.

Emily Brontë and Wuthering Heights

Brontë returned to Haworth when her aunt died in 1843 and remained there for the rest of her life, studying German and music, and writing poetry.

Her sister Charlotte found Emily Brontë's poems in 1845 and, after a huge row over invasion of privacy, encouraged a reluctant Brontë to publish them. In the same year, Emily Brontë began writing Wuthering Heights. The novel was published in 1847 to mixed reception, although most reviewers agree on its powerful voice and imagination.

Emily Brontë died of consumption (now called tuberculosis) in 1848, a few months after her brother Branwell.

Brontë's sister Charlotte edited a second edition of the novel in 1850, modifying Joseph’s Yorkshire dialect. Wuthering Heights became increasingly popular, and has since come to be regarded as one of the great novels of all time. The novel has seen multiple screen adaptations, and remains a source of inspiration to artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers around the world.

There are no letters or journals left to tell us about Emily Brontë; we can only guess at her mindset by reading her novel and poetry, and from the words written by her sister, Charlotte:

‘My sister’s disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; not, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she knew them.’

Charlotte Bronte, Preface to Wuthering Heights, 1850

Wuthering Heights Summary

Yorkshire, 1801: after an uncomfortable stay at Wuthering Heights, Lockwood persuades his housekeeper Nelly Dean to tell him the story of Wuthering Heights and its sullen residents.

Wuthering Heights is an old manor house originally owned by the Earnshaw family. Thrushcross Grange was previously the property of the Lintons. Late one night, Mr Earnshaw returns home with a little foundling, whom he names Heathcliff and proceeds to treat as one of the family.

Earnshaw’s son Hindley never accepts Heathcliff, and a profound enmity grows between them. Hindley’s sister Catherine, on the other hand, develops a deep and fatal bond with the boy. It is their relationship that forms the basis of the novel.

Catherine falls under the spell of the Linton family, Heathcliff runs away, and Catherine marries Edgar Linton. She is expecting their first child when Heathcliff returns, a wealthy man who speaks and dresses like a gentleman.

Bent on revenge, Heathcliff elopes with Edgar’s sister Isabella. Edgar disowns his sister. Catherine’s mental and physical health deteriorates. She dies soon after giving birth to her daughter, Cathy, and Heathcliff in despair calls upon the ghost of Catherine to haunt him for the rest of his life.

Isabella runs away and gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, whom she names Linton. Hindley’s death later in the year leaves Heathcliff as the owner of Wuthering Heights.

After Isobella dies, Heathcliff takes Linton to live with him. Edgar’s daughter Cathy develops a fondness for Linton and Heathcliff conspires for them to marry. After Edgar dies, Cathy remains at Wuthering Heights to nurse Linton, who is dying of consumption. Thrushcross Grange passes to Heathcliff through his marriage to Isabella. Soon after, Heathcliff seeks a tenant for the place. Enter Lockwood.

Nelly Dean’s story ends at this point, and the narrative is picked up again by Lockwood who, disillusioned with life on the moors, moves away. Several months later, he visits Wuthering Heights while travelling the area and meets Nelly Dean again. She tells him how Heathcliff began seeing visions of Catherine, and has died. Locals have seen Heathcliff and Catherine’s ghosts walking the moors together. The book ends with Lockwood visiting Heathcliff’s fresh grave in the churchyard, where he meditates:

'And I wondered how anyone could imagine a restless sleep for the sleepers in that quiet land.'

Fittingly, Brontë closes her novel in a graveyard, another popular element of the gothic novel. The ghost of Catherine, the mystery of Heathcliff, the themes of thwarted love, revenge and death: all of these place the novel firmly in the Gothic canon. Wuthering Heights was more than a gothic novel, though; it broke away from the expectations of the age, tackling cosmic themes and seeking the essential truth of life.

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) - Key takeaways

  • Emily Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, in 1818.
  • Emily Brontë was largely homeschooled, but travelled to Brussels to study in 1842-1843.
  • In 1845, Emily Brontë’s poems were published and she began writing Wuthering Heights.
  • In 1847, Wuthering Heights was published to mixed reviews.
  • Emily Brontë died of consumption in 1848.
  • Wuthering Heights was recognised as one of the great novels after Lord David Cecil’s analysis in 1934.

Emily Brontë

Emily Bronte was born during the Regency period and lived through the early Victorian era.

Emily Bronte died of consumption in 1848.

Wuthering Heights was published in 1847.

Emily Brontë was a poet and the author of Wuthering Heights.

Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights after her sister Charlotte encouraged her to publish her poetry.

Final Emily Brontë Quiz

Question

Who wrote Wuthering Heights?

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Answer

Emily Brontë

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Question

What is Wuthering Heights about?

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Answer

Wuthering Heights centres on the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine that continues after death.

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When was Wuthering Heights written?


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Answer

In 1845. It was published in 1847.

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How does Heathcliff die in Wuthering Heights?

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Answer

Heathcliff eats less and less, and his visions of Catherine occur with increasing frequency. One morning Nelly finds him dead in Catherine’s old bedroom, with his eyes open, smiling.

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Question

Why was Wuthering Heights controversial?

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Answer

Although recognised as a powerful work, many did not understand it and were put off by what they perceived as the extreme violence and cruelty described in it. 

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Question

 Wuthering Heights became immediately popular after its publication.


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Answer

False

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Question

Complete the following:  Despite increasing __________, Wuthering Heights remained largely _________ until in _________ Lord David Cecil analysed it in his Early Victorian Novelists Essays In Revaluation

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Answer

Despite increasing popularity, Wuthering Heights remained largely misunderstood until in 1934 Lord David Cecil analysed it in his Early Victorian Novelists Essays In Revaluation.

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Who is the main character in Wuthering Heights?

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Answer

Heathcliff.

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Question

Wuthering Heights is considered a ________ novel, written during the ___________ period.


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Answer

Wuthering Heights is considered a Gothic novel, written during the Victorian period.

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Question

Name two components of the Gothic novels.



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Answer

Any two from: 

  • Haunted houses/graveyards

  • Phantom(s)/the supernatural

  • The macabre

  • The fantastic

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Question

Emily Brontë’s novel is a novel about:

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Answer

Property

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Question

According to Lord Cecil, the conflict in Brontë’s work ‘is not between like and unlike, but between right and wrong'.


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Answer

False

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Question

Wuthering Heights has three narrators: Lockwood, Nelly Dean, and Cathy Earnshaw.


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False

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As a part of the cosmic scheme in Wuthering Heights, Catherine and Heathcliff are children of the storm.

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Answer

True



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Question

True or false? Mr Heathcliff visits his new landlord Mr Lockwood at Wuthering Heights.

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False: Mr Lockwood visits his new landlord Mr Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights.

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Complete: Heathcliff … Lockwood outside Wuthering Heights and … invites him in.

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Answer

Heathcliff meets Lockwood outside Wuthering Heights and grudgingly invites him in.

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True or false? After a savage encounter with Heathcliff’s dogs, Lockwood is placated with tea and the two men discuss the house Mr Lockwood has just rented.

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False: After a savage encounter with Heathcliff’s dogs, Lockwood is placated with wine and the two men discuss the house Mr Lockwood has just rented.

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Question

True of false? Lockwood decides to visit Heathcliff again and rides over to Wuthering Heights.


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Answer

False: Lockwood decides to visit Heathcliff again and walks over to Wuthering Heights.

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Complete: It is …by the time Lockwood reaches Wuthering Heights, and a young … shows him into the kitchen-living room, where he meets a beautiful, … young woman.

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It is snowing by the time he arrives, and a young man shows Lockwood into the kitchen-living room, where he meets a beautiful, hostile young woman.

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Heathcliff returns and over tea Lockwood discovers the young woman is Heathcliff’s 

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daughter

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The young man is Hareton Earnshaw, Catherine’s

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Cousin

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The weather quickly … and Heathcliff … tells his … to find a room for Lockwood to sleep in. 

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The weather quickly worsens and Heathcliff reluctantly tells his housekeeper to find a room for Lockwood to sleep in. 

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Lockwood is shown to a room that he discovers once belonged to a girl called 

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Isobella Linton

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True or false? Lockwood finds old diaries belonging to Hareton Earnshaw and falls asleep reading  them

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False: Lockwood finds old diaries belonging to Catherine Earnshaw and falls asleep reading  them

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Complete: Lockwood has a… in which the … of Catherine appears at the window and begs to be let in; Lockwood’s … bring Heathcliff running into the room.


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Lockwood has a nightmare in which the ghost of Catherine appears at the window and begs to be let in; Lockwood’s screams bring Heathcliff running into the room.

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Complete:‘The spectre showed a spectre’s ordinary …: it gave no sign of being; but the snow and wind … wildly through, even reaching my station, and blowing out the ….’


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‘The spectre showed a spectre’s ordinary caprice: it gave no sign of being; but the snow and wind whirled wildly through, even reaching my station, and blowing out the light.’

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Although the weather is misty, Lockwood decides to leave his study and  visit Heathcliff anyway when he discovers 


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The housekeeper changing the curtains

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Complete: Heathcliff agrees for Lockwood to spend the night…; Lockwood, as he leaves the room, sees Heathcliff … at the window, entreating the phantom to …

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Heathcliff agrees for Lockwood to spend the night downstairs; Lockwood, as he leaves the room, sees Heathcliff sobbing at the window, entreating the phantom to return

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Complete: Despite Heathcliff’s obvious …, Lockwood decides to visit him anyway, for his own …: “It is astonishing how … I feel myself compared with him.” 

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Answer

Despite Heathcliff’s obvious reluctance, Lockwood decides to visit him anyway, for his own sake: “It is astonishing how sociable I feel myself compared with him.” 

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Question

What era did Emily Bronte live in?

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Answer

Emily Bronte was born during the Regency period and lived through the early Victorian era.

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How did Emily Bronte die?

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Answer

Emily Bronte died of consumption in 1848.

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Question

When was Wuthering Heights published?

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Answer

Wuthering Heights was published in 1847.

Show question

Question

 Why did Emily Bronte write Wuthering Heights?

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Answer

Persuaded by her sister to publish her poems, Emily Bronte began writing Wuthering Heights the same year.

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Why is Wuthering Heights so important?

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Answer

It explores humanity as part of the cosmos.

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Question

True or false? Wuthering Heights became immediately popular after its publication.

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Answer

False: Wuthering Heights was published to mixed reviews.

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Question

True or false? Emily dies of consumption in 1884.


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Answer

False: Emily dies of consumption in 1848.

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Complete the following: 

Wuthering Heights was … in 1847, one year before Emily … .

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Answer

Wuthering Heights was published in 1847, one year before Emily died.

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 Complete the following:  Charlotte finds Emily’s … in 1845 and, after a huge …, encourages Emily to publish ….

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Answer

Charlotte finds Emily’s poems in 1845 and, after a huge row over invading Emily’s privacy, encourages a reluctant Emily to publish them.

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Question

Complete the following:  Despite increasing …, Wuthering Heights remained largely … until in … Lord David Cecil analysed it in his Early Victorian Novelists Essays In Revaluation. 


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Answer

Despite increasing popularity, Wuthering Heights remained largely misunderstood until in 1934 Lord David Cecil analysed it in his Early Victorian Novelists Essays In Revaluation.

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What literary device does Emily Brontë use?


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Answer

The frame narrative, or story within a story.

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Choose: Key components of the Gothic novel include 

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Answer

treasure maps


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Question

Who is the main character in Wuthering Heights?


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Answer

Heathcliff.

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Question

True or false? Emily wrote Wuthering Heights before going to study in Brussels.

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Answer

False: Emily wrote Wuthering Heights after returning from a study trip to Brussels.

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Question

When did Emily start writing Wuthering Heights?


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Answer

In 1845, the same year her poems were published.

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Question

What pen-name did Emily Brontë write Wuthering Heights under?

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Answer

Ellis Bell

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Question

Which musical instrument did Emily Brontë excel at?

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Answer

Piano

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Question

Who authored Emily Brontë's biography?

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Answer

Elizabeth Gaskell

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Question

In what year was Wuthering Heights published?

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Answer

1847

Show question

Question

Which of the following genres does Wuthering Heights belong to?

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Answer

Gothic Romance

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Question

Who taught Emily Brontë to shoot with a rifle?

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Answer

Her father, Patrick

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