Emily Jane Bronte was born July 30, 1818, at Thornton in Yorkshire, the fifth of six children of Patrick and Maria Bronte (nee Branwell). Two years after her birth, her father was appointed curate of Haworth, an isolated village on the moors. Both of Emily's parents had literary leanings; her mother published one essay, and her father wrote four books and dabbled in poetry. In 1821, shortly after Emily's third birthday, Maria died of cancer. Maria's sister, Elizabeth, came to live as a housekeeper and was responsible for training the girls in the household arts. Although Emilydid spend a few short times away from Haworth, it was her primary residence and the rectory where she resided now serves as a Bronte Museum. Emily's only close friends were her brother Branwell and her sisters Charlotte and Anne.
In 1824, the four eldest daughters were sent to Cowan Bridge School, a school for daughters of impoverished clergymen. The conditions were harsh and an epidemic soon broke out, taking the lives of Maria and Elizabeth. Charlotte becames very ill as well, and she and Emily were sent home to Haworth. About this time, Branwell, the only boy in the family, received a box of twelve wooden soldiers. The children began to write stories about them called the "Young Men" plays. In 1835, Charlotte became a teacher at Roe Head school and Emily joined her as a student. Emily, however, could not stand being away from her beloved moors, and became violently homesick. She returned home and her younger sister, Anne, took her place.
Emily began writing poems at an early age and published twenty-one of them, together with poems by Anne and Charlotte, in 1846. The slim volume was titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Only two copies were sold, and the failure led all three to begin work on novels: Emily on Wuthering Heights, Charlotte on Jane Eyre, and Anne on Agnes Grey. At an even earlier age, she collaborated with Charlotte, Branwell, and Anne on the plays and tales that developed into the "Glass Town" saga. By 1834, Emily and Anne were thoroughly engrossed in writing their own saga involving two imaginary islands in the north and south Pacific, Gondal and Gaaldine. No early prose narratives survive, but several poems by Emily and Anne refer to Gondal places and characters.
In 1848, Branwell became addicted to both drugs and alcohol and it soon became clear that he was dying. Emily had always counted Branwell among her closest friends and was the only one of her siblings who allowed that friendship to triumph over the urge to judge; she went as far as beating out the flames with her bare hands when he, in a drunken stupor, wrapped himself in a blanket and lit it on fire. Despite all of her efforts, Branwell died in September 1848 at the age of thirty. Emily caught a cold at his funeral and never left home again. She died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848, also at the age of thirty, and never knew the great success of her only novel WUTHERING HEIGHTS, which was published almost exactly a year before her death on December 19, 1848. From the opinions of those who knew her well, Emily emerges as a reserved, courageous woman with a commanding will and manner. In the biographical note to the 1850 edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Charlotte Bronte attributes to her sister "a secret power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero."