Librarian Antony Ramm highlights some books that take an oblique look at the Emily Brontë story…
Last Monday marked the 200th-anniversary of Emily Brontë’s birth, and there have been a wide range of articles in the local, national, specialist and social media describing and analysing both Emily’s life and her masterpiece: the novel Wuthering Heights (1847).
One of the most interesting – to this reader anyway – was published on the website of The Conversation: ‘How incest became part of the Brontë family story’ by Amber Pouliot of Harlaxton College . It’s not the intention of this blog to rewrite that article (those interested should read the original), nor to restate its thesis in more than the most simple terms: namely, a brief history of the ways readers and writers have mapped, from Wuthering Heights and the story of Catherine and Heathcliff, the suggestion of a more-than-usually-close relationship between Emily and her brother, Branwell onto the real-world Brontë family biography.
This ‘incest story’ – or fantasy, or cruel rumour – has been further explored in other creative responses to the Brontë myth by later authors; and Pouliot provides a snapshot of the major works, beginning with A. Mary F. Robinson’s 1883 biography of Emily Brontë.
Pouliot describes five such texts in total – and we’re pleased to say that the Local and Family History department at the Central Library holds copies of them all. Below is a brief bibliographical list of those titles, which can all be accessed by visiting the department on the 2nd-Floor of the Central Library.
Pouliot says: “As early as 1883, A. Mary F. Robinson argued that Wuthering Heights could be explained if one looked into Emily’s relationship with Branwell”.
Pouliot explains: “In some of these texts, Branwell and Emily’s relationship is sexually abusive. In Ella Moorhouse’s Stone Walls (1936), for instance, Branwell tries to force a knife and bottle of liquor into Emily’s mouth.”
Of this extraordinary dramatic account, Pouliot remarks that it “features a fictional Branwell indulging in masturbatory fantasies while looking at his sister.”
This novel tells, in part, the story of how “Emily and Branwell engage in a form of childhood S&M play, with Emily delighting in the fact that her brother cares enough to hurt her.”
Romieu’s novel “features an extended erotic fantasy in which Emily pulls Branwell from his burning bed and against her body while wearing a translucent, wet night gown.”
Please note these are all reference copies and subsequently not available for loan.
A previous blog article relating to the Brontë family may also be of interest.