Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Guest Post: The Poetic World of Emily Brontë by Laura Inman

The Poetic World of Emily Brontë presents selected poems by Emily Brontë, biographical information about her, and insights to Wuthering Heights. The poems are grouped by thematic topic, preceded by discussions of literary context, Brontë’s life, and Wuthering Heights. Interpretations follow each poem enabling any reader to appreciate and enjoy her poetry.  

Emily Bronte is best known for her novel, but her poetry is of equal merit and comprises virtually the only other work by her for us to read.  The poems are also of great interest in their biographical value; it is a premise of this book that Emily Brontë’s poetry provides otherwise unknowable information about her personality and beliefs. Conversely, the biographical information gives insights to the meaning of her poems. Knowing her poetry also enriches one’s reading of Wuthering Heights.  Unlike any other collection of Brontë’s poetry, this book presents selected poems grouped by thematic topic: nature, mutability, love, death, captivity and freedom, hope and despair, imagination, and spirituality. That approach and the accompanying discussions of the poems aim at ensuring that all readers will take meaning from the poems and develop an affinity for them.


When I first read a few poems by Emily Brontë, I liked some more than others.  Mostly I preferred the ones that I felt I understood. Now it would be very hard to choose favorites. At first encounter, I found some puzzling. My experience with the arcane parts of Brontë’s poetry formed my original impetus for The Poetic World of Emily Brontë; I wanted to make her poetry accessible. Also, in taking on a project that required reading her poems so repeatedly that I got many by heart, I had the excuse to spend long and happy hours reading Brontë’s work and considering her life. I obviously adhere to the school of literary criticism called “close reading,” the old fashioned approach of determining what the author meant. When I read literature, I think about the person with the nib-tipped pen in hand (what I read is more often than not written in that way) and I want to feel the personal connection of her sharing her ideas; accordingly, I have to understand what she intended to convey not just whatever it is I might take away given my own predilections. As a third purpose in writing this book, I sought to redress in my small way that Brontë did not receive her due in her era and is little known as a poet today.  There is no statute of limitations on reading her poetry; like all great literature, it is timeless. Last but equally I wanted to delve into Brontë’s life, but I did not see the need or chance of success for another biography of her life. While working on the book, the biographical element grew in importance as I came to understand more and more how much her poems were telling me about her. 

 Information about Brontë’s life is closer to our sketchy facts about Shakespeare than knowledge about a 19th Century writer -- there just is not much to give us an idea of her personality, except her work.

Such were my developed goals -- make Brontë’s poems comprehensible and therefore enjoyable to the casual reader of poetry; bring Brontë out of the margins of Victorian poetry, and contribute to Emily Brontë biography -- none of which explains my interest in (bordering on obsession with) Emily Brontë.  I have two literary household gods, Emily Brontë and John Keats.  They both were poets, died young of tuberculosis, suffered, were oppressed by social convention, were unlike anyone other type of individual, and  were entirely self-sufficient intellectually, which was indispensable to their taking up the pen to write, since no one thought either was the appropriate kind of person to be pursuing literature. Emily Brontë reigns supreme, however, because she was my first great scholarly love and because I feel that I personally know her and her family.  Where the world of biography leaves off, and it ends in a resounding dearth of information especially about her last years of life, I imagined her world –  her daily existence, gestures, gaits, appearance, and voice. My version finally became real so that I have trouble keeping the two worlds separate. I felt at one with her family situation, in particular the turmoil and sadness caused by Branwell, a brilliant and promising older brother who became an alcoholic, threatened the family with financial ruin, lived a tormented existence, and died in part from his addiction.  That is a story with an enduring relevance.

Obsession is a personal thing, so I don’t expect anyone to immerse himself in Brontë’s work and life because he read my book. I do think one will find information of a thought-provoking and relevant kind about her poems, her life and poetry in general, and I feel certain many will read or revisit Wuthering Heights, a cornerstone of Brontë’s poetic world.


Laura Inman is an independent scholar, free-lance writer, tutor, and retired attorney. Her interest in Victorian literature has led to the publication of two articles on Emily Brontë: “ ‘The Awful Event’ in Wuthering Heights,” Brontë Studies Volume 33, Part 3, November 2008, 19 2002, and “Emily Brontё’s Defeat of Death and Unintended Solace for Grief,” Victorians: Journal of Culture and Literature, No.121, spring 2012.  She holds a J.D. from The Law School of the University of Texas at Austin, a B.A. in French from the University of Arizona, and a Masters in English Education from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. She is a New York State certified teacher in English Language Arts and French. She writes essays and creative pieces for on-line magazines and blogs and for her own blog,

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