This is part of a series of posts on the historical figures that are the inspiration for Immortal Perfumes. For more historical figures, check out the rest of the series.
Though she herself was never in love, Emily Brontë penned what is widely considered one of the great romantic masterpieces in English literature, Wuthering Heights.
Born on July 30, 1818 in Thornton, West Riding of Yorkshire, Emily's life was marred by illness, solitude, and tragedy. Her mother died when she was just three years old and her two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in a typhoid epidemic when she was six.
Her father was rector of Haworth and it was in the context of this bleak moorland that Emily and her surviving siblings, Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell, occupied themselves creating fantastical lands and writing poetry.
They began with the fictional world of Angria and the siblings wrote stories about the adventures of Branwell's toy soldiers in that strange land. When Emily got older, she and Anne began a new story line about a fictional island nation called Gondal. None of the writings on Gondal have survived but Emily and Anne frequently returned to it in their writing throughout their lives.
When shew as 17, Emily attended the Roe Head Girl's School where Charlotte was already a teacher. Unable to cope with being away from home, she remained at the school only a few months before she was sent home.
Three years later, she became a teacher at Law Hill School in Halifax. Much as before, her health suffered under the stress of the long work day and her extreme homesickness. After returning to Haworth, she remained at home and did most of the housework and cooking. She occupied her free time with writing, the study of German and piano.
A plan to open a school at Haworth with her sister Charlotte didn't pan out and Emily returned to her writing. She transcribed all of her poems into two notebooks - which Charlotte discovered in 1845. Recognizing their genius, Charlotte pushed Emily to publish but Emily was furious with her sister and considered it an invasion of her privacy. Anne revealed her own manuscript and the sisters discovered they had each been writing in secret.
Adopting pseudonyms using their initials, the sisters published their poems in a volume titled, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The book sold just two copies.
In 1847, Wuthering Heights was published. Charlotte's Jane Eyre had already been published and had achieved success. The reaction to Wuthering Heights was mixed - primal passion and violence were a lot to digest for the Victorian audience.
Emily died a year later at age 30 of tuberculosis having caught a severe cold at her brother Branwell's funeral.
Inspiration for Wuthering Heights
Though she was isolated and never knew passionate love herself, there are several interesting stories that could have inspired the characters and locations in Wuthering Heights.
First there was the story of Emily's grandfather, Hugh Brunty. His grandfather was a cattle dealer who frequently traveled to Liverpool. On one of his trips a young boy - dirty, naked, and a darker complexion - was found on board the ship. Brunty's grandfather adopted the child and called him Welsh on account of his complexion. He preferred the child over his own and taught him his trade. Welsh was shrewd and sullen - and eventually took over the business when his master died. He told the family he would continue to take care of things if Mary, the youngest daughter, married him. When the family refused, he cursed them, "Mary shall be my wife, and I'll scatter the rest of you like chaff from this house, which shall be my home!" Like Heathcliff, Welsh spent the rest of his days torturing the family - the house was burned to the ground and he eventually adopted and mistreated Emily's grandfather Hugh in a perverse revenge scheme across generations.
A similar story occurred at Law Hill House nearby. The owner, John Walker, preferred his nephew Jack Sharpe to his own sons. When Walker died, Sharp was in full possesion of the estate. The rightful heirs were able to oust him but not before Sharp destroyed most of the family heirlooms and made off with the silver.
Last, it is speculated that Hindley Earnshaw was inspired by the tortured life of Emily's brother Branwell. Though he was smart and a gifted writer, he succumbed to drugs and drinking and was the subject of many scandals while Emily was writing the novel.
I first read Wuthering Heights as part of my high school summer reading. I was on a camping trip with my best friend, her dad, and two boys she had invited. Reading this book, having teenage hormones, and being in the woods with members of the opposite sex was weird to say the least. And truth be told, at first I couldn't stand the book. But I like evil characters and Heathcliff is pretty ridiculous when you get down to it. The melodrama also spoke to me as a dramatic teenager. I'm not sure that I would still like the story as an adult but Emily Brontë's writing has always made an impression on me so when I set out to create the Literary Lovers collection, it was with Heathcliff and Cathy in mind.
I wanted to capture Heathcliff's brooding, passion and Cathy's free spirit. The Heathcliff cologne is dark and alluring with a warm scent of chocolate. Catherine smells like the rain that drives the moaning branches of the trees.