As the daughter of an impoverished Irish clergyman, Emily grew up in Haworth in Yorkshire. She worked briefly as a governess (1838-1839), but her health suffered and she returned to live at home. After an unsuccessful attempt to open a school with her sister Charlotte, Emily assembled the poems that she had written over the years into a notebook, which Charlotte found and urged her to publish.
In 1846 the poems of the three sisters were published under male pseudonyms (Emily wrote as Ellis Bell). The use of male pseudonyms was felt by the sisters to be necessary for having their work taken seriously. Although the book of poems sold only two copies, Emily and her sisters persevered with their literary endeavours, this time each writing a novel.
Emily set to work on Wuthering Heights, a drama set in her native environment of Yorkshire. The book at the time was not as well received as Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre, mostly on account of the depravity of its characters. But it nonetheless garnered attention as an original and captivating novel. In time it would become recognised as a classic.
There is some evidence (via a letter from her publisher) that Emily was in the final stages of penning another novel at the time of her death in 1848 from tuberculosis, but no manuscript has been found.