Despite Charlotte Brontë’s insistence that her sister Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, the rumor that their brother Branwell penned the novel has persisted. In their various biographies, Juliet Barker, Daphne du Maurier, Lucasta Miller, and Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford all considered the possibility that Branwell was the true author of Wuthering Heights. Barker claimed to have identified a story of Branwell’s that influenced the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff; du Maurier pointed to poems written by Emily and Branwell as evidence of an early collaboration between the two that could have blossomed into Wuthering Heights.
The persistence of the rumor reflects the curious, cloistered upbringing of the Brontës, but also the more universal experience of siblings. Collaboration and competition between brothers and sisters exists no matter their vocations, but literary siblings challenge our assumptions of lonely genius, isolated writers alone at their desks. Patrick Brontë, father to the four artists, who raised them himself after their mother died, wrote: “As they had few opportunities of being in learned and polished society, in their retired country situation, they formed a little society amongst themselves—with which they seem’d content and happy.” (Casey N. Cep) (Read more)