Page:The complete poems of Emily Bronte.djvu/52

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dinary fact that this poem was written by a girl of sixteen. It is true Charlotte Brontë says that the poem was 'written in her sixteenth year.' But this is manifestly an error. Born on 30th July 1818 Emily when she went to Roe Head on the 29th July 1835 was just completing her seventeenth year. Even so the achievement would be very remarkable. But Madame Duclaux, who had a manuscript copy of the poems in which Emily has written the dates, assigns the piece to the Brussels period, and this is much more probable. The 'alien firelight' suits Brussels much better than the Yorkshire hearth of 'good, kind' Miss Wooler. In fact the literary genius of the Brontës was comparatively late in developing. Though they wrote incessantly from their earliest days, none of them wrote anything of importance till after twenty, and the early stories of Charlotte show no signs of promise.

What would Emily have been if life had been kind? Charlotte's answer to that question will be found in Shirley. Shirley Keeldar was, Charlotte Brontë said, what Emily might have been had she been blessed in health and prosperity.