Less well-known than the novels, yet equally important

Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, was published in 1846, and the three sisters paid personally for its publication, their first published work. It contained poems by all three: 21 by Emily;  21 by Anne; and 20 by Charlotte.

Uncertain as to how poetry by women might be received, they chose to use androgynous pseudonyms, retaining their real initials: 'Currer Bell' was used by Charlotte; 'Ellis Bell' by Emily; 'Acton Bell' by Anne. Charlotte later wrote that this was 'dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because... we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.'

The first edition, published by Aylott and Jones, of London, was a commercial disaster, selling only two copies, although two reviews had been encouraging. Fewer than 10 copies are believed still to exist today. After the later success of the sisters' novels, however, and following Anne and Emily's deaths, the 1850 second edition, edited by Charlotte, and with extra poems by Emily, did well, and has remained in print ever since.

Of the three poets it is Emily who has found most favour with critics and reviewers in the years since. Often referred to as one of the great English lyric poets, her work has been treasured by those as diverse as novelist Daphne du Maurier, who named her first novel The Loving Spirit (1931), after a line from Emily's poem 'Self-Interrogation', and the American poet Emily Dickinson, who chose Emily's poem 'No Coward Soul to be read at her funeral.

To access Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell - in various formats - see the Project Gutenberg website, here.

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