Muriel Spark always regarded the Brontés with a novelist's eye. As Boyd Tonkin argues in his lively introduction, written for this new edition, the Brontés inspired Spark at the very beginning of her own career, but not in a straightforward way. Through her critical and biographical work on the Brontés, Spark identified not only their achievements but also their flaws and failings, and thereby began to define, as Tonkin puts it, her own best route. As she herself said, in a piece recorded for the BBC at Emily Bronté's grave in 1961, 'I was fascinated by [Emily's]; creative mind because it's so entirely alien to my own'. This book, first published in 1993, collects Spark's essays on the Brontés, her selection of their letters and of Emily's poetry. Evident throughout are Spark's critical intelligence, dry wit, and refusal to sentimentalise – qualities that gave her own novels their particular appeal. At the same time, The Essence of the Brontés is Muriel Spark's tribute to the sisters whose talents placed them on a stage from where they could hypnotize their own generation and, even more, posterity.