Out of the blue, I drew this diagram:
(original size: here)
The distance is relative, mostly in my mind. It's not a measure of talent, nor of the degree in which I value these 4 writers.
Whether Jane Austen and Emily Bronte are on the left or on the right does not signify anything- the point is that I see them as being on opposite ends of the line, demonstrated by these keywords:
- Jane Austen: realism; light-hearted tone; associated with light and bright colours and balls; ordinary people; love and romance and marriage; satire of people's faults and foibles; etc.
- Emily Bronte: Gothic fiction; dark themes; associated with black and storms and darkness; unusual and unique characters; passion and hatred and revenge; depiction and exploration of the darker side of human nature; etc.
It's because of these differences that usually a reader likes either one instead of both.
I would even venture to say that Emily may stand for fire, because of the power, intensity, passion, strong emotions and destructiveness (and self-destructiveness) in "Wuthering heights", and Jane Austen may stand for ice, because of her cool, detached tone.
Charlotte and Emily are similar enough to be, very often, collectively known and mentioned as the famous Bronte sisters, so I place them close to each other. Emily of course must be on the right side because her writing is darker with darker tone, darker atmosphere, darker themes and 'darker' people, at least my observations are based on "Wuthering heights" by Emily and "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte.
Anne Bronte is the blend or, one can say, the reconciliation. The reason she has often been ignored, or 1 of the reasons, is the fact that she differs from her elder sisters in that she writes realism, not Gothic fiction. Her "Agnes Grey" would be more to the left, "The tenant of Wildfell hall" to the right.
Then again, it's mostly my feeling (and intuition). May not make much sense after all.