TITLE: Agnes Grey
AUTHOR: Anne Brontë
DATE PUBLISHED: 2004
[First Published 1847]
Agnes Grey is the touching story of a young girl who decides to enter the world as a governess, but whose bright illusions of acceptance, freedom and friendship are gradually destroyed.
Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë charts the development of gentle Agnes and sympathetically depicts the harsh treatment she receives along the way. Leaving her idyllic home and close-knit family, Agnes arrives at the Bloomfield’s residence, inside whose walls reign cruelty and neglect. Although faced with tyrannical children and over-indulgent parents, the generosity of spirit and warm candour learnt from her own family never desert her. Agnes also remains firm in the Murray household, where she is used by the two disdainful young daughters for their own deceitful ends and where her chances of happiness are almost spoiled for her.
A deeply moving account, Agnes Grey seriously discusses the contempt and inhumanity shown towards the poor though educated woman of the Victorian age, whose only resource was to become a governess.
Agnes Grey draws on Anne Brontë's experiences as a governess. Anne wanted to write a novel that showed the many difficulties, indignities, and discriminations a governess faces while carrying her duties - with the purpose of reform in mind. The novel is also something of a study of human behaviour and society, as well as relationships. The families who Agnes works for make "The Addams Family" look tame and perfectly normal. The plot is straight forward and the writing not too long-winded and verbose. The prose is acutally quite beautiful. This book comes across as quiet and peaceful without melodrama, but it still somehow draws the reader in. Also, unlike many novels written in this time period, Agnes does not wait around for a man to marry her and "save" her. She is capable of being independant and making her own decisions.
This Penguin Classics edition has additional material including a chronology, an introduction (which deals with Brontë family dynamics and reviewer criticism), a bibliographical notice of Ellis and Acton Bell, notes and further reading.