Agnes Grey, A Novel is the debut novel of English author Anne Brontë (writing under the pen name of Acton Bell), first published in December 1847, and republished in a second edition in 1850. The novel follows Agnes Grey, a governess, as she works within families of the English gentry. Scholarship and comments by Anne’s sister Charlotte Brontë suggest the novel is largely based on Anne Brontë’s own experiences as a governess for five years. Like her sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre, it addresses what the precarious position of governess entailed and how it affected a young woman.
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.
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