Thursday, 10 June 2010
Agnes Grey is a novel written by Anne Brontë and first published in 1847. The novel is said to have been inspired by Anne’s personal experience as a governess. It was her first novel. It addresses the values, knowledge and situation of a governess and the emotional and physical effects upon the young women in that difficult and precarious situation. The Irish novelist George Moore described Agnes Grey as
"The most perfect prose narrative in English letters."
Agnes Grey is the daughter of a minister, whose family comes to financial ruin. Desperate to earn money to support her self independently, she engages one of the few occupations allowed to respectable and educated women in the early Victorian era, as a governess to the children of the prosperous. In working with two different families, the Bloomfield’s and the Murray’s, she comes to learn about the troubles that face a young woman who must try to be in command of and educate young unruly, spoiled children for a living, and about the ability of wealth and status to destroy social values.
"I was sorry for her; I was amazed, disgusted at her heartless vanity; I wondered why so much beauty should be given to those who made so bad a use of it, and denied to some who would make it a benefit to both themselves and others.
But, God knows best, I concluded. There are, I suppose, some men as vain, as selfish, and as heartless as she is, and, perhaps, such women may be useful to punish them.
— Anne Brontë (Agnes Grey)
After her father's death Agnes opens a small school with her mother and finds happiness with a man who loves her for herself. By the end of the novel they have three children, Edward, Agnes and Mary.