Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey
Oxford University Press
Bronte, Charlotte, Anne and Emily


Introduction, Agnes Grey


`She said that none but those who had been in the position of a governess could ever realise the dark side of `respectable` human nature; under no great temptation to crime, but daily giving way to selfishness and ill-temper, till its conduct towards those dependent on it sometimes amounts to a tyranny of which one would rather be the victim than the inflicter.` Charlotte Bronte`s remark, in a conversation with Elizabeth Gaskell about her youngest sister`s novel Agnes Grey, points to one of itscentral concerns. Drawing directly on her own experiences as a governess, Anne Bronte set out in her first-person narrative to describe the almost unbelievable pressures that the governess`s life involved — the isolation, the frustration, the insensitiveand sometimes actively cruel treatment on the part of employers and their families. The novel is distinguished by its sharp, often ironic observation of middle-class social behaviour and the values and attitudes that lie behind...

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