Agnes Grey

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Agnes Grey_table_infobox_0

Agnes GreyAgnes Grey_table_caption_0
AuthorAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_0_0 Anne BrontëAgnes Grey_cell_0_0_1
CountryAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_1_0 United KingdomAgnes Grey_cell_0_1_1
LanguageAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_2_0 EnglishAgnes Grey_cell_0_2_1
GenreAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_3_0 Victorian literatureAgnes Grey_cell_0_3_1
PublisherAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_4_0 Thomas Cautley NewbyAgnes Grey_cell_0_4_1
Publication dateAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_5_0 December 1847Agnes Grey_cell_0_5_1
Media typeAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_6_0 Print: hardback octavoAgnes Grey_cell_0_6_1
Dewey DecimalAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_7_0 823.8Agnes Grey_cell_0_7_1
LC ClassAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_8_0 PR4162 .A54Agnes Grey_cell_0_8_1
Followed byAgnes Grey_header_cell_0_9_0 The Tenant of Wildfell HallAgnes Grey_cell_0_9_1

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. Agnes Grey_sentence_0

The novel follows Agnes Grey, a governess, as she works within families of the English gentry. Agnes Grey_sentence_1

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. Agnes Grey_sentence_2

Like her sister Charlotte's 1847 novel Jane Eyre, it addresses what the precarious position of governess entailed and how it affected a young woman. Agnes Grey_sentence_3

The choice of central character allows Anne to deal with issues of oppression and abuse of women and governesses, isolation and ideas of empathy. Agnes Grey_sentence_4

An additional theme is the fair treatment of animals. Agnes Grey_sentence_5

Agnes Grey also mimics some of the stylistic approaches of bildungsromans, employing ideas of personal growth and coming to age, but representing a character who in fact does not gain in virtue. Agnes Grey_sentence_6

The Irish novelist George Moore praised Agnes Grey as "the most perfect prose narrative in English letters," and went so far as to compare Anne's prose to that of Jane Austen. Agnes Grey_sentence_7

Modern critics have made more subdued claims admiring Agnes Grey with a less overt praise of Brontë's work than Moore. Agnes Grey_sentence_8

Background and publication Agnes Grey_section_0

The genesis of Agnes Grey was attributed by Edward Chitham to the reflections on life found in Anne's diary of 31 July 1845. Agnes Grey_sentence_9

It is likely that Anne was the first of the Brontë sisters to write a work of prose for publication, although Agnes Grey, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre were all published within the same year: 1847. Agnes Grey_sentence_10

Anne's novel was eventually published by Thomas Newby in a triple-volume format: Emily's Wuthering Heights made up the first two volumes (by virtue of it being the longer), while Agnes Grey made up the third. Agnes Grey_sentence_11

The original edition of Agnes Grey, published in 1847, had numerous orthographic, punctuation, and other issues attributed to neglect by the publisher Newby. Agnes Grey_sentence_12

However, the second edition, published in 1850, had many changes after the careful editing of Charlotte Brontë. Agnes Grey_sentence_13

Plot Agnes Grey_section_1

Agnes Grey is the daughter of Mr. Grey, a minister of modest means, and Mrs. Grey, a woman who left her wealthy family and married purely out of love. Agnes Grey_sentence_14

Mr. Grey tries to increase the family's financial standing, but the merchant he entrusts his money to dies in a wreck, and the lost investment plunges the family into debt. Agnes Grey_sentence_15

Agnes, her sister Mary, and their mother all try to keep expenses low and bring in extra money, but Agnes is frustrated that everyone treats her like a child. Agnes Grey_sentence_16

To prove herself and to earn money, she is determined to get a position as a governess. Agnes Grey_sentence_17

Eventually, she obtains a recommendation from a well-placed acquaintance, is offered a position, and secures her parents' permission. Agnes Grey_sentence_18

With some misgivings, she travels to Wellwood house to work for the Bloomfield family. Agnes Grey_sentence_19

The Bloomfields are rich and much crueller than Agnes had expected. Agnes Grey_sentence_20

Mrs. Bloomfield spoils her children while Mr. Bloomfield constantly finds fault with Agnes's work. Agnes Grey_sentence_21

The children are unruly and Agnes is held accountable for them despite being given no real authority over them. Agnes Grey_sentence_22

Tom, the oldest Bloomfield child, is particularly abusive and even tortures small animals. Agnes Grey_sentence_23

In less than a year, Agnes is relieved of her position, since Mrs. Bloomfield thinks that her children are not learning quickly enough. Agnes Grey_sentence_24

Agnes returns home. Agnes Grey_sentence_25

She then begs her mother to help her find a new situation. Agnes Grey_sentence_26

Agnes advertises and is given a position in an even wealthier family – the Murrays. Agnes Grey_sentence_27

The two boys, John and Charles, are both sent to school soon after her arrival, but the girls Rosalie and Matilda remain her charges. Agnes Grey_sentence_28

Matilda is a tomboy and Rosalie is a flirt. Agnes Grey_sentence_29

Both girls are selfish and sometimes unpleasant, and although Agnes's position is slightly better than it was at Wellwood house, she is frequently ignored or used in the girls' schemes. Agnes Grey_sentence_30

Agnes begins to visit Nancy Brown, an old woman with poor eyesight who needs help reading the Bible; there Agnes meets the new curate, Mr. Edward Weston. Agnes Grey_sentence_31

The next day while on a walk Agnes is surprised by Mr. Weston, who picks some wild primroses for her. Agnes Grey_sentence_32

Agnes later saves one of the flowers in her Bible. Agnes Grey_sentence_33

She learns that his mother has died not long ago. Agnes Grey_sentence_34

This new friendship is noticed by Rosalie Murray, who has now entered into society and is a favourite with nearly all suitors in the county. Agnes Grey_sentence_35

Rosalie becomes engaged to Sir Thomas Ashby, a wealthy baronet from Ashby Park. Agnes Grey_sentence_36

She tells Agnes, but makes her promise to keep silent, as she is still going to flirt with other men before she is married. Agnes Grey_sentence_37

One day, she and Agnes go on a walk and meet Mr. Weston. Agnes Grey_sentence_38

Rosalie begins to flirt with him, much to Agnes's chagrin. Agnes Grey_sentence_39

Agnes receives a note from her sister Mary, who is now married to Mr. Richardson, a parson of a rectory near their home. Agnes Grey_sentence_40

Mary warns that their father is dying and begs Agnes to come. Agnes Grey_sentence_41

Agnes arrives too late to see her father alive. Agnes Grey_sentence_42

After his funeral, Agnes opens a small school with her mother, leaving behind the Murrays and Mr. Weston. Agnes Grey_sentence_43

She receives a letter from Rosalie who is very unhappy in her marriage and asks Agnes to come for a visit. Agnes Grey_sentence_44

Agnes is shocked by the change in Rosalie from a merry girl to an unhappy young woman. Agnes Grey_sentence_45

Rosalie confides that she despises Sir Thomas Ashby (and her mother-in-law), and claims he only left London because he was jealous of all the gentlemen she was attracting. Agnes Grey_sentence_46

Agnes also hears that Mr. Weston has left the area, and she grieves, believing she will not be able to see him again. Agnes Grey_sentence_47

Agnes leaves Ashby Park and returns home. Agnes Grey_sentence_48

Several months after she arrives, she goes for a walk on the sea shore and encounters Mr. Weston, who had been looking for her since he moved to the nearby parsonage. Agnes Grey_sentence_49

He is introduced to Agnes's mother, and they forge a bond. Agnes Grey_sentence_50

Agnes finds her attraction to him growing, and she accepts when he proposes marriage. Agnes Grey_sentence_51

In the end, Agnes is very happy having married Edward Weston, and they have three children together. Agnes Grey_sentence_52

Characters Agnes Grey_section_2

Agnes Grey_unordered_list_0

  • Agnes Grey—Main protagonist and narrator of the story. She is the younger daughter of Richard Grey, and is determined to take care of herself, to save trouble for her mother.Agnes Grey_item_0_0
  • Edward Weston—A country parson whom Agnes meets while visiting the poor near the Murray's estate. He and Agnes fall in love, but Agnes believes that he loves the beautiful Rosalie Murray. In the end, he and Agnes marry.Agnes Grey_item_0_1
  • Richard Grey—Agnes’ father, a poor parson who loses his patrimony in a disastrous speculation which ruined his health.Agnes Grey_item_0_2
  • Alice Grey—Agnes’ mother, a lady who left her family to marry Richard Grey, and who opens a school with Agnes after her husband's death.Agnes Grey_item_0_3
  • Mary Grey-Agnes’ sister who later marries a parson, Mr. Richardson.Agnes Grey_item_0_4
  • Mrs. Bloomfield—Mistress of Wellwood. Agnes’ first employer, she is convinced that her incorrigible children are really very good, and that Agnes is a bad example to them.Agnes Grey_item_0_5
  • Mr. Bloomfield—Master of Wellwood. He is convinced that Agnes is not competent, and as a result, often watches her, scolding her for the misbehavior of the children, which she could not prevent.Agnes Grey_item_0_6
  • Matilda Murray—The younger daughter of the Murray family. She is a tom-boy who has learned to swear from her father and the outdoors servant men. She does not want to learn anything, but is forced to by Agnes’ being there. She is very fond of horses and wants more than anything to go hunting with her father.Agnes Grey_item_0_7
  • Rosalie Ashby (formerly Rosalie Murray)—The oldest Murray child, who makes Agnes a sort of confidant. She is a selfish girl who flirts with any man she comes in contact with. She is jealous of Agnes because of Edward Weston, even though she told Agnes that Mr. Weston was an “ugly blockhead.” She marries Sir Thomas Ashby because he is rich and has a title, and she adores Ashby Park. She later regrets her marriage, and becomes closer to Agnes.Agnes Grey_item_0_8
  • John Murray—Older of the two Murray boys. He is sent to school about a year after Agnes comes to be his family's governess.Agnes Grey_item_0_9
  • Charles Murray—The younger of the two Murray boys. He is sent to school about two years after Agnes comes to the Murray household.Agnes Grey_item_0_10
  • Mr. Murray—Agnes's second employer. He is often out hunting, and has taught his daughter, Matilda to swear.Agnes Grey_item_0_11
  • Mrs. Murray—Agnes's second employer's wife. She is a fashionable, showy woman who wants her daughters to marry well. Matilda drives her crazy because of her tom-boy ways. She convinces Rosalie that Lord Ashby's character is not as bad as is reported.Agnes Grey_item_0_12
  • Sir Thomas Ashby—Rosalie's husband. He has a terrible character, which Rosalie knows about when she marries him. While he is always talking about different women, he gets furious and jealous if Rosalie mentions one other man.Agnes Grey_item_0_13
  • Mr. Hatfield—Rector near the Murray's estate. He has an attraction to Rosalie because of her fortune, and she flirts with him for a while. When he proposes, she laughs at him, and he ends up marrying a rich older woman.Agnes Grey_item_0_14
  • Nancy Brown—An older woman whom Agnes befriends. In her house, Agnes and Mr. Weston meet. She is a great admirer of Mr. Weston's.Agnes Grey_item_0_15
  • Tom Bloomfield—The oldest Bloomfield child. He is cruel to animals, something Agnes tries to stop, but fails as he is encouraged by his parents and his uncle.Agnes Grey_item_0_16
  • Mr. Richardson—A middle-aged parson. He marries Mary Grey.Agnes Grey_item_0_17

Style Agnes Grey_section_3

Agnes Grey has a "perfect" and simple prose style which moves forward gently but does not produce a sense of monotony. Agnes Grey_sentence_53

George Moore suggested that it conveyed a style with "all the qualities of Jane Austen and other qualities". Agnes Grey_sentence_54

Her style is considered both witty and apt for subtlety and irony. Agnes Grey_sentence_55

Stevie Davies points to the intellectual wit behind the text: Agnes Grey_sentence_56

Genre Agnes Grey_section_4

Cates Baldridge describes Agnes Grey as a novel which "takes great pains to announce itself as a bildungsroman" but in fact never allows its character to grow up or transform for ideological reasons. Agnes Grey_sentence_57

Baldridge says the early emphasis on Agnes' bourgeois upbringing allows the reader to form the supposition that the transformative bourgeois class will develop an ideal person of virtue. Agnes Grey_sentence_58

However, Agnes stalls in her development because of the corrupted nature of the household in which she is employed. Agnes Grey_sentence_59

As a result, she becomes a static member of the bourgeois, ambivalent to the Victorian value of moral transformation in virtue. Agnes Grey_sentence_60

Autobiographical novel Agnes Grey_section_5

Agnes Grey is also an autobiographical novel with strong parallels between its events and Anne's own life as a governess; indeed, according to Charlotte Brontë, the story of Agnes largely stemmed from Anne's own experiences as a governess. Agnes Grey_sentence_61

Like Agnes, "dear, gentle" Anne was the youngest child of a poor clergyman. Agnes Grey_sentence_62

In April 1839, she took up a position as a governess with the Ingham family of Blake Hall, Mirfield, in Yorkshire, about 20 miles away from Haworth, to whom the Bloomfields bear some resemblance. Agnes Grey_sentence_63

One of the more memorable scenes from the novel, in which Agnes kills a group of birds to save them from being tortured by Tom Bloomfield, was taken from an actual incident. Agnes Grey_sentence_64

In December 1839, Anne, like Agnes, was dismissed. Agnes Grey_sentence_65

Anne found a post at Thorp Green, Little Ouseburn, near York, around 70 miles away, just as Agnes' second position is further from home, with older pupils—Lydia Robinson, 15. Agnes Grey_sentence_66

Elizabeth, 13, and Mary, 12. Agnes Grey_sentence_67

There was also a son, Edmund, who was eight when Anne began working there in the spring of 1840. Agnes Grey_sentence_68

Anne's brother Branwell became his tutor in January 1843. Agnes Grey_sentence_69

The fictional Murrays of Horton Lodge echo the Robinsons; like the "dashing" Mrs. Murray, who "certainly required neither rouge nor padding to add to her charms", Mrs. Lydia Robinson was a handsome woman of 40 when Anne came to Thorp Green. Agnes Grey_sentence_70

Stevie Davies remarks that Agnes Grey could be called a "Protestant spiritual autobiography". Agnes Grey_sentence_71

First, the book retains a sober tone, and Agnes displays a very strong Puritan personality reflected in her name. Agnes Grey_sentence_72

Agnes is derived from the Greek for chaste, hagne, and Grey commonly is associated with "Quakers and quietists to express radical dissociation from gaudy worldiness". Agnes Grey_sentence_73

F.B. Agnes Grey_sentence_74

Pinion is of the opinion that Agnes Grey "is almost certainly a fictionalized adaptation of Passages in the Life of an Individual". Agnes Grey_sentence_75

However, he also points to several sections that are "wholly fictitious": Agnes Grey_sentence_76

Themes Agnes Grey_section_6

Social instruction Agnes Grey_section_7

Throughout Agnes Grey, Agnes is able to return to her mother for instruction when the rest of her life becomes rough. Agnes Grey_sentence_77

F.B. Agnes Grey_sentence_78

Pinion identifies this impulse to return home with a desire in Anne to provide instruction for society. Agnes Grey_sentence_79

Pinion quotes Anne's belief that "All good histories contain instruction" when he makes this argument. Agnes Grey_sentence_80

He says that Anne felt that she could "Reveal life as it is...[so that] right and wrong will be clear in a discerning reader without sermonizing." Agnes Grey_sentence_81

Her discussion of oppression of governesses, and in turn women, can be understood from this perspective. Agnes Grey_sentence_82

Oppression Agnes Grey_section_8

Events representative of cruel treatment of governesses and of women recur throughout Agnes Grey. Agnes Grey_sentence_83

Additionally, Brontë depicts scenes of cruelty towards animals, as well as degrading treatment of Agnes. Agnes Grey_sentence_84

Parallels have been drawn between the oppression of these two groups—animals and females—that are "beneath" the upper class human male. Agnes Grey_sentence_85

To Anne, the treatment of animals reflected on the character of the person. Agnes Grey_sentence_86

This theme of oppression provided social commentary, likely based on Anne's experiences. Agnes Grey_sentence_87

Twenty years after its publication Lady Amberly commented that "I should like to give it to every family with a governess and shall read it through again when I have a governess to remind me to be human." Agnes Grey_sentence_88

Agnes Grey_description_list_1

Beyond the treatment of animals, Anne carefully describes the actions and expressions of animals. Agnes Grey_sentence_89

Stevies Davies observes that this acuity of examination along with the moral reflection on the treatment of animals suggests that, for Anne, "animals are fellow beings with an ethical claim on human protection." Agnes Grey_sentence_90

Empathy Agnes Grey_section_9

Agnes tries to impart to her charges the ability to empathise with others. Agnes Grey_sentence_91

This is especially evident in her conversations with Rosalie Murray, whose careless treatment of the men who love her upsets Agnes. Agnes Grey_sentence_92

Isolation Agnes Grey_section_10

Maria H. Frawley notes that Agnes is isolated from a young age. Agnes Grey_sentence_93

She comes from a "rural heritage" and her mother brings up her sister and herself away from society. Agnes Grey_sentence_94

Once Agnes has become a governess, she becomes more isolated by the large distance from her family and further alienation by her employers. Agnes Grey_sentence_95

Agnes does not resist the isolation, but instead uses the opportunity for self-study and personal development. Agnes Grey_sentence_96

Critical reception Agnes Grey_section_11

Agnes Grey was popular during what remained of Anne Brontë's life despite the belief of many critics at the time that the novel was marred by "coarseness" and "vulgarity," but it lost some of its popularity afterwards because of its perceived moralising. Agnes Grey_sentence_97

However, in the 20th century, there was an increase in examination by scholars of Agnes Grey and of Anne Brontë. Agnes Grey_sentence_98

In Conversation in Ebury Street, the Irish novelist George Moore provided a commonly cited example of these newer reviews, overtly praising the style of the novel. Agnes Grey_sentence_99

F.B. Agnes Grey_sentence_100

Pinion agreed to a large extent that Agnes Grey was a masterwork. Agnes Grey_sentence_101

However, Pinion felt that Moore's examination of the piece was a little extreme and that his "preoccupation with style must have blinded him to the persistence of her moral purpose" of Agnes Grey. Agnes Grey_sentence_102


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes Grey.