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Agnes Grey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Agnes Grey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.8 139
by Anne Bronte

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Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New


Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.


Written when women—and workers generally—had few rights in England, Agnes Grey exposes the brutal inequities of the rigid class system in mid-nineteenth century Britain. Agnes comes from a respectable middle-class family, but their financial reverses have forced her to seek work as a governess. Pampered and protected at home, she is unprepared for the harsh reality of a governess’s life. At the Bloomfields and later the Murrays, she suffers under the snobbery and sadism of the selfish, self-indulgent upper-class adults and the shrieking insolence of their spoiled children. Worse, the unique social and economic position of a governess—“beneath” her employers but “above” their servants—condemns her to a life of loneliness.


Less celebrated than her older sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne Bronte was also less interested in spinning wildly symbolic, romantic tales and more determined to draw realistic images of conditions in Victorian England that need changing. While Charlotte’s Jane Eyre features a governess who eventually and improbably marries her employer, Agnes Grey deals with the actual experiences of middle-class working women, experiences Anne had herself endured during her hateful tenure as a governess.


Fred Schwarzbach serves as Associate Dean and teaches in the General Studies Program of New York University. He is the author of Dickens and the City, the editor of Victorian Artists and the City and Dickens’s American Notes, a contributor to the Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens, and the author of scores of articles, essays, and reviews on Victorian life and letters.

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From Fred Schwarzbach’s Introduction to Agnes Grey

It is impossible for any of us to approach the Brontës without calling up the Brontë myth. We are all familiar with its outlines. The isolated family house on the edge of a bleak Yorkshire moor. The four young children, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, their mother and elder sisters all dead, now in the care of a stern Calvinist aunt. The Reverend Patrick Brontë, a failed writer himself, reclusive, brooding, and subject to periods of dark rage. Then, through the agency of a present of toy soldiers, the children begin writing sagas in which the soldiers come to life. All four are gifted, though Branwell drinks himself to an early death, while the three young women precociously develop writing careers—Emily dying young of the family curse of tuberculosis, and Charlotte living longer, only to die shortly after her marriage. Anne, the youngest, is also the quietest and least talented; modest, religious, and industrious, she too dies of TB at an early age.

The narrative, like any myth, partakes of some truths but embodies a great deal of fantasy—and a great deal of that linked to the famous Wyler-Olivier-Oberon film of Wuthering Heights (1939). To begin: The parsonage was at the edge of a large, bustling mill town; the aunt appears to have been loving and kind and an evangelical Methodist, a far cry from Calvinism; Patrick Brontë was actively engaged in the affairs of the parish and the community, and clearly much concerned with the education and welfare of his children; and so on. But the myth is probably most unfair in its relegation of Anne Brontë to a bit player in the family drama—in fact, she was, though the youngest, probably the most precocious of them all as a writer, producing two novels and a substantial body of poems by the time she died at twenty-nine.

Anne’s relegation to a minor role within the family happened not long after her death. Her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall—the story of a wife who abandons her husband to live under an assumed name and who commits the even greater moral crime of falling in love with another man while her husband lives—was nothing short of scandalous in its subject matter. By contemporary standards, no young woman could write about immoral acts without either knowing of them firsthand or by being tainted by having imagined them—in either case, her reputation was tarnished beyond repair. After Anne died, Charlotte tried to defend her sister against charges of moral impropriety by controlling the public representation of Anne’s character (and, similarly, that of Emily, whose reputation suffered from her authorship of Wuthering Heights), and it was she who began constructing the image of a quiet, passive, deeply religious (and by implication not as talented) Anne. Deeply religious she was, but far from quiet and passive—and she was very talented.

A useful starting point will be the facts of her life, which shed some considerable light on her character and her interests. The circumstances of the family are somewhat exceptional: Anne’s father was very much a self-made man, even making of his humble Irish surname (Prunty or Brunty) the rather more impressive, aristocratic, and vaguely French-sounding Brontë. The son of a farmer, and at first a blacksmith’s assistant, he was by age seventeen a village schoolmaster, but in 1802 his prospects changed dramatically when he managed to secure a scholarship to St. Johns College, Cambridge, where he prepared for a clerical career. He rose through the ranks of the church, acquiring along the way, in 1812, a respectable and mature wife, Maria Branwell. By 1820 they were settled in Haworth, where Reverend Brontë was perpetual curate (that is, he held the office for life) of a large, populous parish. Anne, the sixth and last child, was born on January 17, 1820, three months before the move to Haworth.

Not long after, in 1821, Mrs. Brontë died. Her sister Elizabeth joined the family to superintend the children and the household. But further tragedy was in store, when the two eldest girls, Maria and Elizabeth, returned from school ill in 1825 and soon died. (Charlotte and Emily had followed their sisters to the same school but now were brought home.) This may have been due to the arrival of what would, sadly, be their only lasting legacy to the family—tuberculosis, which many years later would carry off Emily and Anne, and possibly Branwell, too. One effect of this was Patrick’s determination that he would educate the remaining children at home, at least for the major part of their schooling; another effect was that the remaining children became extremely close emotionally, tied to each other, to their aunt, to their father, and to Haworth itself.

Still, though none of us can choose our parents, it was a great stroke of luck for any girl at this time to be the daughter of a clergyman. Young women of the lower ranks of the professional and middle classes rarely were allowed any education beyond music, drawing, and the smattering of general knowledge deemed sufficient to entertain prospective husbands by the distaff side of the hearth. But a clergyman’s daughter had access to both a learned father and his library, and the Brontë girls were luckier still in that Patrick seemed ready to teach them fully much as he did Branwell. Certainly it was also fortuitous that Patrick was an author himself, a writer not only (necessarily) of weekly sermons, but a published poet and essayist of some genuine local repute. They read widely in the standard works of English literature; they subscribed to leading periodicals; and they had access to a lending library an easy walk away in the next town, Keighley. Anne could not have known this at first, but she was receiving excellent training to be a governess, learning music, drawing, and even Latin along with more general studies in literature, history, and geography.

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Agnes Grey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 139 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anne Bronte is a step ahead of her sisters, while I loved Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Professor and Villete (haven't read Shirley yet! :p) I have to confess I was happy to see a woman write in plain words, ezpressing ideas and feelings that were natural and realistic. Instead of being the too forebearing Jane who berated herself for 'daring' to love Rochester Agnes can look at her employers and see clearly that she is their superior... and tell the reader so without malice or vanity! The language at time may appear slightly immature, but it's wonderfully genuine! Agnes is constantly chiding herself about how she should have said more, or said less, or said something clever, or said nothing! It's great because we as women do that now... and will FOREVER!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To start with, I think I figured out a few patterns with the Bronte sister's work. I've currently read four books of theirs and I've noticed that the beginning chapters of: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and now Agnes Grey require a lot patience from the reader. The books didn't exactly capture my attention at first. Like I said this has happened four times now, BUT once you get past the opening chapters and into the story, they do grab you and pull you into their worlds, but you have to be patient. I've read some reviews saying that the Bronte sisters were famous for their "wordy or flowery speech", I enjoy that kind of speech, but when you are really ready for something magical or interesting to happen or conclude, that's when the language gets dull and starts to ramble on and you just want to skim ahead. Honestly, I loved this book and don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the Bronte sisters but the stalling and rambling parts of their wonderful, original books should just be noted for any potential reader. Now saying that, I've also noticed that one of the sisters work will magically speak to you and touch you, whether it's Emily's "Wuthering Heights", Charlotte's "Jane Eyre" (these are the more well known books but there are so many more to explore). Wuthering Heights grabbed my attention and it's now one of my all time favorite reads, but I never really had a book of any genre speak to me more than "Agnes Grey". On the surface, it's a simple story of a young woman and her journey as a newly fledged governess, but it's so much more than this. The beauty and the magic of the words of Anne Bronte brought me to tears in a few parts of her tale. It's hard to explain, but if you have ever wanted to pursue a dream so badly and then had to learn some lessons a hard and cruel way out in the real world, then you can identify with this book. The way this author conveys and explains love, affection, and simple attraction is truly moving. This book by no means has the action or gothic mystery like her sister Emily's "Wuthering Heights" but still "Agnes Grey" makes you search yourself and will have you thinking and questioning yourself days after you finish the last page. I really loved and enjoyed this book, however I can see where a lot of readers will not appreciate it's understated messages. You will either love this story or move on.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Bronte sisters novels are amazing! Jane Eyre is my personal fav, but Agnes Grey is also amazing!
FARIEQUEENE More than 1 year ago
I enjoy this because through fiction, one can often catch a glimpse of what life was like during the mid-nineteenth century. Agnes struggles with education, class, and duty in this quaint novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first time I've read anything by Anne Bronte; but Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are two of my favorite books. I did enjoy this book by the youngest Bronte. It is sensitive and easy to read. The main character is interesting; but some of the other characters are almost unbelievably nasty, mean or just hateful. I doubt it will go on my "Read Again List" with the two afore mentioned books by her sisters. However, it is a good read overall.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As is generally written, Anne Bronte's storyreflects the life of a governess during hertime and place. No doubt greater detail would give us even a clearer picture of suchsituations. There is enough descriptionhowever to let us know it was a position fewwould want. The story is not all that, andwe do read about other aspects of thosetimes, and it does end happily on a love notewhich makes it satisfactory to the romantic.Anne is an excellent writer and should indeedbe given more credit and recognition than weusually find. This affordable edition is truly one to own, for it includes end notes,a biographical commentary by CharlotteBronte, explanations of certain local orarchaic expressions, an introduction by theAssociate Dean of General Studies at NYU,Victorian era reviews and a further readinglist. I will comment that Anne Bronte herselfand her character Agnes Grey were devoutChristians interested in the Bible, andthroughout the story Biblical phrases andreferences are sprinkled which will turn off some people, and be welcomed by others. (This is mentioned for those wanting a few more details about the story.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must say I loved Jane Eyre more. Jane Eyre is exciting, passionate and superiorly original. However I enjoyed this one beacuse it plainly describes the life of a real life governess, not an extraordinary one. It really gave me the idea of how simple people lived in the victorian era. This book is short and easy to read, and while it may not contain the moral topics present in Jane Eyre, I enjoyed it anyway.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a person who has read Jane Eyre four times, I must say that this story is a lot less agonizing. It is still richly emotional. Agnes is an endearing character and the end couldn't be more perfect!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Agnes Grey is certainly not Ann Bronte's finest masterpiece, but it is definately an engrossing novel, simple, but certain. Agnes Grey stands for the young, poor woman looking for love and a life, a story almost similiar to Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre, but Agnes Grey has found a place in my heart that will never hold Jane Eyre. I truly loved this shadowed novel by the Bronte sister who stands in the background of her sisters, but who still stands firm
Guest More than 1 year ago
Agnes Grey is a wonderful portrayal of the life of a young girl striving to bring meaning and love to her life. Ms. Grey is a simple, overlooked girl full of knowledge and goodness. Surrounded by those with power and money, Agnes realizes that wealth does not bring happiness or refinement.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the introduction in this B&N classics series as it gives a concise background and necessary understanding prior reading "Agnes Grey." "Agnes Grey" itself is far from being a WOW book compared to those works written by her other sisters, but Anne Bronte's writing and the tone she chose for the book were just perfect for her creation of the heroin, Agnes Grey. I enjoy reading this book because Anne Bronte threw in many philosophies and life values that are so thought-provoking that I almost needed to sit back and do some reflections after each chapter. Such a rare and hidden gem.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Ill miss you."(youre quiting rp?!)
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well, then. That wasn't supposed to happen...I fell asleep by accident. Lol
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She blinks. "Goodbye Duskstar. I hope all goes well in your new Life.."
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"Excellent. I'll stay in touch" Black mist begins to cover him, out of it flies a black raven, and with that he is gone
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago