The close friendship between Charlotte Brontë and Mary Taylor began in boarding school and lasted for the rest of their lives. It was Mary Taylor, in fact, who inspired Brontë to leave her oppressive parsonage home and go to Brussels, the eventual setting for her novel, Villette. Mary herself led a much less restricted life, especially in her later years as a feminist essayist who strongly urged women to consider their "first duty" to be working to support themselves.
In Miss Miles, her only novel, Taylor breaks with tradition by creating a profoundly feminist and morally intense work which depicts women's friendships as sustaining life and sanity through all of the vicissitudes of Victorian womanhood. She also introduces an innovative narrative form which Janet Murray (who has written an introduction for this edition) calls a "feminist bildungsroman": the story of the education of several heroines which emphasizes their friendship and economic and mental well-being rather than their love lives. Set in the small Yorkshire village of Repton against the backdrop of starvation in the wool districts and the rise of Chartism in the 1830s, this recovered feminist classic chronicles the lives of four disparate and individually ambitious women as they learn to find their own voices and support one another. The novel's emphasis on the healing power of women's friendships echoes the relationship between Brontë and Taylor herself. Originally published in 1890, Miss Miles has been unavailable for decades. Its reappearance will delight all lovers of fine literature.