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Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey

3.8 138
by Anne Bronte

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Concerned for her family’s financial welfare and eager to expand her own horizons, Agnes Grey takes up the position of governess, the only respectable employment for an unmarried woman in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, Agnes cannot anticipate the hardship, humiliation, and loneliness that await her in the brutish Bloomfield and haughty Murray households.


Concerned for her family’s financial welfare and eager to expand her own horizons, Agnes Grey takes up the position of governess, the only respectable employment for an unmarried woman in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, Agnes cannot anticipate the hardship, humiliation, and loneliness that await her in the brutish Bloomfield and haughty Murray households. Drawn from Anne Brontë’s own experiences, Agnes Grey depicts the harsh conditions and class snobbery that governesses were often forced to endure. As Barbara A. Suess writes in her Introduction, “Brontë provides a portrait of the governess that is as sympathetic as her fictional indictment of the shallow, selfish moneyed class is biting.”

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Alan Rodgers Books
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)

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Agnes Grey

By Anne Brontë


Copyright © 2014 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-0163-2



All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut. Whether this be the case with my history or not, I am hardly competent to judge. I sometimes think it might prove useful to some, and entertaining to others; but the world may judge for itself. Shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few fictitious names, I do not fear to venture; and will candidly lay before the public what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend.

My father was a clergyman of the north of England, who was deservedly respected by all who knew him; and, in his younger days, lived pretty comfortably on the joint income of a small incumbency and a snug little property of his own. My mother, who married him against the wishes of her friends, was a squire's daughter, and a woman of spirit. In vain it was represented to her, that if she became the poor parson's wife, she must relinquish her carriage and her lady's-maid, and all the luxuries and elegancies of affluence; which to her were little less than the necessaries of life. A carriage and a lady's-maid were great conveniences; but, thank heaven, she had feet to carry her, and hands to minister to her own necessities. An elegant house and spacious grounds were not to be despised; but she would rather live in a cottage with Richard Grey than in a palace with any other man in the world.

Finding arguments of no avail, her father, at length, told the lovers they might marry if they pleased; but, in so doing, his daughter would forfeit every fraction of her fortune. He expected this would cool the ardour of both; but he was mistaken. My father knew too well my mother's superior worth not to be sensible that she was a valuable fortune in herself: and if she would but consent to embellish his humble hearth he should be happy to take her on any terms; while she, on her part, would rather labour with her own hands than be divided from the man she loved, whose happiness it would be her joy to make, and who was already one with her in heart and soul. So her fortune went to swell the purse of a wiser sister, who had married a rich nabob; and she, to the wonder and compassionate regret of all who knew her, went to bury herself in the homely village parsonage among the hills of ---. And yet, in spite of all this, and in spite of my mother's high spirit and my father's whims, I believe you might search all England through, and fail to find a happier couple.

Of six children, my sister Mary and myself were the only two that survived the perils of infancy and early childhood. I, being the younger by five or six years, was always regarded as the child, and the pet of the family: father, mother, and sister, all combined to spoil me—not by foolish indulgence, to render me fractious and ungovernable, but by ceaseless kindness, to make me too helpless and dependent—too unfit for buffeting with the cares and turmoils of life.

Mary and I were brought up in the strictest seclusion. My mother, being at once highly accomplished, well informed, and fond of employment, took the whole charge of our education on herself, with the exception of Latin—which my father undertook to teach us—so that we never even went to school; and, as there was no society in the neighbourhood, our only intercourse with the world consisted in a stately tea-party, now and then, with the principal farmers and tradespeople of the vicinity (just to avoid being stigmatized as too proud to consort with our neighbours), and an annual visit to our paternal grandfather's; where himself, our kind grandmamma, a maiden aunt, and two or three elderly ladies and gentlemen, were the only persons we ever saw. Sometimes our mother would amuse us with stories and anecdotes of her younger days, which, while they entertained us amazingly, frequently awoke—in me, at least—a secret wish to see a little more of the world.

I thought she must have been very happy: but she never seemed to regret past times. My father, however, whose temper was neither tranquil nor cheerful by nature, often unduly vexed himself with thinking of the sacrifices his dear wife had made for him; and troubled his head with revolving endless schemes for the augmentation of his little fortune, for her sake and ours. In vain my mother assured him she was quite satisfied; and if he would but lay by a little for the children, we should all have plenty, both for time present and to come: but saving was not my father's forte. He would not run in debt (at least, my mother took good care he should not), but while he had money he must spend it: he liked to see his house comfortable, and his wife and daughters well clothed, and well attended; and besides, he was charitably disposed, and liked to give to the poor, according to his means: or, as some might think, beyond them.

At length, however, a kind friend suggested to him a means of doubling his private property at one stroke; and further increasing it, hereafter, to an untold amount. This friend was a merchant, a man of enterprising spirit and undoubted talent, who was somewhat straitened in his mercantile pursuits for want of capital; but generously proposed to give my father a fair share of his profits, if he would only entrust him with what he could spare; and he thought he might safely promise that whatever sum the latter chose to put into his hands, it should bring him in cent. per cent. The small patrimony was speedily sold, and the whole of its price was deposited in the hands of the friendly merchant; who as promptly proceeded to ship his cargo, and prepare for his voyage.

My father was delighted, so were we all, with our brightening prospects. For the present, it is true, we were reduced to the narrow income of the curacy; but my father seemed to think there was no necessity for scrupulously restricting our expenditure to that; so, with a standing bill at Mr. Jackson's, another at Smith's, and a third at Hobson's, we got along even more comfortably than before: though my mother affirmed we had better keep within bounds, for our prospects of wealth were but precarious, after all; and if my father would only trust everything to her management, he should never feel himself stinted: but he, for once, was incorrigible.

What happy hours Mary and I have passed while sitting at our work by the fire, or wandering on the heath-clad hills, or idling under the weeping birch (the only considerable tree in the garden), talking of future happiness to ourselves and our parents, of what we would do, and see, and possess; with no firmer foundation for our goodly superstructure than the riches that were expected to flow in upon us from the success of the worthy merchant's speculations. Our father was nearly as bad as ourselves; only that he affected not to be so much in earnest: expressing his bright hopes and sanguine expectations in jests and playful sallies, that always struck me as being exceedingly witty and pleasant. Our mother laughed with delight to see him so hopeful and happy: but still she feared he was setting his heart too much upon the matter; and once I heard her whisper as she left the room, 'God grant he be not disappointed! I know not how he would bear it.'

Disappointed he was; and bitterly, too. It came like a thunder-clap on us all, that the vessel which contained our fortune had been wrecked, and gone to the bottom with all its stores, together with several of the crew, and the unfortunate merchant himself. I was grieved for him; I was grieved for the overthrow of all our air-built castles: but, with the elasticity of youth, I soon recovered the shook.

Though riches had charms, poverty had no terrors for an inexperienced girl like me. Indeed, to say the truth, there was something exhilarating in the idea of being driven to straits, and thrown upon our own resources. I only wished papa, mamma, and Mary were all of the same mind as myself; and then, instead of lamenting past calamities we might all cheerfully set to work to remedy them; and the greater the difficulties, the harder our present privations, the greater should be our cheerfulness to endure the latter, and our vigour to contend against the former.

Mary did not lament, but she brooded continually over the misfortune, and sank into a state of dejection from which no effort of mine could rouse her. I could not possibly bring her to regard the matter on its bright side as I did: and indeed I was so fearful of being charged with childish frivolity, or stupid insensibility, that I carefully kept most of my bright ideas and cheering notions to myself; well knowing they could not be appreciated.

My mother thought only of consoling my father, and paying our debts and retrenching our expenditure by every available means; but my father was completely overwhelmed by the calamity: health, strength, and spirits sank beneath the blow, and he never wholly recovered them. In vain my mother strove to cheer him, by appealing to his piety, to his courage, to his affection for herself and us. That very affection was his greatest torment: it was for our sakes he had so ardently longed to increase his fortune—it was our interest that had lent such brightness to his hopes, and that imparted such bitterness to his present distress. He now tormented himself with remorse at having neglected my mother's advice; which would at least have saved him from the additional burden of debt—he vainly reproached himself for having brought her from the dignity, the ease, the luxury of her former station to toil with him through the cares and toils of poverty. It was gall and wormwood to his soul to see that splendid, highly-accomplished woman, once so courted and admired, transformed into an active managing housewife, with hands and head continually occupied with household labours and household economy. The very willingness with which she performed these duties, the cheerfulness with which she bore her reverses, and the kindness which withheld her from imputing the smallest blame to him, were all perverted by this ingenious self-tormentor into further aggravations of his sufferings. And thus the mind preyed upon the body, and disordered the system of the nerves, and they in turn increased the troubles of the mind, till by action and reaction his health was seriously impaired; and not one of us could convince him that the aspect of our affairs was not half so gloomy, so utterly hopeless, as his morbid imagination represented it to be.

The useful pony phaeton was sold, together with the stout, well-fed pony—the old favourite that we had fully determined should end its days in peace, and never pass from our hands; the little coach-house and stable were let; the servant boy, and the more efficient (being the more expensive) of the two maid-servants, were dismissed. Our clothes were mended, turned, and darned to the utmost verge of decency; our food, always plain, was now simplified to an unprecedented degree—except my father's favourite dishes; our coals and candles were painfully economized—the pair of candles reduced to one, and that most sparingly used; the coals carefully husbanded in the half-empty grate: especially when my father was out on his parish duties, or confined to bed through illness—then we sat with our feet on the fender, scraping the perishing embers together from time to time, and occasionally adding a slight scattering of the dust and fragments of coal, just to keep them alive. As for our carpets, they in time were worn threadbare, and patched and darned even to a greater extent than our garments. To save the expense of a gardener, Mary and I undertook to keep the garden in order; and all the cooking and household work that could not easily be managed by one servant-girl, was done by my mother and sister, with a little occasional help from me: only a little, because, though a woman in my own estimation, I was still a child in theirs; and my mother, like most active, managing women, was not gifted with very active daughters: for this reason—that being so clever and diligent herself, she was never tempted to trust her affairs to a deputy, but, on the contrary, was willing to act and think for others as well as for number one; and whatever was the business in hand, she was apt to think that no one could do it so well as herself: so that whenever I offered to assist her, I received such an answer as—'No, love, you cannot indeed—there's nothing here you can do. Go and help your sister, or get her to take a walk with you—tell her she must not sit so much, and stay so constantly in the house as she does—she may well look thin and dejected.'

'Mary, mamma says I'm to help you; or get you to take a walk with me; she says you may well look thin and dejected, if you sit so constantly in the house.'

'Help me you cannot, Agnes; and I cannot go out with you—I have far too much to do.'

'Then let me help you.'

'You cannot, indeed, dear child. Go and practise your music, or play with the kitten.'

There was always plenty of sewing on hand; but I had not been taught to cut out a single garment, and except plain hemming and seaming, there was little I could do, even in that line; for they both asserted that it was far easier to do the work themselves than to prepare it for me: and besides, they liked better to see me prosecuting my studies, or amusing myself—it was time enough for me to sit bending over my work, like a grave matron, when my favourite little pussy was become a steady old cat. Under such circumstances, although I was not many degrees more useful than the kitten, my idleness was not entirely without excuse.

Through all our troubles, I never but once heard my mother complain of our want of money. As summer was coming on she observed to Mary and me, 'What a desirable thing it would be for your papa to spend a few weeks at a watering-place. I am convinced the sea-air and the change of scene would be of incalculable service to him. But then, you see, there's no money,' she added, with a sigh. We both wished exceedingly that the thing might be done, and lamented greatly that it could not. 'Well, well!' said she, 'it's no use complaining. Possibly something might be done to further the project after all. Mary, you are a beautiful drawer. What do you say to doing a few more pictures in your best style, and getting them framed, with the water-coloured drawings you have already done, and trying to dispose of them to some liberal picture-dealer, who has the sense to discern their merits?'

'Mamma, I should be delighted if you think they could be sold; and for anything worth while.'

'It's worth while trying, however, my dear: do you procure the drawings, and I'll endeavour to find a purchaser.'

'I wish I could do something,' said I.

'You, Agnes! well, who knows? You draw pretty well, too: if you choose some simple piece for your subject, I daresay you will be able to produce something we shall all be proud to exhibit.'

'But I have another scheme in my head, mamma, and have had long, only I did not like to mention it.'

'Indeed! pray tell us what it is.'

'I should like to be a governess.'

My mother uttered an exclamation of surprise, and laughed. My sister dropped her work in astonishment, exclaiming, 'You a governess, Agnes! What can you be dreaming of?'

'Well! I don't see anything so very extraordinary in it. I do not pretend to be able to instruct great girls; but surely I could teach little ones: and I should like it so much: I am so fond of children. Do let me, mamma!'

'But, my love, you have not learned to take care of yourself yet: and young children require more judgment and experience to manage than elder ones.'

'But, mamma, I am above eighteen, and quite able to take care of myself, and others too. You do not know half the wisdom and prudence I possess, because I have never been tried.'

'Only think,' said Mary, 'what would you do in a house full of strangers, without me or mamma to speak and act for you—with a parcel of children, besides yourself, to attend to; and no one to look to for advice? You would not even know what clothes to put on.'

'You think, because I always do as you bid me, I have no judgment of my own: but only try me—that is all I ask—and you shall see what I can do.'

At that moment my father entered and the subject of our discussion was explained to him.

'What, my little Agnes a governess!' cried he, and, in spite of his dejection, he laughed at the idea.


Excerpted from Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë. Copyright © 2014 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Anne Brontëwas a British novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. Anne's two novels, written in a sharp and ironic style, are completely different from the romanticism followed by her sisters, Emily Brontë and Charlotte Brontë.

She wrote in a realistic, rather than a romantic style. Mainly because the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was prevented by Charlotte Brontë after Anne's death, she is less known than her sisters. However, her novels, like those of her sisters, have become classics of English literature.

The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors.

In Elizabeth Gaskell's biography, Anne's father remembered her as precocious, reporting that once, when she was four years old, in reply to his question about what a child most wanted, she answered: "age and experience".

During her life Anne was particularly close to Emily. When Charlotte's friend Ellen Nussey visited Haworth in 1833, she reported that Emily and Anne were "like twins", "inseparable companions". Together they created imaginary world Gondal after they broke up from Charlotte and Branwell who created another imaginary world - Angria.

For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of 19 she left Haworth and worked as a governess between 1839 and 1845.

Later in her life, a dying Anne expressed her love and concern for her sister Charlotte, and seeing Charlotte's distress, whispered to her to "take courage". Conscious and calm, Anne died at about two o'clock in the afternoon, Monday, 28 May 1849.

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Agnes Grey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 138 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.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Oops. Its at Light Storm result 1. With the caps."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read my post at asf result one. It is titled imperator A.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can you go assassinate someone? Reply to 'LuckyLover6234'
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
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She blinks. "Goodbye Duskstar. I hope all goes well in your new Life.."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks for someone to talk to
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"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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