“ Agnes Grey ” Anne Brontë

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Biography 2
Plot 2
Main Characters 4
Secondary Characters 5
Conclusion 7

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Anne Brontë  (January 17, 1820 – May 28, 1849) was a British novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family.

The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë lived most of her life with her family at the remote village of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of nineteen, she left Haworth working as a governess between 1839 and 1845. After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions.

She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, 1846) and in short succession she wrote two novels: Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847; her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall appeared in 1848. Anne's creative life was cut short with her death of pulmonary tuberculosis when she was only twenty-nine years old. 



Agnes Grey is the daughter of a clergyman, whose family comes to financial ruin. Desperate to earn money to care for herself, she takes one of the few jobs allowed to respectable women in the early Victorian era, as a governess to the children of the wealthy. Unfortunately Tom, Mary Ann and Fanny Bloomfield are three of the most badly-behaved children imaginable. When her short, unhappy time with the Bloomfields comes to an end, Agnes finds another situation with two older pupils, Rosalie and Matilda Murray. This second position is not much better than the first – the Murray girls are selfish and thoughtless and the only thing that makes Agnes´s life bearable is her friendship with Mr Weston, the village curate. In working with two different families, the Bloomfields and the Murrays, she comes to learn about the troubles that face a young woman who must try to rein in unruly, spoiled children for

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a living, and about the ability of wealth and status to destroy social values. After her father's death Agnes opens a small school with her mother and finds happiness with a man who loves her for herself. By the end of the novel they have three children, Edward, Agnes and Mary.  

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                                                   Main Characters       

                                                        Agnes Grey 

“ 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.” p.2

“ Mary and I were brought up in the strictest seclusion.” p.3

“ I was so fearful of being charge 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.” p.5

“ Whatever others said, I felt I was fully competent to the task : the clear remembrance of my own thoughts and feelings in early childhood would be a surer guide than the instructions of the most mature adviser.” p.9

“ In my childhood I could not imagine a more afflictive punishment, than for my mother to refuse to kiss me at night : the very idea was terrible...” p.29


                                                     Edward Weston 

“ For he has been a most exemplary attendant at church these last few Sundays. You would think he was quite a good Christian. And you may go with us, Miss Grey, I want you to see him; he is so greatly improved since he returned from abroad – you can't think! And, besides, then you will have an opportunity of seeing the beautiful Mr. Weston again...” p.80

“ His favourite subjects were church discipline, rites and ceremonies, apostolical succession, the duty of reference and obedience to the clergy...” p.81

“I felt inclined to think the man was sincere in all he said; he must have changed his views, and become decidedly religious, gloomy and austere, but still devout...” p.82


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                                                 Secondary Characters

                                                       Tom Bloomfield 

“ Master Tom Bloomfield was a well – grown boy of seven, with a somewhat wiry frame, flaxen hair, blue eyes, small turned – up nose, and fair complexion.” p.15

“ But her brother claimed all my attention to himself : he stood bolt upright between me and the fire, with his hands behind his back, talking away like an orator, occasionally interrupting his discourse with a sharp reproof to his sisters when they made too much noise.” p.16

“ – I don't know – it is so very cloudy and cold, it seems likely to rain; – and you know I have had a long drive.

   – No matter – you must come; I shall allow of no excuses, – replied the consequential little gentleman.” p.17

“ – And what do you do with them, when you catch the birds?

   – Different things. Sometimes I give them to the cat; sometimes I cut them in pieces with my penknife; but the next, I mean to roast alive.” p.18

“ Papa knows how I treat them, and he never blames me for it; he says it's just what he used to do when he was a boy.” p.18

“ Often he would positively refuse to learn, or to repeat his lessons, or even to look at his book.” p.25

“ Yet Tom was by no means the most unmanageable of my pupils...” p.27 

                                                     Matilda Murray 

“ Miss Matilda, a strapping hoyden of about fourteen, with a short frock and trousers, shrugged her shoulders, and made a slice grimace...” p.56

“ Miss Matilda Murray was a veritably hoyden, of whom little need be said. She was about two years and a half younger than her sister; her features were larger, her complexion much darker. She might possibly make a handsome woman, but she was  

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far too big – boned and awkward ever to be called a pretty girl, and, at present, she cared little about it.” p.63

“ Matilda thought she was well enough, but cared little about the matter; still less did she care about the cultivation of her mind, and the acquisition of ornamental accomplishments. The manner in which she learnt her lessons and practised her music was calculated to drive any governess to despair.” p.63

“ As an animal, Matilda was all right, full of life, vigour, and activity; as an intelligent being, she was barbarously ignorant, indocile, careless, and irrational, and consequently very distressing to one who had the task of cultivating her understanding, reforming her manners, and aiding her to acquire those ornamental attainments which, unlike her sister, she despised as much as the rest...” p.64

“ As a moral agent, she was reckless, headstrong, violent, and unamenable to reason.”


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After reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall earlier this year, I wanted to read Anne Bronte´s other book, Agnes Grey. I was pleased to find that I enjoyed the book.  Although I didn´t think it was as good as The Tenant and it didn´t have the feel of a must-read classic like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, there was still a lot to like about Agnes Grey. Agnes Grey has an autobiographical feel because Anne Bronte herself had worked as a governess and was able to draw on her own personal experiences to show how servants were often treated with cruelty and contempt by their employers. I could sympathise with Agnes as I would soon have lost my patience with the spoilt Bloomfield children and the self-centred, inconsiderate Murrays. I also thought it was unfair that the parents expected Agnes to control their children without actually giving her any real authority over them. It was such a difficult position to be in.  However, I found it slightly disappointing that Agnes seemed prepared to just accept things the way they were and not do anything to change the situation.  The book was more about tolerance and perseverance than about taking action to try to make things better.

Another of the book´s themes is the importance of morality, virtuousness and goodness, qualities in which the Bloomfield and Murray families seem to be sadly lacking, leading Agnes to feel isolated and miserable.

However this book is a fine specimen of life in 19th century. 

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    abhorrence – отвращение

    abode – дом, жилище

acknowledgment – признание

alter – изменяться, менять

arduous – трудный, тяжелый

ascend – подниматься, вставать

benign – добрый, милостивый

beverage – напиток

bid – стремиться, стараться достичь

bliss – блаженство, счастье

boneless – бесхарактерный

brat – надоедливый ребенок

calumniation – оговор, клевета

capricious – капризный ребенок

cautious – осторожный

chide – распекать, ругать

cinder – обуглившийся

complacent – самодовольный

conceive – постигать, понимать

cordial – сердечный, задушевный

cordiality – радушие, сердечность

countenance – лицо, выражение лица

cub – детеныш зверя

cursory – беглый, поверхностный

dabble – брызгаться, бултыхаться

deign – снизойти, соблаговолить

demeanour – поведение

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    detraction – занижение, преуменьшение, умаление

diligence – прилежание

dingy – выцветший, тусклый

disapprobation – неодобрение

disdain – презрение

drugget – драгет

drunkard – алкоголик, пьяница

extent – пространство

exult – ликовать, радоваться

exultant – ликующий, торжественный

ferocious – дикий, жестокий

ferocity – дикость, жестокость

filthy – запачканный

foppery – фатовство, щегольство

fretful – капризный, нетерпеливый

frigid – очень холодный

glee – веселье, ликование

grim – жестокий, беспощадный

harassing – изнуряющий

harshly – резко, жестоко

hoarse – охрипший, хриплый

horsewhip – хлыст

impunity – безнаказанность

indolence – леность, праздность

infirmity – болезненность

injudicious – неблагоразумный

interpose – вставлять

lamentation – горестная жалоба, плач

loquacity – болтливость, говорливость

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    ludicrous – курьезный

malediction – проклятие

mischief – вред, повреждение

mischievous – озорной

mode – метод, методика

opprobrious – оскорбительный

outrage – грубое нарушение

outward – наружний, внешний

perplexity – недоумение

perseverance – настойчивость

petticoat – (нижняя) юбка

pigsty – свинарник

pious – набожный, благочестивый

potent – могущественный

prolixity – нудное многословие

propensity – склонность

refrain – воздерживаться

relish – вкус, привкус

rifle – нарез, винтовка

sallow – желтоватый, болезненного оттенка

scamper – бегать, носиться

semblance – подобие, сходство

slap – сильный удар, шлепок

snatch – хватание, схватывать

socket – впадина, гнездо

solitude – одиночество

soothe – успокаивать, утешать

strain – натяжение, растяжение

thaw – оттепель                                                                                                                         

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    tormentor – мучитель

toss – бросать, кидать

trespass – посягать, злоупотреблять

turbulent – бурный, бушующий

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