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Anne Brontė's first novel, Agnes Grey , combines an astute dissection of middle-class social behavior and class attitudes with a wonderful study of Victorian responses to young children which has parallels with debates about education that continue to this day. In writing the novel, Brontė drew on her own experiences, and one can trace in the work many of the trials of the Victorian governess, often stranded far from home, and treated with little respect by her employers, yet expected to control and educate her young charges. Agnes Grey looks at childhood from nursery to adolescence, and it also charts the frustrations of romantic love, as Agnes starts to nurse warmer feelings towards the local curate, Mr. Weston. Sally Shuttleworth's fascinating introduction considers the book's fictional and narrative qualities, its relationship with Victorian child-rearing and the responsibilities of parents, and the changing attitudes to the book influenced by modern concerns for children's rights. The new edition includes a revised and updated bibliography as well as revised notes drawing on the latest critical material.
Robert Inglesfield is Senior Lecturer at the University of Warwick. Hilda Marsden is a freelance scholar and authority on the Bront+½s. Sally Shuttleworth is Head of the Humanities Division and Professor of English at the University of Oxford.