Books

Agnes Grey

Anne Brontë

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY SAMANTHA ELLIS

When Agnes’s father loses the family savings, young Agnes determines to make her own living – as a governess. Working for the Bloomfields, her enthusiasm is soon dampened by isolation and the cruelty of the children in her charge. Agnes hopes for better in her second job, but when the scheming elder daughter Rosalie makes designs on Agnes’s new friend, the kind curate Mr Weston, she feels herself silenced and sidelined. Becoming a governess is one thing, becoming invisible is quite another.

The Brontë Sisters (Boxed Set)

Charlotte Brontë (and others)

Jane Eyre | Wuthering Heights | The Tenant of Wildfell Hall | Villette

This stunning box set brings together the Brontë sisters' four greatest novels in beautiful Penguin editions designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith.


From the bleak moors of Wuthering Heights to the Belgian capital in Villette, and the mysterious, gloomy country estates of Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, these four novels of passion and struggle show the most famous siblings in literature at the peak of their powers.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Vintage Classics Bronte Series)

Anne Brontë

When the mysterious and beautiful young widow Helen Graham becomes the new tenant at Wildfell Hall rumours immediately begin to swirl around her. As her neighbour Gilbert Markham comes to discover, Helen has painful secrets buried in her past that even his love for her cannot easily overcome.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Brontë

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

'She looked so like herself that I knew not how to bear it'

In this sensational, hard-hitting and passionate tale of marital cruelty, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall sees a mysterious tenant, Helen Graham, unmasked not as a 'wicked woman' as the local gossips would have it, but as the estranged wife of a brutal alcoholic bully, desperate to protect her son. Using her own experiences with her brother Branwell to depict the cruelty and debauchery from which Helen flees, Anne Brontë wrote her masterpiece to reflect the fragile position of women in society and her belief in universal redemption, but scandalized readers of the time.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

Agnes Grey/The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Brontë

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is Anne Bronte's second and most celebrated novel. Set in the dramatic northern landscape made familiar by the author's more famous sisters, it tells the story of Helen Graham, a mysterious single woman who rents the semi-ruinous Hall of the title. With a child but no husband, Helen divides the community between those who admire her charm and spirit and those who suspect her morals. Chief among her supporters is a local farmer, Gilbert Markham, who tells her story.

Written before The Tenant, Agnes Grey, based on the author's own experience, explores the position of women in Victorian society through the story of a young woman forced to work as a governess when her father is ruined financially.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Brontë

When the mysterious and beautiful young widow Helen Graham becomes the new tenant at Wildfell Hall rumours immediately begin to swirl around her. As her neighbour Gilbert Markham comes to discover, Helen has painful secrets buried in her past that even his love for her cannot easily overcome.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Brontë (and others)

The Penguin Classics edition of Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, her groundbreaking study of a woman's valiant struggle for independence from an abusive husband is edited with an introduction and notes by Stevie Davis.

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young woman who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behaviour becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of the disastrous marriage she has left behind emerge. Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful depiction of a woman's fight for domestic independence and creative freedom.

In her introduction Stevie Davies discusses The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as feminist testament, inspired by Anne Brontë's experiences as a governess and by the death of her brother Branwell Brontë, and examines the novel's language, biblical references and narrative styles.

Anne Brontë (1820-1849), youngest of the Bronte sisters, was born at Thornton, West Yorkshire. Her father was a curate, and her mother died when she was a baby, leaving five daughters and one son. After the death of her sisters Maria and Elizabeth from tuberculosis in 1825, the Brontë children were homeschooled, and together they created fantasy worlds and kingdoms which they explored in writing. Anne worked as a governess between 1840 and 1845, after which she published Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) under the pen-name Acton Bell. Anne Brontë died in 1849.

If you enjoyed The Tenant of Wildfell Hall you might also like Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, also available in Penguin Classics.

Agnes Grey

Anne Brontë (and others)

When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes's enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë's first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.

Biography

Anne Brontë was born in 1820, the youngest of the Brontë family. She was educated at home in the Yorkshire village of Howarth, and later held two positions as a governess, difficult experiences which inspired her first novel, Agnes Grey, in 1847. This was followed by The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1848. Anne died of tuberculosis in 1849, aged twenty-nine.