To me, the Bronte sisters’ novels epitomize mid-19th century English literature.
You’ve not read any of their works? Intimidated by the length of most 19th century English novels, their flowery language, and the unfamiliar social settings? Well, I used to feel that way, but I’ve changed. Part of my resistance to 19th century English lit. was the fact that some truly worthless 19th century novels are taught in literature classes, each surrounded by a cloud of scholarly effulgence. Not good.
But there are some good books and interesting writers. Among the more interesting writers are the Bronte sisters. We’ve all heard of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but I find the works of Anne (the quiet little sister) to be equally intriguing. For example, Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte is a short, quiet, but nicely written, novel about a governess in Victorian England.
An easy, no-cost, way to try it is to go on-line and download a chapter (I recommend chapter 18 as a taster.) It’s free since all the Bronte books are now public-domain. This site also has the novels and poetry of Emily and Charlotte Bronte.
But before doing that, I recommend you get some background on the Brontes by watching the video “To Walk Invisible”, a 2016 PBS bio-pic, which is not free, but is fascinating.
Anne, when she was growing up, was babied by the family, so determines to go out into life and make her own way. At age 19 she takes a job as governess (one of the few occupations open to women.) She finds the reality of being a governess a nightmare. Isolated from neighbors, looked down on by the servants, tyrannized by her employer (an incompetent mother of three hostile and mean-spirited children) Anne grits her teeth and works literally day and night, seven days a week to try to teach the children something, anything. Despite her efforts, at the end of nine months she is fired.
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