A Recent Article on Books of 1847
By Victoria Glending

The Daily Telegraph Arts and Books supplement of 18 October 1997 included an article by Victoria Glending on books published in 1847. After discussing a number of different publications, the article goes on:

'. . . Then there are the three Brontë sisters, sending novels out into the world from the cramped, neurosis-ridden Haworth Parsonage. I read Emily's Wuthering Heights so often in adolescence that I become adolescent again when I pick it up now. I know in my adult self that it is outrageous, hysterical, overwrought; also that it is a work of genius. I cannot imagine how a male reader responds to the character of Heathcliff. "What do women want?" asked Dr Freud. Perversely, Heathcliff is part of it.

I had never read Anne's Agnes Grey before, and it seems to me to be amazingly modern. Virtually nothing happens. The result is that the humiliations of the governess's life, and her gnawing yearnings and resentments, take on an engulfing magnitude. They carry every bit as powerful a charge as do the gothic imaginings of Charlotte and Emily. Anne is generally thought of as the least of the Brontë sisters. But Agnes Grey is a little masterpiece. . . .'

'. . . The governess's charges in Agnes Grey are among the most beastly children in literature, horribly ingenious in their tormenting of Agnes, and tearing baby birds to pieces for fun. Agnes herself regrets that she is forbidden to beat her charges, and she too resorts to violence, dropping a stone on a nest to kill the birds outright before the children can torture them. Rosalie's treatment of men would today be called by an uglier name than Anne Brontë knew.'


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