Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey

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Cambridge University Press, Jan 3, 2013 - Literary Criticism - 534 pages
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The tragic lives of the Brontė sisters hold a romantic fascination as great as that of the stories into which they poured their rich imaginations and experiences. Following their first appearance in 1847 and the deaths of Emily (1818-48) and Anne (1820-49), these two classics of English literature - one an impassioned tale of doomed love, the other a quietly intense portrait of the governess in Victorian society - were published together with poems and a biographical notice in this revised 1851 edition. It was prepared by the authors' sister and fellow novelist, Charlotte (1816-55). Wuthering Heights was Emily's only novel, and although it received mixed reviews upon first publication because of its stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty, it has since become an icon of its genre. Agnes Grey, Anne's debut novel, astutely shows the governess to be an often invisible and abused member of the household.
 

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About the author (2013)

Emily Bronte, the sister of Charlotte, shared the same isolated childhood on the Yorkshire moors. Emily, however, seems to have been much more affected by the eerie desolation of the moors than was Charlotte. Her one novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), draws much of its power from its setting in that desolate landscape. Emily's work is also marked by a passionate intensity that is sometimes overpowering. According to English poet and critic Matthew Arnold, "for passion, vehemence, and grief she had no equal since Byron." This passion is evident in the poetry she contributed to the collection (Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell) published by the Bronte sisters in 1846 under male pseudonyms in response to the prejudices of the time. Her passion reached far force, however, in her novel, Wuthering Heights. Bronte's novel defies easy classification. It is certainly a story of love, but just as certainly it is not a "love story". It is a psychological novel, but is so filled with hints of the supernatural and mystical that the reader is unsure of how much control the characters have over their own actions. It may seem to be a study of right and wrong, but is actually a study of good and evil. Above all, it is a novel of power and fierce intensity that has gripped readers for more than 100 years.

Anne Bronte was the daughter of an impoverished clergyman of Haworth in Yorkshire, England. Considered by many critics as the least talented of the Bronte sisters, Anne wrote two novels. Agnes Grey (1847) is the story of a governess, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), is a tale of the evils of drink and profligacy. Her acquaintance with the sin and wickedness shown in her novels was so astounding that Charlotte Bronte saw fit to explain in a preface that the source of her sister's knowledge of evil was their brother Branwell's dissolute ways. A habitue of drink and drugs, he finally became an addict. Anne Bronte's other notable work is her Complete Poems. Anne Bronte died in 1849.