Sunday, 30 September 2012

Agnes Grey

Nipped down to London last week to catch the last few days of the Writing Britain exhibition at the British Library which I first read about on Book Snob's blog (Thanks Rachel!)

I particularly wanted to see the Charlotte Bronte manuscript of Jane Eyre.  Her handwriting was exquisite and there was also a notebook with one of Emily's poems.  As usual poor old Anne didn't get a look in.  I don't understand why Anne Bronte is so often overlooked.  Agnes Grey is a little gem of a novel and Agnes has something of the wit of Austen and the spirit of Jane Eyre. 

The British Library has a very nice little bookshop.  Did the fact that I already own two editions of Agnes Grey in paperback stop me buying it again in hardback?  Nah.  When I retire I probably won't be able to afford hardbacks so I want a small collection of Austen and Bronte in the Everyman's Library editions on my bookshelf.

This edition has an introduction by Lucy Hughes-Hallett who is a perceptive Bronte critic and the cover is part of the portrait of the Bronte sisters painted by Branwell which can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery.  Doesn't Anne have soulful eyes?


Joan Hunter Dunn said...

Oh I remember reading about this at Rachel's & now I think it's too late. I like your thoughts about collecting hardback books.

Frisbee said...

I'd love to reread Agnes Grey. Haven't thought of this in years!

Hm, I'd love to see this exhibition. No possibility of that!

Darlene said...

I've just run upstairs to pull Agnes Grey from one of my shelves, thank you for reminding me it's been hiding away, Nicola. I'm heading to London in a few weeks and will be taking my daughter to visit the Treasures Room at the library. Too late for the exhibit but plenty enough to sigh over nonetheless.

I don't know why we listen to forecasters but apparently we're in for a hard winter this year and for some reason that translates into a yearning for loads of classics and swishing silk.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you got to see the exhibition, Nicola! It was such a wonderful show and so much they packed in - a true feast for us literature lovers!

I did my dissertation on Anne Bronte so you are preaching to the converted! My whole thesis was on why Anne Bronte has fallen out of favour compared to her sisters...there is a lot of stuff out there to analyse and it a real shame that she is still maligned as in my opinion she was certainly a better writer than Emily and produced two wonderful books that should be more widely read. It still surprises me that no one quotes Anne as one of the early feminists - Tenant is an incredible manifesto for the rights of women and her characterisation of Helen is amazing. If only I set the A level syllabus, I'd make every school child read it!

Audrey said...

The exhibit sounds fascinating! I've never really read the Brontes...maybe I should!

mary said...

I'm so cross with myself for missing that exhibition.I put it off and put it off, and then in the last few days I was too busy at work.

Bellezza said...

I love that her handwriting was beautiful. I'm crazy about handwriting, beautiful or not, it's so very personal.

I have Agnes Grey on my nook. I want to read it, some day, and I thank you for the reminder.

Bellezza said...

p.s. I haven't been to the British Library since 1984 when I was last in London. What a lovely museum, lovely city. I miss it, but I'm no longer teaching in Germany, and it's too far for now from Illinois.

Anbolyn said...

I love Jane Eyre but I do not like Wuthering Heights so I have been wary to read Anne, thinking that her books would not live up to Jane Eyre either. It sounds like my thinking was very, very wrong!
She does have very soulful eyes.

Alex said...

I was taken to see the original of that portrait by one of my lecturers when I was a student near Haworth. He promptly fell in love with Charlotte and we had to drag him back onto the coach.

LizF said...

Like Anbolyn I love Jane Eyre, can't get on with Wuthering Heights despite numerous attempts and bought copies of Anne's books after reading Jude Morgan's The Taste of Sorrow which made me yearn for all things Bronte.
Thank you for the reminder that I still have them tucked away and this winter should be the time to actually read them!
I am totally with you on buying nice hardback editions of books, especially classics, even if you already have a paperback version, and those lovely books don't exactly break the bank (even by my standards)

Anonymous said...

Hiya, Vintage Reads. Fascinated to hear about your trip to London to see the MSS. If you want a bigger fix of Anne, you could always visit us at the Bronte Parsonage Museum - or, for all Bronte-linked news & events, follow us on Twitter (@BronteParsonage), or on Facebook (!/pages/Bronte-Parsonage-Museum/292485174126770)

Belle said...

I am so jealous that you got to see the British Writers Exhibit. I had planned to get to London (from America) in September for it (and also the Queen's portrait exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery) but alas was not able to make it. I am sure both were glorious.

I was in London in 2002 and visited the British Library and it was awesome. Sigh.

Shelley said...

To see a great writer's handwriting always, for some reason, strikes me like a visceral blow.

claire said...

Hi Nicola! I've been trying to comment on your blog a few times before and could never get through the word capture thing. I hope it works this time. Anyway, I agree, Agness Grey is a gem. I found it to be very insightful and a delight.

Sunday Taylor said...

Nicola, thanks so much for this reminder about Anne Bronte and her books. I will now reread them which sounds like a most delicious reading schedule for the fall and winter. I love that portrait of the Bronte sisters by Branwell which I have seen in the National Portrait Gallery. The fact that it was folded and stored on top of a cabinet (?) for years, before being discovered adds to the intrigue about the family. The Brontes are endlessly fascinating to me. Lucky you to have seen that exhibition!

lifeonthecutoff said...

I have not read Anne Bronte, Nicola. Your post compels me to remedy, and I have to admit, the cover helps a bit, too. I'm a silly old gal who loves covers. Thank you.

o said...

I love Anne Bronte so much. I'm not sure if it's terribly helpful to compare the sisters because it leads to, as you say, Anne being pushed out and therefore under-read. As three individuals, they had their own style and merits. If I HAD to pick my favourite sister, though, I do believe it would be Anne.

Lindsay said...

Hi, lovely to discover your blog, and to read about your enthusiasm for the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. My favourites are Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I would love to find the time to read Agnes Grey soon.
Best, Lindsay

Shelley said...

That face is kind of scary. Pretty, but scary.

Vintage Reading said...

Joan, some favourite writers I'm happy to buy in hardback - if I'm not sure I always wait for the paperback!

Frisbee, I await your thoughts on Agne Grey. Almost missed the exhibition myself but so glad I went.

Darlene, the library is fabulous, we couldn't go into the reading rooms because we weren't members but just wandering around the building was a pleasure - very nice cake shop, too! Enjoy your day.

Rachel, oh I'd love to read your dissertation. I wish my daughter had Anne Bronte on her A level syllabus.

Audrey, you must read the Brontes! Jane Eyre is an excellent place to start.

Mary, nearly didn't make it myself. So glad I did. You would have loved it.

Bellezza, her handwriting was remarkably beautiful and miniature, too. She must have had very good eyes!

Ann Boleyn, Agnes Grey could not be more different from WH, which I appreciate is not everybody's cup of tea. Hope you get a chance to read it.

Alex, love it! I believe Branwell painted himself out of the picture. I would love to know what Branwell looked like.

LizF, yes, I get that Bronte yearning from time to time. I do like WH, but I have to be in the mood!

Anonymous, it's many years since I visited Haworth so I'm well overdue for a visit. Thanks for the reminder!

Belle, nearly didn't make it myself but it was well worth it. Shame that you couldn't come, I do like a literary pilgrimage!

Shelley, I agree, I couldn't believe that CB had actually touched that paper and that page - unfortunately it was behind glass!

Claire, so glad you love AG, too. That comment thing is a pain - I have a lot of trouble commenting on blogs because I can't read the darn word capture!

Sunday, yes I think this is the portrait where Branwell painted himself out. Always fascinating to guess what may lie beneath the painting we can see.

lifeonthecutoff, I'm extraordinarily sensitive to covers, too and sometimes I think it's daft but I can't help it. Books should be aesthetically pleasing!

O, yes I think you are right. I suppose the fact that Emily and Anne died so young means that they couldn't achieve their full potential as writers.

Lindsay, nice to 'meet' you. You like the Bronte's and Austen? You will fit in very well!!!

Shelley, yes, I wish we had more portraits of the sisters and Branwell.