Read Along,  Show Notes

Episode 224: “Agnes Grey” by Anne Brontë, Introduction and Ch. 1-5

Today on The Literary Life Podcast, Angelina Stanford and Thomas Banks begin a new book discussion series covering Anne Brontë’s Victorian novel Agnes Grey. This week they are giving an introduction to the social and literary climate in which Anne was writing, as well as discussing chapters 1-5 of the book.

Thomas shares a little information on Utilitarianism, and Angelina talks about how this affected the literature of the Victorian period. She also points out that the Brontës were writing in the medieval literary tradition rather than the didactic or realistic style, and as such we should look for symbols and metaphors in their journey of the soul. Thomas and Angelina explore the background of the Brontë sisters, discuss the position of the governess in this time period, and compare Agnes Grey to other governess novels.

Diving into the first five chapters of this book, Angelina and Thomas look at the life of young Agnes Grey and at her family. In treating the characters in the early chapters, they talk about Agnes Grey’s first forays into the life of the governess, the horrid children in her care, their irresponsible parents, and more.

Check out the schedule for the podcast’s summer episodes on our Upcoming Events page. If you haven’t heard about Cindy Rollins’ upcoming Summer Discipleship series, you can learn more about that over at

In June Mr. Banks will be teaching a 5-day class on St. Augustine, and in July Dr. Jason Baxter will be teaching a class on Dostoevsky. Also, don’t miss the launch the HHL publishing wing, Cassiodorus Press! Sign up for the newsletter at to stay in the know about all the exciting new things we have coming up!

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Commonplace Quotes:

Truth is the trial of itself,/ And needs no other touch.

Ben Jonson

The previous literary life of this country had left vigorous many old forces in the Victorian time, as in our time. Roman Britain and Mediæval England are still not only alive but lively; for real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root. Even when we improve we never progress. For progress, the metaphor from the road, implies a man leaving his home behind him: but improvement means a man exalting the towers or extending the gardens of his home.

G. K. Chesterton, The Victorian Age in Literature


By W. H. Auden

He looked in all His wisdom from the throne
Down on that humble boy who kept the sheep,
And sent a dove; the dove returned alone:
Youth liked the music, but soon fell asleep.

But He had planned such future for the youth:
Surely, His duty now was to compel.
For later he would come to love the truth,
And own his gratitude. His eagle fell.

It did not work. His conversation bored
The boy who yawned and whistled and made faces,
And wriggled free from fatherly embraces;

But with the eagle he was always willing
To go where it suggested, and adored
And learnt from it so many ways of killing.

Book List:

George MacDonald

Charles Dickens

Lewis Carroll

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Adam Bede by George Eliot

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

The Infernal World of Bramwell Brontë by Daphne Du Maurier

Thomas Hardy

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Esther Waters by George Moore

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