Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Other One

Who really remembers to read Agnes Grey? Is it in any man's library? Certainly, it isn't in Everyman's Library, the only one of the Bronte novels to be left so unbound and unshelved. Paired with Emily's Wuthering Heights on first publication, to make up the third in the requisite three volumes of the period, and muted even then by the clamour that greeted Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey is mere filler, mere matter, under-praised, overlooked, and - the fate of all thirds - in the way and thought dull. Agnes herself opens her history with the modest retraction of hopes for some depth or for truth, and the careful suggestion that the return for her reader may not even match his investment; her dry, shrivelled kernel may hardly be worth the small effort that goes into cracking the nut. If Anne is, as Elizabeth Langland would have it, nothing much more than 'the other one,' then Agnes has all the ignominy of being nothing much more than the other one's other one.

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