Anne Bronte: Educating Parents

5th December 2003 at 00:00
ANNE BRONTE: EDUCATING PARENTS. By Mary Summers. Highgate Publications pound;9.95 (2 Newbigin, Beverley, Humberside HU17 8EG)

In Victorian England, if you were female, unmarried, moderately well educated and poor, just about your only chance of independence was to become a governess: an in-house teacher of the children of a family able to afford you. It was a lonely life. The rigid class system placed you above the servants but below the family, from which position you had to teach children who were your social superiors.

Mary Summers argues that Anne Bront 's experience of this in two households was one of several influences both on her writing and on the beliefs on child-rearing which she displays in her two novels. Indeed the eponymous character of Agnes Grey is herself a governess who works hard with "patience, firmness and perseverance", rather than with chastisement and the birch, to win round a pair of over-indulged, wilful children.

Mary Summers sheds a new light on the Bront sister who, though least well known, perhaps has the most to say about the tensions and practicalities of family life.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today