Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Mrs. Grey, a squire’s daughter, offends her family by getting married only for love to a poor parson in the north of England. She bears him six children, but only two, Mary and Agnes, survive. Nevertheless, the Greys are happy with their humble, educated, pious life in their small house and garden. Mr. Grey, never wholly at his ease because his wife was forced to give up carriages and fine clothes in order to marry him, attempts to improve their fortunes by speculating and investing his patrimony in a merchant’s sea voyage. However, the vessel is wrecked, everything is lost, and the Greys are soon left penniless. In addition, Mr. Grey’s health, never robust, begins to fail perceptibly under the strain of his guilt for bringing his family close to ruin. Mary and Agnes, reared in the sheltered atmosphere of a clergyman’s household, have spent their time reading, studying, and working in the garden. When the family situation becomes desperate, however, Mary tries to sell her drawings to help with the household expenses, and Agnes, the younger daughter, decides to become a governess.
Overcoming the qualms her family feels at the idea of her leaving home, Agnes finds employment and, on a bleak and windy autumn day, arrives at Wellwood, the home of the Bloomfield family. She is received coldly by Mrs. Bloomfield and told that her charges, especially Tom, a seven-year-old boy, are noble and splendid children. She soon finds that the reverse is true. Tom...
(The entire section is 1081 words.)
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