Agnes Grey was first published in December 1847 and republished in a second edition in 1850. The novel, based on Anne Brontë's own experiences as a governess for five years, describes Agnes Grey as she works in several families. Like her sister Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre, it addresses what the precarious position of governess entailed and how it affected a young woman. The novel deals with issues of oppression and abuse of women and governesses, isolation and ideas of empathy. The Irish novelist George Moore praised Agnes Grey as "the most perfect prose narrative in English letters," and went so far as to compare Anne's prose to that of Jane Austen.
Anne Brontë, daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of 19 she left Haworth and worked as a governess between 1839 and 1845. After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions. She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846) and two novels: Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels, appeared in 1848. Anne's life was cut short when she died of pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 29.
Daguerreotype, 1847 — Agnes Grey is a tale of a governess who undergoes much that is in the real bond of a governess's endurance:— but the new victim's trials are more of a ignoble quality than those awaited Jane Eyre. In the household of the Bloomfields the governess is subjected to torment by Terrible Children (as the French have it); in that of the Murrays she has to witness the ruin wrought by false indulgence on two coquettish girls, whose coquetries jeopardize her own heart's secret. In the tale is so much feeling for character, and nice marking of scenery, that we cannot leave it without warning its author against what is eccentric and unpleasant. Never was there a period in our history of Society when we English could so ill afford to dispense with sunshine.
The New Monthly Magazine and Humorist, 1847 — "Agnes Grey" is a simple tale of a governess’s experiences and trials of love, borne with that meekness, and met by that fortitude, that insure a final triumph. It fills the mind with a lasting picture of love and happiness succeeding to scorn and affliction, and teaches us to put every trust in a supreme wisdom and goodness.