Agnes Grey HTML version
1. The Parsonage
ALL true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard
to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry, shrivelled kernel
scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut. Whether this be the
case with my history or not, I am hardly competent to judge. I sometimes think it
might prove useful to some, and entertaining to others; but the world may judge
for itself. Shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few
fictitious names, I do not fear to venture; and will candidly lay before the public
what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend.
My father was a clergyman of the north of England, who was deservedly
respected by all who knew him; and, in his younger days, lived pretty comfortably
on the joint income of a small incumbency and a snug little property of his own.
My mother, who married him against the wishes of her friends, was a squire's
daughter, and a woman of spirit. In vain it was represented to her, that if she
became the poor parson's wife, she must relinquish her carriage and her lady's-
maid, and all the luxuries and elegancies of affluence; which to her were little
less than the necessaries of life. A carriage and a lady's-maid were great
conveniences; but, thank heaven, she had feet to carry her, and hands to
minister to her own necessities. An elegant house and spacious grounds were
not to be despised; but she would rather live in a cottage with Richard Grey than
in a palace with any other man in the world.
Finding arguments of no avail, her father, at length, told the lovers they might
marry if they pleased; but, in so doing, his daughter would forfeit every fraction of
her fortune. He expected this would cool the ardour of both; but he was mistaken.
My father knew too well my mother's superior worth not to be sensible that she
was a valuable fortune in herself: and if she would but consent to embellish his
humble hearth he should be happy to take her on any terms; while she, on her
part, would rather labour with her own hands than be divided from the man she
loved, whose happiness it would be her joy to make, and who was already one
with her in heart and soul. So her fortune went to swell the purse of a wiser
sister, who had married a rich nabob; and she, to the wonder and compassionate
regret of all who knew her, went to bury herself in the homely village parsonage
among the hills of -. And yet, in spite of all this, and in spite of my mother's high
spirit and my father's whims, I believe you might search all England through, and
fail to find a happier couple.
Of six children, my sister Mary and myself were the only two that survived the
perils of infancy and early childhood. I, being the younger by five or six years,
was always regarded as the child, and the pet of the family: father, mother, and
sister, all combined to spoil me - not by foolish indulgence, to render me fractious