A Governess in the Age of Jane Austen: The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter
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A Governess in the Age of Jane Austen: The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter

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We only know a surprisingly small number of eighteenth-century women as personalities. This is true, in particular, of women who had to work for their living. Which is why the survival of the letters and journals of Miss Agnes Porter, dating from 1788 to 1814, constitutes an unusually important find.

Miss Porter, the daughter of a Church of England clergyman, was born in 1752 with brains but not looks or wealth. Although she would have liked to marry, her various hopes ended in disappointment. She therefore had to earn her living as a governess, working principally in teaching the daughters and grand-daughter of the second Earl of Ilchester.

Agnes Porter was neither morbidly religious, as were many of her Victorian successors, nor did she spend her time dwelling on the unfairness of her situation. She emerges as a intelligent, warm and likeable woman ready to make the best of her lot.

Joanna Martin has provided a substantial introduction which sets Miss Porter in her historical context. A Governess in the Age of Jane Austen is a detailed, and very early, portrait of a woman entering a profession.

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