Among the better-known Victorian fictional governesses, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847), Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey (1847), and the main character of Henry James's much later Turn of the Screw (1898) tell the story of the governess's humiliations at the hands of condescending employers, sneering servants, and malicious pupils from the governess's point of view.
The census of 1861 numbers 24,770 governesses in England, and the British Library catalog includes hundreds of titles under the subject heading "governess," including novels, memoirs, advice books, and diaries, testament to a contrary fascination with a seemingly mundane and predictable figure of middle-class female labor.
In fact, governesses had such potency as imagined agents of harsh discipline and domestic disruption that they could be exploited by other women in a household, however playfully, to secure children's loyalty.
In effect, the foreignness of Le Fanu's governesses forestalls their ultimate loyalty to any local "politics," domestic or national.
In terms of Le Fanu's construction of the governess, the stories offer an explicit rationale for the "Frenchwoman's" cruelty to the Countess, for her allegiance to her male employer, and for her ultimate betrayal of all of her "superiors": this rationale informs Le Fanu's later explicit characterizations of governesses.
In effect, Jameson blames mothers who befriend their governesses for problems that follow, the "temptation to obliquity, the deterioration of character which gradually creeps on in consequence.
material for domestic tragedy as any number of oppressed governesses.
Kathryn Hughes surmises that the European revolutions of the late 1840s prompted French, Italian, and German emigrations and cites the census, which notes 1,408 foreign governesses working in England in 1861.