Agnes's familial background and the familial background of Anne Bronte, of course, make her especially well-suited to describing a local cleric she dislikes: "His favourite subjects were church discipline, rites and ceremonies, apostolical succession, the duty of reverence and obedience to the clergy, the atrocious criminality of dissent, the absolute necessity of observing all the forms of godliness, the reprehensible presumption of individuals who attempted to think for themselves in matters connected with religion, or to be guided by their own interpretations of Scripture, and occasionally (to please his wealthy parishioners), the necessity of deferential obedience from the poor to the rich-supporting his maxims and exhortations throughout with quotations from the Fathers . . . But now and then he gave us a sermon of a different order-what some would call a very good one; but sunless and severe: representing the Deity as a terrible taskmaster, rather than a benevolent father . . . [on leaving the church, I heard] his voice in jocund colloquy with some of the Melthams or Greens, or, perhaps, the Murrays themselves; probably laughing at his own sermon, and hoping that he had given the rascally people something to think about; perchance, exulting in the thought that old Betty Holmes would now lay aside the sinful indulgence of her pipe, which had been her daily solace for upwards of thirty years; the George Higgins would be frightened out of his Sabbath evening walks, and Thomas Jackson would be sorely troubled in his conscience, and shaken in his sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection at the last day." Bronte displays this same calm, measured, extraordinarily accurate descriptive skill throughout the novel, which more than makes up for the fact that the plot is simple and the action mostly calm and uneventful. The joys of the book lie chiefly in seeing how Bronte renders even the simplest character vividly lifelike.