“The New Female Instructor” (1824 and 1837)

In her discussion of Wives and Daughters (see below), critic Patsy Stoneman refers to a popular handbook which Mrs. Gibson lived by and which Molly surely knew about:  The New Female Instructor – or a Young Woman’s Guide to Domestic Happiness.  The origins of the book go back to the first years of the 19th century;  the edition Stoneman quotes from was published in 1837.
 The Female Instructor Title Page
I’ve found an online facsimile of the publication that’s difficult to read but I think conveys a lot of the book’s character.  I’ve tried to tweak the opening pages so they’re easier on the eye and you can look at the resulting PDF by clicking here:

N.B.: When reading these PDF files you will probably want to use the ZOOM function in Adobe reader to increase the text size to 130% or 150%.

Addendum I:  And anyone who would really like to blow a gasket about the attitudes towards women in the 19th century might like to look further into the book.  I’ve turned the first few chapters into another PDF.  The overall file is long, but many of the chapters are short.  You might like to skim some parts.  You can see by the chapter headings that the topics covered are central to much of Wives and Daughters.

I.  Dress and Fashion – II. Behavior and Manners – III. Introduction into Company – IV. Conversation and Letter-writing – V. Visiting and Amusements – VI. Employment of Time – VII. Domestic Economy – VIII. Love and Courtship – IX. Considerations before Marriage

Addendum II:  I’ve just located a readable copy online of the 1824 edition of The New Female Instructor.  I’ve turned it into a PDF and added bookmarks for easier navigation to the book’s chapters.  (You’ll need to open the Bookmarks Panel on the left of the screen in order to “click” your way through the pages.  You may need to download and save the whole file for Adobe to read it properly.)


N.B.: This is a big file (c. 525 pages) – but it does contain delights such as cooking recipes, medical (herbal) advice, and stringent prescriptions about how to raise children.  Among the points of interest:  Rousseau’s strong belief in the social importance of breast-feeding – what the book calls “suckling.”

…[S]hould mothers again condescend to nurse their children, manners would form themselves : the sen­timents of nature would revive in our hearts … [F]rom the correction of this one abuse, will soon result a general reformation. Let wives but once again become mothers ; and the men will presently again become fathers and husbands.   — J.J. Rousseau

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s