London: Hookham and Carpenter, 1796. First edition. Two volumes in contemporary calf with morocco label remaining on volume II. Corners rubbed and bumped, and some loss to feet of spines; front hinge on volume II cracked but holding well. Else externally a copy that presents nicely. Collating , 202; , 216 pages: complete. Ownership signature of M. T. L. Mansel to front pastedown of each volume. Volume I contains some offsetting to preliminaries and rear; front endpaper loose but holding. Internally, about Fine, with both volumes clean, tight, and complete. With only one copy appearing in the modern auction record (over a decade ago), and ESTC locating only 8 copies in the U.S., this early women's education text has become quite scarce.
Composed by a governess, Susan Nicklin, nearing her retirement, Address aims to prepare young women for the world as they come to the tail end of their formal educations. "Every season of life after the years of infancy have elapsed has duties peculiarly its own, all progressive in their dignity and consequently in their difficulty too. Those relative to each period seem as successive exercises; by which powers are gradually acquired, competent to the due discharge of the more arduous obligations imposed by the circumstances of maturing age," she advises her female readership. She explains that while infancy teaches joy, sensory experience, and affection almost effortlessly, later youth leads us to more seriously "observe, compare, and inquire." The young woman leaving home and schoolroom is on the cusp of a new period of life. "Very soon the world of ideas is enlarged to a magnitude that requires some governing power to arrange its to confirm the good, to erase the evil...this power of the human mind is the heaven-deputed privilege of reason." Educated young women are in possession of this reason, thanks to good families and good teachers. But Nicklin expresses that this is not enough to protect a woman as she departs into the wider world. Her intellect must combine with faith, and by developing her knowledge of religion and using it to bolster her more rational abilities, she will be better prepared to make solid judgements in life. Thus, Nicklin emphasizes reading and learning lessons from scripture, joining with the community on sabbath days, cultivating a calm and meditative mind inclined toward optimism, and reflecting seriously on how to fulfill social duties of wifehood and motherhood. Address to a Young Lady is religious in nature while at the same time acknowledging that a woman is a rational, intelligent creature who can only be satisfied, and can only fulfill her obligations to God, country, and family when both sides of her are allowed to develop. An important and rare text encouraging women's lifelong learning.
ESTC T129214. (Item #2694)