Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1834. First edition. Contemporary buff cloth binding with paper label to spine. Some rubbing and shelfwear to extremities, largely concentrated on crown and foot of spine, where the lower quarter has perished. Some soiling and sunning to boards. Collates , 340, : complete, including publisher's ads to rear. Internally a pleasing copy overall, with some mild scattered foxing to the preliminaries as expected in an American imprint of this period, but the majority of the book pleasing and clean. Bookplate on front pastedown identifies the previous owner as the Library of State Normal School of Salem, MA and a gift of "A. Crosby." Scarce in trade and institutions, this is the only copy on the market. While OCLC locates multiple institutions with microfilm access to the text, it does not list any hardcopy holdings.
With a disarming level of transparency, Fales begins her book by admitting that her present effort is put forth, in large part, for financial benefit. "Twelve years of unremitted toil in the profession of a teacher have inadequate to the demands of a large family. Not literary fame, therefore, but emolument is the present object of publication." With this introductory remark, Fales makes it clear that she is not easily pigeon-holed. A wife and mother, she is also educated and employed, though her labor is undervalued. In this volume, framed as an epistolary novel, she encourages female readers to engage in the dialogues occurring among a coterie of women with diverse interests. With a tantalizing amount of voyeurism, readers learn of Mrs. C's views on the management of girls' boarding schools, Mrs. T's views on the requisite skills of "an accomplished woman," the women's debates on Baconian philosophy, and the importance of knowing Hebrew scripture. Yet Fales also encourages readers to take the women's interrelationships into account; they are each others' cousins, teachers, and friends. Intellectual issues like these are blended into more emotional discussions that draw attention to those events that shaped women's lives at the time -- the death of parents, the birth of children, the pursuit of education, and the existential crisis of finding the path that gives one's life meaning. An interesting example of the epistolary novel form being used to encourage thoughtfulness and reading. (Item #2742)