The Young Maiden
Boston: William Crosby & Co, 1840.
Boston: William Crosby & Co, 1840. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and boards embossed in blind. Some wear to extremities. Slight sunning to spine and faint spotting to boards. Brown endpapers. Contemporary ownership signature of Cyrus N. Pollard to first blank. Light scattered foxing throughout, else a clean and unmarked copy. Collating , 260: complete. Scarce on the market and at institutions, OCLC reports 15 copies held at libraries.
A Harvard Divinity graduate and Unitarian minister, Muzzey used publication to spread ideas about proper human behavior -- and he focused equally on the roles of women as he did on those of men. Following up on his conduct guide The Young Man's Friend, Muzzey presented readers with the present work The Young Maiden. Throughout, he shifts between conservative notions of femininity and more progressive approaches to women's capacity. On the one hand, he suggests that "the Elizabeths and Somervilles that occasionally challenge our admiration of their intellectual strength, as exceptions." Yet he also argues that "the intellect of woman should be trained in childhood to equal progress with that of the opposite sex," and that "we must infer that her Creator intended she should be thoroughly educated, that her moral and intellectual powers be fully developed." To this end, Muzzey includes chapters that acknowledge a more broad than expected field of possibility for young women. Chapters are included on women's education, their role in and outside the home, single and married life. Again, Muzzey's work is a striking balance of conservatism and progressivism. Though he urges women to marry, the status of single women is not degraded. Indeed, he gives great credit to single women for the ability to create meaningful lives. "She who is diligent in domestic economy, in the use of her needle, in daily reading of valuable works...can hardly be miserable because unmarried. She will make friends wherever she resides." Eight years before Seneca Falls, there was already in the air the idea that women were capable of more than they had been given space to accomplish. "The influence of Woman on the Intellectual condition of the world is by no means small or unimportant." He concludes with a chapter designed to inspire readers with "exceptional" examples of women including Zenobia and Pocahantas. Very Good + (Item #2995)