New Castle: M. Angus & Son, 1801. First edition. Featuring eight woodcuts by Thomas Bewick. Nineteenth century pebbled cloth with gilt to spine. Yellow coated endpapers. Corners gently bumped and some bubbling to cloth of front board; rear hinge a bit tender and rear pastedown faintly soiled. Internally pleasing, with some offsetting to the title page and occasional light scattered foxing as is typical in imprints of this period. Some leaves unopened. A scarce work on educating both men and women in elocution, OCLC reports copies at only 10 institutions in the U.S.
At the turn of the century, there was a strong sense that a good citizen must be an eloquent citizen. To train the rising generation, elocution and rhetoric manuals began to flood the market. Yet women were often neglected by the authors of these manuals writers, who focused on helping young men "rise in the world by demonstrating how to speak correctly and confidently...Most elocution texts only considered males, as they alone were being trained for public life. Women were routinely satirized for their incorrect use of language. The ignorance of the best known caricature, Mrs. Malaprop in R. B. Sheridan's The Rivals, was perpetually horrifying" (Franklin). One of the earliest examples of an elocution book written by a woman for women was Mary Wollstonecraft's pseudonymously published Lady's Preceptor (1792), which predated her cornerstone feminist tract Vindication of the Rights of Women. Within a decade, works like the present New Preceptor began to recognize and address this educational gap. Echoing the title of Mr. Cresswick's (Wollstonecraft's) work, R. Kay drew on his own experience as an instructor to empower both men and women to be competent speakers. Notably, Kay does not overtly acknowledge what a progressive move he makes. Never does he make an argument for including the ladies in these lesson. The result is simply the assumption that any youth of England should be given the opportunity for clear self expression. A well organized guide, signaling a change in women's education. (Item #3221)