Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1792. First American edition. Containing: 1. Miss More's Essays 2. Dr. Gregory's Legacy to his Daughters 3. Lady Pennington's Unfortunate Mother's Advice to her Daughters 4. Marchioness of Lambert's Advice of a Mother to a Daughter 5. Mrs Chapone's Letter on the Government of the Temper 6. Swift's Letter to a Young Lady Newly Married 7. Moore's Fables for the Female Sex. Contemporary sheep rebacked to style with original endpapers preserved. Tight, square, and pleasing. Two early women's ownership signatures to the front endpaper, tracing its passage between female relatives across a century: "Mary Stith Johnston's. 1794. Baltimore" followed beneath by "Mary Stith Johnston 2nd. 1894. Chicago." Small paper repairs to the versos of both endpapers. Internally with a bit of light toning but clean and unmarked else. Collating 297, [1, blank], [2, contents]: complete. With only 12 institutions reporting copies, all in the U.S., and no others on this market, this important women's etiquette and education collection has become quite scarce.
The preface, addressed "To the Ladies of the United States," explains that the book's purpose is to provide "a more complete system for the instruction of the female world, than perhaps any other extant." The editor notes that a key expansion took place between the British release and the present American: "To this volume the Editor has added Miss More's Essays, and Mrs. Chapone's letter on the government of temper...They have considerably enhanced its value." The changes between the two editions, in fact, place women writers of the time as the majority of advisors and the main authority for education young women on proper growth into their adult roles. It also suggests that American women readers might demand or at least prefer to have such information passed along to them by those of their own sex. The result is a series of essays presenting practical advice by progressive Bluestockings such as Hannah More and Hester Chapone, who were pushing for expansion and improvement in women's education, as well as by elite maternal figures focusing on the world of etiquette and the type of advice they would give their own daughters on how girls should best comport themselves to advance in life. The performative savvy these essays pass on expose the practical concerns of women who legally needed to rely on husbands or fathers to survive; for they acknowledge often that women have complex inner lives, but the exposure of these thoughts and opinions may sometimes endanger rather than promote their own interests. Hannah More explains, for example, that "Women have generally quicker perceptions...but girls should be taught to give up their opinions betimes, and not pertinaciously carry on a dispute, even if they should know themselves to be right. I do not mean that they should be robbed of the liberty of private judgment but...that they should not contract a contentious or contradictory turn. It is of the greatest importance to their future happiness." These are balanced with the surprisingly optimistic and liberating guidance of fathers who want the best for their children but speak to the possibilities of a future world rather than the current times. For example, in Gregory's Legacy to His Daughters: "I know nothing that renders a woman more despicable than her thinking it is essential to happiness to be married. Besides the gross indelicacy of the sentiment, it is a false one, as thousands of women have experienced...I am not enough of a patriot to wish you to be married for the good of the public; I wish you to marry for no other reason than to make yourself happier...Heaven forbid you should ever relinquish the ease and independence of a single life to become the slaves of a fool." An enlightening and at times heartbreaking combination of messages for American women as they sought to develop their own individual and cultural identities.
ESTC W13280. Evans 24452. (Item #3383)