London: Hookham and Carpenter, 1796. First edition. Contemporary polished tree calf with morocco labels and gilt to spines. Marbled endpapers. Bindings a bit rubbed and bumped, and some chipping to spine labels of both volumes. All external joints cracked, but in all holding very well. Armorial bookplates of Hugh, Earl of Eglington to front pastedowns, bookplate of Archibald, Earl of Eglington to verso of front endpaper in volume I, and library shelfmarkers to rear pastedowns. Internally just about Fine, with only minimal scattered foxing to margins. Collating , 202; , 216 pages: complete. With only one copy appearing in the modern auction record (over a decade ago), and ESTC locating only 7 copies, 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 #4193)