Advice for girls, 200 years ago (Snippets 12)

regency fashionIn the 18th and 19th Centuries there was a trend for publishing books of advice for children.  They were frequently patronising and would nowadays be considered appalingly sexist, as per Youthful Folly Detected by N.H. Walpole (Observatory Press, 1804).  The view at the time of the place of women is abundantly clear in the ‘Rules’ section of the book.  I have abridged each ‘rule’ from the verbose original text.

1. Keep a due regard over all your thoughts, and see that they are intent upon the business in which you are employed, that you may pay a proper attention to the same. Nothing is more dangerous than an absent mind. It is rude to indulge the thoughts to rove upon indifferent objects, even when you are in company; but more especially when attending to your domestic concerns.

2. Never flatter yourself that you know how the business should be done better than your teachers; therefore hear with patience their instructions, and always be submissive to their directions.

3. Do not expect even from your best endeavors wholly to escape without censure. For the mind of youth is so fickle, it would be very strange if you did not sometimes go astray, and not do so well as you might; and if you do, you must expect reproof, and rebuke, and you ought to take it kindly, and endeavour to do better for the future.

4. You must not only pay the best attention to your domestic concerns, but a proper decorum in all your words and actions must be attended to. Your leisure hours should be employed in reading useful books, which will be most likely to furnish your mind with a store of religious and moral improvements. Read the characters of those ladies who have lived virtuous and pious lives, and endeavour to imitate their examples.

5. Endeavour to treat all persons with civility. Pay a proper respect to your superiors, complaisance to your equals and courteously treat those whom you shall deem to be your inferiors.

6. The strictest attention must be paid to the conversation which you may occasionally have with the other sex. Be not forward in beginning a conversation with them; but be always ready to return all compliments that may be given to you with an easy address, and in a becoming manner, without being daunted or even put to the blush.

7. Remember that the bloom of your youth, your healthy and ruddy countenances, the rose on your cheeks, and the sparkling vigor of your eyes, will gain you more admirers than real lovers.

8. Learn to distinguish true, genuine love, and mere fancy.  He who truly loves or respects you, will not wish to have you violate your honor or chastity, neither will he violently intrude upon the same, although he may endeavour to prove your constancy.

9. Be not anxious to be admired by every one, but only be careful that the virtuous have no occasion to speak evil against you; to avoid which you have only to live a virtuous life.

10. Do not reveal your secrets to any one, unless it will be as much for their interest to keep, as it will be for yours to have them kept; and never reveal the secrets of others, when it will not injure you to keep them.

11. Do not try to outvie all others in dress, etc. but let your dress be modest, and suited to your circumstances. Remember that a real character doth not consist in the outward adornings of the body, but in the inward adornings of the mind and understanding.

12. But however you may appear in company, and abroad, your real character for lasting reputation and future happiness in the world, must be formed and established at home; even in the kitchen, and in attending to your domestic concerns.

Few of the above ‘rules’ would be appropriate today, although perhaps number 10 is still good advice for anybody!

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Snippets and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Advice for girls, 200 years ago (Snippets 12)

  1. That is too funny. Amazing how attitudes have changed. I have a book that once belonged to my dad – The Boys Book of Heroes (c1940), no women, girls had to have their own book – The Girls Book of Heroines!


  2. Fascinating to see how things have changed.


  3. maltasun says:

    Interesting post 🙂


  4. Pingback: Blog News | Windows into History (Reblogs and News)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s