History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Education of Daughters;
Translanted from the French and Adapted to English Readers
With an Original Chapter, "On Religious Studies."
By the Rev. T. F. Dibdin, B. A. F. A. S
Albany; printed and published by Backus and Whiting, 1806.
Continuation of the Duties of Women.
To the duties previously enumerated, may be added the art of choosing and retaining servants. We should employ such as have honor and religion : their offices should be distinctly ascertained : the time and trouble which each thing requires, the manner of doing it well, and the expense attending it, should also be considered. It would be absurd (for instance) to find fault with a servant if you wished her to dress any thing quicker than it could be dressed ; and if you have not some knowledge of the quantity and price of the ingredients which compose dishes, you will be liable to become the dupe or the scourge of your domestics ; so that a knowledge of these matters is essential to a mistress of a family.
It is also necessary to know their humours, to manage their tempers, and to regulate in a Christian-like manner this little household republic, which is, in general, sufficiently turbulent. Authority, is absolutely essential in this respect ; for the more unreasonable servants are, the more they should be made obedient by fear: but as they are your brethren in Christ, and members of his kingdom, a rigid authority should never be exercised towards them, unless previous persuasion is found to fail.
Strive, therefore, to be beloved by your servants, without descending to low familiarity ; enter not into conversation with them, but at the same time do not be backward in occasionally speaking, with kindness and affabillty, respecting their wants and concerns ; and let them be assured of finding in you a compassionate counsellor. Do not check them too eagerly in their faults-appear neither surprised nor dissatisfied, provided you think them not incorrigible : let them gently hear reason ; and submit frequently to little losses by their service, that you may be able coolly to convince them, that it is not from impetuosity and chagrin that you correct them, but rather for their own, than your, interest.
It would be no easy task to accustom young women of fashion to adopt a conduct, at once so amiable and benevolent. The impatience and ardor of youth, united with the false idea they are apt to entertain of their birth, often induce them to treat their domestics pretty nearly the same as they do their horses-they imagine that servants are any thing but what they really are-and made solely for the convenience of their masters. Endeavour to shew how revolting these principles are to modesty in yourself, and to humanity towards your neighbour.
Let it be comprehended that men are not born to be slaves-that it is a brutal error to suppose our fellow mortals are created to flatter our laziness and pride ; that servitude being established against the natural equality of mankind, we should endeavour to soften it as much as possible ; that masters themselves, though above their servants in situation, are not free from errors, and therefore should not expect an exemption from them in domestics ; especially as they have not had the benefit of instruction and good example-and lastly, if servants become good for nothing by serving ill, masters also, frequently, become so, by being served well : for a facility of accommodation in every wish, and an immediate gratification in every desire, only softens and effeminates the soul, and renders it peevish and irritable under every trifling inconvenience.
Nothing is so well calculated to effect this domestic government, as the being early initiated in it. Give a young woman something to manage herself, on condition of her rendering you some account of it : This confidence will delight her, for youth is highly pleased when it is thought worthy of confidence, and capable of doing serious business. The example of Queen Margaret is a fine illustration of this. That princess informs us, in her memoirs, that the most sensible pleasure she ever experienced, was in seeing the queen, her mother, begin to converse with her, when she was very young, as with a person of years and maturity--she felt transported with joy on entering into the secrets of state with the queen and her brother the Duke of Anjou, reflecting that, not long ago, she had been immersed in the pastimes of children. Overlook the faults of a child in her first attempts at these things, and sacrifice something in order that she may ultimately gain instruction. Make her sensible, in a mild manner, of what she should have said or done, to avoid the inconveniencies into which she has been betrayed. Relate to her what has happened to yourself, and be not- anxious to suppress faults, similar to her own, which you committed when young. Thus will you inspire her with confidence ; without which, all education is but a formal wearisome task.
Teach a girl to read and write correctly. It is a shameful thing, but too common, to see women of understanding and good breeding, who cannot accurately pronounce what they read : either they stammer, or have a sort of singing or whine in their reading-whereas good reading consists in a simple and natural, but firm and even, tone of voice. They are, moreover, sometimes grossly deficient in orthography ; either as to the manner of forming, or connecting, their letters when writing : at any rate they should be taught to write straight, and in a character neat and legible.
A girl should know the grammar of her own language ; not, however, that she is to be taught by rule, as schoolboys are taught the Latin language-but that she be used to distinguish the different tenses, in an obvious and easy manner ; to make use of proper terms ; and to explain their thoughts, in a way, at once clear and concise. By these means you will enable her one day to teach her own children to speak accurately without previous study. It is well known that in ancient Rome, the mother of the Gracchi contributed greatly, by a sound education, to improve the language of her children, who became afterwards such eminent characters.
Females should also be instructed in the first four rules of arithmetic ; namely, in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division ; which will be of essential use to them in keeping accounts,. This, though a very important, is a very disagreeable, occupation with many people ; but early habits, joined to a facility of quick reckoning, by the help of rules, will overcome every antipathy, and enable us to arrange the most perplexed accounts. No one can be ignorant that a correct method of keeping them is often productive of good order throughout an establishment.
It will be prudent also to give them a knowledge of the principal rules of justice ; for example, of the difference between a gift and a thing bequeathed ; between a contract, an entail, and a copartnership of inheritance; the general rules of law, or the particular customs of a country, which render these things valid ; what is exclusive, and what is common property ; what goods are moveable, and what immoveable. When women marry, that she is to be taught by rule, as schoolboys are taught the Latin language-but that she be used to distinguish the different tenses, in an obvious and easy manner ; to make use of proper terms ; and to explain their thoughts, in a way, at once clear and concise. By these means you will enable her one day to teach her own children to speak accurately without previous study. It is well known that in ancient Rome, the mother of the Gracchi contributed greatly, by a sound education, to improve the language of her children, who became afterwards such eminent characters.
Females should also be instructed in the first four rules of arithmetic ; namely, in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division ; which will be of essential use to them in keeping accounts. This, though a very important, is a very disagreeable, occupation with many people ; but early habits, joined to a facility of quick reckoning, by the help of rules, will overcome every antipathy, and enable us to arrange the most perplexed accounts. No one can be ignorant that a correct method of keeping them is often productive of good order throughout an establishment.
It will be prudent also to give them a knowledge of the principal rules of justice ; for example, of the difference between a gift and a thing bequeathed ; between a contract, an entail, and a copartnership of inheritance; the general rules of law, or the particular customs of a country, which render these things valid ; what is exclusive, and what is common, property ; what goods are moveable, and what immoveable. When women marry, they will find a knowledge of these things of great importance to them. But, at the same time, convince them, how incapable they are of entering deeply into the subtilties of law : how much the law itself, by the weakness of human reason, is subject to obscurity, and doubtful rules : how it varies : how uncertain every thing is that depends upon judicial decision, clear and upright as it may seem :- how ruinous and insupportable is the law's delay, even in the most obvious cases.*
All this is of importance for women to know, in order to abate their fondness for lawsuits, and to prevent their trusting implicitly to counsellors, who
* I have here omitted two or three passages of the original, because they describe such incongruity and perniciousness in the law of France, as cannot be applicable to the modes observed in the British courts of judicature.
would dissuade them from peaceful measures. When they are widows, or mistresses of their estates in any other way, they may do well to hear their agents, but not blindly follow them. They should act with the utmost caution in any suits their agents may advise them to undertake ; and consult men of greater ability, and such as are more inclined to recommend the advantages of compromise : in short they should be assured, that the best ability in law causes, is, to foresee the mischiefs of them, and to know how they may be avoided.
Young women of rank and large fortune should be acquainted with the duties more particularly attached to great estates : tell them therefore, what should be done, to prevent the abuses, violence, tricks and treacheries so common in the country ; how they ought to establish little schools and charitable societies, for the relief of the sick and needy : shew them also the handicraft trades, that may be set on foot in certain countries, to help the poor ; and above ail, how they may be taught useful knowledge and Christian conduct ; this however will lead to a detail too long to be here discussed.
* These instructions having been attended to, I think it may not be improper to allow young women, according to their leisure and capacity, the perusal of profane or classical writers, provided there be nothing in them to inflame or mislead the passions : these
* Another passage of the original is also here omitted ; because it relates to the observance of certain feudal rites, and to a knowledge of real property, which can be of no service to a woman in this country.
will be a means also of giving them a distaste for plays and romances. Put into their hands, therefore, the Greek and Roman histories ; they will there see prodigies of courage and disinterestedness : let them be acquainted likewise with the history of their own country, which has its excellencies also, and with that of the neighbouring or foreign countries, judiciously written. All this will serve to enlarge their understandings, and to fill their hearts with noble sentiments, provided you guard against vanity and affectation. It is generally thought a necessary part of a good education for a young lady of rank to be taught the Italian and Spanish languages : for my part I see no use in these acquirements, unless the lady is to be connected with some Spanish or Italian princess :* besides these two languages often lead them to books that are dangerous, and which might increase the faults to which they are liable ; there is much to lose, and little to be gained, by these studies-Latin might be of some use ; even in cultivating the elegancies of language, they will find the Latin more perfect than the Italian and Spanish, which are full of quaint conceits, and a wantonness of imagination bordering on extravagance : Latin however should be taught to young women of good judgment and discreet conduct only ; who will set no greater value on this
* Fenelon is certainly fastidious when he censures the acquirement of the Italian language, which is one of the most soft and pleasing of any in modern Europe. Nor does it at all follow that a knowledge of the Italian language should lead to a knowledge of improper books-the same argument may be applied to any other language. - T
study than it deserves ; who will renounce all vain curiosity, and have no other view than their own edification.
I would allow also, but with great care, the perusal of works of eloquence and poetry, if I saw they had a taste for them, and solidity of judgment enough to confine themselves to their real use : but fearful of agitating too much their lively imaginations, I would have the utmost caution observed in this respect : every thing that may awaken the sentiments of love, seems to me the more dangerous in proportion as it is softened and disguised.
Music and PAINTING require the same precautions ; all these arts are of the same taste and tendency : as to music, we know that the ancients thought nothing was more pernicious to a well regulated republic, than to admit an effeminate melody : it enervates men, unbending and sensualizing their minds : languishing and passionate tones please only, by subjecting the soul to the seducement of the senses, till it becomes intoxicated by them. It was on this account, that the magistrates of Sparta broke all the instruments, the harmony of which was too delicate ; and this was one of the most important parts of their policy. On the same account Plato strictly forbids all the luxurious tones of the Asiatic music ; and Christians, who ought never to pursue pleasure only for the sake of pleasure, are under much stronger obligations to guard themselves against these dangerous entertainment.
Poetry and music, directed to their true end, may be of excellent use to excite in the soul, lively and sublime sentiments of virtue. How many of the books of scripture of the poetical kind, according to all appearance were sung by the Hebrews. Songs were the first memorials which preserved more distinctly, the tradition of divine truths among- men, before the invention of writing. We see how powerful music has been among the heathen nations, in elevating their minds above the sentiments of the vulgar : and the church has employed it,* for the consolation of her children, in celebrating the praises of God. We ought not therefore to abandon these arts, which the spirit of God himself hath consecrated.
Music and poetry employed on sacred subjects, would have a powerful
* An admirable sermon, " on the antiquity, use, and excellence, of church music," by Bishop Home, may be seen among the 16 sermons separately published by that amiable prelate, in 8vo. Oxford, 1795, 2d edit. T
influence in destroying the relish for profane pleasures. But while our present prejudices prevail, these arts cannot be cultivated without danger. Lose no time, therefore, in making a young woman who is strongly susceptible of these impressions, sensible of what charms may be found in music, even while it is confined to subjects of religion : if she has a good voice and a taste for music, never hope to keep her in ignorance of it ; to forbid it will only increase her passion for it. It will be much better to give it a proper direction, than to endeavour to stifle it.
PAINTING is more easily convertible to good purposes ; besides, it belongs in some degree to women ;- their needlework cannot properly be executed without it. I know they might be confined to employments that are simple and require no skill; but as I think we should contrive to employ the head and hands of women of condition at the same time, I could wish they had employments in which art and ingenuity might season their labours with some entertainment.- Their work cannot have any real beauty, unless it be conducted by a knowledge of the rules of drawing ; for want of which, what one sees in stuffs, lace, and embroidery, is done in an ill taste ; all is confused ; without design, without proportion.* These things are reckoned fine, because they cost a great deal of labour to those who work them, and a great deal of money to those who buy them. The lustre dazzles those who do not closely
* I do not think this applicable to the present system of fashion : women, in general display great taste in patterns, and great elegance in the adjustment of dress. T.
examine, or are not skilful in these matters. The women on this subject have made rules of their own, which if any man should contest, he would be thought capricious and absurd. However, they might correct themselves by an attention to painting, and so be able, at a moderate expense, and to their great entertainment, to execute works of a noble variety and beauty, which would bid defiance to the caprice and uncertainty of fashion.
There is nothing which women ought to guard more against, or despise, than living in idleness. Let them consider that the first Christians of whatever condition of life, all applied themselves to some employment, not as an amusement, but as a serious, useful, constant business. The order of nature, the penance imposed on the first man, and in him upon all his posterity, the great example which our Saviour Jesus Christ, hath set before us in this respect, all concur to engage us, each in his station, to a life of labour.
In the education of a young woman, her condition ought to be regarded, and the situation and cast of life she will probably move in. Take care that her expectations do not exceed her fortune and rank ; if they do, they will cost her many sorrows ; - what would have made her happy, will become disgusting to her, if she has cast a wishful eye on a superior condition. If a girl is to live in the country, turn her attention betimes to the occupations of the country ; keep her a stranger to the amusements of the town : shew her the blessings of a simple active life. If her situation be among the middle ranks of the town, let her not come near the people of the court; this intercourse will only serve to give her unbecoming and ridiculous airs : confine her within the bounds of her own station, and point out to her good examples among those of the same rank : form her mind to what will be the business of her life : teach her the management of a tradesman's family : the care that ought to be taken of his income, whether from returns out of the country, or rents of houses in the town : what belongs to the education of her children ; in short the whole detail of business or of commerce, into which you foresee she may probably be thrown, when she is married.*
* What follows, in Fenelon, relating to the religious establishments of women, and taking' the veil, is not here inserted-as being; wholly inapplicable to the laws and customs of England.
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