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For Better for Worse, Advice about Marriage from Early Modern English Conduct Books Exhibit Bibliography: Works in the Display

Works in the Display

Felltham, Owen.  Resolves, a Duple Century, ye 5th Edition. 1634.

SPC xx BJ 1520 .F3 1634

Owen Felltham, 1602-1668, writer, poet, estate steward, came from East Anglia.  The first edition of his Resolves… came out in 1623; it contained 100 brief moral musings, essays, each concluding with a resolve, designed to better the writer’s, and the readers’, future conduct.  By 1628, Felltham was steward of the Northamptonshire estate of Barnabas O’Brien, overseeing it, collecting rents, etc.  The second edition came out in 1638, quadruple in size, with lengthier meditations.  The third and subsequent editions, including our copy, have the order of the pieces rearranged, have individual titles added to the entries, and include a subject index.  There were seven editions total, the last in 1647.  Resolves… portrays a Christian, but not a pietistic one, a stoic sort of person.  The work provides a thoughtful, carefully crafted distillation of the view of life of a conservative Englishman of the earlier 17th century.

Allestree, Richard.  Ladies Calling, in Two Parts.  1677.

SPC xx BJ 1609 .A44 1677

Ladies Calling… discusses modesty, meekness, compassion, affability, and piety, with the latter topic having the most coverage.  The second part addresses women in three life-stages: virgins, wives, widows.  On the pages displayed girls receive the author’s advice about their behavior in public, working with their parents to determine a good marriage partner, and the importance of virtue and piety in deciding whom to marry.  

Richard Allestree, 1621/22-1681 was a Church of England minister from Shropshire.  After the English Civil War, he became chaplain to King Charles II, professor of divinity at Oxford University, and provost of Eton College.  We remember him for his writings, particularly the Whole Duty of Man, 1657, and his other spin off books, 1660-1678, such as this one about morality, spiritual practice, and orthodox, common-sense behavior pitched at the level of ordinary Anglican parishioners.  In the front of our copy, it says, “Bought at an auction in Mr. Simpson’s house for the use of my wife Elizabeth Trotter cost 19 pence 11 Jan., 1696.”  This would be between $8 and $9 today. 

Baron and Feme, a Treatise of the Common Law Concerning Husbands and Wives, wherein is Contained the Nature of Feme Covert, and of Marriages…. 1700

SPC xx KD 753 .B37 1700

Our copy of Baron and Feme… (Here Baron means husband and Feme means wife) once belonged to Sir Richard Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone, a member of Parliament, 1790-1796.  Topics covered include marriage and its history in the Church; married women’s rights; bastardy; rights of queens versus kings; rights of queen consorts; rights of queen dowagers; married women’s privileges; marriage and its legal consequences; when a woman marries what property of hers becomes her husband’s; women’s dower rights; and whether/how she can/does lose them.  And more.

We thought it would be useful to own a work about what the law said about the marriage relationship in early modern England, to go along with our various conduct books, so we bought this in academic year 2016-2017. 

English Theophrastus, or the Manners of the Age.  Being the Modern Characters of the Court, the Town, and the City…. 1706.

SPC BJ 1551 .E5 1706

The author arranged the book alphabetically by topic, mostly character traits.  Pages 270-274 cover marriage, matrimony, and children.  The advice and commentary provided is short and terse.  For instance, “Many marriages prove convenient and useful, but few delightful.”  The author speaks of wives and children as disciplines of humanity!  For a young man a wife is like a mistress.  In middle age, the wife becomes a companion.  In old age, the wife is a man’s nurse. 

The time and trouble wives and raising children take can prevent men from achieving greatness. 

The author claims the “Noblest works and foundations” have emanated from childless men.  This is not necessarily so.  See the book by Daniel Defoe, the Family Instructor… in our display!  Defoe had one wife, eight children, and accomplished a great deal. 

Other observations made are the following: unmarried men make the best friends, best masters, and best servants, our author here says, but not always the best subjects, as they are prone to fleeing.  Almost all fugitives are such. Mothers make fools of their sons by regarding them so highly at 16 that, having grown conceited, they do not develop further and remain boys all their lives.  There is a sort of father who seems bent on furnishing his children with reasons for them to be indifferent when he dies. 

We somehow suppose that the author of this book had a convenient, useful, but scarcely delightful marriage! The ESTC, English Short-Title Catalogue, posits Abel Boyer, 1667?-1729, lexicographer and journalist as the author, but his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography does not mention it. 

Darrell, William.  Gentleman Instructed in the Conduct of a Virtuous and Happy Life, Written for the Instruction of a Young Nobleman.  1709.

SPC BJ 1561 .D3 1709

Gentleman Instructed…   is like a play in the form of dialogues, whose purpose is to show virtue amiable, venerable, and most becoming to gentlemen.  The author presents vice as hateful, ridiculous, dishonorable, and reproachful.  He describes the vanities, follies and madnesses of the world, portraying the sinful acts, snares, and temptations of the world so convincingly that everyone reading the book will be bound to turn to the virtuous, right path of life. 

Bound with our copy in this edition is a Supplement to the First Part of the Gentleman Instructed, with a Word to the Ladies, 1708, by the same author. The Supplement…encourages the reader to follow recommendations of Eusebius, Neander, and Theomachus.  Prepare your soul against temptations assailing your virtue.  Pray to God for Him to aid you.  Be a courageous Christian; live as a bright, heroic, and steady example of Christian piety in this, the most wicked and degenerate age! 

Overall, the works’ goals are to teach young nobility of both genders their duty, to chalk out the surest way to contentment in this world, and to glory in the next.  The author thinks you would have to take leave of your reason not to do as he directs.

Our copy is the fourth edition, first published in 1704, and reprinted at least 13 times in the 18th century.  William Darrell, 1651-1721, an Englishman who lived mostly on the Continent, was a prolific author and Jesuit priest.  This was his most popular work and had translations in French, Hungarian, and Italian.

Defoe, Daniel.  Family Instructor, in Three Parts, I. Relating to Fathers and Children, II. To Masters and Servants, III. To Husbands and Wives.  1715.

SPC BV 4526 .D4 1715

Daniel Defoe, 1660?-1731, was a writer and businessman, author of books still known and read, such as Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and Journal of the Plague Year.  His writing prior to 1715, when he published Family Instructor…, was in journalism, a field he grew and shaped.   The great creative period of his life was 1715-1724, during which time he wrote Family Instructor….  With it, he began a series of practical domestic conduct books that eventually covered every stage of life for all social classes and both genders.  In his highly original, long dialogues, he creates characters and relationships and tells their stories in a leisurely way to illustrate his points about marriage, moral relationships, and household governance.  He explores “temper and constitution,” what we call personality today, and shows their effects on other people, relationships, and how people with different temperaments will likely respond to various life situations.  His book’s audience is mature readers, not just young people on the brink of adulthood. 

By 1715, Defoe had been married for 31 years to the same woman and was father to six daughters and two sons, so he had experienced plenty in family life!  The pages displayed here are about a young girl so at odds with her parents that they sent her to live with relatives hoping they could straighten her out.  There, she fell in love with a son of the family by a previous marriage.  All the parents involved agreed to the young couple’s marrying.  We see here the young woman beginning to settle down into responsible married life.  We also see the difficulties the young couple were having.  Do we not have similar issues today?

Gentleman’s Library, Containing Rules for Conduct in All Parts of Life.  1715.

SPC BJ 1601 .G46 1715

Gentleman’s Library… is a general treatise on how a gentleman should best conduct his life.  The topics covered are wide-ranging: education, dress, conversation and the choice of friends, courage, affectation, idleness, envy, recreations, covetousness, lying, wit, drinking, religion, pride, and more.  An extensive amount of material on marriage and conjugal virtues appears on pages 241-274.  Marriage is the state capable of the highest human felicity, an institution enabling as much delight as people are capable of, the author says.  Consequently, deciding whether to marry and choosing a wife requires the utmost reverence and deliberation. The author condemns marriages that only augment family fortunes, but acknowledges the necessity of having enough income to support a wife and family.  Marriage should offer the possibility of, and hope for, perfect friendship.  Men should consider whether they can, or want, to confine their desires to one person, their wife.  If not, then do not marry.  Addressed are jealousy, levity, wantonness, inconstancy, adultery, the role of physical beauty, the woman’s intellectual abilities, her sense and judgment, her conversational abilities, and more.  Shown here is page 263, which offers a few practical directions by which a married man may aim at securing himself a lasting happiness. 

Our copy is a first edition, owned by WM Houseman, 171[8?], and Mary Baynes, 1778.

Essex, John.  Young Ladies Conduct; or, Rules of Education, Under Several Heads.  With Instructions Upon Dress, both Before and After Marriage, and Advice to Young Wives 1722.

SPC BJ 1681 .E88 1722

John Essex, d. 1744, of London, was a dancer, teacher of dance, choreographer, music teacher, and composer.  His first career was as a professional dancer at Drury Lane Theatre.  Young Ladies Conduct… is his second book.  Its material is about conventional female education, aside from its emphasis on the usefulness of dancing.  Its advice about choice of a husband, conduct of a young wife, and hints about dress encompass pages 95-125.  Shown here are pages 94-95, the beginning of this chapter.  Take the advice of your parents, guardian, and friends about choice of a partner.  There needs to be agreement and harmony in age, humor, education, religion, families, fortune between partners.  Matches between [social/economic] equals work out best.  Yet, the young woman should have her own free choice in the matter and should at least like the person being considered for a mate.   Too often women much concerned with their own dress do not look beyond the physical appearance and dress of the man.  Essex goes on to discuss sleeping arrangements, modesty, cleanliness, how to get along with your in-laws, love, jealousy, fidelity, keeping one’s imagination in check, wantonness, obedience, and valuing your husband’s reputation. 

New Academy of Compliments, or, the Lover’s Secretary, Being Wit and Mirth Improved, by the Most Elegant Expressions Used in the Art of Courtship…. A Never-Failing Method for Women to Get Good Husbands…. 1754

SPC BJ 1871 .N49 1754

New Academy of Compliments… is a general conduct and etiquette book covering a whole host of topics aimed at both sexes and all ages of people.  It has many examples of letters useful in courtship and business, on complimenting, thanking, complaining, entreating, congratulating, clearing one’s name, and acknowledging favors.  There are also many sample letters to give people ideas for what to write in their own letters to parents, spouses, children, friends, or fellow servants or apprentices in town or country.  It includes hand signals lovers might use to communicate with each other unbeknownst to others, the significance of moles found on different parts of the body, some material on the interpretation of dreams, love songs, some dancing instructions, and information on how to write business records and do accounts. 

In our display, you can see two of the three pages the work contains on men women should avoid:  beaus, rattles, self-opinionated fools, and hypochondriacs.  A beau is a fop or dandy, one who gives particular, or excessive, attention to dress, mien, and social etiquette.  A rattle is an overly loquacious, talkative person.

MSU Libraries purchased this book in academic year 2016-2017. It had not been on the market in a long time; it might be a long time before it would be for sale again.  Ours is the 14th edition, 1754, originally published in 1748.  From the writing in it, we can see that John Humphreys and Margaret, and then George, Sheerwood owned it in the 1755-1790 period.

Bland, James.  Essay in Praise of Women, or a Looking-Glass for Ladies to See Their Perfections in, with Observations on How the Godhead Seemed Concerned in Their Creation….  [1767]

SPC BJ 1609 .B53 1767

Essay in Praise of Women…   is a general treatise on how a woman should best conduct her life.  The author’s audience is fashionable women.  His attitude is that women are the superior of the two genders. His evidence for this is the overall compassion of women shown by Pharaoh’s daughter rescuing Moses from death, that a woman anointed Jesus’ feet, that a poor widow gave Jesus her last farthing, the fact that no women conspired to kill Jesus, that Pilot’s wife tried to save him, and that Jesus was born of a woman.   His standard for virtuous behavior is Holy Scripture; he quotes from the Bible extensively.  The topic of marriage is on pages 222-249.  He describes the sort of woman a man would do well to marry on pages 246-247, shown in our display here.  In sum, she keeps herself busy, stays at home, dresses neatly, is temperate, humble, and meek, speaks decently, is submissive, and is obedient.  Her reward and yours (the man’s) will be peace and happiness. 

Bland was a professor of physic. He published this book first in 1733 and our copy is a third edition. 

Constable, John.  Conversation of Gentlemen Considered in Most of the Ways that Make Their Mutual Company Agreeable or Disagreeable, in Six Dialogues.  [1738]

SPC BJ 2120 .C66 1738

Conversation of a Gentleman Considered… is in dialogue format.  Its purpose is to teach the best methods for carrying on a polite conversation.  While it does not address marriage directly, page nine, on Passions, shown here, applies to marriage, dealing as it does with good and bad habits.  In addition, the material on all manner of other topics addressed in the book would be useful and needed in negotiating the marriage relationship.  These include avoiding affectation, handling anger, the dangers of beautiful persons, choice of friends, use of humor in conversation, immorality in speech, how intimacy is prejudicial to accurate conversation, looks, romancing-talkers, various failures in conversations, or, wit never to be affected.

The author, John Constable, 1676/78-1743, a Jesuit priest and writer from Lincolnshire, wrote under the pseudonym Clerophilus Alethes.  About 1723, he became chaplain to the Catholic Fitzgerald family at Swynnerton in Staffordshire, England.   In 1735, he became head of the Jesuits working in Staffordshire.  Most of his other written work is about Catholic-Anglican religious relations and difficulties. 

Barnard, John.  Present for an Apprentice, or, a Sure Guide to Gain Both Esteem and Estate with Rules for His Conduct to His Master and in the World.  [1790?]

SPC BJ 1641 .B3 1790

Sir John Barnard, 1685-1764, was Lord Mayor of London, 1737-1740. The book covers a welter of topics that masters thought their apprentices needed to know to handle their lives well. Pages 62-71 deal with choice of a wife.  Pages 62-63 are on display.  Points made include the following: marriage is the point on which happiness depends, so choose a mate with care.  Marriage cannot repair your own difficulties, if your own life is in a shambles.  Do not marry until you are thriving financially.  Do not depend on the money the wife brings to the marriage to sustain your lives.  Her family should be valued and known for their integrity and simplicity of manners.  Your wife’s character should be clear, spotless, good-natured, and her body free of hereditary disease and deformity.  Do not fix your eye on a celebrated beauty, such are hard to possess and secure.  In such cases, the husband becomes a mere appendage.  Neither should you despise harmony of shape or elegance or features, as children inherit these.  Frugality and knowing how to manage family affairs are more important than good looks for a tradesman’s wife.  Her conduct will be more exemplary if she is religious.  It is better to marry a bit less well financially than to have money enough but not happiness.  Do not let her needy relatives be a drain on your own finances!  “A fair wife with empty pockets is like a noble house without furniture, resembles fat land in the Fens [marshy areas of southeast England], rich, but uninhabitable”!

Fielding, Sarah.  Governess, or Little Female Academy, Calculated for the Entertainment and Instruction of Young Ladies in Their Education.  [1789]

SPC PR 3459 .F3 G6 1789

Governess… first published in 1744, is the first children’s school story (fiction), in English, written exclusively about, and for young girls.  There is a letter at the beginning summarizing the book’s purpose.  “The design of the following sheets is to endeavor to cultivate an early inclination to benevolence, and a love of virtue, in the minds of young women, by trying to show them that their true interest is concerned in cherishing and improving those amiable dispositions into habits; and in keeping down all rough and boisterous passions; and that from this alone they can propose to themselves to arrive at true happiness, in any of the stations of life allotted to the female character.” 

Sarah Fielding, 1710-1768, born in Dorsetshire, was a famous writer in her own right, not just a sister of the famous author Henry Fielding, who wrote Tom JonesGoverness… was her second novel.  By 1754, she had lost all her immediate family members, was in poor health, and moved to Bath, the move facilitated by the famous novelist Samuel Richardson, to whose literary circle she belonged.  She then wrote to support herself.  A number of her works concern themselves with family, friendship, and the perils of the “marriage market.”

Person of Distinction.  Book of Conversation and Behaviour.  [1754]

SPC BJ 1561 .P47 1754

The author dedicated his book to Samuel Richardson, a famous 18th century author, and wrote it in imitation of Richardson’s Familiar Letters….  The book is in dialogue form between several named characters.  The males are Sir Samuel Fashion (a man of fortune), Sir William Civil (also a man of fortune, in love with Sir Samuel’s daughter), Captain Everywhere (a military officer in love with Lady Air), Mr. Forward (a young gentleman bred to the law, also in love with Lady Air), Mr. Rustick (a country gentlemen), Mr. Bookley (a scholar just come from the university), and Mr. Loom (a person bred to trade).  The females are Lady Fashion (Sir Samuel’s wife), Lady Air (a lady of fashion, a coquette, a flirt), Miss Fashion (Sir Samuel’s daughter), and Miss Seewell (daughter of a citizen).   Displayed are pages 186-187 where we see Sir Samuel encouraging his daughter to look favorably on Sir William Civil as a possible husband, though he will not force her to marry him.  Miss Fashion will have none of him and believes it dishonest to give the appearance of encouraging his suit.

The author might be the fifth or sixth Lord Elibank, both named Patrick Murray, Jacobite Scotsmen.   Our copy is a first edition. 

Calcott, Wellins.  Thoughts Moral and Divine, Collected and Intended for the Better Instruction and Conduct of Life…. 1759.

SPC BJ 1561 .C2 1759

The author’s “thoughts” appear alphabetically by topic; the pages 238-242 address the topic of marriage. On the displayed pages, the author addresses males.  He advises a man to teach his wife not to deceive him.  Rule so that you may be honored.  Do not be too suspicious of her.  If you see faults in your wife, at first let your love for her hide them, meaning, do not call her on it.  Be careful how you confront her; do not do it in public, lest she grow bold, and not tauntingly, which would make her spiteful.  Do not remark on her beauty to others; doing so will make her proud.  To boast of her wisdom will make you look foolish.  Hide your own imperfections lest she disdain you.  Do not swear; this defiles her modesty.  An understanding husband makes for a discreet wife.  And, a discreet wife makes for a happy husband.

Wellins Calcott, [1726-?] was a religious writer and freemason from Shropshire, thought prompted to write for publication to deal with a reversal of his fortunes.  Our copy is a third edition; it came out originally in 1756. 

Modern Couple, or, the History of Mr. and Mrs. Davers, in a Series of Letters. [1776]

SPC PR 3991 .A1 M53 1776

This is an epistolary novel (meaning, written in the form of letters) advocating for virtuous marriages.  It is all about marrying, falling in love, going off on affairs with the opposite sex after marriage, the dangers of so doing, and such topics.   Shown are a letter from Shelburne to Hepburne.  He writes, “Custom has, in my opinion been too indulgent to married men; there are many who would derive considerable advantages from a firm adherence to their marriage vows, and were every man, after his wedding day, to be smartly taxed on every deviation from his conjugal fidelity, he would soon, perhaps, be constant, and probably a happy husband.  Hepburne disagreed, saying, “Prohibited goods are always greedily sought after.”

We purchased our copy of the Modern Couple… in academic year 2016-2017.  This edition is not widely held in libraries. 

Bennett, John.  Letters to a Young Lady, on a Variety of Useful and Interesting Subjects Calculated to Improve the Heart, to Form the Manners, and Enlighten the Understanding Two volumes. 1789

SPC BJ 1681 .B4 1789 v. 2

We find this minister’s letters about marriage, prospects, and good and bad people occupies a good deal of volume two.  He covers a variety of topics.  These include young men, their ways and motives, various types of demeanor women display when approached by men, fashion, how young women should handle serious marriage proposals, how they should handle themselves when they have several suitors at once, the courtship process, the dangers of weak men, rakes, and reformed rakes, and characteristics of men from different walks of life (the professions, the military, country squires).  On display is a description of a happier marriage, gleaned from the author’s observations of a family he knows. April 18, 1792 Mademoiselle H.A. Crocker owned our copy, which is a first edition. 

Honoria.  Female Mentor, or, Select Conversations.  1793.

SPC BJ 1610 .H64 1793

Female Mentor… contains 29 conversations.  The 28th is “On Marriage,” pages 267-271.  What we learn from Honoria includes the following.  A certain young lady, soon to be married, lacks a female mentor to teach her about the duties of the married state.  Therefore, Honoria gives her an example to follow, that of her own sister, Amanda, who has recently married and is getting on well in her new life.  The happiest marriage is one where we desire less, want less, and find every comfort at home. Each partner cares about the other’s peace of mind and both enjoy calmly those blessings that others are pursuing but never quite reach.  Hurry and dissipation amuse, but only for a time.  When we reflect back, lives passed in idleness and vanities are not very satisfying.  Wives should devote themselves to making their husbands happy.  Too many wives want to be admired by others, are peevish, and discontented at home.  One day in which your husband is out of humor is not that significant.  He still loves you.  Care of supporting the family [financially] lies wholly on the husband.  He can be vexed by a whole variety of things.  At such times, the wife should keep her own temper, behave pleasingly, be quiet even if she is right and he is wrong, and try to soothe him by not opposing him.  When he cools down, he will reflect upon his own unreasonableness and admire her the more for her meekness and forbearance.  The author’s name Honoria is a pseudonym, possibly for Jane Purbeck, a novelist, though we could find no evidence for her authorship of the book. 

Armstrong, John.  Young Woman’s Guide to Virtue, Economy, and Happiness, Being an Improved and Pleasant Directory for Cultivating the Heart and Understanding, with a Complete and Elegant System of Domestic Cookery.  1828

SPC BJ 1681 .A75 1828

The author includes copious amounts of information about household management, then directions for medical care, some recipes, how to brew beverages and make wine, how to do marketing, how to carve meats, and instructions to female servants.  There is advice about love and courtship, reformed rakes, choice of a husband, advice on life after marriage, and rules for matrimonial happiness.  On display is page 451, the beginning of the section on “Choice of a Husband.” 

There are a number of John Armstrongs in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; we are not sure which one this author is.  Eleanor Stockell Hudspeth owned this book in 1832.  We hope Eleanor made a good choice of a husband!  Inside the back cover are manuscript notes of marriages, births, and deaths in the Lister family. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                 

 

 

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