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Romance: Instructions Peculiarly adapted to Young Women

Posted by on February 18, 2013

It never ceases to amaze me how many books were printed in the eighteenth century on the subject of etiquette; for children, apprentices, young men, but mainly for young women and new wives[i].   These books seem to combine instructions for a bewildering variety of different subjects.

Dr John Trusler[ii] who had published a book about William Hogarth, a friend of Joseph and Alexander van Aken[iii] also wrote The Honours of the table, or, rules for behaviour during meals; with the whole art of carving, illustrated by a variety of cuts., Together with directions for going to market,… By the author of Principles of politeness, &c. For use of young people., in 1788 that concludes with Instructions Peculiarly adapted to Young Women[iv].   Advice from this Anglican clergyman ranges from:

  •  Never be afraid to blush.
  • Refrain from talking much.
  • Don’t even hear a double-entendre.
  • Dread becoming cheap.


  • If you go to a play, let it be a tragedy.
  • Read no novels, but let your study be history, &c.


  • Be cautious of unbosoming yourself; particularly to a married woman.
  • Trust no female acquaintance.
  • Form no friendships with men.
  • Suppose not all men in love with you, that shew you civilities.
  • Let not love begin on your part.
  • If determined to discourage a man’s address, undeceive him, as soon as possible.


  • Never betray the confidence that any man has reposed in you.

Dr John Trusler has many more opinions, and there are several other books on the subject that you can download from Google books free.  Some elements of Trusler words that are still true today.

(Spellings taken from 18th century text)

[iii] Hogarth Moralized. Being a complete edition of Hogarth’s Works. Containing near fourscore copperplates, London, 1768

[iv] I have a facsimile of the 2nd edition published in 1791.  Page 118-120 Printed by Ecco Print Editions ISBN 9-781171-034940



2 Responses to Romance: Instructions Peculiarly adapted to Young Women

  1. Margaret McAlpine

    Society at this time seems so modern!’ We can relate to our Georgian ancestors. A Polite and Commercial Society’ is the title of the New Oxford History of England – this one from 1725-1783 which is such a neat summary of the content.
    Manners became a great preoccupation but why? Perhaps not unconnected with the commerce, which made them rich, gave them leisure, and took them away from the countryside into towns?

  2. Tracey Messenger

    What delightful advice – ‘Never be afraid to blush’, ‘Dread becoming cheap’! Lovely post, Nicola.

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