Emma Woodhouse had Miss Taylor, Anne Elliot went to school in Bath, Catherine Morland learned from her parents and, for a short, unhappy period, a music-master. Since I can’t summon an authentic Georgian era governess to my home, how can I learn to be an Accomplished Lady without a teacher?
Luckily, many “masters” wrote books based on their teaching experiences. No doubt such volumes served to further careers by making them better known as experts in their fields. Many of these books promise that they can teach a beginner “without the aid of a master” – the book is meant to take the place of face-to-face instruction.
In addition to these individual guides, I’ve been looking at more comprehensive guides to education aimed at striving young people. The Young Man’s Best Companion or Self Instructor of 1811 promises to teach the reader “reading, writing, and arithmetic in an easier way than any yet published, with instructions to qualify any person for Business without the help of a Master.” An Accomplished Young Lady won’t need to know about undertaking work as a carpenter, bricklayer, or plumber, but some of the basic instruction contained within will be invaluable. What about instruction in specifically female accomplishments? I’ll start looking at books on Female Education tomorrow.
Interested in these texts? See the “Sources” tab for a growing list of the books I’m using for this project.