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Advice to Young Females

“I could do very well without you, if you were married to a man of such good estate as Mr Crawford. And you must be aware, Fanny, that it is every young woman’s duty to accept such a very unexceptionable offer as this.”

This was almost the only rule of conduct, the only piece of advice, which Fanny had ever received from her aunt in the course of eight years and a half.

It silenced her.

 

Mansfield Park

Jane Austen never wrote a manual of ladylike advice- though her letters to her neices are full of an Aunt’s wisdom. If she had, it might have read something like this excerpt from a anonymous text of 1833. Of course, one can only imagine how much fun Jane, who could “not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save [her] life” would have had with it.


I begin my advice to young females on this subject, by suggesting a caution against forming this connection prematurely. I advise you, as you value your prospects of happiness for life, that you leave all matrimonial arrangements to a period subsequent to the completion of your education.

 

Another evil which you should avoid is that of forming this relation without due deliberation. Bear in mind that the decision which you form on this subject is to affect vitally your interests in life and at least that of one other individual.

Of great importance is the character of the man with whom you are to be united.

  1. Robert Ferrars
    Do not marry a fop. There is a mark upon him, an affected elegance of manner, a studied particularity of dress and usually a singular vanity of mind.
  2. Do not marry a miser. Such a man may be very rich, but you could expect from his riches little else than misery.
  3. Mr. Wickham
    Do not marry a spendthrift. For no degree of wealth can secure such a man from the degredation of poverty.
  4. Do not marry a man whose age is greatly disproportionate to your own. I am constrained to say that such connections present, at least to my own eye a violation of good taste, and seem contrary to the dictates of nature.
  5. Willoughby
    Do not marry a man who is not industrious. The effect is very apt to be, that he abuses his talents, and strancts a hanit of living to little purpose, but that of self gratification.
  6. Do not marry a man of violent temper. The absence of an affectionate and amiable disposition is sure to render, in no small degree, a delicate female unhappy.

William Collins: Pride and Prejudice
If a gentleman addresses you on the subject of marriage, it is proper that you make his proposal a subject of immediate consideration.

Mr. Darcy
If it be that you decline his proposals, inform him in a manner which will least wound his sensibility, and let the secret of his having addressed you never pass your lips.

Bingleys
If the result be that you accept his proposals, modestly and affectionately inform him of it, and consider yourself sacredly bound to become his wife.


Reprinted from The Daughter’s Own Book; or, Practical Hints From a Father to His Daughter.; Boston: Lilly, Wait, Colman, and Holden, 1833; Anonymous. Reprinted with kind permission from Old Sturbridge Village.


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