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Maxims for Health and Gracefulness

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Cassandra Austen’s sketch of her niece Fanny.

In 1833, Lydia Marie Child published The Girl’s Own Book, a volume full of entertainments for girls of all ages.

She closed her book with a few maxims on child rearing involving both the moral and physical aspects of raising young ladies. Although they may sound quaint and dated, mothers of the Regency. Child rearing has always been considered a woman’s domain, and mothers of this era, with its burgeoning middle class, read countless books on subjects ranging from household management to cookery. Topics their mothers were either too busy or too idle to concern themselves with.

Any number of spoiled children can be found in the pages of Jane Austen’s works, from the heir to Norland Park, to Mrs. Musgrove’s rambunctious grandchildren. We never get to see the children of Austen’s heroines, but they would, no doubt, have been raised in this new era of motherly awareness.

MAXIMS FOR HEALTH AND GRACEFULNESS.
Early rising, and the habit of washing frequently, in cold water, are fine things for the health and the complexion.Walking, and other out-of-door exercises, cannot I much recommended to young people. Even skating, driving hoop, and other boyish sports, may be practised to advantage by little girls, provided they can be pursued within the inclosure of a garden, or court ; in the street, they would of course, be highly improper. It is true, such games are rather violent, and sometimes noisy ; but they tend to form a vigorous constitution ; and girls who are habitually lady-like, will never allow themselves to be rude and vulgar, even in play.

Shoes and garments for children should be quite large enough for ease, comfort, and freedom of motion.

Clean the teeth as often as twice a day, with a brush and pure water. The habit of always cleansing the teeth before retiring to rest, tends greatly to their preservation.

Children should eat simple food, and just as much of it as they need, and no more. Even the silly parrot will not eat merely to gratify her palate, when her appetite is satisfied. Many a pimpled face and aching head are produced by eating too much.

A tendency to stoop should be early corrected. It is very destructive to health. This habit, together with the very ungraceful one of running the chin out, may be cured by the practice of walking the room frequently with a basket or volume balanced on the head, without the aid of the hands. The Egyptian women, who go down to the Nile to bring up heavy burdens of water on their heads, are remarkable for erect forms and majestic motions.

Little girls should be careful, whether walking or sitting, to turn their feet out. The habit of turning the feet toward each other is extremely awkward. The practice of shrugging, the shoulders is still more so ; they should always be carried as low as possible. These things are of very little consequence, compared with what relates to the mind and heart ; but we cannot help acquiring habits; and it is better to acquire good than bad ones, even in the most trifling things.

The beauty of the hair depends greatly upon keeping it perfectly clean and disentangled. Washing the hair with luke- warm soft water, with a little soap in it, and thorough brushing afterwards, is much better than the too frequent use of the ivory comb ; many, who take excellent care of their hair do not use an ivory comb at all. No women in the world are more distinguished for fine and glossy hair than the South-Sea islanders: it is said to be the effect of frequent bathing.  Silk nightcaps are more cool and healthy than cotton ones. The French comb children’s hair entirely back from the forehead after the fashion of our grandmothers. It is and excellent plan; for it checks its growing low upon the forehead and temples and prevents the tendency to crossing the eyes so often produced by looking at the hair when it falls in sight.

Physicians have agreed that it is better to keep the hair cut until a child is nine or ten years old. An abundance of hair at an early age, is apt to produce weak eyes, paleness and head-ache : besides, the idea that hair is made coarse by frequent cutting in childhood, is entirely unfounded.

Regular hours for food, study, exercise, play, &c. have an excellent effect on the character, as well as the health.

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