How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate

How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate

by Wendy Moore


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A captivating tale of one man's mission to groom his ideal mate.

Thomas Day, an 18th-century British writer and radical, knew exactly the sort of woman he wanted to marry. Pure and virginal, yet tough and hardy, and completely subervient to his whims. But after being rejected by a number of spirited young women, Day concluded that the perfect partner he envisioned simply did not exist in frivolous, fashion-obsessed Georgian society. Rather than conceding defeat and giving up on his search for the woman of his dreams, however, Day set out to create her.

So begins the extraordinary true story at the heart of How to Create the Perfect Wife. A few days after he turned twenty-one and inherited a large fortune, Day adopted two young orphans from the Founding Hospital and, guided by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the principles of the Enlightenment, attempted to teach them to be model wives.

Day's peculiar experiment inevitably backfired — though not before he had taken his theories about marriage, education, and femininity to shocking extremes.

Stranger than fiction, blending tragedy and farce, How to Create the Perfect Wife is an engrossing tale of the radicalism — and deep contradictions — at the heart of the enlightenment.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465065745
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 04/09/2013
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of several previous books, including How to Create the Perfect Wife and Wedlock, a Sunday Times bestseller. Her writing has appeared in the Times, the Guardian, the Observer, and the Sunday Telegraph. She lives in London.

Table of Contents

Margaret 1

Laura 9

Sophie 35

Ann and Dorcas 59

Sabrina and Lucretia 81

Anna and Honora 103

Elizabeth 135

Sabrina 169

Esther 199

Virginia, Belinda and Mary 229

Galatea 257

Finding My Foundling 277

Acknowledgments 281

Illustration Credits 284

Notes 285

Bibliography 326

Index 333

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire
“Only Wendy Moore has the genius to find and bring to glorious life the hidden histories, the personal follies, and very human desires of our 18th-century ancestors. How to Create the Perfect Wife is a perfect read.”

Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
“In this riveting tale of Enlightenment theory gone haywire, Wendy Moore offers an unforgettable portrait of Rousseau’s most deranged 18th-century acolyte (Robespierre included!). With exemplary research and tremendous wit, she offers an invaluable, if utterly disturbing, cautionary tale about the uses and abuses of the philosophes’ putatively progressive thought.”

Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“A darkly enlightening tale—thoroughly researched, gracefully written—about Enlightenment thought, male arrogance and the magic of successful matrimony.”

Andrea Wulf, The Guardian
“As in her previous book… Moore has again found an excruciatingly gruesome and fascinating story. But instead of turning these portraits into misery biographies, she weaves them into the broader context of the time…. In How to Create the Perfect Wife, she investigates education, liberty and the role of women. It is pleasing to see a writer bringing together painstaking research with gripping storytelling. I can’t wait for her next book.”

The Scotsman
“Wendy Moore has very successfully secured a self-made niche in writing popular, witty and yet incisive books on the more recherché aspects of 18th century culture, often demonstrating how the most peculiar and almost unbelievable stories inform not just the everyday culture of the period, but our own as well…. Moore manages to balance the narrative precisely, neither bridling with condemnation nor glossing over the more barbaric and melancholy results…. The overall result is a book which is both comical and horrific.... This is the best kind of non-fiction, the kind that reads like a novel and yet couldn’t be made up.”

“Well-researched…. Moore uncovers for the first time the full story of Sabrina, and it is to the original Eliza Doolittle that this book belongs.”

Customer Reviews