Yesterday I found a wonderful Victorian self-help guide called "The Young Woman's Book". Compiled and edited by Mrs Valentine, a well-known children's author in her day, the book contains advice and instruction on an astonishing variety of subjects, from employing domestic servants to choosing a pet bird.
Books of this kind are always amusing, but The Young Woman's Book puts its rivals into the shade, expressing opinions that make the Taliban look like a bunch of hippies. I'll be posting several extracts during the following week and will begin with one of the more moderate chapters:
"To sit over a foolish or even a wise novel when the daily duties of life demand our attention is absolutely wicked. We have seen, in our own life, the mother of a family devote herself to novel reading.
The father was at sea in the merchant service. A boy, a girl, and the house demanded the wife's attention. The children were neglected, dirty, ragged, untaught, running about the roads; the house was dirty beyound description, for there was but one servant, who naturally, followed her mistress's example.
The wife could not make her income suffice her, because no one watched against waste or dishonesty in the kitchen, and her husband, when he came home from sea, was arrested for her debts.
The son, utterly ruined, ran away from school, and finally disappeared in Australia. The daughter, trained only in the unreal folly of novels, married secretly a man much below her father's station - he was also an hereditary madman!
When the mother of the boy and girl married, she had been a lovely, clever girl. But novel reading, like intoxication, bought misery on her and on two following generations."
Wise words. I hope that you will heed the advice of Mrs Valentine, throw away your novels and attend to domestic duties, before it is too late.