Book Description: Thomas Day, an 18th-century British writer and radical, knew exactly the sort of woman he wanted to marry. Pure and virginal like an English country maid yet tough and hardy like a Spartan heroine, she would live with him in an isolated cottage, completely subservient 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 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, prize-winning historian Wendy Moore’s captivating tale of one man’s mission to groom his ideal mate. A few days after he turned twenty-one and inherited a large fortune, Day adopted two young orphans from the Foundling Hospital and, guided by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the principles of the Enlightenment, attempted to teach them to be model wives. After six months he discarded one girl, calling her “invincibly stupid,” and focused his efforts on his remaining charge. He subjected her to a number of cruel trials—including dropping hot wax on her arms and firing pistols at her skirts—to test her resolve but the young woman, perhaps unsurprisingly, eventually rebelled against her domestic slavery. Day had hoped eventually to marry her, but his 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.
“The Pygmalion-gone-wrong story of a man who adopted two orphans in hopes of making one his wife is bizarre, true, and thoroughly compelling, touching on the folly of uncritically embracing extreme parenting methods, the futility of trying to force someone to be who you want, and the danger of philosophy when wielded by young men who don’t understand it.”-SLATE
“How to Create the Perfect Wife is adroitly written, making the book at times feel less like a history tome and more like a novel…. Moore’s deeply thorough research…yields new surprises at every turn.”-Cord Jefferson, NPR
While the tale of the strange man who tried to create the perfect wife out of an orphaned girl from a foundling home is interesting in itself, I enjoyed the side stories of the other characters, many known to history, even more. While Day's experienced was certainly odd and unorthodox and probably perverse, Sophie, as she was named by him, probably ended up with a better life than she might have otherwise, in large part due to Mr. Edgeworth, Day's closest friend, who helped her throughout her long life-CB
OK, I'm no scholar. I'm interested in folks as banal as the Kardasian's. I am interested in celebrity and how famous folks live. Mr. Day and his friends and associates, and his "charges", fascinated me. This book is a unabashed look into the seamier side of eighteenth century British aristocracy. Right up my alley-R. Golen
'Day wanted a life-long partner who would be just as clever, well-read and witty as his brilliant male friends. He craved a lover with whom he could discourse on politics, philosophy and literature as freely as he could in male company. He desired a companion who would be physically as tough as he was...For all his apparently egalitarian views on education, Day wanted his future spouse to suppress her natural intelligence and subvert her acquired learning in deference to his views and desires...She would regard Day as her master, her teacher and her superior.'-How To Create the Perfect Wife
The book is a bit disturbing, yet one might wonder how many out there are raised with some of these theories toward women and not even knowing it. Perhaps, not to this extreme. There are many layers to this book. How Day looked at women in general through his philosophies, or just thought his educated mind to create such a project. And to think he was friends with Benjamin Franklin. What can I say? If you love history. Women's rights..well, this is a book you can pick up and find yourself absorbed in.