How to Create the Perfect Wife
Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate
By Wendy Moore
Basic Books (AZ), Hardcover, 9780465065745, 343pp.
Publication Date: April 2013
List Price: $27.99*
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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 trialsincluding dropping hot wax on her arms and firing pistols at her skirtsto 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 backfiredthough 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 radicalismand deep contradictionsat the heart of the Enlightenment.
Some people, unlucky in love, turn to matchmaking services. Thomas Day, an 18th century British intellectual, adopted two girls from an orphanage in order to mold them into the women of his dreams. Reviewer Cord Jefferson says Wendy Moore's history is so adroitly written it reads like a novel. More at NPR.org
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