No matter what the century, there always seems to be a market for books of child-rearing advice. The author of one such 17th c. book, J. Galliard, offered his credentials in the forward as a "gentleman, who hath been a Tutor Abroad to several of the Nobility and Gentry." The lengthy title of his book – The Compleat Gentleman; or, Directions for the Education of Youth as to their Breeding at Home and Travelling Abroad, in Two Treatises – promised exact directions on how to raise a perfect little gentlemen. This book was published in London in 1678, in the merry old days of Charles II and his Restoration court, and considering all the hard-living, hard-drinking libertine mischief that his courtiers were enjoying, worried parents were probably eager for a bit of common sense regarding their own unformed scions.
While Mr. Galliard's advice is more than three hundred years old and the language a bit convoluted, his words remain apt – both for the child, and the parents who spoil him in the name of "fondness."
"I do not deny how decent it is that Children of men of quality should be brought up in a handsomer way than those of common people: but I speak against the fondness which some have for them, which is so far from deserving to be called care, that I more properly name it want of care.
Let the inconveniences of this manner of Breeding be observed. These young Gentlemen. when they come somewhat to know themselves, will eat no coarse meat, but only the most delicate they can find for money. They scorn to wear cloathes except that they be very rich; they will think it is below them to walk, but if they go out, it must be in a Coach;...and if there be no servant to give them a glass of Wine, they will rather be choked than take it themselves. Sometimes the weather is not good for them to walk out, therefore they will sit at home, and Dice or Card away many a pound, or in a Tavern, and drink away their health till the Gout, or Gravel comes upon them, or a Pleurisie, an Apoplexy, or some other sudden Disease carries them to their Grave....What manner of men...who for years were kept as soft and warm as if they had been in their Mothers womb; who would not so much as suffer workmen in the Town for fear their sleep would have been interrupted with the noise made...who made in bed most of their Exercises, and their most serious Discourses at Table, and...look for excesses in every thing. Now I would fain know: what good can be expected from such a Breeding?"
Above: The Children of Charles I of England by Anthony Van Dyck, 1637
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.