This single sheet falls into that catch-all category of ephemera, a printed piece that wasn't expected to have a long life. This one, however, has been kept for over two hundred years; there are neat fold lines that indicate it was carefully put away and preserved, and now it's safe in the collection of a university library. (As always, click on the image to enlarge it.)
The ever-curious author in me wonders why it was saved, and who did the saving. In the guise of a lady's box of beauty-aids and make-up, it offers numerous suggestions for a young woman. Each one-line maxim fits the idealized view of a genteel lady c. 1800, with the emphasis on being modest, humble, and innocent. The ultimate goal for these virtues, of course, is to attract a husband, and to become a good mother.
Modern girls would find such subservient advice difficult to swallow, and when I think of some of the heroines in Jane Austen's novels of about the same time, I suspect many of them would have, too.
Was this sheet of advice purchased by a concerned parent for a headstrong daughter? Could it have been sent by a worried elderly aunt or grandmother? Or was it perhaps given by a suitor to a lady that he believed already possessed all these qualities, a gift so complimentary that she saved it as a treasured love-token?
"My Dear Friend,"c. 1800, Printed by Craft, printer, Wells-Street, Oxford-Street, London. From the collection of Princeton University Library, Rare Book Division.
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.