Thursday, March 31, 2011

Errors in Female Education

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Loretta reports:

The perusal of Tales and Novels, which induce a sedentary habit, want of proper exercise, food containing little nourishment, sudden depression of spirits, and permanent anxiety and grief; superstitions that occasion despondence and a gloomy sorrowful disposition, are the sources of various Female Debilities, Scorbutic Tumors and Obstructions, Convulsive Coughs, Intermittents, and all the train of Hective and Hypochondrical Affections.

These seem to be relieved for a time by Mercurials and Opiates; but the Complaints return with redoubled force, and the unfortunate subject is generally a Patient for life.

The Proprietor of the VEGETABLE SYRUP of DE VELNOS is daily lessening the number of these amiable, but unfortunate victims. His medicine, mild, nutritive, and powerful, calls into action the resources of Nature, and wonderfully restores those whom erroneous habits, and erroneous practice, have long menaced with the symptoms of ruined constitutions.

The genuine medicine is prepared and told by the proprietor, Mr. Swainson, No. 21, Frith-street, London, at 13s. per bottle; and by all the respectable medicine Venders in Town and Country; but Pills, &c. assuming its name or properties, are fraudulent and dangerous impositions.

—Bell’s Monthly Compendium of Advertisements for April, 1807, La Belle assemblée, Volume 2.

Illustration: Constance Marie Charpentier, Melancholy, 1801.


Hels said...

I think the writer nailed it: sedentary life, almost no exercise, little nourishment, depression, anxiety and grief; and unavoidable female conditions.

But I wouldn't have been prescribing tablets - I would have been getting young women to swim, ride bikes, throw off their corsets and eat properly. Doctors had known this for 100 years already!

Anonymous said...

The Regency/early 19th century stays weren't very restrictive and certainly weren't as tight as the Victorian corsets. For one thing, the Regency stays laced up differently . Their main function was to confine the breasts much in the way a bra does now.
The ad sounds like many that used to offer sulpher and molasses as a tonic in the Spring.
Girls who lived in the country had more opportunities for exercise . However, the sociial expectations for gently bred girls usually didn't give them chances for exercise except dancing and horsebackriding . Many were probably low on iron in their diets as well.
Novels were blamed for a great many things.

Anonymous said...

Unless I'm misreading this, there's no mention of corsets in this article. Corsets and stays were not the culprit in regency times. Ladies dress was less restrictive than it had been for centuries. Also walking whether in city parks or in the country was much encouraged. Consider all the walking that is done in JA books, and the distances covered!
The scorn of novel reading is more a general fear of educated women. Novels were regarded as women's books, which made them easy targets, much like romance novels are ridiculed today. Every minute that a woman "wastes" reading is one less minute that she can devote to fawning over a man. That's the real subtext.

Regencyresearcher said...

I don't think the sub text is fear of educated women. Novels weren't considered anything to do with education. However, that "every minute a woman 'wastes' reading is one less minute that she can devote to fawning over a man" probably does have to do with the general argument against novels.
Cartoons and columns were printed telling of wives and mothers who neglected to make dinner or neglected the children while she wasted time reading novels. Some also included writing novels in that. One cartoon had an unkempt woman reading a novel while the dinner burned and the baby had a tug of war with the dog over some thing to eat.
Some critics said that the novels were dangerous because they depicted fanciful places and actions. It was feared that novel reading might make younger girls dissatisfied with home and tasks . They would rather read about haunted castles than make a shirt for their brother or mend the sheets.
In general, novels were decried because they diverted the interest and attention of females from the duties to home and the males there in.

Susan said...

Well I know that I have burned the dinner a time or two, or ignored it altogether, because I was reading...

Jane O said...

I confess. We had scrambled eggs for dinner last night. The book was too good to put down.

Could I settle for a vitamin pill instead of the Vegetable Syrup? Or maybe a glass of V8?

Katy said...

This is totally unrelated to your post but I just wanted to let you know that I've nominated you for a Stylish Blogger Award! Check out my post here: for instructions and all that.

Meg said...

I'm sorry to say that not much has changed in 200 years. Rather than examining the root causes of these symptoms, we are so often given prescriptions first.

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