Love, Honor and Obey

I found this story on Futility Closet here.

"In 1769, inspired by Rousseau’s Émile, British author Thomas Day set out to train the perfect wife. He adopted foundlings of 11 and 12 years old, named them Sabrina and Lucretia, and took them to France, where he tried to rear them in isolation."

For those of you who are not familiar with Rousseau’s Émile, it is a 1762 treatise on education that posits that man is inherently good, though he can be swept up in the systematic maleficence of society. To avoid this and to return man to his normal state, parents should attempt to harden their children to the ravages of hunger, harsh weather and exhaustion to help cultivate natural instincts and to avoid the easy corruption brought about my soft decadence in society.

In a specific section about training the perfect wife, Rousseau theorizes that women should be totally passive and weak–they should be "broken" by their husbands and molded to expect and to handle any situation, no matter how outlandish, without tears or reproach. In this way, they might best please men.

Excuse me while I quietly burn this effigy of Rousseau.

Okay, let's get back to Day. Please enjoy this pimping portrait of him, in which he is CLEARLY saying, "Zup, preteens? You like what you see?"

His experiments with the two girls went well at first: "under Day’s direction, Sabrina wrote to one of his friends: 'I love Mr. Day dearly and Lucretia. I am learning to write. … I hope I shall have more sense against [sic] I come to England. I know the cause of night and day, winter and summer. I love Mr. Day best in the world, Mr. Bicknell next, and you next.'

"But it fell apart within 18 months. When the girls began to quarrel and tease him, he returned to England, placed Lucretia with a chamber milliner, and concentrated on Sabrina. But she screamed when he fired pistols at her petticoats (trying, at Rousseau’s suggestion, to accustom her to “détonations les plus terribles”), and she winced unheroically when he dropped sealing wax on her arms. Finally he released her to a boarding school, where in time she grew up to be 'an elegant and amiable woman.'

"In 1780, Day finally did find a wife who 'often wept but never repined' at his 'frequent experiments upon her temper and attachment.' But even that didn’t last — he died, ironically, while trying to break a horse."

Where is that horse? I would like to buy it a drink. Or a carrot.

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