Victorian Parenting Guides: Starting a Collection

One of several thoughts that occurred to me while reading the immensely enjoyable new book Ungovernable: The Victorian Parent’s Guide to Raising Flawless Children was that a collection of Victorian parenting guides could be a fun “new path” (as John Carter might have put it) for beginning book collectors. In this book, author Therese Oneill uses a selection of nineteenth-century advice books to describe child-rearing techniques that surprise and shock, e.g. feeding infants donkey milk is good, but fruit is bad; beating a child with a shoe is recommended, but too much education for girls is not. Oneill keeps it light and tongue-in-cheek, a perfect complement to her first book, Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners.

But I digress. Throughout Ungovernable, and then collected in the bibliography at the end, Oneill points out her source material, thus creating a good starter list for a collection in this subject. Here are some she mentions:

Mother at Home .jpgJohn S.C. Abbott’s The Mother at Home, or The Principles of Maternal Duty, Familiarly Illustrated (New York: Harper, 1855). (The 1852 edition pictured here courtesy of the Internet Archive.)

Thomas Bull’s The Maternal Management of Children, in Health and Disease (New York: Appleton, 1849).

A Few Suggestions to Mothers on the Management of Their Children by “A. Mother” [pseud.] (London: Churchill, 1884).

Theodore Dwight’s The Father’s Book ... (Boston: Merriam, 1835).

Depending upon condition and edition, these are books that can be found in the three-figure range, ideal for budding collectors.

That said, Oneill’s book would make a great Mother’s Day gift, even if the mother you’re buying it for has no interest at all in book collecting.


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