Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewomans Companion, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Katherine Ellison

by Anonymous

date: 1673
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Dorman Newman
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

Table of Contents

<< Section

Hide page layout

The Gentlewomans Companion: Textual Explanation and Notes

As is common practice, I have revised the letter 's' in The Gentlewomans Companion, which in the 1673 manuscript, available on microfilm copy from the English Short Title Catalogue, appears as the conventional ["long s"]. I have also left contractions, punctuation, and capitalization as they appear in the original, for two reasons: first, the Companion is highly readable in its current form; more importantly, the preservation of the original style of the manuscript allows scholars to compare The Gentlewomans Companion to texts that are confirmed as works by Hannah Wolley. Because the authorship of the Companion is still questionable and future scholars may wish to pursue the question of authorship and gender in seventeenth-century advice and conduct literature, the edited text must be as close to the original as possible. The only spelling variation in the text occurs with the word 'virtue," which often appears in its alternative form as 'vertue.' While italics in the 1673 edition are confined to proper names, places, languages (as in French, Italian, Greek, and English), and quotations, a


xiv

look at the later 1675 edition reveals a substantially more indulgent use of italics for emphasis. As editors Kate Chedgzoy, Melanie Osborne, and Suzanne Trill point out in the textual editing explanation to Lay by Your Needles Ladies, Take the Pen: Writing Women in England, 1500-1700, choosing to change italics to fit twentieth-century standards "means that the modern editor is placing yet another layer of interpretation upon the text and is preventing modern readers from making their own decisions about its significance (or lack of it)" (22). Overall, however, the Companion is very consistent in its use of letters and words that tend to vary in seventeenth-century texts. There are no instances where a 'v' is used for a 'u', for example, nor has the manuscript been damaged in any way that would obscure sections of the text. The Companion also differs from many of its contemporaries in that paragraphs are relatively short, so I have not added any alteration in paragraph breaks.

Because the edited sections of The Gentlewomans Companion included in this project are meant to benefit undergraduates, beginning Renaissance students, graduate students, and scholars who need additional information and sources for their research, I have annotated a great number of words and passages throughout the text. Obscure or dated words are defined using the Oxford English Dictionary, and background information is provided for classical references. In many cases, these references were found with the aid of The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. In instances where another source has been consulted, the citation is provided. A few references are still unidentified, such as the author's mention of D. Heylin, whose name does not appear in any available directory of English or French writers nor in the ESTC (11). Edesia is also obscure--the only information I could find on this model of female behavior is provided in the attached footnote (3). Other identified women who demand a more rigorous search are the "seven Milesian Virgins," and the "Lacedemonian wives" (21, 22, 23). While portraits of these historical, mythical, or fictional figures would add to the argument that is put forth in the Companion, no meaning is lost without them. Other names that have been uncovered are often misspelled in the text, so it is possible that future searches may discover references under alternative spellings. Additional information has been provided, however, for titles, phrases, or themes within the Companion that may lead curious readers to additional areas of study. Several sources have been consulted for these explanations, so citations that refer to the bibliography that appears at the end of the document are provided in the individual notes.

Only one additional issue needed to be confronted in the editing of The Gentlewomans Companion--what to include. The original manuscript is 261 pages, most of which consists of recipes and medical remedies. The complete table of contents is provided in its regular position in the beginning of the manuscript, so that readers have the opportunity to view the overall arrangement of the text and the immensity of the compilation. Perhaps the most helpful approach to an explanation of choices of selection is to proceed through the text, identifying the guiding factors in each decision.

The first three sections of the Companion--"To all Young Ladies, Gentlewomen, and all Maidens whatever," "The Introduction," and "A Short Account of the life and abilities of the Authoress of this Book"--are the original beginning sections of the text. The dedication is significant not only because it identifies the intended audience of the work, but also because it provides essential information on the texts that are "borrowed" by the author to compile the Companion. The section on "What qualifications best become and are most suitable to a Gentlewoman" sets the stage for the author's approach to the audience, as well as cites a number of issues essential to the Companion's argument for advancements in female education, as does the following chapter "Of a Gentlewomans civil Behaviour to all sorts of people in all places."


xv

The next four sections, all concerned with the physical presentation of gentlewomen, illustrate the conflict cited in the introduction between education and femininity, in addition to including several passages that are worth noting for their wit and humor. At this point, readers turn to "The Gentlewomans Mirrour, or Patterns for the imitation of such famous Women who have been emminent in Piety and Learning," which places great emphasis on the relationship between scholarship and chastity. This section also serves as a lengthy catalog of important historical female figures. The last section in the advice genre is "Of Marriage, and the duty of a Wife to her Husband," which highlights Kristen Poole's argument about the role of the public and private and, in addition, addresses the issue of authority. The last included chapters are part of a much longer compilation of medical remedies, of which I provide the introduction and a few examples. This section--as well as the many recipes in the Companion that I regret are not included here--is a rich area for further study. In the "Observations of Physick and Chyrurgery," for instance, the author puts forth a lecture on hygiene that is essential to the history of the health care practice, proving that the Companion's worth extends outside of the field of literature and into fields that could greatly benefit from additional historical sources.

<< Section