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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

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To all Young Ladies, Gentlewomen, and all Maidens whatever.

I Have formerly sent forth amongst you two little books; the first called, The Ladies Directory 1 ; the other, The Cooks Guide 2 , Both which have found very good Acceptance. It is near Seven years since I began to write this Book, at the desire of the Bookseller3 , and earnest intreaties of very many worth Friends; unto whom I owe more than I can do for them. And when I considered the great need of such a book as might be a Universal Companion and Guide to the Female Sex, in all Relations, Companies, Conditions, and States of Life even from Child-hood down to Old-age; and from the Lady at the Court, to the Cook-maid in the Country: I was at length prevailed upon to do it, and the rather because I knew not of any Book in any Language that hath done the like. Indeed many excellent Authors there be who have wrote excellent well of some particular Subjects herein treated of. But as there is not one of them hath written upon all of them; so there are some things treated of in this Book, that I have not met with in any Language, but are the Product of my Thirty years Observations and Experience.

I will not deny but I have made some use of that Excellent Book, The Queens Closet 4 ; May's Cookery 5 ; The Ladies Companion 6 ; my own Directory and Guide; Also, the second part of Youth's Behaviour 7 , and what other Books I thought pertinent and proper to make up a Compleat Book, that might have an Universal Usefulness; and to that end I did not only make use of them, but also of all others, especially those that have been lately writ in the French and Italian Languages. For as the things treated of are many and various, so were my Helps.

I hope the Reader will not think it much, that as the famous Limner8 when he drew the Picture of an Exact Beauty, made use of an Eye from one, of a Mouth from another; and so call'd what was rare in all others, that he might present them all in one entire piece of Workmanship | | 2 and Frame: So I, when I was to write of Physick and Chirurgery9 , have consulted all Books I could meet with in that kind, to Compleat my own Experiences.

If any shall wonder why I have been so large upon it, I must tell them, I look upon the end of Life to be Usefulness; nor know I wherein our Sex can be more useful in their Generation than having a competent skill in Physick and Chirurgery, a competent Estate to distribute it, and a Heart will thereunto.

The like Apology I have for my Prolixity10 about Cookery and Carving, which being essential to a true Houswife, I thought it best to dwell most upon that which they cannot dwell without, unless they design to render themselves insignificant, not only in the world, but in those Families where they are.

As for what concerns Gentlewomans Behaviour, I have the concurrent advice and directions of the most able Professors and Teachers, both here and beyond the Seas; yet durst not be so airy and light in my Treatise about Ladies Love and Courtship as some of the French Authors11 have been, but have taken out of them what I found most taking with our English Gentry. The like I may say for Habits and Gesture; I am not ignorant of the vanity of some Mens stiles upon these Subjects; and that young Ladies are too apt to take what may gratifie their Fancies, and leave what may better their Judgments about true Behaviour.

I know I may be censured by many for undertaking this great Design, in presenting to all of our Sex a Compleat Directory, and that which contains several Sciences: deeming it a Work for a Solomon, who could give an account from the Cedar to the Hysop12 . I have therefore in my Apology to the Bookseller, declared how I came to be of Ability to do it, reciting to him the grounds of my knowledg in all those Sciences I profess; and also what practice and experience I have had in the World, lest any should think I speak more than I am able to perform. I doubt not but judicious persons will esteem this Essay of mine, when they have read the Book, and weighed it well; and if so, I shall the less trouble my self what the ignorant do or say.

I have now done my Task, and shall leave it to your candid Judgments and Improvement; your Acceptation will much encourage

London, November 10.
Your Most humble Servant, Hannah Woolley. | | 3


Page 1 - 1. The first copy of Wolley's The Ladies Directory (1661) was destroyed, but a second directory was printed in 1662.

Page 1 - 2. Wolley's The Cooks Guide was first published in 1664 in London for Peter Ding. The original manuscript is located in the British Library, and a copy is available on microfilm in the English Short Title Catalogue.

Page 1 - 3. The title page of the 1673 edition of The Gentlewomans Companion states that the guide was printed by A. Maxwell for Dorman Newman at the Kings Arms in the Poultry.

Page 1 - 4. The Queens Closet was printed anonymously in 1661 by Peter Dring, and highlights techniques for preserving, conserving, and candying.

Page 1 - 5. Though May's Cookery does not appear as the exact title of any contemporary cookbook, the author is probably referring to a work by Robert May entitled The Accomplisht Cooke, or the Art and Mystery of Cookery, which was first printed in 1660. As Elaine Hobby states, May was an "arch-rival" of Wolley's, but, as a professional cook, he directed his writing to a male readership (169). May sought to turn cooking into a 'science' that excluded amateurs (even inventing a new terms), and this approach serves as a striking contrast to Wolley's mission to make fine cooking accessible to all female readers (169-70).

Page 1 - 6. Two works entitled The Ladies Companion appeared during Wolley's lifetime. The first, printed in 1654, contains tips for preserving, conserving, and candying and was written anonymously and printed by W. Bentley. The second-and more likely the companion the author is here referencing--was written in 1671 by William Sermon. Sermon's The Ladies Companion, or The English Midwife contains remedies and outlines medical procedures that may have aided the author in the completion of the medical sections of The Gentlewomans Companion.

Page 1 - 7. Two editions of the influential Youths Behaviour, or Decency in conversation amongst men appeared before 1673. The first was translated from the French by Francis Hawkins and printed in England in 1663. The second edition, compiled by Robert Codrington, was printed in 1672.

Page 1 - 8. 'Limner': a painter of portraits and, in many cases in the seventeenth century, a water-color artist. Limners also illuminate manuscripts.

Page 2 - 9. 'Chirurgery': surgery.

Page 2 - 10. 'Prolixity': tendency to write or speak in lengthy, tedious detail.

Page 2 - 11. The author is probably referring specifically to Monsieur Vincent de Voiture, whose Letters of Affaires, Love and Courtship was printed in London in 1657. Voiture, a member of the French Academy in Paris, is referenced often in Wolley's body of work and later in The Gentlewomans Companion.

Page 2 - 12. A popular phrase or cliché used to describe an individual who, like King Solomon, can speak knowledgeably about a large number of topics.

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