- Book: The Gentlewomans Companion
- Section: A Short account of the life and abilities of Authoress of this Book
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A Short account of the life and abilities of Authoress of this Book19
I Would not presume to trouble you with any passages of my life, or relate my innate qualifications, or acquired, were it not in obedience to a Person of Honour, who engag'd me so to do if for no other reason than to stop the mouths of such who may be so maliciously censorious as to believe I pretend what I cannot perform.
It is no ambitious design of gaining a name in print (a thing as rare for a Woman to endeavour, as obtain) that put me on this bold undertaking; but the meer pity I have entertain'd for such Ladies, Gentlewomen, and others, as have not received the benefits of the tyth of the ensuing accomplishments. These Ten years and upwards, I have studied how to repair their loss of time, by making publick those gifts which God hath bestow'd upon. To be useful in our Generation is partly the intent of our Creation; I shall then arrive to the top of the Pyramid of my Contentment, if any shall profit by this following Discourse. If any question the truth of what I can perform, their trial of me I doubt not but will convince their Infidelity.
The things I pretend greatest Skill in, are all Works wrought with a Needle, all Transparent Works20 , Shell-work21 , Moss-work22 , also Cutting of Prints, and adorning Rooms, or Cabinets, or Stands with them.
- All kinds of Beugle-works upon Wyers23, or otherwise.
- All manner of Pretty Toyes for Closets.
- Rocks made with Shells, or in Sweets.
- Frames for Looking-glasses, Pictures, or the Like.
- Feathers of Crewel24 for the corner of Beds.
- Preserving all kind of Sweet-meats wet and dry.
- Setting out of Banquets.
- Making Salves, Oyntments, Waters, Cordials; healing any Wounds not desperately dangerous.
- knowledg in discerning the Symptoms of most Diseases, and giving such Remedies as are fit in such Cases.
- All manner of Cookery.
- Writing and Arithmetick.
- Washing black or white Sarsnets25 .
- Making Sweet Powders for the Hair, or to lay among Linnen.
- All these and several things beside, too tedious here to relate. I shall be ready to impart to those who are desirous to learn.
Now to the intent I may increase your wonder, I shall relate how I came to the knowledg of what I Profess. When I was fourteen years old, I began to consider how I might improve my time to the best advantage, not knowing at that age any thing but what reason and fancy dictated to me. Before I was Fifteen I was intrusted to keep a little School, and was the sole Mistress thereof. This course of life I continued till the age of Seventeen, when my extraordinary parts appear'd more splendid in the eyes of a Noble Lady in this Kingdom, than really they deserv'd, who praising my Works with the appellation of Curious Pieces of Art, was infinitely pleas'd therewith. But understanding withal, that I understood indifferently the smooth Italian, and could sing, dance and play on several sorts of Musical Instruments, she took me from my School, and greedily entertained me in her House as Governess of her only Daughter. Unto this honourable Person I am indebted for the basis, or ground-work of my Preserving and Cookery, by my observation of what she order'd to be done. By this Ladies means I came acquainted with the Court, with a deportment suitable thereunto.
The death of this Lady gave me a fit opportunity to be entertain'd by another no way inferiour to the former, with whom I lived seven years. At first I was Governess to those of her Children, whose forward virtue sufficiently declared the goodness of the stock from whence they came. Time and my Ladies good opinion of me, constituted me afterwards her Woman, her Stewardess, and her Scribe or Secretary. By which means I appear'd as a person of no mean authority in the Family. I kept an exact account of what was spent in the house. And as I profited in Externals, so I treasured up things necessary for my understanding, having an happy opportunity so to do, not only by hearing that ingenious and agreeable discourse interfac'd between my Lady and Persons of Honour, but also by inditing all her Letters; in the framing and well fashioning of which (that I might increase my Ladies esteem) I took indefatigable pains. There were not any who both wittily and wisely had publisht their Epistles to view of the world, whom I had not read, and on all occasions did consult: those which I placed in my greatest esteem were the Letters of Mr. Ford, Mr. Howel, Mr. Loveday, and Monsieur Voiture 26 .
But that which most of all increast my knowledg, was my daily reading to my Lady, Poems of all sorts, and Plays, teaching me as I read, where to place my accents, how to raise and fall my voice, where lay the emphasis of the expression: Romances of the best sort she took great delight in; and being very well verst in the propriety of the French Tongue, there was not any thing published by the Virtuosi of France, which carefully and chargeably she procur'd not; this put me upon the understanding of that Language, she was so well experienc'd therein, which is as great an Ornament for young Ladies as those learned Tongues, of which the Academical Studioso boasts a more than common understanding.
Here as I learned hourly Courtly Phrases and Graces, so how to express my self with the attendency of a becoming air. And as I gather'd how to manage my Tongue gracefully, and discreetly; so I thought it irrequisite to let my hands lye idle. I exercised them daily in Carving at
7Table. And when any bad accident required their help in Physick and Chirurgery, I was ready to be assisting; in those two excellent Arts in this place I acquired a competent knowledg.
In short time I became skilful, and stayed enough to order an House, and all Offices belonging to it; and gained so great an esteem among the Nobility and Gentry of two Counties, that I was necessitated to yield to the importunity of one I dearly lov'd, that I might free my self from the tedious Caresses of a many more.
In the time I was a Wife, I had frequent occasion to make use of all, or most of my aforenamed qualities; and what I exercised not within my own roof, I used among my neighbours, friends and acquaintants.
That which qualified me as a Governess for Children as well as anything yet I have mention'd, was the great knowledg I had in the humours, inclinations, and dispositions of Children, having often had at one time above Threescore in number under my Tution.
Besides, as I have been the Mistriss of many Servants, so I have qualified them with my Instructions to be Mistriss to others; the major part of them living very comfortably in a married condition.
As I have taken great pains for an honest livelihood, so that hand of the Almighty hath exercised me in all manner of Afflictions, by death of Parents when very young, by loss of Husband, Children, Friends, Estate, very much sickness, by which I was disenabled from my Employment. 27 Having already given you an account of the duty, and requisite, endowments which ought to be in a Governess, and how qualified I was my self in that troublesome concern; I shall now proceed in giving young Ladies such Rules which long experience and observation hath taught me, which may be as their perfect guide in all ages and conditions, the practice whereof will assuredly imbalm their Names here; let their stedfast faith in Jesus Christ only crown them with Glory hereafter.
Page 5 - 19. The following account, as Elaine Hobby has discovered, is an inaccurate one, perhaps written by a male employee of the publisher, Dorman Newman. See the introduction, pg. vi-vii , for an extended explanation and analysis of the false account.
Page 6 - 26. The author may be referring to Simon Ford, whose A Sober Answer to an Angry Epistle was printed in 1656, but the connection cannot be verified. Mr. Howel, however, is most likely James Howel, whose political, philosophical, and historical letters appear in a collection entitled Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ. Familiar letters domestic and forren. Epistolæ was first published in 1645, but several subsequent editions and parts were printed as late as the mid-eighteenth century. Loveday's Letters Domestick and Forreign, written by Robert Loveday, were first printed in 1662 in London. In addition to his letters, Loveday is also remembered as the translator of the first three parts of Gaultier de Coste La Calprenède's Cleopatra, also entitled Hymen's Præludia or Loves Master-piece (1652). Monsieur Voiture, referenced in the author's dedication, was the author of Letters of Affaires, Love and Courtship, printed in London in 1657.
Page 7 - 27. This ending to the false biography, Hobby observes, depicts Wolley as a damsel who "is saved from her growing acclaim by marriage to her own shining knight," thus transforming her into a "romance heroine" (174). For more information on the falsification of Wolley's biography, see the introduction, pg. iv-v.
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