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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex, an electronic edition

by Hannah Woolley [Woolley, Hannah, fl. 1670]

date: 1675
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Edward Thomas
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

Book Contents

Table of Contents

The Epistle Dedicatory

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 the other, The Cooks Guide both which have found very good acceptance. It is near seven years since I began to write this book, at the desire of the Bookseller, 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 Childhood 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; May's Cookery; The Ladies Companion; my own Directory and Guide; Also, the second part of Youth's Behaviour, 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 Limner 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 ware rare in all others, that he might present them all in one entire piece of workmanship and Frame: So I, when I was to write of Physick and Chirurgery, 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 Playsick and Chirurgery, a competent Estate to distribute it, and a Heart will thereunto.

The like Apology I have for my Prolixity about Cookery and Carving, which being essential to a true Housewife, 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 Authors 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 Hysop. I have therefore in my Apology to the Bookseller, declared ho 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, left 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, & shall leave it to your candid Judgments and Improvement; your Acceptation will much encourage Your Most humble Servant, Hannah Woolly.