To Whom It May Concern

19th Century Feminist Responses to "A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice"


Book 2 of 8:

Lectures on female education and manners.

Pages vi-vii

By J. Burton.
The third edition.
Philadelphia: Printed for H. and P. Rice, No. 50, Market-Street, 1794.

430 pages, 18 cm (12mo) -- Originally published 1793 in England in 2 volumes. -- Signatures: [A]6 B-T12 -- Printed on laid paper. -- Brown leather covers. -- Lovejoy Library catalog record.

Fifty-three years after Wetenhall Wilkes’ A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice, John Burton’s lectures constitute a reprise of male admonitions concerning proper feminine behavior. Burton was about five years old when Wilkes died.

In this later work, women’s education still equips them for home-centered lives as wives and mothers. Burton frankly admits that needlework “will serve to fill up many of the vacant hours of life” (p. 111).

A significant passage acknowledges the new contributions of modern literary women to published discourse. Burton cites translations by women of Greek and Hebrew classics and chronicles the achievements of contemporary female historians. He concludes that that these examples prove that women are intellectually able. But he observes that literary and intellectual women exhibit an unnatural masculinity:

The sciences are not too abstruse for female genius: And there have been women, who have given ample testimonies of the quickest perceptions; with a discernment and penetration equal to the ablest statesmen. I mention these circumstances as an exemplification of their capacities; for when ladies enter into political contentions, or devote their lives to study, they throw off the female character. (p. 147)

Burton, like Wilkes, focuses on white upper and middle class women. Originally published in England, the book only mentions "Negroes" in Lecture XVII on philanthropy, charity, and benevolence. He says that they deserve compassion.