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1 1. Educating the Female Child: Debates from the Scottish Periodical Press in Enlightenment Scotland, 1750–1800 RHONA BROWN Throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century, education is a key, almost obsessive, topic of discussion in the newspapers, journals and magazines which contributed to the burgeoning of the Scottish periodical press.1 The marked rise in journal articles on the subject, seen particularly in the 1780s and 1790s, undoubtedly reflects the Enlightenment’s concern with instruction, pedagogy, and learning.2 The work of certain philosophers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), Adam Smith (1723–90), and James Beattie (1735–1803), is alluded to with respectful frequency. Other, more recent authors with a stake in education are, however, treated with ambivalence and sometimes downright disdain. The letters of recentlydeceased peers who wrote on the subject, including those of George Lyttleton, first Baron Lyttleton (1709–73), and Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773), are quoted from by deferential authors, but they are also ridiculed and, on one significant occasion, parodied when, in The Edinburgh Magazine, or Literary Miscellany, Chesterfield’s instructive Letters to his Son (1737–68) are turned on their heads in terms of gender. In the issue dated July 1798, ‘A Parody of Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to his Son’ appears, and begins with a question: ‘It can never be sufficiently lamented by philosophers, that the late Earl of Chesterfield […] should not have left us a system of education for a daughter as well as for a son: or rather may we not regret that his lordship’s amours were not crowned with a perfect exemplar of each sex?’3 The author goes on to ‘paraphrase every letter for the use of young ladies’.4 While education, regardless of the gender of the pupil, remains a popular theme for journal discussions throughout the eighteenth century in Scotland, I. CONSTRUCTIONS OF CHILDHOOD 2 the 1780s and 1790s also witness a shift in emphasis towards female education in particular.5 Authors are engaged in discussions regarding appropriate topics for girls and what they should and (more importantly) should not read, but also about practical instruction methods and ‘useful learning’. In addition, the published work of female authors on education has a prominent position. Alongside extracts from Vicesimus Knox’s Liberal Education: or, a Practical Treatise on the Methods of Acquiring Useful and Polite Learning (1781),6 and Lord Salisbury’s directions to his son,7 appear selections and reviews of the remarks on female education by Hannah More (1745–1833), Elizabeth Hamilton (?1756–1816), Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97) and Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849), among others.8 Beyond this ‘official’, published discussion of female education is the debate between editors, readers and correspondents of the Scottish periodical press, which offers a wide-ranging response to the work of pedagogical scholars. It reflects the fact that, in the last fifty years of the eighteenth century, existing modes of female education were being profoundly challenged. It also reflects women’s arguably impossible contemporary position: while women are regularly ridiculed as frivolous beings taught only in the ‘pretty’ but useless aspects of life including dress, music and drawing, ‘learned women’ are, on the other hand, often treated with scorn by commentators of both sexes. While young women are often dismissed as giddily ignorant, they are also to be moulded into wives and mothers; to be the teachers of family morality. This chapter traces some significant contributions to the debate on young female education in the Scottish periodical press in the latter half of the eighteenth century in order to demonstrate that the ‘unofficial’ debate on female education is revealing, not only of attitudes to women and female education in the late 1700s, but also of the political, philosophical, domestic and literary contexts of Enlightenment Scotland. If, as Katharine Glover states, ‘when it comes to lived experience, the historiography of women’s education in eighteenthcentury Britain is surprisingly thin’,9 periodical debates help illuminate the everyday education of Scottish women in the 1700s which, in turn, moulded contemporary ideas of girlhood. * rhona brown 3 educating the female child A significant series of articles on the subject of young female education is published in James Anderson’s Edinburgh publication, The Bee, or Weekly Intelligencer, between 8 June and 25 August 1791. These pieces, primarily (and ostensibly) written by ‘Sophia’, consider the educational obstacles faced by eighteenth-century women and outline a successful but radical method for educating girls in the home. ‘Sophia’s’ series...


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