Essays Addressed to Young Married Women


This is a collection of essays intended for young women who have recently married or are about to marry. The author is anonymous in this edition, but later editions name her as a Mrs Elizabeth Griffith. In the work’s introduction, she describes herself as having had ‘thirty years of uninterrupted happiness in the marriage state’, which qualifies her to advise young women on the ‘delightful duties’ of marriage, and the happiness that will follow.

What kind of advice does Essays Addressed To Young Married Women offer?

The book’s advice ranges from the practical to the emotional, with essays titled ‘Religion’, ‘Conjugal Affection’, ‘Temper’, ‘Neatness’, ‘Domestic amusement’, ‘Friendship’ and ‘Parental and Filial Affection’.

What does Essays tell us about marriage in the 18th century?

The idea that it was wrong to marry without love became increasingly important in the 18th century. The author of Essays puts this in the strongest terms, stating that marriage without affection can ‘only be considered as a state of legal prostitution’ (p. 15). At the same time, love in marriage should be based on affection and esteem rather than infatuation or physical attraction (pp. 19-20).

This is not to say that sympathy between husband and wife was the only important thing in marriage: the author considers ‘parity of understanding and temper to be as necessary… as an equality of years, rank and fortune’ (p. 21). In other words, a young woman should treat temperament and material considerations as equally important in her choice of husband.

Some parts of Essays Addressed To Young Women appear very conservative to modern readers. The author suggests that it is natural for men to have authority, and for women to obey their husbands (pp. 22-25).

Full title:
Essays addressed to young married women. [By Mrs. E. Griffith.]
1782, London
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Public Domain
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British Library

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