The Complete Governess was written to provide schools or private governesses with guidance on how to master a comprehensive range of subjects, from geography and science to feminine 'accomplishments'.
Qualifications of a governess and Jane Eyre
As expectations for female education evolved throughout the 19th century, both families and published works placed increasingly high demands on governesses to obtain a wide range of accomplishments and knowledge.
Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), whose protagonist writes her 'autobiography' in the same decade in which The Complete Governess was published, makes reference to this issue. Reflecting on the list of 'qualifications' she advertised some twenty years earlier – 'She is qualified to teach the usual branches of a good English education, together with French, Drawing, and Music' – Jane comments, in an aside, '(in those days, reader, this now narrow catalogue of accomplishments, would have been held tolerably comprehensive)'.
- Article by:
- Kathryn Hughes
- Gender and sexuality, Poverty and the working classes
From Jane Eyre to Vanity Fair, the governess is a familiar figure in Victorian literature. She is also a strange one: not part of the family, yet not quite an ordinary servant. Kathryn Hughes focuses on the role and status of the governess in 19th century society.
- Article by:
- Rohan Maitzen
- The novel 1832–1880
Dr Rohan Maitzen explores how George Eliot uses education, literature and her own experience in The Mill on the Floss to subvert the traditional bildungsroman, or novel of development.