The Governess; or Little Female Academy


This collection of linked stories is set in a school run by the aptly named Mrs Teachum. At the time the book was published, literary works for children (particularly those directed at middle-class readers) were often instructional. Sarah Fielding’s (1710–68) aim was to provide moral instruction in an enjoyable way. At the beginning of the book, Mrs Teachum catches her nine girl pupils having an undignified squabble over a basket of apples. Over nine days they tell each other about their lives before arriving at the school and reading stories together (including, unusually for the time, fairy stories). By the end of the book the girls’ characters have improved – they are now obedient to adults and loving to their companions. 

The book is an early example of a continuous, novel-length narrative for young readers. It is also perhaps the first school story. It was re-written in 1820 by Mary Martha Sherwood, an Evangelical writer, who omitted the fairy tales – fantasy writing, she felt, might have an ill effect on young and impressionable minds. 

Sarah Fielding’s brother was the satirist Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones (1749), but she herself was also a successful novelist. Indeed, the writer Samuel Richardson considered Sarah to be a better writer than her brother.

Full title:
The Governess; or Little Female Academy
1749, London
Chapbook / Children's book / Illustration / Image
Sarah Fielding
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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