How to Create the Perfect Wife

Wendy Moore

How to Create the Perfect Wife

This is the story of how Thomas Day, a young man of means, decided he could never marry a woman with brains, spirit or fortune. Instead, he adopted two orphan girls from a Foundling Hospital, and set about educating them to become the meek, docile women he considered marriage material. Unsurprisingly, Day's marriage plans did not run smoothly. Having returned one orphan early on, his girl of choice, Sabrina Sidney, would also fall foul of the experiment. From then on, she led a difficult life, inhabiting a curious half-world - an ex-orphan, and not quite a ward; a governess, and not quite a fiancee. But Sabrina also ended up figuring in the life of scientists and luminaries as disparate as Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley, as well as that pioneering generation of women writers who included Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Anna Seward. 3.7 out of 5 based on 11 reviews
How to Create the Perfect Wife

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, History
Format
Pages
RRP
Date of Publication February 2013
ISBN 978-0297863786
Publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson
 

This is the story of how Thomas Day, a young man of means, decided he could never marry a woman with brains, spirit or fortune. Instead, he adopted two orphan girls from a Foundling Hospital, and set about educating them to become the meek, docile women he considered marriage material. Unsurprisingly, Day's marriage plans did not run smoothly. Having returned one orphan early on, his girl of choice, Sabrina Sidney, would also fall foul of the experiment. From then on, she led a difficult life, inhabiting a curious half-world - an ex-orphan, and not quite a ward; a governess, and not quite a fiancee. But Sabrina also ended up figuring in the life of scientists and luminaries as disparate as Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley, as well as that pioneering generation of women writers who included Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Anna Seward.

Wedlock by Wendy Moore

Reviews

The Literary Review

Norma Clarke

Read How to Create the Perfect Wife and feel your emotions pulled this way and that. Hate Thomas Day, and then see why people loved him; admire Sabrina, and wonder how on earth she did it. Be amazed at the famous names and the strange things they thought and did. Be surprised at the astonishing twists in the plot. Be unequivocally impressed at the depth of research, and be unable to put it down.

01/03/2013

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The Scotsman

Lesley McDowell

Moore’s history is beautifully told and researched — all credit to her for discovering the real origins of Sabrina and Lucretia, when so many declared there were no such records of these girls, and for telling as much of their incredible story as she has.

22/02/2013

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The Daily Express

Caroline Jowett

This is an extraordinary account of a truly Gothic episode … this story zips along.

08/02/2013

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The Guardian

Andrea Wulf

As in her previous book, Wedlock, which portrayed Mary Eleanor Bowes and her disastrous and cruel marriage, Moore has again found an excruciatingly gruesome and fascinating story. But instead of turning these portraits into misery biographies, she weaves them into the broader context of the time ... It is pleasing to see a writer bringing together painstaking research with gripping storytelling. I can't wait for her next book.

05/01/2013

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The Sunday Telegraph

Philippa Stockley

… aside from its dark content, the plotline is a comedy of manners gone right off the rails, lit by flashes of sardonic authorial wit. Once this tale is understood as history rather than fiction, which Moore’s easy, discursive style and the astounding subject matter can make one forget, her account of Day’s secretive, deceptive and predatory behaviour, his acceptance by the world as a philanthropist despite the teenagers he kept as virtual slaves, has troubling echoes — not least to the Savile scandal.

09/02/2013

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The Sunday Times

Helen Davies

... what is so intriguing about this rollicking and well-researched book is just how confoundingly, detestably hypocritical her central character is … Moore handles her story well, and is only occasionally over-romantic in her re-creations — writing about the two-year-old Sabrina and “her bright coppery curls about level with the ears of wheat waiting to be harvested in the fields”. But this is nit-picking. In general, this is a sordid tale, splendidly told.

10/02/2013

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The Financial Times

Orlando Bird

Compelling and meticulously researched … Moore can’t quite decide whether the man was a monster or a misguided eccentric. Rather, she evokes a period of contradictions, in which an abolitionist (as Day was) could “[purchase] two girls ... as he might buy shoe buckles”.

22/02/2013

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The Economist

The Economist

Though less ripping than Wedlock, this story is told with gusto … The real discovery here is Sabrina and her background. Some of the most fascinating parts of the book are about the foundling hospitals and orphanages of the period, and the unhappy mothers who gave up their babies to them.

16/02/2013

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The Spectator

Sarah Burton

... despite some grammatical howlers and inaccurate comments on contemporary norms (particularly regarding the upbringing of the children of the poor), Moore tells a good story. Nowhere, however, is she better than on the procedures of the London Foundling Hospital, and tracing the trajectory of her ‘foundlings’. As a champion of the lost she finds her own most authentic and compelling voice.

23/02/2013

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The Daily Telegraph

Frances Wilson

Moore narrates all this in buoyant rather than reflective prose, and her historical observations are both bland and sweeping ... While it is curious that she says nothing about Day’s sexuality, which was evidently homosexual, Moore uncovers for the first time the full story of Sabrina, and it is to the original Eliza Doolittle that this book belongs.

17/01/2013

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The Observer

Bella Bathurst

Wendy Moore's version is as heavily editorialised as many of the fictional equivalents. She has done an exceptional job of tracking Sabrina through the records and produced a cheerful, lively version of her tale. But because the material available doesn't really stretch to full book length, Moore plugs the gaps with occasionally heavy-handed guidance of her own. In the end, the story falls on its own reality — Day is too unsympathetic a Higgins and Sabrina too quiet for a true and cautionary Doolittle.

17/02/2013

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