Ellis on “the Whole Law of Woman's Life” — Complete Set
in theSCARCE PRESENTATION CASE
Ellis, Sarah Stickney. (The Englishwoman's Family Library). The daughters of England, their position in society, character & responsibilities. The mothers of England[,] their influence & responsibility. The wives of England, their relative duties, domestic influence, & social obligations. The women of England, their social duties, and domestic habits. London: Peter Jackson & Fisher, Son, and Co., [ca. 1845]. 8vo (17.7 cm, 6.96"). 4 vols. Daughters: Frontis., 400 pp. Mothers: Frontis., , 390 pp. Wives: Frontis., 371,  pp. Women: Frontis., 343,  pp.
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Ellis's popular “Women of England” series: Moral education aimed not at fine ladies but rather at middle-class women, of “that estimable class of females who . . . enjoy the privilege of liberal education, with exemption from the pecuniary necessities of labor” (Women, p. iv). These volumes seek to teach Englishwomen to be observant, kind, and humble as girls; thrifty, domestic, and comforting as wives; dedicated instructors and guides as mothers; good, soothing Christian influences on those around them throughout their lives; and above all, patient and submissive — in shortthe embodiment of the Angel in the House, though these books preceded the publication of that poem. Ellis grants the necessity of some degree of education for women primarily in order to make them better housekeepers and more interesting companions to men, noting that “so far as cleverness, learning, and knowledge are conducive to woman's moral excellence, they are therefore desirable, and no further” (Daughters, p. 105) — but still she reinforces women's agency, responsibility, and need for self-awareness and self-management, particularly in the daunting task of choosing husbands who will respect them and treat them well.
The four volumes, each with its own engraved frontispiece, appear herein the publisher's leather-covered wooden display casewith shaped roof-like pediment, gilt decorations, gilt-stamped “Library” title, glass-fronted door, and push-button metal catch. The works were first published separately in 1839 (Women), 1842 (Daughters), early 1843 (Wives), and late 1843 (Mothers); the case, apparently first advertised in 1843, could be “had separately” and assembled sets then ensconced in it, or one could buy handsome, variously bound complete sets already encased when new.
Uniform sets are uncommon, and contained in cases like this one are even more so.
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Provenance: Daughters with inked ownership inscription of Josephine Sparre, dated 1856; Women with early inked inscription of A.M. Kirwan of Well Park, Drumcondra (Ireland).
Publisher's red pebbled cloth, covers elaborately stamped in blind, spines with gilt-stamped titles and embossed decorations; volumes with edges and extremities rubbed, small scuffs and spots of discoloration to sides, spines gently sunned, Daughters cloth somewhat lighter overall. Daughters: Offsetting from frontispiece to title-page. Mothers: Frontispiece lightly foxed; light pencilled marks of emphasis. Wives: Front free endpaper lacking; frontispiece foxed. Inscriptions as above; occasional small spots of foxing, smudges, and edge chips scattered throughout; box with scuffs and wear, cracks to leather at top refurbished. A removable dais has been added to the foot of the box in order to fit the presently contained volumes more snugly; markings to the cloth lining of the box suggest that, at one time, taller volumes resided there. Some of Ellis's most successful and influential writing in a desirable uniformly bound set, within the rarely surviving and quite charming display case. (41250)
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