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Comment: exlibrary hardcover book in mylar jacket with light wear, shows some light reader wear throughout ,all the usual library marks and stamps. some water damage , still a good readable copy.
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How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate Hardcover


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How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britainís Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate + Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore + The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465065740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465065745
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Who hasn’t dreamed of a perfect better half? But one eighteenth-century British philosopher attempted to make that dream come true. Moore (Wedlock, 2009) lays out the incredible true story of Thomas Day. Unable to find a spouse suited for the bare life of virtue he envisioned, Day set out to create her by taking two orphan girls and subjecting them, without their knowledge, to his wife-molding program. Moore wittily skewers Day’s pie-in-the-sky ideals as they clash disastrously with reality. This engaging account will appeal to a diverse audience, including Enlightenment philosophy students and Jane Austen fans. Day is ludicrous, insufferable, arrogant—and utterly engrossing. His quixotic quest fired the plots of numerous fictional works, including Pygmalion, that examined the quest for perfection. The narrative pulses forward briskly, moving between Day’s story and those of the orphan girls. Drawing on detailed personal accounts, Moore creates suspense and surprise in a manner rarely achieved in biographies. An unusual and unusually fascinating story. --Bridget Thoreson

Review

New York Review of Books
“[Moore’s] book reads at times like a historical novel. Yet it is underpinned by meticulous research, and raises a host of questions about eighteenth-century attitudes toward women, love, and power, both personal and political.... Her account is particularly valuable and touching in the light it sheds on the background of the girls before they entered Day’s orbit, and on Sabrina’s life after she left it. For the first time, thanks to diligent research in the archives of the Foundling Hospital in London, the two girls are identified.”

Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire
“Only Wendy Moore has the genius to find and bring to glorious life the hidden histories, the personal follies, and very human desires of our 18th-century ancestors. How to Create the Perfect Wife is a perfect read.”

Origins: Currents Events in Historical Perspective
“Impressively researched—and by turns hilarious and heartbreaking—Moore’s book offers a wild ride through Enlightenment society by asking one simple question: what made Day’s unusual path to matrimony a viable option for a perennial bachelor in eighteenth-century Britain?... [An] impressive, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining work.... Moore’s able storytelling combined with Day’s bizarre quest to create his ideal woman make How to Create the Perfect Wife, apart from all its other virtues, a page-turner of the first order.”

Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
“In this riveting tale of Enlightenment theory gone haywire, Wendy Moore offers an unforgettable portrait of Rousseau’s most deranged 18th-century acolyte (Robespierre included!). With exemplary research and tremendous wit, she offers an invaluable, if utterly disturbing, cautionary tale about the uses and abuses of the philosophes’ putatively progressive thought.”

New York Times Book Review
“Moore’s extraordinary subject is the compellingly repellent historical figure Thomas Day.... The story of Day’s attempt to create his perfect wife...is both chilling and uncomfortably absorbing.... [A] skillfully narrated story.”

Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
“However thick the mists into which Day and his book disappeared many ages ago, he was a certifiable piece of work, and Moore has performed a service of sorts by bringing him to our attention. Moore, a British freelance journalist with an interest in the oddities of her country’s history (of which there are many) and especially those of the 18th century…is a sedulous researcher and an agreeable prose stylist.”

Wall Street Journal
“One of Ms. Moore’s greatest strengths is her ability to flip our sympathies. Day appears at different times as comical, odious or naïve. Day worshiped Virtue—but, Ms. Moore reveals in a bit of nifty detective work, he lied and flouted the law to gain possession of the two girls…. Sabrina lived to a ripe old age—more than twice as long as Day—but she never wanted to talk about ‘my checker’d & adventurous history.’ Wendy Moore has done a brilliant job of unearthing it.”

The New Yorker
“This fascinating account of the life of Thomas Day, better known as a poet and anti-slavery campaigner, chronicles his misguided attempts to find the ideal woman.”

Slate
“The Pygmalion-gone-wrong story of a man who adopted two orphans in hopes of making one his wife is bizarre, true, and thoroughly compelling, touching on the folly of uncritically embracing extreme parenting methods, the futility of trying to force someone to be who you want, and the danger of philosophy when wielded by young men who don’t understand it.”

The New Republic
"[An] excellent new book... Its tone is dry and amused, and the author's approach to her subject is ironic. Even her subtitle...has a certain sting. And the story she tells is simply astonishing.... Her understated comic style is actually perfect for the material.... The picture of Day is so expertly drawn and so withering without being heavy-handed, that it manages to count as a form of moral condemnation."

Cord Jefferson, NPR
How to Create the Perfect Wife is adroitly written, making the book at times feel less like a history tome and more like a novel…. Moore’s deeply thorough research…yields new surprises at every turn.”

Salon
“[A] transfixing new book…. How to Create the Perfect Wife, as delectable as any good novel, is also the best remedy for wrongs done long ago. It takes a girl who was plucked from obscurity to become an experiment, a paragon, a symbol and a legend, and it has made her a person once more.”

Boston Globe
“[An] extraordinarily strange and entertaining book…. Moore’s acerbic dissection of Day’s hypocrisy – and the surprising unfolding of the story – make this a lively, compelling read.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Moore’s narrative brilliantly delineates the political and intellectual forces that shaped and nurtured Day, a heady – and deeply contradictory – blend of Romanticism, empiricism and radicalism. Day himself emerges as a rounded and not entirely unsympathetic character; his friends and detractors are depicted with equal liveliness…. Fascinating.”

The Daily Beast
“How could Day himself remain blind to his hypocrisy? And why did none of his friends stop him? That’s a difficult question, and in the places where historical documentation falls short, Moore turns the gaps into opportunities to revel in the lurid injustice of Sabrina’s fate.... Moore’s research suggests the real-life Sabrina got by not on love but on reserves of inner strength and dignity. If Day’s experiments shaped her, it was certainly not in the way he intended.”

Columbus Dispatch
“Moore’s witty and well researched How To Create the Perfect Wife tells the absorbing story of Day, his unknowing subjects, and his circle of friends, all with their own sets of peccadilloes.”

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Enlightenment ideals become weapons in the battle of the sexes in this riotous saga of ill-starred romance…. Moore’s funny, psychologically rich narrative feels as if Jane Austen had reworked Shaw’s Pygmalion into a Gothic-inflected comedy of manners, and illuminates the era’s confusions about nature and nurture, sentiment and rationalism, love and power. The result is both a scintillating read and compelling social history.”

Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“A darkly enlightening tale—thoroughly researched, gracefully written—about Enlightenment thought, male arrogance and the magic of successful matrimony.”

Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Library Journal, Top 10 Books of 2013
“Perhaps the oddest title on our list, this true story won me over completely, despite my misgivings..... No spoilers here, but the tale of how [Thomas Day’s] plan unfolds reveals heartbreaking details of child rearing and treatment of the poor in a Britain that is thankfully bygone.”

Library Journal, Starred Review
“This is a seductive book. Readers will be captivated as the tale unfolds, marveling at the many layers of meaning and historical significance that London journalist Moore has woven together through painstaking archival research.”

Andrea Wulf, The Guardian
“As in her previous book… 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…. In How to Create the Perfect Wife, she investigates education, liberty and the role of women. It is pleasing to see a writer bringing together painstaking research with gripping storytelling. I can’t wait for her next book.”

The Economist
“A darkly amusing tale about the struggle to create the perfect wife…. This story is told with gusto.”

Wall Street Journal
"With the entire affair now safely in the distant past, readers can make judgments on Day's story for themselves. Ms. Moore has done an especially fine job of tracking Sabrina in archives and across England, even locating her previously unrecognized grave. How to Create the Perfect Wife is to be relished by those who enjoy slices of 18th-century life. It should, however, be read as a cautionary tale by anyone thinking of embarking on, say, a radical program of home schooling."

Financial Times
"Compelling and meticulously researched.... [Moore] evokes a period of contradictions, in which an abolitionist (as Day was) could '[purchase] two girls ... as he might buy shoe buckles.'"

Booklist
“This engaging account will appeal to a diverse audience, including Enlightenment philosophy students and Jane Austen fans. Day is ludicrous, insufferable, arrogant – and utterly engrossing…. The narrative pulses forward briskly, moving between Day’s story and those of the orphan girls. Drawing on detailed personal accounts, Moore creates suspense and surprise in a manner rarely achieved in biographies. An unusual and unusually fascinating story.”

Sunday Times (London)
“What is so intriguing about this rollicking and well-researched book is just how confoundingly, de...

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Customer Reviews

I have become a true Wendy Moore fan.
Ilikebooks
This story to me to be very rambling and dull it just kind of went on and on and on not my up of tea!!!
patricia reinsch
I love Jane Austen and the Brontes, so naturally, I was curious what this book was truly about.
Kiki

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cbryce on May 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
While the tale of the strange man who tried to create the perfect wife out of an orphaned girl from a foundling home is interesting in itself, I enjoyed the side stories of the other characters, many known to history, even more. While Day's experienced was certainly odd and unorthodox and probably perverse, Sophie, as she was named by him, probably ended up with a better life than she might have otherwise, in large part due to Mr. Edgeworth, Day's closest friend, who helped her throughout her long life. I also enjoyed reading about the various people of science who managed to find one another throughout England and form societies for talk and leisure. Mr. Edgeworth was a far more interesting character to me than Mr. Day, overall, with his four marriages, twenty-plus children and love of invention.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kiki VINE VOICE on May 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Ms Moore has obviously done extensive research in assembling such a detailed and interesting story out of such an apparently abhorrent subject. My eye was caught by the almost absurd title of this book while on the Internet one day, and the cover illustration (reminiscent of my 1970's Fashion Plate toy) also pulled me in. I love Jane Austen and the Brontes, so naturally, I was curious what this book was truly about. Do not let the title fool you, this is a serious study of one man's completely misguided attempt to create the perfect mate for himself.

Thomas Day was inspired by Jean-Jacques Rosseau's work Emile (or On Education) published in 1762, which asserted that every child is born with an innate goodness, but is corrupted by society and it's constraints (religion, education, etc.). The work was highly controversial, and was banned in Paris that same year. Day decided to take this work and apply its principals to a real life situation (the book is a fictional experiment in which a child is raised in a completely natural and unschooled manner). Day managed to coerce a good friend, John Bicknell, to help him obtain not one, but two "apprentices" under false pretenses from an English orphanage. These two young women, renamed Sabrina and Lucretia for Day's own purposes. As orphanages during the Georgian era were bursting with children so many poor of the population had given up, unable to care for them, few questions were asked (although records were kept). Day's tightly knit circle of eccentric friends were supportive and willing to help him in his bizarre endeavors, no single person cited in this book seemed to question what Day was doing, except Rosseau himself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Linda on October 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is interesting historically but is extremely plodding. The characters are very one dimensional, which makes the book a slow and hard read. There is no liking or disliking the characters; they are just there, rather like going through the motions of home and work on a bad day.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tuhituhi on September 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wendy Moore has taken a very influential 18th century character, Thomas Day, and told the story of his remarkable, and remarkably strange, life. Day wrote The Dying Negro, one of the works that set off the abolitionist movement in England as well as Sandford and Merton, which was a best-selling children's book until well into the 19th century. However, Wendy Moore shows us the development of Day's philosophy and how it manifested itself in much darker ways.
Day was a follower of Rousseau's educational ideas as they appeared in Emile, the story of a boy whose education is "natural" and unhindered by schools or books. (Rousseau himself was appalled by how literally so many people took his ideas and repudiated them.) Education of girls according to Rousseau was about being subservient yet intelligent, well-read yet compliant - and this was the model that Day tried to create for his own wife-to-be.
Moore has the skill to do far more than tell the story of this one man; we also learn about the young women he attempted to mould and not least she offers a portrait of a place and time whose influences reverberate to this day.
Although the book is meticulously researched, the references never overwhelm the narrative which is flowing, intelligent and warm.
Even if you have little interest in history or education, the story of this odd man and those young women is a fascinating one.
Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Golen on June 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
OK, I'm no scholar. I'm interested in folks as banal as the Kardasian's. I am interested in celebrity and how famous folks live. Mr. Day and his friends and associates, and his "charges", fascinated me. This book is a unabashed look into the seamier side of eighteenth century British aristocracy. Right up my alley. Wendy Moore is an excellent biographer. Fascinating look at the mating game at the time of the American Revolution.
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Format: Hardcover
The story of Thomas Day, writer, law student and man of property. His great longing was for marriage - but he had stringent demands:

'Day wanted a life-long partner who would be just as clever, well-read and witty as his brilliant male friends. He craved a lover with whom he could discourse on politics, philosophy and literature as freely as he could in male company. He desired a companion who would be physically as tough as he was...For all his apparently egalitarian views on education, Day wanted his future spouse to suppress her natural intelligence and subvert her acquired learning in deference to his views and desires...She would regard Day as her master, her teacher and her superior.'

Not surprisingly, his two early attachments to wealthy young ladies were both terminated (by them.) Day then conceived a plot: he would abduct two twelve year old girls from an orphanage and train them up for the position of wife - the better of the two would be selected. One blonde and one auburn came to live under his care; he provided academic learning, expected them to perform all household duties and even tried to 'toughen them up' by firing pistols nearby and dropping hot wax on their shoulders. Following the teachings of his idol, Rousseau, Day sought a perfectly natural and unspoilt woman.

How his experiment succeeded is told in this immensely readable work, in which other notable persons of the era such as Maria Edgeworth and John Constable also feature. If this happened today, it would be on the front page of the Sunday papers!
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