How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore
Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate

73%

7 Critic Reviews

Though less ripping than “Wedlock”, this story is told with gusto.
-The Economist

Synopsis

Thomas Day, an 18th-century British writer and radical, knew exactly the sort of woman he wanted to marry. Pure and virginal like an English country maid yet tough and hardy like a Spartan heroine, she would live with him in an isolated cottage, completely subservient to his whims. But after being rejected by a number of spirited young women, Day concluded that the perfect partner he envisioned simply did not exist in frivolous, fashion-obsessed Georgian society. Rather than conceding defeat and giving up his search for the woman of his dreams, however, Day set out to create her.

So begins the extraordinary true story at the heart of How to Create the Perfect Wife, prize-winning historian Wendy Moore’s captivating tale of one man’s mission to groom his ideal mate. A few days after he turned twenty-one and inherited a large fortune, Day adopted two young orphans from the Foundling Hospital and, guided by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the principles of the Enlightenment, attempted to teach them to be model wives. After six months he discarded one girl, calling her “invincibly stupid,” and focused his efforts on his remaining charge. He subjected her to a number of cruel trials—including dropping hot wax on her arms and firing pistols at her skirts—to test her resolve but the young woman, perhaps unsurprisingly, eventually rebelled against her domestic slavery. Day had hoped eventually to marry her, but his peculiar experiment inevitably backfired—though not before he had taken his theories about marriage, education, and femininity to shocking extremes.

Stranger than fiction, blending tragedy and farce, How to Create the Perfect Wife is an engrossing tale of the radicalism—and deep contradictions—at the heart of the Enlightenment.

 

About Wendy Moore

See more books from this Author
Wendy Moore is a veteran journalist and author of The Knife Man, which won the Medical Journalists' Association Consumer Book Award, and the best-selling Wedlock. Moore lives in London.
 
Published April 9, 2013 by Basic Books. 362 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for How to Create the Perfect Wife
All: 7 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Miranda Seymour on Jun 21 2013

Without giving away too much of a skillfully narrated story, it’s pleasing to note that the lives of Thomas Day’s former companions had deservedly satisfying conclusions.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Bella Bathurst on Feb 17 2013

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.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by ANDREA WULF on Jan 04 2013

...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.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by ALEXANDRA MULLEN on Apr 19 2013

Day is a striking illustration of Theoretic Man. Yet Ms. Moore justly shows his more successful idealism in practice.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Cord Jefferson on Apr 22 2013

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.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Patricia Hagen on Apr 08 2013

Wendy Moore’s narrative brilliantly delineates the political and intellectual forces that shaped and nurtured Day...himself emerges as a rounded and not entirely unsympathetic character; his friends and detractors are depicted with equal liveliness.

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The Economist

Good
on Feb 16 2013

Though less ripping than “Wedlock”, this story is told with gusto.

Read Full Review of How to Create the Perfect Wif... | See more reviews from The Economist

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