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Re: Regency Seminaries

June 11, 2017 10:22AM
I'm copy/pasting this from a larger chapter, and hope some of it is useful to you. The target audience is less knowledgeable than the average DWG reader, so apologies if it's a bit basic. smiling smiley


Ladies Seminaries were private boarding schools where the daughters of the middle classes and the gentry could be educated, at a price. Jane Austen herself went to two schools like this, between the ages of seven and eleven. The first was Mrs Cawley’s school at Oxford (later Southampton) and the second was Mrs La Tournelles’ school in Reading.

In 1808, Mrs Cross, of Charles Square in London, advertised her Ladies’ boarding school in La Belle Assemblee magazine. She charged doting parents of “a small and select number of ladies” thirty guineas a year. For this sum, along with accommodation, food and laundry, they were taught English and French (with Grammatical purity and correctness!) History and the Needleworks. Music, dancing, drawing, Italian, geography and the use of globes were also available, at an additional charge.

The lessons offered at these type of schools were intended to help the girls’ social activities. A small amount of knowledge in geography or history would enable them to hold intelligent conversations once they were out in society, while learning to write would help them maintain a correspondence with family and friends.

Not everyone thought these Seminaries were useful educational establishments. One female correspondent, writing to The Lady’s Magazine in 1810, described them in less than flattering terms:

“...every town for miles round London, (especially on the Essex side) can boast two or three, or sometimes four of these seats of learning; and we not unfrequently see the pompous inscription ‘Ladies Seminary’ in a country village; the governess of which is usually as ignorant as those she undertakes to teach. To these places are the children of farmers, mechanics and traders sent; where, at an enormous annual expense, they are taught dancing, music, and what are called fancy-works; this, with a superficial knowledge of French, for the most part, completes their education; for, as to their own language, they are not sufficiently acquainted with it to allow them to indite a letter, or even spell it correctly.”

Once a young lady had completed her time at school, there was no “further education” available to her. At that point, she would enter society with the aim of finding herself a husband. A young, educated women who could not find a husband to look after her might return to school to become a teacher or hire herself out as a governess with no further education or training.

I haven't found any evidence re upper age limits, and only one written example where a woman described leaving a seminary and returning home at the age of fourteen. I suspect the age limit for a seminary would hover around the same age for a girl to "come out", which seems to be another one of those unwritten rules that everyone knew at the time so didn't bother to write down. The only information I have about seminaries is that some of them charged more for a girl over the age of ten than for one under the age of ten:

"PONDERS END, ENFIELD
At the above place, the Misses Levesques have es tablished a Boarding School. Persons who are acquainted with the vicinity of Enfield, will readily allow it to be a delightfully pleasant neighbourhood: the School commands a most extensive prospect, and is surrounded with pleasure-grounds. This Seminary possesses many advantages, it combines religion with its various literary pursuits. It is only eight miles from the Metropolis. Terms, for Ladies under Ten years of age, 11 Guineas, above Ten, 26 Guineas. Entrance One Guinea."

]https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xnQPAAAAQAAJ&dq=ladies%20seminary&pg=PA256#v=onepage&q=boarding&f=false

The book quoted above has multiple advertisements for Female Boarding Schools, quoting their various prices and what they offer, but none mention upper or lower age limits.

My gut feeling, not backed up with any primary evidence, is that even though they're outside the family home they would still be considered the equivalent of schoolroom misses, so would be unlikely to attend a local social function until they returned home to their family and officially "came out".

Although I could imagine a kind of institutional socialising -- perhaps if the owners of a ladies seminary and a nearby academy for young gentlemen decided to arrange a social activity between the boys and the girls in their care, to give them experience dancing with a member of the opposite sex. Or if there was a wealthy patroness who invited girls from the local seminary to a social event at her house as a charitable thing. Or even a form of patronage, similar to that between Emma Woodhouse and Harriet Smith.


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Regency Seminaries

MarciJune 06, 2017 05:02PM

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