How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate
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How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  393 ratings  ·  128 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Summer 2013 Reading
20th out of 264 books — 104 voters
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4th out of 95 books — 20 voters

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Kathy Davie
It rates a "5" for how well Moore wrote, although I would dearly love to give it a -5 for her subject! I hate to think what Moore's state of mind was upon finishing this...

A biography about the Georgian poet, Stoic, philosopher, and hypocrite—Thomas Day.

My Take
Right out, I'm telling you that I greatly disliked the subject of this biography. My god, the man was an egotistical, selfish, rude, obnoxious hypocrite. Moore did write this very well---it read like a story. Only, it's a story I kept want...more
An excellent read, well written and researched. As well as Thomas Day's compelling yet horrifying quest to create the perfect wife, we also learned about his fascination with the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau, his circle of friends (who were members of the 'Lunar Society') and life in 18th century England (particularly Lichfield). I found the history of the Foundling Hospital in London and how it was run particularly interesting and heart-rending.
Christina Dudley
(Rounding up from 3.5)

A most peculiar and particular history of a well-connected and wealthy 18th century man who, influenced by Rousseau's EMILE, had dreams of grooming the perfect wife. As part of this dream, the man "adopted" two orphans from the Foundling Hospital as supposed apprentices and proceeded to mold them.

I enjoyed parts of this book, especially where Sabrina's (the main foundling) and Thomas Day's story intersected with well-known contemporaries (Erasmus Darwin, Maria Edgeworth, t...more
Margaret Sankey
In the 1760s, Thomas Day, rich oddball, decided to undertake an experiment--could he, using Rousseau's educational principles, create the perfect wife? It had already turned his friend Edgeworth's son into a feral toddler dictator, but the directors of the London Foundling Hospital were perfectly happy to let him sign out the 11 year old of his choice for extended tutoring, extremes in temperature, being shot at with an unloaded pistol, heavy housework, bizarre questions (do you want this rose,...more
Paul Lunger
Wendy Moore's "How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor & his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate" is a scarily true story of Thomas Day a late 18th century Englishman who decides that the perfect woman doesn't exist for him. His solution is to simply create one by controlling a girl so much so that she has no choice but to be the perfect mate for him. His choices are 2 girls from the same orphanage who he raises until the age of 12 & then decides which on...more
Georgian jackass blowhard hates women but feels he has to marry one. Steals a couple of orphans to shape into his ideal wife. Is shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, when people think he was goddamned insane to think this was good idea. The reader is more shocked that anybody else besides him could think it was a delightful experiment and yet, there they are!

Thomas Day is the most frustrating piece of work I have read about in a long time. Everybody runs around insisting he's this great pillar of virtue...more
What I liked about it: This is another treasure, a well-told, rollicking tale of a rich twit who becomes enamoured of an idea and refuses to let go of it even when it becomes apparent that it isn't working. But I suppose that was a function of Day's odious personality. Did I mention that a part of his eccentricity was that he rejected all social graces, preferring instead to embark on long monologues about his theories, and that he refused to dress fashionably in a wig, but also didn't wash his...more
Rebecca Huston
A wild look at the Enlightenment in England, through the experiments of Thomas Day, a man who was uncultured, rude and dishevelled who truly believed that women were inferior and took Rousseau much too seriously. This one was eye-opening, and very funny to read at times. Well-written, surprising and worth the time to find this one. Four stars overall and recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
Rocked my literary/historical world. I need all of my 18th/19th c studies friends to read this so we can discuss. My mind is blown. Absolutely loved it.
I am reminded of what a speaker said to a group of single people about marriage. If they were waiting to find the perfect person and did, why would they want to marry them. A funny way of saying that none of us is perfect but that is exactly what Thomas Day, wanted in the perfect wife - as he envisioned her. She would be frugal, disdain any worldly pleasures and only live to please and bend to Day's every wish. They would be perfectly compatible in spirit and thought as long it was Day's thought...more
Anna  Matsuyama
Thomas Day (1748-1789) was a lawyer, abolitionist and author. His first published work, a poem The Dying Negro (1773), co written with his friend John Bicknell was one of the first pieces of literature that attacked slavery and encouraged by his friend Richard Lovell Edgeworth he wrote The History of Sandford and Merton (1783-1789) one of the first books for children. Sandford and Merton was a huge bestseller and unsurprisingly it was read by such writers as Charles Dickens, Robert Southey, Leig...more
This is one of those true life stories that is both repulsive and compelling at the same time. The story of Thomas Day and his quest for the perfect wife is very well researched by the author, who uses many letters and other primary source materials to round out the story. She seems to have acquainted herself in great depth with Day and his friends and associates and is very astute in spotting sarcasm, self deprecation, and gossipy tongues out to cause trouble as, over the years Day and his fri...more
How To Create the Perfect Wife was a fascinating read, fascinating in a despicable way, I suppose. Most readers will probably not enjoy getting to know the "hero", Thomas Day.

Who was Thomas Day? He was well-known several centuries ago. He lived and wrote during the reign of George III. He wrote two books for children: The History of Sandford and Merton and The History of Little Jack. Writing for children was definitely a new phenomenon. He also co-wrote a best-selling abolitionist poem called "T...more
Thomas Day liked to quote a line from a poem titled “Advice to the Ladies”: “Wit like wine intoxicates the brain/Too strong for feeble women to sustain.” A great benefactor to the poor and a vocal champion of the American Revolution, Day wrote passionate diatribes about the need to free African slaves and lobbied to expand voting rights to include men of all classes. But where women were concerned, Day’s views were far less progressive.

It seems only fitting that after his death, Day’s eccentric...more
Just how "enlightened" was the 18th-century English gentleman and Rousseau-devote Thomas Day? His money and his intellect opened doors to English society and to the company of the extraordinary circle of gentlemen scientists known as the Lunar Men. He believed so fervently in Rousseau's love of "nature" that his personal hygene appalled women and men alike. His progressive beliefs made him one of the most prominent anti-slavery advocates of the late 18th century. Yet he essentially stole two ado...more
This is a fascinating, well-researched book. It sometimes gets bogged down in unnecessary levels of detail, but I'd still recommend it for anyone interested in the subject or time period.

Thomas Day wanted a beautiful, intelligent, educated, brave, strong wife who was willing to live alone with him in some simple, isolated cottage. He realized pretty quickly that it would be difficult to find all those traits in a woman who'd be submissive enough to suit him, so he picked up a couple of foundling...more
Expertly woven narrative history/biography of a true-to-life Pygmalion experiment of a man trying to groom his future wife in the mid-18th-century. The author pulls in so many great details of the man's friends, the social life of the time, and piecing together the stories of all of the interesting women that crossed his path. HIGHLY recommend.

Some synopsis at NYP

Details on London's Foundling Hospital

The Foundling...more
HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT WIFE. (2013). Wendy Moore. ***.
Set in Great Britain in the 18th century, this is the story of Thomas Day and his quest to create the perfect woman. Perfect, of course, meant certain things to Mr. Day, things that tend to vary from person to person. He believed that a woman that he would ultimately take as a wife would have those properties, and that he had a right to possess her. Day, who was, apparently, not all that good looking, was set to inherit a fortune after his...more
How can this be true? A rich guy buys an orphan, so he can mold her into his perfect woman, who he will then marry. This was a well known story in its time, the basis of several well known classic novels from Edgeworth to Trollope, largely forgotten today.

This is my favorite type of sociology/history, with lots of interesting characters, and discussions of different aspects of the era used to express an individual experience.
I am of two minds on this book, but the mind that decided that this book simply was not worth finishing won.

The mind that wanted to keep reading is the one that enjoys this kind of "logical-positivism-run-amok" story. Essentially this is the story of an Enlightenment era natural philosopher who, under the are combination of logic and romanticism decides he will apply the principles of Rousseau to all aspects of his life, including how he will choose a wife. The interest is supposed to lie in Tho...more
I borrowed this from the library thinking I would skim through it. However, once I opened it up and starting reading I had a hard time putting it down.

The compelling story of Thomas Day and his unorthodox quest for a "perfect" wife, this book also tells the story of the lives of several of his friends as well as the orphan he chose to be the object of his experiment. Poet Anna Seward, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, novelist Maria Edgeworth (of Belinda fame), Fanny Burney (of Evalina fame), are just...more
Amazing true story of 18th century gentleman Thomas Day, who adopted two orphans in hopes of creating his perfect wife. Filled with prominent names of the 18th/19th centuries, including Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney, and Erasmus Darwin, this book is a wonderful example of why I love British history.
boo. One chapter in, I gave up. I felt like I was reading a term paper with lots of newsy facts concerning someone I didn't give a rip about. I was expecting some fun tone, a Jane-Austen-y feel....nope. Just the facts ma'

Or to quote Sweet Georgia Brown "Ain't nobody got time for dat!"
Emily Schutte
I'm not good at rating books when I really don't like the subject. This guy was a bonehead. I only wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to Sabrina. I guess I'm glad the author wrote about this- so that I can appreciate how wonderful my husband is.
It was a fascinating, well-researched book but there is just too much lengthy details and accounts.

Thomas Day definitely had some conflicting interests in his lifetime. On one had he is a slavery abolitionist and on the other hand he schemed and kept two orphan girls (without them being aware of his true motives) as trainee to make one of them his future wife.Moreover, his friends and known went along with such a horrid scheme. The accounts of him moving around to avoid attention for such under...more
Maybe I should give this more stars for the writing, but the subject matter was so weird and awful--and sometimes I wondered about the research and the fair use of source material, so I'll let it go at two stars.

I certainly did not "enjoy" the book, although I kept reading for more information. Moore certainly provides a well-researched and horribly fascinating account of Thomas Day, a wealthy young man of the later 18th Century with no social grace who, having been jilted at least twice, sets...more
Emma (Hopeful Happiness)
Aug 19, 2013 Emma (Hopeful Happiness) marked it as did-not-finish

Why did I pick up this book?
I had read through the summary and was really intrigued that someone had actually tried to create their ideal mate. It almost seemed like it could be a real-life Frankenstein of sorts. I wanted to see what it was Day was looking for and how he planned on achieving that being. a

How far into the story did I get?
Really not far at all. I got approximately 4 percent (14 pages) into the book before I realized that I just needed to put it down.

Why did we break-up?
It's never...more
How to Create the Perfect Wife is a remarkably detailed, thoroughly researched recounting of a true-life Pygmalion-like undertaking that is as awful as a true-life version would naturally be. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a bizarre young man named Thomas Day, independently wealthy, educated, yet arrogant and lacking in social graces, finds himself rejected by one woman after another. (Reading the descriptions of his social interactions, it’s difficult to imagine why any woman wou...more
I checked 5 stars because the book IS amazing. It's just amazingly creepy and difficult-to-believe-it's-true. Not to say a single negative thing about Moore's research, which is impeccable. Thomas Day is a rich, young, intellectual Brit who has been disappointed in love, whether maternal or romantic. Inspired, as were a few in his social circle, by a fictional portrait of "enlightened education" written by Rousseau, he decides to train, and thereby create, the perfect mate. He chooses, in a clou...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Wendy Moore worked as a journalist and freelance writer for more than 25 years. She has always been interested in history, and as a result, began researching the history of medicine.

The Knife Man is her first book.
More about Wendy Moore...
The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore How to Create the Perfect Wife: The Georgian Scandal of One Gentleman, Two Orphans and an Experiment to Create the Perfect Woman

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