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

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  857 ratings  ·  217 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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3.58  · 
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 ·  857 ratings  ·  217 reviews

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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Fascinating and well-written.

This book relates the bizarre tale of Thomas Day, wealthy English gentleman of the Enlightenment, who was obsessed with the educational theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. So much so that he kidnapped two orphans, with the goal of raising them so that one of them would become his wife, who would live with him in contentment in rural isolation, without servants and serving as his drudge mule, but providing him with intelligent conversation while obeying his every whim.
Kathy Davie
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
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
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
This book is nonfiction which I have been reading like it was historical fiction. It is very interesting and many times touching. It is hard to be indifferent while reading this book. You just have to have some kind of feelings for characters.

First of all it is a great nonfiction book. It describes the second part of XVIII century (mostly in Britain) and it is doing it brilliant. For such a fan of historical fiction like me it has helped me understand many aspects of historical background from
Christina Dudley
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
(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
Margaret Sankey
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Misogynistic eighteenth-century intellectual Thomas Day decided after some romantic rejections that the only way to find the perfect woman (and nothing less would do!) was to train one himself to fulfill his exacting requirements. Hence he embarked on a scheme to get himself a nice young foundling and rear her according to his needs. His friends and acquaintances were aware of his enterprise, but the young woman herself initially remained in the dark. Initially, I thought the book would focus na ...more
Sep 06, 2013 marked it as maybe
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
to gen up on. to find. to weigh up
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Marguerite Kaye
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Day is one of those subjects who make it very difficult to like a biography. In modern-day parlance, he was a groomer - or a potential groomer. Arrogant, opinionated, utterly self-centred, selfish, and at best misguided, he was, paradoxically, also philanthropic, generous, intelligent, erudite and literary. A product of his day, it would be wrong to call him misanthropic - or would it? Is it fair to say that every Georgian man had such a low opinion of women? I think it is, and in fact Da ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well now, here's one I'm happily shelving with my many other books on eccentrics. Thomas Day was misguided, misanthropic, maladroit, and at times moronic, but I cannot dislike him as heartily as some other reviewers here do. I have to confess that he reminded me a bit of myself at age 12 or so, when I was quite certain that one day I would open the right book and find the answer to a question which I had not yet fully formulated but which nonetheless would be the ultimate ANSWER. And it would ma ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: readin2013
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
Anna Kļaviņa
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
Paul Lunger
Mar 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jen Well-Steered
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
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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:
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
DNF. Very well-researched, I'm sure, but the result is too many unnecessary details that cloud and slow down the story. The main character, a young academic who may be great at philosophy but truly sucks at life and knows absolutely nothing about people, is unbearably annoying. You want to just slap him into reality. I really couldn't bear reading any more about him, and learn how successful he was in his plan to create the perfect woman for him, which meant getting his hands on a young girl by ...more
Thomas Day was a poet, an abolitionist (I’ve taught the poem he wrote with BIcknell, “The Dying Negro,” to classes before), and a wealthy eccentric—he was also a misogynist and a control freak. Bad combination for any woman unlucky enough to come into his orbit.

The research Moore did to track down the details of this story is impressive, but I wish her writing style was a bit less loose and chatty. It would have been nice to have some thoughtful cultural analysis of this story instead of just an
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found it difficult to read this piece because Day was so difficult to like, and—though the book is well constructed and engaging in places—I found Moore heavy-handed reminding me how horrible he was. Once he conveniently dies, the end of the story focuses on Sabrina’s life, and is a delight.

Otherwise, the book sketches out some great characters and yields a lot of information about social order and education theory in 18th century Britain. Entirely worthwhile.
Julie Barrett
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is a perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. I can see why so many novelists ended up using parts of this crazy experiment in their books. I mean, it's a story that just begs to be told. Wendy Moore does a good job taking her exhaustive research and fashioning it into an entertaining, readable book. Sometimes she can be a bit too twenty-first century in her critique of Thomas Day's behavior. On the whole, however, Moore manages to set the behavior of the main characters i ...more
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
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
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked 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
Sep 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
I rarely read biography, they often make me angry if I think that the author is making assumptions or jumping to false conclusions, but Wendy Moore seems to have hunted down most of the diaries and letters written in Georgian Britain, and found many articles on this peculiar story in the press. I'm impressed by her research, and impressed by how skilfully she weaves a fascinating tale that starts with the youth of Thomas Day, and ends with the death of Sabrina.

I enjoyed this book more than Wedlo
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If you like histories... 1 3 Oct 26, 2014 07:17PM  
LSPL Book Junkies: The Dying Negro poem 1 3 Oct 17, 2014 11:07AM  
LSPL Book Junkies: How to Pick the Right Wife 1 4 Oct 14, 2014 09:18AM  
LSPL Book Junkies: Emile by Rousseau 1 3 Oct 01, 2014 01:31PM  

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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.
“In eighteenth-century Britain, many female friends enjoyed intense relationships, which they celebrated in romantic terms. Some probably compensated for stiff and formal relations with parents by forging close bonds with same-sex friends. In one case, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby ran away from their families in Ireland to set up home together in Wales, where they would live in mutual harmony for more than fifty years. Known as the Ladies of Llangollen, they attracted visitors from far and wide who venerated their romantic story with never a hint that the friendship might be anything other than platonic” 2 likes
“In reality, of course, when it comes to choosing a spouse the vast majority of people have been always content to accept flawed reality over mythical perfection. But not Thomas Day. Nobody—before or since—has tried quite so literally or so systematically to create for themselves their vision of a perfect mate” 0 likes
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