Tag: Governess

The Vulnerable Victorian Governess

The Governess by Richard Redgrave, 1844.

A governess occupied a unique position in a Victorian household. She was neither servant, nor family member. She existed in a sort of in-between world which often left her feeling isolated and alone. To combat this, the young governess was advised to cultivate a tolerance for solitude. Author Susan Ridout addresses this in her somewhat depressing nineteenth century book of advice, Letters to a Young Governess on the Principles of Education and Other Subjects Connected with Her Duties (1840):[…]Continue Reading

The Literary Governess: Depictions in Austen, Brontë, Thackeray, and Heyer

The Governess by Richard Redgrave, 1844.
The Governess by Richard Redgrave, 1844.

During the 19th century, a gently bred young lady with no fortune, no family, and no prospects had few options for making her way in the world.  She might hire herself out as a companion, of course.  Or if she was particularly adept with a needle, she might take in a bit of sewing.  Both were respectable, genteel occupations for a lady down on her luck and, as such, both are well-represented in historical novels.  However, despite the undoubted romantic appeal of the penniless companion and the impoverished seamstress, neither position provides the wealth of literary possibilities inherent in the role of governess.[…]Continue Reading

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