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Thomas Day And His Model Wife








Day, the author of Sandford and Merton, was an eccentric but amiable
man; he retired into the country "to exclude himself," as he said, "from
the vanity, vice, and deceptive character of man," but he appears to
have been strangely jilted by women. When about the age of twenty-one,
and after his suit had been rejected by a young lady to whom he had paid
his addresses, Mr. Day formed the singular project of educating a wife
for himself. This was based upon the notion of Rousseau, that "all the
genuine worth of the human species is perverted by society; and that
children should be educated apart from the world, in order that their
minds should be kept untainted with, and ignorant of, its vices,
prejudices, and artificial manners."

Day set about his project by selecting two girls from an establishment
at Shrewsbury, connected with the Foundling Hospital; previously to
which he entered into a written engagement, guaranteed by a friend,
Mr. Bicknell, that within twelve months he would resign one of them
to a respectable mistress, as an apprentice, with a fee of one hundred
pounds; and, on her marriage, or commencing business for herself, he
would give her the additional sum of four hundred pounds; and he further
engaged that he would act honourably to the one he should retain, in
order to marry her at a proper age; or, if he should change his mind, he
would allow her a competent support until she married, and then give her
five hundred pounds as a dowry.

The objects of Day's speculation were both twelve years of age. One of
them, whom he called Lucretia, had a fair complexion, with light hair
and eyes; the other was a brunette, with chesnut tresses, who was styled
Sabrina. He took these girls to France without any English servants,
in order that they should not obtain any knowledge but what he should
impart. As might have been anticipated, they caused him abundance of
inconvenience and vexation, increased, in no small degree, by their
becoming infected with the small-pox; from this, however, they recovered
without any injury to their features. The scheme ended in the utter
disappointment of the projector. Lucretia, whom he first dismissed,
was apprenticed to a milliner; and she afterwards became the wife of a
linendraper in London. Sabrina, after Day had relinquished his attempts
to make her such a model of perfection as he required, and which included
indomitable courage, as well as the difficult art of retaining secrets,
was placed at a boarding-school at Sutton Coldfield, in Warwickshire,
where she was much esteemed; and, strange to say, was at length married
to Mr. Bicknell.

After Day had renounced this scheme as impracticable, he became suitor
to two sisters in succession; yet, in both instances, he was refused. At
length, he was married at Bath, to a lady who made "a large fortune the
means of exercising the most extensive generosity."

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