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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