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Domestic Duties; or, Instructions to Young…
Frances Byerley Parkes (1786-1842)
London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825
First edition
TX145 P24 1825

“Experience leads us to acknowledge the fact, that those marriages have been uniformly productive of the greatest sum of happiness in which the wife has, at least, appeared to be altogether swayed by the opinions of her husband. By such yielding, the confidence of the husband is increased, and his attachment confirmed.”

Frances Byerley was the daughter of Thomas Byerley, nephew of the potter, Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795). After Wedgewood’s death, the fortunes of the Byerley family changed. Frances and her sister Maria set up a girl’s school to help support the family. The core curriculum, traditional enough on the surface, included “English Reading,” spelling, grammar, composition, geography and ancient and modern history. French, Italian, music, dancing, drawing, writing, and arithmetic rounded out a young woman’s education. This education was good enough for the Unitarians.

The Byerleys were Anglican, but their school attracted Harriet Martineau’s niece; Joseph Priestley’s granddaughters, Marianne and Sarah, sent to England from America; Julia Leigh Smith, and Elizabeth Stevenson, the future novelist Mrs. Gaskell.

The Byerley sisters also supported themselves through writing. Katherine Byerley (Thomson) is best known for her novels, in particular Constance (1833). Frances wrote Domestic Duties, reflecting the ethos of the Byerley school. The work was popular, going into a fourth edition by 1837, including several editions in the United States.

In dialogue form between a new bride and a long-married woman, Frances discussed friendship, dinner parties, servants, the nursery, clothing, linens, furniture, groceries, the wine cellar, cookery, nursing, exercise, dancing, and evenings at home. She stressed the moral and religious duties of the young housewife to her family. In 1811, Frances married Unitarian textile manufacturer William Parkes (1788-1840). The downfall of the Wedgewood fortune was harmful to Parkes as well. The success of Domestic Duties helped the couple’s finances, enabling William to build a solicitor’s practice.