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A fascinating self-help handbook which reveals how women were expected to behave in the 17th century has sold at auction for £1,700.

The rare 1673 first edition of The Gentlewoman's Companion by Hannah Woolley gave the fairer sex advice on how to respond to a man seeking 'lewd and immodest actions'.

The guide also laid down appropriate table manners, outlined how to act at a dance and suggested various home remedies including ways to tackle 'flactuency' and 'windiness'.

What self-help looked like in the 17th Century! ‘Gentlewoman’s companion’ from 1673 offered women advice on handling everything from ‘lewd’ men to ‘windiness’


The Gentlewoman's Companion by Hannah Woolley was written in 1673

The book, of which there are only six in existence, reached £1,700 at auction

Includes advice on dating, cooking as well as home remedies


By Martha Cliff for MailOnline
5 June 2018

A fascinating self-help handbook which reveals how women were expected to behave in the 17th century has sold at auction for £1,700.

The rare 1673 first edition of The Gentlewoman's Companion by Hannah Woolley gave the fairer sex advice on how to respond to a man seeking 'lewd and immodest actions'.

The guide also laid down appropriate table manners, outlined how to act at a dance and suggested various home remedies including ways to tackle 'flactuency' and 'windiness'.

Only six copies of the book are known to exist in Britain and this was the first time a version had emerged on the market.


A self-help book giving women advice on how to behave in the 17th century has sold at auction for £1,700


It was consigned for auction with London-based Forum Auctions by a private collector and achieved a hammer price of £1,400, with extra fees taking the overall figure paid by the successful collector to £1,700.

Max Hasler, specialist at Forum Auctions, said: 'This was a rare first edition offering a collection of recipes and remedies, as well as advice to women on education, governesses, servants and social conduct.'

The book's author, despite being a woman herself, claimed God made men before women and it was the responsibility of the wife to be 'subservient' to her husband.

Women were told to 'keep your house in good order' and that it was their 'duty to hide your husband's faults'.

Married women who were propositioned were told to inform the man they were only to be 'disposed of' by their husbands.

It reads: 'If you are being courted and tempted to lewd and immodest actions, make this reply.


The rare 1673 first edition of The Gentlewoman's Companion by Hannah Woolley is believed to be one of only six in Britain


Among the life advice is recipes for popular dishes at the time including boiled pike and pigeons

'Surely we should give way to this request, but it lies not in our power to grant, for when we were maids, we were to be disposed of by our parents, and now being wives, our husbands.'

The book promoted the sanctity of marriage, describing it as a 'holy' and 'inviolable bond'.

It also spoke of men's superiority over women in marriage, stating: 'There are two essentials in marriage, superiority and inferiority.

'Undoubtedly the husband hath power over the wife and the wife ought to be subject to the husband in all thing.

'Man, of human kind, was God's first workmanship, woman was made after man to be subservient to him.'


There are also plenty of home remedies for everything from corns to flatulence



It also spoke of men's superiority over women in marriage, stating: 'There are two essentials in marriage, superiority and inferiority

The handbook encouraged women not to be wallflowers at balls, telling them to get on the dance floor and 'be not difficultly persuaded to make a demonstration of your art'.

There was advice on table manners including the correct posture.

It reads: 'Gentlewomen, the first thing you are to observe, is to keep your body straight in the chair, and do not lean your elbows on the table.

'Discover not by any ravenous gesture your angry appetite, nor fix your eyes too greedily on the meat before you, as if you would devour more that way than your throat can swallow, or your stomach digest.'

The guide provides an old wife's tale for how to settle an upset stomach involving red rose conserve, hazelnut and the Renaissance drug Mithridate.

It reads: 'Take two ounces of good old conserve of red roses, of chosen Mithridate two dramms, mingle them together, and when you are going to bed eat there of the quantity of a hazelnut.

'This will expel all flatuency or windiness off the stomach, drives away raw humours, and venomous vapours, helpeth digestion, drieth the rheum, and strengthen the sight and memory.'

Readers could also get cooking tips as there are recipes for pig roasted with the hair on, boiled pigeon and steamed pike.

Self-help book from the 17th Century sells for £1,700 at auction | Daily Mail Online