It's a bit scary that some people still adhere to the beliefs within this statement, which was written over 200 years ago. As you can probably guess, I wasn't the greatest fan of the morals set out within this novel, but yet I wasn't the least fan of it either. It's set worlds apart from the modern day, and despite this quotation being largely negative, it was actually seen as a feminist novel in its heyday.
It largely looks at how to parent young girls, which was a bit of a risky topic back then, as it is now. Coelebs is looking for a wife (as you may have guessed), but every woman he comes across is too 'something'; they're too religious, or too dowdy, or too loose in their morals, or spend too much time reading novels (whoops).
Coelebs' dying father asks him to spend some time with an old friend, Mr Stanley, after he passes away. Coelebs does this and is struck with the wonderful way in which Stanley raises his children, in particular his eldest Lucilla. They are taught from a young age that, though they are a family of means, the girls must do charitable work for the goodness of doing it, not for any praise or reward. They raise their own garden together, and sell the flowers they produce to raise money for the infirm in their area, or give the flowers for the poor to sell themselves. They are taught all aspects of domestic life and come to love them, as well as being competent in other pursuits such as singing and instrument playing.
All in all, Coelebs begins to see them as ideal women. And he falls in love with the eldest Lucilla, but does not know how to reveal this to her father. When he does, Mr Stanley tells Coelebs a tale that shocks and thrills him (as well as the reader)!
Have you read it? What did you think?