Mentoria: or, the young ladies instructor

Object name: Mentoria: or, the young ladies instructor by Ann Murry.

Object number: CHWJA: JAHB32

Category: Books

Description: Second edition of Mentoria, published in 1780. Written by Ann Murry and dedicated to The Princess Royal. Printed by Frys, Couchman and Collier for Charles Dilly. Bound in brown leather.  Inscriptions on inside front cover and half-title page.  Five stanza poem written upside down in pencil on inside front cover and half-title page.

Made: 1780

Context: In Jane Austen’s time, conduct books that promoted proper social conduct as well as providing moral and educational guidelines for young women, were very popular.  Mentoria: or, the Young Ladies Instructor, first published in 1778, is written as a series of conversations between a teacher called Mentoria, and her pupils. The topics covered were wide-ranging including politeness, industry, civility, truth, grammar, geography, history, Sabbath observance, logic, arithmetic and the duties of life.

This book is a second edition, dating from 1780.  The inscription on the half-title page reads ‘Jane Anna Elizabeth Austen 1801. From her Aunt Jane’.  Anna was the daughter of Jane’s eldest brother James and his first wife Anne Mathew and would have been seven or eight years old when she received the book in 1801. The inscription seems to have been written using two different quills,  Anna’s name and the year being rather feathery suggesting the quill had become soft, and Jane’s dedication much sharper, obviously written with a new quill.  Both inscriptions appear to be in Jane’s hand.

There is a second inscription on the inside front cover which is crossed out and appears to read ‘Jane Austen. June 29th 1785’.  It seems that  Jane gifted her own childhood copy of Mentoria to her niece, probably when she was sorting out her belongings in the spring of 1801 in preparation for her move to Bath.

Over both pages is an unknown five stanza poem written upside down in pencil.  The text has many corrections which suggests it is an original composition rather than a copy from a published work. It is still a matter of debate whether the handwriting could be Jane Austen’s.

The book is on loan to Jane Austen’s House from Anna’s descendants.

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