Josiah Wedgwood’s friends numbered some brilliant but odd types. Most are forgotten today. Thomas Day made no great mark in the world beyond establishing an undisputed reputation for almost perfect eccentricity…
Thomas Day was even stranger than Erasmus Darwin, whom Anna Seward called “that large mass of genius and sarcasm.” From the first, Day rejected the habits and customs of what he regarded as a “perverse and foolish world”: his dress rarely conformed to the accepted standards of society; his opinions never did. In an age of masculine elegance he dressed like a savage. In his search for a wife he displayed even odder standards. Unable to find the paragon he required amongst mature women, he decided that the only logical plan was to raise his own wife, or rather to mold one to fit his own requirements.Buoyed up with new enthusiasm, he picked two pretty twelve-year-olds from foundling hospitals and christened them Sabrina and Lucretia. He conducted the experiment in duplicate, with no bigamous intent, merely as a security measure offering double the possibility of success. But even in duplicate his plan was doomed.
Lucretia was discarded on the grounds of stupidity and Sabrina, despite her beauty and “more glowing bloom,” lacked the necessary courage. Like all true disciples of Rousseau in the eighteenth-century, Day was convinced of the value of ruggedness. To test poor Sabrina’s courage and indifference to pain, he fired pistols close to her ear, blazed away at her petticoats, and dropped hot sealing wax down her neck. The results were unsatisfactory.
Far from displaying the Spartan indifference he had hoped for, the tiresome child sobbed and screamed for fear. His faith in Rousseau somewhat shaken, Day sadly married her off as incorrigibly unsuitable. On the other problems Day was no less eccentric, but his humanitarian and liberal principles were so blatantly honest and his writings so heartfelt that he was welcomed into the Lunar Society and Wedgwood’s circle. He even managed to find an amenable and loving wife.
(see link at end)…Jenny Uglow:Day disliked the way girls were brought up to think of little beyond frivolity and fashion. This made it difficult for him to find a suitable wife. He hit on the idea of adopting two young orphan girls, both of whom were to be trained and educated to take on the role of the future Mrs Day. His plan was to marry whichever of them proved most amenable to his training, and to apprentice the other to some suitable trade. He thought he could transform the girls into his image of the perfect wife – someone of high virtue and courage, with a taste for literature, science and philosophy, but with the simplest tastes in clothes, food and way of life.
The experiment was a failure – the girls were argumentative and liked pretty things. After a while he gave up on Lucretia; true to his word, she was apprenticed to a milliner. He persevered longer with Sabrina, but eventually abandoned hope of ever moulding her into the sort of wife material he was looking for, and sent her away to boarding school. Later she married his friend John Bicknell. Day (who eventually married Esther Milnes, the daughter of a well-to-do Chesterfield merchant) wrote what was perhaps the first children’s best-seller, The History of Sandford and Merton, about Harry Sandford and Tommy Merton and their adventures and schooling – rather different from Harry Potter and Hogwarts Academy, but it went through many editions and remained in print for almost a century! Read More:http://www.search.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/engine/resource/exhibition/standard/child.