Eighteenth-Century Advice on Mother-In-Laws

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‘Be careful therefore that no dispute may ever happen between this lady and yourself, no complaint from either of you disturb his [husband’s] peace, to whom it would be so painful and unnatural to take part against either. Be armed against the sallies of her temper, and predetermined never to quarrel with her, whatever she may say or do. In such a relationship, this conduct would not be meanness but merit; nor would it imply any unworthy compliance or false assent; since silence and good-humoured steadiness may always preserve sincerity in your conversation, and proper freedom in your conduct. If she should desire to control your actions, more than you think is reasonable, hear her advice with patience, and answer with respect, but in a manner that may let her see you mean to judge of your own duties for yourself.’

Hester Chapone, A Letter to A New-Married Lady (1777), London: John Sharpe, 1822, p.117.

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