Since the dawn of well, mankind, man has been trying to create the perfect wife.
It started with that infamous rib-splicing incident of Adam and Eve and hasn’t really stopped.
But some men take the crafting of the perfect woman a bit too far…
Like a man named Thomas Day.
A single man who, shockingly enough, adopted not one but two orphan girls, bringing them up and crafting them with the sole purpose of choosing one to become his perfect mate.
Thomas Day was an undeniably smart and independently wealthy lad born in 1748 in London’s East End. When his father died when Day was only 13 months old, he was left with a sizable inheritance and trust fund, leaving him free to pursue his father’s dreams of changing the world.
Day was a puzzling combination of rich yet plain–he could afford anything, yet chose to dine on plain bread and water, eschewing meat and settling for a mostly vegetarian diet. He rejected the fashions of the time and scoffed at the use of so much as a mirror or comb.
He grew up as kind of a perpetual student, wealthy enough to take his time in school and pursue his so-called charitable donations on the side. He fancied himself a virtuous and moral leader, destined to show the rest of mankind the error of their selfish, indulgent ways.
Unfortunately, although Day held himself in highest regards as a moral leader among men, he wasn’t much of a looker. The book, “How To Create The Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate“ by Wendy Moore depicts Day as a man with a “pockmarked face, rounded shoulders, ungainly gait, long hair and shabby clothes.” In short, he was awkward and arrogant, prideful and demanding, but yet a complete and total social misfit.
This kind of created a problem when it came to landing a woman to help him carry out his life’s work of reforming mankind. Like many men, Day was certain that he needed a wife. It was a necessity. And he had a pretty good idea of what a good wife would look like. From Moore’s book, Day’s idea of a perfect woman looked a little something like this,
“She would be young and beautiful like a Greek or Roman goddess. She must be pure and virginal like a simple country maiden…the physical constitution of a Spartan bride…plain tastes in clothing, food and lifestyle. And above all, she would regard Day as her master, her teacher, her superior. She would be completely subservient to his needs and whims…” (p. 22).
Good luck with that one, Day.
As you can imagine, Day found it a little harder than he originally thought to find this elusive perfect specimen of a woman. Shocking, right?
So, he did what any man in his position would rightfully do.
He decided to single-handedly create the perfect wife.
Day convinced his good pal Richard Lovell Edgeworth (an inventor who befriended Charles Darwin’s grandpa) to accompany him to the local orphanage, where two creepy old men picked out two pretty and engaging 12-year-old girls, one with bouncing blonde girls and the other, dark-haired and more quiet, almost like a “back-up” bride in case the first one didn’t work out. Day got around the pesky business that it was oh, say, illegal for a grown bachelor to adopt young girls for the sole purposes of turning them into child brides by making sure all the paperwork stated that the girls were legally entrusted as his friend Edgeworth’s “apprentices.”
From there, Day locked his two young captives away in the countryside and inflicted rigorous training on them, including pouring hot wax on the girl named Sabrina, (who, it would later be discovered, was his “chosen” one) throwing her in the lake when she couldn’t swim, and firing a pistol, that unbeknownst to her, was not actually loaded, directly at her skirts. Although Day was actually a popular hero-like leader in the anti-slavery movement at the time, he saw nothing ironic with keeping two young girls captive in his own home for his own personal gain and amusement.
Shockingly enough, Day’s experiment to create the perfect wife ultimately failed.
When both of the girls failed to live up to his perfectly reasonable expectations, he packed them off and ended up marrying a woman named Esther Milnes, who although completely devoted to Day’s vision for a submissive mate to serve his every whim while secluded in the countryside with him without so much as any comfort, still never fully lived up to Day’s ideals.
Later, when Sabrina found out about Day’s plans for her, he wrote a letter to her, detailed in Moore’s book, basically telling her to calm the heck down.
“You are the last person in the world to whom I owe any apologies on that head,” (p. 236) he wrote.
Eventually, Day was killed at the age of 41 when he was thrown from the horse that he had brought up and trained himself, refusing any trainers, claiming, of course, his own superiority in training unruly creatures into submission.
Interestingly enough, you may already be familiar with Thomas Day’s hard-to-believe true story in the form of a popular play that was inspired by his story–George Bernard Shaw’s popular Pygmalion, which was later made into the film, My Fair Lady.
Apparently, man’s fascination with creating the perfect woman isn’t going away anytime soon.
Image credit: analogophile/Flickr