"Every unmarried lady should prepare herself, if possible, for the contingency of being one day thrown upon her own resources for happiness. Your property may take wings and fly away. Your relatives, now so fond of you, may die; or matrimonial alliances and commercial vicissitudes may remove them far from you. Your health may give way; and if it should not, advancing age will steal on and disable you for active employment. It is wise to guard, in so far as you can, against a surprise from these or any kindred evils."
Yes, if you haven't already killed yourself by the time you finish this introductory paragraph. But how does one guard oneself?
"It is superfluous to observe that the best and only adequate shield is unaffected piety."
Ah. Still, there's more ...
"But, as a collateral reliance, there is none to be compared with books, provided one knows how to use them; and this art should be learned now. With the profusion of works on all subjects now issuing from the press, you can be at no loss to find those which will yield you equal profit and pleasure. The habit of reading, judiciously directed, will beguile many a solitary hour. It will open new and inexhaustible sources of rational enjoyment. It will indirectly, by its wise lessons and wholesome examples, fortify your trust in God, inspire you with resignation, assist you in interpreting providential dispensations, and nurture your healthful sympathies with humanity. It will enlarge your capacities of usefulness, and clothe you with attractions which will tell in the social circle beyond the fading charms of personal beauty, and the tinsel garniture of mere ball-room accomplishments. It will store away for you choice treasure which may help to solace the twilight of your days and to bring your sun to its horizon in peace."
The writer, however, has a purpose ... can you guess?
"But if general literature and mental improvement will conduce to these ends, how much more will the study of the Bible ..."
It's an interesting article, as it highlights, in a few sentences, the vulnerable position of the 'unprotected female' in Victorian society, and her reliance on husband and family. To be honest, I was going to laugh at it a little, but there's a sad beauty to the prose; and when I consider the question 'What is writing for?' I find my own answers rather shallow in comparison. I'm not remotely religious, but I rather admire the certainty of this author; and the very Victorian idea that art should have a moral purpose, beyond mere entertainment.