Bibliography, Book Reviews

Annotated Bib: Analysis of Eliza Leslie’s 1854 “The Behaviour Book”

English: American author Eliza Leslie
English: American author Eliza Leslie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first article I reviewed for my series on the annotated bibliography was a painful read. However, I very much enjoyed the article that I analyzed for today’s post. So much so, in fact, I had a little extra fun creating memes from quotes that I borrowed from the text!

Annotated Bib Entry

Peary, Alexandria. “Eliza Leslie’s 1854 “The Behaviour Book” and the Conduct of Women’s Writing.” Rhetoric Review 31.3 (2012): 219-35.JSTOR. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

In this article, Alexandria Peary analyzes how 19th century author Eliza Leslie encouraged the development of women’s writing via her 1854 etiquette text, The Behaviour Book. Within this text, Leslie not only instructs would-be writers on how to conduct themselves in their everyday lives (i.e. “how to request writing supplies from a servant” (220)), but she also informs non-writers of her time that female writers should be treated “with due consideration” (221).

Peary also examines two male-authored texts from the same era, each of which denigrates female writing. Peary uses these examples to illustrate the societal attitudes that Leslie attempts to subvert in the writing of her text. Finally, Peary analyses “Leslie’s ideas about the writing process, women writers’ social worth, and publication to gain a better understanding of how an apparently extrainstitutional genre such as an etiquette book both shapes and allows discussions of writing” (223).

did you know quote from the article
Did you know? “By the 1850’s women writers generated fifty percent of the bestsellers in the United States” (223).

Leslie became a renowned author of novels, juvenile picture books, and one of the most popular cookbooks of her time in the same era when male authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne were penning their own classic works. Unlike her male peers, Leslie and others like her faced many career obstacles, including derision from male writers like Hawthorne who viewed female writers “as a “damned mob of scribbling women” whose writing he called “trash”” (220).

Despite the prevailing attitude, The Behaviour Book was published at a time when “writing was emerging as one of the few acceptable professions for women (albeit ambivalently accepted)” (221). Leslie also wrote during a time when few women had the advantage of obtaining a formal education and were left instead to educate themselves on composition and various other academic subjects.


“While ostensively regulating female behavior, Leslie covertly adjusts female interactions with women writers. In addition to discussing how women writers should be viewed and treated, Leslie informs her female readers how to proceed with their own composing and publication by dispensing imitable habits of women writers. Embedding her advice on writing inside an etiquette book addressed to a female readership, Leslie thus performs a complicated rhetorical act that simultaneously normalizes, validates, and informs mid-nineteenth-century women writers at a time in which women’s desire to write faced significant challenges (220).

quote from the article
“In 1854 Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick earned the significant sum of $1,259.49, but that amount was only one-twentieth of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s income that year from Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (223).

If Eliza Leslie’s subversive etiquette book intrigues you as much as it did me, you will be excited to learn that you can download The Behaviour Book for FREE on Kindle!

If you enjoy my scholarly writing, you might also enjoy my new book, Papers: A Master Collection on the Art of Writing. Buy your copy on Kindle today for only 99 cents!

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