Aunt Epp’s Guide for Life: The Miscellaneous Musings of a Victorian Lady

Because the story I’m currently most inspired to work on is set in Victorian times, I pulled a few hefty history books from the shelf at the library for researching purposes. While I was standing there, a little book caught my eye; it was tiny compared to the volumes of history that surrounded it, but its title stood out to me. Aunt Epp’s Guide for Life: The Miscellaneous Musings of a Victorian Lady.

I grabbed it, and was drawn in by the fact that in it were notes of advice written by a woman who lived around the period  one of my books is set. It’s a firsthand account of how a woman might have thought then- or so I assumed. But instead of the sweet, prim notes that I expected, it’s full of blunt and sometimes hilarious advice on everything from Aphrodisiacs to Food to Wrinkles. Following are some of my favorite bits and pieces of advice, most of which are either outrageous or funny (to me, anyway).

Advice For Life: Always keep an open mind and open bowels. Close the one and you become a bore; close both and you become a dead bore.”

Apples: … An apple on the table will never cause discord and will make you the apple of the eater’s eye. Crush them into a cider and he will drink from no cup but yours and will love you like Solomon. After that the lovesick man is yours for life.”

Austen, Effects of Jane Austen on Intelligent Adults: You can tell from Miss Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra and others, new published, why she would never be a great writer. … Miss  Austen is devoid of imagination, for she writes with her head, not from her soul, and from the relatively undisturbed routines of her family life.  In this she is elegant, ironic and witty, writing excellent English, and the best that may be said of her in these regards is that she is so much better than the tedious Mrs Gaskell.”

Baldness: To cure a man’s hairlessness the best treatment is the least liked by the bald party. You must obtain fresh hen(poop) at the end of each day; heat it just enough, but not so as to dry it out, and spread it on a rag, which should then be clapped hard onto the bald patch, or the entire pate, and kept there for as long as possible.”

Baptism: It is said that if an infant fails to cry at its baptism, even when it feels the cold water, it is unlikely to live long. This is a superstition, but to be on the safe side keep a small pin between your finger and thumb, and at the moment of wetting the head, if the infant still does not cry, then give it a good prick to make sure it does.”

Childbirth: If it is a girl, you should cut it (the umbilical chord) short, as this will determine the length of her tongue, and you would do well by her to ensure that she does not turn into one of those long-tongued gossips, feared and eschewed by all.”

‘The fart is a fine old friend to man
It gives the  body ease
It warms the blankets
And chloroforms the fleas’ ”

Golfers: Never marry one.”

“Health: You must follow those patterns that suit you best and you should pay heed to such universal advice as is given on these matters: mainly, it is good to rise early, eat regularly, partake of fruits and vegetables, drink much water, chew your food well, exercise daily, be active in the open air each day, even for a short time, and always allow fresh air into your room s by keeping the windows open both top and bottom, even in winter.”

Heroes: They do not make good husbands but they do make excellent verses, so never marry a man with heroic aspirations.”

Marriage: … never marry a teetotaler, or a man who does not smoke.”

Mirrors: Pay no heed to the old custom of covering up mirrors during thunderstorms, for this is a country superstition, and lightning cannot leap at you out of the looking glass. But take care not to break a glass. Breaking a mirror brings you seven years of bad luck.”

Nose: God gave you this in his wisdom not merely for the purpose of scent, but in order that you may turn it up and look down on all those who think themselves your superior.”

Safe Slimming: There is a great craze these days, especially among the younger women, for slimming down their bodies to a slip and a shadow, and this can prove detrimental to their health.”

Sleep: Stupid people need more sleep than those whose minds and intellects are constantly stimulated to such a degree that sleep is an irritating constriction and a regrettable cessation of their endeavors. ”

Tea: This is a peasant in the princely presence of the great coffee beverage, and not equal to cocoa or chocolate.”

Oh, the wisdom of a Victorian lady.  Hehe. I giggled through most of the book. (I would warn you, though, of a few less-than-polite subjects addressed. It surprised me how open and blunt she was about certain things. Also, she has a very bad opinion of men.)

P.S. Just to make it clear, I don’t own any of these quotes, and will gladly remove them if I’ve crossed a copyright boundary.


  • Bethanything

    *giggles* Was the book meant to be humorous? I’d assume so, but I was too lazy to click the link to it and find out more. I have so many windows and tabs up already… 😛

    I’m fascinated by anything Victorian. If I lived in any other era, there’s no doubt I’d choose that one. The bustles, the cravats, the top hats, the inventions, the educational reforms, the dinner parties… such an exciting time! But ladies were still ladies and their highest joy was to marry well, dress well, and bear children. Yes, that sounds like a lovely life to me!! 🙂

    • Mara

      No, I don’t think they’re meant to be humorous! It says that the book is a compilation of “copious letters and notes to an unnamed ‘young girl’ about the nuts and bolts of life, as well as her views on more worldly matters.” So I think… she was serious.

      I am, too. I wouldn’t choose to live in Victorian times over living now, because there are a lot of unpleasant things about the Victorian time (corsets, while pretty, were damaging and sometimes broke ribs, having only a chamber pot as a restroom, ladies being of a slightly lower status pf equality than men, things like that) but if I HAD to choose a different era to live in, it’d definitely be the Victorian one.

      I wish there was a way to infiltrate all the good things about that era into this era and combine them. Sigh.

  • Sharon T

    I just finished reading this book and highlighted many of the same passages! What a witty and bold lady. I want to write a review for my own blog, but I have so many favorite parts to choose from. I stumbled across your blog trying to find the origins of that fart poem haha. I’m happy to have discovered someone else who appreciates Aunt Epp’s many pearls of wisdom : )