Practical Hints from a Father to His Daughter

William Sprague, 1835


The following work was originally designed to be preserved in manuscript, as a legacy to a motherless child. The circumstances which have resulted in its being given to the world, it is unnecessary to state. The author has only to add his earnest prayer that it may be read with some degree of advantage by young girls into whose hands it may chance to fall; and especially by those whom the righteous providence of God has deprived of the benefit of maternal care and instruction.

The following pages contain one of the most practical and truly valuable treatises on the culture and discipline of the female mind, which has hitherto been published.

There is surely no judicious American parent who would not rejoice in the possession of this unpretending work, not merely as a lesson of wisdom for a beloved daughter on entering the unattempted trials of life, but as an invaluable monitor to the adult ear.

The subject is a serious one to a reflecting mind, and the writer has dwelt upon it in seriousness yet it is seldom indeed that anyone has succeeded so well in exciting and sustaining the deepest interest of the reader.

'Practical Hints from a Father to His Daughter' is a work that we can most sincerely recommend to the perusal of every parent and every daughter in our country! And it is our earnest hope and belief that it will produce a beneficial influence upon the character of the rising generation.
Boston, May, 1833.



It is for the heart of the parent alone, adequately to conceive the tender responsibilities that belong to the parental relation. It is impossible, if he have the feelings of a man much more of a Christian that he should contemplate a beloved child coming forward into life, and beginning a career for eternity, without agitating in his own bosom the question of what the probable condition of that child may be in the future stages of existence.

And, if I mistake not, there are some special reasons why the solicitude of a parent should be awakened by contemplating the condition of a daughter, during the critical period to which I have referred. In addition to all the other circumstances which render her an object of deep interest, and in which she shares in common with children of the other gender, she is, in a higher degree than they, dependent on parental aid. There is a sort of natural defenselessness in her condition, independently of the fostering care of those from whom under God she received her being, that makes an appeal to a parent's heart, which, if it is not a heart of stone, he will strive in vain to resist.

That you may be the better prepared to estimate the importance of the various topics to which I intend to direct your attention, I beg you to remember that what you are at the age of eighteen or twenty, you probably will be, making due allowance for the change of circumstances, in every future period of life. In other words, your character will, by that time, in all probability, have acquired a fixed direction a direction which will last through all the scenes of your prosperity and adversity to your dying hour. I admit that there are many exceptions from this remark; but I appeal to the records of human experience, I appeal to the observation of any individual who has been accustomed carefully to notice facts on this subject, whether the general truth is not as above stated that in the great majority of cases, the character of a young girl, at the close of her education, is formed for life of course, formed for eternity!

I am sure this consideration cannot fail, if you duly estimate it, to give deep interest to every effort, and especially every parental effort, that is made to form you to virtue and happiness.

I am aware that much has been written on the subjects upon which I am to address you, and with a degree of ability to which I can make no claim. Nevertheless I am constrained to say that most of the books with which I am acquainted, designed for the special benefit of young girls, have seemed to me either deficient in some important topics of instruction, or to contain views on some other points from which an intelligent Christian parent would be compelled to dissent. Far be it from me, to intimate that I expect to supply all the deficiencies, or correct all the mistakes, of those who have gone before me. I only promise that the views which I communicate shall be such as, after mature reflection, appear to me to be consonant with reason, experience, and Scripture.

I have no ambition to say anything that shall appear new or striking but my whole object is to give you plain parental advice on topics which do not lose their importance with their novelty. And it is a thought upon which I dwell with some interest that, though you might read the writings of a stranger with indifference you will peruse these hints with attention and perhaps advantage, when the heart that dictates them, shall have ceased to beat; and the hand by which they are penned, shall have moldered into dust.