"My counsellor couldn't read"

In the time of Mrs Grose's childhood, long before the introduction of the Elementary Education Act of 1870, education was a personal arrangement for which private establishments charged fees. Consequently it was a privilege accorded mainly to wealthy urban males who, it was believed, would obtain greater value from the knowledge conferred on them. Across England, average female literacy rates were around 50 per cent in the 1840s (which, we can deduce from the details Douglas gives us in the opening section, is the narrative present of the manuscript). The picture would have been worse in Essex, which had some of the lowest literacy rates in England and where most villages lacked day-schools.