Short version: hugely popular children's book published in 1783, it's not really a history the way we think of it but instead a series of stories. Heavy themes like "how one becomes a gentleman" - so lots of stories with An Obvious Moral - which is why the Victorians loved this (and ate it up with a runcible spoon). The author, like many others of his time, admired Jean-Jacques Rousseau, so there are some Rousseau-ish ideas within as well.
(Sept 6, 2013) It's thanks to another GRfolk, Bettie's review of How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate - or adding the book to a shelf prior to review - which made me look up the author and then this book - and well, that's the random way you sometimes find yourself reading odd books you'd never heard of the day before.
[Will update this when I eventually get time to read this one.]