I'm never able to resist starting a book even if I'm already reading multiple others - which is why I've been shadow reading this book for ages. In fact I had to reread a chunk of what I'd previously read just to remind myself of it. Which would only be a problem if I didn't enjoy this sort of history - lots of anecdotes about all sorts of women. In the chapter Education & Improvement, it specifically looks at the various ways women felt about learning and reading - which is always something I enjoy reading about.
Today I'm going to pass along one of the many Books I Find After Reading About Them In Another Book - just to give you an idea of how I can end up with 1) a huge TBR pile and 2) countless old (free!) books in ebook form on my ereader.
After several pages on how some women of the time were reading a variety of subject matter (with some of their reading lists), page 41:
"...The national library at the British Museum (which, under the privilege of copyright deposit, acquired a copy of every work printed in the United Kingdom - a privilege vested to this day) was the most overwhelming. By 1811, Princess Charlotte's companion, Lady Charlotte Bury, accompanied a royal entourage to the Museum, and was taken aback by the staggering display of bound knowledge. 'I was interested in walking through the magnificent library, and in looking at the statues; yet whenever I view these collections my mind is depressed,' she confessed in her journal.
'I devoured with greedy eyes the outside of the volumes, and wished - oh! how vainly - that their contents were stored in my brain. A whole life of learned labour would not suffice for that; what chance have I then, in the middle of my days [she was thirty-six], of accomplishing such a wish?'
In a further self-effacing tone she lamented that 'I shall leave nothing to excite one emulative sigh when I am gone! I shall die, and nothing will tell of my existence!' In fact, the next year she began writing, and left numerous novels and her Diary published for posterity."
Now here's the fun part - while Lady Charlotte was later published and then had books in all sorts of libraries in her lifetime, she also can be remembered now by her many books available as ebooks. (I know Google angered a lot of authors by its digitizing many older, assumed-to-be-public-domain works without permission, but I can never say anything disparaging about that as I've now read so many Google-digitized-texts that I'd only have found in 'meatspace' libraries through a lot of research and car trips.) So even if you don't intend to read any of her work - you can go take a look at it through these links, and read a page or two online, and remember her existence (which I suspect she'd have loved).
I'm not 100% sure which is actually volume 1 versus vol 2, links to Internet Archive:
Diary of a Lady in Waiting, Vol 1 (?) - physical copy at Univ. of Michigan
Diary of a Lady in Waiting, Vol 2 (?) - physical copy at Univ. of California
Those links via Univ. of Pennsylvania's page of Online Books of Charlotte Campbell Bury, which has links to many of her other diaries and novels.
Oddly the only book of hers at Gutenberg is The Lady's Own Cookery Book, and New Dinner-Table Directory (1844), which seems quite practical (or the parts I've skimmed anyway):
"Never use the hands when it is possible to avoid it; and, when you do, have a clean basin of water to dip them in, and wipe them thoroughly several times while at work, as in mixing dough, &c.
Use silver or wooden spoons; the latter are best for all confectionery and puddings. Take care that the various spoons, skewers, and knives, be not used promiscuously for cookery and confectionery, or even for different dishes of the same sort.
If an onion is cut with any knife, or lies near any article of kitchen use, that article is not fit for service till it has been duly scoured and laid in the open air. The same remark applies to very many strong kitchen herbs. This point is scarcely ever enough attended to."
I've not yet read much of her diaries yet - but this is definitely not the first time I've read Lady Charlotte quotes in a history book. Which means that she's definitely on my TBR list, just to see if the whole of her diaries are as good as the quotes make it seem.