Home  »  Volume III: English RENASCENCE AND REFORMATION  »  § 7. The Schole-house of women

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

V. The Progress of Social Literature in Tudor Times

§ 7. The Schole-house of women

One of the most representative is The Schole-house of women. The author begins with a prolix disquisition on the character of women. He comes to the conclusion that the majority are fastidious, sharp-tongued, quick-tempered, disputatious, fond of double dealing, and, when married, querrulous and more inclined to gossip than to mind the house. The writer then shows the real school of women by means of an admirable dialogue in which a young wife is drawn out by an experienced gossip to disclose the cruelty and selfishness of her husband at home. The elder, out of the storehouse of her experience, counsels the younger the best way to domesticate her consort, especially when he takes to beating. Then the writer continues to expatiate on the subtlety, loquacity, hypocrisy and versatility of the female mind, borrowing freely from the Quinze joyes and the C. Mery Talys. After this comes a list of Biblical and historical characters, all women and all bad, supported by quotations from Solomon and Cicero. The tract was written to please, and its author’s object was attained: his pamphlet was twice reprinted.

This popularity proved that the public were ready for two new types of literature: the comedy of character, foreshadowed in the dialogue of the old and young gossip, and the essay, with its discursive appeals to ancient literature. So lively was the interest taken in this type of popular reading that the Scholehouse raised a small controversy after the manner of medieval French literature. Edward Gosynhyll published in 1541 The Prayse of all women, called Mulierum paean, and, a few years later, Edward More published The Defence of Women. Kynge eventually published the Paean and the Schole-house side by side in the same volume.