Male Education in Regency England

by Audrey Adams

Education in Male Children:

In upper-class families, elementary aged children would stay at home and work with a governess for their lessons. A governess was a woman hired by the household and put in charge of the up-bringing and education of the children. Education was very important in these upper-class households and the governess aimed to provide the highest level for the children. Both boys and girls were taught by the governess during the day and often times stopped for a midday meal or some recreational time.

In lower-class families or the working-class, established local churches provided a sort of public school. This education was mostly for lower-class families and some middle-class families. Primarily boys attended these schools as they were taught English, Latin, and Literature as well. School masters were licensed teachers who taught the boys. Eventually, these students’ schools turned into boarding schools to help educate orphans or sons of poor freemen (A freeman had the rights of a citizen but were often servants of some sort who made very little money). However more often than not, young boys typically dropped schooling to help run the family business or take on a job to have more money in the family. Josiah Wedgwood was an example of this. While he was pulled out of school, he still was able to be successful during this time.

The difference between boys’ and girls’ education at this age was that this is typically the age were schooling of girls stopped. While there were some boarding schools those eventually started to close down due to lack of funding and low enrollment. Girls hardly ever went somewhere to get educated. If they were upper-class they were able to work at home with the governess. If not,working-class girls often learned housework and started working in households with their mothers.

A governess works with a young boy of the upper-class.

Education in Young Adult Men:

Education continued after childhood for England’s elite and privileged. They were often presented with two options, getting a college degree or going on the Grand Tour  (Georgian Index).

College Degree:

The two most prestigious universities for gentlemen to attend were Cambridge and Oxford (Melissa). Here young men could pursue a number of professions.  One noteworthy figure was Thomas Clarkson , he attended Cambridge to further his education  and start a profession. If a man wasn’t the eldest son, he would not inherit the land of his family. He would need to support himself with a noble and gentlemanly profession. During this time, there were several professions for upper-class men:

  • An Officer-This was the most noble, most gentleman-like profession. No formal education was required because families bought their sons their ranks. It was purchased commission. Britain wanted the best for their armies which is why they allowed for their richest and most elite to buy out positions.
  • A Clergyman-In order to be in the clergy and work in the church, a man was required to go and receive a college degree, most likely at Oxford or Cambridge. They had to pass an exam after several years of schooling and then make a testimonial to the Bishop. This profession was still very noble for upper and middle class men.
  • A Lawyer-This profession for the most part excluded upper-class men. It was mostly middle class men. In order to work with the law, a man had to attend a university and the go through the Inns of Courts (like a Law School). This normally took 3-5 years.
  • A Doctor-Surprisingly, this was one of the least noble professions for men of this time. Becoming a doctor required little or no formal education. Men often just observed and learned through working at a hospital.

The Grand Tour:

If a gentleman chooses not to get a college degree and study at a University, then he may wish to replace that with a Grand Tour. Only Britain’s elites could afford such a luxury for their sons. The upper-class viewed the Grand Tour as an indispensable part of a young man’s education (Mackie).

“Ideally, a young man sent on the Grand Tour would return home not just with souvenir portraits painted against a backdrop of Roman monuments, but with new maturity, improved tastes, and an understanding of foreign cultures, and a fresh appreciation of the benefits of being born British.”

~ British-Norton Anthology of English Literature
A portrait like this would often be brought home after the Grand Tour. Showing the young man in front of ancient ruins

Young men set off for the Grand Tour with a tutor to help conduct and supervise his lessons. These trips lasted anywhere from 1-5 years depending on the extent.  The tour through Europe featured several prominent cities. They really tried and emphasize France and Italy, but made stops in other major cities such as Amsterdam, Brussels, and Vienna.

What did they study? Below is an overview of several stops in Italy, one of the most important countries for the student’s education was Italy (Georgian Index).


Florence: Observed Roman Ruins, Renaissance architecture, paintings, an sculptures.

-Venice: Canals, St. Mark’s Square (Masquerade parties, operas), Courtesans

Rome: To go during the Easter Holy week was ideal. Men would preferably study for 3 hours a day for 6 weeks. They visited the Coliseum, Pantheon, The Spanish Steps, and Michelangelo’s works.

Naples: Men would visit the Pompeii ruins and try out digging through the rubble. Funny enough, normally the men were led to a spot where their guide had strategically reburied a coin or some marble for them to find.
Vienna: This stop was for a cultured experience and more of a social etiquette lessons. Austrian society had strict social rules which help instill manners and a sense of well-manneredness. This stop included trips to concerts, palaces, parties, and Europe’s Largest Zoo.


Austen’s Influence and Experience with Male Education

Jane Austen grew up in a very educated family, where education was highly valued. Both parents were educated and her father, George Austen, was a clergyman/Reverend (Boyle). He studied at St. John’s College at Oxford. Eventually, George Austen opened a boarding school at Steventon Rectory for the sons of local gentlemen, and sold produce from his farm to help care for his wife and children (Vic).

The upper-middle class family educated all 8 of their children in some degree. He often encouraged his children to read from his extensive library, including his daughters. Their eldest son, James, went to Oxford at 14 and later he followed his dad’s footsteps and became a clergyman himself and a well known writer and poet. Their third eldest son, Edward, was taken in by an upper-class couple who later sent him on the Grand Tour and after his return also went to Oxford to receive a college degree. However, the Austen’s second son, George, was different from the rest.He had a mental handicap and was sent away to live with a family member and be cared for.

This painting is a portrait of Reverend Austen along with his wife and children.

Locke’s book entitled Thoughts Concerning Education influenced several authors of the time including one of Austen’s favorites, Samuel Richardson (Bour). Locke believed that a gentleman must possess virtue, wisdom, and education.

“Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him”.

-John Locke, Thoughts Concerning Education

Austen and Male Education in her Novels

In Pride and Prejudice Austen portrays her male characters as gentlemen. And at that time gentlemen with a social status and economic status of that like Mr.Darcy, Mr.Bingley, and even Mr.Wickam, were expected to have received a gentleman’s education. In a footnote in  the Interactive Text of Pride and Prejudice, a gentleman’s education is explained as:

“an education that usually included going to a university. Those seeking to become a clergyman, the largest of the genteel professions, needed to attend, while it was standard for those inheriting an estate to attend for a year or two. Such wealthy students—called, if they were not nobles, fellow or gentleman commoners—were able to pursue light courses of study and to receive honorary degrees when they left; they were usually segregated socially from other students.”

We learn in Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, that both he and Wickam were educated at Cambridge. In fact Darcy’s father “supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge;—most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife,48 would have been unable to give him a gentleman’s education.” (Austen, 319).

Mansfield Park focuses more on education and Austen offers a better glimpse at what that would be like for an upper-class family. For example, Tom is the heir to his father’s estate and is able to go out and party. Schooling and Education is not his main concern since he has his father’s money to fall back on. Readers than see that Edmund, the second eldest, has to get schooling and continue his education so he can become a clergyman and make money from his profession.  The Miss. Bertrams also receive formal education in their teen years alongside their brothers.  In fact, Edmund helps Fanny with her lessons and education as well.


Works Cited:

Austen, Jane, and David M. Shapard. “The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (Interactive Edition) by Jane Austen & David M. Shapard on IBooks.” IBooks. Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 21 Oct. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.

Bour, Isabelle. “Locke, Richardson, And Austen: Or, How To Become A Gentleman.” Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal (2008): 159. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Boyle, Laura. “Jane Austen and Parents.” Jane Austen. The Jane Austen Centre, 16 July 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Children.” Regency Town House. Regency Town House, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Eighteenth century: Religion and education.” A History of the County of York: the City of York. Ed. P M Tillott. London: Victoria County History, 1961. 250-253. British History Online. Web. 8 October 2016.

Grand Tour.” Georgian Index –. N.p., 2 July 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2016. .

Mackie, Erin. Rakes, Highwaymen, and Pirates : “The Making of the Modern Gentleman in the Eighteenth Century”. Baltimore, US: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. ProQuest ebrary.   Web. 10 October 2016.

Melissa. “The Education of Boys in Regency England – Story and History.” Story and History. N.p., 07 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Vic. “Jane Austen’s Father: Reverend George Austen.” Jane Austens World. Jane Austen’s World, 19 June 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

West, Clare, and Jane Austen. Mansfield Park. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

11 thoughts on “Male Education in Regency England

  1. ” Areas studied” areas of study might sound better, up to you. Good information, you have obviously done a lot of research. Do not bold Works Cited, that is not correct style, I think. No bolding of John Locke either. I like your quotations!


  2. I really liked you wiki! I thought it was really interesting and thought you organized the information really well and made it easy to read.


  3. I can tell you put a lot of research into your wiki and it is very well thought out. I didn’t know men used to be educated from grand tours, so it was interesting to read about that.


  4. I enjoyed your wiki, but one tiny improvement: not only writing about Austen’s connection to male education, but also the connection to male education in her novels and how it is shown. Shrinking the text size of your works cited might also be a good idea, just so that the format of your wiki is uniform.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your wiki is very organized, but I think that you could improve flow of information by picking an organizational pattern and sticking with it. Other than that, I believe that your wiki is well-written and thorough.


  6. I would recommend just including the “. (Oxford or Cambridge). ” sentence with the preceding one. Also, you misspelled ” Theu had to pass”. Lastly, I am pretty sure Michelangelo is one word and name, “Michael Angelo’s works.”


  7. Check your sources: boys and girls didn’t receive the same education and it was rare for girls to learn Greek and Latin. Indeed, some of your info about girls’ education seems off–revise or cut since it’s not your main topic anyway. I think surely more could be said about schooling in the Austen family considering George Austen’s life’s work…. Define unfamiliar terminology such as “poor freemen.” You need to link to your peers’ wikis–you have *many* options here including some of the key figures of the period. List of professions for men is good.You need to connect more to the novels. ! More consistent formatting would make Wiki easier to read. Do you have a juried journal source? I’m having a hard time reading the bibliography because of the urls. Use hyperlinks instead.


  8. I would try to include connections to the men in Austen’s novels such as Edmund who went to the university, became clergymen, etc.


  9. I would make the pictures bigger on your wiki so it’s easier to see what’s going on in them. Other than that your wiki has great content!


  10. I like how you divided the Wiki up into several parts. It really helps to focus the information. Make sure to cite your sources within the Wiki text. I would suggest taking out the colons after the headings, as well, but that’s personal preference. I think you need some more connections to Austen; perhaps citing some details about Edmund Bertram’s and Mary Crawford’s opinions on his profession as a clergyman. Great job!


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