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The Hired Tutor

  • A wealthy planter advertised in the “Virginia Gazette” for a tutor (a private teacher) to live with his family in James City County, Virginia, just outside of Williamsburg. The gentleman expects the tutor to teach to his four daughters and three sons. In exchange for the lessons, the tutor will have a three-year contract for food, a room, laundry, and use of the gentleman’s library.

  • At the end of the contract, the boys will be old enough to attend the Grammar School at the College of William and Mary and the girls will have enough tutoring to be housewives and mothers. The tutor may make money by teaching other neighborhood children.

  • I live in Philadelphia, I’m 23, and I’m interested in the position listed in the “Virginia Gazette.” I wrote a letter to the gentleman about my education at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and about my interest in traveling to Virginia to educate gentry (or well-to-do) youth.

  • We agreed on the position and I signed a three-year contract. I hope to have additional pupils from the neighborhood within a few weeks. First, I must be introduced to the planter and his wife and become accustomed to their children.

  • The boys, ages 10, 12, and 14, read English and Latin, study Latin grammar, and work on their handwriting and “ciphering.” The girls read English and work on their spelling and penmanship. Most of the girls’ time is spent practicing music and dance, taught by instructors who occasionally visit the plantation.

  • Nearby Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia, is nothing like the large, bustling Philadelphia. I’m a Presbyterian and few people of my faith live near Williamsburg. Living in this gentleman’s household is difficult for me—the Virginians are different from the people in my hometown.

  • Will the three years pass more easily once I’ve settled in? Will the master be satisfied with my teaching, my discipline, and the children’s progress? Will I be able to save the money I earn by teaching other pupils? If you lived away from your family, what things might you have to learn about a new city? How do you think the customs of others might differ from yours?