Yet however twisted his views of women, Day most emphatically wanted to marry one of them. After being spurned by his fiancee, Margaret Edgeworth, the sister of his friend Robert Lovell Edgeworth, Day decided that the only way he could find a wife ideally suited to him would be to fashion one himself. Accordingly he went to the Orphan Hospital at Shrewsbury, “a country branch of the Foundling Hospital in London,” and arranged that the 12-year-old Ann Kingston — “slim and pretty,” with “auburn ringlets and brown eyes,” a decade younger than he — be apprenticed to his friend Richard Edgeworth until the age of 21. Then, fearing that he might not have chosen the right future Mrs. Day, he also acquired the services of the 11-year-old Dorcas Car. He changed Ann’s name to Sabrina and Dorcas’s to Lucretia, and almost immediately set about educating them to achieve perfection.
As Moore says, today no adoption agency in its right mind would permit a couple of bachelors to walk off with a couple of pretty young girls, but this was a different time, and Day “was a rich landowner with influence and connections living in a man’s world; they were powerless girls, born into poverty and branded with the shame of illegitimacy, without friends, family or rights,” so Day bought them “as easily as he might buy two shoe buckles.” He seems to have had no premarital sexual designs on them, but, inspired by the model of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he was determined to teach them writing and arithmetic, to train them in domestic skills so that the chosen one would be able to “serve his every domestic need,” and so that they could converse with him “on weighty matters with intellectual interest” he “adopted the curriculum that Rousseau laid down . . . in order to teach the girls the basic principles of geography, physics and astronomy through the pioneering method of practical demonstration and experiment.”