I've been directed to this text at Emory University (there's an electronic version here: The Gentlewoman's Companion) and I don't know if Austen might have read/referred to it as it's dated 1675, but it's interesting nonetheless! Below is part of the 'Epistle Dedicatory' or why she wrote the book.
"If any shall wonder why I have been so large upon it, I must tell them, I look upon the end of Life to be Usefulness; nor know I wherein our Sex can be more useful in their Generation than having a competent skill in Playsick and Chirurgery, a competent Estate to distribute it, and a Heart will thereunto.
The like Apology I have for my Prolixity about Cookery and Carving, which being essential to a true Housewife, I thought it best to dwell most upon that which they cannot dwell without, unless they design to render themselves insignificant, not only in the world, but in those Families where they are.
As for what concerns Gentlewomans Behaviour, I have the concurrent advice and directions of the most able Professors and Teachers, both here and beyond the Seas; yet durst not be so airy and light in my Treatise about Ladies Love and Courtship as some of the French Authors have been, but have taken out of them what I found most taking with our English Gentry. The like I may say for Habits and Gesture; I am not ignorant of the vanity of some Mens stiles upon these Subjects; and that young Ladies are too apt to take what may gratifie their Fancies, and leave what may better their Judgments about true Behaviour."
And we're off! I'll add this to my burgeoning reading list and fill you in on the good stuff. By the way, no idea what 'playsick' is, but 'chirurgery' is surgery, which is rather scary. I'll need to find out exactly what is meant by 'surgery' in that time. Ick.
Oh, and those Little Iced Cakes? More like Little Iced Lumps. I guess I cooked them too long? Also, the icing was very unappealing and slightly gray. Is it cheating to mix Austen-era recipes with Betty Crocker frosting?