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We are not
by a bear in a wood in the good old direct fashion. informed as to what becomes of the parents and friends—nor what kind of a bear in a wood it is which eats the boy: points which the modern "restless" curiosity would no doubt insist upon elucidating. The child in this and like books is tacitly held to be silly because he is little: to be "grown up" is more or less explicitly taught to be synonymous with wisdom. Models of Juvenile Correspondence (date 1803) are given in a volume of The Bookcase of Knowledge. I quote the preface and two of the model letters supplied.
TO OUR YOUNG READERS.
To be capable of carrying on an epistolary correspondence with ease and credit to yourselves, is what we hope you will all endeavour to accomplish. The hints necessary to facilitate this important branch of education, are but few and we give them with the sincerest wishes they may be attended to. Let your language be natural and easy, avoid all high-flown far-fetched expressions and all useless repetitions; to your superiors, write with a becoming confidence, neither assuming nor servile; to your equals with an engaging freedom; to your inferiors with an affability that may prevent their feeling their inferiority; to all with respect; in a word, express your thoughts in writing as you would in speaking.
With these rules and a few specimens which follow, you will soon find the practice become delightful.
From a Young Gentleman to his Acquaintance. DEAR SIMPSON,
We have been at Windsor and I must confess it is a most delightful place. We have passed our time very agreeably; yet I must own that there is nothing like home and my books. I am very much fatigued with the journey, and can only add that I am,
Your sincere friend,
And humble servant.
To a Young Gentleman on the recovery of his health.
I receive your obliging letter, which contains a fresh mark of your friendship for me. I am now, I thank God, perfectly recovered.
I know not, whether I should not consider my last illness as a punishment for my crime in robbing Mr Freeman's orchard, breaking the boughs, and spoiling the hedges. However, be that as it may, I will do so no more. Believe me ever,
Your real friend,
The volume devoted to Natural History in this Bookcase of Knowledge gives short accounts of animals of which I quote those descriptive of the Hen and the Peacock.
The Hen. The material assiduities of the Hen are become almost proverbial. When her chickens are old enough to provide for themselves, she abstains from all the food that her young can swallow, and she will boldly fly at every creature that she thinks is likely to injure them. In this domestic creature we have a striking instance of the goodness of our Creator, for while her young supplies (sic) our tables with the most delicate food, her eggs contribute to restore to health the sickly and weak.
The Peacock. Peacocks were first introduced into Europe from the Asiatic Indies. When it appears with its tail expanded, none in the feathered creation can vie with it in elegance and magnificence, but the harsh scream of its voice diminishes the pleasure received from its brilliancy, while its insatiable gluttony tend (sic) still more to alienate our attachment from the only merit which it can claim, its incomparable beauty.
The little girls whose brothers were desired to write such letters passed many hours of their lives in needlework— especially in working samplers.
So high an authority as Miss Twining, born in 1820, bears this interesting testimony to the use of such employment.
"Needlework was an important part of education in those days and samplers were an invariable performance. At six years old I worked one in cross-stitch letters, with the alphabet and numerals, and, of course, appropriate mottoes, one of which I remember and have acted upon since, 'A stitch in time saves nine': however defective in rhyme, it is wise and useful. This was followed, by a still finer sampler, two years later, when we spent the summer at Tunbridge Wells, one motto being singular for a child of eight, 'After labour rest is sweet,' a prophecy which was to be
fulfilled after a long interval, by my removal to the same place, in search of repose and quiet after the work of my life was, as I supposed, nearly finished. Intense enjoyment was caused by these little performances and I doubt if any kind of needlework for children of the present day can furnish occupation so useful and so pleasant."
Recollections of Life and Work, Louisa Twining, pp. 33, 34.
A recent Exhibition of samplers (1900) showed the kind of verse employed: here are one or two examples from the catalogue:
In the most interesting Journal of Emily Shore (who was born in 1819) mention is made of a Bookcase of Knowledge. Could it be that from which I have been quoting? If so how curious is the contrast between her methods of studying natural history, so delicate, candid, persevering,—and the pompous fatuities of the Bookcase of Knowledge! Emily Shore in her quiet country home watching nature with keen, loving observation learns at every turn some new and illuminating truth as to bird or plant. She is the fit contemporary of Darwin,—fit no less by her modesty than by her method.
These specimens of literature and hard work for the very early stage of childhood cannot be taken in isolation. They should be classed with the writings of Dr Watts, Jane and Ann Taylor and Mrs Sherwood (1775-1851). Dr Watts' Divine and
Moral Songs' influenced, and even formulated the theological ideas presented to children during the first fifty years of the century-ideas which are perhaps still current to-day. It is no exaggeration to say that the Divine and Moral Songs and the Fairchild Family sum up the Evangelical movement in all its terrors for the nursery. God is an awful and vengeful master who teaches by striking and terrible object lessons. Endless torment, clanking chains and bitter remorse are the fate of the nursery Ananias: while both Mrs Sherwood and Dr Watts persistently represent the child's heart as his direst foe. The Fairchild Family, which was amazingly popular and widely known, has still a fascination for the student. Mr Fairchild, the father, observing his three children of 6, 7, and 9 quarrel, takes them a walk through a gloomy wood in which clanking metallic sounds are heard; these proceed from a gibbet on which a corpse is hanging. The children, two girls and a boy, implore to be taken away but the father declines; seats himself with great deliberation on the stump of a tree and (with quite needless elaboration) tells the story of the poor wretch to the
1 In Dr Watts' wonderful book he deals incidentally with the animal world. Here is a specimen of his teaching:
"If we had been ducks, we might dabble in mud,
Or dogs, we might play till it ended in blood,
So foul and so fierce are their natures:
But Thomas and William, and such pretty names,
Should be cleanly and harmless as doves or as lambs,
Those lovely, sweet, innocent creatures."
We all remember Dr Watts' lines on "the little busy bee." Whether he thereby made the bee attractive or instructive in any desirable sense to the child may well be doubted.
2 In this connection we may note that Dr Arnold, appointed Headmaster of Rugby in 1827, writing in 1830 to a friend owns himself amazed, bewildered and depressed by the deep roots which sin struck in the hearts of the very youngest of his boys: boys in his day (he died in 1842) went to Rugby when between 7 and 8 years old. Observe the uncompromising word sin not temperament, or impulse, or inherited tendency: none of our temporising, picturesque vagueness: but sin-and nothing short of it.
shivering children who exhibit the greatest interest-but still implore to be taken away. "We will go immediately," said Mr Fairchild, "but I wish first to point out to you my dear children that these brothers, when they first began to quarrel in their play, as you did this morning, did not think that death, and perhaps hell, would be the end of their quarrels. Our hearts by nature, my dear children," continued Mr Fairchild, "are full of hatred."
And so on, till after a self-complacent account of his own new heart, Mr Fairchild ceases and Lucy (age 9) suggests a prayer. "Willingly, my child," said Mr Fairchild. So he knelt upon the grass, and his children around him; and they afterwards all went home'.'
Mrs Sherwood was an indefatigable writer for children and her books may be fairly taken to contain the ideas current in middle class society as to child nature and child intelligence. Habits of introspection and self-examination were fostered, as the following extract will show.
Lucy Fairchild's Journal, written when she was 9 years and a half old.
"When I woke this morning, mama called me to make my bed; and I felt cross and wished I was like Miss Augusta Noble, and had servants to wait on me; and that Lady Noble was my mama and not my own dear
Mama gave Emily a bit of muslin and some pink ribbon; and I was envious and hated Emily for a little while though I knew it was wicked. When Papa gave Henry the strawberry, I was angry again: and then I thought of Mrs Giles who loves one of her little girls and hates the other. I thought that my Papa and Mama were like Mrs Giles and that they loved Henry and Emily more than me. When papa was reading and praying I wanted to be at play: and was tired of the Bible and did not wish to hear it. And then I thought a very bad thought indeed! When Mrs Barker came I despised her for not being pretty, tho' I knew that God had made her such as she is and that he could make me like her in one moment."
As soon as Lucy had finished writing these words, she heard her mama come upstairs and go into her room: she immediately ran to her and
1 Fairchild Family, 19th Edition, 1853. Vol. 1. pp. 59, 60.