The History of Children's Books

"There have been children's stories and folk-tales ever since man first learned to speak. Children's books, however, are a late growth of literature"

Miss Amelia Lovebook, a model child of eight, and the subject of one of the biographies, writes to a friend, "Dear Miss, I received your kind Invitation since I have been in Town, to what you are pleased to call a Game of Romps. I do not presume to take upon me to say, in what Manner little Misses should spend their Time; but you must pardon me if I say, that I think Time, which is so valuable, may be spent in a much better manner than Romping. If you invited me to drink a serious cup of Tea with you, I should most certainly have accepted the kind offer, which might have, perhaps, produced a Conversation to the Advantage of us both." Did the writer really mean to hold up as an ideal child a little wizened, affected miss, drinking tea, which then, as now, was & #8212; or should have been & #8212; forbidden to well-brought-up children? Is Miss Amelia the parent of the sickly school of childish biography that flourished thirty or forty years later?

Another book, not in Welsh's catalogue of Newbery's publications, unless as Mr. Telltruth's Natural History of Four-Footed Beasts, is "The Natural History of Beasts, which are to be met within the Four Quarters of the Globe. By Charley Columbus. Embellished with Pictures. The First Worcester Edition. Printed at Worcester, Massachusetts, by Isaiah Thomas, 1794." It is dedicated to "All Good Little Masters and Misses in the United States of America," and begins with the "rhinoceros, sometimes called the unicorn, from his having one horn only, growing out of his nose, or snout." The beast's body takes up so much room in the woodcut that only a very small piece of his horn is shown. When the rhinoceros has killed a man, the book says, "he comes and licks him, and his tongue is so rough and hard, that it brings off the flesh from the bones." The woodcuts are very droll. The "tyger" is in a rampant attitude; the cat and guinea-pig, from lack of objects with which to compare them, look larger than the bear and hyena; the "barbyroussa's " likeness is evidently evolved from the inner consciousness of the artist, fot it has three or four tusks on each side of its head, and a tail like a true-lover's-knot. Then the camelo pardalis is spoken of as a very uncommon animal, and a fabulous Chinese beast, the sucutiro or scutairo, not to be found in later works on natural history, is depicted and described.

"Jacky Dandy's Delight; or the History of Birds and Beasts," in the first Worcester edition of 1788, includes also Androcles and the Lion, The Death and Burial of Cock Robin, and a Visit at Homely-Hall, where the good old custom of eating pudding before meat was observed; for, as the author says, "Master Prudence having said grace, we all fell to, with a design to destroy a fine plumb-pudding that was placed at the bottom of the table."

The Father's Gift has lessons in spelling, preceded by this moral song:—

"Let me not join with those in Play,
Who Fibs and Stories tell,
I with my Book will spend the Day,
And not with such Boys dwell.
For one rude Boy will spoil a Score,
As I have oft been told;
And one bad Sheep, in Time, is sure
To injure all the Fold."

"Mother Goose's Melody, or Sonnets for the Cradle, in two parts. Part I. The most celebrated songs and lullabies of the old British nurses calculated to amuse the children and excite them to sleep. Part II. Those of that sweet Songster and Nurse of Art and Rumours, Master William Shakespeare," first printed by Carnan, Newbery's stepson, in 1780, includes in the first part the history of Johnny and Betty Winckle, the love-tale of the little man and the little maid, with burlesque aphorisms from Coke upon Littleton and other learned authors, and the Maggoty Pye which shocked Peter Parley.

In "The Brother's Gift," Miss Kitty Bland, who has been spoiled at a boarding-school, is reformed by her brother, who, as a reward for her excellent needlework, makes her a present of a fine new pair of stays, a picture of which takes up nearly a whole page of the story.

"Vice in its proper Shape, or, the wonderful and melancholy Transformation of several Naughty Masters and Misses into those contemptible Animals which they most resemble in disposition" is a warning to bad children. In the History of Tommy Careless, which still exists in Newbery's edition among a number of Thomas's reprints, the hero in one week falls out of a window into the water, loses both his kite and its string, falls out of an apple-tree, burns his forefinger while melting lead, kills his bird by forgetting to turn its water-dish towards the cage, and pulls hairs out of Dobbin's tail till the horse kicks him and kills his father's favorite pointer. The book leaves the unhappy boy caught by one finger in a mouse-trap.

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