Early British Children's Books: Towards an Understanding of their Users and Usage
- The early history of British children's literature is still very imperfectly understood. Some strides have recently been made towards uncovering what medieval and early modern children read1, but what happened, suddenly, in the middle of the eighteenth century, to transform this scattered and loosely defined literature into a coherent, profitable and enduring literary form has yet to be definitively addressed. When attempts were first made to consider this question, the approach taken was to survey and describe the books which formed this first generation of recognisably modern children's literature, and to investigate their daringly entrepreneurial publishers: Thomas Boreman and Mary Cooper in the 1740s, for instance, and above all, their more enduringly successful rival, John Newbery. This same approach, focussed on the texts themselves, their publishers and publishing history, was then also applied to those who followed in Newbery's footsteps to produce the re-worked chapbooks, moral tales, books of instruction, fairy tales and so on which slowly cemented children's literature as a sustainable literary form in the pre-Victorian period.2 It was only in the 1970s that a more interdisciplinary approach began to be taken, relating the rise of children's literature to fundamental changes in the conceptualisation of childhood and to wider social and economic shifts. J. H. Plumb's important article on "The New World of Children in Eighteenth-Century England", though, as he would surely have admitted (and as Ludmilla Jordanova proceeded to point out), did not offer a conclusive answer to the problem of why children's literature began, but raised many more questions about how the historical context affected this new form of literary production.3 :Although a great deal of high quality work has been done on early children's literature in the ensuing years, we are still a long way from answering these questions.4
- In almost all of these studies, the emphasis has been on the production of early children's books rather than their reception. It is, though, the reception history of the books that must form much of the foundation of any attempt to understand how a changing socio-economic or ideological climate stimulated the production of a new form of children's books. It was, at base, a new pattern of consumption which enabled children's literature suddenly to flourish, and it is these consumers who need to be investigated. If we are to claim, for instance, that the new children's books of the eighteenth century emerged largely due to the demands of an emergent middle class, then the only way we can support this is by demonstrating that the books' consumers did indeed come largely from this group. Likewise, we might speculate that the consumer revolution was the important trigger for the surge in children's book production. It was, we might argue, only when items which had previously been luxuries came to be regarded as everyday commodities, owned personally rather than communally and valued only for a short time rather than treasured for a lifetime, that children's literature could flourish. But we must support such claims with evidence of owners' attitudes. Such evidence is difficult to obtain, but remains the only way to prove what must otherwise remain mere contentions.
- But the reception of the first children's literature is an area about which we currently know very little. In addition to the two questions already raised ask yourself, for instance, these fundamental questions: who actually was it who owned the first children's books? Were they boys or girls? How old were these users of the first children's books? Were they mostly Londoners, or at least city-dwellers, or did they come from all around the country, from both rural and urban locations? Were they Anglicans or dissenters? Did they own their own books, or were books shared within families, between friends, between generations? How many books might an individual child own—one, two, half-a-dozen, ten, twenty, fifty? And how did these children come by their books? Did children purchase their own, using their own funds? Or were they borrowed, or inherited, or earned as rewards? Were they gifts—and if so, from whom? Were they used by solitary children, or by children in a group, or under adult supervision? Were they used over a period of years, or merely weeks or days? Were they used as part of a programme of instruction, or as a source of amusement? Were the read for pleasure or as a chore? Did children regard their books primarily as texts or as objects? And however they were regarded, were they cherished—or treated casually—or despised?
- These questions are tricky. But the evidence is not so much scarce as it is difficult to analyse and it is not wholly impossible to build up a profile of the owners of these early children's book, nor the ways in which they used them. We do have written accounts of children's book use: diaries, memoirs, letters, reading lists, inventories—the standard tools of the book historian.5 We also have evidence from adults' descriptions of children's reading—teachers' syllabuses, conduct books and so on, as well as depictions of children's reading from within children's stories themselves. Thirdly, we have visual representations, child readers being a not infrequent subject for painters as well as the illustrators of children's books (see figs. 1 and
2).6 This is all important data, but though often charming, its untrustworthy nature is self-evident. Visual representations, it might be thought, more often show children's reading as an artist or illustrator thought it ought to be, rather than as it was. The same is very probably true of many adults' advice and strictures on book use: they represented ideal rather than actual modes of use. Children's own accounts of their reading are also prone to all sorts of distortion. Diarists often seem to mould their memories to fit certain expected and conventional patterns.7 For others, the memoir, written much later in life, is an attempt at self-justification, whilst others, though they are presented as objectively autobiographical, read more like conduct books or accounts of religious conversion. Moreover, the sample is generally self-selecting: writers of autobiographies have often achieved some kind of eminence in their later life, an eminence often associated with literature, and this skews the sample.
- One other major stream of evidence is available however, and although it is more difficult to collect and assess, it has the advantage of being more directly and objectively representative of children's ownership of, and attitudes to, their books. I am referring here to the inscriptions, the marginalia, and the other extra-textual material, all of which is so very characteristic of early children's books (see figs.
3 and 4). I started by inspecting these markings in several small collections of early children's books in Britain. More recently, I have also surveyed these markings in three of the most extensive and significant archives of early British children's literature: the Osborne Collection in Toronto, the Cotsen Collection at Princeton University, and the collection held by the University of California at Los Angeles.8 The evidence garnered from this survey of over 5000 books will provide the basis for a prosopography of British children's book inscribers from before 1840, enabling us to determine a great deal about the demographic and sociological basis of the eighteenth-century innovations in the children's book trade. The marks that these owners made are also revealing of the ways in which they used their books, their attitudes to them, and the role literature played in their lives. If used in conjunction with the evidence obtainable from other sources—the diaries, the memoirs, the visual representations and so on—it is to be hoped that such data can provide a convincing picture of the consumption of early children's literature which will enable the study of the birth of modern children's literature to proceed on a more informed footing.9
- This, however, is some way off. This current paper is a first attempt to analyse the evidence available from inscriptions and marginalia. I shall be drawing here on just two collections: the relatively small Hockliffe Collection held at the Polhill campus of De Montfort University in Bedford in the UK (about 1200 titles of all kinds of material), and, primarily, the much more sizeable Osborne Collection, held in Boys and Girls House, part of the Public Library Service in Toronto (of which only the pre-1850 fiction was consulted, leaving unsurveyed the very substantial holdings of non-fictional material).10 There are many methodological problems associated with using this kind of evidence, and my hope is that by presenting this incipient project now, some of the more egregious errors of data collection and interpretation may be identified at a preliminary stage.
- Indeed, many will be instinctively sceptical about the value of inscription and marginalia evidence. One should be in no doubt, though, about the extent of the data that is available to us. As anyone who has worked with early children's literature will know, inscriptions and marginalia are extremely common (see fig. 5): in the Osborne Collection's entire holdings of pre-1850 fiction there are 1722 volumes.11 Of these, 676 contained no marks whatsoever (or only marks which clearly dated from after 1850); 55 had some extra-textual marking (marginalia, sketches, scribbles, and so on) but no designation of ownership; 63 had some indication of ownership, but no marginal marks (a bookplate, for instance); and 909—well over half—had inscriptions which were at least roughly contemporary with publication. The question of why there are so many inscriptions is difficult to answer, and gets to the heart of the methodological problems with this kind of data. First, it might be suggested that these books are not a representative sample, that perhaps it was the act of collecting them—by Edgar Osborne, by Frederic Hockliffe, by anybody—which somehow ensured that those with inscriptions survived more than those without. I find this unlikely. Collectors have not, traditionally, valued marginal marks in their books. Second, it might be suggested that the Osborne Collection is unusual in having to many annotated books. But this is certainly not the case. Finding over half the volumes in a collection to have inscriptions is by no means unusual—it is a figure replicated with small collections such as the Hockliffe and other larger ones, such as the Cotsen and UCLA collections, as well as with non-specialist archives such as the British Library. Third, it might be suggested that, short of implementing sophisticated forensic tests, we cannot tell for certain when many of these marks were added: perhaps many are not contemporary with the book's first use. On the other hand, many inscriptions are dated, and it is often possible to make an estimate of the period in which marginalia was produced. But in any case, to all these objections one can reply that, after all, these are the only early children's books we have, and it is from these that we must necessarily work, however problematic their correlation might be with the totality of the books which once circulated in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Britain. Let us explore, then, what preliminary conclusions can be drawn from these many inscriptions.
Who owned early children's books: gender
- First, let us take something fairly straightforward: the sex of those who inscribed their names in the books. Despite the fact that this is clearly a fundamental question, no-one has yet considered whether it was predominantly boys or girls who owned and read the first generations of children's books. The inscriptions are eloquent on this though: for the Osborne "fiction before 1850" books, twice as many girls owned books as boys (fig. 6). This kind of evidence is, of course, problematic. It may be, for instance, that girls were simply given to inscribing more than boys. Or it may be, that those books which were owned by girls have survived better than those owned by boys—perhaps because they were treated better, perhaps because they were not taken to school where they could have been subject to more sustained abuse.12 We cannot, therefore, claim that these are definitive figures, but they are nevertheless a significant step in the right direction, a step towards removing the almost total ignorance we have had of the gender balance of the earliest consumers of children's books. For instance, having seen these figures, we can positively rule out the idea that the first generations of children's books were bought exclusively, or even largely, for boys. Moreover, useful comparisons within the data set can be revealing, and can help to ease our fears about the use of inscription data. If we compare the gender of inscribers from decade to decade, for example, we need not be so anxious about whether girls for some reason inscribed more than boys, for we are comparing like with like across time. And what is so interesting is that we do see a marked shift: from predominantly male ownership to predominantly female ownership (see fig. 7), the transition coming in the 1780s and '90s. For books published before 1780, only 30 percent of inscribers were female. By the 1830s, this had risen to 75 percent; by the 1840s the figure stood at 83 percent.
Who owned early children's books: class
- More complex interpretation of data is required to discover the socio-economic standing of those who inscribed their books. From the texts themselves, especially the moral tales of the later eighteenth century, we are generally led to believe that children's books were primarily written for the affluent—children who, like those in the narratives they were reading, had brothers away at boarding school, who had servants whom they were urged to treat respectful, who had their own money to give away to the poor, and so on. But was this in fact the case? In some, exceptional cases the answer seems obvious enough: "Augusta" (no surname), of "Windsor Castle", who inscribed her name inside the Osborne copy of The Dairyman's Daughter in 1813, was doubtlessly Princess Augusta, sixth child of George III. Similarly, Lord Brandon, Lady Elizabeth Percival, Lady Burlingham, Lady Ann Fuller, Lady Maria Coventry, and Miss Emma Matilda Chandos Pole, who all inscribed their books, are instantly recognisable as members of the social élite. We might also speculate that texts published in Latin or Greek, or which feature marginalia in classical languages, belonged to children of a certain class. It is sometimes possible to proceed further though, and a little less speculatively. When an inscription reveals enough information—usually a date and place of residence as well as a name—it can be possible to trace the inscriber in either parish registers or the censuses which began in 1801. This can be a hit-and-miss process, but it can provide us with much information: the profession of the child's father, say, and the family's religion. An example from the Hockliffe Collection is Mary Topliss (fig. 8). Her name is inscribed in Isaac Watt's Divine Songs, along with the fact that she was born in Woodborough—in Nottinghamshire—in February 1821. By collating the census of 1841 and the Woodborough parish records we can discover that she was the daughter of John Toplis, the village's principal publican. Recovering such information is a long process but given time and access to the burgeoning assortment of on-line genealogical resources, it can be accomplished.
Who owned early children's books: age
- Another thing we can discover from this kind of demographic data is how old children were when they came into possession of their books. Occasionally this sort of information is vouchsafed in the actual inscription itself: "Master Alpheus Harris, Aged 15" was presented with the second volume of Madame de Genlis' Tales of the Castle "As the reward of merit" for instance, and the inscription inside Newbery's Holiday Spy reads "Francis Willson / aged 10 years 1789". Emily Miles White received Barbara Hofland's Emily's Reward "from her Affectionate Mamma on her 8th Birthday 1849", and indeed, we can build up a reasonable picture of the variety of reading material that was deemed suitable for eight-year-olds this way: to Hofland's novel we can add three other titles published in 1820 or thereabouts: The Droll Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Wonderful Dog, Isaac Taylor's Scenes in Europe, for the amusement and instruction of little tarry-at-home travelers, and The Sunday Scholar's Gift or a Present for a Good Child. Notes added by later owners, often the descendants of the original inscriber, can also be useful: "Joshua child of John and Ann (Brown) Ransom of Bancroft Street Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England, born there 22nd of 7th month 1789", says a note stuck into Joshua Ransom's copy of The Little Moralist. Since his original inscription is dated 18 August 1798, we know Joshua must have been nine years and 27 days old when he first inscribed his book. When we begin to add to this the data gained from parish registers and census records about the dates of birth of inscribers, a complex picture emerges. Exceptionally, it seems, books could be presented to children long before they were able to use them. In 1803, The History of John Wise was presented by the Rev. Jn.s Fawcett Ewood to Elizabeth Paget "when she was only 5 months Old 1803". And children's books were certainly being used and inscribed by adult readers. The Osborne copy of The Geographical Guide; a Poetical Nautical Trip round the island of Great-Britain (1805), though evidently a children's book, is covered by neat marginal notes, exhibiting a substantial knowledge of the sea and indicative that an adult was using the book.13 In between, the average age of owners of Osborne books when they inscribed (excluding the very young—under a year old—and the adult—over twenty-one) is 11.4 years old. This is surprisingly old, though perhaps it is less useful than knowing that certain books were deemed suitable for children of certain ages: that Arnaud Berquin's Looking-Glass for the Mind, say, was thought fit for a thirteen year-old girl, or that Hofland's novel-like Emily's Reward was deemed suitable for an eight year-old.
Who owned early children's books: location
- Next we might add "where" to "who", and seek to plot the geographical location of book ownership. There are 96 inscriptions in the Osborne books which give a recognisable place of residence for the user. From the map (fig. 9) we can see that, perhaps contrary to expectations, these users are pretty evenly spread around the country. We have noticeable concentrations in the Thames valley, the East and West Midlands, and the North-West, as well as in London. It is difficult to be sure about the proportion of rural to urban locations, since inscriptions can often read simply "Brecon", or "Onslow, Co. Salop"—which might mean a townhouse or a country cottage, a school or a place of purchase—but for those locations which can be identified as either rural or urban, the proportion is roughly 30 percent urban to 60 percent rural (see fig. 10), where "urban" includes cities (London, Dublin, Nottingham, Bath) and towns (Aldborough, Knaresboro, Market Harborough), and "rural" consists mostly of named villages (Barley Wood, Long Lawford, Hampstead Noris). There are also a significant number of inscriptions from schools, libraries, and from what I have labelled "specified residences": for example, "Mousehold House" (a substantial villa now within Norwich), "Leeds Castle" in Kent, "Abercarne Iron Works", and so on. Also interesting is the distribution within London. The few London addresses which can be pin-pointed suggest that books were bought both in the fashionable West End—"Harley Street"—and the East End—though "Rodney Terrace West", in Mile End, was evidently not a poor neighbourhood.
Children's book trade: reach and turnover
- It is possible that this sort of information on the locations of book ownership might also provide an insight into the operation and extent of the children's book trade. The results here are perhaps a little disappointing. The vast majority of books in the Osborne Collection—89% in fact—were published in London. Of the other places of publication, only Edinburgh, York, Dublin, Paris and Wellington in Shropshire (where the firm of Houlston was based) provided more than ten volumes to the Collection. Mapping the locations of ownership onto the places of publication, therefore, the only conclusions we can usefully come to are that London books were consumed throughout the length and breadth of the country, from Cornwall to Aberdeenshire, and, second, that there appears to be no obvious localisation of consumption for non-London titles (see fig. 11): Edinburgh books end up in Yorkshire and south-east England, for instance, and a Halifax-published edition of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress ended up in Edinburgh.
- A much more illuminating insight into the children's book trade comes from comparing dates of publication to dates of inscription. This gives a lag-time between publication and ownership, which can function as an indication of the turnover, and thus dynamism and health, of the trade. Put simply, this is an indication of how long titles stayed in publishers' warehouses or lay on booksellers' shelves. Discounting gaps between publication and inscription dates which are over twenty years, for these probably represent volumes inscribed long after purchase, quite possibly by a second generation of owners, the results show that most books were inscribed within one or two years of publication (see fig. 12). Some were even inscribed before the nominal date of publication—a consequence of publishers' attempts to future-proof titles published late in the year by setting the following year on the title-page. Overall, this shows children's books to have moved with impressive rapidity out of the warehouses or bookshops. The comparison between decades (comparing like with like again) is more illuminating still (see fig. 13). Here, we see that there was a gradual drop in the average lag-time between publication and inscription, an indication of the steady establishment and growth to maturity of the trade in, and market for, children's books. Before 1780, it took an average of over eight years for a book to reach its owner. By the 1840s, this had almost halved to just four and a quarter years. (This is still including lag-times in excess of twenty years.)
Who owned early children's books: modes of possession
- One reason why the market might have speeded up was because children's books ceased to become luxuries, valued possessions which a family might own in common, passing them on from one generation to the next, or from one sibling to another. There is evidence that books were shared, particularly in the earlier period, but continuing through to the nineteenth century. A 1724 Osborne copy of Pilgrim's Progress, for example, has a 1750 inscription "John Pinkney his own Book", followed by several other Pinkneys (Henry, another John) until we get down to Thomas Pinkney who inscribed his name in 1819.14 Generally, though, by the late eighteenth century, children's books seem to have become much more everyday commodities, the personal property of individual children. The inscriptions provide an indication of this process (fig. 14). Put simply, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, multiple inscriptions—in which category I include any volume inscribed with more than one name which are obviously not from two wholly different time periods—are heavily out-numbered by volumes which contain the inscription of just a single owner. Moreover, there are few volumes which bear obvious signs of having been passed down through generations. More in keeping with what we might expect, but very revealingly, if we compare these trends across time, we find that children's books were increasingly owned by individuals (see fig. 15): 62.5% of all Osborne fiction volumes published before 1780 bear just one owner's name; by the 1840s, this had risen to over 80%.
Means of acquisition
- Inscriptions can also reveal how these books came into their owners' possession. This evidence supports the belief that children's fiction books were not often inherited: only 1% of those volumes for which we have data about the means of acquisition were obtained through this method (fig. 16). Far more commonly, books were acquired as gifts: 28% of the inscribed volumes in the holdings of pre-1850 fiction.15 Of course for reasons of gratitude and politeness, or the donor's vanity, gift books might very well have been inscribed in disproportionate numbers. Nevertheless, this preponderance of gift inscriptions—88% of those volumes for which we know the means of acquisition—is suggestive, hinting at the commodification of children's books, and the way in which they operated as an important currency within an economy of domestic and affective relationships. Children's acquisition of books as presents was certainly a trend which increased throughout the period (Fig. 17): by the 1830s and '40s, over 40% of all volumes with inscriptions were designated as gifts.
- We can also assess who was giving these books as gifts (Fig. 18). 33% of those volumes recorded as gifts were from parents (almost always the gift was recorded as being from either the father or mother, seldom from both). Indeed, mothers were the chief donors of books, giving over twice as many volumes as fathers (24% and 9% respectively). Aunts also gave many more books than uncles (18% and 4%), as did sisters than brothers (7% and 4%): it seems that the majority of the booksellers' customers were female then. Other donors included many who described themselves as "friends" (although this could often be in an ambiguous formulation such as "Charlotte to her little friend Susan"), as well as the occasional teacher (such as Sophie Cottin's Elizabeth; or, the Exiles of Siberia which was inscribed "Jane Tucker Dunn the Gift of [her] Governess"), and, in one remarkable instance in the Osborne Collection, the owner's 'wife':
Edwin Griffith / the gift of his / wife—March 4 / 1793 / Edwin Gr [sic] // I shall keep this / book as long as / it is in being. / I shall show it / to my wife / every time she / comes here-. / My Grand / Mother and // my Aunt is / here playing at / cards just by / me. Mr. Noble / is at home with / Eliza Noble for / she has got the / whooping cough / and cannot come / here which I / am very sor [ ... page torn] // about for she / is a charming / girl I hope she / will read this / for it is sad / Nonsence [sic] I am / going to bed it / is nine a Clock / Farewell // This was given to me / at ten a Clock
- The donor of this copy of Tommy Trip's Valentine Gift was, we presume, Edwin Griffith's "play-wife"—doubtless Eliza with the whooping cough.16
Occasions of acquisition
- Of the gifts indicated by inscriptions, 225 provide a day of the year on which the gift was received. These split pretty evenly between the months of the year, but one notices that there were certain occasions when books were likely to be presented. Eleven inscriptions reveal that the book was given as a present on Christmas day, for instance, with one more on Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day. Eight books were given on New Year's Day, and another on New Year's Eve. Two inscriptions tell us that the books were given as Valentine's Day presents, and two more as Midsummer presents. Twelve inscriptions show that the books were received as birthday presents, though many more probably fit into this category, the inscriber having recorded merely the date of his or her birthday without stating explicitly that the book was a birthday gift. Books were also given on one-off occasions, the inscriptions reveal. William Yates' aunt gave him The Pleasure of Benevolence (1809) "on her leaving England". In 1814, Mrs. Rice's The Nabob was apparently given to a young girl "for her fairing". Elizabeth Catherine Pinniger received Jane Strickland's Ellen Cleveland (1834) "In Memory of her Aunt Alice", presumably recently deceased, and Emma Clinton, a pupil at Mrs. Heathcotes' Academy (in Hackney), was given The History of Robin Hood (1816) by her "dearest schoolfellow .... In remembrance of the many happy times we have spent together".
- However, many more of these gifts inscriptions record that the books were rewards: "for being a good little Boy", "for attention and Industry", for "general good behaviour and attention to her studies", "for keeping his books in order", or, for Lætitia Frances Selwyn in 1817, "in pleasing remembrance of her having uniformly wished to attend the service of the Church during the weekdays of the Midsummer vacation"—for which she received Maria Budden's Right and Wrong to keep her on the straight and narrow path.
Number of books owned
- The question of how many books an individual child or family might acquire, whether as gifts or in any other way, is more difficult to answer simply because we cannot know whether the whole, or merely a fraction, of their libraries has entered today's collections. The Osborne, for instance, has five volumes bearing the inscription "John Beague", "J. Beague" or just "Beague", all published between 1786 and 1797 (Truth and filial love. A little drama; Richard Johnson's Juvenile Trials for Robbing Orchards; The History of Davenport family; and Charlotte Smith's Rural Walks, volumes 1 and 2). But did Beague own more than this? Probably so. Private collections were broken up, we find. Books inscribed by Louisa Mashiter, for example, are to be found in the Osborne Collection (Mrs. Rodwell's The Spoiled Child Reclaimed, 1835, the gift of "Maria"), in the British Library (Mrs. Rodwell's Caroline or the Pleasures of a Birth Day, 1835, the gift of her mother), and in the Hockliffe Collection, where six titles are to be found (The History of Little Louisa and Cottage Stories, both the gift of her sister Maria in 1835 and 1836 respectively; The Sorrows of Selfishness, the gift of her mother; Tales for a Winter Fireside; The Adventures of a Doll and The New Doll or Grandmother's Gift). This is a sizeable collection of moral tales, but the wide dispersal of these volumes suggests that there may well be others volumes as yet unaccounted for.
- However, this is the one area of provenance research which has seen some activity in recent times. The holdings of the Ludford family have been traced and acquired by the UCLA library, and David Hounslow and others are amassing information on the books owned by a girl called Lydia Haskoll.17 The Osborne has collected the library of the young Florence Nightingale, sixteen titles published between 1788 and 1829 (she was born in 1820). All we can say for certain, though, is that some children had very homogeneous libraries, while others had very diverse collections. Compare, for instance, Florence, Fanny and Georgina Lyne's six books in the Osborne, all of them Evangelical tracts published by either Houlston of Wellington or the Religious Tract Society (four by Mary Martha Sherwood or her sister, Lucy Cameron), or Charles and Eliza Ridgley's almost complete set of "Marie Elliott's" moral tales in French published by Darton in the 1820s (also in the Osborne), with the 48 books in the Hockliffe Collection owned by Anne Fanny Arnold (inscribed between 1835 and 1845, save one from 1859), a collection which spans most of the varieties of children's literature, from the very basic Guy's New British Spelling Book to Female Excellence or Hints to Daughters and French, Italian and even Latin primers, and from a cheap edition of Whittington and his Cat to classics by Isaac Watts and John Aikin and Anna Laetitia Barbauld.
How were children's books used: school-books
- Early children's books contain many more extra-textual markings that merely the inscriptions. These can often help us to understand how children's books were actually used. In a significant number cases, we have it confirmed that books were used for rote learning. The chapter "On Monsters" from The Pantheon of Ancient History of the Gods of Greece and Rome (1814) by Edward Baldwin (that is to say, William Godwin) has, in a copy in the Hockliffe Collection, the annotation "This chapter to be read until the proper names have been memorized". Many other books have the word "learn't" written into the margin alongside certain facts, stories or poems, and, most dismally of all, in Edward Cocker's English Dictionary (1724), there are crosses after every six definitions—presumably indicating that the reader was asked to memorise definitions (the project lasted only for a few pages though—the last cross appears in the margin by "ardently").
- The most common form of extra-textual marking are small pencil crosses written into margins. Doubtless these often indicate that material has been learned, or used in a lesson. For example, "Susanna" wrote dates by most of the poems in her copy of Original Poems for Infant Minds (now in the Hockliffe Collection), and the presence of the words "learned before" by one verse suggests that she was subject to a Gradgrindian exercise in rote learning. The owner of Barbauld's Hymns in Prose (also in the Hockliffe Collection) was apparently forced to memorise or recite the contents twice over—each paragraph has two crosses by it, and the words "that over" are often to be found at the end of a section. Alternatively, repeated marginal marks may constitute a sort of written-in bookmark, and these too allow us to monitor a user's progress through a book. When such marks are dated they are even more useful. In Richard Valpy's Elements of Mythology; or an easy and concise history of the Pagan Deities (1810), inscribed by "E. Newport" on 3 March 1812, various dates are written into the margin, presumably by either Newport or her teacher. The sequence begins March 3rd 1812, March 10th 1812, March 17th 1812 and so on—one day each week in other words (a Tuesday we can tell by consulting a perpetual calendar).18 The sections consumed on each of these visits to the book were only very small: the place-marks are just a page or two apart. And the book was certainly not finished. There was apparently a month's holiday from it, from 25 March to 28 April, then another break from 16 June to 16 August, and the final date recorded is 3 September, on only page 22.19 There are signs that the user's attention had waned long before. On the verso of the title-page one can still just make out this delighted account of the teacher's criticism of a fellow pupil: "Madame said Eliza Lomas prononced [sic] like an owl and could trace the sound of every animal in her lesson." Many other text-books bear date-marks which allow us to follow the user's slow, steady progress from one lesson to the next. Only seldom was the whole book consumed.20
How were children's books used: supervised reading at home
- Most of the dated place-marks we have occur in books which appear to have been used at home rather than in school, though many still shows signs that reading was supervised. The Osborne 1809 edition of Maria Edgeworth's Early Lessons has dated very neat place-marks—almost certainly in an adult hand. Moreover, several words have been underlined, as if to bring them to the child's particular attention, and one or two typographical errors have been carefully corrected. In Maria Budden's Chit-Chat, the words "very well" occur by some of these crosses, presumably congratulating the owner ("Julia Catherine Hall") on her reading.21 Similarly, the Osborne edition of Aikin and Barbauld's Evenings at Home has pencil markings breaking up the syllables of the more difficult words—everything from "ob/tain" to "ad/van/tag/es".22 On other occasions, parents have made every attempt to personalise the text: "your mama" appears next to the description of a loving fictional mother in this same copy of Evenings at Home, and in another Osborne copy of Edgeworth's Early Lessons a sham "errata" section has been included, insisting "For 'Rosamond' read 'Alicia'"—presumably the name of the owner.23 Indeed, in many early children's books certain words or passages that have been corrected, or sometimes Bowdlerised, by adults. In an Osborne edition of Don Quixote, for instance, "ladies of pleasure" has been thoroughly inked out (it is only the translucence of the ink after so long a time which enables one to read it), and a page later, in the phrase "much less to virgins of such high rank," "virgins" has been erased, with "ladies" written in above the line. Likewise, in an Osborne copy of The Hermit; or, the unparalled [sic] suffering and surprising adventures of Philip Quarll, a reader took exception to the phrase "Drury-Lane Nymphs, belonging to the charitable Order of carnal Abstapulousness", crossing out the last two words and writing in "Venus" above. Elsewhere, it is religious concerns which have excited parental disquiet: in Mary Hughes' Quaker-ish Pleasing and Instructive Stories, in the phrase " ... and on Sunday, we ought to go to church, or chapel, or meeting, to join with our friends and neighbours in thanking and praising Him who is the Father of us all," the word "meeting"—meaning Quaker meeting-house—has been deleted by hand.24 Such active adult involvement in the text clearly demonstrates that the frequent instructions to parents, from educational theorists and children's literature critics, constantly to intervene in their children's texts were being obeyed.25 A full investigation of this goes beyond the scope of this present paper, but the marginalia's evidence of supervised reading should be noted. We know it happened from visual representations of children's reading (Fig. 19), from diaries, and from instructions within the texts themselves.26 But from this kind of marginal mark we can tell such things as how often such intervention took place and how much reading was supervised in each session. The Osborne copy of Edgeworth's Early Lessons has its first dated mark on page 14 and its last on page 73, covering the period 24 August to 12 September. There were reading sessions almost every day, each covering anything between 2 and 7 pages of text. Perhaps most interestingly, these reading sessions generally did not abide by the natural divisions of the text, reading sessions sometimes straying into the next, textually-discrete story.
- Another Osborne book—The Infant's Toy Book of Pretty Tales (c.1825), a slim volume designed to help children learn to read—also gives a strong sense of how indefatigable and rigid supervised book-use could be. It was apparently a gift to "Miss R. Daniell" from "her kind papa [on] 18th April 1828", but it was not until 14 June that the book was first used. This date appears after the first paragraph: "One Day, lit-tle Ann and her Mam-ma took a walk in-to the Gar-den: here Ann found a Rose blown off its Stem" (its words being broken down into syllables). Each successive day a further paragraph was read, never more nor less, though some paragraphs contained no more than fourteen syllables, until the end of the slim book was reached on 1 July: seventeen days after it was begun. Here we have a perfect demonstration that, in at least one household, the principles of early literacy education, developed by Anna Laetitia Barbauld in the 1780s, were being exactly adhered to: large script, engaging illustrations, simple subjects and, above all, steady and patient adult supervision.
How were children's books used: fiction
- Marginal marks suggest a more complicated picture of older children's own, non-supervised reading of fiction. The reader of the Osborne copy of The Force of Example; or, the History of Henry and Caroline: Written for the Instruction and Amusement of Young Persons (1797)—an inscription names Edward White, 1814—whistled through the book. The 159 pages took only 19 days to read. He returned to his book every day, save two, the 21st and 28th—a week apart, doubtlessly Sundays.27 Indeed, once he had become absorbed in the book, by page 20, he usually found time for two sessions per day. In fact, Edward (if it was he) seems to have been engrossed in the book. His reading sessions were apparently tailored to the amount of time available to him rather than the contours of the text. He might read just three pages, or he might read 26; he sometimes took account of chapter divisions, halting his reading in the obvious place, but just as often, he did not, reading on into the next chapter until, presumably, he was called away. Another detailed record of reading praxis in the Osborne is Henry: A Story, intended for Little Boys and Girls (by Frances Bowyer Vaux, 1825), inscribed by "Ann Clair Beadon from Aunt King" which she started on 16 March and finished exactly three months later on 16 June, reading roughly two or three pages a day and returning to the book every day or two. And one more is The Juvenile Spectator: Part the Second. Containing Some Account of Old Friends. By Arabella Argus (1812). Eliza Ann Lockhart inscribed this on 28 December 1814—"the Gift of her Affectionate Mother", a Christmas present perhaps—and began reading on Monday 9 May the following year. She read anything between four and nine pages of text in each session, returning to it religiously every day, but never on Sunday, until the book was finished almost two months later on 1 July: and all this we can tell from the dated book-marks she wrote into the margins of the book.
- The fascinating thing about these records of reading is that they are real accounts of children's reading—not the sanitised versions that appear in memoirs or journals, which were designed to be scrutinised and admired. Thus, for instance, many children tell us in their retrospective autobiographies or approval-seeking diaries that they relished Robinson Crusoe. The copy inscribed by Edward and John Coode in the Osborne (published 1826) tells a different story. There are date-marks here from Boxing Day through to 2 March, each one two or three days—and six, seven or ten pages—apart. Then, with Crusoe having just encountered the footprint in the sand, and with 74 pages still to go, the marks abruptly end. Nor did the reader of Maria Hack's Harry Beaufoy or the Pupil of Nature (1821) get more than half way through the book, despite an initial enthusiasm which resulted in two reading sessions per day. And of the three readers whose date-marks appear in a Hockliffe copy of Pricilla Wakefield's Juvenile Anecdotes ... Collected for the Amusement of Children (1825), only one, Marianne, completed it (264 pages in three months and two weeks). Although both Isabel and Catherine—her sisters perhaps—could not stay the course, Marianne was so captivated that her reading sessions became noticeably more frequent, and longer, as the end of the book approached and the narrative reached its climax.
- All of these case studies in children's reading habits are circumstantially different of course, but just from this small sample we can begin to draw some conclusions. The moral tales that formed such a significant part of the children's literature of the Romantic era, books such as The Force of Example or Wakefield's Juvenile Anecdotes, were apparently used with great assiduity (if, that is, their readers finished them): in regular sessions, usually daily (but often not on Sundays), each session lasting perhaps twenty or thirty minutes. This makes such books pretty good value for money, for read thus, a new book, costing a shilling or two, would last a full two or three months.
- The value-for-money issue is important. It is only really when we understand children's books as commodities rather than texts that all of these findings begin to cohere. It was largely as a commodity, for instance, that books arrived in the possession of children—as gifts, generally given by women. The "gift economy", and particularly what one might call the "commodification of the calendar"—with birthdays and festivals becoming occasions when a gift was expected—was, it appears, as instrumental in promoting the rise of children's fiction as any of the "daring publishers" or "authors of genius" who are often credited with kick-starting and sustaining the new form.
- The incidence of books as gifts increased as the period wore on. So too, as we have seen, did the female domination of the inscriptions. Perhaps these are connected. When we consider why girls' ownership apparently overtook boys' from the 1790s the answer might lie, at least partially, in the steady devaluation of children's books, with children's stories, as with so many other commodities, ceasing, by the end of the century, to be regarded as luxuries. There are many other reasons why female inscription rates might have outstripped male. One possibility is that children's fiction was deemed suitable for girls because they were not being sent to school, as their brothers were. While boys used books at school, girls' education was generally conducted within the home. It was this home-market, one might imagine, that publishers learned to appeal to. And yet, it is still highly possible that in the earlier period, many families might have seen fit to spend prodigally only on their sons, and that only once children's books ceased to be regarded as luxuries were they freely bought for individual daughters, nieces and grand-daughters. This is tied into a shift in the books' content. In the mid-eighteenth century, children's literature was very largely marketed on the basis of its power to improve the socio-economic prospects of the reader, and to teach commercial values such as thrift, industry and honesty. This was a promise—and these were lessons—which might have been seen as chiefly applicable to a family's male offspring. The books' content had changed by the end of the eighteenth century though. Moral tales had domestic settings and affluent characters, rather than protagonists carving out their own economic destinies, and they became increasingly dedicated to educating readers in moral virtue and household conduct. It seems likely that this shift reflected the new, more largely female readership that children's books had established for themselves by the late eighteenth century.
- Paradoxically, it was as the cultural value of children's books was sinking that they came to be more highly valued by the children themselves. In the earlier period, children were likely to have to share their books—with siblings, perhaps, or even other generations. By the turn of the century, as we have seen, children were more likely to have their own books, and it was this likelihood which forged their possessive, personal relationship with their books. The inscriptions themselves are eloquent testimony to this will to own. There are undoubtedly some prosaic reasons for inscription—to distinguish property in a communal environment, and to practise hand-writing—but the determination to assert ownership comes across strongly, especially when we also note children's attempts to eradicate any sign of a book's former owner (see Fig. 20). Often this will to possess was manifested in touching but surprisingly brutal rhymes, such as in Henry Pigot's copy of Solomon Sobersides' Christmas Tales (Fig. 21): "This book is mine and none of thine therefore let it alone if you it take i [sic] will brake [sic] your pate and send you crying home", or the even more gruesome "steal not this book my / [h]onest freind [sic] for fear / the gallows will be / your end".29
- Above all, these inscriptions remind us that the books we analyse as literature were, for their original users, just as much objects as they were texts. As much as they were lines of type which could be read, they were items to collect and treasure, or plain paper on which to draw pictures (see Fig. 22) or practice writing. In an Osborne copy of Evenings at Home, for example, the name "Hannah Andrews" has many times been written, at least once, apparently, by a second owner simply to practice her writing: "Lucy Weldron", the new inscription runs, "and much improved in my writing since I wrote that ugly Hannah Andrews".30 Children's books were toys too. The Osborne copy of A Dictionary of English and Latine (1634), for instance, has the names of various professions written onto the outside margin of each page—"a gun smith", "a weaver", "a bishop", "a pothecary" [sic], and so on. It seems most likely that this was a sort of game: flip through the pages, stop at random, and discover what one would be when one grew up. Such behaviour was often criticised in the texts themselves. Thus the author of The Lilliputian magazine; or, children's repository attacked children's very physical relationship with their books, seeking to establish them instead as vehicles for the transmission of information and ideas. "It is not the thumbing, and dogs-earing of them, nor tossing them about till they are dirty, that is a proof they know any thing of the contents;" the author lectured, adding that "by this means to be sure they may have a great many in their possession, which their parents can testify by the money they have paid for them, but it will not prove the possessors were a jot the wiser."31
- Certainly the marginalia sometimes reveals compliance with the intended purposes of the books. There are children's plays which show the signs of their users having acted them out32, there are comments on the lessons being learned33, and the ample evidence of adult supervision (and censorship) of reading, provides a clear demonstration that orthodox educationalists' ideas of children's book-use were being widely adhered to. Equally often, though, the marginal marks bear testimony to children's lack of respect for the text. "How miserable", one user ("Jane Allen" from the inscription) wrote on the fly-leaf to the Osborne edition of Choice Tales (1799), while the edition of Edward Kimber's Life and Adventures of Joe Thompson (1788) inscribed by James Gurner has all the mildly salacious passages picked out and underlined. Judging by the marginal marks, the heroine's introduction, for instance, was a favourite passage, as it might have been for many pubescent male readers: "Miss Louisa was of the middle stature, her bosom just betrayed her sex, and her shape was too exquisite to admit of description. Her lovely neck was shaded with dark brown hair, which in sportful ringlets played in the breeze. Her face, of which the features were quite regular, was overlooked by the finest pair of eyes that ever kindled love".34 Perhaps the last word, then, might be left to the most militantly recalcitrant marginal annotation in the Osborne Collection, a clear reminder to us that a very wide gulf can exist between our view of these early children's books, and their first readers' understanding of them. Mary Greaves, a 13-year-old, only lightly annotated her copy of Arnaud Berquin's standard work, adding in a handful of syllables to the title (her editions are underlined here): "The Looking Glass for the Mind; or, the unintellectual mirror: being an in elegant collection of the most dis agreeable silly stories and uninteresting tales. With twenty-four ugly cuts." Harsh and idiosyncratic, one might think, but surely more honest than the panegyrics we can find in more conventional kinds of evidence, and a useful jolt to our assumptions about early children's literature. It remains to be seen whether a fuller analysis of the material in other collections of early children's books, and its amalgamation with other sources of evidence, will confirm or further complicate these initial conclusions.
1 See for instance Gillian Adams, "Medieval children's literature: its possibility and actuality", Children's Literature, 26 (1998), 1–24, and Nicholas Orme, Medieval Children, New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003, chs.7–8 [back]
2 See, for example, F. J. H. Darton, Children's Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life, 1932, 3rd edn, rev. B. Alderson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982; Percy Muir, English Children's Books, 1600–1900, London: Batsford, 1954; Mary Thwaite, From Primer to Pleasure in Reading, 1963, 2nd edn, London: Library Association, 1972; John Rowe Townsend, Written for Children. An outline of English-language children's literature, London: The Bodley Head, 1965; Sydney Roscoe, John Newbery and his Successors, 1740–1814: A Bibliography, Wormley: Five Owls Press, 1973; and Geoffrey Summerfield, Fantasy and Reason. Children's Literature in the Eighteenth Century. London: Methuen & Co., 1984. [back]
3 J. H. Plumb, "The New World of Children in Eighteenth-Century England", Past and Present, 67 (May 1975), 64–95; Ludmilla Jordanova, "New worlds for children in the eighteenth century: problems of historical interpretation", History of the Human Sciences, 3, i (February 1990), 69–83. See also Isaac Kramnick, "Children's Literature and Bourgeois Ideology: Observations on Culture and Industrial Capitalism in the Later Eighteenth-Century", pp.203–40 in Culture and Politics From Puritanism to the Enlightenment, ed. Perez Zagorin, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. [back]
4 As a small sample, see Margaret Nancy Cutt, Ministering Angels. A Study of Nineteenth-century Evangelical Writing for Children, Wormley, Herts.: Five Owls Press, 1973; Samuel F. Pickering, John Locke and Children's Books in Eighteenth-Century England, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981; Mitzi Myers, "Impeccable Governesses, Rational Dames, and Moral Mothers: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Female Tradition in Georgian Children's Books", Children's Literature, 14 (1986), 31–59; Mary Jackson, Engines of Instruction, Mischief and Magic: Children's Literature in England from its Beginning to 1839, Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1989; ed. James Holt McGavran, jr. (ed.), Romanticism and Children's Literature in Nineteenth-Century England, Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1991; Alan Richardson, Literature, Education, and Romanticism. Reading as Social Practice, 1780–1832, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994; Lynne Vallone, Disciplines of Virtue, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995; Andrew O'Malley, The Making of the Modern Child. Children's Literature and Childhood in the Late Eighteenth Century, New York and London: Routledge, 2003. [back]
5 For a discussion and bibliography of this kind of material see Stephen Colclough, Reading Experience 1700–1840. An Annotated Register of Sources for the History of Reading in the British Isles, Reading: Simon Eliot, History of the Book—On Demand Series (HOBODS), no.6, 2000. [back]
6 A study using such evidence, though not for children's reading and concentrating solely on the medieval period, is Lesley Smith and Jane H. M. Taylor (eds.), Women and the Book. Assessing the Visual Evidence, London and Toronto: British Library and University of Toronto Press, 1997, especially chs.1–4. [back]
7 See Regenia Gagnier, Subjectivities. A History of Self-Representation in Britain, 1832–1920, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. [back]
8 This work was made possible by a Small Research Grant from the British Academy which funded work with the Osborne and Cotsen collections in October 2003 and January 2004, and by a Mitzi Myers Memorial Fellowship at UCLA in summer 2004. [back]
9 An important and overdue study of marginalia recently appeared—H. J. Jackson's Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002—but its approach was less sociological than that which I propose here, concentrating on the marginalia itself rather than what these annotations might be used to demonstrate. [back]
10 A general account of Osborne Collection, as well as a catalogue (though now somewhat outdated) is to be found in Judith St. John, The Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books 1566–1910: a Catalogue, 2 vols., Toronto: Toronto Public Library, 1975. An account of the Hockliffe Collection and its full catalogue can be found on-line as part of the Hockliffe Project at http://www.cta.dmu.ac.uk/projects/Hockliffe. [back]
11 Included in this figure are the complete "Stories Before 1850" section of the Osborne holdings, including both small and large books which are kept separately, plus those volumes in the "Myths of Legends" section which were published before 1850. [back]
12 One volume in the Osborne Collection, Midsummer Holydays (London: Marshall, 1788), has inscriptions from the Shirley family dating from 1791 and 1795, then a third: "Henry Shirley 1798 / to be brought home at Xmas"—presumably from school. But how many such books were not brought home, or perished while at school, and so do feature in archives such as the Osborne Collection? [back]
13 "The grand winter rendezvouze [sic] of ye. Herring is within ye. Arctic circle: they begin to appear of Shetland isles in Apl.: great shoal in June are attended by gannets and other birds," the anonymous owner wrote at one point. Anon., The Geographical Guide; a Poetical Nautical Trip round the island of Great-Britain; With Entertaining and Illustrative Notes, in Prose (London: J. Harris, 1805), pp.45–46. [back]
14 The verso of the fly-leaf bears this unusual rhyme: "Good finder who you are / I speak to you unknown / Consider in your hart / Why [Every?] man would have his own / Behold and Look / Who ownes [?] thy Book / If you consider / You will not need / To ask His Name / For its here / John Pinkney." John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress from this World to That which is to Come: Deliver'd under the Similitude of a Dream: Wherein is Discovered, The Manner of his Setting out, His Dangerous Journey, and Safe Arrival at the Desired Country. By John Bunyan. The One and Twentieth Edition (London: J. Clarke, 1724). [back]
15 For the purposes of these figures, I have counted titles as gifts if the inscription bears the formula "from xxx to xxx". This will include both those books which were given as presents on special occasions, and, probably, some of those which were simply bought by adults for children in the normal course of their lives. [back]
16 Tommy Trip's Valentine Gift: A plan to enable children of sizes [sic] and denominations To behave with honour, integrity, and humanity .., (London, 1785). [back]
17 See Brian Alderson, The Ludford Box and "A Christmass-Box", Occasional paper no.2, Los Angeles: Department of Special Collections, UCLA, and David Hounslow, "From George III to Queen Victoria: a provincial family and their books", pp.60–72 in Light on the Book Trade. Essays in Honour of Peter Isaac, eds. Barry McKay, John Hinks and Maureen Bell, New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, and London: British Library, 2004. [back]
18 A Hockliffe edition of Sarah Trimmer's New Series of Prints ... from the Old Testament (1808) is likewise dated every Saturday. [back]
19 This is perhaps understandable because at page 25 a binder's error has omitted pages 25–36 and inserted another set of pages 1–12. The user made some comment on this, but this is now illegible. One or two pencil crosses exist after the mis-binding, but the dated marks have ended and the only other marginal comment is a cross complaint that "Another tempest [is] above them" when the storm which drove Ulysses to Sicily is described on page 22 of book 2. [back]
20 C.f. the Abbé Gaultier's Familiar geography, introductory to a complete course in geography, by means of instructive games (1828), which is divided into short sections, each of which is followed by a set of "Catechetical exercises" testing the knowledge gained thus far (presumably this is the "instructive game" mentioned in the title). From the Osborne copy, we can tell that the user—probably "A. S. Folcher", who inscribed the book in July 1833—used the text exactly as it had been designed. The dates "8" and "13" appear in the margins of the first section, and are followed by the dates "14th", "15th" and "16th" alongside the questions which follow. Each batch of three questions in the catechism section was dealt with on a single day. This goes on for 24 pages, until the system apparently broke down, and the dated markings stop. Compare An Introduction to Geography and Astronomy (1805) in the Hockliffe Collection: the first date is 26 January and from then on a new date is added at intervals of between 1 and 13 days—although most intervals are of about 3 or 4 days' duration—until the last date on 28 August. A "Summer recess" is noted, from 8 June to 27 July, but including this the book still took 7 months to work through, and the last section, "Problems relating to latitude and longitude" was apparently not covered. See also a British Library copy of Geography and History selected by a Lady for the use of her own Children (1818) in which two dates appear after each section, with the word "repeated" alongside the second date. Either the reader read everything twice, or each lesson was read on the first date and repeated to a teacher on the second. [back]
21 Maria Budden, Chit-Chat (London: 1825), p.3. Osborne Collection. [back]
22 John Aikin and Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Evenings at Home (London: J. Johnson, 1794), 1:84. Osborne Collection. [back]
23 Ibid., 1:87. Maria Edgeworth, Early Lessons, in two volumes (London: R. Hunter; Osborne), 1: inside back cover. [back]
24 Don Quixote (London: J. Harris, 1806), pp..6 and 7; The Hermit; or, the unparalled [sic] suffering and surprising adventures of Philip Quarll (Westminster: T. Warner and B. Creake, 1727), p.? ; Mary Hughes, Pleasing and Instructive Stories (London: Darton, 1821), p.? (Osborne). [back]
25 See the famous advice from the Edgeworths that parents would "feel it to be their duty to look over every page of a book before it is trusted to their children" and that they would cut out or cross through anything which they deemed inappropriate, even if only because the writing was too advanced for the reader. (Maria and Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Practical Education (2 vols., London: J. Johnson, 1798), 1:321–22.) Alan Richardson goes further here, using a Foucouldian analysis to suggest that child readers were encouraged by the texts themselves to understand that their lives were constantly being monitored by an external presence - not a parent reading over their shoulder, but a force inhabiting the texts themselves and manifested in their consciences. On the other hand, see Elizabeth Hamilton's Letters on Education which argues against censoring children's books. Such action would only encourage the sin of pride, Hamilton wrote, for children will grow to think that no literature is good enough for them (384–94). [back]
26 John Brewer discusses Anna Larpent's reading to her sister and sons as revealed in her journal, for instance: Brewer, "Reconstructing the Reader" in James Raven, Helen Small and Naomi Tadmor (eds.), The Practice and Representation of Reading in England (Cambridge University Press, 1996): "Reading aloud to children and the young was, of course, a common practice, regarded as an essential part of education. Anna read aloud to her sister and her two sons; she also listened to them read. She treated this form of instruction as a way of increasing her pupil's curiosity and of opening up new paths of inquiry. Usually she and her pupil read in turn." (241). Such behaviour was in accord with the hope of Thomas Percival, for example, who advises in his Father's Instructions that it is the parent's duty to go through each text with their children explaining the language, clarifying the analogies, and pointing out the lessons to be learned. [back]
27 No month or year is given in the place-marks, but if the 15th, when the reader started was a Monday, the 21st and 28th would be Sundays, and he would have finished the book on a Saturday, the 2nd of the following month. [back]
29 The Fairiest; or surprising and entertaining adventures of the ærial beings (London: 1795), in the Hockliffe Collection. [back]
30 Several other phrases are also inscribed, scattered throughout the book, presumably for the same purpose, e.g. "My dear Mamma / Good Bye My / Dear Mama" and "Hannah Andrews / how do you do". Aikin and Barbauld, Evenings at Home (London: J. Johnson), vols.3–4 bound together. See H. J. Jackson, Marginalia. Readers Writing in Books (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), p.21 for a brief commentary on this. [back]
31 "Timothy Teachum, and Co.", The Lilliputian magazine; or, children's repository. Containing what is whimsical, witty, and moral, calculated to entertain and improve the minds of youth of both sexes (London: W. Tringham, no date but 1773–74?), 1:74–75. [back]
32 In the Osborne copy of Elizabeth Pinchard's Dramatic dialogues, for the use of young persons (London: E. Newbery, 1792), children's names have been written in the margins, apportioning actors to their characters (there were apparently insufficient girls to go round: "Mrs. Cecil" is to be played by "Johnny"), and speeches have occasionally been simplified or cut. [back]
33 A user of the Osborne copy of Frances Kelly's Domestic comforts (London: Minerva, 1816) has annotated one lesson in history thus: "Charles the First succeeded his father; his judgment was sound, his taste elegant, his general temper moderate; but he had the misfortune to be educated in high notions of royal prerogative, which he was resolved to support at all events, and which at length lost him his crown and his life." [back]
34 Edward Kimber, Life and Adventures of Joe Thompson (London: E. Newbery, 1788), pp.70–71, in Osborne Collection. All the problems of interpreting marginal marks are apparent here, however, for the text has been marked several times, in both pencil and ink, quite possibly by different hands, or at very different times. The passage in question is highlighted in ink, as are several others passages or words which might appeal to a prurient reader (e.g. "passion", p.89), but many of these same phrases are also crossed through (e.g. "her slender
waist and tenderest kisses" on p.147) or annotated further in pencil: the description of Louisa has "Similar to you" by it in the margin. [back]