Children's Literature

Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4 | Island 5

Island 3: Mid-Century Developments - Some Women Writers and the Renascence of Wonder

Anna Maria Hall

Hall (1800-1881) was one of the most prolific Victorian writers for children, best known for such moral tales as Grandmamma's Pockets (1849) and for her editorship of the annual, the Juvenile Forget Me Not (1828-1837). Displayed here is her beautifully-produced giftbook Midsummer Eve: A Fairytale of Loving and Being Loved (London: J. C. Hotten, 1870).

The magic lantern and Uncle Tom's Cabin

Perhaps because of its strong story-line, clear morality, and the good central child character, Eva St. Clair, the American abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (first serialized 1851-52) was soon pirated and abridged to become a children's classic. Although the book presents both African-American and white characters through melodrama and stereotype, the novel has received increasing critical reappraisal in recent years. Displayed here on a "sub-island" is a complete set of Victorian hand-painted glass slides of incidents from the novel, designed for an instructive magic-lantern presentation.

Collection of Patrick Scott.

Christina Rossetti

Rossetti's long fantasy Goblin Market (1862), about two sisters' struggle to resist the tempting fruits of the goblin men, was long categorized as a children's fairy tale, but is increasingly reread as a major poem of its period. It is shown here in the first edition, with illustrations by Rossetti's brother, the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) also wrote a books of shorter verses for young children entitledSing-Song (1872).

Charlotte M. Yonge

The dutiful, never-married daughter of a country squire, influenced by the Tractarian religious leader John Keble, and so self-abnegating that her name never appeared on a title-page, Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901) nonetheless produced a series of bestsellers, including The Heir of Redclyffe (1853) and the children's historical novel The Little Duke (1855). Shown here is her version of The History of Sir Thomas Thumb(1855), a traditional folktale to which Yonge had added material from the Arthurian legends and from the German tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Louisa May Alcott

Alcott (1832-1888), the daughter of an other-worldly New England Transcendentalist philosopher, was driven to write by her family's financial insecurity and became one of the successful nineteenth-century American women novelists. Her Little Women (1868), recently a successful film, has been described as the first children's novel written in America to become "an enduring classic." Shown here are the first edition of her sequel, Little Men (1871), and a rare Alcott Christmas story, "The Doll's Journey," from a finely-produced gift-book The Christmas Tree (1873), with an illustration by Walter Crane.

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) was born in Lancashire, England, but later emigrated to the United States, marrying a Knoxville physician, divorcing, and eventually settling on Long Island. Her best-known works are Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885) and The Secret Garden (1911). Shown here, to display the colorful cloth boards of later Victorian children's books, is her story Sara Crewe, or What Happened at Miss Minchin's(1890).

Anna Sewell

Anna Sewell (1820-1878), an invalid Quaker from East Anglia, is known only for one book, the perennial favorite Black Beauty, the Autobiography of a Horse (1877). The reprint displayed here (undated but labeled "321st thousand") is typical of the pictorial stamped cloth bindings of late Victorian elementary school (and Sunday School) prizes; this one was presented for progress in Class G at an Edinburgh school in 1905-1906.

Collection of Patrick Scott.

Charles Kingsley

The Rev. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), social reformer, novelist, history professor, and muscular Christian, was also a naturalist who corresponded with Charles Darwin over the new theory of evolution. His fairy tale The Water-Babies (1863) combines many of these enthusiasms in a tale of how a little chimney-sweep goes backward in evolution when he is wicked, and forwards when he does as he would be done by. The first edition, displayed here, had illustrations by J. Noel Paton.

Edward Lear and Nonsense Poetry

The landscapist and zoological painter Edward Lear (1812-1888), a lonely bachelor suffering from recurrent epileptic fits, published his first Book of Nonsense in 1846, but it was not till the eighteen-sixties that his children's poems and rueful limericks became well-known. He illustrated the books himself, presenting hand-drawn copies to the children of such friends as the poet laureate Alfred Tennyson. Displayed here is a first edition of his fourth volume,Laughable Lyrics (1877).

Lewis Carroll and Alice

The Oxford mathematics lecturer, the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), another shy bachelor, wrote his first Alice book, the handwritten manuscript Alice's Adventures Underground, in 1862 for Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. This was soon developed into Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865, shown in reprint of 1884) and its more cerebral sequel Through the Looking Glass (1872, shown in a reprint of 1889), both illustrated with wood engravings by the artist and political cartoonist John Tenniel (1820-1914).

The Hunting of the Snark

Carroll and Tenniel also collaborated in the production of one of the best-known longer nonsense poems, Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, An Agony, in Eight Fits. Displayed here, with an open reprint to show the frontispiece, is a copy of the first edition with the stamped binding of Carroll's Bellman. Tenniel's portrait of the Bellman was modelled on the poet Tennyson and reappeared in his memorial cartoon for Punchafter the poet's death, "Crossing the Bar."

Andrew Lang and Victorian Fairy

The Scottish-born poet, classicist, folklorist, and critic Andrew Lang (1844-1912), Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, produced a whole series of fairy tales, beginning with The Blue Fairy Book (1889). Displayed here is his Violet Fairy Book (1901), frankly because its gilt-stamped binding is in such good condition

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