Children's Literature

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Island 4:
Boys' Stories of School, Adventure, and Empire

Series publishing for gifts and prizes

The pioneer writer of boys' adventure stories was Frederick Marryatt (1792-1848), an ex-naval officer who wrote a whole series of shipboard novels. HisMasterman Ready, or the Wreck of the Pacific, first published in three volumes in 1841-42, is a desert island story in the tradition of Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. It was ten years later before a second edition was called for, but many more followed. The reprint shown here, from Frederick Warne's Prize Library series in 1891, is open at a typical publisher's catalogue of the period, listing title after title suitable for gifts and school (or Sunday School) prizes.


R. M. Ballantyne and boys' adventure stories

R. M. Ballantyne (1825-1894), the son of an Edinburgh printer who was apprenticed to the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada as a teenager, created boys' adventure stories that both instilled the values of manly independence and conveyed (from the author's personal experience) an extraordinary range of information about exciting, dangerous new career opportunities. His best-known work Coral Island is shown in an earlier case. Displayed here are a reprint of Ballantyne's first book, Hudson Bay, or Everyday Life in the Wilds of North America(originally 1848) and his grimly-titled The Battery and the Boiler, or Adventures in the Laying of Submarine Electric Cables (1883).


Tom Brown's Schooldays

The mid-Victorian period saw an increasing segmentation in the market by gender. Boys' schooling had been transformed by Dr. Arnold of Rugby School, and Thomas Hughes (1822-1896), through his novel Tom Brown's Schooldays(originally 1857), made Arnold's Rugby the model for what Victorian schoolboys expected their schools to be like. Shown with Hughes's novel is a popular imitation for a broader social readership, George Emmet's 'shilling shocker' Young Tom's Schooldays (1870), illustrated by Dickens's illustrator "Phiz" (Hablot K. Browne).


Dean Farrar and the moral school story

Almost always execrated by boy readers and critics alike in the later Victorian period, the Rev. Frederic William Farrar (1831-1903) was a schoolmaster and author of the moralistic tale Eric, or Little by Little (1858) about a boy who goes to the bad. Both the Greek quotation and the note "Sixteenth Edition" on this title-page for his follow-up, St. Winifred's or the World of School, show his acceptability to the parents and others who purchased school novels as gifts or prizes, long after schoolboys made a mockery of his strangely-compelling works.


Late Victorian school stories

The success of Tom Brown's Schooldays and the centrality of athleticism in late nineteenthth-century secondary schools encouraged a host of variations on the earlier book. Shown here are works by two of the best practitioners in the school story genre. Talbot Baines Reed (1852-1893) was a typefounder and bibliographer whose twenty-plus books included the two for the Religious Tract Society shown here, The Master of the Shell(1894) and the posthumous collection Parkhurst Boys (1905). The well-known humorist and inventor of "Jeeves," P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), began his writing career with a series of school novels for the magazine The Captain; shown here is his The Head of Kay's (1905).

Donated by Patrick Scott.


Horatio Alger

For late nineteenth-century American readers, the ex-Unitarian minister Horatio Alger (1832-1899) developed a new kind of boys' adventure story about the upward struggle to economic success. Alger's first best-seller, Ragged Dick: or Street Life in New York (1868), set the pattern for a whole series of rags-to-riches tales, stressing the rewards of morality and hard work. Shown here is Alger's Hector's Inheritance (1905).


Pictorial cloth, gilt

The two books here are included as examples of the ubiquitous late Victorian giftbook for children. Titles and contents were often explicitly religious to serve as Sunday School prizes for good attendance. Internally, paper, print and illustrations were often mean, and the attractive bindings often comprised a third to a half of total production cost. Shown here are Five, Ten, & Fifteen(c.1890) by Evelyn Whitaker and Going for a Soldier (c. 1899) by J. Erskine Clark, M.A., the editor of Chatterbox.


G. A. Henty

Henty (1832-1902), who left the University of Cambridge to volunteer in the Crimean War and subsequently worked as a war correspondent, wrote more than seventy-odd adventure stories for boys, and it is estimated that more than 25 million copies had been sold by 1914. It was through Henty's distinctive historical novels (usually featuring a boy hero involved with a well-known heroic leader in genuine historical events) that whole generations learnt British military history. Henty's wide range is seen in the three displayed here: a medieval Scottish story,In Freedom's Cause, a Story of Wallace and Bruce; a modern Western, Redskin and Cowboy, a Tale of the Western Plains; and an up-to-date story of the Boer War in South Africa, With Buller in Natal.


Henty's With Lee in Virginia

A good example of Henty's way of mixing a boy's adventure story with real historical events is this novel about the American Civil War, With Lee in Virginia (originally published in 1890). It is shown here open at an illustration, for comparison with the original drawing, part of the library's small collection of original illustrations.


Gordon Frederick Browne

This original pen-and-ink drawing, entitled "One! Two! --------, " from Henty's With Lee in Virginia (1890) shows a dramatic stand-off as Yankee scoundrels threaten the women of the household, accusing them of harboring a rebel fugitive, who is seen in the background at the window, leveling the revolver with which he will kill all five intruders. Gordon Frederick Browne (1858-1932), son of Dickens's illustrator Hablot K. Browne ("Phiz"), illustrated books by Ewing, Henty, Lang, Meade, Nesbit and others, as well as writing two nonsense books of his own.


"Captain George North" (Robert Louis Stevenson)

The very first appearance, under a pen-name, of Stevenson's first and best-known children's adventure story,Treasure Island, was in the penny weekly Young Folks, A Boys' and Girls' Paper of Instructive and Entertaining Literature (October 1881). The hand-coloring to the illustrations is a later amateur addition.

From the G. Ross Roy Collection.


Robert Louis Stevenson

Thomas Cooper Library holds an extensive collection of works by the Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). Displayed here is the 1883 first edition of Treasure Island, the adventure story he wrote for his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne during a rainy holiday in Scotland. Also displayed is an edition of his adventure story of Jacobite Scotland,Kidnapped (originally 1886), illustrated by the American artist N. C. Wyeth (New York, 1940).


A Child's Garden of Verses

Among the most enduring, and most frequently-illustrated, of Robert Louis Stevenson's children's books has been this collection of poetry, dedicated to his nurse Alison Cunningham and including such favorites as "The Land of Counterpane" and "The Lamplighter." Shown here is the first edition (1885) together with a later illustrated edition.


Rudyard Kipling

The children's books of Kipling (1865-1936) are often overshadowed by his short stories and patriotic ballads. Kipling used his own upbringing in India for his Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book (1894, repr. 1895) and The Second Jungle Book (1895, shown in a reprint of 1897).

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