Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas books for Regency kids

In the Regency and Georgian periods, children often received "Christmas Boxes" containing money on Christmas Day.  Those must have been the most welcome gifts of all (as they still are).  Certainly preferable to some of the "Juvenile Books" on offer in the Regency period which sound to have been "improving" to the juvenile mind but probably boring in the extreme.

In my 1818 Edinburgh Almanack (for which I am very grateful to fellow author Louise Allen), I find the following "Juvenile Books" prominently advertised:

History of Little Lydia Somerville; calculated for the Instruction and Entertainment of Juvenile Minds
I'd like to bet that Little Lydia Somerville was very, very good, and sweet, and pious, and obedient, and all the other things that virtuous young girls were supposed to be.  Bearing no relation to any little girl I ever met (or wanted to meet)!

The Little Collier of the Black Forest,  or The Magical Mirror, a Moral Tale; to which is added The Untoward Orphan
I cannot imagine what an untoward orphan might be.  But it's bound to be uplifting, and very moral, I'm sure.  The little collier is probably the male equivalent of Little Lydia -- sickly sweet and dutiful.  Or perhaps I'm too cynical here?  What do you think?

Winter Evening Entertainments; containing a variety of pleasing Tricks and humorous Deceptions; for the amusement and instruction of youth
I thought that one might be a welcome gift until I saw the dreaded word "instruction".  Ah well.

No doubt, any child receiving any of these would be politely grateful to the giver.  But those receiving a Christmas Box -- money! -- would have no trouble at all in expressing their thanks.

I hope that all our blog visitors and contributors have a wonderful Christmas, and that the presents you give and receive are all exactly what the recipient most desires.  Happy Christmas and, as they say where I come from, a Guid New Year.



Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Alas, Joanna, I fear you are right. Children's books had to be improving.

I've just been looking at an advertisement from The Times(1870) for Magic Lantern shows. They could be serious: Sermons, Hymns, Popular Science are all listed (heaven knows what the magic lantern sermons were like).

However, they also advertised Fairy tales, Pantomime, Travels, and Adventures, which sound much more fun.

Anonymous said...

There was a book of Fairy Tales in my list, too, Elizabeth. And it sounded as if most of them had been nicked from elsewhere. It was called:

"The Fairies' Repertory"; containing choice Tales, selected from Mother Bunch, Mother Grim, and Mother Goose.

Whether they were more fun or not, we can't know.

Louise Allen said...

I'm glad the Almanack proved interesting, even if the advertised books sound grim!
I've got some cheerful children's books of the period with life in the country, farm animals and so forth, so they weren't uniformly dull and worthy, poor kids!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The Almanack is actually fascinating,Louise, containing all sorts of unlikely information. For example, it lists regimental pay of army officers, how much pension an officer would receive after losing a limb, and how much an officer's widow would receive.

The comparison is not good. A major who lost an arm got £200 a year. A major's widow got £60 a year. No mention of more if there were children. So it was a tough old life if you were widowed.

Apologies for the typos in the previous version of this, which I deleted.

Christina Courtenay said...

You have to feel sorry for any child who received one of those "worthy" books, don't you! I count myself very lucky to have been given Enid Blyton books instead :)