2 DECEMBER 1899, Page 33


THE eight modern nursery-books mentioned at the beginning of the list given below, though mostly written by clever people, with excellent and most entertaining illustrations, are yet eclipsed in the sight of the child by the two little volumes of Mrs. Turner's "Cautionary Stories," reprinted both by Messrs. Cornish Brothers and by the Leadenhall Press. Unheeding the charming colours of the pictures, deaf to the wit of most of the verses, the very young person to whose critical judgment they have all been sub- mitted unhesitatingly rejects them, and exclaims nightly : "Now let's read The Daisy or The Cowslip." So the two modest little books with their tiny old-fashioned wood- * (1.) A Moral Alphabet. By H. B. and B. T. B. London : Edward Arnold. [3s. 6d.]—(2.) The Book of Penny Toys. Written and illustrated by Mabel Dearmer. London : Macmillan and Co. [6s.]—(3.) The Story of the Seven Young Goslings. By Laurence Housman. Illustrated by Mabel Dearmer. London : Blackie and Son. [2s. 6d.]—(4.) Really and Truly. Pictures by Mrs. Ernest Ames. Words by Ernest Ames. London : Edward Arnold. [3s. 6d .]— (5.) Ruthless Rhymes. Words by Colonel D. Streamer. Illustrated by G. H. London : Edward Arnold. [3s. 6d.]—(6.) Jack of All Trades. By J. J. Bell. Pictures by Chas. Robinson. London : John Lane. [3s. 6d.]—(7.) An Alphabet of Musical Bogies. By Arthur Layard. London : Lawrence and Bullen. [3s. 6d.] —(8.) Excellent Jane. Pictured by Gertrude Charlton. London : Sands and CO. [3s. 6d.]—(9.) Reprints of Mrs. Turner's "Cautionary Stories," The Daisy and The Cowslip. London : Cornish Brothers ; and also the Leadenhall Press. [Is. each.]—(10,) The Story of Little Black Samba By Helen Bannerman. Dumpy Books," No. 4. London : Grant Richards. [1s. Cal.]

cats are always produced, while the smart new volumes lie in a neglected heap. Mrs. Turner evidently touched a chord which few modern bands have been able to sound. And probably the reason is that Mrs. Turner did not care in the least what grown-up people thought of her work.

The modern author, as the child at once feels, has only one eye upon the children. The other eye is fixed upon the grown-up public,—with some reason it must be owned, for the grown-up public holds the purse. What very small child, even if it had the 2s. 6d. necessary for the purchase of the cheapest of these eight pro- ductions, would be such a fool as to throw away so

much good money on a mere book ?—at a season, too, when the toy-shops look more like fairy palaces than sober places of business. No; " Grown-ups ' only" should be the legend

over the bookseller's door, for those very hot pennies tightly clenched in excited hands will find a more entertaining bourne. Therefore the authors of children's books will continue to write what " grown-ups " think the children will like, and will not consult the opinion of their real audience at all. Of course, A Moral Alphabet is not really intended for children. To the parent or guardian who does the "reading aloud" its verses will be a magnificent joke. But unless the audience is composed of quite elderly children whose ages run into two figures, the joke will not be allowed to be repeated. However, as the work is dedicated to the reviewer, and the dictates of modesty prevent praise of a book dedicated to oneself, further comment must be withheld.

Mrs. Dearmer's Book of Penny Toys, most charming in many ways, yet contains one story which we venture to think a really grave mistake. To the rather sensitive child it spoils the whole book, for the nursery critic alluded to above cannot see without a shudder even the cover of a book con- taining so dreadful a tragedy as "The Story of Pierrette."

And, indeed, love misunderstood and unappreciated, and the tragedy of the performer dancing with a broken heart, are subjects too grim for the diversion of a child :—

"And it was hardly etiquette

To dance in public with red eyes." "And so, with hands upon her breast, She turned round to the wall and died. Her life was nothing but a jest, And cottonwool was her inside."

Then comes the toy Mandarin for whom Pierrette has suffered a hopeless passion, and makes disparaging remarks :— " But when he'd gone the Harlequin Came out, and held her broken hand. Who never hoped a kiss to win,

Now kissed her little dancing stand."

Finally, the tears stream down his painted cheek,' and

Harlequin pronounces this elegy :—

" The're other dollies, people say. I'll none of them, my dear, and yet They're made like you to last one day, With hearts that do not break, Pierrette."

Now this is no stuff for children. There is a complicated and unhealthy sentiment about it which will wound the little heart with a horrible pang of uncomprehended emotion. What business have six and seven years old with the paradox of the mummer's sorrows ? Why force them to under- stand the misery of hopeless passion ? Passion, indeed, is a word which should bear a very different meaning to them for many a long year. Some of the other verses in the book are so charming and the illustrations are so pretty that it seems an infinite pity that Mrs. Dearmer should sadden Christmas with so lachrymose a story.

A different kind of tragedy enlivens (the word is used advisedly) The Story of the Seven Young Goslings, for the seven poor little heroes and heroines, after being gobbled up by the horrid wolf, are restored to society by the simple process of their mother's ripping up the wolf's inside. The chorus of the seven young goslings has a spirited and healthy ring about it, and we hear of it being sung already as a chorus in nurseries fortunate enough to possess the book :—

" Oh, you must remember, wherever you are,

You are the jam, but your mother's the jar, You are the twig, but your mother's the trunk, You are the crumb, but your mother's the chunk.

So you must endeavour, whatever you do, Not to be clever, nor think it's you; But intellect smother, And stick to your mother, And somehow or other she'll pull you through."

In this lyric Mr. Laurence Housman certainly avoids the pitfall of being too clever,—bit sometimes he allows his wit to be too much for him, and indulges in a double-edged jokes addressed half to the "grown-up" and half to the child. Mrs.

Dearmer, who illustrates this book as well as her own, has produced some charming pictures, notably the landscape with the replete and somnolent wolf as a foreground, and Mother Goose with her sole surviving gosling advancing to the rescue in a red cloak, brandishing a large pair of scissors.

Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Ames's combined work, Really and Truly, is in a different style of art. The pictures are not so

',esthetic, but then they are a great deal funnier. The book, which should have been called "The Wonderful Century," has an entertaining quatrain of verses and a picture on every

great event of the nineteenth century. It begins with the Union in 1801, and ends with a beautiful picture of Britannia driving coyly along in a bright yellow motor-car with very black wheels. The fan is not nearly so serious as it sounds, as may be proved by the fact that the most amusing combined

picture and verse is on the abolition of slavery in 1833 :—

" Here is a lady As black as can be !

She was lately a slave, Now she's perfectly free !"

The illustration is of a stout black lady in a red pork-pie hat, striding along with great complacency, with the " cage " of a crinoline worn over her native costume in a truly elegant

manner. The Musical Bogies, Jack of All Trades, Ruthless Rhymes, and Excellent Jane do not appeal to us nearly so much as the four books already mentioned. The first three suffer dreadfully from the one-eye-on-the- parent complaint, and Excellent Jane, though the pictures are fairly good, gives us only disconnected fragments of the classical verses of such people as Mrs. Turner and Jane and Anne Taylor.

Very different must be the verdict on that most attractive little book, The Story of Little Black Sambo. It has been briefly noticed in these columns before, but no comparison between old and new fashioned nursery-books would be

quite fair without allowing Little Black Sambo to give his protest in favour of recent books. His history was not

written with one eye on parents and guardians, or the in- consistency of mixing up the African type of black with delightful adventures with tigers in an Indian jungle would never have been allowed to pass. As it is, Little Black Sambo makes his simple and direct appeal in the great realm of make-believe without paying the slightest attention to the

unities or caring in the least about anything but the amuse- ment of the little boys and girls for whom he was so obviously created. Every parent should at once get the book and give it both to the nursery and the schoolroom. It is impossible to deny that among this year's Christ= a books Little Black Sambo is, to use his own classic phrase, far and away "the grandest tiger in the jungle."

Perhaps before the avalanche of next year's Christmas books descends upon us more of the very able writers whose work we have been considering will condescend to go back to the old models. Or if this be too much, perhaps they will follow Helen Bannerman's example and give the children at least a simple and uncomplicated story. It is useless for an author to try to put himself into a child's frame of mind and to write as if he were a child. The "real Simon Pure" will always detect the imposture. Mrs. Turner, Maria Edgeworth, and other classical writers did nothing of the sort. They deliberately wrote as superiors to inferiors, but they made their audience also their subject. They wrote of nothing but girls and boys, of the "awful consequence of crime," and the reward of virtue. And the children sat round listening with wide-open eyes and mouths, and thoroughly enjoyed it.