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and inanimate objects, as plants, trees, and things in general.
That part of truths, or history, which relates to the adventures and lives of worthy or exemplary persons, denominated biography, is among the important kind for children ; as are also those facts or history of nations which branch from general geography, and relate to the manners and customs of the different people of the globe.
The third kind of truths which are useful for children may be comprized in the history of empires, ancient and modern.
All this mass of knowledge is thrown into simple abridgments and pleasing forms, and is then presented to our children. But as the different authors I have enumerated occasionally try every branch of juvenile information, it is the mother's duty to read many of a kind, that she may have a chance of purchasing the best.
Facts there are, too, of one other kind, but which should studiously be kept from children : history of bloody wars, and massacres, burnings and martyrdoms, with shocking histories of barbarous murders, and images of racks, red hot pincers, engines of torment and cruelty, with mangled limbs, and carcasses drenched in gore ; all which descriptions, if abridged from large works, as we grieve sometimes to see them, should be cut out and burned, or destroyed with the whole volume, rather than shock and distress a tender child by shewing him the sufferings of the good, and run the risk of hardening his heart, by familiarizing him to the atrocities and wickedness of the base and degraded part of his species.
The second point for a mother's consideration is, whether the little work she is about to examine be a fiction.
Fictions are of two kinds: the historical, when any truth from sacred, natural, or other history, is woven in to convey instruction in a fanciful and alluring dress; and the perfect fiction, when the invention of the author has alone supplied him with the design, and his own experience and observation with the materials.
But both fictions must equally shew forth one great object, a moral, and end, or both are utterly worthless. The historical fiction, if it shew its bearing upon the department of history it has chosen, must necessarily shew forth some truth or fact, since his. tory is truth. This, then, is its moral.
The perfect fiction selects a truth from the great code of morality, and works it through till it rises triumphant, in some way or other, over evil, and so forms a moral.
Yet even this is not sufficient ; a prudent mother will not be satisfied until she have discovered and ascertained the means by which this moral was worked through to its end.
Let us pause, then, for an instant, and imagine a fond husband hastening to his wife and needy family, and delivering to them an abundant supply of food and clothing. Is not the act a good one ? Undoubtedly it seems such. But what if the money which purchased these articles were stolen from a traveller or house; how then ? And what if the means employed to make the moral bear on its way, though the child's volume, be as faulty as those adopted by the man just alluded to? Can those means be proper to introduce to a child's imitation ? The design, therefore, the object or end, and the means employed by the author, must all severally be sound, honest, upright, and true, before the child's book can be termed a moral one, and a work proper for the little creatures whose ininds it is to engage
Perfect fictions include fables, tales, stories, fairy tales, &c. This class of works comprehends by far the greater part of a bookseller's juvenile stores.
Poetry, as well as prose, is occasionally made a vehicle for conveying history and fiction to the minds of children,
The step or ladder to book learning is the spellingbook and grammar, with the last of which children under six years of age can have very little concern.
I come now to the selections of children's works, chiefly modern, which I made several years since, with a view to the insertion of them in this place.*
* More than three years ago, when this work was begun, I wrote to several respectable booksellers in London, to request from each the favour of some dozens of books to be sent me to peruse. With very polite attention, I was furnisbed with several very large packages, which employed me a month to read through. I wrote down my opinions of the best as I read them, and those I could not generally praise I passed unnoticed; of these I re.
The first relate to history, and may either be recited from memory by the mother to the child, or read by her in small portions, according as her little one may be able to understand the language, or may appear interested in the subject.
It should be observed, that most of these works are sold and said to be written for “ little" children; but it seems to me they can only suit those children who, having learned to read before they have learned to think, are supposed to be equal to the pronouncing of long words and the managing of any sentence before they are six or eight years of age. The following 'arrangement is made in the supposition that the reverse of that plan is the case, and that the child is not made to read faster than he can reflect.
turned a very considerable nuniber. As no consideration what. ever should induce me to highly commend a child's book in which I could find little merit, so I trust that if a faulty one should be found by any chance bere recommended, the mistake will be attributed to accident, and some little confusion also in my papers. And I beg now to express my thanks to Miessrs. Harris, Hailes, Darton and Harvey, and Godwin, for the loan of the works here mentioned.
UPON A FEW JUVENILE WORKS. *
+ SCRIPTURE STORIES.*** 1813. For Children of 4 years and upwards. In this most pleasing work, several of the great events related in the first chapters of Genesis are described in simple language, and are admirably calculated to delight and amuse. One cannot but regret, on closing this engaging little volume, that the author should have made it so small, and have given so few histories. A sequel froni the same pen would be a truly valuable present, to mothers as well as to children.
* If some of these remarks are brief, it is to be recollected that they relate to works, every line of wbich has been read with care, and considered generally good. Those little books which were in part faulty, and part only tolerable, have been rejected from this place altogether. It is the province of the regular reviewer to point out faults and beauties; mine, at present, is but to mention a few works which parents may safely put into the hands of their children, and, in mentioning, to add a word in explanation of tbeir contents.
+ The little books which, in my opinion, are peculiarly adapted for being recited, or read by the mother in small portions to ber child, are here distinguished by several asterisks.