[more works about children’s books]

Children’s Books of the Year” is a delightful reminiscence of a reviewer’s childhood reading, as well as a wry look at over 20 works published in 1865 and 1866 (some had been first published years earlier).


http://www.merrycoz.org/books/BOOK1866.xhtml
“Children’s Books of the Year” (from the North American Review, January 1866; pp. 236-249)

1. Oliver Optic’s Army and Navy Stories. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1865. 6 vols.

2. Oliver Optic’s Boat-Club Series. Boston: Lee and Shepard. 1865. 6 vols.

3. The Little Prudy Stories. By Sophie May. Boston: Lee and Shepard. 1865. 6 vols.

4. Golden-Haired Gertrude, a Story for Children. By Theodore Tilton. New York: Tibbals and Whiting. 1865.

5. The Two Hungry Kittens. By Theodore Tilton. New York: Tibbals and Whiting. 1866.

6. John Gay, or Work for Boys. By Jacob Abbott. New York: Hurd and Houghton. 1865. 4 vols.

7. The House that Jack built, from Original Designs by H. L. Stephens. New York: Hurd and Houghton. 1866.

8. Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog, from Original Designs by H. L. Stephens. New York: Hurd and Houghton. 1866.

9. The Story of Red Riding-Hood, told in Verse. By R. H. Stoddard. New York: Hurd and Houghton. 1866.

10. My Days and Nights on the Battle-Field. By Carleton. Third Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1865.

11. Following the Flag. By Carleton. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1865.

12. The Seven Little Sisters, who live on the Round Ball that floats in the Air. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1865.

13. The Flower People. By Mary Mann. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1865.

14. The Bushrangers, a Yankee’s Adventures during his Second Visit to Australia. Boston: Lee and Shepard. 1865.

15. The Cruise of the Frolic. By W. H. G. Kingston. Boston: J. E. Tilton & Co. 1865.

16. The Drummer Boy. By J. T. Trowbridge. Boston: J. E. Tilton & Co. 1865.

17. Dora Darling, the Daughter of the Regiment. Boston: J. E. Tilton & Co. 1865.

18. Paul Prescott’s Charge, a Story for Boys. By Horatio Alger, Jr. Boston: Loring. 1865.

19. Cousin Kate. By the Author of the Heir of Redclyffe. Boston: Loring. 1865.

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20. The Little Gentleman in Green, a Fairy Tale. By Una Savin. Boston: Loring. 1865.

21. Stories of the Woods, or Adventures of Leatherstocking. By James F. Cooper. Ne York: J.G. Gregory. 1865.

22. Paul and Virginia. Rasselas. Elizabeth of Siberia. Undine. Sintram. New York: James Miller. 1865.

Mother Goose and Miss Edgeworth are the two opposite poles between which the whole world of juvenile literature hangs suspended. A child is as much injured by being debarred his proper rations of fancy as of fact,—of fact as of fancy. Always floating in delicious equipoise, he can neither be made exclusively real nor altogether ideal. If he found a fairy every morning in his bread and milk, it would not seriously surprise him; and, on the other hand, Jonas in the barn-chamber is to him a vision almost as fascinating as Jack on the bean-stalk. He asks to know if the wildest German legend be true, but Harry and Lucy are not true enough to be prosaic; they also dwell in a dream-land of their own, laid out into laboratories instead of fairy wings, and lit with fire-balloons instead of will-o’-the-wisps. The romantic mamma, who regards with dismay the disenchanting footsteps of Rollo in Europe, is entitled to no more consideration than the grim professor who impeaches Gammer Grethel. Grown people have their prejudices and limitations, but children have none. In their scales, a pound of lead and a pound of feathers weigh always the same.

And it is as easy to reach the hearts of children as their imaginations or their perceptions. True, they will swallow unmoved the most substantial tragedies, as a dog bolts his morsel, looking up for more. Yet presently a stray word fascinates them,—the cadence of a sentence, the charm of an illusion,—and there is woven a spell of tenderness which lasts for a lifetime. Many a sturdy boy has a veritable Charles Auchester within him, ready to be drowned in the last depths of pathos by the magic of a tone. The early associations of every one are moist with the most inexplicable and preposterous tears. Probably Caroline Fry’s “Listener” would now be held as rather a stern and prosaic book to be administered to the young; yet there is one passage in it, in some beggar story,

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about never more beholding Margaret Somebody and her sunburnt child, that would doubtless set this present writer crying like Mrs. Nickleby, on reperusal, though the work has not been visibly beheld since the susceptible age of ten. Then there was “Roxabel,” by Mrs. Sherwood, whose highly evangelical pathos still retains its wondrous charm, and has been more recently tested. The very name of some sweet sorrow beguiles these little sentimentalists, ere yet they have tasted of the thing. We have known a vigorous boy of twelve to lie awake for hours by night bathing his pillow with tears for the fate of poor Undine, and refusing to be comforted except by an ingenious imaginary conclusion, bringing back the unfortunate to earth and matrimony again, and conducting her on to a calm old age and a great many grandchildren.

With this permanence of fascination, one wonders that any new children’s books should be needed. Yet while Robinson Crusoe and his peers still survive immortal, it is pathetic to reflect what argosies of fancy and of fact have gone down into the abyss of “out of print,” within easy memory. Whither is departed that boyish literature so precious, that once throve in the shelter of school-desks, and under safe coverts of benches? It was a literature in itself innocent of moral guilt,—unless, perhaps, enormous lying be held an offence,—which yet possessed in its use, by reason of surreptitiousness, much of the sweet savor of sin. Baron Trenck was there, with his imminent deadly breaches,—Rinaldo Rinaldini, the Three Spaniards, and the Scottish Chiefs,—four nations sifted to find sufficient heroes of romance for us. These books were cautiously transmitted from hand to hand, in little, thin, dingy volumes, suitable to the pockets of youth, in editions which each boy secretly supposed to have been printed, like the classics, “for the use of schools.” Nobody knew whence they came, nobody had ever bought them, nobody owned them, everybody borrowed them. Among the older boys there lurked a tradition that certain boys still older had left them behind on going to college,—bequeathed them to their younger brothers, still in bonds. The same mystery, or deeper, yet hangs over them. You cannot now find these books at the bookstores; or, if perchance you discover them, they are in good editions, and not worth pur-

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chasing. Sometimes one has a delicious glimpse of them, or of volumes that look like them, far in the country, in a peddler’s pack, or among the outlying booths at a cattle-show. One finds election-buns at just such places, but neither bun nor book has precisely the flavor that it once possessed.

Another book, whose permanent disappearance seems now inexplicable, was “The Amusements of Westernheath.” That book was our Comedy of Errors, our Artemus Ward, our “seeing Warren.” That was, by some singular chance, a Sunday-school library book, and it revolved through that calm solar system with such unprecedented rapidity that it frequently flew from its orbit, and was lost; and there were long intervals of darkness, when we inquired for it and it was not there. Perhaps the teachers demurred, before replacing it, whether it might not be too delightful to be strictly religious. Yet this uncertainty of reappearance increased the thrill of every perusal, and the satiated little reader reverted to the common fare of Miss Hannah More’s “Coelebs,” as one who has dreamed a dream, and is tremblingly uncertain whether the vision will ever reappear.

For more direct insight into fairy-land, there was that plump and delicious little quarto, “The Child’s Own Book,”—not “The Boy’s Own Book,” which pertained to out-door sports, nor “The Girl’s Own Book,” which treated of in-door games, but liberally and comprehensively “The Child’s Own Book.” Here were to be found Riquet with the Tuft, and Graciosa and Percinet, and the White Cat, and all the rest. These were inexhaustible; while, to furnish a bridge on which to creep back somewhere near to reality, Philip Quarll had an abiding-place, for self and goats, in the same encyclopedic volume,—that none might be without a desolate island or so, as stepping-stones in the return-trip from those enchanted worlds.

To childhood thus fortified on the romantic side came common-sense in due time, in the garb of Maria Edgeworth, followed at fit distance by Harriet Martineau. These also, to healthy omnivorous young creatures, brought their own delights, which were also permanent. The little we now know of business matters is mainly based on sound views of the curency imbibed from Berkley the Banker before the age of

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twelve; and if we correctly appreciate the difference between a plane and a chisel, to Harry and Lucy be the honor paid. When the pursuit of knowledge carried bolder spirits on to the society of those alphabetical females who held “Conversation on Common Things,” it was a more formidable experience. And one of Mrs. A.’s calm openings, “You are aware, my dear children,” commonly preluded a new step in science as vast as Laplace’s “From which it plainly appears.”

Changed now is all that juvenile bibliography, and new authors have arisen who know not “Mrs. A.” Yet the old favorites, though decimated by time, are not extinct; and it is pleasant to find among the latest issues of a New York publisher, the prettiest little quintette of green volumes, whose titles recall the good old times. Rasselas, and Elizabeth of Siberia, and Paul and Virginia, are not dead. But now, when Hans Andersen sways the sceptre of fancy, Captain Mayne Reid of adventure, and the exhaustless Jacob Abbott of fact, the old dynasty can hold but a partial and occasional sway, such as Keats attibutes to his dethroned elder deities of Greece:—

“Leave them, O Muse! for thou anon wilt find

Many a fallen old Divinity

Wandering in vain about bewildered shores.”

In speaking of contemporary children’s books, the first place must of course be given to narratives of adventure. Whatever else fails, these are always palatable, and secure of their market. Every child comprehends everything in Robinson Crusoe save one sole point,—what conceivable reason he could have had for feeling discontented? In this respect the heroes of the Reid and Kingston race have greatly the advantage; they are never unhappy for an instant. Put them in the middle of a desert with no water, or on a tree in a submerged continent with no land, they are always imperturbable. The reader feels the same rather monotonous confidence in the hero’s good luck that one acquires after the first three or four volumes of “Amadis de Gaul.” What a relief, indeed, (if the truth must be told,) would be the occasional demise of some virtuous boy, in the midst of some of these amazing exploits,—something to remind us that these heroes too are mortal. If, after escaping by ten different strategems the first ten grizzly bears, he could

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be irremediably and hoplessly eaten up by the eleventh, it would really afford almost the only new sensation of which this department of literature is now capable.

If it be possible to separate the twin stars of Mayne Reid and Kingston, it must be said that Reid is the more picturesque and extravagant, Kingston the more condensed and business-like. The former has flights of imagination,—indeed, a good many of them,—and a touch of rhetoric: he also tends to the conveying of miscellaneous information in copious draughts, with store of wondrous plants and animals, possessing hard names which are of no use to anybody but the writer. All this Kingston rigidly abjures; he has no room for it; he can starve a whole Indian tribe, or drown a whole ship’s company, in the space occupied by one of his rival’s descriptions. His books are therefore a sort of pemmican of adventure, bear and Indian boiled down to the utmost concentration. His men are not men, but a sort of prairie Frankenstein,—vast machines, built to kill as many savages, fall over as many precipices, dodge as many rattlesnakes, be hugged by as many bears, and left for dead in as many mountain-passes, as the dimensions of the page will admit. It is just to say, however, that Mr. W. H. Thomas, “the returned Australian,” and apparently of American birth, follows hard after Mr. Kingston, and, in the way of melodramatic woodcuts, even takes the lead.

Beside these fierce romances, how innocuous appear the mild stimulants of “The Swiss Family Robinson,”—still happily extant,—and its modern successor, “Jean Bélin.” These are books which cheer, but not inebriate; and if one wishes to go so far as ‘half-and-half’ it may be found in the small volumes of selections from Cooper’s novels. These books have also the attraction of Darley’s sketches, whose Indians are a little more than life, if less than Cooper.

To these tales, of chiefly foreign adventure, the war has of course added its full share of the domestic product. Of books thus suggested, Mr. Coffin’s (“Carleton’s”) are undeniably the best. His “Days and Nights on the Battle-Field,” and (still better) “Following the Flag,” are not only the best brief narratives for boys, but for men, of the campaigns which they describe. It is a great merit in the author not to have strung

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them on the thread of a fictitious narrative; this abstinence did justice both to his own powers and to the intelligence of his young readers. In his hands truth becomes more interesting than fiction; while all Edmund Kirke’s piquant writings are marred by a slight uncertainty as to where the one begins and the other ends.

Mr. Trowbridge, who never writes very ill, and rarely very well, has given quite a graphic picture of camp-life in his “Drummer-Boy”; while “Dora Darling,” by an anonymous author, gives a companion-sketch of a little vivandière, with a good many charming touches of nature, and quite enough improbability to add spice. Moreover, Mr. Adams (“Oliver Optic”) has written two army and two navy books, which are all spirited and correct enough, though seeming rather hasty in point of execution. It is unfortunate for the literary merit of children’s books that there exists for them no high standard of criticism, and the temptations to a slovenly style are thus very strong. Even this, however, can hardly excuse such caricatures of well-bred womanhood as Mr. Adams deals in. If Miss Partington were a specimen of the young ladies whom the “Yankee Middy” had to encounter in Newport society, we have for the first time a key to the removal of the Naval Academy from that city; a race of tolerably lady-like Secessionists might seem, for the first year, a merciful change. Miss Ashford, in “The Soldier Boy,” is a little better; yet even here we have, “ ‘Well, I declare’! shouted Lillian, in a kind of silvery scream.” The Southern damsels here delineated are not half so disagreeable, and we must therefore protest against such a libel upon loyalty.

Mr. Alger’s “Frank’s Campaign” comes naturally in at the end of the war-books, although the hero does not go to the war, because of youth, but stays at home to carry on the farm, in order that his father may enlist. It is a good story of home life; and though the style is not vivacious, yet the author improves greatly in this respect in his later book, “Paul Prescott’s Charge.” This title sounds yet more martial than the other, but the charge in this case is one assumed, not given, and relates to a debt of business, not of patriotism.

By thus keeping his heroes at home, this author escapes one

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formidable responsibility which waits on all these writers of war-stories,—namely, that they must bring their heroes in contact with the inevitable “contraband,” first or last, and then must report the conversation. Then ensues a Babel of dialect, a chaos of misspelling, a travesty of a travesty of good English. Is it designed as a piece of retribution on the negro race, that we should distort their talk even more than they distort ours? Can they not even be left to murder our common language in peace, but their own dialect must be remurdered in a hundred and fifty different ways, like Touchstone’s enemy, in the effort to get it into type? Must it be butchered to make a printer’s holiday? The peculiarity of the negro pronunciation, as with almost all patois, lies chiefly in intonations, which no misspelling can give; and by most of our attempts the bewilderment becomes yet more complicated, and we only darken counsel by words without orthography.

None of the books thus far named, however attractive, can be said to have the touch of genius in them. Genius comes in with “Little Prudy.” Compared with her, all other book-children are cold creations of literature only; she alone is the real thing. All the quaintness of childhood, its originality, its tenderness, and its teasing,—its infinite, unconscious drollery, the serious earnestness of its fun, the fun of its seriousness, the natural religion of its plays, and the delicious oddity of its prayers,—all these waited for dear little Prudy to embody them. Sam Weller is not more piquant; Hans Andersen’s nut-crackers and knitting-needles are not more thoroughly charged with life. There are six little green volumes in the series, and of course other dramatis personæ must figure; but one eagerly watches for every reappearance of Prudy, as one watches, at the play, for Owens or Warren to re-enter upon the stage. Who is our benefactress in the authorship of these books, the world knows not. “Sophie May” must doubtless be a fancy name, by reason of the spelling, and we have only to be grateful that the author did not inflict on us the customary alliteration in her pseudonyme [sic]. The rare gift of delineating childhood is hers; and may the line of “Little Prudy” go out to the end of the earth.

In the way of fairy stories, it must be humbly owned that

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American writers, and indeed Anglo-Saxons generally, have contributed very little. Mrs. Tappan’s charming “Rainbows for Children,” Mrs. Austin’s “Fairy Dreams,” and Mr. Scudders’s “Dream Children,” are the best. Mr. Cranch’s are less graceful, though his sketches redeem them. None of these, however, are among this year’s books; while the youth of Hans Andersen is constantly renewed, in a multiplicity of forms. In Boston, he appears in the congenial society of the brothers Grimm. In New York, he is seen in four green volumes, keeping house in a green pasteboard box, with two rather suspicious lodgers, Gulliver and Æsop.

If we do not just now write such books in this country, it is something that we can illustrate them. If the wonderful illustrated books of Henry Stephens are to be classified under the mercantile head of “juveniles,” then “juveniles” come tolerably near to High Art. Grandville has hardly surpassed these wondrous birds and beasts, so minutely studied, so profoundly conceived, and seemingly caught just at their point of transmigration into humanity. The later books, “Mother Hubbard,” and “The House that Jack built,” perhaps show hastier work than “Cock Robin” and “The Frog he would a-wooing go”; but they are all stamped with the same essential genius.

Mr. Stephens has also illustrated, with vivid expression, and in a little volume of brilliant emblazonment, Theodore Tilton’s brief tragedy of “The Two Hungry Kittens”; and the same author and artist have united in the pretty story of “Golden-haired Gertrude.” The designs for Mr. Tilton’s other childish verses, “The Fly,” are by a different hand; but the little poem is perhaps the most graceful thing which its author has written.

There is an abundance of illustrated books for a more juvenile constituency, comprising the usual variety of primers and “indestructibles.” These are generally well fitted for their work of delight. Only one may hesitate a little over the new version of “Red Riding-Hood,” where all the color seems to have been extracted from Mr. Stoddard’s verses in order to intensify the very gaudy engravings. The novel introduction of the preserving archer is highly melodramatic in the picture, and as tame as everything else in the poem; yet humanity per-

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haps gains in this transfer of the final doom from the innocent to the guilty.

If our writers have contributed little in the domain of pure fancy, they have at least done well upon that middle ground which lies between fancy and fact, and links them delightfully together. The best exemplar of these rare books is perhaps the German “Story without an End,” now unhappily out of print. New editions have lately appeared, however, of two American books of kindred charm,—“The Flower People” by Mrs. Mann, and Miss Jane Andrews’s “Seven little Sisters who live on the Round Ball that floats in the Air.” The round ball is the earth, and the sisters are the tribes that dwell thereon. The little book was conceived in a happy hour; its pictures are so real and so graphic, so warm and so human, that the most literal and the most imaginative of children must find in them, not only something to charm, but also to mould pleasant associations for maturer years.

The Agassiz for childhood is not yet made manifest, at least on our shore; and one may search these glittering volumes in vain for a single attractive elementary book for any branch of natural science, save perhaps Botany. Even the “Alphabet of Birds” and the “Alphabet of Animals” vex the reader with ibex and nightingale, instead of bobolink and chipmunk. It is a shame; for every child is a born naturalist, and every European child has some local manual by which to identify whatever wonders it can find. Viewed in this light, the new work on “Radiata,” by the wife and son of our great naturalist, is a boon to children also, and would be an invaluable gift to any boy or girl at the sea-shore. It redeems well the promise of its smaller precursor, “Actæa.”

In this region of destitution, mention should be specially made of a little story by Mrs. Whitney,—“Boys at Chequasset,”—not merely from a sort of attractiveness in its name, which seems to suggest chestnuts and chickarees and chinquapins,—out-door things which children love,—but also because it is chiefly devoted to delightful annals of bird’s-nesting, with much lore about the eggs of our native species. It has also the wholesome moral for parents, that a taste for collecting natural objects, besides the innumerable out-door sympathies to

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which it leads, is one of the best means for making a child systematic and thorough in all its ways.

When we turn to fictions of a more commonplace and realistic character, the Abbott books of course afford the type. Here we have the very saturnalia of common-sense. Here may the eager reader obtain, between the covers of a child’s story, the clew to many a fact or process which has puzzled his maturest years. These works are invaluable to fathers; by keeping always one volume in advance of his oldest son, a man can stand before the household an encyclopædia of every practical art. Take the latest product, the “John Gay” series; or, as Emerson might say, “Man as Carpenter.” Here we may casually learn what a parallelopipedon may be, and attain to some modest confidence in spelling the word off-hand. Here we may explore the art and mystery of “dowelling.” “Quoining,” too, becomes but a simple thing; and how exquisitely are these fine arts interwoven with the development of the moral nature of youth, likewise! Does a child reach some height of virtue hitherto unattainable? His mother presents him with a brad-awl. Should he be seduced into reposing upon these altitudes of endeavor, he is allured to brighter worlds by visions of a bench-hook.

In these paths of peace, the principal guide, philosopher, and friend is Jonas,—the Jonas of the earlier books, undergoing successive changes of name, like Cooper’s heroes, and reappearing this year as Ebenezer. Jonas is an admirable creation,—the typical New-England boy; such a boy as every one of us has been or has known. Steady, sensible, sagacious,—not troubled with languor or imagination,—he is always a wholesome companion, who neither intoxicates nor misleads. Domestic and agricultural virtues adorn his sedate career. His little barn-chamber is always neat; his tools are always sharp; if he makes a box, it holds together; if he digs a ditch, there the water flows. He attends lyceum lectures, and experimentalizes on his slate at evening touching the abstruse properties of the number nine. Jonas is American Democracy in its teens; it is Jonas who has conducted our town-meetings, built our commonwealth, and fought our wars.

So admirable in their way are all these multitudinous vol-

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umes, that it seems a pity that Mr. Abbott’s genius should ever flag. It has grown rather dry, at times, however; and perhaps reached its poorest in that thin quarto series (Harpers’ Story-Books) published a few years since. He there even descended so low for materials as to describe high life in the metropolis; and constructed miniature fashionable novels, which one might sometimes find in the hands of staid little girls who were studiously forbidden the maturer article. Other numbers of the series were a mere scrap-book of old wood-cuts, put together with a little description. And yet so well does this author, at his lowest ebb, retain his trick of clear and sensible style, that, were he to write a Postmaster-General’s Report, it would doubtless prove readable to all between seven and seventy. And, happily, in “John Gay” we have “Rollo” in his freshness again.

Yet even Mr. Abbott finds it needful to hang all his carpenter’s tools on a fictitious story. Can no one get beyond this? Fiction is good; but can the resources of art, nature, and genius supply nothing else? One would suppose it at least half as easy to prepare for children true stories as stories “made up.” How charming are the books about pet animals; for instance, Mrs. Stowe’s dogs, Grace Greenwood’s varied favorites, and the “Fourteen Pet Goslings.” These must be all true, for no fancy could devise such a variety of tragedies. Every beloved creature inevitably dies at the end of the chapter,—“all my pretty chickens and their dam.” Rivers of tears are to be shed by each small enthusiast over the pathetic termination of each narrative, to be happily dried in an instant by the opening of the next. Le chien est mort, vive le chien. Mrs. Stowe, indeed, has her occasional relentings; and, as becomes her character of philanthropist, does not kill off quite all her darlings, but gives away a few ere they taste of death. But Grace Greenwood is grimly in earnest; and whenever her heart goes forth to a favorite, there is a funeral next day.

Following in the tranquil footsteps of Jonas reappears the ubiquitous “Oliver Optic,” whose fertility can by no means be exhausted in army and navy stories. Are there not the “Boat-Club Series,” and the “Riverdale Series,” and the “Woodville Series”? These all belong to the paths of peace,

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ere yet the war began, or when it was beginning; their scene is laid in fresh fields and pastures old. To-day, which among these are of this year’s books passes the power of arithmetic; but no matter,—they are perennial in their flow. The dozen little “Riverdale” specimens are in very large type, for very little children: here we have the stream, so to speak, at the fountain-head. The “Boat Club” books are the best; they are fresh and lively, with a good deal of boyish slang, and a great deal of adventure. Neither of these traits is a serious objection; but the critic-pen must demur when a well-taught school-girl is made to say, “I don’t know as you will,” and is described as being chased with murderous intent by that very harmless reptile, the black snake. It might also be objected that the boys’ boats cost too much, and carry too many oars for reasonable probability; and that the recruits in the frontispiece to “In-doors and Out” are holding their guns in a manner now happily obsolete. But these are trifles; and this writer’s books, though evidently written with a rapidity that seems to take one’s breath away, are certainly effective, and must be poular.

Far superior in literary execution is the only imported story of the higher order which the year can offer. “Countess Kate” is a tale of girlish life in England, carefully and thoroughly written, full of childish character, and with an admirable moral. It aims to show the superior efficacy of love over sternness in dealing with a spirited child; and is thoroughly wholesome and truthful, although the “Countess” part must afford some bewilderment to those small readers as yet happily unacquainted with the British peerage.

Indeed, it is singular how much more of the aroma of American nationality one can get from our children’s books than from any others, although one would at first suppose that these little people must lead much the same life, wherever on the globe they dwell. In these books by Abbott and Adams, for example, one enjoys with zest those hearty New England associations which cultivated wits and accomplished poets miss. Men and women meet as they meet in life,—come together with some gusto at Thanksgiving, part in earnest at the demand of war. External nature itself seems more sincere and genuine;

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these baths and boatings are cool and fresh, these winter fires glow with a solid warmth, these blackberries stain, these chestnut-burs [sic] have prickles. Even Hawthorne, with all his delicate delineation of the life of Pilgrim days, only threw the same faint haze of distance, or more of it, over the life around him. His “Blithedale Romance” was more remote and unreal than “The Scarlet Letter.” There is the same incongruity that one may see in the English designs for Kavanagh, where the shabby Irishman who collects old boots in the neighborhood of Boston becomes a picturesque mediæval swain, in jerkin and gartered hose.

Passing from the Puritan shell, our American civilization is developing into a new type, far more comprehensive, but for that very reason not yet homongeneous enough to be manipulated into works of art. All its spirit is indigenous, while most of its forms are exotic. Of course, as we remove farther from childhood the discrepancy becomes more plain. Every American child, unless he has the misfortune to be transplanted across the Atlantic for schooling, is American in early associations; while every highly educated man among us has half his thoughts in Europe. It is pleasant, therefore, to revert to these children’s books, which are at least in the vernacular. To those over-saturated with Transatlantic traditions, we recommend a course of “Little Prudy.” An epoch may yet come when American art may paint a maturer civilization, which shall grow from the common ground, and be as fresh and healthful as this childish society.

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