[To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read”]

The Two Doves and the Owl (1819 & 1821)

This little book probably was written by Samuel Goodrich, who published and sold books in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1815 to around 1826. “About the same period I turned my attention to books for education and books for children,” he wrote later, “being strongly impressed with the idea that there was here a large field for improvement. I wrote, myself, … half a dozen toy-books, and published them, though I have never before confessed their authorship.” (Recollections of a Lifetime, vol 2: 112)

First published in 1819 at 16 pages, it was reformatted and republished in 1821, at 28 pages. In the process, some typographical errors and archaic spellings were corrected (“Harriot” in the original becomes “Harriet” in the reprint, and the owl who looked like a “batchelor” in the original looks like a “bachelor” in 1821), but the stories and illustrations stayed the same. Most likely, the illustrations weren’t created for the book: the illustrations used on the covers apparently are from a set also used in 1820 by Hartford publisher Oliver D. Cooke, for the covers of the chapbook Interesting Conversations with a Cruel Carman, a Beggar, the British Trumpeter, and a Boy with a Bird’s Nest.

The small illustrations on the inside had long and full lives, appearing in a number of books, chapbooks, and periodicals well into the century.

The stories themselves are an odd mix by twenty-first-century standards. The title story mingles sentiment with a sort of gothic realism, as a sweet family of anthropomorphized doves meets the grisly reality of the predator/prey relationship. “The Antelope” is a prettified story a bit out of keeping with Goodrich’s usual anti-monarchy screeds. The third story is an update of a story about that popular medieval European trickster, Reynard the fox. It’s likely that the stories were written around their illustrations, as was often done in early chapbooks for children.


1819 version |

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