An appreciation of Samuel Griswold Goodrich’s Peter Parley books by an early reader. The portrait of Goodrich that appeared on page 331 of this piece appears to have come from one made by Matthew Brady in the 1840s.


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“Peter Parley,” by Donald G. Mitchell (from American Lands & Letters. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897. vol. 1; pp. 330-335)

It would be invidious to omit from these Collectanea of American Writers who were born toward the close of the last century that favorite story-teller for boys, who, in a cocked hat and coat with big lapels, and pockets stuffed with

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p. 331

[picture of S.G. Goodrich]

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[p. 332 blank]

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p. 333

goodies, used to exploit himself upon the title pages of his little miniature quartos as Peter Parley.* What a rare old gentleman he was to be sure! And with what a grandfatherly, homely, fireside way, he told us youngsters—with pricked ears and most eager—about the Turks and the Greeks, and about London Bridge and the terrible Bastile! It was a great break-down of our young cherished image to learn in after-life that the cocked hat, and staff, and big pockets were only purest, untruthful fancies, and that this master of boy-literature was a dapper man with an active, nervous step, who held consular office and stamped passports for the “regulation” fees!

His real name was Goodrich, and he was a native of a pretty town in Western Connecticut—gravitating somehow, as he reached manhood, to that old literary centre of Hartford:—publishing books there and selling them; then voyaging to England and France—taking his quick Connecticut eyes with him, and seeing multitudes of things

* Samuel G. Goodrich, b. 1793; d. 1860. His books counted by the hundred. His Reminiscences a virtual autobiography, published in 2 vols. 12mo, 1856.

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p. 334

which sparkled up, afterward, at all sorts of angles, and odd groupings, in the flood of his abounding books. By that travel he ripened for a life in Boston, and was publisher there (writing between whiles)—specially of that old annual, called The Token, in which some of Hawthorne’s Twice-told Tales first saw the light; and where N.P. Willis flashed his maiden sword upon the hot-pressed pages of that glittering gift-book.

A serious word of commendation is to be said for that happy story-telling art of Peter Parley, which converted the stiff geographic text-books of Maltebrun and of Woodbridge into lively pictures of great countries, where people talked of battles, and builded—as they did at home; and where the rivers ran and sea sparkled and mountains brooded over valleys—as they did not do in bigger and more learned geographies. I think that the image of London Tower, which came to me first through the spectacles of Mr. Peter Parley (God bless him), did not wholly fade, when I tramped through the galleries and dungeons; and it abides with me still. His books lifted the old geography tasks into joys; all honor to him for this.

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p. 335

This Mr. Goodrich wrote poems too; upon these we cannot dwell; few people do; but we will take a gracious leave of him in a stanza of his own inditing—“Good-Night!”

“The sun has sunk behind the hills,

The shadows over the landscape creep;

A drowsy sound the woodland fills

And nature folds her arms to sleep;

Good-night—good-night!

“The bat may wheel on silent wing—

The fox his guilty vigils keep—

The boding owl his dirges sing,

But love and innocence will sleep;

Good-night—good-night!”

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