ENG457H1F: Studies in eighteenth-century literature

Books for Children

||Course description|| || Method of evaluation || ||Schedule||

||Readings|| ||Web resources|| ||Citing primary sources||

||Classified bibliography|| || Panel groups || || Encyclopedia article || ||Research paper||


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Course description

Was there a ‘new world of children’ in eighteenth-century England’? What role did children’s books play in it? Who were the publishers and authors that recognized it, contributed to it, created to it, and hoped to profit from it? What genres were felt to be appropriate for children? What were the conventions of these genres and to what extent did authors depart from them? What ideas about childhood and about British society were reflected or created by the content of these books? by the representation of ‘conversation’? by their material form? Could ‘instruction’ be conveyed even or especially under the guise of ‘amusement’?

In this course we will be finding, reading, and interpreting eighteenth-century children’s literature in its cultural contexts. We will exploit such resources as the local Osborne Collection by looking not only at fiction and poetry but also at textbooks, non-fiction, and periodicals.

Within the course parameters, to a great extent what happens this term will be driven by your interests and initiative. You’ll be spending the first weeks of the course reading widely and independently in order to choose the text (or, in a few cases, author) that you will be personally responsible for this term. Your research paper is the core of the course: as you plan, research, write, and present it you will learn and exercise research skills. Group presentations during the term will solidify some of the major issues and themes.

By the end of this course you will be

Required reading

At the University of Toronto Bookstore you can find the course anthology, From instruction to delight: an anthology of children’s literature to 1850, 2nd ed., ed. Patricia Demers (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2004). Demers will be a springboard for our work this term: be warned now that you’ll be spending a lot of time gathering texts for yourself to read. On October 12th, you’ll be getting a session at Robarts on how to find primary and secondary sources for this subject.

Primary sources? On October 5th, we’ll be visiting one of the world’s foremost sources of primary sources for this subject – the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books at the Toronto Public Library.You’ll be spending much of your time gathering and evaluating primary and secondary material here and in other local libraries (including Robarts and the Fisher Library). There are also many images of specific children’s books available on the web: in “ECCO” and on the website for “The Hockliffe Project”. (See the Short list of resources.)

Secondary sources? Some of the books on the ‘short list of resources’ are on short-term reserve for our class at Robarts (Short-term loans, 3rd floor): most of these are 2-day loan. A number of articles are accessible on the web, but you’ll need to get these through the U of T library site.

There is a separate short list of resources that you will be receiving today.


I’ve adopted an approach for this seminar from my colleague Professor Jackson—perhaps some of you may recognize it! The assignments for this course are all linked to one another. By the end of the course you will have become an expert on at least one eighteenth-century children’s book and author, and will use that as a means of gaining access to some major issues and themes in the subject.

One of your main tasks for the first weeks of the course is to give me a ‘short list’ of books that you know you can work with for the duration of the term. I need this list by October 8th; the sooner the better for you. After you’ve been assigned one title from this list by 11 October, you’ll be writing a short ‘first impressions’ essay about it due 21st October (10%) and compiling a ‘list of resources’/‘classified bibliography’ about it due 4th November (10%). Your analysis of the book will comprise part of a ‘panel discussion’ on a broader relevant topic (10%)—the date will be determined once you’ve all been assigned your books. Meanwhile you’ll be writing a research essay about your book (and its author and/or publisher) setting it in a relevant broader context (30%); it’s due on 25th November. Finally, in order to demonstrate the breadth of your new knowledge, you’ll also write an ‘encyclopedia article’ for our course webpage about a related but distinct topic (30%), due on the last day of class, 7 December. A participation grade (10%) will be based on your informed, curious, courteous participation in group discussions.

More detailed description of assignments

Choosing the book you’ll become an expert on

You’ll have received a list of eighteenth-century children’s books along with this course admin material. The list will also identify the potential ‘panel discussions’ that each text might fit into. By October 8th, you should email me with a list of the top three or four that you’d like to focus on for the term. I’ll let you know by October 11th which one you’re going to be responsible for.

Some of them are represented in Demers. You’ll have to find the books in a variety of places: most of them are at the Osborne Collection, but for the moment you might find it easier to look for them online. The Hockliffe Collection has a number of scanned images and useful essays about children’s books in the collection at De Montfort University. On ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collection Online) you can find images of many, many eighteenth-century books.

General advice

The first assignments will culminate in your research paper (25 November 2004) in which you provide a sharply-focussed, detailed, scholarly ‘context’ for your text. Exactly what this means will depend on factors like the text that you’ve chosen and your own intellectual perspective. But you’ll certainly have to read and think about more than one book!

If you’re working on an elementary reading book written by a woman author, you might become interested in the status of women as authoritative ‘elementary’ teachers and authors: was this role empowering? confining? How are women teachers (mothers, governesses) portrayed in books for children? Have women authors of elementary books for children been omitted from the history of Romantic literature, as Myers and others have argued? Your ‘context’ might well require that you read many similar books by other women writers or books in which feature mother-teachers.

If you’re working on different versions of one fairy tale, you will contextualize it in eighteenth-century England and might ask questions like: what changes were made when it was translated into English from French? what changes were made through the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century? what reasons might account for those changes? To what extent do early nineteenth-century versions of the tale reflect its specific cultural context?

If you’re working on a ‘rags-to-riches’ story featuring Goody Two-Shoes or Giles Gingerbread or Primrose Pretty-face, you’ll have to read similar stories in order to get a sense of the genre and the values that seem common to it. (How) do the lessons for male and female orphans differ? What drives the plot and determines the child’s future? How are class relations portrayed: is it possible for everybody to rise socially? What values are rewarded (and with what)?

Assignment 1 (10%). ‘Close reading’/’first impressions’. Due Thursday 21st October. Without consulting any secondary sources, but reading closely and thinking logically, write a well focussed and well organized essay of 500-1000 words on the theme of ‘my first encounter with’ this text. I’m expecting most of the papers to be around 1000 words. Ultimately you will be trying to put the text in its eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century context, so if there are things that strike you as ‘alien’ (or hilarious) about it, thinking about those ‘alien’ qualities may help you reconstruct that context.

          Base your essay on just one edition of the text. If your text appears in more than one edition or form during this period, browse enough of them so that you know you’re working on the most potentially fruitful one.

          Make sure that your paper has a bibliography with a full reference to the source(s) of the text that you’ve used: for examples of how to cite material from ECCO or the Hockliffe Project, click here. "Writing at U of T" has a section on documentation:http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/document.html

          When I’m grading these papers, the usual criteria apply (2004-2005 calendar, p. 422). Does your essay demonstrate your

There are many helpful websites about essay-writing. At U of T, see




Assignment 2 (10%). Classified bibliography/List of resources.Due Thursday 4th November.

Assemble a list of resources you would like to be able to consult for assignment 3 and 4. 

Begin with one paragraph summarizing what you plan to do for your later assignments and what you expect to find out by consulting the sources you have listed. This is a fourth-year course; your research paper should be appropriately sophisticated.

‘Classify’ your list: you should group entries by topics. Those topics will depend on the topic you want to investigate, but might include

For format (specific and general), you might have a look at some of the eighteenth-century bibliographies at http://www.c18.org/biblio/. Use the most recent edition of the MLA handbook as a guide for the details of the format.

Your list should be thorough but not undiscriminating. Don’t include references to books or articles that are not relevant to the questions you want to answer.

I will be looking for a list of resources that is

I don’t require you to annotate your bibliography, but you might want to for your own purposes, or to impress me. For guidance on writing one, see


NB You can and should start on this as soon as you have finished Assignment 1: it’s not the kind of thing you can do in a rush. A few of the basic resources are on short-term loan, but please respect the needs of your classmates by not taking out basic materials if you can help it.

Assignment 3 (10%). Panel discussions. November 2nd through 23rd. Finding texts that interested you as individuals and fit perfectly together into well-unified groups was harder to do than I thought: we've got fairy tales on Nov 2nd, peripatetic and often non-human protagonists on Nov 9th, and things slowly taking shape for the subsequent weeks ...longer collections of moral tales and dialogues on November 16th, and Isaac Watts and John Harris on November 23rd (sorry--a side-effect of giving most people their first choices). Other themes could have iincluded: individual publishers (John Newbery, Joseph Johnson, John Marshall, Elizabeth Newbery, John Harris); social issues (gender, class, race, politics); genres (early readers, poetry, fables, school stories), subjects (sciences; religion); modes of instruction (dialogue, letters). Panel groups will have an hour during class on October 26th to plan the division of sub-topics and plan the order of speakers.

          Before the week before your panel presentation, your group must assign readings for the whole class and make sure that those readings are accessible.

          On the day, a one-page handout listing the main points of your argument is required from each presenter. Please make enough copies for us.

          Your panel group is responsible for at least 75 minutes of class time, including your individual presentations, any group ‘summaries’, questions, and discussion. Marks will be assigned individually, reflecting your contribution to your group’s coherent presentation (and the difficulty of making its different units cohere), but unless you are spectacularly good or bad you will probably get the same 7 or 8 as the rest of the panel.

          For guidance on seminar-giving, see


Assignment 4 (30%). Research essay. Due Thursday 25 November. In 10-11 pages double-spaced (excluding notes and bibliography) write an essay about your text setting it in a relevant ‘children’s literature in the eighteenth-century’ context. This is likely to be literary--but might focus on publishing history, gender and authorship... In a research paper, you are contextualizing your work against that of other scholars: I'm expecting a wide range of reputable secondary sources. As this is a fourth year course, I'm expecting that your paper will be sophisticated. Some of you might do 'comparison and interpretation': how do early eighteenth-century versions of your story differ from early nineteenth-century versions, and why? how does your 'adventures of a pincushion' differ from other 'adventures' of inanimate objects for children, and from picareque novels for adults? how does your touching tale about animals differ from 'sentimental novels' for adults? Minimize discussion of the life of the author; whatever you include should be relevant to your argument. You’ll draw not only on Assignment 2 but on the broader resources for the study of children’s literature in the eighteenth century that you’ve been introduced to during the term. I'm very happy to talk to you about how to focus and develop your topic: don't hesitate to see me during office hours or to email with questions. For general guidance on essay writing and on taking notes from your research, see


Between the title page and your essay, include a 250-word abstract of your paper (5%). For guidance on abstract-writing, see


Assignment 5 (30%). Web encyclopedia article. Initially due Tuesday 7th December, now due Thursday 9th December. In about 4-5 pages double-spaced (excluding the ‘List of resources’ at the end of your article) write an encyclopedia article as if for our class web page. This assignment is designed for you to demonstrate as much as you have learned this term as possible: if the topic seems narrow or easy, make it big and significant! Please put ONLY your student number on this assignment and NOT your name.

1. Choose one of the following subjects: (a) dialogue and/or dialogues; (b) "nature vs. nurture"; (c) strategies for teaching children to read; representations of ONE of (d) books and readers and reading, (e) cats; (f) clothes and accessories (i.e. whips); (g) death; (h) female teachers (sisters, mothers, orphans); (i) food, (j) insects; (k) money, (l) families, (m) playing and play and games.
2. Review and take notes from all of the relevant primary sources that we have read in class this term (both for seminars and for regular classes). If we have read only excerpts from primary sources, you're welcome to read more. If you're feeling very ambitious you can read (about) other books too. Find patterns in the observations that you have made. Relate these to big issues in the field of children's literature in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
3. Find and take notes from any appropriate secondary sources for these subjects. You are more likely to find secondary literature for some topics (e.g. representations of female teachers) than for the others (e.g. 'e', 'i-k').
4. Using the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature as a model for content and style, write an 'encyclopedia article' about that topic. Your article should draw on as many primary sources as possible. Your article should link the specific topic to broader debates and developments. Remember that the purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate your knowledge of major issues and themes in the field of eighteenth-century children's literature.
5. For general guidance about how people read on the web and how you should write for it, see http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html
6. Encyclopedia articles do not usually cite or quote directly from secondary sources. However, I would like you to acknowledge any secondary sources that you have used: use endnotes or parenthetical references, just as you would in a conventional essay.
7. If you have found and used good secondary sources for this topic, please list them at the end in a "List of resources".

In order for the article to get a passing grade, the topic you write on must be significantly distinct from that of your research paper. You may pick a topic that overlaps with your research paper, but of course you'll have to treat it in lots of other primary sources too. If you are in any doubt about the appropriateness of your topic, come in and talk to me during office hours.


ENG457F: Schedule for the first few weeks

“D” = “Demers” = From instruction to delight (course anthology)

“Grenby” = Essays for The Hockliffe Project (online)

“Jackson” = Engines of instruction, mischief, and magic [PR990 J33, at STL]

“Burlingham” = http://www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/special/childhood/pictur.htm





Readings (secondary)

14 Sept.

Course overview


The hornbook, the ABC, and the primer

Handouts: hornbook, battledore, The ABC with the catechism

Demers, pp. 18-20

Demers, pp. 1-7


“Introductory essay”

Jackson, “The birth of the children’s book trade”

21 Sept.

Some early works:

Think about:

illustrations, animals

Aesop, Comenius, Janeway, Bunyan, Watts

Demers, pp. 39-44,56-60, 69-72, 76-87, 95-102

Handout: Aesop (L’Estrange, Croxall)



“Religious prototypes” & “Secular adult forerunners”

28 Sept.


Mothers and publishers:

Jane Johnson,

Mary Cooper,

John Newbery


Child’s new play-thing table of contents

Handout: Newbery ad

Demers, pp. 64-69

Demers, pp. 119-140

Jackson, “The first innovators”

Download *Jajdelska, *Arizpe and Styles

Two public lectures by Professor Nicholas Orme, University of Exeter:


29 Sept.

410 pm

“Going to school in the middle ages”

410 pm

Brennan Hall room 200,

St Michael’s College

Public lecture

Less directly relevant, but certainly interesting


30 Sept.


“The origins of English children’s literature”

8 pm

239 College Street

Lillian H. Smith Library

This is not part of the course, but it’s an exciting and very relevant opportunity!

5 Oct.

Osborne Collection

Introduction to the collection

  Week of 5 October: interview with Prof Percy    

12 Oct.

Robarts 4055 Finding and using resources  

19 Oct.

Women authors of elementary texts

Barbauld's Lessons for children 1778-

Read Demers 225-6, and on Hockliffe (#0482), the first part, Lessons for children, from two to three years old. Download/copy pp.1-14, 34-38, 46-52, as well as the first few pages of the next book, ... three years old.

From your reading of Barbauld, make 3 substantial observations to begin the discussion. )

Read Fenn's Cobwebs to catch flies c1783 in Demers 162-4, and from ECCO, download "The cat", "The toy-shop" and "The baby-house" from volume 1, and "The useful play" from volume 2.)

Matthew Grenby's essay on Lessons for Children (0482) on The Hockliffe Project's website

William McCarthy, "Mother of all discourses: Anna Barbauld's Lessons for children," Princeton University Library Chronicle LX.2 (1999).

21 October (Thursday): Assignment 1 (close reading/first impressions) is due.

26 Oct.

Managing lower-class literacy

Trimmer's Charity School Spelling Book c1798 Read Demers 231-2, and from ECCO, read and download The Charity School Spelling Book ... good and bad boys (1799), pp. 16-28 (images 15-27).

More's Cheap Repository Tracts 1795-97 (Demers 239-247).

  Second hour: group liaison    

2 Nov.

Fairy tales

Allen, Amy, Lisa, Olivia, Todne

Think about: Are fairy tales good or bad for children?

Get on ECCO (search by title & date):

(1) "Beauty and the Beast." In The polite academy, or school of behaviour for young gentlemen and ladies. London, 1762. Image #108.

(2) Perrault, Charles.
Histories, or tales of past times (1729):
I "The Little red Riding-Hood",
IV "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood",
V "The Master Cat: or Puss in Boots",
VI "Cinderilla: or, The little Glass Slipper".

(3) The history of Cinderella, or the little glass slipper [1790]

Read from The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (Robarts short-term loan):

  • the entry on 'Fairy tales'
  • the background information on each of the fairy tales
4 November (Thursday): Assignment 2 (classified bibliography) is due.
9 Nov. Non-human characters: the engine of morality

Get from ECCO:

Dorothy Kilner, The Rational Brutes (pages 1-24) --Melissa C.;
Adventures of a Silver Penny (pages 7-26)--David C.;
Dorothy Kilner, Life and Perambulation of a Mouse (pages 1-20)--Michael K.;
Thomas Day, History of Little Jack (page 1-30)--Meghan M.

From Hockliffe (Catalogue #0180)

Mary Mister, Adventures of a Doll: "The Toyshop" (1-6), "Content & Comfort" (128-134), "The Nobleman's Mansion" (172-180), "The Bishop's Palace" (186-189)--Megan Y.

16 Nov.

[Collections of moral narratives and dialogues]


Day, 'Two dogs' (46-51) and 'Androcles and the lion' (53-54, 56-58), in volume 1 of History of Sandford and Merton, (1787 ed.)--Anne R-D. Also handout received in class on 9 November.
Genlis, 'The Phials: a comedy,' volume 1 of Theatre of Education (London, 1781) --Donna Marie B.
Edgeworth, "Lazy Lawrence" in volume 1 of The parent's assistant--Liz R.
More, 'Advertisement' and 'Moses,' Sacred dramas (1782)--Mark P.

From another site:

Sherwood, title page and pp 153-62 of The History of the Fairchild Family--Rob W.


23 Nov.

[John Harris: ABCs, chapbooks, and nonsense]

[Isaac Watts and the arts of indoctrination]


1. From DEMERS:

Roscoe, The Butterfly's Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast
Dorset, The Peacock at Home
--Cher L


Valentine and Orson (the Harris edition)--Chris M.

3a. A number of ABC books: The history of A Apple Pie written by Z (printed for John Harris)--given as handout on 16 Nov


3b. "An Alphabet of Lessons for youth" from the Table of Contents of the New England Primer (1785), and
3c. "An Alphabet of moral precepts in verse" from the Table of Contents of The Child's New Play-Thing (1743); also image 16 ("This alphabet is to be cut into single squares") and image 17 "A Apple Pye" and "A was an archer and shot at a frog."--Sarah C.

4. Watts, "Young Child's Catechism" (pp. 77-83/images 88-94) & "The Assembly's Catechism" (pp. 121-2/images 132-133) from Catechisms, or instructions ... composed for children and youth: please use the second edition from 1730: there are two. --Aaron K.

5. "Preface" and "Songs I-XIV" from Watts, Divine Songs--Nicole V.

25th November (Thursday): Assignment 4 (Research paper) is due.

30 Nov.

'The Governess'

Sarah Fielding, "An account of a fray," The governess: or, Little female academy (1749): Demers 147-150.

Mary Wollstonecraft, "Chapter VII," Original stories from real life (1788): Demers 164-167.

7 Dec. 'Mental improvement'

Priscilla Wakefield, "Conversation 10," Mental improvement: or, The beauties and wonders of nature and art, conveyed in a series of instructive conversations (1794): Demers 168-171.

Jane Marcet, "Nouns. Lesson 1," Mary's grammar interspersed with stories and intended for the use of children (1835): Demers 197-199.


9th December (Thursday): Assignment 5 (Web encyclopedia article) due.

I will email you when your work is ready to collect from the Wetmore Hall porter.

Have a very happy and restful holiday. I hope you enjoyed the course.

Texts to select: some suggestions

Your task for the next few weeks is to find a text that

(You are welcome to submit a proposal as a group of 4, but otherwise I’ll put you together myself.)

          I’ve suggested some titles below, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Get more ideas by browsing the books at the short-term loan department (especially Jackson and The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature).

If you know you’d like to work on a particular subject/topic and want to brainstorm, send me an email and we can set up an interview before the ones scheduled for early October. I want you to enjoy this term!

While you’re looking for a text, you’ll also be reading a lot of C18th children’s literature!

Where are the books? Eighteenth-century children’s books are accessible to you:


In libraries:    The Osborne Collection at 239 College Street; the Thomas Fisher library next to Robarts Library. For browsing, I find the 2-volume printed catalogue for the Osborne Collection very helpful (Z1038 in the reference sections of Trinity and the Thomas Fisher library, and of course at the Osborne Collection itself).

The 1740s: consuming amusement

Geography for children. Have a look at the entry for “Geography and travel” in the Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature.

The Osborne Collection contains a number of geographical games for C18th children: have a look at the section on “Games and Pastimes” their catalogue, The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, 2 vols.

Other ‘textbook’ genres

This subject might sound unappealing but because textbooks are ‘conventional’ it can be quite interesting to look at how an individual author successfully adapted or changed the formula. It might be fun if three or four of you tackled the ABC (there’s a title from 1800 called The Book of Nouns that is actually an alphabet book), or the primer or English history for children. Start by reading the appropriate section in the Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature!

Fairy tales

These are bibliographically quite complicated – not an ‘easy’ option! See the entry for “Fairy tales” in The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature for an overview.

Your project could compare different versions of the ‘same’ story through the C18th and draw some conclusions about the differences.

Featuring female teachers

Fiction for children

Using drama and dialogue

John Marshall and the material culture of children’s literature

Science and natural history for children


ENG457F—Short list of resources

Primary sources

Some eighteenth-century children’s books are accessible to you online.

Secondary sources

Instant knowledge

The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, ed. Carpenter and Prichard (Oxford, 1984), call number PN 1008.5 C37 1984.

Available on short-term (2 hour) reserve on the third floor of Robarts Library.

The Hockliffe Project has commissioned some excellent essays by Dr Matthew Grenby on


Your course anthology, From instruction to delight, has a good bibliography.

The Hockliffe Project also has a bibliography—select it from the left-hand drop-down box.

Books on short-term loan

I have put books on C18th children’s literature on short-term reserve on the third floor of Robarts; check out the titles by following the ‘short-term loan’ link on the U of T library catalogue. Most are on 2-day reserve. Most have call numbers around PR990 or PN1009; you can get the call numbers from the catalogue. They include

Darton, F. G. Harvey, Children's Books in England: Five centuries of social life, Cambridge: CUP, 1932; third edition, revised by Brian Alderson, 1982

Hilton, Mary; Styles, Morag; Watson, Victor (eds.), Opening the Nursery Door. Reading, Writing and Childhood 1600-1900, London: Routledge, 1997

Jackson, Mary V., Engines of Instruction. Mischief, and Magic: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginning to 1839, Lincoln, Neb., 1989

O’Malley, Andrew. The Making of the Modern Child: Children’s Literature and Childhood in the Late Eighteenth Century. London: Routledge, 2003.

Pickering, Samuel F., Jnr.John Locke and Children's Book in Eighteenth-Century England, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1981

Pickering, Samuel F., Jnr.Moral Instruction and Fiction for Children, 1749-1820, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1993

Richardson, Alan, Literature, Education, and Romanticism. Reading as Social Practice, 1780-1832, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994