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Forgotten Tales of Long Ago   By: (1868-1938)

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First Page:

FORGOTTEN TALES OF LONG AGO.

SELECTED BY E. V. LUCAS

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. D. BEDFORD

3 PATERNOSTER BUILDINGS. LONDON 44 VICTORIA STREET

E. C. WELLS, GARDNER, DARTON & CO. LTD. S.W.

C & D Co.

Fourth Impression, July, 1931.

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

WELLS GARDNER, DARTON AND CO., LTD.

[Illustration:

For me the backward glance; for me The tales of old simplicity. And this would be my dearest choice: To hear them in the mother's voice.]

INTRODUCTION

In the present volume will be found twenty stories from early writers for children, the period being roughly 1790 to 1830, with three later and more sophisticated efforts added. Having so recently made remarks on the character of these old books in the preface last year to Old Fashioned Tales , a companion volume to this I have very little to say now, except that I hope the selection will be found to be interesting. If it is not, it is less my fault than that of the authors, who preferred teaching to entertaining, moral improvement to drama. The pendulum has now perhaps swung almost too far the other way; but such things come right.

My first story, 'Dicky Random,' is from a little book published in 1805, entitled The Satchel; or, Amusing Tales for Correcting Rising Errors in Early Youth, addressed to all who wish to grow in Grace and Favour . On the title page is this motto:

'Put on the cap, if it will fit, And wiser grow by wearing it.'

There is no author's name. I do not consider the story of Dicky a very brilliant piece of work, but it has some pleasing incidents, not the least of which is the irreproachable behaviour of the gentlemen at dinner. Dicky's father comes out as hardly less foolish than his son, which is not common in these books. To call a doctor Hardheart seems to me to have been a courageous thing. The sentence, 'The boy's father, though a labouring man, had a generous mind,' would help us to date the story, even without the evidence of the title page. It is astonishing for how long the poor had to play a degraded part in minor English literature.

In another story in the book, called 'Good Manners their own Reward,' I find this sentence, which contains an idea for a children's manual that certainly ought to be written, under the same title too: 'Master Goodly not long after this had the pleasure of seeing a small book printed and circulated among his juvenile acquaintance, called "The Way to be Invited a Second Time."'

We pass next to a little work of pretty fancy, 'The Months,' which by its ingenuity I hope makes up for want of drama. I have included it on that ground, and also because if the descriptions were read aloud in irregular order to small children, it might be an agreeable means of encouraging thought and observation if the listeners were asked to put a name to each month. 'The Months' comes from a book published in 1814 entitled Tales from the Mountains , the mountains being those dividing England from Wales. A story in the same volume which I nearly included has the promising style 'The Spotted Cow and the Pianoforte,' but its matter is not equal to its title. It is, indeed, a variation upon a very old theme, being the narrative of two girls of equal age who, coming into a little prosperity, at once gratify old desires: one, the exemplary one, wishing a useful cow, and the other, the frivolous one, a piano. The author, in the old remorseless way, contrasts their subsequent careers, nothing but happiness and worth falling to the sensible girl who chose the cow, and nothing but disaster dogging the steps of the foolish desirer of the musical instrument. I do not think this to be good working morality, since proficiency on the piano can also be a step towards a livelihood and independence, and even Madame Schumann, one supposes, had to make a start somehow. The name of the author is not known.

Probably no story in this collection had more popularity in its day than 'Jemima Placid,' of which I use only a portion... Continue reading book >>




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