emma_in_dream: (Lotr)
“Though now children’s books come yearly in hundreds, Mrs. Molesworth’s books have not been superseded, and very likely never will be” (The Times 22 Jul. 1921).
emma_in_dream: (alexa)
I assume this book was a Christmas publication, aimed at the Victorian middle class. It’s nicely illustrated and contains two almost painfully pious short stories. John Strange’s one is about two boys spending Christmas at school and comforting each other in the absence of their families. Mrs Molesworth’s is about some children who are led into a fib by naughty neighbours. Luckily they quickly repent.

I’ve heard of Mrs Molesworth before – perhaps in a Nancy Mitford novel? She certainly typifies the kind of bland, heavy on the improving message kind of children’s literature which we associate with the Victorians.
emma_in_dream: (steve)
Having said that Mrs Molesworth began her life nursed by Dorothy Wordsworth’s servant, she ended her writing career living next to young Leonard Woolf. From romanticism to modernism in one lifetime.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
According to *The Academy*'s survey of bookshops in 1898, the most popular children's books in England were in this order:

Alice in Wonderland (1865)
Robinson Crusoe (1719)
Andrew Lang's Fairy Books (1889)
Hans Christian Anderson (1845)
The Water Babies (1863)
Mrs Molesworth
Eric, of Little by Little (1858)
The Jungle Books (1894)
Grimm's tales (1823)
Treasure Island (1881)
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I am reading her biography and she apparently had a childhood nurse who had previously worked for Dorothy Wordsworth.


You know what I would like? Some kind of three dimensional computer program that you could use to show the relationships between writers in the nineteenth century.
emma_in_dream: (Leia)
The London School Board gave away 2,000 of Mrs Molesworth's books as prizes in 1877 alone.

Perhaps they did not know that – scandalously – she was separated from her husband. He does seem to have had an explosive temper, whether as a result of temperament or the head wounds sustained in the Afghan campaign or PTSD from his work putting down what was at the time called the Indian mutiny. Even her husband’s family were totally supportive of her leaving him.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
I knew Mrs Molesworthy only through Virginia Woolf and Nancy Mitford describing her as the sort of author no one nowadays reads. But she is actually pretty good!

*The Cuckoo Clock* is a children’s story where a girl is sent to live with her elderly aunts in a large house. The girl is fascinated by their cuckoo clock, which then starts visiting her at night-time and taking her on adventures. She gets to fly and to visit a land where porcelain ornaments live. Actually, the ornaments are a models of Chinese mandarins so there are many puns about the Chinese china.

What I like most about the cuckoo is that it is sarcastic and impatient. It reminds me a bit of the creatures that Alice encounters in Wonderland, most of which are preoccupied and self-assured. There is, however, a moral element which Lewis does not have, with the narartor commenting on the girl’s behaviour whenever it is not up to scratch.

I downloaded a free edition on my IPad, complete with the original Victorian illustrations and sentimental chapter headings. I am very keen on reading my nineteenth-century texts this way as:

1. They are usually free.
2. The IPad weighs less than a bulky Victorian novel so it is easier for me to carry about. Plus the IPad fits almost limitless numbers of Victorian novels. My next choices are *Sartor Resartus* and *David Copperfield* but I may need something lighter to intersperse them with.
3. They are usually much easier to read than the Gutenberg versions.
4. Sometimes I get to see the original illustrations or even page annotations.

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