ENGINES OF INSTRUCTION, MISCHIEF, AND MAGIC: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginnings to 1839 by Mary V. Jackson

ENGINES OF INSTRUCTION, MISCHIEF, AND MAGIC: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginnings to 1839

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Jackson's self-described contextual history traces the social, religious, political, and commercial influences on children's books from the earliest ""courtesy"" books, chapbooks, and Puritan pieties that existed before 1744, when John Newbery's commercial enterprise established publishing for children and created a market for the product. Jackson (English/City College of CUNY) points out how Newbery drew on the ideas of Locke and the related climate of optimism about human ""improvability"" to produce stories wherein diligence and virtue won material success and young people of beauty and goodness rose to higher station through marriage. She traces the reaction to Newbery's encouragement of ""upward mobility"" among those teaching docility to keep the poor in their place and, later, those categorically opposed to literacy for the lower orders. And so the conflicts raged between booksellers and reformers, moralists and ""information mongers,"" ""utilitarians of whatever stripe"" and those ""more tolerant of fancy."" For sheer delight and open social values, the commercial interests emerge with the best marks; but Jackson is fair to the reformers and distinguishes between those like Sarah Trimmer and Maria Edgeworth, who instructed with charm and affection, and their more stultifying followers. More contextual survey than analysis, either social or internal, and far more attentive to the ""instruction"" in the title than the ""mischief"" or ""magic,"" this intelligent sorting out of trends and categories is marked by an informed understanding of content and context.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press