Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of The Child's Friend, ed. Eliza L. Follen]

There is no branch of literature that better deserves cultivation, and none that so little obtains it from worthy hands as this of Children's books. It requires a peculiar development of the genius and sympathies, rare among the men of factitious life, who are not men enough to revive, with force and beauty, the thoughts and scenes of childhood.

It is all idle to talk baby-talk, with malice prepense, and to give shallow accounts of deep things, thinking thereby to interest the child.—He does not like to be too much puzzled, but it is simplicity he wants and not silliness. We fancy, their angels, who are always waiting in the courts of our Father, smile, somewhat sadly, at the ignorance of those who would feed them on milk and water too long, and think it would be quite as well to give them a stone.

There is too much among us of the French way of palming off false accounts of things on children to do them good, and showing nature to them in a magic lantern, “purified for the use of childhood,” and telling stories of good little girls, and sweet little girls, or brave little boys; oh! all so good! or so bad! and, above all, so little, and every thing about them so little!—Children, accustomed to move in full-sized apartments, and converse with full-grown men and women, do not need so much of this baby-house style in their literature. They like, or would like, if they could get them, better things much better. They like the “Arabian Nights,” and “Pilgrim's Progress,” and “Bunyan's Emblems,”1 and Shakspeare, and the “Iliad” and “Odyssey;” at least, they used to like them; and, if they do not now, it is because their taste has been injured by so many sugar-plums. The books that were written in the childhood of nations suit an uncorrupt childhood now. They are simple, picturesque, robust. Their moral is not forced, nor is the truth veiled with a well-meant, but

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1
1. John Bunyan (1628–88), English nonconformist preacher and writer, published his Pilgrim's Progress, an allegory of Christian life, in 1678, and Divine Emblems, or Temporal Things Spiritualised in 1686.

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