Victorian Literature Children's Literature
by
Roderick McGillis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0088

Introduction

At the outset of the Victorian period, children’s literature continued the tradition of the moral story as exemplified in the work of Dorothy Kilner, Maria Edgeworth, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and others. However, the conjunction of fantasy and realism is apparent in Catherine Sinclair’s Holiday House (1839); famously, the chapter “Uncle David’s Nonsensical Story About Giants and Fairies” makes room for fantasy in the field of English children’s fiction. By 1846, Mary Howitt, herself a follower of the “moral” school of children’s writing, had translated Andersen’s fairy tales suggesting the connection between so-called moral tales and fantasy. Ten years later Frances Browne published Granny’s Wonderful Chair. What followed was a wave of fairy tales and fantasy for children by a great number of writers, including the now canonical Charles Kingsley, Lewis Carroll, and George MacDonald. As U. C. Knoepflmacher has pointed out, these male writers had their female counterparts in, among others, Christina Rossetti, Jean Ingelow, and Juliana Horatia Ewing. Writing for children grew in popularity, so much so that most of the major writers of the period wrote at least one children’s book: William Thackeray, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Augusta Webster, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, and Thomas Hardy. Although fantasy dominated children’s literature (important writers include Mary Molesworth, Diana Mulock Craik, Mary DeMorgan, Margaret Gatty, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Lucy Lane Clifford), the realistic writing for the young did not disappear. Domestic fiction by Charlotte Yonge and stories of street children by writers such as Hesba Stretton, and “Brenda” (Georgiana Castle Smith) continued to be popular. Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857) proved a catalyst for school stories by the likes of F. W. Farrar, Talbot Baines Reed, and for girls, L. T. Meade and Angela Brazil. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) signals the advent of many animal stories that flowered at the end of the century in work by Charles G. D. Roberts, Beatrix Potter, and others. The Victorian period is also the high point of the British Empire, and children’s books celebrated British imperialism. Works by Frederick Marryat, R. M. Ballantyne, Bessie Marchant, and preeminently G. A. Henty chronicled British activity in the colonies. Readers could also find similar stories in periodicals such as The Boy’s Own Paper and The Boys of England. Children’s magazines proliferated during the period. Finally, poetry for children (especially nonsense) and illustration and the picture book also began their long run of popularity.

General Overviews

The selection of general works about Victorian children’s literature contains surveys such as Green 1965, Ang 2000, Avery 1975, Hunt 1994, and Muir 1954. Ang 2000, Avery 1975, and Hunt 1994 offer critical readings of selected children’s books by the major writers, whereas Green 1965 and Muir 1954 are more appreciative and impressionistic. Muir is the only writer to consider illustration and the picture book. None of these surveys is comprehensive. Dusinberre 1987, Flegel 2009a, and Flegel 2009b are more pointedly driven by a thesis: the former that Victorian children’s books set out the direction to modernism and the latter two that challenge the familiar notion of the Romantic child. The most critically sophisticated of the general works is Gubar 2010. Gubar covers more ground than earlier surveys, and like Flegel, she challenges the familiar notions of the Victorian child and the legacies of Romanticism.

  • Ang, Susan. The Widening World of Children’s Literature. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2000.

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    Ang’s argument is that over the course of its development, children’s literature moved from a depiction of childhood as “enclosed” to a depiction of a more “open” world for childhood activity. She spends much of the book in the Victorian period focusing on canonical writers such as Alcott, Carroll, Burnett, Nesbit, and Kipling. Other Victorians appearing in the book include Charlotte Yonge, Francis Paget, Mary Molesworth, George Eliot, and Charlotte Brontë.

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  • Avery, Gillian. Childhood’s Pattern: A Study of the Heroes and Heroines of Children’s Fiction 1770–1950. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975.

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    A study of the social context of children’s literature, it develops themes first set out in Avery’s Nineteenth Century Children (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1965). It covers topics from evangelical literature for the young, to depictions of the family, to “manly” boyhood, and innocent children. It contains little sustained analysis, but it is invaluable as a survey.

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  • Dusinberre, Juliet. Alice to the Lighthouse: Children’s Books and Radical Experiments in Art. London: Macmillan, 1987.

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    The importance of this book is that it shows how Victorian children’s writers such as Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Frances Hodgson Burnett laid the groundwork for modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf and Roger Fry. Mark Twain’s influence on English modernism is also noted.

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  • Flegel, Monica. Conceptualizing Cruelty to Children in Nineteenth-Century England: Literature, Representation, and the NSPCC. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009a.

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    A study that ranges from historical reformers such as Henry Mayhew and Mary Carpenter to canonical writers such as Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Chapters take up such topics as children and animals, the child performer, commerce and child endangerment, and juvenile delinquency. She gives a thorough account of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

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  • Flegel, Monica. “‘Masquerading Work’: Class Transvestism in Victorian Texts for and about Children.” Children’s Literature 37 (2009b): 61–83.

    DOI: 10.1353/chl.0.0809Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A look at children and the class system. Children’s writers in the discussion include Dickens and less well-known writers such as Mary Bolton, Caroline Norton, and Mrs. O. F. Walton. The focus here, as in Flegel’s longer study above, is historical and social rather than strictly literary.

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  • Green, Roger Lancelyn. Tellers of Tales: Children’s Books and Their Authors from 1800 to 1964. London: Edmund Ward, 1965.

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    Appreciations of late Victorian writers by an author who also wrote biographies of Mary Molesworth, Andrew Lang, J. M. Barrie, and Rudyard Kipling. Green also edited and introduced a volume of George MacDonald’s fairy tales. Green is a graceful writer, but useful now from a historical perspective.

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  • Gubar, Marah. Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children’s Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    A major reexamination of Victorian children’s literature that scrutinizes a range of authors including Hesba Stretton, Juliana Ewing, and Mary Molesworth who challenge the Romantic notions of childhood innocence. A chapter on Treasure Island resists the easy colonial reading of this book. Gubar revisits Jacqueline Rose’s influential work and takes the discussion of child/adult “collaboration” into interesting and provocative places.

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  • Hunt, Peter. An Introduction to Children’s Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    This relatively short history begins with a survey of approaches to children’s literature, followed by a look at the 18th century. The Victorian period is covered from 1860 to 1920. Hunt covers the canonical writers, but he does so in brief and idiosyncratic commentary.

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  • Muir, Percy. English Children’s Books 1600 to 1900. New York: Praeger, 1954.

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    Although this book spans three centuries, it has chapters on a variety of Victorian stories for children, including a chapter on nonsense, a survey of school stories, poetry, women writers, and the fairy tale. This is a survey and consequently analysis of specific works is sparse.

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  • The Victorian Web: Literature, History, and Culture in the Age of Victoria.

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    The premier website for Victorian literature. It contains sections on various authors as well as on genres, modes of publication, themes (e.g., death in children’s literature), and conceptions of childhood. It also has a useful bibliography of secondary materials.

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Essay Collections

The books listed here are both collections of scholarly essays and more conventional reference works. Khorana 1996, Zipes 2006, and Hunt 1995 deserve mention because they contain useful information and provocative critical insight into Victorian children’s books and publishing. The collections of scholarly essays contain a range of subjects, but none focus exclusively on British Victorian children’s books. Avery and Briggs 1989 contains important material on Arthur Hughes and on a number of women writers, and McGavran 1991 contains discussions of Victorian children, death, and the Romantic legacy. Jacobson 2000 and Nelson and Vallone 1995 focus on specialized topics in the Victorian period: children and the fiction of Dickens and girlhood in England and America during the period. Also included is Salway 1976, a collection of 19th-century commentary on children’s books—an invaluable look at Victorian attitudes toward children’s literature.

  • Avery, Gillian, and Julia Briggs, eds. Children and Their Books: A Celebration of Iona and Peter Opie. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989.

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    A collection of essays, some of which deal with the Victorians. This book contains essays on Lewis Carroll, Arthur Hughes’s illustrations, and essays on women writers such as Christina Rossetti and Edith Nesbit. The essay on women writers contains some of the first commentary on Rossetti’s Speaking Likenesses.

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  • Hunt, Peter, ed. Children’s Literature: An Illustrated History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    Contains chapters on early Victorianism, American literature of the period, and the “emergence of form” in the second half of the 19th century. The latter chapter has sections on poor children in literature, depictions of the family, fantasy and other worlds, fiction of empire, school stories, and poetry. Another chapter traces the transition from 1890 to 1914.

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  • Jacobson, Wendy S., ed. Dickens and the Children of Empire. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2000.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230294172Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays that focus on postcolonial themes of childhood. Not specifically on children’s literature, but the chapters by James Kincaid and Bill Ashcroft are especially relevant to our understanding of the child’s place in the colonial and anticolonial mind-sets.

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  • Khorana, Meena, ed. British Children’s Writers, 1800–1880. Detroit: Gale, 1996.

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    A volume in the Dictionary of Literary Biography series. This reference text is an invaluable guide to authors, major and minor, who wrote in the Victorian period.

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  • McGavran, James Holt Jr., ed. Romanticism and Children’s Literature in Nineteenth-Century England. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

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    A collection of eleven chapters, six of which deal with aspects of Victorian children’s books. The perspective is the continuing tradition of Romanticism and also the moral school that was a part of the Romantic period in England. For example, Patricia Demers reads Mrs. Sherwood alongside Hesba Stretton, and Roderick McGillis reads Wordsworth alongside George MacDonald. Other Victorians discussed include Juliana Ewing, Lewis Carroll, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and E. Nesbit.

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  • Nelson, Claudia, and Lynne Vallone, eds. The Girl’s Own: Cultural Histories of the Anglo-American Girl, 1830–1915. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995.

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    Eleven contributors consider the social and literary aspects of female independence and lack of independence in Victorian England and America. Takes up provocative issues such as pedophilia and eating practices and disorders. This is an impressive New Historicist collection of essays.

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  • Salway, Lance. A Peculiar Gift. Harmondsworth, UK: Kestrel, 1976.

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    A collection of 19th-century reviews of children’s literature. This is an essential book for anyone interested in how children’s books were received in the Victorian period.

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  • Zipes, Jack, ed. Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. 4 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    A four-volume reference work that contains entries on many Victorian authors by well-known academics. The volumes also contain entries on Victorian magazines for the young, Victorian book design and illustration, and famous illustrators of children’s books.

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Victorian Families

Studies of children’s literature and the Victorian family include work on the ideal family, dysfunction in family life, and the broken family. Extended families and foster parents are also a focus of studies such as Nelson 2007 and Thiel 2008. Orphans are a main feature of the broken family and are the subject of Peters 2000. Also coming under scrutiny in Banerjee 1996 is the process of growing up. Children’s growth takes place largely in the context of family life. The four works listed examine the full range of family issues and discuss a number of neglected and forgotten books.

  • Banerjee, Jacqueline. Through the Northern Gate: Childhood and Growing up in British Fiction, 1719–1901. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.

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    This study takes a long view, arguing that the children’s literature of the 18th century and works such as Robinson Crusoe and Pamela form the infrastructure for Victorian children’s books. Both canonical and noncanonical books in the Victorian period register the child’s desire to move beyond innocence and enter the bustling world of adult activity and desire.

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  • Nelson, Claudia. Family Ties in Victorian England. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

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    Similar to Thiel 2008. This is a study of family that examines nonfiction as well as fiction, and this is the book’s strength. Chapters focus on wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, siblings, the extended family, and foster families and stepparents.

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  • Peters, Laura. Orphan Texts: Victorian Orphans, Culture and Empire. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. 2000.

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    A study of the disruptive effects of the orphan on the British Victorian family. Some of the novels scrutinized are not well known, including a couple of anonymously published fictions and C. Wall’s The Orphan’s Tale (1838) aimed at a youth audience. Interestingly, Peters connects the orphan with aspects of colonialism. An important study of a neglected topic.

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  • Thiel, Elizabeth. The Fantasy of Family: Nineteenth-Century Children’s Literature and the Myth of the Domestic Ideal. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Thiel examines the ideal of the supportive and nurturing nuclear family in the Victorian age, demonstrating that in reality many families both fictional and real deviated from the nuclear ideal. In studying families with stepparents, extended members (adopted children or live-in uncles or aunts or grandparents), orphaned children and so on, Thiel explores neglected writers such as Harrriet Childe-Pemberton, “Brenda,” Carole Birley, and Florence Montgomery.

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Children in Society

The works in this section fall into two categories: historical studies that set out the conditions in which children lived (Cunningham 1991, Jordan 1987) and works that set the child and childhood in the literary context of the time (Ferrall and Jackson 2010, Kincaid 1992, Plotz 2001). Overall, these works examine the range of children from those of the middle class to those of the working poor. The portrait of the child that emerges from these works complicates the familiar notions of the Romantic child, the child of the clear unclouded brow.

  • Cunningham, Hugh. The Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood since the Seventeenth Century. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

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    Covers four centuries, and is a valuable examination of the social conditions that affected children. For the Victorian period, Cunningham covers the children of the poor, waifs and laborers, and street children. He touches on labor laws and traces the notion of the child as “savage,” either a wild or an innocent savage, from its beginnings in the Romantic period.

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  • Ferrall, Charles, and Anna Jackson. Juvenile Literature and British Society, 1850–1950: The Age of Adolescence. New York and London: Routledge, 2010.

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    The authors argue that Victorian society created the idea of the adolescent and that this idea is different from those that developed after World War II. They examine stories for boys and girls appearing in popular magazines and in the fiction of writers such as Bessie Marchant, L. T. Meade, G. A. Henty, and Rudyard Kipling. School stories and stories of empire garner much comment.

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  • Jordan, Thomas E. Victorian Childhood: Themes and Variations. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

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    A sociological study of the quality of children’s lives in 19th-century Britain. Less to do with literature than with the lives of real children, the stresses they experienced, and the conditions in which they lived. Valuable background reading for those interested in depictions of the child in the 19th century, including their illnesses and disabilities.

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  • Kincaid, James. Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. New York and London: Routledge, 1992.

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    A study of the Victorian attitude to the child and children. Kincaid identifies the gentle, the naughty, and the wonder child. His provocative thesis deals with the reader’s erotic connections to the child both fictional and real. Lewis Carroll and J. M. Barrie are the focus of analysis. An important book.

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  • Plotz, Judith. Romanticism and the Vocation of Childhood. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2001.

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    Plotz explores the child of the pure unclouded brow in High Romantic writers such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb, and DeQuincey, but her deft articulations of the ambivalences that gather around this child figure inform our understanding of the Victorian inheritance from Romanticism. The connection between the child and death is important for the many deathbed scenes in Victorian literature for both young and old.

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Evangelical and Tractarian Works

The Religious Tract Society (RTS) was founded in 1799 and became a major publisher of books for the young, for women, and for the poor. In the Victorian period the RTS began publishing the Boy’s Own Paper (1879) and the Girl’s Own Paper (1880). For an overview of the connection between the RTS and children’s books, see Butts and Garrett 2006. Both Bratton 1981 and Cutt 1979 study the Evangelical tradition in the high Victorian period. Demers 1993 considers this tradition from the 17th century to the early Victorian period; this study serves as useful background to the studies by Cutt and Bratton. Sandbach-Dahlström 1984 and Budge 2007 examine Charlotte Yonge’s fiction in light of her religious background.

  • Bratton, J. S. The Impact of Victorian Children’s Fiction. London: Croom Helm, 1981.

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    An important study of publishing practices in 19th-century England, especially relating to Evangelical writers. We learn about the economics and distribution of books for the young and the continuing tradition of the moral tale into the mid century.

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  • Budge, Gavin. Charlotte M. Yonge: Religion, Feminism and Realism in the Victorian Novel. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2007.

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    This study takes into account Yonge’s Tractarian sympathies and argues that her fiction is sophisticated and self-conscious. Budge sets out to challenge arguments that Yonge’s fiction is flawed by her inability to manage the conventions of realism and romance.

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  • Butts, Dennis, and Pat Garrett, ed. From the Dairyman’s Daughter to Worrals of the WAAF: The Religious Tract Society, Lutterworth Press and Children’s Literature. Cambridge, UK: Lutterworth, 2006.

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    Concentrates on the contribution of the RTS to children’s writing from its founding in 1977 onward.

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  • Cutt, Margaret Nancy. Ministering Angels: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Religious Writing for Children. Wormley, UK: Five Owls, 1979.

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    This study begins in the late 18th century but focuses largely on the Victorian period, with discussions of neglected writers such as Maria Charlesworth, Hesba Stretton, Charlotte Tucker (“A.L.O.E.”), and Mrs. O. F. Walton.

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  • Demers, Patricia. Heaven upon Earth: The Form of Moral and Religious Children’s Literature, to 1850. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

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    Demers has an enviable knowledge of the history of children’s literature, including its Puritan tradition. In this study, she brings her survey of religious books for the young into the early Victorian period.

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  • Sandbach-Dahlström, Catherine. Be Good Sweet Maid: Charlotte Yonge’s Domestic Fiction. Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell International, 1984.

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    Studies Yonge’s fiction from the perspective of tension between realism and romance, concluding that Yonge’s work suffers from a mishandling of realistic conventions.

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Fantasy

To judge from the scholarship, fantasy was the most popular genre for children in the Victorian period. Such a judgment may be hasty, but clearly Victorian fantasy has attracted critical interest, especially of a feminist kind. The recent studies also indicate a growing interest in writers, especially women writers, who have not had the critical reputation of Carroll or MacDonald. Ingelow, Molesworth, Ewing, Rossetti, and to a certain extent Mulock all now have a growing amount of critical commentary. Canonical authors receive attention in Carpenter 2009, Knoepflmacher 1998, Manlove 1992, Prickett 2005, Sandner 1996, and Wullschlager 1995. Work on women writers of fantasy appears in Honig 1988, Knoepflmacher 1998, and Talairach-Vielmas 2007. Cosslett 2006 demonstrates that some fantasy, as well as realistic stories, deals with animals. Some writers, however, remain underdiscussed: for example, Lucy Lane Clifford, Harriet Child-Pemberton, and Augusta Webster. Another area neglected is writing for children by canonical writers such as Mary Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, and William Thackeray. And other figures such as Mary DeMorgan and Laurence Houseman are also neglected. Works listed here represent the major discussions of Victorian fantasy for children.

  • Carpenter, Humphrey. Secret Gardens: The Golden Age of Children’s Literature from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Winnie-the-Pooh. London: Faber and Faber, 2009.

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    Carpenter surveys children’s literature between 1860 and 1930; he argues that the writers he examines create heterotopic spaces that allow children freedom from the demands of adults. The authors he studies are mostly canonical: Carroll, Kingsley, MacDonald, Alcott, Grahame, and Nesbit. He devotes a chapter to Richard Jefferies’s Bevis; in this chapter he briefly discusses Mary Molesworth and Juliana Ewing. Originally printed in 1995.

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  • Cosslett, Tess. Talking Animals in British Fiction, 1786–1914. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, The Wind in the Willows are just a few of the books examined. Cosslett places her study of animals in the context of history, using Darwin, imperialism, and religious debates to ground her chapters. She covers realistic fiction as well as fantasy, the animal as anthropomorphic character to the animal as nature’s creature.

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  • Honig, Edith Lazaros. Breaking the Angelic Image: Women Power in Victorian Children’s Fantasy. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988.

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    One of the first books to examine such women writers as Mary Molesworth, Maggie Browne, Dinah Mulock, and Charlotte Yonge. The book is sketchy and overlooks many important women writers. However, the argument for “woman power” in Victorian children’s books is important.

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  • Knoepflmacher, U. C. Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales, and Femininity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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    A major achievement. Knoepflmacher thoroughly demonstrates how writers such as Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald, Jean Ingelow, Christina Rossetti, and Juliana Ewing engage in literary and social conversation in their children’s books. The emergence of a female voice in books for the young is explored with great acuity in this seminal and essential book.

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  • Manlove, Colin. Christian Fantasy from 1200 to the Present. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992.

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    Charles Kingsley and George MacDonald represent the Victorians; their fantasy takes on the role of myth, in the sense of a fiction that carries spiritual meaning in an increasingly secular world. The fantasy of MacDonald and Kingsley continues a tradition traceable to German Romantic writing and continuing in modern fantasies of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

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  • Prickett, Stephen. Victorian Fantasy. 2d rev. ed. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005.

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    The first serious study of the subject, now in a second revised edition that locates the source of MacDonald’s fantasy in German Romanticism. The focus is on the canonical male writers: Carroll, Kingsley, MacDonald, Lear, Dickens, and Kipling. The one woman considered is Edith Nesbit. Prickett is an impressive close reader, and his grasp of historical development is excellent.

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  • Sandner, David. The Fantastic Sublime: Romanticism and Transcendence in Nineteenth-Century Children’s Fantasy Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.

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    Another work that traces connections between Romanticism and children’s literature. Writers such as George MacDonald, Christina Rossetti, and Kenneth Grahame share tropes and ideas figured in Wordsworth, Coleridge, and their contemporaries. The book is light on theory and context but stronger in its close readings. Sandner glosses a number of other Victorian children’s writers. The sublime serves as a structuring idea, but the book is thin on conceptions of the sublime.

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  • Talairach-Vielmas, Laurence. Moulding the Female Body in Victorian Fairy Tales and Sensation Novels. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Offers a reassessment of mid-Victorian constructions of the female. It suggests subversive possibilities and complicates conceptions of the ideal woman. Another interest is notions of consumerism, as reflected, for example, in Jean Ingelow’s Mopsa the Fairy. Victorian medical practices come under scrutiny in a chapter on The Light Princess. Lewis Carroll, Juliana Ewing, and Christina Rossetti also receive attention.

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  • Wullschlager, Jackie. Inventing Wonderland: The Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J. M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A. A. Milne. London: Methuen, 1995.

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    A rather simplistic psychological (as opposed to psychoanalytic) reading of five male writers for children. Wullschlager sees these men as sad and frustrated in their personal lives, and in their fictions they create stories that satisfy, to some extent, these frustrations. She does not fully engage with the historical context of these various writers.

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Fairies and Fairy Tales

Bown 2001 and Silver 1999 are important overviews of the social and cultural context of the Victorians’ interest in fairies. Tatar 1992 covers the tales of the Brothers Grimm, and Zipes 1983 shows how the traditional fairy tale morphs into the literary fairy tale. The expansive study in Briggs 1967 covers poetry neglected elsewhere; this study is heir to Keightley 1870. What is missing is a study of Victorian translations and collections of traditional stories in the work of such writers as Margaret Gatty, Lucy Crane, Andrew Lang, or Joseph Jacobs.

  • Bown, Nicola. Fairies in Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    This is a very useful study of fairies in the context of Victorian culture in a wide sense. Not only does Bown nicely examine a full range of Victorian painting by the likes of Sir Noel Paton, Richard Dadd, and John Millais and writing by the likes of Dickens and Browning, but she also connects fairies with scientific experiments (even the hot air balloon) and with the influence of Darwin.

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  • Briggs, Katherine. Fairies in the English Tradition and Literature. London: Routledge, 1967.

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    Provides something of a grammar of fairy, setting out the origins of fairies, their customs, habitats, characters, and practices. One chapter looks at fairies in poetry from the late 18th century through the Victorian period, noting such fairy poems as Robert Buchanan’s “The Fairy Foster-Mother” and Rossetti’s “Goblin Market.”

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  • Keightley, Thomas. The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries. London: H. G. Bohn, 1870.

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    An exhaustive compilation of fairy lore covering both historical material and global material. This is something of a dictionary of fairy lore.

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  • Silver, Carole G. Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    An essential book on the fertility of the Victorian mind in its imagining of fairies. Silver deals with science and anthropology as well as with art and literature. Children’s literature authors such as George MacDonald, Mary Molesworth, Jean Ingelow, Christina Rossetti, and Juliana Horatia Ewing find their place with Dickens, George Eliot, Richard Dadd, and Sir Noel Paton in the Victorian fairy culture.

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  • Tatar, Maria. Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    The fairy tale is a socializing form of literary expression. The fairy tales, especially the tales of the Brothers Grimm, are crucial to an understanding of Victorian fantasy, and Tatar glosses several Victorian writers such as Cruikshank, Dickens, MacDonald, and Carroll. Tatar examines many well-known, and many less well-known, tales. She is an excellent reader of these stories.

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  • Zipes, Jack. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization. New York: Wildman, 1983.

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    An important book that takes the fairy tale as its basis for a study, among other things, of Victorian retellings of traditional tales and reinventing of the fairy tale. A chapter on George MacDonald, Oscar Wilde, and Frank L. Baum shows how these writers challenge the status quo, both in a literary and in a social sense. Zipes’s interest is in the connection of literary text and social and political reality.

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Men, Boys, and Boys’ Reading

Studies of masculinities in the Victorian period often focus on the later years of the period, the time of high imperialism in literature. Boyd 2003 and Bristow 1991 reflect this interest in the connection between empire and manliness. However, they also offer expansions of this focus on empire in interesting ways. Dunae 1980 and Holt 2008 examine the literature for boys and this literature’s construction of boys and boyhood. Kidd 2004 returns us to the notion of “boyology” that was popular at the turn of the 20th century, and Nelson 1991 and Robson 2001 remind us that masculinities necessarily connect with femininities. These last two studies remind us that notions of masculinity are complex. The study of boys in a great range of Victorian books for the young remains a rich area of inquiry.

  • Boyd, Kelly. Manliness and the Boys’ Story Paper in Britain: A Cultural History, 1855–1940. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

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    Offers an analysis of boys’ story papers from the perspective of masculinities studies. The primary material consists of periodicals that have received little or no study, and for this reason the book is important. The periodicals cover the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, and consequently focus to a great extent on themes of empire. Boyd shows that notions of manliness are not homogenous over the period she studies.

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  • Bristow, Joseph. Empire Boys: Adventures in a Man’s World. London: HarperCollins Academic, 1991.

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    This study of the sturdy boy who carries the values of Englishness into the regions of the empire covers many writers who have not received sufficient attention: Rider Haggard, G. A. Henty, and many contributors to the Boy’s Own Paper. Bristow considers the context for this literature in the forms of realism and romance, and in the question of literacy at the time.

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  • Dunae, Patrick A. “Boys’ Literature and the Idea of Empire, 1870–1914.” Victorian Studies 24 (1980): 105–121.

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    An early history of the connection between boys, their literature, and themes of empire.

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  • Holt, Jenny. Public School Literature, Civic Education and the Politics of Civic Education. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Holt studies the public school novel’s construction of the adolescent boy and model citizen. He shows how the shaping of the adolescent boy changed during the period, beginning by encouraging an active participation in civic life and becoming a call for a passive acceptance of state ideology. From Thomas Hughes to Rudyard Kipling, the book examines education theory and conceptions of the good citizen.

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  • Kidd, Kenneth B. Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

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    Focuses on American literature and culture at the end of the period. It examines the types of boys identified in 19th-century literature: farm boys, bad boys, street boys, and wild boys. Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling receive considerable discussion. Essential reading for an understanding of “boyology” (boy culture and boy construction) at the turn of the 20th century.

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  • Nelson, Claudia. Boys Will Be Girls: The Feminine Ethic and British Children’s Fiction, 1857–1917. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991.

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    Nelson places attention on the androgynous boy in early and mid-Victorian fiction and argues that this conception of masculinity challenged the more familiar notion of the manly boy. She considers a great many writers, from the neglected such as J. G. Edgar and Bracebridge Hemyng to more familiar writers such as Kipling and Stevenson. This is an important contribution to our understanding of Victorian childhood and boyhood.

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  • Robson, Catherine. Men in Wonderland: The Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentlemen. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    A wide-ranging study of male writers’ construction of girls. The focus is on a conception of masculinity as a development from an early “feminine” stage, and this stage remains desirable for the adult writer. In a chapter on Lewis Carroll, Robson challenges some of the received wisdom concerning Carroll’s so-called pedophilia.

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Women, Girls, and Girls’ Reading

The study of women’s literature began in earnest in the 1970s and with the increased attention to women’s writing came a recovery of forgotten or nearly forgotten women writers. Cadogan and Craig 1976 is an early manifestation in the interest in the history of girls and their literature. The women writers of children’s books benefited from this focus on women’s writing. The result was an interest in the Victorian presentation of girls and young women in literature. Explorations of the female in literature often take a historical focus and bring nonliterary details and documents (guides to behavior or guides to activities for girls, for example) to bear on the literary reading; see, for example, Brown 1993, Gorham 1982, and Rowbotham 1989. Often of interest is the connection between girls and health; see, for example, Keith 2001 and Silver 2002. Most of the research on children’s writers and girls deals with the resistance to clear and controlled roles for females within domestic space (see Foster and Simons 1995). As the century moves on and the empire becomes a more influential part of English life, the role of the female changes; we see this in Smith 2011. Reynolds 1990 sets out the different interests in the reading material for boys and girls, especially as the century ends.

  • Brown, Penny. The Captured World: The Child and Childhood in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing in England. New York: St. Martin’s, 1993.

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    A wide-ranging exploration of women’s writing in the 19th century. The book covers topics from the “woman question” to education and religion. Canonical texts of George Eliot and the Brontë sisters along with Evangelical tracts and sentimental novels provide examples for Brown’s commentary. Influences of both rationalism and Romanticism receive consideration.

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  • Cadogan, Mary, and Patricia Craig. You’re a Brick, Angela! New Look at Girls’ Fiction from 1840–1975. London: Gollancz, 1976.

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    A survey of girls’ school stories from the mid-Victorian period to the later 20th century. The authors discuss many writers, including some who have received relatively little commentary. For example, they write about L. T. Meade, Margaret Gatty, and the American writers Martha Farquharson Finley and Susan Coolidge. They also examine magazines for girls such as The Lily.

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  • Foster, Shirley, and Judy Simons. What Katy Read: Feminist Re-Readings of “Classic” Stories for Girls. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995.

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    Rereadings of some of the best-known girls’ books by Charlotte Yonge, Susan Warner, Louisa May Alcott, Susan Coolidge, E. Nesbit, L. M. Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Angela Brazil. The authors situate their readings in the feminist tradition of Showalter; they see these writers as challenging patriarchal traditions and expectations. The specific readings of novels add up to a reassessment of books for girls.

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  • Gorham, Deborah. The Victorian Girl and the Feminine Ideal. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.

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    A historical overview of middle-class girlhood in the Victorian period. Much of the discussion involves the variety of girls’ advice books, books that give advice on medical practices, emotional and physical experiences of girls (including puberty), etc. The training and work life of girls receives a chapter. Excellent background to the literature of the period.

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  • Keith, Lois. Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls. London: Woman’s Press, 2001.

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    Focusing on fiction for girls by such writers as Susan Coolidge, Louisa Alcott, and F. H. Burnett, Keith argues that illness and disability were chastisements for unruly girls. In order to ensure compliant young woman, writers in the 19th century described illness in moral terms.

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  • Reynolds, Kimberley. Girls Only? Gender and Popular Children’s Fiction in Britain, 1880–1910. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

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    The question mark in the title is a clue to this book’s interest in both boys’ and girls’ reading at the end of the Victorian period. Reynolds explores the contrast in boys’ and girls’ reading, focusing on G. A. Henty, Talbot Baines Read, Evelyn Everett-Green, and L. T. Meade. She also considers the Boy’s Own Paper and the Girl’s Own Paper. The book is theoretically informed.

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  • Rowbotham, Judith. Good Girls Make Good Wives: Guidance for Girls in Victorian Fiction. Oxford and New York: Blackwell, 1989.

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    Charlotte Yonge, Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey, L. T. Meade, and Evelyn Everett Green are among the writers discussed in this study of changing girlhood in the period. By century’s end, the girl had evolved into a more “professional” person, more self-consciously domestic and feminine than she had been. This book contains wide-ranging reference to writing for girls from 1840 until 1900.

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  • Silver, Anna Krugovoy. Victorian Literature and the Anorexic Body. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of the female and the desire to be thin covers both adult and children’s literature. One chapter deals with “appetite” in children’s literature, with commentary on the Girl’s Own Paper and the work of Kate Greenaway. Another chapter discusses Christina Rossetti, and comments on both “Goblin Market” and Speaking Likenesses.

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  • Smith, Michelle J. Empire in British Girls’ Fiction and Culture: Imperial Girls, 1880–1915. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230308121Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the first extended study of girls and empire. It discusses familiar writers such as Burnett and Nesbit, but more valuable are the discussions of lesser-known writers such as Bessie Marchant and Angela Brazil. Smith also considers robinsonades and the first Girl Guide Handbook. This book explores the lives of both women who remain in the mother country and females in the colonies.

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Magazines and Popular Reading

The 19th century was the great age for magazines, and a great many of the publications were for children. Perhaps the magazine that has received the most attention is the American publication St. Nicholas Magazine. Gannon, et al. 2004 brings together a wealth of information that is also scattered in a number of articles not listed here (the exception is the article Phillips 2009, which approaches the magazine from the perspective of the adult-child connection). Other works, such as Drotner 1988, see the periodical literature as an excellent reflection of cultural practices. Many magazines had a religious purpose, as Hannabuss 1983 demonstrates. Kelly 1984 is a reference work that compiles articles on a great range of children’s periodicals. Springhall 1994, Sumpter 2008, and Noakes 2004 are specialized in focus, considering Penny Dreadfuls, fairy stories, and masculinities, respectively. Some magazines are underrepresented. More work needs to be done on Good Words and Good Words for the Young, Atlantis, and other popular works for children. Then we have crossover periodicals such as Argosy and The Cornhill Magazine; the relationship between child and adult material in these magazines deserves attention.

  • Drotner, Kristin. English Children and Their Magazines, 1751–1945. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

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    A history that contemplates children’s working lives, class system, parenting practices, schooling, publishing practices, and the people who produced and wrote for the great many magazines of the period. A study of the Girl’s Own Paper illustrates the changing notions of the females (even suggesting jobs they might consider) and contrasts this magazine with comparable ones for boys. Covers a great many magazines with an enviable acumen.

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  • Gannon, Susan R., Suzanne Rahn, and Ruth Anne Thompson, eds. St. Nicholas and Mary Mapes Dodge: The Legacy of a Children’s Magazine Editor, 1873–1905. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004.

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    Essays by various hands that focus on the relationship between Mary Mapes Dodge and the children’s magazine she edited. Three sections cover the “making” of the magazine, the relationship between the magazine and its audience, and the social and moral messages carried by the various contents over the years. Chapters are a mix of old and new material.

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  • Hannabuss, C. Stuard. “Nineteenth-Century Religious Periodicals for Children.” British Journal of Religious Education 6.1 (1983): 20–40.

    DOI: 10.1080/0141620830060105Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an important contribution to the study of Victorian periodicals for the young because it focuses on periodicals focused on the religious life of children. This is the only study of its kind.

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  • Kelly, R. Gordon. Children’s Periodicals of the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1984.

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    A reference work covering some 393 magazines from 1789 to 1980. The great majority of these magazines fall into the Victorian period. The book contains a wealth of information.

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  • Noakes, Richard. “The Boy’s Own Paper and Late-Victorian Juvenile Magazines.” In Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature. By Geoffrey Cantor, Gowan Dawson, Richard Noakes, Sally Shuttleworth, and Jonathan R. Topham, 91–122. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    This chapter examines science in this popular magazine to see how notions of science were promulgated to young male readers. Noakes looks at articles that directly study scientific topics. Writers communicated facts of science, and also religion and morality, specifically an Anglo-Saxon morality and racial superiority in tune with the imperial themes of much late Victorian literature.

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  • Phillips, Michelle H. “Along the ‘Paragraphic Wires’: Child-Adult Mediation in St. Nicholas Magazine.” Children’s Literature 37 (2009): 84–113.

    DOI: 10.1353/chl.0.0810Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of St. Nicholas Magazine that pays close attention to the interplay between the child reader and the child-oriented content of the magazine and the adult writer and adult concerns for the child that permeate the contents.

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  • Springhall, John. “‘Disseminating Impure Literature’: The ‘Penny Dreadful’ Publishing Business since 1860.” Economic History Review, n.s., 47.3 (August 1994): 567–584.

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    A contribution to the entrepreneurial standards debate in which Springhall discusses publishing practices of those who created and marketed the Penny Dreadful, inexpensive and sensational magazines aimed at a youth audience.

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  • Sumpter, Caroline. The Victorian Press and the Fairy Tale. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230227644Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of magazines such as Aunt Judy’s Magazine, Good Words for the Young, and the Monthly Packet, and shilling quarterlies such as the Cornhill Magazine and Macmillan’s studies the political use of the fairy take in writers such as Kingsley, MacDonald, and Ewing. She also discusses less familiar authors such as Laurence Houseman and Keir Hardie.

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Postcolonialism and Empire

Along with girls’ books and fantasy, writing about empire has increased over the past decade. In the wake of postcolonial theory by the likes of Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak and reinterpretations of canonical writers such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens from a postcolonial perspective, we have seen an interest in children and empire. A number of studies drew attention to children as colonial subjects within the home and school. The next step was to place children in the larger historical context of colonialism and British imperial activity in the 19th century. The works cited here represent the range of studies relevant to children’s literature and imperialism, from writing that studies the major writers such as G. A. Henty, R. M. Ballantyne, Juliana Ewing, and F. H. Burnett (George 2009, Green 1979, Hall 1991), to examinations of literary magazines (Castle 1996), to more specifically historical studies (Richards 1989, Springhall 1977). Although eight works appear in this section, only Kutzer 2000 is a full study of imperialism and Victorian children’s literature.

  • Castle, Kathryn. Britannia’s Children: Reading Colonialism through Children’s Books and Magazines. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1996.

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    A study of the foreigner in periodicals and textbooks for the young. There are two chapters each on India, Africa, and China. Examples derive from a range of juvenile magazines for both middle-class and working-class readers, for example, the Boy’s and the Girl’s Own Paper, Captain, Marvel, Pluck, and the Magnet. The book traces racism at work.

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  • George, Rosemary Marangoly. “British Imperialism and US Multiculturalism: The Americanization of Burnett’s A Little Princess.” Children’s Literature 37 (2009): 137–164.

    DOI: 10.1353/chl.0.0812Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Juxtaposes Burnett’s 1905 novel with the 1995 film directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Although George does not engage with Victorian culture, she does demonstrate how a late Victorian text dealing with British imperialism is transformed into a late-20th-century celebration of liberal and multicultural America.

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  • Green, Martin. Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire. New York: Basic Books, 1979.

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    An important study by virtue of its timing. Green’s study is the first to consider the boys’ adventure as a celebration of and apology for empire. He also discusses both children’s and adult books, offering readings of writers such as Tolstoy, Twain, and Kipling. A chapter on children’s literature and popular literature surveys Marryat, Ballantyne, Stevenson, Henty, and others. Green surfaces the “doubleness” of attitudes to colonial activity.

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  • Hall, Donald E. “‘We and the World’: Juliana Horatia Ewing and Victorian Colonialism for Children.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 16 (1991): 51–55.

    DOI: 10.1353/chq.0.0784Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important early study that places Ewing’s “Mary’s Meadow” and Burnett’s The Secret Garden in the context of Robinson Crusoe. In these Victorian children’s works, the virtues of hard work, reason, knowledge, and adventure transform wild land into cultivated space. The action of children at home mimics colonial activity abroad.

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  • Kutzer, M. Daphne. Empire’s Children: Empire and Imperialism in Classic British Children’s Books. New York: Garland, 2000.

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    As Kutzer notes, “Finding a critique of empire in a children’s text is rare” (p. xiii). Studying fictional accounts of colonial activity in books from the end of the period to the high Edwardian period, Kutzer considers, among others, Burnett, Nesbit, and Kipling. The book contains important descriptions, but it is light on postcolonial theory.

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  • Norica, Megan A. “Puzzling Empire: Early Puzzles and Dissected Maps as Imperial Heuristics.” Children’s Literature 37 (2009): 1–32.

    DOI: 10.1353/chl.0.0807Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A fascinating look at the connection between children’s puzzles, often “dissected maps,” and themes of empire. Norica reads the surfaces of these puzzles to demonstrate that the “resonance between puzzles and imperialism is not only rhetorical and metaphorical, but actual” (p. 1). She also connects puzzles with Kipling’s Kim.

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  • Richards, Jeffrey, ed. Imperialism and Juvenile Literature. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1989.

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    This is a collection of essays by the best-known critics and historians of childhood, children’s literature, and empire: Martin Green, J. S. Bratton, John Springhall, and others. Chapters cover topics such as girls’ books, boys’ books, robinsonades, boys’ magazines, school stories, and specific writers such as Henty and Ballantyne.

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  • Springhall, John. Youth, Empire and Society: British Youth Movements, 1883–1942. London: Croom Helm, 1977.

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    An appendix deals with girls in uniform, but the rest of the book deals with boys in uniform. The book contains much material on the Boy Scouts. The great game is a center of interest, as well as the role played by religion in empire and battle.

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Illustration and Children’s Books

The Victorian age is perhaps the first great age of book illustration, and children’s books contained illustrations by the best illustrators of the period: artists such as Walter Crane, George Cruikshank, Richard Doyle, Kate Greenaway, Arthur Hughes, and Randolph Caldecott. Most of the studies in this area are studies of individual authors; see Desmarais 2006 on Caldecott, Hancher 1985 on Tenniel, Holme 1976 on Greenaway, and Hutton 2010 on Crane. More comprehensive examinations of book illustration and the beginnings of the picture book appear in Maxwell 2002, Muir 1971, and on the website The Illustrated Word at the Fin de Siècle. McLean 1972 is a useful study of the technical aspects of book illustration and design.

  • Desmarais, Robert J. Randolph Caldecott: His Books and Illustrations for Young Readers. Edmonton: Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta, 2006.

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    This is the catalogue for the Caldecott exhibition at the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, held from June to September 2006. The catalogue has a useful introduction that contains both biographical information and analytic observations on Caldecott’s art. The reproductions of pages from Caldecott’s children’s books (and there are many) are adequate.

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  • Hancher, Michael. The Tenniel Illustrations to the “Alice” Books. Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1985.

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    A thorough study of Tenniel, his work in general, and his illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s two “Alice” books. Hancher looks at both the relationship between author and illustrator and at the interpretive eye of Tenniel. His exploration of the background for Tenniel’s depiction of the Duchess in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is fascinating as well as informative.

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  • Holme, Bryan. The Kate Greenaway Book. New York: Viking, 1976.

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    Essentially a collection of illustrations and verse by Kate Greenaway (some published for the first time), this book contains a review of Greenaway’s life and appreciation of her work.

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  • Hutton, John. “Walter Crane and the Decorative Illustration of Books.” Children’s Literature 38 (2010): 27–43.

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    Beginning with a reading of Crane’s title page to Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm (1882), Hutton examines Crane’s notion of the book as architecture. He looks closely at a range of Crane’s illustrations from full-page decorations to tailpieces, borders, and headers. This essay is a model of visual reading.

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  • The Illustrated Word at the Fin de Siècle.

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    This website contains four “projects”: examinations of Walter Crane’s illustrations for children and their political implications, the magazine Black and White, boys and the British Empire, and early British comics and cartoons. It also contains a useful bibliography. The sections on boys and empire and on Crane are especially informative and helpful for research on Victorians, illustration, empire, and gender.

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  • Maxwell, Richard, ed. The Victorian Illustrated Book. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002.

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    A collection of essays that covers an unwieldy subject. The chapters deal with a great range of books and illustrators, some who worked for children (e.g., George Cruikshank, John Tenniel, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway). One chapter by Katie Trumpener deals directly with the picture book for children, but the whole book provides useful background to book illustration in the period.

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  • McLean, Ruari. Victorian Book Design and Colour Printing. 2d ed. London: Faber and Faber, 1972.

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    A book for those interested in typography, design, and the technical aspects of color printing. McLean’s work serves as useful background to the many illustrated books, both in black and white and in color, produced for children in the Victorian period.

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  • Muir, Percy. Victorian Illustrated Books. New York and Washington, DC: Praeger, 1971.

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    The only general survey of the Victorian illustrated book, this study connects book illustration with social conditions of the time.

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Nonsense and Children’s Poetry

Children’s poetry receives little attention, aside from its appearance in the nonsense of Lear and Carroll. Lecercle 1994 and Sewell 1952 are major studies of nonsense that focus on Lewis Carroll and, to a lesser extent, Edward Lear. However, these studies do not specifically theorize nonsense in terms of children’s literature. Likewise, we do not have studies of poetry for children in the Victorian period. Aside from nonsense and the poetry of Christina Rossetti, the work of writers such as Sara Coleridge, William Brighty Rands, and Jean Ingelow are neglected. McGillis 2002 surveys verse nonsense for both children and adults, while Styles 1997 focuses exclusively on women poets for the young.

  • Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. Philosophy of Nonsense: The Intuitions of Victorian Nonsense. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203310618Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the preeminent study of Victorian nonsense, dense, witty, and thorough. Lecercle considers Lear and especially Carroll from linguistic, philosophic, and intertextual perspectives. He makes complete sense of nonsense.

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  • McGillis, Roderick. “Nonsense.” In A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Edited by Richard Cronin, Alison Chapman, and Anthony Harrison, 155–170. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631222071.2002.00012.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines nonsense verse for both children and adults in the Victorian period. Both Carroll and Lear come under scrutiny, but so do poets such as Thomas Hood the Younger, D’arcy W. Thompson, and Algernon Swinburne. Nonsense is central to the Victorian sense of humor.

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  • Sewell, Elizabeth. The Field of Nonsense. London: Chatto and Windus, 1952.

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    A standard study of Carroll and Lear that argues for the sense inherent in the seemingly chaotic play of nonsense. Their poetry treats language as a system that creates a coherent world of its own. The language of nonsense is a form of play that pits order against disorder.

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  • Styles, Morag. “‘Of the Spontaneous Kind?’ Women Writing Poetry for Children—from Jane Johnson to Christina Rossetti.” In Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing, and Childhood, 1600–1900. Edited by Mary Hilton, Morag Styles, and Victor Watson, 142–158. New York and London: Routledge, 1997.

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    In her groundbreaking study From the Garden to the Street (London: Cassell, 1998), Styles surveys three hundred years of children’s poetry. In the book chapter listed here, she focuses on children’s poetry between the late 18th century and the later 19th century. The poems offer a peek at the relationship between child and mother.

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