• Top
  •  > Chapter I Early Children's Literature: From moralistic stories to narratives of everyday life

Chapter I Early Children's Literature: From moralistic stories to narratives of everyday life

Until the mid-18th century, children's books mainly consisted of moralistic or enlightening stories propagating the religious and ethical view that hard work and diligence determines a person's life. Little consideration was given to children's reading pleasure.

Amid this trend, John Newbery (1713-1767), a London-based bookseller, took up full-fledged publication of books that were both "entertaining and useful" for children. A Little Pretty Pocket-book, published by Newbery in 1744, is said to be the first book that provided children with not only moral lessons but also entertainment. Newbery went on to publish numerous books for middle-class children in urban areas, whose number continued to increase. Newbery became well known in the United States as well; the most prestigious American award for children's literature is named after him—the John Newbery Medal, inaugurated in 1922.

The focus in children's books gradually shifted from simple moral lessons to entertainment, with techniques of expression employed specifically for that purpose. Books carrying witty illustrations or exploring children's inner life also began to appear. The mid-19th century saw the development of girls' novels and narratives of family life as exemplified by works by Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885), Mary Louisa Molesworth (1839-1921), and Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), noted for her Little Lord Fauntleroy, originally a serial novel that appeared in the American children's magazine St. Nicholas, inaugurated in 1873.

In addition, a succession of books was published that were deeply rooted in children's daily activities, for example, books depicting school life, such as Tom Brown's School-days (1857) by Thomas Hughes (1822-1896), against the background of the spread of public schools.

Those stories filled with hopes and dreams for the future formed the beginnings of modern children's literature in which the image of ideal children was pursued.

thumbnail

1-1
A little pretty pocket-book /
John Newbery ; a facsimile with an introductory essay and bibliography by M. F. Thwaite. (Juvenile library)
Publication etc.
London : Oxford University Press, 1966.

Detail

thumbnail

1-2
The history of little Goody Two-Shoes, otherwise called Mrs Margery Two-Shoes /
attributed to Oliver Goldsmith. (The Broadway booklets)
Publication etc.
London : G. Routledge & Sons, [18--?]

Detail

thumbnail

1-3
The History of little king Pippin : with an account of the melancholy death of four naughty boys, who were devoured by wild beasts, and the wonderful delivery of master harry harmless, by a little white horse.
Publication etc.
London : Printed for F. Newbery, 1780.

Detail

thumbnail

1-4
Fabulous histories, or, The history of the robins : designed for the instruction of children, respecting their treatment of animals /
by Mrs. Trimmer.
Publication etc.
London : Printed for J.F. Dove, 1833.

Detail

thumbnail

1-5
The history of Sandford and Merton /
by Thomas Day ; corrected and revised by Cecil Hartley.
Publication etc.
London : G. Routledge, [1880]

Detail

thumbnail

1-6
The parent's assistant, or, Stories for children : vol. 1 /
by Maria Edgeworth.
Publication etc.
London : Baldwin & Co., 1840.

Detail

thumbnail

1-7
Holiday house : a book for the young /
by Catherine Sinclair (Famous books for boys and girls)
Publication etc.
London : Blackie & Son, [18--?]

Detail

thumbnail

1-8
Daddy Drawin's dovecot : a country tale /
by Juliana Horatia Ewing ; illustrated by Randolf Caldecott.
Publication etc.
London : Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, [1881]

Detail

thumbnail

1-9
Four winds farm /
by Mrs. Molesworth ; illustrated by Walter Crane.
Publication etc.
London : Macmillan & Co., 1891.

Detail

thumbnail

1-10
Little Lord Fauntleroy /
by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Publication etc.
London : F. Warne and Co., 1904.

Detail

thumbnail

1-11
Tom Brown's school-days /
by an old boy ; with illustrations by Edmund J. Sullivan.
Publication etc.
London : Macmillan, 1896.

Detail