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CHAPTER XI.

JOHN NEWBERY.

I

HIS old Bookseller is a very old friend

of mine. He wound himself round my heart some seventy years ago, when I

became possessed of an immortal volume, entitled, “The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes.' I felt myself personally honoured in the Dedication : “To all young Gentlemen and Ladies who are Good, or intend to be Good, this Book is inscribed by their old Friend, Mr. John Newbery, in St. Paul's Churchyard.” I do not recollect that I was much taken with the cuts, by Michael Angelo, as the title-page set forth. A few years later, and the Vicar of Wakefield led me into a higher region of fiction. But from that fascinating book, of which my comprehension was somewhat limited at the age of seven, I learnt how diligently the good man in St. Paul's Churchyard had worked for my delight. The excellent Dr. Primrose, sick and penniless at an inn, is succoured by a traveller, who had stopped to take refreshment. “This person was no other than the philanthropic bookseller in St. Paul's Churchyard, who had written so many little books for children: he called himself their friend, but he was the friend of ali mankind. He was no sooner alighted but he

was in haste to be gone, for he was ever on business of the utmost importance, and was at that time actually compiling materials for the history of one Mr. Thomas Trip. I immediately recollected this good-natured man's pimpled face.”

In the ordinary course of nature I began to put away childish things, and Mr. Newbery's little books -although my father had a drawer full of them very smartly bound in gilt paper—had lost their old attraction. Priceless now would be this collection, mixed up with horn-books-a single copy of which is one of the rarest relics of the olden time. I would fain set up a theory as to how my father came to have such a store of these curiosities. In the year 1787 he published “The Microcosm, a periodical work, by Gregory Griffin, of the college of Eton.' Of this production of school-boys, which was destined to shed a new lustre upon public school education, George Canning was the editor, and the writer of some of its most brilliant papers. Number 30 is written in that style of mock gravity which took in dull people and pleased lively ones, whether exhibited by Canning in The Microcosm,' or in “The Anti-Jacobin.' The Essayist had promised his fellow citizens that he would point out a set of books to their observation, from the perusal of which, if substituted in the place of novels, they might derive equal advantage and entertainment. Without dwelling upon the prefatory matter, which is a little too long, I pass on to the books which the young wit and scholar so earnestly recommends. “These are no other than the instructive and entertaining histories of Mr. Thomas Thumb, Mr. John Hickathrift, and sundry other celebrated worthies, a true and faithful account of whose adventures and achievements may be had by the curious and public in general, price twopence, gilt, at Mr. Newbery's, St. Paul's Churchyard, and at some other gentleman's, whose name I do not now recollect, the Bouncing B, Shoe Lane.” Mr. Gregory Griffin would not condescend to compare Mr. Newbery's books with those precious farragoes, in the room of which he intends introducing them to his fellow citizens. In the heroes of the two to which he has alluded, he finds a very strong resemblance to those who are immortalised in Homeric song. Hickathrift may be compared with Achilles, Thumb with Ulysses. But the histories of the modern worthies unite the great and sublime of Epic grandeur with the little and the low of common life, and temper the glaring colours of the marvellous and terrible with the softer shades of the domestic and familiar. The picture which Homer, in the tenth book of the Iliad, draws of Agamemnon, rising sleepless, and putting on his sandals, is not so interesting as the sketch of the night preceding that in which Tom Thumb and his brother were to be purposely lost in the wood. “Now it was nine o'clock, and all the children, after eating a piece of bread and butter, were put to bed, but little Tom did not eat his, but put it in his pocket; and now all the children were fast asleep in their beds, but little Tom could not sleep for thinking of what he had heard the night before, so he got up and put on his shoes and stockings.” The form of the Ogre is painted

in a style infinitely beyond the Polypheme of Homer, to say nothing of the terrible poetic imagery of fee, faw, fum. “It would be an endless task,” says Mr. Griffin, “to point out every latent beauty, every unnoticed elegance with which these productions are interspersed....I shall hasten to inform my fellow citizens that, in compliance with my advice, my bookseller proposes very soon substituting, in the room of his present catalogue, a list of all the productions of this kind which can be procured either at Mr. Newbery's or the Bouncing B.” This is admirable fooling, but it serves my purpose, as introducing a glance at the children's books of the last century.

Goldsmith, in 1766, described the good-natured, pimpled-faced bookseller as one “who had written so many little books for children." Chalmers, in his preface to the 'Idler,' regards Mr. Newbery as “the reputed author of many little books for Masters and Misses.” Mr. John Nichols brings forward other candidates for the honour of projecting and writing “The Liliputian histories of “Goody Two Shoes,' "Giles Gingerbread,' Tommy Trip, etc., etc.” “It is not generally known,” he says, “that to Mr. Griffith Jones, and a brother of his, Mr. Giles Jones, in conjunction with Mr. John Newbery, the public are indebted for the origin of those numerous and popular little books for the amusement and instruction of children, which have been ever since received with universal approbation.” Alas! for the uncertainty of posthumous fame. Although Mr. Griffith Jones was editor of “The London Chronicle,' "The Daily Advertiser,' and 'The Public Ledger,' his good deeds are written in water. The little books that were once “received with universal approbation," have passed out of the popular knowledge. Their memories have chiefly survived in Christmas pantomimes. In this shape their pathos and their fun, their romantic adventures, and their domestic incidents, have long been embalmed. Fielding's Tom Thumb,' and Henry Brooke's “Jack The Giant Queller,' had higher pretensions than those of stage display; but ‘Cinderella,' the grand Spectacle produced at Drury Lane in 1804, and “Mother Goose,' first acted at Covent Garden in 1806, carried the fame of Mr. Newbery's heroes and heroines to a height rarely attained by any succeeding attempts in the same direction. It might be a curious piece of literary inquiry to trace the origin of these infantine fictions into the early days of the minstrels, who, to use the prosaic language of Ritson, “made it their business to wander up and down the country chanting romances, and singing songs and ballads to the harp, fiddle, or more humble and less artificial instruments.” At the exact period when Newbery was publishing his little books, Percy produced his

Reliques of English Poetry. Here we find the poetical romance of Valentine and Ursine.' But the editor informs us that “the old story-book of Valentine and Orson (which suggested the plan of this tale, but it is not strictly followed in it) was originally a translation from the French, being one of their earliest attempts at romance.” Thomas Evans, one of the most intelligent of the booksellers,

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