Quite often I accidentally come across strange Regency related information. (I plan to start sharing these nuggets of the weird and bizarre regularly if you’re interested). Today I was perusing the Gutenburg Project with the intention of reading Edgar Allan Poe and looking up Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women. I read “The Purloined Letter” and then out of curiosity I thought I’d skim through the list of authors starting with A. I ended up in Anonymous and came across the title, “Goody Two Shoes”. Having spent most of my teen years in the 80’s this title conjurs up that irritating song by Adam Ant. It was a phrase that I assumed had come out of the 1940’s or 50’s. But no…it was a book. I clicked on it and found that it was a children’s book first published by John Newbery in 1765. The following excerpt is taken from the preface of a Victorian edition. It’s like a peep-hole through time.
“…in 1802, (the Regency link) Charles Lamb in writing to Coleridge (the poet), said–
“”Goody Two Shoes” is almost out of print. Mrs Barbauld’s stuff has banished all the old classics of the nursery, and the shopman at Newbery’s hardly deigned to reach them off an old exploded corner of a shelf, when Mary asked for them. Mrs Barbauld’s and Mrs Trimmer’s nonsense lay in piles about. Knowledge, insignificant and vapid as Mrs Barbauld’s books convey, it seems must come to a child in the shape of knowledge; and his empty noddle must be turned with conceit of his own powers when he has learnt that a horse is an animal, and Billy is better than a horse, and such like, instead of that beautiful interest in wild tales, which made the child a man, while all the time he suspected himself to be no bigger than a child. Science has succeeded to poetry no less in the little walks of children than with men. Is there no possibility of averting this sore evil? Think what you would have been now, if instead of being fed with tales and old wives’ fables in childhood, you had been crammed with geography and natural history! Hang them!–I mean the cursed Barbauld crew, those blights and blasts
of all that is human in man and child.”
I read “Goody Two Shoes” and enjoyed it immensely. It was weird and bizarre (I love the wierd and bizarre), but knowing old copies would have been found in many Regency nurseries I would have read it anyway. If you want a strange trip through time, visit the site below and feel free to tell me what you think. It’s about 40 pages long. I love how the author rants about all sorts of things you wouldn’t ever connect with a “nursery book” like how the country should have surveyors checking all the roofs so they don’t fall on poor people’s heads and crush them to death…yes…he rants on that… It makes me wonder how many well off children who read this strange book in their comfortable nurseries actually grew up to be more kind or if they just ended up with a complex?