Pretty Little Poems for Pretty Little People
This book is interesting in terms of its contribution to mid-19th century poetry with religious undertones for children. No information could be located about its author, though Watts has written other similar works for children including Pleasing and Instructive Poems for Children (London, 1838) and Pretty Little Hymns for Good Little Children (1850) and her works appear to have been published in at least two editions. This copy is missing the first eighteen pages and appears to have been much-used as there are stains and loose pages throughout. The cover design and gilt-edging on the pages suggest that it may have been a gift book. The book is also of interest as its tone ranges widely. It moves from stressing the fatal consequences of disobeying religious practice in ‘William and John’ to the broader moral premise of ‘Poor Dog Tray’, which encourages children to be as loyal and affectionate as this model little dog. The volume contains poems that seek to instil a respect and empathy for other races, such as in ‘The Negro’s Complaint’, but also a poem that compares a child’s rude behaviour to ‘an Abyssinian’ in ‘The Rude Little Boy’ is also included. ‘The Dead Baby’ creates what appears to the contemporary reader to be a graphic image of a dead child, and begins ‘Mama, I saw a baby dead,/Within a narrow coffin laid!’ The following stanza goes on to ask must she die, and Mama’s response forms the next seven stanzas, finally encouraging her to do good (61-2). Also of interest is a section of poems which focus on astronomy, and aim to educate the child reader. Some of the poems in this section, such as ‘The Tides’ and ‘Fixed Stars’, are constructed through conversations between mother and daughter, and are suggestive of the ways knowledge and education were passed between female family members.
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146p., ill, 13cm
Form, Genre, Religion, Moral, Death, Representations of Nations and Nationalities, Education, Gender
Children’s Book Collection – DCLA, Pearse Street