Today’s googly-eyed bad children come from Childe Harold’s A Child’s Book of Abridged Wisdom (San Francisco: Paul Elder and Co, 1905).
What, exactly, were imps and young degenerates doing around the turn of the 20th century? If Harold’s book is any indication, they were pulling lion’s tails, treating chickens with cold disdain, learning bad words from the dictionary, and staring at adults. (One might argue that such outrageous misbehavior merits a book of full-length wisdom rather than the abridged version, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
Here are a few of Harold’s miscreant youth:
Speak gently to the little birds.
Do not impede their flight
By putting salt upon their tails,
For that is not polite.
Don’t throw your kitten down the well,
Nor yet your little brother.
It is not good for him; besides,
I’m sure ‘twould vex your mother.
(Incidentally, the belief that you can catch a bird by putting salt on its tail dates back to at least the sixteenth century. That said, just because it was persistent does not mean that it was polite.)
Let’s have a close-up of the terrible brother-tosser:
Cat: alarmed. Mother: alarmed. Little brother: extremely alarmed. Botanically mysterious flowers: possibly alarmed, definitely attentive.
Harold’s book stands out from most of the other bad-child-themed books featured here, inasmuch as nothing particularly tragic happens to any of the young rascals. Instead, the message of the book is simple and clear: don’t do it. Just don’t. It’s bad. You don’t want to be bad, do you? Nope, I didn’t think so.