Bad Children of History #6

Back in the 1830s, Horace Selwyn decided something that children have been deciding for centuries: No more homework! No more adults telling me what to do!


Yes, that’s right, Horace decided to be his own master. After all, he was almost 13, and he was tired of being treated like a baby.

Since these were the days before Minecraft, the newly-liberated Horace decided to go visit a farm– despite his father’s advice to stay home because of gathering rainclouds. And we all know what happens when you ignore your father’s good judgment:


By the time that Horace and his companion arrived at the farm, they were soaked to the skin; to add insult to injury, they found the countryside to be boring when the weather’s poor. Horace spent the day moving things around the farmhouse and feeling “lonesomeish”.

What did this rainy excursion teach Horace? Nothing, apparently, because soon after arriving home, he decided to build a gunpowder volcano on a hillside above a military parade. His brother reminded Horace of their father’s exhortations not to play with gunpowder without his special permission (didn’t I read about that on a parenting blog somewhere?), but Horace, being his own master, just told his brother to stand back.

Horace’s brother, being both cautious and obedient, hurried home to fetch their father and bring him to the hillside; they arrived just in time to hear “a loud noise like the explosion of a cannon, and a wild piercing shriek”.


Yikes! Because this is a Victorian-era children’s book, i.e. a book from the times when children could still travel alone to farms and withstand gruesome storytelling, Horace is found “with his legs torn and bleeding, prostrate on the ground, covered with smoke and sand”. Swooping in to the midst of tragedy, his father carries him home, where he spends many weeks in bed recuperating from his injuries before he can again walk and play.

And what did Horace learn this time? While lying in convalescence, he spells it out for the reader: “Oh! How could I be so foolish as to suppose I had the wisdom, judgment and knowledge of my father.–But I never wish to be my own master again–no, never, never!”

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