Today’s Bad Child of History is taken from The Farmer’s Boy, illustrated by Randolph Caldecott.
Oh how we’ve missed the Bad Children of History! We recently cataloged a book that’s part of our Wetmore Collection, and contains dozens of delinquents and ill-mannered imps: La Civilité Puérile et Honnête, an etiquette book for children with illustrations by Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel.
Boutet de Monvel’s illustrations aptly capture the sneakiness and hilarity of childhood, as well as the joy of hanging out at the seaside with miniature pizza peels.
(Etiquette hot tip: don’t bury your friends’ heads in the sand.)
The “what not to do” images are priceless.
This book’s children are naughty, and snotty.
They’re wiggly and squiggly.
They’re rude and crude.
We love the action shots.
We also love the recommendation about bread-licking in the “table manners” section.
Today’s bad children of history aren’t naughty, per se; they’re just very, very, very unkempt. They wear floppy bucket hats, they don’t brush their hair, and they even [whispering] ride around on pigs.
These children eat with their dirty hands, spilling food onto their smocks, and their table manners leave more than a little to be desired.
(Isn’t that framed pig portrait on the wall a nice touch?)
Luckily for these grubby children, Pelle Snygg soon arrives in his sparkling white clown suit to shame them with threats of cleanliness and a promotional flag. Yikes!
After laying eyes on these mucky moppets, Pelle Snygg realizes that the task is immense, and he needs to recruit help. He calls up his close friends, Intimidating Sponge Lady, Scary Anthropomorphized Pitcher Guy, Boar Who Makes Brushes From His Own Bristles, and someone who I think might be a bar of soap in a friar’s robe.
The yucky youth are NOT delighted to see their new extreme makeover team, although Pelle Snygg seems nothing short of jubilant (and immaculate).
Pelle Snygg begins the beautification process with a healthy dose of shampoo and smart, new summer hairdos for all.
For the transformation to be complete, Pelle Snygg implements lifestyle changes for the yucky children, with a vigorous lake swim and some laundry-washing lessons:
In a surprising turn of events, these children now seem to be fully under the sway of Intimidating Sponge Lady and her cohort. “I feel like a new person!,” they chime. “I thought it was impossible to love the skin I’m in. I can’t believe the difference! Thanks, Pelle Snygg!”
Today’s gallic ungovernables come from a 1930 edition of the classic Les Malheurs de Sophie, with color illustrations by Jacques Touchet.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Sophie is an adventurous little girl who lives in a castle in the French countryside. She spends her days wandering through flowery glades, capturing squirrels, hosting tea parties, bickering with her beloved and well-behaved cousin, getting underfoot in the kitchen, and generally participating in wholesome mischief.
Here you can see one of Sophie’s great passions: scaling furniture in order to put her hands into unsanctioned containers.
When she isn’t stealing bon bons, Sophie likes to join cousin Paul in fun and completely normal children’s activities such as catching flies in a paper box. Of course, being bad children of history, Sophie and Paul get in a fight over the paper box, resulting in a series of unfortunate events culminating in the release of a great swarm of flies and a single interloping bee.
Apian mishaps aside, Sophie and Paul are great companions. They go for walks, they fall off a cart, they have arts and crafts time. Here’s an illustration of their creative endeavors, right after some watercolor painting and an argument wherein Sophie threw water in Paul’s face:
Yes, hello, despite their teeny waistcoasts and extravagant domicile, Sophie and Paul are just like children everywhere: sometimes sweet, sometimes curious, often plain old naughty.
Today we were deep in a pile of uncataloged Russian children’s books and found… another version of Struwwelpeter, published in Moscow and illustrated by Boris Zvorykin!
So slovenly! Look at that droopy sock!
Here’s Struwwelpeter refusing to let his grandmother sponge off his shirt cuffs…
…leading him to weep silently alongside some semi-domesticated boars.
This book doesn’t contain all of the stories from the original, although it does have a few select favorites, including the sad story of the thumb-sucker accompanied by a thumb-removal illustration so ghastly that we will not include it here.
Instead, look at these sweet before-and-after vignettes from The Dreadful Story of the Matches:
We found some naughty imps of yore in an unlikely place: an 1892 book on the industrial arts.
This folio contains a true bonanza of illustrations, covering all manner of modern inventions. Each page is arranged to show developments in the design of the invention, beginning with the primitive, and ending with the cutting-edge.
(Have you been wondering about the vanguard of egg carriers? This book can satisfy your curiosity!)
The entry on school furniture shows some truly marvelous folding desk contraptions, as well as simpler wooden desks populated by….
…misbehaving schoolchildren! We have a scowling miss undergoing some unfortunate piliferous bullying, the infamous Sleeping Guy with his head on his slate, and a lively scene of bench-style seating gone awry. Here’s a close-up of the latter situation:
“Hey, Johnny? Hey Johnny!”
“Not now, Caleb, I’m doing my sums.”
“Johnny! Hey. Yer forehead is weird. Can I look at your sums?”
“No, Caleb. Stop being a hornswoggler. Just because this primitive wooden school furniture lacks a flat surface for you to work on doesn’t mean you can pester me.”
“Hey, Johnny. Why don’t you have ears. Did ya see the dunce kid? Did ya see his walkie talkie?”
“SHHH. Caleb. Geez.”
Today’s tale, the unsubtly-titled “Don’t Blow Out the Gas,” comes from the June 1870 issue of The Nursery: A Monthly Magazine for Youngest Readers (Boston: John L. Shorey).
The first sentence lets the reader know right off the bat that this story is 100% likely to feature a bad child of history:
There was a little boy named Andrew, who thought that he knew better than older folks what ought to be done.
Know-it-all Andrew was visiting his uncle in the city, whereupon his uncle’s maid instructed Andrew to extinguish the gas flame “in a way that she explained” upon retiring, rather than blowing out the flame. You get one guess what Andrew did the moment that she left the room.
The room filled with terrible fumes, and Andrew’s uncle rushed in at the last possible moment to turn down the gas and scold his nephew. You’ll be relieved to learn that Andrew learned his lesson well, in the course of less than a page and a half:
Andrew was much mortified, and felt that he did not know as much as he thought he did. He is now willing to learn from others; and in this way he does not blunder as he once did. He will never blow out the gas again.
Postscript: can we make a collective New Year’s resolution to start using the phrase “much mortified” as often as possible in 2017?