Impeccable Science: Habits of Expression, Arm Joints and Atheists

Today’s long-overdue impeccable science is drawn from a pleasantly-sized 1832 volume entitled The Youth’s Book on Natural Theology; Illustrated in Familiar Dialogues, With Numerous Engravings. 

For those who don’t know, natural theology argues for God’s existence based on observations of nature, so, while not a purely “scientific” tome by contemporary definitions, this book does contain highly-detailed descriptions of entomology, human anatomy, animal behavior, electricity, and air pressure, all of which the author relates to intelligent design.

The chapter descriptions are truly brilliant litanies. My favorites are “Radius. Ulna. Button-head. Joint-oil. Gristle. Ligament. Wisdom and goodness of God.” and (not pictured here) “Mouth of animals; particular design in forming them. Wood-pecker. Cross-bill. Bills of ducks and geese. Oyster-catcher. Choetodon. Chance. Atheism.”

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I will give an extremely special prize as well as certain micro-celebrity to any blog reader who can provide documentation of herself reciting these enumerations at a poetry reading.

As for the impeccable science that I’ve promised you: after a lengthy description of the nerves of the face and the ways that nerves control muscles, author Rev. T. H. Gallaudet proceeds to explain facial expressions, which “seem to be the very coming out of the soul.”

You, like me, may be thinking, “but I want my soul to stay in, where it belongs,” but that’s not what Rev. T. H. Gallaudet wants to talk about! No, he wants us to understand how uniquely human are facial expressions:

Many animals, you know, have no such expressions of face at all; and none of them have any thing like the different kinds,–the beauty, the strength, and the meaning, which the expressions of the human face have… a dog expresses a very few things by his face. A man can express,–oh! how many different kinds of thoughts, and feelings, in his countenance.

To which I say:

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Gallaudet has proof, though! Just look at these lifelike engravings of a woman with soulful eyes and a disenchanted pup with Farrah Fawcett hair:

Why, you may ask, does that dog look so vacuous? In part, explains Gallaudet, it’s because animals don’t have souls, which I’m not prepared to debate here. In other part, it’s because:

Some [beasts] have some muscles and nerves, in their faces, like ours; but none of them as many; and most of them have very few, indeed… They do not think and feel, as we do… even, if they had a soul like ours, it could not show itself, its thoughts and its feelings, on their faces, as our souls do; because they have not the muscles and nerves, that are necessary to give all kinds of expressions to the face.

Hmmm. We may have to agree to disagree here, sir.

What about human facial expressions, though? What do those do, besides proving that we have souls?

Well, they can show our habits of expression, which I think is an old-fashioned way of saying that if you make a funny face for too long, you’ll get stuck that way. For instance, look at this disheveled man who apparently strikes strange children in the street. He’s been angry for so long that “he can hardly look pleasant, if he tries”:

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And here’s the same man after brushing his hair and putting on a less-floppy collar:

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Just kidding! That’s a different man. That’s Uncle John, who’s full of kind and benevolent feelings. That’s why his eyebrows look so neat.

On a completely different note, I would be loathe to sign off without showing you this engraving–demonstrating the difference between instinct and behavior–of a woman frightening off a tiger with her parasol. It’s science! Impeccably!

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Bad Children of History #31: Audacious Andrew

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.

Classic!

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.

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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?

Bad Children of History #30: Once More, With Feeling

It’s true: we’ve discovered yet another version of Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter, this one in Polish, hiding in our Edith Wetmore Collection of Children’s Books.

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Złota różdżka was published in Warsaw around 1933; it contains a translation of Hoffmann’s original text, with illustrations by Bohdan Bartłomiej Nowakowski, a prolific Polish illustrator and cartoonist.

Nowakowski’s children are quite impressively, gruesomely bad. Look at the determined scowl on this little stomper!

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This book contains all your Struwwelpeter favorites, like the fast-withering Augustus Who Wouldn’t Eat Any Soup (below left) and the tragic Pauline Who Played With Matches and her oddly flame-resistant shoes (below right).

The last page of Złota różdżka features a highly seasonally-appropriate illustration of the respective wintery fates of good and bad children everywhere. May we suggest sharing it with the bad children in your life?

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Bad Children of History #28: Alfred’s Revenge

Today’s Bad Child of History, Alfred Hardon, hails from a 19th-century story collection called Uncle Paul’s Stories for Boys and Girls, published by the American Tract Society.

Unlike some cautionary tales, which regale us with exciting accounts of juvenile mischief before culminating in the sad results of said mischief, Alfred’s story is pretty tragic from the get-go.

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Initially, we learn that Alfred is suffering deep emotional distress due to the fact that William Brown had gone above him in school at spelling that afternoon. (Did you take a look at Alfred’s eyebrows in the illustration above? SO distressed!) And we all know the obvious response to wounded pride, yes?

Revenge!

We’re not told what Alfred has in mind, although the narrator tells us that:

Alfred Hardon was a passionate, self-willed boy, and the well-deserved success of his classmate had awakened evil feelings in his heart, and the bitter seed that had already been sown there immediately sprung up into hatred, and a resolution to be revenged.

Oof, bitter seed! That sounds pretty bad. We find out exactly how bad in the next paragraph, when Alfred’s teacher arrives at school with a “grave countenance” and explains his current condition to his classmates.

As soon as the opening exercises were over, the teacher said: ‘Most of you have, no doubt, heard of the sad accident which has befallen Alfred Hardon. He was found late last night on the floor of Mr. Brown’s barn, just beneath the beam to which William’s swing is fastened, insensible, his right arm broken, and with other injuries, some of which are so serious that, till this morning, his life was despaired of.

‘You have probably heard that it was thought he fell while swinging; but his father called me in as I was passing the house this morning, and, with great sorrow, told me Alfred had confessed that he went to the barn yesterday afternoon, secretly, and for the wicked purpose of cutting one of the ropes of the swing in such a way that when William next used it he would be sure to fall.’

Alfred’s classmates utter “a suppressed murmur of astonishment and indignation” as the teacher explains that Alfred, bedridden with his numerous injuries, is now “very humble and penitent,” and hopes to speak to Willie to ask his forgiveness.

The remainder of the tale consists of paraphrased Bible lessons, which I shall not recount here. Just remember, readers: don’t let bitter seeds take root in your heart, or divine intervention may push you off of a roof beam.

Bad Children of History: The Exhibit!

If you like this blog’s Bad Children of History, you’ll LOVE the Library’s new exhibit… of Bad Children of History!

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It’s true: the exhibit cases in the Rhode Island Room on the first floor of the Library are currently featuring all manner of ill-behaved, 19th- and 20th-century children, including greatest hits from the blog alongside some never-before-seen mischief-makers.

These misbehaving moppets are only on display through September 23rd, so hurry on over to see them before they’re gone!

Bad Children of History #27: George Graceless

Oh hooray, it’s time for another installment of Bad Children of History! Today’s bad child is culled from a book with a true emotional rollercoaster of a title:

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Melancholy! Intrigue! Danger! A little white horse! This wee book is undated, but was probably printed around 1820.

As the saga unfolds, the reader is introduced to good children with names like Kitty Kindness, Billy Meanwell, Sammy Sober, Bobby Bright, and Tommy Telltruth. (King Pippin himself is actually Peter Pippin, the King of the Good Boys.) YAWN.

The tension builds as we meet a gaggle of ne’er-do-wells with equally alliterative and terrible names such as Harry Harmless, George Graceless, and Tom Tiger.

It’s clear that trouble is brewing when the bell rings to return to school, the Good Boys race to see who can get to the schoolhouse first, and the Wicked Boys stroll into the woods with the express purpose of destroying birds’ nests.

After tearing down innumerable nests, including that of a robin who was left “making such piteous moans, as would have melted a heart of stone”, George Graceless scales a “great high tree” to reach the nest of a turtle dove. What happens to a wicked boy who climbs a great high tree?

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You guessed it! He plunges head-first into a narrow but apparently very deep river while one friend reaches out a tentative finger and another takes a picture with his iPhone!

Oh save me, save me, I shall be drowned; oh, that I had attended to the good advice of Little King Pippin, cried he, and with these words, down he went to the bottom, and was never seen more; the rest of his companions began now to see the folly and wickedness of neglecting their books for idle mischief; and heartily repented that they had not staid at school instead of playing truant.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I heartily repent, I usually head back out of the woods, but this questionable quartet is filled with dread and decides to “stroll about” until it becomes “quite dark”. (Cue scary violin music!)

They fall asleep under some bushes, which seems like a good idea, until:

in less than an hour, they were awakened with such terrible howlings of wild beasts as was scarce ever heard, tigers, wolves, and lions, hunting for their prey, with eyes that glared like balls of fire, rushed by them every instant.

Amidst this impressive biodiversity, Harry Harmless falls to his knees to pray, whilst his companions, who have never even bothered to learn any prayers, are quickly devoured by two monstrous lions.

Not that the title gave it away or anything, but the next morning, a pretty little white horse awakes Harry Harmless with her neighs. He climbs into her mysteriously unpopulated saddle and is promptly delivered to his home.

Bad Children of History #26: Naughty Newsboys

Our latest bad children of history, from Ned Nevins, the News-boy; or, Street Life in Boston (1867), have instigated a snow ball riot, pelting unfortunate adults before the police arrive to calm the fray.

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The accompanying text is terrific:

Now some ladies and gentlemen pass the crowd to enter the building; when, plump, plump, plump, the snowballs strike against the door before them, and dash into their faces. “Oh dear! they are killing me; I am all covered with snow; open the door, let me in; I shall die!” cries one lady, leading half a dozen others, who are muttering the same complaint. “Oh the rascals! they ought to be hung,” cries another: “they have spoiled my new bonnet.” Still another, “Oh dear! the snow is running down my neck. Oh! my bosom is full of snow.”

Lest one fear that author Henry Morgan, P.M.P. (Poor Man’s Preacher) reserved all of his contempt for the haughty upper classes, he immediately begins a (fictional-version-of-him)self-congratulatory screed about the problems of immigrants.

Rev. R. C. Waterston rose to speak. He started night schools in Boston, thirty years ago. What a change in thirty years! Whole streets and neighborhoods have given way to the foreign population; ancient land-marks are fast disappearing; Puritanism is becoming a thing of the past. America’s destiny rests on the tide-wave of foreign immigration: the problem of her future is involved in these boys. Now is the time to solve the question,–shall they overwhelm us? or shall we Americanize them?

Most of them are Catholics, averse to free schools and American ideas. Puritan principles are an offence unto them: their watchword is, “Papacy and Democracy.”

How… complicated. Who was this poor man’s preacher with such a deep commitment to immigrants and such a strong disdain for Catholicism?

Henry Morgan, according to my research, was a well-known preacher and social reformer. After the Methodist Church repeatedly refused to approve him for ordination, he moved to Boston in 1859, where he created his own denomination and began preaching in the Boston Music Hall. Morgan was soon drawing crowds with his powerful and theatrical oration. By May of that year, he had founded the Boston Union Mission Society in the South End, offering night classes to newsboys who couldn’t attend school during the day.

Based on his experiences preaching to and teaching Boston’s working immigrants, Morgan wrote Ned Nevins, the News Boy: or, Street Life in Boston in 1867. The book was so popular that it went through four editions in the months after its first publication. (You can find a scathingly sarcastic review, including such gems as “There is no ignorance in Boston. Everybody knows something about everything, there are a good many who know everything about something, and a few of the very first chop who know everything about everything” in The Round Table no. 140 from September 28, 1867. It’s truly superb. “We are puzzled to conceive how one would go about flattering a Bostonian.”)

You can read more about Henry Morgan in Benjamin Hartley’s book Evangelicals at a Crossroads: Revivalism and Social Reform in Boston, 1860-1910.

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If you’re stumped for a topic for an academic paper, may I suggest a critical analysis of the post-snowball-riot chapter in this book entitled “Creatures in the Coal-Dump”? In this chapter, Ned goes coal-picking at the dump to repay the kindness of a woman who cared for him while he was sick. A rich woman’s African American “contraband cook”, seeking Ned, finds him here among “vagrants [who] are among the lowest classes of mamifferous species… the lowest, debased, most abject specimens of depraved humanity that ever swept on the tide-wave of foreign emigration.” (No, Henry Morgan, tell us what you really think!)

The cook, Dinah, complains that the trash-pickers are able-bodied and ought to find jobs, for slaves have enough self-respect not to do such degrading and dirty work.

“See that udder woman, scratchin’ and pawin’ in de dirt, just as if she lubbed it. Show me a slabe dat would do dat, heh? See dat great strong man, dat great lazy lubber! what he do here? Why ain’t he to work? He could earn a heap ob money. He be right in de prime ob life; an’ dar he be pickin’ leetle bits ob coal… if a nigger down Souf be idle an’ lazy like dese folks, massa sell him to de fust buyer.”

I couldn’t begin to untangle the complex logic, societal values, loaded attitudes, and Reconstruction-era politics that are at work in this mind-boggling chapter, but I do encourage readers to seek it out in its entirety on the Internet Archive or by visiting us in person.