Bad Children of History #34: French Rascals

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.

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“My eyes!!!!”

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:

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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.

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Bad Children of History #33: Struwwelpeter in Russia

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!

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So slovenly! Look at that droopy sock!

Here’s Struwwelpeter refusing to let his grandmother sponge off his shirt cuffs…

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…leading him to weep silently alongside some semi-domesticated boars.

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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:

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:

surprised dog

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!