Bad Children of History #23: My Goopy Valentine

This week’s Bad Children of History come from a treasure trove of misbehavior: Gelett Burgess’s 1909 book Blue Goops and Red: A Manual of Polite Deportment for Children who would be Good, Showing How & How Not to Behave Everywhere. (This book is also a treasure trove of illustrations with a flippable half-page that changes the scene–I’m certain there’s a name for these, but I don’t know what it is.)

Each two-page spread of Burgess’s book has a rhyme about an occasion in which one could behave or misbehave, facing an illustration showing (blue) goops with poor deportment, and then, after one flips the half-page, (red) goops behaving properly. Here’s a topical example:

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Oh, isn’t it a pity,

When valentines are pretty,

To send the horrid, comic ones to me?

But often in the city

Some children think they’re witty,

And so I get the kind I hate to see!

Two notes here: one, are the goops actually children? They look sort of like… gingerbread people, although their parents seem to be definitively human. Two, I think it behooves the narrator to consider why children send him or her insulting valentines, but I suppose that’s beside the point.

Here’s the half-page flipping feature I mentioned earlier. Look at those bad goops jeering over a so-called valentine of an old maid while their overly-indulgent parents look on! Wait… wait… look at those nice goops with their tidy envelopes and their relaxed human parents!

Blue Goops and Red also has some absolutely fantastic end-papers. Look at these! Goops galore!

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Bad Children of History #21: Squirrely Charlie

Today’s Bad Child of History comes from Maria H. Bulfinch’s 1867 volume Frank Stirling’s Choice. His name is Charlie, and while it’s not 100% clear what he’s doing in this illustration, it obviously isn’t something a responsible adult would condone.

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Is Charlie climbing the furniture while wielding a Vienna sausage on a chopstick? Is his upright posture defying the laws of physics? Why is he gesturing at that rustic, twiggy cross? What does Frank think of this whole endeavor?

Frank Stirling’s Choice also contains one of the best footnotes I’ve seen in 2016:

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Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, folks.

Bad Children of History #19: Troublesome Tom

The protagonist of today’s featured book was practically made to be a bad child of history. Yes, I’m talking about Troublesome Tom, the resident scamp in The Mischievous Boy; a Tale of Tricks and Troubles (New Haven: S. Babcock, 1844).

The book opens with a fantastic letter to the reader from author Thomas Teller (a pseudonym for George Tuttle), who wrote an entire series of “amusing instructive and entertaining tales” called Teller’s Tales:

My dear little friends: This tale of a “Mischievous Boy” was written to show you the trouble which you may occasion yourselves and friends by indulging in acts of disobedience and mischief. You all know that what is often called FUN, sometimes turns out to be a bad scrape; perhaps some of you have learned this by experience. Now, whenever any of you are tempted to seek amusement in any thing which you are not sure is wholly innocent, turn from it at once, however great the temptation may be, and my word for it, you will enjoy more real pleasure than if you suffer yourselves to be enticed into any wrong doing.

The book then proceeds to relate a very, very extensive series of “bad scrapes” on the part of Troublesome Tom, including but not limited to: busting into a neighbor’s garden and accidentally letting in a sow and piglets who trample the flowers, bringing the genteel Miss Betsy near a beehive and then shaking the hive and running away, giving bad directions to a woman driving a cow, throwing a “large wooden peg” at a barking dog, and fishing in a forbidden location “nearby a resort for a gang of smugglers”.

Below is an engraving showing Tom with the rogue swine, right before he starts hitting them with a stick in an attempt to drive them out of the neighbor’s garden:

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Here’s a truly classic bad-kid move (and one that I vividly remember my older neighbors pulling on me many decades ago):

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Tom determined to have what he called a little fun, by putting the boy in the saddle, and then rocking the horse furiously, while he laughed at the fears of poor John, and cried out, “whoop! whoop! gallop! gallop! gee! whoa!” The little boy in vain cried, “Oh stop! Oh stop! pray stop!”– but Tom did not choose to hear him, nor to stop his fun; he kept on rocking still more furiously, and the wooden horse was at length thrown forward with such violence, that  little John pitched over its head, and striking his face upon the hard ground, was most cruelly bruised.

You may wonder why Tom himself is nowhere to be seen in the above engraving– it’s because he proceeds to pull the most classic bad kid move, by running away from the scene of the crime, only to return at dinner time to report that “he had left the hall just before John had fallen”.

Mmhmm.

So far these escapades have been highly entertaining, but not entirely instructive. Is Tom going to learn his lesson? (Hint: of course!)

Yes, Tom is, in quick succession, scolded by Short Sam’s father, chased by a pack of boys whose sport he had spoiled, and whisked downstream on a stolen escape boat that quickly approaches the sea. After a daring landing on a far-away river bank, Tom attempts to walk home through the rapidly darkening forest, where he has his bad child moment of reckoning.

“Weeping piteously”, he hears a rumbling and rustling sound that he fears is a bear. He runs about madly, slipping on loose stones, “stumbling over sand-heaps”, and losing the trail entirely. Caught in a terrible storm as midnight approaches,

then came the wish that he was a better boy, that God would give him a new heart, and make him his own child; and the poor boy wept and sobbed bitterly, for he was now fully conscious of what a bad boy he had been… he knelt down on the wet ground and prayed for safety and relief.

His prayers answered in due time, Tom falls asleep on a pile of hay in a tool shed, where he is discovered by his fretful father the next morning. Relieved, Tom’s father carries the reformed scamp home to his family’s loving embrace.

Bad Children of History #18: Jack Hall, Masked Bandit

Today’s brief update highlights wayward youth from Robert Grant’s 1888 book Jack Hall, or the School Days of an American Boy.

The book’s illustrator, F. G. Attwood, created the below likeness of some school boys, including the eponymous Jack Hall, who are obviously, blatantly up to no good:

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Cigarettes! A variety of casual yet dashing hats! Big mugs! Knives stuck in the table!

These masked marauders are members of “Big Four”, a secret society of fourth-class boys who expressed their “vitality” through hijinks such as “the pilfering of neighborhood hen-roosts, the sealing up of the lock of the schoolroom door, [and] the firing of a tar-barrel in front of the Doctor’s very window”. A later illustration also shows them executing a daring, late-night escape involving a basket and a rope. Dreadful!

Bad Children of History #17: The Web of Lies

Today’s Bad Child of History gets himself into a fine mess due to a nest of blackbird chicks. His name is Henry, and he hails from a tiny 1812 volume published in Philadelphia.

(That second photo isn’t blurry; the printing is slightly off and the text itself is fuzzy.)

As for Henry’s troubles: he and his closest friend, George, discover a nest of blackbirds, which they check on frequently. One day, overcome by a sudden terrible urge, Henry picks up the nest for himself and carries it out of the woods, a move which elicits a dire warning from the author:

Evil thoughts insinuate themselves so easily into the hearts of men, that they have need to be always on their guard against their approaches. Children, especially, should be watchful of the first impulse to do wrong, as from their weakness they are prone to error. This attention to themselves is an easy task, because they have their parents, or teachers, at hand, to assist them with their advice. Neither are they sufficiently aware, that a small fault in the beginning, may increase to an odious vice, which will corrupt their hearts, and debase their characters as long as they live.

I’m not certain that Henry’s theft increased to an odious vice, but it did escalate into a fine mess.

Uncertain what to do with the nest, and afraid that his friend George will find out that he took it for himself, Henry hastily trades the nest for a bag of marbles carried by a passing boy. Phew! He meets up with George and tells him that he found the bag of marbles.

While they’re playing marbles, another passing boy says, “Hey, you found my lost marbles!” Henry insists that he bought them. Whoops! As the author warns, “however cautious you may be, you will betray yourselves, for you will not be able to invent so many falsehoods as will be requisite to hide your dissimulation from your companions.

In an effort to defend his dissimulation, Henry refuses to turn over the marbles, resulting in a melee between some Bad Children of History and an unfortunate bloodied nose:

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The following twists and turns are too complex to relate here, but the book ends with Henry burning up with fever, sobbing on his knees and begging for forgiveness from George and from his father, the latter of whom is now in possession of the nest of birds. How dramatic!

In a slight deviation from most moral tales, Henry doesn’t die of fever; instead, his big-hearted companions forgive him, and he learns an important lesson about telling the truth. He also grows into a man of “noble and generous sentiments”, which is really the best future scenario we could ask for.

Bad Children of History #16: The Recalcitrant Tomboy

I’ve been trudging my way through Kate Bolick’s Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, a book about which I can’t articulate anything positive or negative that hasn’t already been said more thoroughly and eloquently than one could manage in an introductory paragraph to a blog post. However, in light of discussions around the book, I’ve been thinking about girls and women who defy society’s rigid expectations, those truly wonderful spinsters of fiction and their tomboyish counterparts— including, of course, “Romping Polly”, the free-spirited star of this week’s Bad Children of History.

Romping Polly is another of the ill-fated children from the classic Struwwelpeter, a book last featured in our first-ever Bad Children of History post. The illustrations of Polly below are again taken from the 1890 English translation of the book, published in Philadelphia by Porter & Coates.

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At the very beginning of “The Story of Romping Polly”, we see her receiving a stern warning about her inappropriately-feminine styles of play:

I know that you will often see
Rude boys push, drive, and hurry;
But little girls should never be
All in a heat and flurry.

Nodding her tomboy-ish head, Polly acknowledges her aunt’s lecture, and then promptly scurries down some sort of decorative border and leaps toward her jumping and running playmates. Looks like fun, right?

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WRONG! There’s nothing fun about falling down such that your leg detaches like a lizard’s tail. (Mind you, the text simply says that “her poor leg was broken”, but the illustration leads me to believe that it was something infinitely more drastic.)

Polly is carried away on a makeshift stretcher, while her detached leg (or should I say “the limb all wet and gory”) is carried away by her tearful brother.

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Let’s choose to ignore the butcher’s knives in the lower left of that illustration, shall we?

What happened to poor, rough-playing, enthusiastically-frolicking Polly? How did her life turn out, in the wake of her inattention to compulsory 19th century feminine behavior?

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Full many a week, screwed up in bed,
She lingered sad and weary;
And went on crutches, it is said,
Ev’n to the grave so dreary.

Yep. Little ladies, don’t try to play with the boys, or else you may end up a hunched woman in an unflattering bonnet walking with crutches toward your own gravesite. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Bad Children of History #15, with Essential Etymological Preface

Essential Etymological Preface: The English language is an ever-shifting beast, with corresponding changes in the meanings of words. That said, through at least the 18th century, the word “slut” was used to refer to an ugly, slovenly, unkempt person, often a woman. (For examples of this usage, check the OED2.) The Online Etymology Dictionary describes the word’s likely origins from the colloquial German schlutt, meaning a slovenly woman, and claims that its contemporary usage wasn’t cemented until some time in the 1960s. Sam Bovill has a blog post describing the word’s semantic shift, and Malcolm Jones, in an article in The Daily Beast, notes that over the centuries, “slut” has been used to refer to “men, women, dogs, and light fixtures”.

Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at today’s featured book, a very tiny volume entitled The Merry Andrew: or, the Humours of a Fair. Here it is, with my smaller-than-most hand included for scale:

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The title page doesn’t have a publication date, but my best guess is some time between 1810 and 1820.

The author includes his own cautionary preface at the start of this tale, noting that the “humours of a fair” aren’t all levity and entertainment– for instance, the surging crowds there can easily trample a small boy.

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For little boys are often trod upon, and even crushed to death by mixing with the mob. If you would be safe, by all means avoid a crowd. Look yonder, Dick Wilson there has done the very thing I cautioned you against.

It’s a little hard to see his head down there at surging-crowd-knee-level, but Dick Wilson is definitely there, full of his usual bad ideas. He’s not today’s primary bad child of history, but he is, according to the author, an “impertinent little monkey”, which is definitely one of my new favorite insults.

As long as you’re not like Dick Wilson, you can see all kinds of fascinating and entertaining things at the fair. You can visit the Wheel of Fortune, pre-Vanna White:

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You can see these entertaining gentlemen:

You can ignore your mother’s good advice and ride these dangerous-looking carnival rides:

(Sidenote: the text around that second illustration mystifies me. “You know what I mean by the Up-and-down? It is a horse in a box, a horse that flies in the air, like that which the ancient poets rode on.” Is that a reference to Pegasus? Did ancient poets love carnival rides? Clarifying comments encouraged.)

Because The Merry Andrew is a historical children’s book, this catalog of delights is followed by brief discourses entitled “Descant on Time”, “On Learning”, “On Business”, and “On Idleness”, and the book closes with two short rhymes, “To a Good Girl” and “To a Naughty Girl”.

Below are said good and naughty girls, looking suspiciously like the exact same lass with a slightly different hat and bustle:

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So, pretty Miss Prudence, you’re come to the Fair,
And a very good girl they tell me you are.
Here, take this fine orange, this watch, and this knot,
You’re welcome, my dear, to all we have got.

So, pert Mistress Prate-a-Pace, how came you here?
There is nobody wants to see you at the Fair.
Not an orange, an apple, a cake, or a nut,
Will any one give to so saucy a slut.

(Did you keep our etymological preface in mind this whole time? Good, good.) Lesson: don’t be brazen or dirty, or you won’t get any snacks. If you’re pretty, however, you’ll get lots of desirable things, including but not limited to a “fine orange”. Now, children, go forth to the fair, unless there are crowds. Just be careful on the Up-and-down!