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Stories Before 1850. 0101: Maria Edgeworth, The Parent's Assistant. Vol.IV

Author: Edgeworth, Maria
Title: The Parent's Assistant; or, Stories for Children. By Maria Edgeworth. In six volumes. Vol.IV. Containing Old Poz, the Mimic, Mademoiselle Panache. A New Edition
Cat. Number: 0101
Date: 1815
1st Edition: 1796 (1800)
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: 'Printed by assignment from the Executors of the late Mr. Johnson for R. Hunter, successor to J. Johnson, and Baldwin, Cradock and Joy'
Price: Unknown
Pages: 1 vol., 200pp.
Size: 13.5 x 8.5 cm
Illustrations: None

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0101

Introductory essay

This essay is divided into four sections:

1. An assessment of Maria Edgeworth's writing for children.

2. A bibliographical survey of Maria Edgeworth's writing for children and explanation of the Hockliffe Collection's holdings of her work.

3. A list of contents of the individual tales in Hockliffe Collection's holdings of Maria Edgeworth's work.

4. Synopses of a selection of Maria Edgeworth's tales.


Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) has long been considered one of the most influential authors of children's books. F. J. Harvey Darton placed her on a pedestal, calling her 'one of the most natural story-tellers who ever wrote in English' (Children's Books in England, p.142). Others, sometimes using only slightly less hyperbole, have retained this reverence, congratulating her for bridging the gap between the supposedly dry, didactic children's literature of the eighteenth century and the livelier, more naturalistic books of the nineteenth. Yet new analytical work has only recently begun to be undertaken on Edgeworth's books for children, an omission which is doubly surprising given that the novels she aimed at adults have for some time attracted a great deal of scholarly attention. Her status as the originator of a new era in children's literature has been taken as a given. It is perhaps time to re-examine the question of Edgeworth's significance to children's literature, and the Hockliffe Project seems well fitted to provide a forum for this kind of enquiry.

Edgeworth's reputation, as constructed by Darton and his successors, is not, after all, premised purely on the merit of her writing. Rather, her high standing is based on the comparison of her work with that of her predecessors and contemporaries in the field of children's literature. She is applauded for being 'a new kind of writer for children' (Darton, p.143), or for portraying 'the first living and breathing children in English literature since Shakespeare' (P. H. Newby, Maria Edgeworth, p.24). But, in fact, much had been achieved by writers of children's fiction even before Edgeworth published her first stories for children in 1796, let alone her last in 1848. The liveliness and naturalism which readers have found in Edgeworth's stories, is also to be found in the fiction of several other writers whose careers were already established when Edgeworth began writing for children. The work of Anna Laetitia Barbauld and John Aikin (Evenings at Home, 1792-96: 0052-0054) and Arnaud Berquin (The Children's Friend, 1783-84: 0060-0070) was an important influence on Edgeworth's work and can be every bit as 'natural'. Fiction for children which was neither dogmatically formulaic nor overwhelmingly didactic was also being produced as early as the 1780s by Sarah Trimmer (The Two Farmers, an Exemplary Tale, c.1786), and Dorothy and Mary Ann Kilner (Jemima Placid, c.1780; The Holiday Present, 1781 [0157]; William Sedley, 1783; The Rotchfords, 1786; The Village School, c.1795), and in the '90s by Mary Pilkington (Obedience Rewarded, 1797) and Lucy Peacock (The Little Emigrant, 1799). They too placed their young protagonists in interesting moral and practical dilemmas, and showed them learning, sometimes painfully, to do what was right. Yet Edgeworth's reputation is such that she is often cited as an influence on these writers, despite the fact that their best work pre-dates hers (e.g. Jackson, Engines of Instruction, Mischief and Magic, p.166). Edgeworth was part of a new movement in children's literature, but she was not the sole instigator of it.

To reassess the context of Edgeworth's contribution, and therefore its originality, is in no way to diminish the value of her writing in itself. Her stories are generally contrived, aiming to teach a particular lesson, but the reader's interest is held by characters with whom it is possible to sympathise, and familiar settings into which the reader might easily imagine him or herself. Like Berquin, Edgeworth made a point of using everyday life as the backdrop for her tales, and she seems deliberately to have depicted girls and boys, rich and poor, urban and rural, all in roughly equal numbers, so that any reader could find someone to identify with in each collection. The congeniality of the protagonists was also a product of Edgeworth's skill in sketching their psychology. She had a talent for communicating what makes her characters tick. In her most famous story, 'The Purple Jar' (see below for a synopsis), the reader empathises with Rosamond in all her deliberations, her anticipation, her disappointment and then her regret. These are not complicated emotions, and Edgeworth does not portray them using either external or internal dialogue, but they are the natural emotions which any child would feel in the positions the plot manoeuvres Rosamond into, and as such the reader understands them. Edgeworth also allows, and perhaps even encourages, the possibility of readings which run counter to the explicit didactic scheme of the tales. In 'The Purple Jar', Rosamond's parents - the mother who offers no help in the question of whether to buy the shoes or the jar, and the father who brutally ensures that she pays the full price for her folly - are clearly being cruel to be kind. But Edgeworth does nothing to mitigate either Rosamond's, or the reader's, awareness of their cruelty. The reader, like Rosamond, has to accept, however resentfully, that the lesson they are teaching is a useful one. But this does nothing to diminish the sense of injustice which builds a bond between reader and heroine, as is amply demonstrated by the tendency of modern critics to question the probity of the parents' behaviour (e.g Darton, Children's Books in England, p.141; Townsend, Written for Children, p.42). How different this is from so many moral tales in which the young protagonists are shown to be totally - and totally unrealistically - complicit with their parents in the great cause of establishing virtue and propriety.

Edgeworth's convincing psychological portraits are matched by equally realistic depictions of her characters' social milieux. She was clearly as confident an opponent of fairy tales as even Sarah Trimmer, arguing that giants, castles, fairies and the like vitiated the taste and spoiled the appetite of children for works of real improvement - 'Why should the mind be filled with fantastic visions, instead of useful knowledge? Why should so much useful time be lost?' (The Parent's Assistant, London, 1815, preface: I, xi - this has been excised from the preface to the 1897 edition). But her realism went far beyond the exclusion of the supernatural. As Marilyn Butler has astutely noted, 'it would usually be possible to name the exact sum in the pocket of any of Maria Edgeworth's twelve-year-olds.' (Butler, Maria Edgeworth, p.163.) Indeed, when her tales are viewed in aggregate, Edgeworth seems almost fixated by money. To take one example, in 'Simple Susan' (see below for synopsis) the precise account of the depredations from, and the accumulation of, Susan's assets, as she struggles to raise the nine guineas needed to save her father from the militia, provides the main axis of the story. The story can read like double-entry book-keeping forced into a narrative form. Likewise, 'Lazy Lawrence' (see below for synopsis) is essentially the record of a series of economic transactions which enrich or impoverish the hero and teach the reader the value of hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit. Indeed, if Edgeworth's stories for children can be said to have one single theme, then it is that she wished to inculcate a sense of value in her readers. 'The Purple Jar' (see below for synopsis) taught the value of money. 'Lazy Lawrence', as Edgeworth acknowledged, was intended to teach the value of hard work - 'to excite a spirit of industry' and 'to point out that people feel cheerful and happy whilst they are employed.' (0102: p.3) For Edgeworth, nothing came free, not even knowledge or virtue, which were usually portrayed as easily and naturally obtainable in children's fiction. She reprobated the books which said otherwise: 'All attempts to cheat children, by the false promise that they can obtain knowledge without labour, are vain and hurtful', she wrote in the 'Preface' to Harry and Lucy Concluded. 'The gods sell every thing to labour, and mortals, young or old, must pay that price.' (p.xi)

What Edgeworth intended to be the reward of all this hard work is rather uncertain. Her characters gain knowledge, and, in some cases, more material rewards by their due diligence, but certainly not social elevation. In 'Simple Susan', the ten guineas which the Prices receive at the end of the tale are just sufficient to pay off the debts which they had incurred at the beginning, and Susan's great victories in saving her guinea fowl and her lamb only return to her what was hers at the start of the story. The same is true in 'Lazy Lawrence': Jem is allowed to accumulate some fresh capital, but only to save the horse that his mother already owns at the beginning of the tale. Edgeworth is evidently nervous about the potential effects of sudden economic or social elevation. It is a trepidation manifest in the preface to The Parent's Assistant: 'In a commercial nation, it is especially necessary to separate, as much as possible, the spirit of industry and avarice; and to beware lest we introduce Vice under the form of Virtue.' (0102: p.3). The crisis engendered by the French Revolution, during which social mobility was constructed as a decidedly Jacobin threat to the status quo, doubtless helped to condition Edgeworth's anxiety on this subject. But these conservative sentiments are consistent with her political opinions as displayed throughout her oeuvre. She always remained true to her adage that 'it is necessary that the education of different ranks should, in some respects, be different; they have few ideas, few habits, in common; their peculiar virtues and vices do not arise from the same causes and their ambition is to be directed to different objects.' (Parent's Assistant: 0102: p.2 ) Elsewhere, although she generally kept politics out of her children's literature (unlike her work for adults, which is sometimes highly anti-Jacobin), some conservative sentiments do make their appearance. 'Old Poz', for instance, contains this routine, but hardly ideologically neutral, lesson on English liberty: 'you see what it is to live in old England, where, thank heaven, the poorest of his Majesty's subjects may have justice, and speak his mind before the first man in the land.' (0101: pp.20-21) Regardless of the fact that Sarah Trimmer could still censure Edgeworth for holding up her Justice of the Peace as an object of ridicule (Guardian of Education, quoted in Companion to Children's Literature, p.359), such structural conservatism demonstrates that Edgeworth had more in common with Trimmer than merely their dislike of fairy tales and their dissatisfaction with so much exisiting children's literature.

Edgeworth's conservatism is bound up with her second principal theme, the role of the individual within a community. Marilyn Butler has recently pointed out that Edgeworth's characters generally operate within a family, a larger household, a village school, or some other co-operative group ('General Introduction' to The Novels and Selected Works, I, xx-xxiii). The heroes and heroines teach their more wilful peers how to function within that community. Simple Susan (see below for synopsis) is the archetypal Edgeworth heroine in this sense. She is beloved by the other children in the village because she seeks to serve them whenever she can, protecting them from bullies, showing them where the prettiest flowers grow, and so on. They reward her with their love, always electing her Queen of the May. Susan also devotes herself to her family, donating all her assets, whether time or property, even down to her pet lamb, to the well-being of her parents. Her utter triumph over any selfishness is signified by her willingness to renounce being Queen of the May so that she can nurse her mother. By contrast, Barbara is isolated from the other village children, from her servants, and even from her father because of her selfish behaviour. The lesson is clear: those who operate within and for the benefit of the community prosper and are happy; those who think and act as individuals remain miserable and ultimately always fail. For Butler, 'Edgeworth's tales convey the essentially egalitarian and communitarian message of Scottish civic humanism, no less', albeit scaled down 'to match a child's experience and circumstances' ('General Introduction' to The Novels and Selected Works, I, xxiii). Yet it might be argued that this kind of lesson is more repressive than liberating. 'The Cherry Orchard' (see below for synopsis) charts the rehabilitation of Owen, as wilful and selfish a child as Barbara, into the community led by his cousin Marianne, every bit as selfless, beloved and forgiving as Susan. Owen learns that his attempts to get his own way only alienate him from his peers and always end in disaster, and that when he works as part of a team, he and his friends can achieve whatever they set their mind to, even entry to the earthly paradise of the cherry orchard. In the story, Marianne and her friends come to Owen's rescue by helping him to finish his straw-plaiting, and their realisation that they should not exclude him, however badly behaved he has been, is one of the lessons Edgeworth wishes to impart. But her principal lesson is that Owen must subordinate himself to the team. This brings increased productivity, but at a price - his individuality, and his ability to excel. He is several times acknowledged as the best plaiter of straw among all the children (p.88) as well as the most able scholar (p.83), yet, following Edgeworth's logic, this talent must be subordinated and he must take his place as a cog in the larger machine. Owen is denied any reward commensurate with his individual skill, and, in an expanded sense, any opportunity for personal socio-economic advancement.

Mitzi Myers has read the relationship of Owen to his community of peers in 'The Cherry Orchard' differently. For her, Owen is an individual struggling to dominate his friends and situation, a quintessentially romantic figure who personifies typically male attitudes to collaborative relationships. Edgeworth's tale thus provides a critique of the romantic, and the masculine, will to power ('Introduction' to The Little Dog Trusty..., vii-ix). Edgeworth may or may not have been an anti-romantic and a feminist (and her attitudes to prevailing modes of gender propriety are ambiguous - she wished to guard against her Lucy 'becoming an affected scientific lady', but approvingly quoted the maxim that a lady's stockings might be as blue as she pleased, so long as her petticoats were long enough: preface to Harry and Lucy Concluded, p.xiv), but her educational philosophy was clearly nothing if not gregarious. She certainly deplored the idea of a solitary education - such as that proposed for his Émile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, of whom Edgeworth is often supposed to have been a disciple. Her prefaces and footnotes addressed to parents (e.g. Harry and Lucy, note to p.4) make it clear that Edgeworth (again, like Berquin) envisaged her books as being used collaboratively, with adults reading in conjunction with their children. And the entire didactic scheme in Harry and Lucy is similarly premised on collaboration, this time with another child. Lucy, she believed, though scarcely older than Harry, would be the most effective teacher for him, far better than any parent or tutor. '[N]ow urging, now encouraging,' Lucy could draw the younger Harry 'up to any height within his own attainment' (Harry and Lucy Concluded, pp.xii-xiii). If we ask why Edgeworth put so much faith in collaboration, the obvious answer is that, from her own upbringing, she knew no other way. Her father, after all, had 20 children, all of whom, from Maria's return from school in 1782 onwards, were educated at home, often by their siblings and most especially by Maria. It has often been asserted that Edgeworth road-tested her tales on her brothers and sisters, gaining their approval before transferring them to paper, and that what she wrote depended on the age of the children being brought up at Edgeworthstown at any given time (Butler, Maria Edgeworth, p.161). It seems more than possible that characters like Marianne and Susan, who were appointed by their peers to be the leader and educator of their fellow children, represent at some level what Maria felt had happened to her.

A more significant biographical issue, though, is the extent of her father's influence on what Edgeworth wrote for children. Richard Lovell Edgeworth was, after all, a formidable figure, a leading educational theorist, and without doubt, the force behind his daughter's early writing. Maria never denied his influence on her. As late as 1825, she announced that one of her chief motives for concluding Harry and Lucy was simply that her father had begun it, and she had no hesitation in pronouncing him one of the greatest ever writers of literature for children (Harry and Lucy Concluded, p.viii) This has led at least one biographer, Elizabeth Harden, to assert that when Edgeworth wrote for children, she was simply providing a mouthpiece for her father's pedagogical ideas (Maria Edgeworth, p.19). Marilyn Butler, her most authoritative biographer, originally suggested that Maria was indeed probably driven to write out of a desire to impress her father, whose attention she found it increasingly necessary to compete for after each of his three remarriages (Maria Edgeworth, pp.158-59). Yet more recently, Butler has robustly maintained that 'only a handful of passages in Maria's large oeuvre can confidently be attributed' to her father, and that she 'no doubt edited even these' ('General Introduction' to Novels and Selected Works, I, ix). What they certainly did share was their low opinion of those books on offer to children at the end of the eighteenth century. Richard Lovell Edgeworth pronounced his verdict in 1778:

I could not select three pages that were suited to their capacities; and there is scarcely any folly or any vice, of which they might not learn the Rudiments, in this collection, if it were written in language which they could comprehend. (quoted in Butler, Maria Edgeworth, p.61)

The one exception to this censure was Anna Laetitia Barbauld's Lessons for Children (1778: 0482-0486 in the Hockliffe Collection), but overall this was a damning assessment of the state of children's literature. It was just as illiberal as any of the opinions expressed by Sarah Trimmer in her Guardian of Education, published a quarter of a century later, and in which both the manner and the matter of children's books were criticised simultaneously. For her part, Maria clearly did not think much had changed in the interim between the judgements of her father and Trimmer. She may have been writing with an excess of filial loyalty, but when she mentioned in 1825 that only Isaac Watts, Barbauld, and her father had produced children's literature of genuine literary quality, she was displaying a shocking degree of ignorance - or even contempt - of the genre of which she herself was a leading exponent (Preface to Harry and Lucy Concluded, p.viii). For Maria Edgeworth not even to have mentioned the claims of Sarah Fielding, Oliver Goldsmith, Thomas Day, Arnaud Berquin, Dorothy Kilner, Sarah Trimmer, Mary Martha Sherwood, or any of the host of writers who had produced the new wave of children's books in the early nineteenth century, demonstrates not only her insularity, but also the general lack of awareness on the part of contemporaries of the development of any canon of children's literature over the previous century. Perhaps Edgeworth's inability to recognise the great tradition of children's literature should not come as a surprise, though, for canons can only be constructed around a series of dominant figures and few if any had emerged since the death of John Newbery. However many good writers for children there may have been in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Britain, none was of sufficient stature to provide such an anchor. Edgeworth was. She was celebrated in her own day, and continued to be so long after her death. Partly this was because of her success as an author of adult literature. Partly she was famous for being famous. She may not have been the best writer of children's books, nor the most original, but when her standing in the world of letters was united with her undoubted ability, she provided a fixed point in the history of children's literature around which a canon could coalesce.

Bibliographical survey of Maria Edgeworth's writing for children in the holdings of the Hockliffe Collection

Bibliographers have their work cut out with Maria Edgeworth's writing for children. She continually made changes to her work as it appeared in successive editions, and, confusingly, individual stories often made their first appearance in one collection only to be later transferred to another. Her first published work would have appeared when Edgeworth was only fifteen years old, had it not been withdrawn at the last minute. Maria and her father were not worried that her translation of Madame de Genlis' Adle et Théodore was not of sufficient quality, but rather they were put off publication by the discovery that another translation, by Thomas Holcroft, had just come out. It was therefore in 1796 that Edgeworth's first work for children was published - The Parent's Assistant - although it seems likely that some of the stories it contained had first been written as early as 1790 or 1791 (Butler, Maria Edgeworth, p.157). The first and second edition (which also appeared in 1796) were both in three volumes. Since no complete copies of these early editions exist in any one place, it is difficult to tell exactly which tales Edgeworth included (see Pollard, 'Maria Edgeworth's The Parent's Assistant. The First Edition'). In any case, the work was wholly revised for a new edition of 1800. This time there were six volumes and seventeen tales, most of them new, and several of those which had appeared in the 1796 edition were held back for Edgeworth's new project, Easy Lessons, which was to be published in 1801. The Parent's Assistant remained in this six-volume form for some time, and certainly until 1815 from when the Hockliffe Collection's copy of volume four dates, although its title-page claims that it formed part of a 'new edition' (0101). Over the following decades the work appeared in a number of formats, with anything from two to seven volumes. The Hockliffe Collection's edition, in one volume, is very late, dating from 1897 (0102), bearing testament to the continuing popularity of Edgeworth's writing (indeed, of the Macmillan series of 'Illustrated Standard Novels' advertised at the end of the British Library copy of the volume, six out of the twenty-eight are by Edgeworth).

Meanwhile, Edgeworth had published Practical Education (1798), an educational treatise written in collaboration with her father, and Early Lessons. This first appeared in 1801 in ten small volumes, printed for Joseph Johnson. Two of the volumes contained the beginning of the long saga of 'Harry and Lucy', three contained the earliest episodes of Rosamond (one of which was 'The Purple Jar', which had originally featured as part of the 1796 Parent's Assistant), four were filled with the adventures of 'Frank', and the final volume contained three stories, 'The Little Dog Trusty', 'The Orange Man', and 'The Cherry Orchard'. These ten volumes were small enough to be held in the hand, and they were printed in the sort of large print which would appeal to a child. But such a format must have been expensive and some time before 1815 Early Lessons was reduced to just two volumes, although a larger format, and smaller print meant that all the stories remained in place. The Hockliffe Collection has a copy of the tenth volume of the first format of the Early Lessons (0098). It lacks the title-page so any further identification is difficult, but the Hockliffe version cannot be from the first edition since this included a preamble to the first story which is lacking in the Hockliffe edition. It is probably from either the second edition of 1803 or the third of 1809.

Edgeworth's Moral Tales (1801), Popular Tales (1804) and Tales of Fashionable Life (1809 and 1812) seem to be aimed at an audience poised somewhere between childhood and adulthood, or perhaps at both groups, and there was something of a mid-career hiatus in Edgeworth's writing of books dedicated to children. When she returned to the form, Edgeworth revived the protagonists whom she had introduced in The Parent's Assistant and Early Lessons. Frank, Rosamond and Harry and Lucy returned to life for the Continuation of Early Lessons of c.1814 (the dedication is dated December 1813), of which the Hockliffe Collection has a two-volume 'third' edition of 1816 (0099). Rosamond, a Sequel to Early Lessons was published in 1821 (0103 and 0104), and Frank, a Sequel to Frank in Early Lessons followed a year later. In 1825, Edgeworth provided a conclusion to the one remaining strand of stories with Harry and Lucy Concluded: Being the Last Part of Early Lessons. By the time of Edgeworth's death in 1849, these various stories were appearing in all sorts of permutations. The Hockliffe Collection's copy of Harry and Lucy ... collected into one volume (0100), for instance, contains stories of these two siblings which first appeared in both the Early Lessons and the Continuation of Early Lessons, to which are added 'The Little Dog Trusty', 'The Orange Man' and 'The Cherry Orchard', the former two of which first appeared in the 1796 Parent's Assistant before featuring alongside the latter in the 1801 Early Lessons. But a note at the end of Harry and Lucy ... collected into one volume informs the reader that 'the conclusion of ... Harry and Lucy forms a distinct work, in 3 vols., and may be had of the publishers.' (0100: note).

Edgeworth's earnings from her children's books were considerable. She compiled an account of how much she received for each title in 1842 (it is reproduced in Butler's, Maria Edgeworth, p.492):

The Parent's Assistant: £120

Practical Education: £300

Early Lessons: £50

Early Lesson continued: £210

Rosamond, continued: £420

Frank: £400

Harry and Lucy Concluded: £400

Although these sums were no doubt large for a children's author, they pale in comparison with her adult novels. She was paid £2,100 for Patronage and over £1000 for at least three other novels or collections of tales aimed at the adult market.

Contents of the Hockliffe Collection's holdings of Maria Edgeworth's writing for children

0098: Early Lessons (n.d. but 1803 or 1809)

1. 'The Little Dog Trusty': starts p.5

2. 'The Orange Man; or, The Honest Boy and the Thief': starts p.31.

3. 'The Cherry Orchard': starts p.53.

0099: Continuation of 'Early Lessons, Vol. 2 (1816)

Pt.1: the continuation of 'Rosamond'

1. 'The Bee and the Cow': starts p.1.

2. 'The Happy Party': starts p.23.

3. 'Wonders': starts p.49.

4. 'The Microscope': starts p.76.

Pt.2: the continuation of 'Harry and Lucy'

1. 'To Parents': starts p.105.

2. 'Harry and Lucy': starts p.111

0100: Harry and Lucy ... collected into one volume (1856)

1. 'Harry and Lucy, part 1': starts p.1.

2. 'Harry and Lucy, part 2': starts p.31).

3. 'The Little Dog Trusty': starts p.234).

4. 'The Cherry Orchard': starts p.245.

5. 'The Orange Man; or, The Honest Boy and the Thief': starts p.268.

0101: The Parent's Assistant; or, Stories for Children. Vol.IV (1815)

1. 'Old Poz': starts p.1.

2. 'The Mimic': starts p.35.

3. 'Mademoiselle Panache': starts p127. (second part appears in Moral Tales)

0102: The Parent's Assistant (1897)

1. 'Introduction' by Anne Thackeray Ritchie: starts p.v.

2. 'Preface Addressed to Parents' by Maria Edgeworth: starts p.1.

3. 'The Orphans': starts p.5.

4. 'Lazy Lawrence': starts p.27.

5. 'The False Key': starts p.55.

6. 'Simple Susan': starts p.79.

7. 'The White Pigeon': starts p.141.

8. 'The Birthday Present': starts p.153.

9. 'Eton Montem': starts p.169.

10. 'Forgive and Forget': starts p.215.

11. 'Waste Not, Want Not; or, Two Strings to Your Bow': starts p.231.

12. 'Old Poz': starts p.257.

13. 'The Mimic': starts p.273.

14. 'The Barring Out; or, Party Spirit': starts p.307.

15. 'The Bracelets': starts p.347.

16. 'The Little Merchants': starts p.373.

17. 'Tarlton': starts p.431.

18. 'The Basket-Woman': starts p.451.

0103: Rosamond, a sequel to Early Lessons, Vol.1 (1821)

1. 'To Parents': starts p.iii.

2. 'Petty Scandal': starts p.1.

3. 'Airs and Graces': starts p.74.

4. 'The Nine Days' Wonder': starts p.127).

5. 'Egerton Abbey': starts p.212.

0104: Rosamond, a sequel to Early Lessons, Vol.2 (1821)

1. 'The Black Lane': starts p.1.

2. 'The Palanquin': starts p.58.

3. 'The Forest Drive: starts p.78.

4. 'Morning Visits': starts p.99.

5. 'The Bracelet of Memory': starts p.150.

6. 'Blind Kate': starts p.173.

7. 'The Print Gallery': starts p.232.

8. 'The Departure': starts p.259.

9. 'Correct List of Mr. and Miss Edgeworth's Works': starts p.273.

Synopses of a selection of Maria Edgeworth's tales

1. 'Lazy Lawrence'

Originally appeared in the first (1796) edition of The Parent's Assistant, and carried over into vol. 1 of the revised (1800) edition. Can be found in Hockliffe Collection's 1897 Parent's Assistant (0102), p.27.

Jem lives with his mother, a widow, Mrs. Preston, in the village of Ashton, near Clifton (a suburb of Bristol). She is hard-working, and survives on the fruit of her garden - flowers and strawberries. One winter she is ill, and not only can she not tend her garden, but her cow dies, and she has to spend all her savings on medicine. When the rent comes due, she cannot pay it, and she determines to sell Lightfoot, her horse, for two guineas at the Bristol fair. Lightfoot is the favourite of her son, Jem, and he determines to raise as much money as he can in a bid to keep Lightfoot. He knows that he will not be able to earn two whole guineas in two weeks, but he will at least try.

He remembers that he saw a woman selling fossils in Clifton. He asks where they may be gathered, and when she will not tell him, he goes looking for himself. He comes across a workman who has lost a small piece of crystal amongst the rocks. Jem finds if for him, and is rewarded by an offer to go halves in the selling of some fossils which the workman has for some time been gathering. Jem finds it impossible to sell the fossils until, in return for helping some sailors unload their cargo, he is introduced to a lady who is building a grotto and may buy the fossils. Having endeared himself to her by arranging her collection of feathers which had been overturned just as he arrived, she agrees to spend half a crown on his fossils (of which, out of admiration for Jem's honesty in returning with his profits, the workman will take only sixpence). When the lady finds out Jem's industriousness and the reason he wants money, she offers to employ him as an assistant to her gardener. Jem works harder than any other boy, and rather than being kept till six o'clock every night, he generally is let go at four, having already accomplished a day's work. He spends his evenings in hearty play in the village.

Lawrence is another boy who lives in the village. He is renowned for his laziness - he sits around all day, hardly moving, and he despises all work. He gets money for ginger-bread, apples, nuts and other small luxuries from his father, whom he has learned to approach when his is drunk. But when his father's cider bottles are destroyed on account of Lawrence not having moved them to the cellar, and not having wired the corks, he refuses Lawrence any more funds. Desperate for some nuts, Lawrence turns to small-time gambling: a game of pitch farthing (betting on the outcome of the toss of a coin). Lawrence falls into low company at an inn, and from here he learns not only how to gamble, but how to swear, how to cheat, and how to lie.

Realising that his mistress needs a mat for her house, Jem determines to make one. He tries again and again to craft a mat out of 'heath', and eventually he succeeds. Having presented his mat, as a gift, to his mistress, she asks him to make more. He makes 18 over the days before the fair, and they are sold to his mistress's friends for two shillings each. When she adds in a little extra, and Jem includes the money he has earned, this makes up the two guineas! His mistress insists that Jem wait to tell his mother the good news until she visits them at Ashton on the Sunday evening before the Monday fair.

In the meantime, Lawrence has fallen into debt to a wicked stable-boy. Jem having ingenuously told him of his newly-acquired money, Lawrence is easily persuaded by his new-found associates to rob Jem, or at least to 'borrow' the money until after a cock-fight. When Jem's mistress comes to his house, Jem runs to fetch the money and finds it is gone. At first, his mistress suspects him of trying to take advantage of her compassion. But when a silver penny which had been amongst his hoard turns up in the possession of a passing woman, and when she explains that she picked it up when it was dropped by a boy in a neighbouring field, Jem's mistress sends her servant, accompanied by the farmer who is to take Lightfoot to market, in pursuit of the thieves. They are soon apprehended, and the stolen money is found in their possession. The stable-boy is arrested, sent for trial, and eventually transported to Botany Bay; Lawrence is sent to Bridewell for a month, and when released, reforms himself to become as industrious as Jem; and Jem, rewarded by his mistress with a new saddle for Lightfoot, remains a happy and hard-working boy.

2. 'Simple Susan'

Originally appeared in vol. 2 of the revised (1800) edition of The Parent's Assistant. Can be found in Hockliffe Collection's 1897 Parent's Assistant (0102), p.79.

Chapter 1: Simple Susan Price is the paradigm of selfless good-nature in a rural village near Shrewsbury. She is routinely voted Queen of the May by the other children of the village, whom she helps in many ways. Barbara, the daughter of the grasping attorney, Mr Case, is her exact opposite - selfish, hot-tempered and on bad terms with every other child in the village. Attorney Case has made himself unpopular by encroaching on the land and rights of the other villagers. He had let his daughter run wild until it occurred to him that she should be more genteel, since when she has been forced - unproductively - to study with private tutors. Specifically, Edgeworth arraigns Barbara for being angry, for allowing her dress to drag on the ground (Susan holds hers up off the ground), and for being 'bold' - that is to say, she does not wear a hat. Whilst she is brazen, Susan is modest - not bashful, as if she had never been in company before, but appropriately self-effacing when she meets her social superiors. Barbara excites Edgeworth's contempt by pretending to be more high-born than she actually is. She at least once wishes her maid to say she is not at home to visitors, when in fact she is, but simply wishes to avoid an interview. When there is someone she wants to see, she stands and stares at the hall door rather than getting on with her work. She is also to be seen reading a 'dirty' novel, although it is not clear whether the adjective is used literally or figuratively.

Farmer Price, though only ten days shy of 40, has refused to lie about his age, and has been drafted into the militia. He found that he could appoint a substitute for 8 or 9 guineas, but he did not have the money, so he borrowed it from Attorney Case, leaving the lease to the farm as surety. Now, the local landowner has died, and Case wishes to ingratiate himself with his successor, Sir Arthur. He has for some time also wished to enclose some land at the end of Price's garden, which Price knows has always been common land. As a result, Case is determined to inflict on Price the rigours of the law, and he demands his 9 guineas back. The only way Price can avail himself of such a sum is by going into the militia himself, which he reluctantly agrees to do since it will mean abandoning his family. Case, though he takes his nine guineas, refuses to return Price's lease, claiming he has found a fault in it which he must show to his new master, Sir Arthur. Meanwhile, Mrs Price has fallen ill, and Susan looks after her, declining the chance to be Queen of the May once more.

Because she can provide them with good quality bread, which she has just learned to bake, Susan gets summoned to the manor house into which Sir Arthur and his wife have moved. She is feted a little while there, for being such a good girl. Case is also present, meeting Sir Arthur. But Sir Arthur seems too honest a man for the liking of Case. When the latter exposes the flaws in Price's lease to Sir Arthur - something he thinks will be well-received since he has plans to build a drive over the land in question - Sir Arthur refuses to use the law to evict his tenant. In order to propitiate Sir Arthur, Case seeks a lamb - Sir Arthur's favourite dish - to send him. Susan has a pet lamb. Case bargains with her - he will allow her father a further week before he has to go off to join the militia if she surrenders the lamb. She reluctantly agrees.

Chapter 2: Barbara wants the ladies of Sir Arthur's household to take her to a ball, and she sends them a present of a guinea fowl. The guinea fowl had belonged to Susan, but when it wandered into the Case's garden, Barbara claimed ownership. However, after it has been presented as a gift to Sir Arthur's wife, the bird is recognised as the property of Susan, and it is returned to her. The lamb, though Susan had resigned herself to give it up, had actually been kept alive by the butcher, and it too is returned to Susan when Sir Arthur makes it clear that he will not accept presents from any of his tenants, including Case. Barbara is stung by Susan's bees when she attempts to steal her honey.

The denouement is ushered in by a blind harper who appears in the village. He is welcomed by Susan, and given a place to stay by the Prices where he witnesses Susan's sadness at what she then thought was the loss of her lamb. When the harper attends the ball on the following day, he wins the prize for the best piece of music - a song he has composed called 'Susan's Lamentation for her Lamb'. Announcing himself to be richer than he appears, he donates the 10 guineas prize money to pay for a substitute for Mr Price's place in the militia. But this is only the first of their blessings. Sir Arthur now dismisses Case, and banishes him from the parish, having found a flaw in his lease. He makes Mr Price his agent, on account of his good book-keeping and writing skills which have been amply demonstrated through the skills of his daughter, whom he had taught (despite the fact that there was a school in the village). Susan is rewarded with a new dress, bought for her by Sir Arthur's wife. Finally, the patch of land which Case wanted to enclose is found to be owned by Sir Arthur himself, and he donates it to the children of the village in perpetuity. To mark Susan's birthday, a day of dancing and feasting for the village is proclaimed.

3. 'The Purple Jar'

Originally appeared in the first (1796) edition of The Parent's Assistant, then transferred to Early Lessons (1801). Not in the Hockliffe Collection.

Rosamond is shopping with her mother. A purple jar, on display in the window of an apothecary's shop catches her eye, and she cannot help imagining how pretty the flowers that she loves to cut from the garden will look when displayed in the jar. Her mother agrees to buy Rosamond one item, although she clearly hopes that Rosamond will opt for new shoes, for her existing pair is very worn. Rosamond contemplates her choice, but eventually the lure of the jar proves too strong to resist. When she returns home, she is disappointed to find that the jar itself is not purple at all. It was simply filled with an odorous purple liquid, which Rosamond tips away. Some days later, Rosamond's disappointment is compounded when her father offers to take her and her brother to see a glasshouse full of exotic plants. However, when her father sees the state of Rosamond's shoes, which have fallen apart completely since the shopping trip, he refuses to take her on the excursion. Rosamond bitterly regrets her choice, and she promises herself and her mother that she will be wiser next time.

4. 'Old Poz'

Originally appeared in the revised (1800) edition of The Parent's Assistant. Can be found in Hockliffe Collection's 1815 (0101: p.1) and 1897 (0102: p.257) editions of Parent's Assistant.

A drama. Justice Headstrong is always grumpy until he has had his chocolate in the morning. A poor travelling man comes to see him and explains that he has had all his money stolen in the Saracen's Head that night. The landlady, Mrs Bustle, happens to be visiting the justice to tell him of the goose pie she is cooking him. When she interrupts the interview she is sent out, but the judge seems nevertheless to have been influenced by her protestations that such a thing could not happen under her roof. He is always quick to form opinions and is always absolutely positive about them - or 'poz' as he puts it. His good daughter, Lucy, frequently has gently to contradict him when he has formed the wrong apprehension. In this case he dismisses the man, arguing that no-one would steal the money from a tobacco box, but then leave the box, as the man asserts has been the case - and that's 'poz'. The justice wants the man arrested for lying.

Lucy discovers that the lid was not on the box and this leads her to catch the thief - Mrs Bustle's pet magpie. They all laugh about it when the money is recovered and the justice adds a contribution of his own, inviting the plaintiff to use it to drink his health. They settle down to the goose pie. Justice Headstrong says he will no longer by 'poz' about anything.

5. 'The Cherry Orchard'

Originally appeared in Early Lessons (1801). Can be read in the Hockliffe Collection's slightly later edition (0098: p.53) or its 1856 edition of Harry and Lucy ... collected into one volume (0100: p.245).

Marianne is eight years old and very good-tempered. Her cousin, Owen, is seven, and ill-tempered. He likes to walk to school by the road, so that he can see the carriages and coaches go by, but his friends, including Marianne, prefer to go by the lane so that they can collect wild flowers. Although they have already accompanied him several times, he insists that they must go with him by the road again. Though they are reluctant, the peace-loving Marianne persuades them all to accompany Owen once more. But he is still angry and rude, and kicks up dust and tries to force Marianne to say she likes the road better. When he stops to get the dust out of his shoes, the other children force the gate of the turnpike shut against him and will not let him through until he promises to stop kicking up the dust. He refuses and tries to barge the gate, but fails. Eventually he turns round and heads for home in a fit of anger. Marianne runs after him and tells him that there is something that he will like around the next corner - ripe cherries being sold for a ha'penny a bunch. He is tempted, and is forced to promise the other children that he will stop kicking up dust. He sticks to his word, and they all buy cherries. But there is contention over who gets the best bunch, and Owen complains that his are unripe and bird-eaten. No-one else can see this, so he tries to snatch other bunches, and eventually in a fit of rage stamps on all the cherries. No one can afford any more, and the children make their dislike for Owen plain.

At school, Owen is easily the brightest, and completes his lesson quickest and best, so that he gets the privilege of reading out the news - the local cherry orchard is to be thrown open to children for one evening if each child buys a six-penny ticket. None of them has a sixpence, but their teacher says she will pay sixpence each for some straw basketwork. They get to work - Owen working on his own, the rest in a team. Though Owen is easily the fastest straw-weaver, he cannot compete with the teamwork of the others. They have all taken different jobs in the production process, suited to each individual, and they get their work finished and get paid with time to spare. Owen does not, and despite Marianne's attempts to intercede for him, the others will not help him. She persists and the other children contemplate helping Owen, but first they wish to see if he has reformed. They criticise his work; they pull apart some of his weaving; they ask if he will lend them his basket to gather cherries even though he cannot go himself; and under all these tests Owen is meek and patient. They therefore band together to help the reformed Owen with his straw-plaiting, and it is soon finished. All go happily to the cherry orchard together. Owen will never be cross again, he says.

6. 'The Little Dog Trusty; or, the Liar and the Boy of Truth'

Originally appeared in the first (1796) edition of The Parent's Assistant, then transferred to Early Lessons (1801). Can be read in the Hockliffe Collection's slightly later edition (0098: p.5) or its 1856 edition of Harry and Lucy ... collected into one volume (0100: p.234)

Frank and Robert are brothers. They live with their parents in a small cottage. While playing they spill a bowl of milk. When they did this last, they were warned that they would be deprived of milk for supper if they ever did it again. Robert, as is his wont, wants to lie about this, but Frank always tells the truth. Robert detains Frank from doing so, and, in hopes of still having his milk, he seeks out his mother first and, one lie following on from another, persuades her that their dog, 'Trusty', spilled the milk. He has locked Frank out of the cottage, so he cannot reveal the truth, but just as the mother is about to beat the dog, Frank shouts through the window that he and Robert spilled the milk. When their father comes home, he is apprised of the situation, and whips Robert. Although Robert and Frank are both deprived of milk, neither parent is actually angry with Frank, and he is given the dog for his own as a reward for his honesty. All the neighbourhood is to be told the story, so that Robert will be known to all as a liar.

7. 'The Orange Man; or, the Honest Boy and the Thief'

Originally appeared in the first (1796) edition of The Parent's Assistant, then transferred to Early Lessons (1801). Can be read in the Hockliffe Collection's slightly later edition (0098: p.31) or its 1856 edition of Harry and Lucy ... collected into one volume (0100: p.268)

A man whose horse carries panniers full of China oranges arrives at an inn and desires a boy to hold his horse while he takes his breakfast. Charles is appointed because he is honest, but Ned, known to be a thief, approaches, and tries to purloin an orange. First he looks at the oranges, then he feels them, then he smells one, then he wants to eat it - but Charles defends the oranges, receiving several blows as he does so. As Ned tries to steal oranges from the other pannier, the horse kicks him. The noise draws a crowd. He his humiliated, and Charles is roundly praised.. The Orange man gives him a hatful of oranges instead of the one he promised him for doing this job. Charles is reluctant to take the fruit, but the Orange Man insists, and Charles distributes the fruit amongst his fellow children. Ned gets none, but hobbles along behind. 'Little boys, who read this story, consider, which would you rather have been, the honest boy, or the thief.'

Butler, Marilyn, Maria Edgeworth. A Literary Biography, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972

Jackson, Mary V., Engines of Instruction. Mischief, and Magic: Children's Literature in England from Its Beginning to 1839, Lincoln, Neb., 1989

Darton, F. G. Harvey, Children's Books in England: Five centuries of social life, Cambridge: CUP, 1932; third edition, revised by Brian Alderson, 1982

Townsend, John Rowe, Written for Children: An Outline of English-Language Children's Literature, Penguin, 1965, rpt. 1990

Butler, Marilyn, Maria Edgeworth. A Literary Biography, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972

Carpenter, Humphrey & Pritchard, Mari, The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, Oxford: OUP, 1984

Butler, Marilyn, 'General Introduction', in Vol.1: 'Castle Rackrent, Irish Bulls, and Ennui' of The Novels and Selected Works of Maria Edgeworth, ed. Jane Desmarais, Tim McLoughlin and Marilyn Butler, London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999

Butler, Marilyn, 'General Introduction', in Vol.1: 'Castle Rackrent, Irish Bulls, and Ennui' of The Novels and Selected Works of Maria Edgeworth, ed. Jane Desmarais, Tim McLoughlin and Marilyn Butler, London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999

Myers, Mitzi, 'Introduction' to The Little Dog Trusty; The Orange Man; and the Cherry Orchard: being the tenth part of Early Lessons [1801], The Augustan Reprint Society, nos.263-264, Los Angeles: University of California, 1990

Butler, Marilyn, Maria Edgeworth. A Literary Biography, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972

Harden, Elizabeth, Maria Edgeworth, Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984

Butler, Marilyn, Maria Edgeworth. A Literary Biography, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972

Butler, Marilyn, 'General Introduction', in Vol.1: 'Castle Rackrent, Irish Bulls, and Ennui' of The Novels and Selected Works of Maria Edgeworth, ed. Jane Desmarais, Tim McLoughlin and Marilyn Butler, London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999

Butler, Marilyn, Maria Edgeworth. A Literary Biography, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972

Butler, Marilyn, Maria Edgeworth. A Literary Biography, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972

Pollard, M., 'Maria Edgeworth's The Parent's Assistant. The first edition', The Book Collector, 20 (1971), 347-51

Butler, Marilyn, Maria Edgeworth. A Literary Biography, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972