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Stories Before 1850. 0105: Mary (Belson) Elliott, The Adventures of Thomas Two-Shoes

Author: Elliott, Mary (née Belson)
Title: The Adventures of Thomas Two-Shoes: being a sequel to that of 'The Modern Goody Two-Shoes'. By Mary Belson, Author of 'Industry and Idleness,' etc. etc.
Cat. Number: 0105
Date: 1818
1st Edition: 1818
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: W. Darton, Jun., 58, Holborn Hill, Opposite Ely Place
Price: 1s
Pages: 1 vol., 67pp. + one page of advertisements
Size: 16 x 9.5 cm
Illustrations: Folding frontispiece plus two further engravings
Note: With two pages of advertisements (one on outside back cover) for children's books from W. Darton Jnr. at the end.

Images of all pages of this book

Page 004 of item 0105

Introductory essay

The History of Goody Two-Shoes was one of the most popular and influential children's books of the eighteenth century. It had a unique status. It can be seen as 'the very foundation of the Moral Tale', as F. J. Harvey Darton called it (Darton 1982, 129), yet Charles Lamb could base his attack on those moral tales on a lament that Goody Two-Shoes had been banished by them and was no longer available! (Lamb 1935, 326.) It could be defended by the most ardent moralists and by the most vehement of the romantic critics of the moral-didactic tradition. It was universally popular. And moreover, its influence carried on well into the nineteenth century, as the three editions from the Hockliffe Collection demonstrate. The three texts are, first, a generally faithful reproduction of the original text by Houlston and Son, a notable provincial publisher (0124); second, a greatly abridged version of the tale, pruned into the shape of a fairy story or chapbook tale so that it would fit into a series of Tabart's Popular Stories (0123); and third, this sequel to the original tale published over fifty years after the original (0105). It is perhaps the differences between these three works, rather than their common ancestry, which is most interesting.

The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes; Otherwise called Mrs. Margery Two-Shoes was first published by John Newbery in 1765. Its subtitle gave away its plot, such as it was, telling the reader that the heroine would acquire 'Learning and Wisdom, and in consequence thereof her Estate'. Put at its starkest, the tale sees Goody Two-Shoes - or more properly Margery Meanwell - orphaned early in life, a destitute and friendless vagabond, a keen student of the alphabet when given the opportunity, and then a zealous teacher of it to others. This pedagogical fervour, allied with her charitable activities, results in her being plucked from her humble station in life and elevated to the gentry. From the start the reader knows that this will be a rags-to-riches-via-the-schoolroom story. And the book loses no time in pointing out that this is a path which any of its readers may take too, if they choose. The book has been written, the title-page makes clear, 'for the Benefit of those,'

Who from a State of Rags and Care,
And having Shoes but half a Pair;
Their Fortune and their Fame would fix,
And gallop in a Coach and Six.

The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is, in other words, propaganda for education. As such it fitted in well with Newbery's oeuvre, almost all of which was decidedly pedagogical in intent. The success of his children's book business was premised on the idea that a child could improve his or her social and economic standing through reading. It was an idea most influentially expressed by John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), which had envisaged the child as a tabula rasa ready to be inscribed by whatever influences it was exposed to. If people believed that children's minds might be formed by their reading, Newbery concluded, they would believe that their social status could also be constructed this way. In the mid-eighteenth century, and even fifty years later, this was not necessarily true, but it was a convenient myth for a publisher of children's literature to latch onto. And it was unsurprising that he produced books like this to illustrate his main selling point. If one gained an education, Goody Two-Shoes proclaimed, one would end up with a coach-and-six (this was always Newbury's favourite symbol for worldly success, the Mercedes Benz of its day). Just as Newbery delighted in advertising specific books he had already published on the pages of his own publications, so the whole book in which these specific puffs appeared was an advertisement for itself and its genre. (Compare the use of the same strategy in Giles Gingerbread: 0240.)

But Goody Two-Shoes was also much more than this. Its lasting success was not due to its advocacy of education but to its strong characters and satisfying, if not exactly startling, narrative. In the original version there was also much that might be considered political. The 'Introduction' in particular was filled with complaints - against the modern agricultural practice of amalgamating farms, against the rapacity and hypocrisy of a churchwarden and overseer of the roads like Farmer Graspall, against the negligence and passive iniquity of a Lord of the Manor and Justice of the Peace like Sir Timothy Gripe, and against the inequity of the law. In parts this children's book sounds like a radical political pamphlet:

Ah! my dear reader, we brag of liberty, and boast of our laws; but the blessings of the one, and the protection of the other, seldom fall to the lot of the poor; and especially when a rich man is their adversary. (0124: p.7)

The author evidently felt it necessary to apologise for these animadversions. They were directed at 'children of six feet high', the 'Introduction' explained, and are necessary if the Kingdom is not to be reduced to a state of vassalage (0124: p.8). But the apology was disingenuous since the 'Introduction' also conveys essential elements of the narrative, recounting how Farmer Meanwell, Goody's father, was forced into bankruptcy. It cannot be the case, then, that the 'Introduction' was designed for a different audience to the main text. When the book was abridged for Tabart and Co. in 1804, the information about Farmer Meanwell's financial demise had to be relocated to the main body of the text. But fascinatingly, by 1804 all these political grievances had silently been excised. In Tabart's version it was now simply 'Providence' which had afflicted Farmer Meanwell with misfortunes, and although Sir Thomas Gripe remains in this new version (down-graded in villainy to a mere 'miser') the author of Tabart's edition was quick to point out that Goody Two-Shoes 'was born in England',

and everybody knows, that, in this happy country, the poor are to the full as much protected by our excellent laws, as are the highest and the richest nobles in the land; and the humblest cottager enjoys an equal share of the blessings of English liberty with the sons of the King themselves. (0123: p.3)

This was an exact contradiction of the sentiments which had ushered in Goody's story in Newbery's version and which were repeated in the Houlston and Son edition in the Hockliffe Collection (0124).

There are probably three major reasons why the second version of Goody Two-Shoes in the Hockliffe Collection, by Tabart and Co., towed a more politically quiescent line. First, Tabart was under the necessity of fitting all 156 pages of the original version into the 36 or so pages he generally allowed for each work in his Popular Stories series, and it was probably simplest to cut out the political matter. Second, Tabart was publishing in 1804, a time when Britain was still in the grip of an often paranoid reaction to the French Revolution, to radicalism at home, and to the threat of military invasion. The sentiments that had been published in 1765 would have been regarded as verging on the seditious forty years later. And third, by the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a text would not have got away with mixing material for adults and children, as the 'Introduction' to Goody Two-Shoes confessed to have done. Even if its author had been rather designing in claiming to write an introduction for adults and the tale itself for children, there were many who would have swooped on such a hybrid, denouncing it as unsuitable, or even dangerous, for children. From the age of Newbery onwards, literature had been becoming increasingly polarised, with books for children and books for adults taking their separate ways. Partly this was testament to the power of the critics, figures such as Sarah Trimmer, who sought to guard children against any corrupting influence. But partly it was due to the increasing confidence, self-sufficiency and professionalism of the children's publishing industry. Only one sixth of the output of the publishing firm of Newbery and his successors had been intended for children. By contrast, by the early nineteenth century, almost the entire publishing list of Tabart and Co. or of John Harris, say, was aimed at the children's market. With children's literature so well established by 1800, there was no need for children's authors to appeal to such a wide range of readers, nor to make a case for the seriousness of their books with observations that went beyond the provision of a superficial moral. By Tabart's time, children's publishers had been producing saleable books for long enough to know that there was no need - that it was counter-productive indeed - to fill their books with extraneous matter which neither advanced a narrative nor led to a standard moral lesson. Nineteenth-century publishers had learned the value of plot, incident and drama. This is why Tabart picked out the most exciting moment of Goody Two-Shoes for his frontispiece - the sudden arrival of a mysterious stranger to halt Goody's wedding - despite the relatively minor place of the episode in the original edition.

The changes made by Tabart to Newbery's original tale amply demonstrate the truth of the first line of Tabart's edition which notes that Goody's story 'has been told differently by different writers.' (0123: p.3) However, the edition by Houlston and Son in the Hockliffe Collection remained very faithful to Newbery's first edition. There are substantially fewer wood-cuts, and all differ from those used by Newbery, but they do depict the same scenes. Houlston also omitted Newbery's appendices which recount an episode from Goody's married life, a humorous anecdote or two, and a brief description of what happened to her brother after he had been sent to sea, but otherwise the text remains the same. Edward Houlston founded a bookshop in Wellington, Shropshire, in 1779, but it was not until after his death in 1800, when his widow Frances took over the business, that the firm began to publish. Their earliest imprint is from 1804 and records, as in this instance, that Frances Houlston was in partnership with her son. It is possible that he had just finished a printing apprenticeship, and M. Nancy Cutt speculates that he might have married his master's widow, inheriting her printing machinery (Cutt 1974, 25). The firm prospered, becoming the chief publisher of Mrs. Sherwood's children's books, and beginning operations in London by the 1820s. Advertisements show that Goody Two-Shoes was certainly on their list by 1812, but a date of any time between then and 1804 seems possible for the Hockliffe edition. Support for a date near the beginning of this range comes from the fact that at least two of the titles in the book-list at the back of the work were in print in by 1807. But none of this explains the partially legible words 'London ... Charles Eyre and Andrew Strahan ... the King's [most?] Excellent Majesty 1791' which appear on the binding of the Hockliffe Collection's copy alongside a royal crest (see front and back cover). Eyre and Strahan were printers to the king in London all the way though from 1785 to 1831, but whether this label is contemporary with the publication of the book, or whether the label even refers to a printing date, remain matters for debate.

Just as obscure is the authorship of both these versions of Goody Two-Shoes. Benjamin Tabart himself may have abridged his own edition of the work, but this is conjecture. Any attribution of authorship for the original version must be just as speculative. The title-page of Newbery's edition claimed that the work had been translated from a manuscript in the Vatican, but it also asserted that the wood-cuts were the work of Michaelangelo, and Newbery knew that he was fooling nobody. Newbery himself must be a candidate for author, but the original introduction to the book had asked the reader 'Why, do you suppose this is written by Mr. Newbery, Sir? This may come from another Hand', a phrase omitted from both the Hockliffe editions. The figure most usually associated with the work is Oliver Goldsmith, usually on the basis that he frequently worked for Newbery. The political sentiments of his poem The Deserted Village (1770) are certainly similar to those voiced in Goody Two-Shoes, even if Goody can restore the countryside to its formerly flourishing state whilst Goldsmith's village of Auburn has no such happy recovery from its gradual decline and desertion. And yet Newbery's accounts, which are often specific about Goldsmith's involvement in his projects, do not mention him in connection with Goody Two-Shoes, and no other proof of authorship has ever been discovered (for further discussion of this question see Carpenter 1984, 214).

The author of the sequel to Goody, The Adventures of Thomas Two-Shoes, published in 1818 by W. Darton Jnr., was Mary Elliott, who also wrote under her maiden name of Belson. She was a prolific writer of moral stories and poetry of which several are in the Hockliffe Collection (0106, 0540, 0541, 0732 and 0768. The title of one of them might give a clue as to what sort of thing she produced: Plain things for little Folks; seasoned with instruction, both for the mind and the eye. Goody Two-Shoes had provided a golden opportunity for a sequel in that the reader had never been fully informed of the fate of her brother Thomas Two-Shoes once he had been sent away to sea. He returned a rich man just as Goody was getting married, but how he had found his wealth had only briefly been explained in an appendix to Newbery's original version (and this is omitted in Houlston's edition). Elliott had already 'edited' (that is to say written) The Modern Goody Two-Shoes (1815), a revised version of the original, and she was not slow to latch onto the opportunity Thomas's missing adventures offered to instil in children a blithe faith in Providence and a certainty that righteous behaviour and patient submission would always ultimately be rewarded by success. It is hardly surprising that the inscription in the Hockliffe Collection's copy records that the owner, Henry Popplewell, acquired his book from, or used it at, a Sunday School in Darton, South Yorkshire (see 0105: fly leaf).

Elliott was not quite correct when she wrote that Tommy's adventures had 'never met the public eye until now' (0105: p.3). Tabart's 1804 edition of Goody Two-Shoes had included a second part, based on the sketch appended to the original edition, which had already traced Tommy's adventures. And a very exciting tale it had proved to be. His very first voyage ended in ship-wreck, and he was captured by 'Indians' in Africa. He gained their trust, not to say their homage, and he lived with them for some time. He tamed a lion cub. Returning home through forests and deserts he discovered a stone statue bearing an enigmatic inscription to the effect that on midsummer's morning its head would turn to gold. Having solved this riddle (for the answer see 0123: p.28) he became a rich man and returned to England where he burst in on his sister's wedding, as the reader knows from Goody Two-Shoes. The story is not without its moral component - the author has something to say about the transient value of gold and the obligation to spend it wisely on good works - but compared with even Tabart's rendering of Goody Two-Shoes, let alone the original or Elliott's Modern Goody Two-Shoes, this is a story dominated by adventure rather than didacticism.

The obvious thing to do is to contrast Tabart's version of Tommy Two-Shoes with Elliott's much more overtly moralising rendering. Elliott was certainly much more concerned with the continuity of her sequel. She took pains to account for Thomas being called 'Two-Shoes', even though he had always had a full pair, and she was scrupulous in explaining why his sister received no letters from him (see 0105: p.24 and p.26). Moreover, Elliott's version certainly had an explicit moral emphasis lacking in Tabart's text. Tabart's Tommy escapes from slavery in Africa by the morally neutral act of winding a watch which is (inexplicably, given his poverty) in his possession, something which impresses his captors (see 0123: pp.23f.). Elliott's Thomas earns his freedom by a combination of education and patient submission to God's will. First, he makes friends with the grandson of his owner, which he does by learning his language and teaching him his own (see 0105 p.48). And second, he divulges a plot being hatched by some of his fellow slaves to assassinate their owner (see 0105: pp.54ff.). Thomas could not countenance the harming of another human being in this way, however cruel that man might be, and, of course, he relies entirely on Providence to set him free. (This episode is strikingly paralleled by events earlier in the book in Jamaica, where 'Black George' had also betrayed his fellow rebel slaves, including his own brother, when they planned to murder all the white inhabitants of the island. To this disclosure Thomas owed his life, and Black George, eventually, his lasting happiness - see 0105: pp.37ff). It should be added that Elliott's Thomas acquires his fortune in a very different way from Tabart's Tommy. While the former earns his through the eminently recommendable means of international trade, the latter had simply come across his by solving a riddle, rather in the manner of the cunning but work-shy protagonists of chapbook stories and fairy tales.

And yet it would be wrong to view these two versions of Thomas Two-Shoe's story as completely opposite poles of early nineteenth-century children's literature. It is an over-simplification to regard Elliott's version as moral and therefore dry and unexciting. Her narrative encompasses, amongst much else, the persecution of its hero by a cruel sea captain, a slave rebellion, a night of terror being held prisoner at gun-point, a ship-wreck, capture by Algerine corsairs, six years in slavery in Tunis, and a comic interlude during which Thomas cures a canary's broken leg by attaching a prosthetic limb. This probably more than made up for the religious and secular didacticism (which culminates in 'a slight account of the places named in this history' in case the reader had not studied geography - 0105 p.63). Goody Two-Shoes may have had a continuous plot, but it was not a compelling one. Other important works of the mid and later eighteenth century were just as bad in this regard, if not worse. But by the nineteenth century, whether it was a popular story or a moral tale that was being produced, plot and incident were recognised as being of fundamental importance to children's literature. The development of the Two-Shoes saga in the fifty years after its first publication amply demonstrates this.

For further consideration of Goody-Two Shoes see Roberts 1965 and Darton 1982, 128-34.

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

Lamb, Charles and Mary, Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, ed. E. V. Lucas. London: Dent and Methuen, 1935

Cutt, M. Nancy, Mrs. Sherwood and her books for children, Oxford, 1974

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

Roberts, Julian, 'The 1765 Edition of Goody Two-Shoes', The British Museum Quarterly, vol.29 (1965-66)

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