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Stories Before 1850. 0203: John Sabine, Youth's Pocket Remembrancer

Author: Sabine, John
Title: Youth's pocket remembrancer; being a selection of the most important subjects of polite literature, alphabetically arranged; and consisting of such short sentences as may be easily committed to memory. By John Sabine, author of The Student's Companion, and other approved works
Cat. Number: 0203
Date: 1809
1st Edition: 1809
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: J. Harris, successor to E. Newbery, Corner of St. Paul's Church-Yard
Price: Unknown
Pages: 1 vol., iv + 92pp.
Size: 16.5 x 9.5 cm

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0203

Introductory essay

The Pocket Remembrancer is more than a little reminiscent of the Gradgrindian system of education depicted by Charles Dickens in Hard Times. It is simply a list of facts, arranged alphabetically, and broken down into easily digestible gobbets for the purpose of rote learning. As Marjorie Moon, the bibliographer of John Harris's children's books, says, 'One must pity the mental indigestion of the unfortunate child made to consume these tabloids of compressed information' (Moon 1987: 108). Sabine's preface makes clear that his intended readers would be under ten or twelve years of age. He clearly prided himself on having distilled what was a very wide curriculum into just 92 pages of articles which generally run to no more than a few lines each. The longest article, and perhaps the most frightening of all from a pedagogical point of view, is that on 'Memory, artificial' (pp.55-66). It suggests an elaborate system of alpha-numerical mneumonics to help a child to memorise the date of various events. Numbers are represented by letters according to a set scheme. A syllable from the event which the child wishes to remember is selected - e.g. 'Zed' from 'Zedekiah sent in chains to Babylon' - and a word is artifically fabricated, comprised of this syllable and the alphabetical representation of the numbers which consititue the date of the event: 'Zedleik'. This word is committed to memory so that later, the second part of the word - 'leik' - can be decoded to reveal the date of the event, here 588 B.C.

Moon, Marjorie, John Harris's books for youth, 1801-1843, revised edition, Winchester, 1987