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Books of Instruction. 0569H: Anon., Paul Pry at a Party

Author: Anon.
Title: Paul Pry at a Party
Cat. Number: 0569H
Date: No date
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: J. Harris and Son
Pages: 1 vol., 12pp. printed on one side only
Size: 17 x 10 cm
Illustrations: 12 wood-cuts
Note: Title-page missing. Possibly part of 'Harris's Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction consisting of the most Approved Novelties for the Nursery'. Bound with 0569A-M

Images of all pages of this book

Page 114 of item 0569H

Introductory essay

Since no title-page exists, little can be said with certainty about the date or publisher of Paul Pry at a Party. It certainly looks like another of John Harris's 'Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction' books, and has the same light-hearted, jocular tone. Moreover, it is bound with several titles from this series. Yet Marjorie Moon does not list the work as one of Harris's in her exhaustive bibliography (Moon 1987).

The narrative, such as it is, is rather curious. The book opens when Paul Pry, a jocund adult, apparently gate-crashes a children's party. He has heard their 'merry din', and finding the 'gate not shut', he enters and begins to join in with their activities. Indeed, he quickly takes control. First he joins them at supper, then he organises a game of blind-man's buff during which he manages to upset a table of glasses. He 'catches' Miss Prim and tells her not to pull away so hard. There are rather sinister undertones here, as there are throughout this tale of an adult's interaction with young children to whom he is a stranger. Having caught Miss Prim, though, Paul Pry simply asks about the cost of her fine dress and then pays a forfeit himself, giving her his glove and standing on a pedestal until 'some young lady' comes to to 'fetch me down'. Next, he invites a violinist to enter, and the company dance. Paul Prim accidentally treads on Miss Prim's toe. But after complimenting the food and drink on offer (currant wine and cake), he leaves, promising - or threatening - to discover, and appear again at, the children's Christmas party. He departs, but having forgotten his umbrella while 'thinking of Miss Stella', he returns on the final page.

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