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Fables and Fairy Tales. 0035: Charles Perrault, Puss in Boots, and Diamonds and Toads

Author: Perrault, Charles
Title: Puss in Boots, and Diamonds and Toads
Cat. Number: 0035
Date: 1806
1st Edition: 1697
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: Tabart and Co. at the Juvenile and School Library, No.157, New Bond Street
Price: 6d
Pages: 1 vol., 33pp. plus 3 pages of advertisements
Size: 12 x 8 cm
Illustrations: Two engravings

Images of all pages of this book

Page 004 of item 0035

Introductory essay

The firm of Tabart and Co. was one of the most innovative publishers of children's books operating in Britain in the early nineteenth century. Although the firm published 174 books during the years 1801 to 1818, its principal achievement was a series of new editions of well-known fairy stories and chapbook tales such as those listed above. In many cases, especially with the chapbook stories, these were the first well-produced, polished editions of the tales, and they established texts which became standard. Jack and the Beanstalk, to take one example, appeared in its classic form for the first time in a Tabart edition (the Hockliffe Collection possesses a copy of the earliest surviving edition from 1807 - see 0019).

The Popular Stories were issued individually and in compendiums. The Hockliffe Collection contains both. The first publication in the series was a three-volume work entitled Tabart's Collection of Popular Stories for the Nursery which appeared in 1804. Within the year the tales were also being published separately, although surprisingly the illustrations, and even the text, were not always identical with those which had appeared in the compendium volumes (despite what Tabart's advertisements claimed). One of the first individual issues was The Seven Champions of Christendom, published in 1804 and in the Hockliffe Collection (0718). The format remained the same until the series was brought to a close five years later in 1809. The individual tales usually contained about 34 printed pages and three copper-plate engravings, and they cost sixpence. Only The Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor (of which the only surviving copy is in the Hockliffe Collection: 0046) and Gulliver's Travels ran to more than one volume (two and four respectively). On occasion, Tabart's brought out a superior edition of one of the tales, such as in the case of The Renowned History of Valentine and Orson (0717) which ran to over a hundred pages and cost five times as much as the standard version alongside which it was published in 1804. In 1809 a fourth volume of the Collection of Popular Stories was brought out. The Hockliffe Collection possesses only volume one of the Collection from the third edition of 1812 (0043), but Marjorie Moon, the historian of Tabart and Co., speculates that volumes two, three and four were never in fact published. Certainly there are no known copies in existence. (Moon, Benjamin Tabart's Juvenile Library, p.125.)

Despite the fact that Benjamin Tabart's name appears as editor on an 1818 one volume edition of the tales, a case can be made that the editor of the series was in fact William Godwin, novelist, radical political philosopher and later publisher and author of children's books. A French edition of his Fables Ancient and Modern was advertised as being by the 'Editor of Tabart's Popular Stories'. If Godwin translated his own work, as seems not unlikely, then this would suggest that he was the editor of Tabart's tales (see Carpenter and Prichard, Companion to Children's Literature, p.419). It has also been noted that the entry 'write to Phillips on Perrault' appears in Godwin's journal for the first half of 1804 (Alderson, '"Mister Gobwin" and His "Interesting Little Books, Adorned with Beautiful Copper-Plates"', p.164). Since Charles Perrualt was the original author of several of the fairy tales in the series, and Sir Richard Phillips was Tabart's close collaborator, this indicates that Godwin was involved in some part of the editorial process. However, it is also possible that Mary Jane Godwin, William's second wife, was the translator of his Fables, a suggestion supported by a book they published jointly in 1809, Dramas for Children ... by the Editor of Tabart's Popular Stories. The writing of this can be attributed to Mary Jane from a letter William wrote to her, which 'indicated fairly clearly', as Moon puts it, that she was the editor of the Popular Stories (Moon, p.43). Whichever one of the Godwins edited the tales, this was their first venture into the world of children's books. It was just a year after the beginning of the series that they established their own 'Juvenile Library', in 1805, quite possibly in direct emulation of 'Tabart's Juvenile Library'. Their business continued until the 1820s, Mary Jane and 'Edward Baldwin' (William's pseudonym) writing and publishing several very influential and successful children's books.

As for Benjamin Tabart himself, little is known of the man, and it has been suggested that his name was used as a cover for Sir Richard Phillips, another radical writer and publisher. Like Godwin, Phillips might well have found his name and reputation a hindrance in the children's book trade. There were certainly very close links between Tabart and Phillips. They advertised one another's works, published re-editions of each other's titles, and many of Tabart's titles are recorded as having been registered at Stationers' Hall by Phillips. Even Moon, Tabart's advocate, cannot wholly dismiss the idea that Tabart was an employee of Philips. It is possible that just as the Godwins traded, at first, under the name of their manager, Thomas Hodgkins, so Phillips used Tabart's in the same way. It is perhaps worth noting that Tabart and Phillips were both declared bankrupt in 1810-1811 (Tabart's second bankruptcy - an earlier business had collapsed in 1803 too). On the other hand, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that Tabart was not operating independently. And in any case, Tabart and Co. was, at least temporarily, a thriving concern. The Book of Trades (of which several editions are in the Hockliffe Collection: 0505-0507) was a great success, as were the Popular Stories, almost all of which went into multiple editions.

The success of Tabart's publishing initiative is so remarkable mainly because it was achieved in spite of the fact that it went directly against the grain of contemporary children's literature. From the 1760s or 1770s onwards, moral tales and heavily didactic texts had exerted an almost hegemonic domination of children's books. The fairy stories and traditional tales that Tabart re-published provided either very simplistic or equivocal moral lessons, or were remarkable for their complete lack of moral didacticism. Moreover, with their engagement with the supernatural, few of the tales dove-tailed with orthodox Christian doctrine. It was unsurprising therefore that Sarah Trimmer, the self-appointed guardian of morality in children's literature, was horrified by Tabart's tales. 'A moment's consideration will surely be sufficient', she wrote, 'to convince people of the impropriety of putting such books as these into the hands of little children' (quoted in Moon, p.6). It was certainly courageous of Tabart to brave the wrath of Trimmer and her allies, but he was no revolutionary, determined at any cost to rescue the pleasures of the imagination for children everywhere. After all, Tabart and Co. itself published Sarah Trimmer's work (see 0453 and 0456) as well as a set of Moral Tales (although these were not as severe as their title suggests). Moreover, Tabart was not alone. Other voices were also dissenting from Trimmer's orthodoxy by the start of the nineteenth century, as well as those of the romantic poets - Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb and others - whose laments at the moribund state of children's literature in the early 1800s have often been quoted. The very respectable Lucy Aikin, for instance, in a preface to one of Tabart's publications, complained that 'dragons and fairies, giants and witches, have vanished from our nurseries before the wand of reason' (Poetry for Children, 1801, p.iii), and William Godwin was saying much the same thing in the preface to his Bible Stories, another Tabart production.

What's more, fairy stories and traditional tales were already enjoying a vogue when Tabart began his series, not in children's literature, but on the stage. Harlequinades or pantomimes were frequently performed in the most prestigious London theatres in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. They fused fairy tales or chapbook stories with acrobatics, slapstick, ingenious set designs, and even cross-dressing, creating a very popular formula which developed into the modern Christmas pantomime. A close reading of the front and back matter of Tabart's books reveals that he drew at least some inspiration from these performances. His Cinderella; or The little glass slipper (1804), one of the first of his Popular Stories, was advertised as featuring 'representations of three of the principal scenes in the performance at Drury Lane Theatre' - a reference to the book's three copper-plate engravings, a standard feature of the series. Similarly, an advertisement in Riquet with the Tuft (0039) boasts that The Renowned History of Valentine and Orson (0717) is 'the famous romance, which is now performing at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden, with coloured engravings, intended to represent the principal scenes.' The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood seems also to have been a 'theatre tie-in', being described as 'a legend for the nursery, performing at this time with great applause at the Theatre-Royal, Drury-Lane'. It is also worth noting that Tabart and Co. published at least one acknowledged tie-in with the theatre, The Life of the Famous Dog Carlo (0162), adapted by Eliza Fenwick from a successful play (which features at the close of the book); and that from 1809 to 1810 the firm published no fewer than seven harlequinades, sometimes advertised as having been 'performed at the Royal Theatres'. Tabart's scheme to resurrect the fairy tale and chapbook story, seen by Moon and others as a brave decision to confront Trimmerite orthodoxy or as sheer benevolence towards young readers, may in fact have been due rather to a hard-headed awareness of the commercial possibilities of exploiting contemporary theatrical fashion.

Whatever his motives, Tabart's Popular Stories did much to rehabilitate these traditional tales and to make them available and acceptable to readers. That other publishers for children, such as John Harris, lost no time in imitating Tabart's scheme is testament to the influence of this series (see the advertisement for The Story of Cinderella, now performing with universal applause, at the Theatre Royal, Drury-lane at the back of Harris's Dame Partlet's Farm (0089), for instance, or 0036).

Not that Tabart needs anyone else to acknowledge his importance. He was a virtuoso at blowing his own trumpet. Several of his own publications depict his business as a thoroughly successful concern; the best of these is Eliza Fenwick's Visits to the Juvenile Library; or, Knowledge Proved to be the Source of Happiness (1805) which includes illustrations depicting Tabart's shop, inside and out. This image of the shop as a flourishing concern is undermined only by our knowledge that the firm would be bankrupt by 1810. Fenwick's book tells the story of the five Mortimer children, orphans who arrive in England and are taken in by the kindly Mrs. Clifford. She tries to tell them of the joys of reading, and of the delights of Tabart's Juvenile Library, but they are sceptical. Naturally, by the end of the narrative, they are completely won over. During the course of the story, Fenwick recommends over thirty individual books published by Tabart, of which six are from his Popular Stories series. It is Richard, the middle son of the Mortimer family, along with two other boys of similar age, who take a particular liking to the Popular Stories. This probably indicates what Tabart thought of as his target audience for the series - boys, about eight years old.

The Hockliffe Collection contains both traditional fairy stories and tradional chapbook tales among its titles in the Popular Stories series. Puss in Boots, Diamonds and Toads, The Sleeping Beauty and Riquet with the Tuft were all first published by Charles Perrault in his Histoires, ou contes du temps passé in 1697, and translated into English in 1729 as Histories, or tales of past times (often known as Tales of Mother Goose). The History of Jack and the Beanstalk, The Renowned History of Valentine and Orson, and The Seven Champions of Christendom were indigenous British tales (for more on the literary origins of many of these tales see the Opies' Classic Fairy Tales). Valentine and Orson was first printed in England by Wynkyn de Worde in c.1505, although it probably circulated in various forms throughout Europe as a romance before this date. The Seven Champions of Christendom was doubtless also composed from fragments of other romances and legends, but was first written down in its characteristic form by Richard Johnson in 1596 and 1597. Both became popular as chapbooks in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although the narratives were subject to change and abridgement. Jack and the Beanstalk may also have circulated as a chapbook, but as has been noted, the version in the Hockliffe Collection is the earliest existing edition. That the story existed in some form before the nineteenth century is evidenced by the appearance of a similar tale - 'The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean' - which formed part of a volume entitled Round about our Coal-Fire: or Christmas Entertainments published in 1734. The origin of the Sinbad the Sailor stories is just as obscure. But, like the fairy tales of Perrault, the Sindbad (sic) stories passed to Britain from France, where they formed part of the Arabian Nights cycle. As such, the stories would have first appeared in Britain in 1712, and by the end of the century a variety of Sinbad (or Sindbad) stories were being published separately. The History of Goody Two-Shoes has more certain origins. It was published in 1765 by John Newbery, and it went on to become one of his most successful books. It too circulated as a chapbook at the end of the eighteenth century, but its inclusion by Tabart in his series is still remarkable since, though undoubtedly popular, Goody Two-Shoes was hardly in the same tradition as the fairy stories and legendary tales which comprised the rest of the titles. Rather, it belongs to the tradition of the moral tale, even if it is written with more panache than most of its successors in this genre. It is worth noting that the tale which features alongside Goody Two-Shoes (0123) in Tabart's edition - The Adventures of Tommy Two-Shoes - is a substantial expansion of the narrative included in the original version of Goody Two-Shoes. It is a very different work from Mary Elliott's later and better known Adventures of Thomas Two-Shoes, first published in 1818 (0105 in the Hockliffe Collection). For further analysis of this comparison see the essay accompanying Goody Two-Shoes.

For alternative editions of Puss in Boots see 0018 and 0038B, and George Cruikshank's heavily revised version, 0038A.

Moon, Marjorie, Benjamin Tabart's Juvenile Library. A Bibliography of books for children published, written, edited and sold by Mr. Tabart, 1801-1820, Winchester, Hants. and Detroit, 1990

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

Alderson, Brian, '"Mister Gobwin" and His "Interesting Little Books, Adorned with Beautiful Copper Plates"', Princeton University Library Quarterly, 59 (1998)

Moon, Marjorie, Benjamin Tabart's Juvenile Library. A Bibliography of books for children published, written, edited and sold by Mr. Tabart, 1801-1820, Winchester, Hants. and Detroit, 1990

Moon, Marjorie, Benjamin Tabart's Juvenile Library. A Bibliography of books for children published, written, edited and sold by Mr. Tabart, 1801-1820, Winchester, Hants. and Detroit, 1990

Opie, Peter and Iona, The Classic Fairy Tales, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974, rpt. London, 1980