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Stories Before 1850. 0125: Anon., Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages

Author: Anon.
Title: Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages, or, Moral Amusements for Young Gentlemen, contained in the histories of Joseph Jollyboy, Tommy Telltruth, Billy Trifler, Francis Fearful, Simon Simple and Master Playful [with] Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages or, Moral Amusements of Young Ladies contained in the histories of Sally Speedwell, Polly Pert, Nancy Nightingale, The Dutiful Daughter, Jenny Gentle, Jenny Hewet.... Embellished with eight copper-plate prints, elegantly executed and adapted to the tales
Cat. Number: 0125
Date: No date but c.1775?
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: E. Tringham, No.36 Hosier Lane, West Smithfield
Price: 9d uncoloured, 1s 6d coloured (for each of the two parts)
Pages: 1 vol., 112pp.
Size: 12 x 8.5 cm
Illustrations: 15 full-page engravings
Note: Another edition of parts 2 and 3 of 0237

Images of all pages of this book

Page 004 of item 0125

Introductory essay

For synopses see below.

This single volume contains two parts of the Lilliputian Magazine published by W. Tringham sometime in the early 1770s. The individual volumes were published separately (probably a little later), as here. The Hockliffe Collection possesses an edition of Tringham's Lilliputian Magazine, and the essay which accompanies it explains the magazine's full contents and the circumstances surrounding its publication: see 0237. The two volumes of the Lilliputian Magazine which appear here are Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages, or, Moral Amusements for Young Gentlemen and Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages or, Moral Amusements of Young Ladies. These may well have been purchased separately and subsequently bound together. Certainly, they are advertised for separate sale in the booklist which appears between the two titles. Each title cost 9d, or 1/6 coloured. The title-page of Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages, or, Moral Amusements for Young Gentlemen is missing (but would have been similar to the title-page to be found in 0237). The title-page of Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages or, Moral Amusements of Young Ladies is included in the correct place.

The date of these works is uncertain. The title-pages carry no date, but a putative letter to the editors of the The Lilliputian Magazine in its final volume is dated January 1774, suggesting that the Magazine as a whole was issued during 1773 and 1774, or, at least, that it was not published before then (p.102). This date is supported, if not proved, by the imprint of The Lilliputian Magazine. The address of W. Tringham is given as 'No.11, on the Left Hand Side of Fleet-Ditch, leading to Blackfriars-Bridge'. Blackfriars Bridge, the third to cross the Thames, was not completed until 1769. When he issued the volumes separately, Tringham was operating from a different address: 36 Hosier Lane, West Smithfield, as indicated by the title-page of 0125. Judging from the editor's claims in the advertisement at the beginning of The Lilliputian Magazine, its contents were specially commissioned for the part-work, so the separate publication of the individual volumes probably occurred a year or two afterwards (pp.iv-v). Certainly, the individually-issued volumes constituted a different edition from those published for the Lilliputian Magazine. Though the text is identical, their format is occasionally slightly different. Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages, or, Moral Amusements for Young Gentlemen was a few pages shorter when published separately, for instance, and the title-page of Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages or, Moral Amusements of Young Ladies promises to tell the history of 'Miss Jenny Hewet' in the separately published version, whilst the Lilliputian Magazine version had promised the history of 'Miss Fanny Hewet' (title-page).

The 'histories' which compose Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages sometimes dissent from the orthodoxy established by John Newbery's books for children in that they do not always recommend books and learning as the best path to maturity. For instance, in the most prominent story of the first volume, 'The History of Joseph Jollyboy', the eponymous hero is commended for his generosity and humanity rather than for his love of learning. Indeed, an authorial voice breaks in several times with the almost heretical opinion that,

'Tis as ridiculous a Thought to cram a Boy with a Sort of Learning, which Nature has not given him Faculties to receive, so as to be of any Service to him, as that of a Gentleman feeding his Horse with Oysters, or buttering his Hay. (1:16)

The tale ends by taking to task any reader who 'should pride themselves on account of having more Wit or more Learning' that Joseph, for 'social Virtue' is more important. Without it, 'Wit and Learning is nothing' (1:19). A similar unorthodox warning that too much learning is a bad thing is to be found in 'The History of Billy Trifler'. His quest after knowledge leads to a succession of near-fatal accidents. When the reader is told that 'Mr. Jollyboy was not a man much given to moralizing' it seems as though every convention of late eighteenth century children's literature is going to be violated (1:15).

The 'histories' of the Young Gentlemen and the Young Ladies are all fairly similar. Each tells the story of a single child from about breeching age (that is to say when a boy was first allowed to forsake his skirt and wear the adult costume of stockings and britches - at about seven or eight years old - a boy just breeched is depicted in the frontispiece) to young adulthood, that is to say about fifteen years of age. The boys' stories usually end in a quick account of the successful career, often as a merchant, which follows their virtuous (or reformed) childhood. The girls' stories usually end in marriage, their reward for good or reformed conduct as a child. These are all affluent children. Yet they are counselled to learn useful skills - how to read and write, and, for girls, needlework - because no-one can predict Fortune's vicissitudes (a point made plain by the preamble to 'The History of Miss Sally Spellwell, 2:1). The tales also seem to be directed at least partially at parents and designed to serve as pointers to good pedagogical praxis. 'This tale may serve as a hint to parents...' is a formula that closes several of the stories (2:67).


Vol.1: Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages, or, Moral Amusements for Young Gentlemen

'The History of Joseph Jollyboy' (1:1)

The transports of joy and despair felt by Mr. Jollyboy upon the birth of his son, Joseph, are recounted. Mrs. Sipall having given him the false information that Joseph had died soon after birth, he had railed against his servants and seemed on the edge of madness, but his discovery of the truth - that Joseph was alive and well - made him as ecstatic as he had been wretched. And Joseph grew up to be a fat and very jolly boy. The principal anecdote of the tale, in fact, is comprised of Joseph getting stuck in a hoop, a misadventure caused by his corpulency (and pictured opposite 1:13). Joseph is not sent to school once he is breached, but he is educated by a tutor. This tutor advises against sending Joseph to the University, a decision applauded by the narrator, who makes plain his view (in contrast to the opinion of so many subsequent children's books) that children should not be educated further than their abilities are fitted for. Rather than for his learning, Joseph is congratulated on his good-nature and generosity. He demonstrates the latter by refusing to take revenge against a boy who has pillaged a bird's nest which Joseph had shown him. Indeed, the boy having fallen out of the tree, Joseph thinks only of that boy's health, not of his own loss.

'The History of Master Trueworth' (1:20)

The infant Tommy's first words are 'Tell truth', and he lives by this motto throughout his life. Not only is he respected at school - and the most prominent episode of the rather uneventful narrative is the triumph of Tommy's integrity over a school-fellow who plots to implicate Tommy in his mischief - but his honesty enables him to succeed in his adult life too. Like a latter-day Dick Whittington, Tommy is put to 'study Merchant's Accompts', and then sent up to London 'to be in the Compting-House of a Merchant'. There he eventually gets into partnership with the owner, marries the owner's daughter, becomes rich, is knighted, and serves as Lord Mayor. The lesson that honesty pays is made explicit at the story's close.

'The History of Billy Trifler' (1:39)

As an infant, Billy loved toys, collecting enough to stock a toy-shop in fact. But one day, catching a butterfly and inquiring of its nature to his father, Billy became possessed of a love for learning. He asked to be sent directly to school, and though he was teased there, being called 'Billy Butterfly' because of his continuing fascination with them, he was soon the best scholar there. The only other incidents in the tale concern Billy's habit of seeking out the wonders of nature without due regard to his personal safety. He has to be rescued twice, once from a pond into which he had fallen while chasing a butterfly, and once from a hollow tree, in which he had become wedged while attempting to capture a bird's nest. The moral drawn at the end of the tale warns children not to disturb the repose of their parents by getting themselves into fixes similar to Billy's. This could be taken as a metaphorical warning not to seek too ardently for knowledge, but such a reading would have to be weighed against the congratulation the text offers to Billy for his willing scholarship, all motivated by his initial wonder at the butterfly.

'Francis Fearfull' (1:55)

Francis is put under the care of a nurse until he is eight years old, and his indolent father refrains from checking up on what she is teaching him. In fact, under the tutelage of the nurse, Francis has imbibed all sorts of superstitious fears. She has told him, for example, of 'Valentine and Orson, the seven Champions, the old woman of Radcliff-highway, the tales of the fairies' and 'stories about Witches and Ghosts, Hobgoblins, and the shrieking woman, the coachman without a head, and houses that were haunted' (1:57). Francis' susceptibility to all this is only discovered when he is sent to school, where the slightest thing - a bat, a scarecrow - terrifies him. At last the cause of his timorousness is identified, and the nurse is reprimanded for her folly. Francis, due to his love of learning, manages to shake off these early impressions - an all too rare occurrence.

'Simon Simple's History' (1:68)

Simon is too ingenuous to suspect anyone of trying to injure him. He is therefore easy game for the designs of others. His school-fellows prevail on him to steal apples for them, and, later, to go for a dangerous ride on a bull. Though Simon complies with their requests, he always escapes with his good name unsullied, thanks to his evident innocence.

'The Truant: a Story' (1:83)

Master Playful is sent to a day school, but increasingly plays truant, arriving late, departing early, or not attending at all. His absences are discovered by his father when he pays an unannounced visit to the school, and Master Playful is severely whipped. Fortunately, this makes him see the errors of his ways, and he reforms, becoming one of the best scholars in the school. As a result he is taken on as London merchant's clerk, and he does so well, that he inherits the entire company upon his master's death.

Vol.2: Entertaining Memoirs of Little Personages, or, Moral Amusements for Young Ladies

'The History of Miss Sally Spellwell' (2:1)

Sally's father died in her infancy, and she was raised by a mother who taught her to sew and to read and write. These, the narrator insists, are valuable skills, for no-one can tell when a turn of Fortune's wheel will make them dependent solely on their own skills. Indeed, when Sally's mother dies, she is left in poverty, but the good management of her household so impresses a passing stranger that she enquires after Sally's story. Discovering that Sally is the daughter of the good Reverend Spellwell, once a friend of the stranger, Sally is taken in by her. Sally soon marries the stranger's son, and returns to her former prosperity.

'The History of Miss Polly Pert' (2:14)

Polly is widely condemned for her tendency to answer back and to be over familiar to her elders and betters, and for her insatiable curiosity. Even after she has been sent away to school, she cannot be persuaded out of these habits. Eventually, the governess at the school hatches a plan to shock Polly out of her faults. Two older girls talk loud enough for Polly to hear of the rarity to be found in the governess's private closet. Polly cannot resist going to see what it is, but once she is in, a spring-bolt shuts the door behind her. She is trapped, and left to stew for a night. At last she is freed, but only to confront the governess, Polly's parents, all her fellow pupils and the servants. The terrors of the night in the closet, the humiliation upon her release, and the awareness that she has done wrong, successfully reform Polly.

'The History of Miss Nancy Nightingale' (2:25)

A young gentleman rescues the charming Nancy Nightingale first from robbers, then from a runaway horse. He successfully asks for her hand in marriage.

'The Dutiful Daughter' (2:35)

Leonora Lovegood is the daughter of a prosperous British merchant. She also stands to inherit a fortune from her childless uncle, a merchant in the West Indies. The uncle asks to see Leonora before he dies, and, with her father, she journeys to Jamaica. There she falls in love with Honorio, son of another prosperous family, and she stays in Jamaica after her father has returned to Britain. It is then that her tribulations begin. Her uncle dies, but his estate is claimed by his wife, Leonora's aunt. News comes that Leonora's father has died too, and that her mother has precipitately re-married, choosing a fortune-hunter for her new husband. Leonora rushes back to Britain, and learns that her mother has been ruined and deserted by her new husband. Leonora discovers her mother in a desperate condition and is unable to help her since her own possessions have been stolen by a highwayman. Leonora dutifully takes in needle-work to help her mother survive, and it is in this humble situation that she is discovered by Honorio, who has pursued her to Britain. Impressed by her filial duty, he marries her, relieving all her financial difficulties. The story races to is conclusion, and in a matter of a few lines the reader discovers that Leonora's aunt has died, that her uncle's true will has been found, and that Leonora inherits all her uncle's wealth to add to her own.

'Memoirs of Miss Jenny Gentle' (2:57)

Jenny's behaviour is improved through the use of a bracelet she is told always to wear which reminds her to be good tempered. One day she gives directions to an elderly stranger. Having been shown the way to his destination by Jenny, the stranger enquires her name and address. Jenny receives in the post a pearl necklace, and then, a year later, £S1000 from the old man's will. Her good deed is further rewarded by Providence, for she marries the rich stranger's heir.

'The History of Miss Fanny Hewet' (2:73)

Fanny's parents had long wished for a child, and her birth, and later, her recovery from small-pox, cause them to indulge all her wishes so that she becomes spoiled and conceited. As a result, she is shunned at school, and does poorly at her studies. However, Fanny reforms in later life, having had the benefit of the wise counsel of a number of advisors, notably Mrs. Lovebook who teaches Fanny to identify and eradicate her own faults. Fanny becomes more generally admired, so much so in fact, that Mr. Graceless demands to marry her. When he is refused, he abducts her and threatens to kill her unless she complies. Only the providential passing of a Sir James Worthy frustrates his designs, and Graceless is injured in the ensuing duel. Fanny ends by marrying the Sir James. The tale is punctuated by rhyming couplets, each of which encapsulates a simple moral lesson.