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Stories Before 1850. 0179A: Anon., Memoirs of Dick the Little Poney

Author: Anon.
Title: Memoirs of Dick the Little Poney; Supposed to be written by himself; and published for the Instruction and Amusement of Good Boys and Girls
Cat. Number: 0179A
Date: 1800
1st Edition: 1800
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: J. Walker, No.44, Paternoster Row; and sold by E. Newbery, Corner of St. Paul's Church-Yard
Price: 2s
Pages: 1 vol., xii + 184pp.
Size: 13 x 8 cm
Illustrations: Engraved frontispiece and vignette on title-page
Note: Bound with 0179B. An inscription bears the date 1807

Images of all pages of this book

Page 004 of item 0179A

Introductory essay

Dick the Little Poney is part of a tradition of animal stories well established in British children's literature by the end of the eighteenth century. The Hockliffe Collection contains several other examples - see for instance The Dog of Knowledge (0179B), by the same author and with which one copy of Dick the Little Poney in the Hockliffe Collection is bound, Dorothy Kilner's The Life and Perambulation of a Mouse (1784: 0159), E. Smyth's The History of Tabby (0218), Elizabeth Sandham's The Adventures of Poor Puss (1809: 0204), Mary Pilkington's Marvellous Adventures; or, the vicissitudes of a cat (1802: 0197) and Cato, or Interesting Adventures of A Dog of Sentiment (1816: 0082). The preface to the first edition of Dick the Little Poney might be acknowledging this fact in asserting the difference between this book and a 'horse of knowledge, which some years ago instructed or amused so many of the human race' - a reference, perhaps, to an earlier book on the same theme. (Alternatively, the 'horse of knowledge' referred to might be a circus act of the kind popular in the early nineteenth century.) The opening lines of The Dog of Knowledge certainly allude to the burgeoning tradition of animal stories. 'The love of fame seems natural to everything that breathes', it begins, 'Else how can we account for several sad dogs of the human race, of both sexes, publishing their disgraceful memoirs' (pp.1-2).

The Hockliffe Collection contains two editions of Dick the Little Poney. The earlier (0179B) has the date 1800 on the title-page, although the frontispiece of the British Library's copy bears the date 14 December 1799 (this is obscured by the binding in the Hockliffe copy and cannot be seen on the digitised image). The second version (0179A) has sometimes been thought to have been published earlier than 1800 because its dedication (like the 1800 edition) bears the date 1799. However, its 'Advertisement' clearly bears the date 'September 1816'. This 'Advertisement' argues that since the earlier edition has sold out, and since the title is still selling well, a new edition is called for. There is something of a contradiction between this 1816 apology for a new edition and an advertisement for Dick the Little Poney which appeared at the end of The Dog of Knowledge (0179B) in 1801. Both claim that the first edition of Dick the Little Poney has just sold out, or is just about to do so. This would be possible if another edition had been published sometime between 1801 and 1816, but it is more likely that John Harris, author of the 1801 advertisement, was talking up the success of one of his titles, and that J. Walker, publisher of the new edition, was looking for an excuse to bring out an edition of a work then over a dozen years old.

The text of the later (presumably second) edition of Dick the Little Poney does not differ from that of the first, but eighteen wood-engravings have been added and the high-quality engraved frontispiece has been omitted. The second edition was brought out by J. Walker of London. The first had been published by Whittingham and Arliss and sold by Elizabeth Newbery. The fact that it was advertised in a work published by John Harris - The Dog of Knowledge - is symptomatic of two facts - that Harris had taken over Elizabeth Newbery's business in 1801, and that it had been Newbery's firm, rather than Whittingham and Arliss, which had been principally responsible for the publication of Dick the Little Poney (though Elizabeth Newbery was credited merely as the bookseller on its title-page). In fact, The Dog of Knowledge was probably the first book published on his own account by John Harris, the most influential children's publisher of the early nineteenth century (Moon 1987: 39).

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