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Stories Before 1850. 0230: Anon., Tales of the Arbor

Author: Anon.
Title: Tales of the arbor; or, evening rewards for morning studies. Comprising a collection of tales, interesting, familiar and moral
Cat. Number: 0230
Date: 1800
1st Edition: 1800
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: Vernor and Hood, in the Poultry
Price: Unknown
Pages: 1 vol., vi + 174pp.
Size: 13 x 8.5 cm
Illustrations: Engraved frontispiece

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0230

Introductory essay

Tales of the Arbor contains sixteen short narratives (listed on the contents page). The 'Introduction' sets up the context for their telling, namely that Mr. Dawson has retired to the country with his twin sons, aged seven, and his daughter, aged six, and that he will tell these stories to them as a reward for their mornings' study. The arbor is to be the setting for his story-telling because he thought its 'retirement' would make his stories 'more impressive', adding both to their power to entertain and to 'improve the minds of his young hearers' (p.iv).

And, indeed, Mr. Dawson's narratives are fast-moving and action-packed, as well as straightforwardly moral. In 'The Affectionate Son' (begins p.98), for instance, a great deal is packed into a mere nineteen duodecimo pages. Mr. Colville has two sons, William and Charles. Charles is open, generous and humane, while William is selfish, deceitful and mean, and continually plots the downfall of his brother. Mr. Colville has given the two boys a crown coin each, and has told them not to spend it hastily. The boys are soon approached by an old, one-armed sailor, who begs money from them in the 'unfeigned terms of real distress' (pictured in the frontispiece). Unable to get change from his crown, Charles gives the whole of the money to the sailor. When his father asks to see the money he gave his sons, therefore, William can produce his coin, but Charles cannot, for which his father banishes him from his home and from the village. Charles is taken in by his uncle first, but then dutifully obeying his father's will, he leaves the vicinity and finds work as a labourer on a distant farm. He wins the approval of his new master, and begins an attachment to the farmer's daughter. One day, a new hand on the farm accosts him. It is none other than the sailor whom he helped, and whom he has saved from starvation. The sailor warns Charles that he has overheard a plot to waylay Mr. Colville on the highway, and Charles and the sailor plan to foil the robbery. In the nick of time they overwhelm the thieves who have attacked Mr. Colville's coach, but not before one of the thieves fires his gun into the carriage, killing William. Charles and his father are thus reunited, and live happily ever after. And there is still time in the final three or four pages for the narrator to offer his thoughts on the narrative, and advise his own children and the reader to emulate Charles' humanity, filial affection and duty, and integrity.

In fact, all of the tales are followed by this kind of lengthy moral. After the first tale in the collection, 'The Generous Revenge' (begins p.1), the narrator congratulates his hero on refusing to avenge himself on a nobleman's son who has treated him badly, even though he had the chance, preferring to return good for evil by providing his tormentor with a suit of clothes to walk home in after he has fallen in some mud. The nobleman's son had persecuted our hero's dog too, which gives the narrator the opportunity to reprobate cruelty to animals and to recommend several 'excellent works that have been written on the subject' (.7.n.) - amongst which is Keeper's Travels in Search of his Master (0152 in the Hockliffe Collection).

Perhaps the most amusing tale in the collection is 'The Mock Duel; or, Real Abuse of Honour' (begins p.92) in which two vain school-boys attempt to fight a duel over some trivial rivalry. They take to the field, and shoot at one another. When they discover red liquid seeping down their faces they think themselves dead men, but in fact their seconds had determined to humble these antagonists' pride, and had loaded the guns with red-currant jelly. The would-be duelists acknowledge their folly and promise to reform.