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Periodicals and Annuals. 0382: W. Carus Wilson, The Children's Friend: for the Year 1824

Author: Wilson, Rev. William Carus
Title: The children's friend: for the year 1824. By the Rev. W. Carus Wilson, M.A. Vicar of Tunstall; and chaplain to H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex. Vol.1 Vol.1
Cat. Number: 0382
Date: 1824
1st Edition: 1824
Pub. Place: Kirkby Lonsdale
Publisher: A. Foster
Price: 1d per monthly part
Pages: 1 vol., 280pp.
Size: 12.5 x 7 cm
Illustrations: Frontispiece plus two further full-page engravings, and nineteen wood-cuts in the text

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Page 002 of item 0382

Introductory essay

The Children's Friend is generally remembered because its founder and author, William Carus Wilson (1792-1859), was immortalised as Mr. Brocklehurst in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Wilson had run the Clergy Daughters' school which the Bronte sisters attended, and which became 'Lowood' in Charlotte's novel. Charlotte Bronte blamed the harsh conditions at the school for the early death of her two elders sisters, and for the ill-health of her younger sisters, Anne and Emily. Wilson may or may not have been fairly represented in Jane Eyre (and there is evidence that he was not fully aware of the pupils' conditions there), but he was certainly a respected figure in Evangelical circles in the mid-nineteenth century, and his Children's Friend was highly successful. Having begun in 1824, it did not close until 1882. Editorship was later taken over by Wilson's brother, the Rev. C. Carus Wilson, who was famous for being well over seven foot tall, and using street lamps to light his cigars (Carpenter 1984: 113).

The Children's Friend appeared monthly, selling for a penny per number. Twelve numbers formed a volume, such as that in the Hockliffe Collection, the very first. Each number included a few poems, a prayer or two, and several short tales, sometimes continued from one number to the next. At least during the first two or three decades of its life, all this material was strictly religious in tone. By the 1850s, Denis Butts, has suggested, the magazine started to include more secular material too - lessons in geography or history, for instance, sometimes even given in the form of a narrative (Butts 1995: 81-82). Earlier on, the tales had been from the Bible, or had related stories of youthful piety, sometimes ending in a death-bed scene ('Short Memoir of R.B.': p.201ff.): the scenario favoured by Mary Martha Sherwood and other Evangelical writers for children. Others had tried to impress upon readers the necessity of converting Africans and Asians to Christianity ('The Heathen', p.54ff.) or had celebrated the conversion of Jews ('The Jew and his Daughter', p.169ff.).

The first British magazine for children is generally supposed to have been John Newbery's Lilliputian Magazine, first published, in monthly instalments, in 1751-52. The Hockliffe Collection has a copy of another early essay in the form, also called The Lilliputian Magazine from c.1773-74 (0237), and one of John Marshall's attempts at the form, The Children's Magazine (0363). All of these were rather cumbersome, and scarcely distinguishable from collections and anthologies which were not issued as periodicals. It was for the Evangelicals of the early and mid-nineteenth century to breathe new life into the children's periodical form. Several appeared in the early nineteenth century, including The Youth's Magazine; or, Evangelical Miscellany in 1815, The poor child's friend; or, the Sunday school visitor in 1825 (0378 in the Hockliffe Collection), The Children's Friend in 1824 (0382), and the Child's Companion; or, Sunday Scholar's Reward in 1824. This last, edited by George Stokes, was issued by the Religious Tract Society (R.T.S.) and lasted, under several titles, until 1932. Within a few years of its launch, it had attracted a readership of 20,000. This success may have been because the Child's Companion, unlike The poor child's friend and The Children's Friend, mixed secular instruction and substantial narratives with its religious content (see Butts 1995: 81).

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

Butts, Denis, 'The Beginnings of Victorianism, c.1820-1850', pp.77-101 in Peter Hunt (ed.), Children's Literature: An Illustrated History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995

Butts, Denis, 'The Beginnings of Victorianism, c.1820-1850', pp.77-101 in Peter Hunt (ed.), Children's Literature: An Illustrated History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995