THE CHILD’S FRIEND; Designed for Families and Sunday Schools; Edited by ELIZA L. FOLLEN. Boston: Leonard C. Bowles.

  There is no branch of literature that better deserves cultivation, and none that so little obtains it from worthy hands as this of Children’s books. It requires a peculiar development of the genius and sympathies, rare among the men of factitious life, who are not men enough to revive, with force and beauty, the thoughts and scenes of childhood.

  It is all idle to talk baby-talk, with malice prepense, and to give shallow accounts of deep things, thinking thereby to interest the child.—He does not like to be too much puzzled, but it is simplicity he wants and not silliness. We fancy, their angels, who are always waiting in the courts of our Father, smile, somewhat sadly, at the ignorance of those who would feed them on milk and water too long, and think it would be quite as well to give them a stone.

  There is too much among us of the French way of palming off false accounts of things on children to do them good, and showing nature to them in a magic lantern, “purified for the use of childhood,” and telling stories of good little girls, and sweet little girls, or brave little boys; oh! all so good! or so bad! and, above all, so little, and every thing about them so little!—Children, accustomed to move in full-sized apartments, and converse with full-grown men and women, do not need so much of this baby-house style in their literature. They like, or would like, if they could get them, better things much better. They like the “Arabian Nights,” and “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and “Bunyan’s Emblems,” and Shakspeare, and the “Iliad” and “Odyssey;” at least, they used to like them; and, if they do not now, it is because their taste has been injured by so many sugar-plums. The books that were written in the childhood of nations suit an uncorrupt childhood now. They are simple, picturesque, robust. Their moral is not forced, nor is the truth veiled with a well-meant, but sure-to-fail, hypocrisy. Sometimes they are not moral at all, only free plays of the fancy and intellect. These, also, the child needs, just as the infant needs to stretch its limbs, and grasp at objects it cannot hold. We have become so fond of the moral that we forget the nature in which it must find its root; so fond of instruction, that we forget development.

  Where ballads, legends, and fairy-tales are moral, the morality is heart-felt; if instructive, it is from the healthy common sense of mankind, and not for the convenience of nursery rule, nor the “peace of schools and families.” O that winter! freezing, snow-laden winter, which slowly ushered in our eighth birthday.—There, in the lonely farm-house, the day’s work done, and the bright wood fire a’ in a low, we were permitted to slide back the panel of the cupboard in the wall; most fascinating object still in our eyes, with which no stateliest alcoved library can vie; and there saw, neatly arranged on its two shelves, not, praised be our natal star! Peter Parley nor “A history of the good little boy that never took anything that did not belong to him;” but—the “Spectator,” “Telemachus,” “Goldsmith’s Animated Nature” and the “Iliad.”

  Forms of gods and heroes more distinctly seen and with eyes of nearer love then than now!—Our true Uncle, Sir Roger de Coverley, and ye, fair realms of Nature’s history whose pictures we tormented all grown persons to illustrate with more knowledge—still more, how we bless the chance that gave to us your great realities which life has daily helped us—helps us still, to interpret, instead of thin and baseless fictions that would, all this time, have hampered us although only with cobwebs.

  Children need some childish talk, some childish play, some childish books. But they also need, and need more, difficulties to overcome, and a sense of the vast mysteries which the progress of their intelligence shall aid them to unravel. This sense is naturally their delight, as it is their religion, and it must not be dulled by premature explanations, nor subterfuges of any kind. There has been too much of this lately.

  Miss Edgeworth is an excellent writer for children. She is a child herself as she writes, nursed anew by her own genius. It is not by imitating but by reproducing childhood that the writer becomes its companion. Then, indeed, we have something especially good, for

“Like wine, well-kept and long;
Heady; nor harsh, nor strong;
With each succeeding year is quaffed
A richer, purer, mellower draught.”

  Miss Edgeworth’s grown people live naturally with the children; they do not talk to them continually about angels, or flowers, or blue riband, but about the things that interest themselves.—They do not force them forward nor keep them back. The relations are simple and honorable; all ages in the family seem at home under one roof and sheltered by one care.

  “The Juvenile Miscellany,” formerly published by Mrs. Child, was much and deservedly esteemed by children. It was a healthy, cheerful, natural and entertaining companion to them.

  “The Child’s Friend” is edited by Mrs. Follen, a lady admired and loved by a large circle of personal friends, best known to the public at large by a memoir of her husband worthy in its tone of the beauty of its subject. No task could have been more difficult: few have been fulfilled with such delicacy.—We think this periodical for children is, in some degree, obnoxious to the censure of too monotonously tender a manner, and too constant attention to the moral inference. We should prefer a larger proportion of the facts of natural or human history, and that they should speak for themselves. There are many good things in the work, and it is calculated to lead the child into the region of worthy resolve and liberal views. Among the contributions from other hands, we would notice a translation of Goethe’s excellent tale of “Ferdinand” and a story called “The Little Expecter,” which, if it betray too great a degree of intellectual consciousness for the free flow of fairy poesy, has refined fancy and judgment, with a simplicity and strength in manner rarely seen in modern fantasies of this kind.*

“Review.” New-York Daily Tribune, 5 February 1845, p. 1.