Children's Literature of the English Renaissance

Children's Literature of the English Renaissance

Warren W. Wooden
JEANIE WATSON Edited, with an introduction, by
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Children's Literature of the English Renaissance
    Book Description:

    Warren W. Wooden's pioneering studies of early examples of children's literature throw new light on many accepted works of the English Renaissance period. In consequence, they appear more complex, significant, and successful than hitherto realized. In these nine essays, Wooden traces the roots of English children's literature in the Renaissance beginning with the first printed books of Caxton and ranging through the work of John Bunyan. Wooden examines a number of works and authors from this period of two centuries -- some from the standard canon, others obscure or neglected -- while addressing questions about the early development of children's literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6505-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxiv)

    Warren W. Wooden died 27 December 1983. Though he was only forty-two, he was already a Renaissance scholar of note and a critic to be reckoned with, specifically in the study of Thomas More and John Foxe and, more generally, in the several diverse areas of Tudor and Stuart English literature: biography, hagiography, iconography, popular culture, and the rhetorical strategies employed by poets, politicians, and sermonizers. Weaving its way through these early and primary interests in ever-clearer and more distinct patterns was his inquiry into the origins of English children’s literature. Children’s literature came to be the scholarly concern closest...

  5. ONE From Caxton to Comenius: The Origins of Children’s Literature
    (pp. 1-22)

    Although the early eighteenth century is regarded as the seedbed of English illustrated books for children, behind such popular picture books of the period as John Bunyan’sDivine Emblems,John Locke’s illustratedAesopfor children, and the variety of picture books which poured forth later in the century from John Newbery’s shop in Westminster, lies a more or less continuous tradition of illustrated printed books aimed at least partially at youthful readers which goes back to the fifteenth century and the advent of printing in England The English Renaissance produced all sorts of illustrated works, including broadside ballads, fairy poetry,...

  6. TWO Childermass Sermons in Late Medieval England
    (pp. 23-38)

    The following discussion is a survey of an abstruse but fascinating subject, the Childermass ceremonies in medieval England and, in particular, the children’s sermons preached by boys (and apparently also by girls in some places) on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28, from at least the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries all across England Although the festivities of which these sermons were a part have attracted the attention of scholars, chiefly students of drama history seeking early manifestations of the dramatic impulse in ecclesiastical custom and ritual, the sermons themselves have been almost completely neglected. I intend to...

  7. THREE Childhood and Death: A Reading of John Skelton’s Phillip Sparrow
    (pp. 39-54)

    John Skelton (1450?-1529) wrote prolifically during the final years of the fifteenth and the early years of the sixteenth centuries—in that vague interregnum designated as either late medieval or early Renaissance. Among his poetic productions isPhillip Sparrow(written ca. 1508) Coleridge judged it “exquisite and original,”¹ and the poem, rightly so, has always attracted popular favor and critical attention. Yet literary critics have never fitPhillip Sparrowcomfortably into any generic category Usually scholars consider it a curious specimen of the mock-elegy, and critics have traced its component parts back to medieval and classical antecedents.² Some years ago,...

  8. FOUR The Topos of Childhood in Marian England
    (pp. 55-72)

    The sixteenth century witnessed a renewed interest in childhood, in the child as creature and symbol, at least as strong in England as on the continent. This interest arose from a number of diverse factors—pedagogical, theological, social, and even political—which I will briefly canvass.

    In the area of pedagogy the humanists, inspired by the educational theories of More, Erasmus, and Vives and the example of such innovative new schools as John Colet’s at St Paul’s, stimulated interest in discussions of the capacity of a child’s intellect and the most effective means of reaching and forming both his mind...

  9. FIVE John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the Child Reader
    (pp. 73-87)

    John Foxe’sBook of Martyrs(1563) figures in almost every history of children’s literature because, for three centuries, it was regularly placed in the hands of Protestant children in England and the colonies by generations of pious parents.¹ Rev John Milner’s mid-Victorian recollection is a representative testimony to the place of Foxe’s horrific annals in English childhood: “Foxe’s martyrs are among our earliest recollections, and their spirit-stirring incidents riveted our eyes to their pages in our earliest childhood Here we see’ the great things that faith can do and the great things that faith can suffer.’ Here we behold, in...

  10. SIX Michael Drayton’s Nymphidia: A Childern’s Classic?
    (pp. 88-96)

    The major difficulty encountered in discussing children’s nonacademic reading during the Renaissance is that little, if any; children’s literature as such (books, as F.J.H. Darton puts it, “which would openly allow a child to enjoy himself with no thought of duty nor fear of wrong”)¹ was published prior to the eighteenth century Yet long before they became a distinct object of the book trade, English children read avidly of whatever literature was available to them, and in the process they made some adult books—Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travelsare all familiar instances—their own. But of the various...

  11. SEVEN A Child’s Garden of Sprites: English Renaissance Fairy Poetry
    (pp. 97-120)

    Although the Elizabethan era, define broadly as encompassing both the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, has been aptly designated the “Golden Age” of English fairy poetry; it is well to recall that the poets of the period neither invented the fairies nor originated fairy poetry. As scholars and folklorists remind us, the fairies themselves have a rich history which extends in one direction back to the classical pantheons of Greece and Rome and in another deep into the roots of folk beliefs among the Celtic and Teutonic peoples who settled Great Britain.¹ And at various intervals, these creatures in...

  12. EIGHT The Water-Poet: A Pioneer of Children’s Literature
    (pp. 121-137)

    The genres identified by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as particularly appropriate for children’s reading grew from the fertile soil of the English Renaissance. It is true that much of the literature written exclusively for children during the earlier period is so didactic and dreary that at best it seems only a faint harbinger of Newbery and the profusion of Victorian children’s books. Instead of focusing too narrowly on these didactic works for evidence of the development of distinctive genres in English children’s literature, however; the researcher investigating the historical roots of children’s literature needs to look back to the...

  13. NINE Nature Moralized: John Bunyan’s Country Rhimes for Children
    (pp. 138-152)

    John Bunyan’sA Book for Boys and Girls: Or, Country Rhimes For Children(1686) is today an almost forgotten work. Even in histories of children’s literature it rates little more than footnote treatment, usually, critics are content with two terse observations about the work: children have always much preferred the greatPilgrim’s Progressto the book Bunyan wrote especially for them and, besides, Bunyan’s poetic abilities were slight. While neither observation is completely erroneous, they are very misleading in their suggestion that Bunyan’s book is simply juvenile drivel safely dismissed out of hand. In fact, the whole truth is quite...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 153-174)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-178)
  16. Index
    (pp. 179-181)