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Lessons for Children by Anna Laetitia Barbauld


Children’s authors have really softened up over the past couple of centuries.

Internet darling BoingBoing featured a snippet from a book called Lessons for Children by Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Yes, we have a copy. How cool. The copy we have has a stated publication date of 1791, whereas the image on the BoingBoing post says 1801, and the text of the feature says 1818 – perhaps this was a popular and oft-reprinted volume?

Anyway, the snippet reads:

“There was a naughty boy; I do not know what his name was, but it was not Charles, nor George, nor Arthur, for those are all very pretty names: but there was a robin came in at his window one very cold morning — shiver — shiver; and its poor little heart was almost frozen to death. And he would not give it the least crumb of bread in the world, but pulled it about by the tail and hurt it sadly, and it died. Now a little while after, the naughty boy’s papa and mamma went away and left him, and then he could get no victuals at all, for you know he could not take care of himself. So he went about to every body — Pray give me something to eat, I am very hungry. And every body said, No, we shall give you none, for we do not love cruel, naughty boys. So he went about from one place to another, till at last he got into a thick wood of trees; for he did not know how to find his way any where; and then it grew dark night. So he sat down and cried sadly; and he could not get out of the wood; and I believe the bears came and ate him up in the wood, for I never heard any thing about him afterwards. “

Quite a change from the books of today. I quite like it, actually. Be mean to animals, will you? Well, off to the woods you go. No sense beating around the bush.

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

One Response to “Lessons for Children by Anna Laetitia Barbauld”

  1. This story seems too cruel to be told to kids. I think there are better ways to teach them lessons that doesn’t involve being eaten by animals.

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