In transcribing the following material from The Reader, an interesting, unfortunately short-lived intellectual magazine of the 1860s, I have used the Hathi Digital Library Trust web version of a copy in the Princeton University Library. The full-text version is generally accurate, and the one common OCR error here takes the form of turning the letter “e” as “o.” I corrected the scanning errors, and for ease of reading I have added a few paragraph breaks. If you come upon any errors I have missed, please do not hesitate to let the editors of this site know. — George P. Landow
ill there ever come a time when women and children will be abolished? Will the change which has begun amongst the girls and the boys extend itself to them as the world wags on? That particular form of humanity which used to be called a girl shows a strong tendency to assume the attributes of an indifferent sort of boy; and the things that used to be boys lean their hot heads on the iron ledges of lecture-rooms, and talk to professors about their Hippocampus majors. In the case of the girls of the day, let us not be swift to blame. They only wish to please; and, as long as decent women are openly deserted in park and theatre for shameless jades. We must not be surprised at their picking up slang from their brothers, and becoming "fast," in order to compete with them. In spite of these changes, we still hope; and our hopes are founded on the apparently unlimited supply of fresh babies. Whee there is a baby, there will be at least one, probably many real true women about it. Now your baby is a thing that, like Tom Pinch's beefsteak, "must be humoured—not drove." It will express its likes and dislikes (possibly a little too loudly and persistently). It will prefer the apparently idiotic croodling of its mother and nurse, and their aimless legends, to the choicest lecture on Micaceous Schist, and a picture-book to a working model of a drain-valve. The one great source of happiness to a right-minded baby is its power of simple, trusting appreciation. It does not dismiss a new bit of wonderment because it does not understand it, or see its immediate use. It only knows that the thing has caused a pleasurable stirring amongst the fibres of its brain, causing it to stare, laugh, or crow, as the case may be, and is content. Possibly, this first form of brain-work, this simple wondering, acts as a sort of mental kneading and turning over of the brain-matter, and prepares it for the next child's faculty, that of imagination, or "make-believe." To make good bread you must have plenty of carbonic acid; and, to make good brains, you must have plenty of imagination, to swell the mass into crispy, fun-loving lightness — a good spongy state for the sucking up of information hereafter. If you will put in the alum and burnt bones of useful information too early, most assuredly will your brain come out a poor heavy thing, with white chalky unbaked lumps here and there—the sources of unnumbered miseries, physical and moral. Luckily for them and us, they will havo picture-books and fairy tales, these young people, or they make our lives a burden to us; and so they create a supply which ought earn the eternal gratitude of their elders, who like to road the books, but are shy of buying them openly and palpably for themselves. Yes! there is still hope for future generations! Anoint ye! oh ye professors; your days of tyranny over early childhood aro not yet utterly come! Aroint ye all — with the exception of him, one of the greatest and wisest of you all, who is ever ready to descend from his height to burn unlimited oxvgen gas, and scintillate galvanic charcoal, before jubilant infancy, and a few of his wise school. The fairies are not yet driven from the field'; and, though ye be scientific, mustard shall be hot in the mouth, and Bed Riding-Hood shall be read!
By the bye, who has seen Goody Two-shoes lately? I much fear me that, being a prim and precise young person, she has married some goodlooking ne'er-do-weel, and keeps a small greengrocery, whereof he drinks the profits, and beats her. And tell me, too, my dear Bed Riding-Hood (so glad that you speak just as you used to), tell me where you have picked up all your French and German? I don't want to scold. I know that the purchase of keys, without the slightest idea of unlocking anything with them, is the proper thing nowadays; but are you quite sure about those French fairies? Don’t you think that they are too old and big — six years old, and three feet high — and know the world, and powder their hair, and wear crinoline, just like little Frenchwomen? There may be a few good fairy families left in Brittany; but I doubt the others, though I acknowledge that those who live with you in your new green-house are charming. I am not quite sure about the German fairies either. I know that the old German fairy is of excellent family; but they have become terribly mixed up with a very commonplace, charcoal-burning, turnip-counting set of folks. Those Trolls, and Gnomes, and Wichtelmänner [imps] — not to mention those odd people, the Alraunchen [mandrake], who are always trying to hide their yellow-webbed feet under their long cloaks—are not at all the sort of people William Shakespeare was acquainted with. Poor Heinrich Heine, who knew them better than anyone sinco Shakespeare, told them of this long ago; but I am sorry to say that they made impertinent replies, and bothered him with counter questions, worse than the Zulu did Bishop Colenso. In point of fact, I suspect that these good folks were little better than common mortals, stout and strong, but grubby and short — very sharp, but very spiteful. They had lived so long in the land that they had done all the good thoy were capablo of doing, and had grown smaller and smaller, and crosser and crosser, till strong men, with bight hair and blue eyes, came and kicked them, and pummelled them, and poked down their dry-stone forts with their walking-sticks, and, worse than all, cultivated the soil — which they never thought of doing for themselves, but lived on perriwinkles and red-deer and heather-beer. So the small people hid themsolves in holes and corners like the Bushmen; and the consciousness of what a poor little crooked people they were made them more spiteful; and they stole babies, not to harm them, but to spite the new people, and perhaps in the hope that their own changelings would be better taught and nourished. They were not altogether bad; they felt kindness, and worked in an odd, jerky way for thoso who were kind to them and did not watch thein—which they hated, knowing their ugliness. And they made them swords, for they were the grandfathers of the Smiths with an i, and knew all about iron, long beforo other people had left off using bronze swords that curled up liko boiled macaroni whenever they hit anything harder than a workhouse-porter's heart. And thoy told them of heaps of red gold and gems, that had been buried by wild sea-rovers, who had sailed away and never come back again, which they had found as they crawled after the red-deer on the brown moor.
That naughty Frau Venus, and that ancient impostor Virgilius—who were, I suspect, invented by the monks—havo also muddled the bright stream of German fairy lore. Nor do I like the admixture of old Scandinavian gods and goddesses — particularly those terrible sisters with the swans' feet, who have sometimes passed themselves off as real fairies, even in Scotland. Most particularly do I dislike that Frau Berchta, who has sometimes pretended to be Queen of the Fairies— a dreadful person, who looks very nice in front, but who, when looked at from behind, is as hollow as an empty coffin with the lid off. If you laugh at her, and do not give her herrings and oatmeal on the night of her festival, she will cut you open, stuff you with sharp whinstones and furze-bushes, and sow you up again, with a ploughshare for a needle and a jack-chain for thread — an operation which you will remember for some time, I assure you, though you may pretend it is only the nightmare, and send for the doctor. Sho is a very odd personage this "Frau Berchta with the swan's foot." There was once a young woman who lost her only child, and cried after it day and night. One night, in particular, she went to the little grave and wept over it till it might have moved a heart of stone. It was the night beforo the three kings' feast; and she saw Frau Berchta pass along with a long train of children; and they all floated over a high hedge — all except one, whose little white shift clung around her, aU wet with the splashings of a great jug she carried. she was so tired that she could not rise from the ground. The poor mother saw that it was her own child, and raised it up in her arms to help it over; and the little one said, "Oh! how warm, how warm are mother's hands! But you must not weep so much for me; every tear you shed falls into my jug, and makes it heavier and heavier; and I shall never go up high with the rest." And so the poor mother wept no more.
This, however, is Mythology, not Faierie [sic]; and, if you had believed in it in the good old time, when a fatherly Pope, in the plenitude of his benevolence, placed a bull "Concerning the Burning of Heretics" in the ready hands of Jesuits, Bodin and Sprenger, you would have smarted for it. It is odd; but it seems as if the religion of one age became the fairy story of the next.
For our last collection of Fairy Tales we are indebted to one to whom we already owe much as a bringor of pure and happy thoughts. Abjuring all idea of giving information, and leaving her readers to find their own moral, she has given us the loves of our childhood, some of them in their own old dress and spooch, and others — if we are not mistaken — embellished with many a light and telling touch. A book of gold and green to take away by oneself amongst tho long grass in the quiet orchard, with the bees scattering the white and red apple-blossoms on our heads! A book to dream over — from the lovely lady who lies with her eyes trembling to open at the nearing kiss which is to awaken her to life and love, to the story of Clever Susan, which they tell to this day amongst the wild grey rocks and silver lakes of Assynt! A book of dainty little pictures, to be pored over by bright little eyes, and just the size to be held between the fat little dimpled fingers, without fatigue, for a long and happy hour!
[Craik, Diana Mulock]. The Fairy Book: the Best Popular Fairy Stories Selected and Rendered Anew. By the Author of "John Halifax, Gentleman." London: Macmillan & Co., 1863.
“Miss Mulock’s Fairy-Book.” The Reader: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Art. (May 1863): 452. London: “Published at 112, Fleet Street.” Hathi Digital Library Trust web version of a copy in the Princeton University Library. 22 July 2016.
Last modified 22 July 2016