Fun and Frolic: Stories for the Young from the 1800s
Such a pleasant peek into the
simple family life of the late 1800’s
Ah, the simple innocence of that era. It makes one want to time-travel there for a day, or a year! Obviously, not everyone in 1888 had the leisure shown in this book, there were certainly just as many who had hard and meager lives. But no doubt a book like this brought smiles to many.
This sweet picture book of 45 pages has a short story or vignette that fits on one page, and an illustration in color or black and white to go with it. In tiny writing on the bottom left corner of the cover it says, “Copyright 1888 by J.L. Blamire.”
On the front cover, children are spending time indoors with an unhurried mother, playing with wooden animals and soldiers. It’s interesting to me that children throughout history have enjoyed playing with toy animals, and that animals in general have drawn the attention and affection of children.
I have also seen toys, and toys in books, from various periods in history that include soldiers and equipment for battles. Does that mean that wars are constantly raging throughout history, and children are aware of them because their fathers are away fighting? Or perhaps many of the famous men and women in countries all over the world have been war heroes, and the children grow up wanting also to be heroes?
The inside cover has the neatly hand-written name of the book’s owner, whose last name appears to be Ratledge. But with a little imagination it could instead be Routledge, to match the name of the publisher…a gift from the publisher, Uncle Routledge?
The stories in the book are not earth-shattering or dramatic. They are everyday happenings. But they are related here as the little joys that are present in each day, if we pay attention to them.
The first story pays homage to the world’s grandmothers, which I appreciate, being a grandma of 14 months. It tells of a grandson who learned to whistle before his first birthday, from hearing the other boys in the neighborhood whistling as he was wheeled around in his carriage.
The next story is in noticeably larger type, and includes dashes in the words to divide the syllables for the benefit of young readers.
These little stories told in first person talk of domestic life and the regular events of mothers and their children, who dearly love their parents, siblings and grandparents.
Fun and Frolic Stories includes poetry and information about nature and animals.
The poem “Blowing Bubbles” is surprisingly philosophical, likening the bubbles to our dreams. It asks a question of the adult reading the book:
Will it be always so–are we the same?
We blow our bubbles too, changed but in name.
We have fond hopes, that expand and look bright;
We watch our fancies with eager strained sight.
Tucked between the back page and the back cover is a drawing of a butterfly on 5″ x 7″ lined paper, likely inspired by the “Butterflies” poem. I doubt that this is was drawn by the book’s first owner in the late 1800s, or even from the early 1900s. I suspect it was drawn on a lined pad for letter writing from the 1950s or later.
The back cover shows another scene of mother relaxing with her child outside on a grassy slope. In the scene are baby birds nesting in a woman’s bonnet, looking for worms from their busy mother.
There are remnants of some dried blue flowers tucked into the pages. I always love little surprises like that!
Various artists contributed their talents to the book, but at that time they apparently didn’t include the names of the illustrators, although some of the drawings include signatures of initials or names in the corners.
I couldn’t find another copy of this book anywhere online, but there are many books from the late 1800s published by George Routledge & Sons, such as Little Snowdrop’s Picture Book, published in 1879, available as a Kindle book. J.L. Blamire appears to be the manager of a New York Routledge & Sons bookseller and possibly an author, and/or editor.
I hope you enjoyed “reading” this with me. What fun to have such a pleasant and colorful history lesson couched in with a lovely piece of literature!