Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 5. Cooper; Irving; Dana; Mrs. Stowe; Hawthorne’s Juveniles; Increasing Dignity of Children’s Books; Our Young Folks; St. Nicholas

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

VII. Books for Children

§ 5. Cooper; Irving; Dana; Mrs. Stowe; Hawthorne’s Juveniles; Increasing Dignity of Children’s Books; Our Young Folks; St. Nicholas

Although before the end of the nineteenth century America was to lead the world in its special literature for children, the chief authors of the first half of the century did not intentionally contribute to it. Cooper’s stories bequeathed to a later generation the Indian, the Yankee Trader, and the Scout; but neither he nor Irving in Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, nor Dana in the book that still remains one of the most popular with boys, wrote directly for them. Nor (except occasionally) did Mrs. Stowe, whose Uncle Tom’s Cabin is now almost exclusively a juvenile. The one author of general fame who did so was Hawthorne. His Grandfather’s Chair, Wonder Book, and Tanglewood Tales have among children’s books as high rank as his other work has in the adult field, and are certainly more widely read. He tells the Greek myths in a happy and paternal spirit, as he does numerous legends of New England; and his style has its usual distinction. With the advent of several excellent magazines for children, sheltered by established publishers and commanding their writers, the literary attitude began to change. “Some of my friends,” Isaac Watts had written, “imagine that my time is employed in too mean a service while I write for babes”; and down to the middle of the nineteenth century critics still mistook juvenile books for puerile books. The time was approaching when two editors of the austere Atlantic Monthly, Aldrich and Horace Scudder, would think writing for children not unworthy of their accomplished pens, and the editor of the massive North American Review, Charles Eliot Norton, would edit also a boy’s library. It was perceived that simplicity need not be inane, and that to entertain children without enfeebling their intellect or stultifying their sentiment afforded scope for mature skill and judgment. Our Young Folks, published by Ticknor and Fields (about 1865), enlisted Mrs. Stowe, Whittier, Higginson, Aldrich, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, E. E. Hale, Rose Terry Cook, Bayard Taylor. It was edited by J. T. Trowbridge, Gail Hamilton, and Lucy Larcom; and later was merged into St. Nicholas, edited by Mrs. Mary Mapes Dodge (1838–96). With these magazines a new era begins.