Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 9. Revolt against Information; Trowbridge; Kaler; Aldrich; Mark Twain

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

§ 9. Revolt against Information; Trowbridge; Kaler; Aldrich; Mark Twain

The revolt from Goodrich and Abbott took not only the form of stories of unmixed action but also of the novel assertion that innocent pranks are a legitimate subject for children’s books. These J. T. Trowbridge (1827–1916) and James Otis Kaler (1846– ), authors respectively of the delightful Cudjo’s Cave (1864) and Toby Tyler (1867), ventured to exploit with no uneasy eye on the moral effect. Thomas Bailey Aldrich made a notable success artistic as well as popular with his Story of a Bad Boy. A semi-idealized record of his own New England childhood, its only intention was to record zestfully what had really been the life of a boy engaged in no adventurous actions other than ordinary escapades. It was a departure when published in 1869. A half-dozen years later appeared another masterpiece of pranks regarded at the time as by no means innocent. Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel Huckleberry Finn (1884), by Samuel L. Clemens, raised a tempest in the cambric-teapot world and are even yet looked at askance in some children’s libraries. But in spite of moralists they immediately took the foremost place as stories of the American boy, and in a surprisingly short while became world classics. They are not explicitly treated as boy’s stories throughout, and in each are description and social observation beyond the appreciation of young readers; yet they have doubtless never failed with boy as with man to reap the highest triumph possible to fiction, the reader’s recognition of his own psychology and temperament. The general unimprovingness of both of these books was balanced, for moralists, by the excess of serious purpose in the author’s third book for young people, The Prince and the Pauper (1882). It is an impressive panorama of splendid scenes of ancient legal and royal cruelty.