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«Heyman, Michael Benjamin (1999) Isles of Boshen : Edward Lear's literary nonsense in context. PhD thesis. Copyright and ...»

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However, Rousseau makes "sense" of the child partly by claiming that Emile's inclinations will always be dictated by natural forces which define what "sensible" or correct actions are. Nature's hand will curb any errors in the child if he is raised properly, conforming to her dictates which are reality. The world of nonsense, which refuses natural order in creating its own, if accepted by Emile would only result in what Rousseau calls "insanity," for "he who concocts imaginary relations, which have no real existence, is a madman... " (pp. 165-66). If this were the extent of Rousseau's conception of education, then he would indeed be very close to Wordsworth and Coleridge in their earlier years, but Rousseau's system was far more involved and complicated. Rousseau, for all of his rhetoric about letting nature, within and without, teach Emile, nevertheless distrusts a strictly "natural" education and prescribes a most careful, detailed, and monitored education. First, the tutor must observe the child closely in order to know and every shade of the child's character. He writes, "Every mind has its own form, in accordance WIth which it must be controlled" (p. 58). Rousseau assumes that a child's personality

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ideal citizen. Rousseau writes in "Considerations on the Government of Poland" (1773), "It is education that must give the souls of the people a national form, and so shape their opinions and their tastes that they become patriots. "409 The French Revolution and the turmoil of the 1790s ensured that Rousseau's methods and goals did not spread too widely or openly, but his influence again flourished in the nineteenth century, with, for example, the continuous reprinting of Day's highly Rousseauistic Sandford and Merton ( 1783-9), and also with the Romantics, although in both cases differing from Rousseau in some crucial aspects. Still, Rousseau's Emile is much closer to the independent, wIld, and free Romantic child, and the Nonsense-child, than Locke's construct.

Children's literature in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can be seen in one respect as a struggle between the ideas of Locke and Rousseau and those who followed them. Regardless of which theory one followed, however, the child became the subject ()I intense scrutiny. The figure of the child gained importance in the wide arenas of politics, finance, and psychology, and it therefore became crucial that children be understood and made to fit in their new roles. Whether as unfortunate inheritors of Original Sin, or as creatures dominated by reason who would justify utilitarian premises~ whether as potential recipients of Republican ideals, or as the basis of a newly industrialized nation, children and their world became central issues. With respect to children's literature, education, and more basic theory of the child, the child's constitution was of obvious importance, and those who participated in these fields were quick to adopt some method of decodint: the

–  –  –

Columbia University, 1910,1%2), p. 97 child, of making "sense" of the child. As Richardson comments, the '''moral' works of children's fiction produced in the Romantic-era are animated by the desire to reconstruct the child through fictions which simultaneously mirror the child's mind and refashion it" (p.

129). Of course the child was rarely observed for its own sake; rather, the educational theory concerned "itself with the swift creation, through controlled environment, of the rational adult man. It seldom considered the nature of the child as a child. Treated as a small adult, the child was to be trained out of his childish ways into the moral and rational perfection of regulated manhood. "410 To achieve this kind of education, though, the system had to be built around an adjustable and predictable child, a constructed child who would fit into the prescribed mould. New strategies of education were devised to refonn the world through the child. At a time long before the national education act in 1870, which ensured universal, primary education, various educational theories circulated, and many different organizations and educational systems competed in the ever-expanding education of the country's youth. From the Sunday School movements in the 1780s to the more "progressive" monitorial systems in the early 1800s of Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, to the utilitarian views spread predominantly from the 1830s onwards by Bentham's influence and Mill, the questions of education, class, and politics mixed to create widely varied means of forming the child's mind. 411 The Evangelists, such as Mrs.

Sherwood and her hugely popular The History o/the Fairchild Family (1818-47), complete the picture of the many different camps trying to create the child in their own image. As Hilary Jenkins notes, the child's world increasingly became, in an image from Emile's only allowed book, an insular Crusoean island, "a fitting image of how adults saw children's lives in the nineteenth century: small, isolated, limited, easily explored, controlled and understood. "412 Children's writers swayed more by Lockean and utilitarian ideologies, such as Edgeworth and Godwin, agree in this tendency of children towards reason. Edgeworth's

-ll 0Coveney, pp. 40-1.

..f11Seep.48andnote86forLear'spossibleopinionofBenth~.. ",..

..f12Hilary Jenkins, "The Child in his World: Changing Images In Children s Lllerallm. /796-183) (unpublished M.Litt. Thesis, University of Oxford, 1986), note on p. 123.





claims for a child's "sense" are also based in Hartleian associationism; the child should be taught and will be receptive to "correct" associative thought patterns which will dictate all the child's actions. The basis of associationism is that all actions can be deduced to logical, traceable patterns in the brain. Edgeworth claims that if children "arri\'e at certain conclusions in reasoning, we may be satisfied that they have taken all the necessary previous steps" (I, 125). The child's mind shows no mystery in its patterns; if children arrive at a conclusion, we can assume their minds work in the same way as those of adultsin predictable, sensible, associative reason. Godwin would therefore haye any point of contention between an adult and child settled with a rational discussion, proposing points of logical argument. Whoever convinces the other must win, and if the child is not convinced, then it must still have its way, for Godwin would allow no "despotism" through the adult (pp. 95-6). Godwin assumes the child will usually act according to the dictates of reason, yielding when error is shown. Both Edgeworth's and Godwin's (earlier) theories allow for no mystery; as Edgeworth states, "we may show them that, in reality, there is no mystery in any thing, but that from certain causes certain effects will follow....,;414 Like the adult world, and reality, there is no mystery in the child, Gillian A very writes, "The late Georgians did not believe in the irrational, and what was more, they were certain that reasoning could always conquer--even when a young child's unreasonable fears were involved. "415 It is this attitude which the Romantics, and later, literary nonsense, would openly dispute.

Images of such children who make "sense" dominate the children's literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Mary Wollstonecraft, in the tradition of Locke, \\-Tote unapologetically didactic works for children, always incorporating her theories of the child and education throughout. Her Introduction to C.G. Salzmann's, Elements of Moralitvfor the use o/children; with an introductory address to parents (1790), which she "translated,"

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disposition," which means a "superior degree of knowledge" and the concomitant effects of such knowledge. In the Introduction, Wollstonecraft begins with the basic utilitarian assumption that "we love what gives us pleasure, and hate what gives us uneasiness" (p.

vii), and proceeds to demonstrate a method of educating a child on this simple principle and the child's inherent conformity to reason's dictates. She continues, "By this method it appears, that we may direct the inclination of a child which way we wish, if we only know how to make him rightly comprehend the pleasure or pain which certain things will procure him." (p. viii). Reason, which distinguishes between what brings pain and pleasure, is enough to convince the child of right and wrong, of virtue and vice. As an example of this

method in action, Wollstonecraft demonstrates how to teach a child not to drink alcohol:

"Place in a room a bottle of wine and another of water, and tell the boy that water is very wholesome, and wine very hurtful to children.... he will not have any inclination to taste the wine" (p. xxii).

Two years earlier, Wollstonecraft wrote a volume which would remain popular for some time, her Original Stories from Real Life; with Conversations, calculated to Regulate the Affections, and Form the Mind to Truth and Goodness (1788). In these tales Mrs.

Mason, the tutor, discusses various typical topics such as cruelty to animals and obedience, effectively convincing the children through reason. It is this faith in a child's reason, which "with difficulty, conquers settled habits.',417 Mrs. Mason teaches the children that the work of childhood is to create a more "sensible" child, to develop the natural inclination towards reason, which can occur if "the heart has been capable of receiving early impressions, and the head of reasoning and retaining the conclusions which \\"ere drawn from them....,,418 The Romantic child and the child construct from Lear's nonsense would

-l- 16c.G. Salzmann, Elements of Morality for the use of children; with an introductory address [0 parents.

trans. Mary \Vollstonecraft, 2 volumes (London: ptd for J. Johnson, 1790), p. v.

-l-17 ~lary Wollstonecraft, Original Stories from Real Life.. with Conversations, Calculat;d to Regulate the Affections, and Form the Mind to Truth and Goodness, 1788, in The Wor~ oj.\f(~ry \~'ollsto!lerraft. cds Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler (London: Pickering, 1989), IV, 359. The chil~en 1ll this work arc 12 and l--l years old, but the child's adherence to reason should begin as young as poSSIble.

-l-18\Vollstonecraft, p. --lIS.

defy such correct associative thought patterns, thus showing children who do not make "sense." Such incorrect associations would be naturally repugnant to the utilitarian chilJ.

If we skip for a moment the Romantic writers who were generally against utilitarian constructs of the child, we see that the proliferation and expansion of the construc ted, utilitarian child promoted in the eighteenth century gained momentum throughout the nineteenth century. Unimpeded by Romantic protest, such varied figures as John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud carried on the tradition of making a child make sense in relation to their various theories. With Mill's development of Bentham's utili tarian thought, the child became the instrument by which the scientific inquiry of the human character could proceed. In one way, it can be seen as the experimental, utilitarian side of

Wordsworth's claim that the child is father of the man. Mill writes in A System of Logic:

Ratiocinative and Inductive, Being a connected view of the principles of evidence and the

methods of scientific investigation (1843):

The instances requisite for the prosecution of a directly experimental inquiry into the formation of character would be a number of human beings to bring up and educate from infancy to mature age; and to perform anyone of these experiments with scientific propriety, it would be necessary to know and record every sensation or impressed [sic] received by the young pupil from a period long before it could speak, including its own notions respecting the sources of all those sensations and impressions. 419 Mill demonstrates that this kind of analysis is impossible, not because a child could not, theoretically speaking, be dissected in this manner, but because we simply do not have the ability to take into account the many factors which contribute to behaviour. However, there is still a way to what Mill calls "Ethology," or the "Science of Character," through deducing the general laws of the mind by another kind experimental approach involving the effects of certain circumstances on the character (p. 567). As Pattison suggests, "Childhood held a certain fascination for the rationalists precisely because it could be observed; surely cause and effect were at work here, if one only had the key" (p. 1(2).

Darwin also used the child as an experiment in the developmental formation of the adult. In

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development, motor coordination, reason, and the formation of character. Darwin, like Mill, assumes that the child is a bundle of developing, observable qualities and abilities which, when explained, will bring a new understanding of humanity. In his analysis of the dawning of reason, Darwin argues that the infant develops associative reasoning faculties long before it had generally been believed. 42o The investigation into the human character gained momentum throughout the century, and articles like George Henry Lewes's "Consciousness and Unconsciousness" led onward to Freud's psychoanalytical method, particularly his 'Infantile Sexuality' (1905). In all of these cases the child, once the secrets of the child's nature were uncovered--and this was an eventuality, not a possibility--was considered the key to understanding the adult. The child is father to the man in the same way that a set of cog-wheels is father to a clock.

The desire to make "sense" of the child found in the more philosophical works of the century, of course, also materialized in literature, both children's and adult. Even works which attempt to introduce the "nonsense" child often fail, like Sinclair's Holiday House, which begins with a preface promoting the wild, non-sense child but ends with the almost inescapable didactic morality and eschewal of non-sensical child-like ideals. The pages of Punch were quite aware of the popularity of the figure of the child and all that related to it, and a humourous sketch of two grandmothers fighting over a baby illustrates the ridiculous extent to which adults try to "understand" an infant. 421 The baby smacks its lips, and immediately both grandmothers know what the baby wants. Mrs. Daffy says he wants pork while the elder Mrs. Bib counters with: "Bless its darling rosebud of a mouth!



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