At the sea side (Erddig)


Working at Sudbury’s Museum of Childhood has reminded me of other children’s literature I’ve come across over the years. One of the great features of country house libraries is the presence of books aimed at children that have survived the vigorous reading practices of the very young (not quite like the model child on the left, in other words).

Front cover of Les enfants au bord de la mer (1853)

Front cover of Les enfants au bord de la mer (1853)

We’re returning to Erddig for this small volume, written by “C.G.”, in a pretty green and gilt cloth binding with a pictorial in-lay on the front cover.

Les enfants au bord de la mer (first published in 1852) contains two stories. The first is written as a dialogue between three young girls, with one of them describing her experiences of holidaying in a Breton seaside village. Each event prompts new questions from her audience, which allows her to instruct them as well as the reader in a variety of topics. The second story relates the near-fatal adventures of two brothers on the edge of the ocean; the final pages return their attention to the three girls who now discuss the beach around Mont-St-Michel.

Not exactly riveting stuff, but a good example of how early 19th-century children’s literature was meant to be didactic first and entertaining second.


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