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  “Exemplary” Compilations Watts’s Divine Songs  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XVI. Children’s Books.

§ 6. Bunyan’s Divine Emblems.

To take the youngest first. The parent work in it has, naturally, been overshadowed by greater works in the chapter on its author in a previous volume. 8  All through the eighteenth century, a work called Divine Emblems; or Temporal Things Spiritualized, by John Bunyan, was recurrent in little rough editions. It was not until 1889 that this was identified as a curtailed version of a longer book—A Book for Boys & Girls: or, Country Rhimes for Children. By J. B. The first edition contained seventy-four “meditations”; in 1701, an editor revised it ruthlessly, and cut the number of emblems down to forty-nine. It consists of short poems—exceedingly bad poetry, but plain rugged morality—on such subjects as the frog, the hen, and other common objects, each with a rimed moral. Bunyan declares his object:
I do’t to show them how each fingle-fangle,
On which they doting are, their souls entangle,
As with a web, a trap, a gin, or snare,
And will destroy them, have they not a care.
  His “morals” are as recondite and laborious as those of Gesta Romanorum. The importance of the book lies in its authorship, its intention and its method. It reveals not a little of the inspired tinker’s mind. It shows a real desire to provide something special for children, not merely the old clothes of adult literature cut down. And it is a deliberate use of a responsible artistic form and of material not traditional but original.   15

Note 8. Vol. VII, Chap. VII. [ back ]

  “Exemplary” Compilations Watts’s Divine Songs  

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