Reading Room Log: Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children

This book is available for your use in the Burns Library Reading Room.  Simply request this title in the Reading Room or contact the Reading Room via phone at 617-552-4861 or e-mai us atl burnsref@bc.edu.

This book is available for your use in the Burns Library Reading Room. Simply request this title in the Reading Room or contact the Reading Room via phone at 617-552-4861 or e-mail us at burnsref@bc.edu.

In keeping with the spirit of our hands-on Edward Gorey-Graham Greene Exhibit and to continue our spooky Halloween theme, I’d like to introduce you to this book: Cautionary Tales for Children:  Designed for the Admonition of Children between the Ages of Eight and Fourteen Years, verses by H. Belloc and pictures by B.T.B., published in 1907 in London by Eveleigh Nash.  The papers and personal library of the author of this book, Hilaire Belloc (1870 – 1953), are also owned by the Burns Library.  Belloc was an Anglo-French writer and historian who was one of the most prolific authors of his time.  However, Belloc is most widely known for his Cautionary Tales for Children.  It is also interesting to note that Edward Gorey was also intrigued by the Cautionary Tales, so much so that he produced an edition of the Tales, featuring (of course) his own illustrations.  However, the 1907 first edition of Belloc’s Cautionary Tales is also illustrated quite wonderfully by Belloc’s friend from Oxford, Basil T. Blackwood (1870 – 1917).

Belloc's introductory "disclaimer" to his Cautionary Tales (1907, London), illustration by Basil T. Blackwood.

Belloc’s introductory “disclaimer” to his Cautionary Tales (1907, London), illustration by Basil T. Blackwood.

As you read through the verse on the “Introduction” page, you get a good idea of the wry sense of humor that runs throughout the tales in this book.  The first tale is titled “Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was Eaten by a Lion.”  The stories are implausible but each ends with a well-phrased moral. In the case of the “Jim” tale, the moral is to “always keep a-hold of Nurse/For fear of finding something worse” (pg. 16).  Other tales recount the misadventures of Henry King “who chewed too much string”, Matilda “who told Lies, and was Burned to Death”, and Franklin Hyde, “who caroused in the Dirt and was corrected by His Uncle.”  All of the tales show Belloc’s mastery of light verse. The Burns Library owns several editions of Cautionary Tales for Children, ranging in date from 1907 to 1997.  If you are interested in looking at these books or in looking at Belloc’s Papers or his personal library, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.  Also, don’t forget to stop by and look at our Edward Gorey books from Graham Greene’s Library.  I look forward to seeing you in the Reading Room!

  • Justine Sundaram, Reference Librarian/Bibliographer, Burns Library

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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