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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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