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ix Introduction SARAH DUNNIGAN Our volume takes its title from one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s most wellknown poems from that much-loved collection, A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885). It speaks of the different worlds between child and parent, separated by a gulf of imagination. The young narrator is tracker, hunter, forester, traveller, sea-voyager, wanderer – on visits to lands resonant with energy, promise, and adventure that are always time-limited; like J. M. Barrie’s Neverland, they collectively constitute a world which must eventually be left. Stevenson’s little poem is also a huge celebration of the power of children ’s books. Reading stories, and hearing them too, is the beginning of something else – in that evocative phrase, books are to be ‘played at’; stories are things to be played with. In Stevenson’s volume, the world as lit by the imagination of books is full of invisible powers (‘The Unseen Playmate’); charged by the agency of the child her or himself: ‘I called the little pool a sea […] This was the world and I was king’.1 ‘Littleness’ in ‘the pleasant Land of Play’ is not an encumbrance or limitation: ‘my tiny self I see […] / Little things with lovely eyes / See me sailing with surprise’.2 A child’s view is the experiential centre of Stevenson’s book: ordinary yet magical, bound by the rhythms of day and night; garden and bedroom; a sentient, companionable world of sun and moon. In such a world of sympathetic connectedness, the child is sometimes solitary but never lonely. In giving imaginative life to ‘the dear land of Storybooks ’, Stevenson fashioned a tender myth of childhood and literature. Like Barrie’s Peter Pan (it is striking how Scottish writers have inspired such enduring myths or dreams of childhood), it is also a book about memory: ‘Yet as I saw it, I see it again […] And as long as I live and where’er I may be, / I’ll always remember my town by the sea’,3 and itself constitutes a memory for many of us. Of course, it is both idealising and poignant, like that ethereal figure ‘the child of air’ in ‘To any Reader’; familiar yet strange; x sarah dunnigan nostalgic and defamiliarising. For an iconic world landmark in children’s literature (like Treasure Island, like Peter Pan), it is a book which we both know and don’t know.4 In that sense, it provides an apt beginning for a book about Scottish children’s writing in the nineteenth century, a literary world which is in part recognisable, in part unknown. Its ‘surface’ is bright and familiar, starrily pinpointed by Stevenson and Barrie, of course, but also by George MacDonald, a much loved writer, if still not quite as ‘canonical’, and R. M. Ballantyne (1825–1894) too, though The Coral Island (1857) belongs to a more prolific and diverse corpus than is perhaps known.5 This volume arose out of curiosity – do these cherished writers and texts arise out of a more deeply embedded, widespread culture of children’s books and literature in Scotland at the time? Who, and where, might be their predecessors, origins, inspirations? Is there a tradition, or traditions, of Scottish literature for children which ‘houses’ these writers – an equivalent ‘golden age’ to the classic ‘Golden Age’ of British children’s literature into which MacDonald, for example, is sometimes cast? What seed store of influence might have shaped their work? This volume, the first sustained book-length introduction to the subject of nineteenth-century Scottish children’s literature, seeks to ask such questions. It builds on, and is indebted to, the pioneering work of Maureen Farrell whose doctoral thesis is the first academic study devoted to the historical subject of Scottish children’s literature as an autonomous, independent area.6 In 2003, James Alison and Ronald Renton produced Treasure Islands which introduces a range of Scottish writers to young readers aged 10–14, beginning in the nineteenth century.7 Seven years later, James [Jim] Alison compiled a survey of the history of Scottish children’s literature from 1823 onwards.8 Fiona McCulloch has written extensively and illuminatingly on contemporary Scottish writing for children and adolescents, most recently in her study, Contemporary British Children’s Fiction and Cosmopolitanism.9 These are landmark achievements in a Scottish critical and literary-historical landscape which has made little room for children’s literature – or for the role which writing for children has played in the aesthetic, cultural, and ideological...


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