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378 19. ‘To Children and Others’: Audience, Advertising, and the Reception of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books (1889–1910) SARA M. HINES A review of new books appeared in the Athenæum on October 26 1889 announcing that ‘Mr. Lang deserves a hearty vote of thanks from all good children this winter for his charming gift of “The Blue Fairy Book”’ published by Longman, Green and Co.1 One of many who favourably reviewed The Blue Fairy Book, this reviewer’s judgment proved prophetic in a number of ways: Here we find gathered together treasures, new and old, from all lands—fantasies from the ‘Arabian Nights,’ quaint imaginings of old France, Scottish legends, folk-stories from Grimm, weird Norse tales, old English stories from the chapbooks, and even ‘Gulliver,’ beloved of children. We have nothing quite like this delightful medley, which bids fair to be a household book for many a long year.2 Andrew Lang’s (1844–1912) ‘charming gift’ to ‘good children’ did eventually become a ‘household book’, but not in isolation. Due to the success of The Blue Fairy Book, Lang and Longman’s published new volumes for Christmas for twenty-three more years until 1911, with two volumes published posthumously in 1912 and 1913.3 The phrases and epithets used in this review, such as ‘new and old’, ‘treasures’, ‘beloved’, and ‘medley’, came to define the whole of the Fairy Book series that, as in its first volume, gathered together tales ‘from all lands.’ While publications of fairy tale collections remained common more than sixty years after the Grimms’ stories had been translated into English in 1823, Lang’s Fairy Books reveal more about publishing, marketing, and advertising trends in the late-nineteenth century as well as 379 the reception of andrew lang’s fairy books attitudes towards children’s literature than simply a response to popular interest in fairy tales. The immediate success of the Fairy Books series relied on several factors, the first of which was Lang’s well-established reputation as a writer, scholar, and journalist among his contemporaries. Born in Selkirk, Lang studied at the University of Glasgow, before receiving a scholarship to finish his studies in the Classics at Oxford. From there, Lang moved to London where he developed his reputation through journalism and extensive publications on a wide variety of topics including literature, history, anthropology, cricket, and angling.4 Furthermore, he published academic treatises, poetry, novels, and non-fiction covering history, classics, and literary criticism. To the question, ‘Are you writing anything at present’, Lang was known to answer among his friends, ‘As if I ever did anything else’.5 Lang was a literary reviewer for the Academy, Monthly Review, and the Literary Chronicle among other periodicals and his favourable – or not – opinion of contemporary literature held tremendous weight. George Saintsbury (1845–1933), a fellow journalist, later appointed to the Regius Professorship of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, offers the following somewhat hyperbolic description of Lang: Indeed my doubt would be audacious enough to extend itself further, and question whether anybody, undergraduate or don, Oxonian or Cantab, about the year 1869 possessed knowledge of ancient and modern literature as literature, coupled with power to make use of that knowledge in a literary way, to a greater extent than Lang.6 The second factor that impinged on the reception of Lang’s series was that Lang had already begun securing his reputation as a scholar of fairy tales prior to the publication of The Blue Fairy Book. For example, in May 1888 the Archaeological Review published a review of Perrault’s Popular Tales, a collection that included an introductory essay by Andrew Lang. The reviewer, commenting on Lang’s introduction, states: ‘To the students of Folktales this dissertation is of course the chief value of the work; and we 380 sara m. hines may say at once that it displays every grace of exposition and all the learning and acumen of which Mr. Lang is so great a master’.7 This review highlights several key points about Lang’s reputation in the years prior to the publication of The Blue Fairy Book. Firstly, the reviewer asserts that – for students of folktales – Lang’s discussion of Perrault’s tales is the book’s ‘chief value’ even more valuable than the tales themselves. Secondly, the reviewer addresses the quality of Lang’s scholarship, mentioning his grace and mastery of the subject. Not only were Lang’s theories of folktales...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781908980304
Related ISBN
9781908980298
MARC Record
OCLC
1104628745
Pages
476
Launched on MUSE
2019-06-15
Language
English
Open Access
No
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