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402 20. ‘It is lovely to be five’ LYN STEVENS, DANIELLE HOWARTH, MORGAN BOHARSKI, JOANNA WITKOWSKA This final section presents a very distinctive vision of children’s books in Scotland in the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth century. In concrete and tangible ways, it builds a bridge to the lived experience and material reality of children’s reading culture, enabled to do so by the SELCIE (Scotland’s Early Literature for Children Initiative) research project, based in the University of Edinburgh’s English Literature department. Since 2016, SELCIE and its researchers have been archiving the extensive historical book collections of Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood. Founded in 1955 by Patrick Murray,1 the archive opens a unique door to the educational , social, religious, and imaginative experiences embodied in books for children. The following wide-ranging vignettes, written by members of the SELCIE team, present an often-personal reflection on the different stories about children’s lives and children’s reading proffered by particular books, and even the objects discovered within. Aptly, at the end of this book, they remind us of the affective power of children’s literature – its tangible role in individual lives as well as literary and cultural memory. It begins with a forgotten book, about children’s social and physical welfare, by Annie S. Swan. I. Annie S. Swan’s Thomas Dryburgh’s Dream: A Story of The Sick Children’s Hospital (Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1886) The book by Annie S. Swan (1859–1943) is small and brown, and not very exciting at first glance, and could be overlooked amongst the thousands of other colourful books stored at the Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh. However, Swan’s tale of poverty, charity, and family laid out in ‘Thomas Dryburgh’s Dream’ gives the reader an insight into many fascinating aspects of late nineteenth-century Scotland. VI. CHILDREN’S BOOKS IN THE ARCHIVE 403 children’s books in the archives Swan’s book is set in the fictitious Undergate area of Dunleith, which is most probably a thinly disguised description of the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, known at this time as a warren of dilapidated buildings in an overcrowded, slum area of the city’s lower level Old Town. However, the 404 children’s books in the archives scene that is described would be familiar across many British cities at that time. The book begins with the main character, Mary Derrick, sad, hungry and cold in her attic room. Beside her is her child who is gradually fading away from ill health and lack of nourishment. Swan very clearly sets out Mary Derrick as a victim of bad fortune and mistreatment, as opposed to her having made bad or immoral choices to end up in her predicament. Mary has come from a rural family of reasonable means that runs a mill; however, her brother, Thomas Dryburgh, has full control of the family funds and when Mary wishes to marry he provides nothing for her and her new husband. It is indicated that he resents Mary moving away to the city, which means she is no longer providing help and housekeeping at the mill. Not long after Mary’s child is born her husband dies, and with no financial support from a husband or a family Mary is plunged into poverty, trying to make ends meet by taking in sewing. In the Victorian era, there was a very clear distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor in many people’s minds, and Mary would have been deemed deserving. Her circumstances were not of her making and even in the depths of her plight she had resisted the temptation of sins of the flesh and the bottle. The tale also outlines the vulnerable position of women at this time, completely financially dependent on men. Until 1887 once a woman married she became the property of her husband, and so did all of her property. Annie S. Swan was married, and although she could raise funds through her very popular fiction writing and after-dinner speaking, she was very aware of the woman’s place in Victorian society and later campaigned as a suffragette. In 1922, she stood for election for the Liberal Party in Maryhill, Glasgow. She was still under no illusion that women’s suffrage had won the war on equality and after failing to be elected wrote that ‘[t]he great mass of women voters do not believe in women candidates. I believe the majority of my...

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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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