Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Victorian Sunday School Literature


I confess that I am fascinated by late 19th century Sunday School literature. Despite the sentimentality that sometimes flavors these works, the stories offer common sense advice about dealing with life. They cover topics such as forming friendships, maintaining loyalty, holding to one's principles despite peer pressure, doing something personally to relieve the distress of those who are destitute or ill, developing harmonious relationships in the home, handling spiritual questions, dealing with one's own conscience and emotions, growing up into responsibility, etc. Even as a 21st century adult, I find some of the advice to be valuable.

When I first began reading such stories, I was surprised that a number of stories from this period deal with serious illness and death. Of course, many children of that era died of diseases that are easily treated or prevented today. The children who first read these stories faced the death of children, playmates, and siblings more often than today's children do. Thus, they related to these stories. I think, as a young child, I might have found this particular type of story to be a little grim.

At any rate, my study of children's literature from the period corrected a misperception of mine. I had developed a vague idea that children's literature of the late nineteenth century was all sweetness and light, while children's literature of the late twentieth century was more "realistic". In reality, I now think that a certain type of late Victorian children's literature not only presented the harder realities of life, it offered some valuable guidance for facing these situations.

Happy Writing!

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