Read AUTHORSHIP of The Children , free online book, by Alice Meynell, on

Authorship prevails in nurseries — at least in some nurseries.  In many it is probably a fitful game, and since the days of the Brontes there has not been a large family without its magazine.  The weak point of all this literature is its commonplace.  The child’s effort is to write something as much like as possible to the tedious books that are read to him; he is apt to be fluent and foolish.  If a child simple enough to imitate were also simple enough not to imitate he might write nursery magazines that would not bore us.

As it is, there is sometimes nothing but the fresh and courageous spelling to make his stories go.  “He,” however, is hardly the pronoun.  The girls are the more active authors, and the more prosaic.  What they would write had they never read things written for them by the dull, it is not possible to know.  What they do write is this — to take a passage:  “Poor Mrs. Bald (that was her name) thought she would never get to the wood where her aunt lived, she got down and pulled the donky on by the bridal . . .  Alas! her troubles were not over yet, the donky would not go where she wanted it, instead of turning down Rose Lane it went down another, which although Mrs. Bald did not know it led to a very deep and dangerous pond.  The donky ran into the pond and Mrs. Bald was dround.”

To give a prosperous look to the magazine containing the serial story just quoted, a few pages of mixed advertisements are laboriously written out:  “The Imatation of Christ is the best book in all the world.”  “Read Thompson’s poetry and you are in a world of delight.”  “Barrat’s ginger beer is the only ginger beer to drink.”  “The place for a ice.”  Under the indefinite heading “A Article,” readers are told “that they are liable to read the paper for nothing.”

A still younger hand contributes a short story in which the hero returns to his home after a report of his death had been believed by his wife and family.  The last sentence is worth quoting:  “We will now,” says the author, “leave Mrs. White and her two children to enjoy the sudden appearance of Mr. White.”

Here is an editorial announcement:  “Ladies and gentlemen, every week at the end of the paper there will be a little article on the habits of the paper.”

On the whole, authorship does not seem to foster the quality of imagination.  Convention, during certain early years, may be a very strong motive — not so much with children brought up strictly within its limits, perhaps, as with those who have had an exceptional freedom.  Against this, as a kind of childish bohemianism, there is, in one phase of childhood, a strong reaction.  To one child, brought up internationally, and with somewhat too much liberty amongst peasant play-mates and their games, in many dialects, eagerness to become like “other people,” and even like the other people of quite inferior fiction, grew to be almost a passion.  The desire was in time out-grown, but it cost the girl some years of her simplicity.  The style is not always the child.