Literature for Children in the 19th Century

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  • Topic: Children's literature, Novel, Literature
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  • Published : January 7, 2011
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Literature for children in the 19th century

Since the view of childhood changes in the nineteenth century, the potential of children’s literature becomes evident. With the reference to the sources of children’s literature, they can be traced back to alterations in translation and in the literature for adults, where a child or childhood are essential concepts; moreover folk literature is concerned to be a wide source for this literary genre. According to Peter Hunt

Children before the seventeenth century shared narrative, whether oral or through chapbooks, with adults. The first widely distributed texts for children were by puritan writers; in the mid-eighteenth century books began to be produced commercially, usually with an educational slant and/or based on folklore. By the end of the century, evangelical writers were producing hundreds of texts for children and the nineteenth century saw a continued battle between entertainment and instruction (2001:11).

Since the end of the nineteenth century the authors of children’s books attempt to address children in a less didactic way. For the first time such books appear to be amusing and adventurous. Furthermore, the texts share both realism and fantasy, and as a result, the long-lasting popularity of many books is visible even in contemporary times. From this time, books for adults and children become two distinct categories. Moreover, with the changing view’s on children’s books, they begin to have a significant role in the market. In fact, it is important to note that books such as, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn or the Grimm's fairy tales, which are generally regarded to be classical children’s literature, were originally aimed at adults. As Hunt explains:

Children’s literature is rooted in (and has been deliberately directed towards) stories not calculated to protect childhood from horror; or, it might be said, in expanding children’s experience at too rapid a rate. Thus folk- and...
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