Maria Edgeworth Short Fiction Analysis
Maria Edgeworth’s close association with children—in 1791, for example, she was responsible for the education of eight sisters and brothers while her father and stepmother Elizabeth were in England—determined the subject matter of her fiction. To amuse and instruct the children, she wrote short stories on a slate and read them aloud. Based on their critical response, she selected the best for the edition of The Parent’s Assistant. Although she preferred her father’s title The Parent’s Friend, these stories reached the public under the publisher’s inscription and remained popular throughout the nineteenth century.
Edgeworth fashioned the stories about real boys and girls. While Samuel Johnson believed that tales of giants, fairies, castles, and enchantment would stimulate children’s imagination, Richard Lovell Edgeworth taught his daughter that “experience in life would soon convince them that fairies, giants, and enchanters are not to be met with in the world.” She therefore avoided fantastic visions and gave her young readers useful information for successful living. The fictional tales would, Edgeworth and her father believed, teach readers about the latest scientific inventions and vocational skills while developing their characters. In the process, to Edgeworth’s credit, famous child characters were introduced to the growing field of children’s literature.
(The entire section is 3947 words.)
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