Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Accidents of Youth (1819)


Through a series of short stories and wonderful engravings, this book is aimed at keeping young people out of trouble and “calculated to improve [their] moral conduct”. As the author declares in his/her brilliantly earnest preface addressed to the child reader of the book:

My Dear Children, The inexperience and thoughtlessness natural at your age exposes you to many dangers : I have therefore pointed out some of them in this book, which contains several instructive little histories, in which you will behold the misfortunes that arise from disobedience and want of thought. When your parents desire you not to climb upon the chairs, or touch the fire, or play with knives, or pins, it is not because they wish to prevent you amusing yourselves ; they are only anxious to keep you from harm. If you were allowed to do whatever you pleased, many accidents would happen through your own indiscretion : for instance, when climbing on the furniture you might fall, and break a leg or an arm; and might burn yourselves, by playing with fire ; or cut your fingers, by playing with knives ; or might swallow pins, in putting them into your mouth. Thus, you see you might often lame or kill yourselves, if your good mamma or papa did not guard most of your actions. Do not suppose, my dear children, that I wish to prevent your playing and taking proper exercise. On the contrary, I am very much amused by your games, though they are sometimes noisy; and I admire your harmless mirth. I wish you to be gay and to amuse yourselves at proper times ; but you should never be rash or disobedient. You can play very well without climbing up to the window, on the furniture, or other improper places. If you see guns, pistols, or other dangerous weapons, you should never touch them, as you may always find play-things more agreeable, and free from danger. Why should you play with a knife or with the fire? and why put things into your mouth, at the risk of poisoning yourselves? These things are forbidden you; and yet your amusement is the wish of your parents. They desire only to see you happy, and guard you against accidents which your own discretion would not avoid. If you are good children, you will pay attention to the advice of your friends, and receive it as a proof of their love.

The book is housed at the Internet Archive, contributed by the California Digital Library.

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