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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XIII. The Growth of the Later Novel

§ 13. Tales for the Young

Still, there are some, who, whether in gratitude for benefits bestowed upon their first childhood or because of the approach of their second, regard the third division of Maria Edgeworth’s work not merely with most affection but with most positive and critical admiration. The supremest “grace of congruity” which has been granted to the Irish books and passages must, indeed, again be denied to this third group, at least as universally present. No schoolboys, and certainly no Eton schoolboys, ever talked like the personages of Eton Montem; and the personal crotchets of her father and the general crotchets of his school too frequently appear. One is sometimes reminded of the bad, though oftener of the good, side of Edgeworth’s friend Day in dealing with similar subjects. But, the fact remains that, in The Parent’s Assistant (1796–1801) and Early Lessons (1801), in Moral Tales (1801) and Popular Tales (1804), Frank (1822) and Harry and Lucy (1825), real children, save for a few touches in Shakespeare and still fewer elsewhere, first appear—not “the little misses” and “little masters” of her own earlier times, but children, authentic, independent of fashion and alive. It is not in the least necessary to be a child-worshipper in order to see this: it is only necessary to be what, perhaps, is not so common, a person who has eyes. Rosamund, whose charm may, possibly, be enhanced by the contrast of her very detestable mamma; Frederick, in The Mimic; Frank himself, in not a few of his appearances, both earlier and later, not to mention many others, are examples of that strange power of fiction in reconciling, and more than reconciling, us to what might be tedious in fact. You might, in real life, after a short time, at any rate, wish that their nurses would fetch them—on paper, they are a joy for ever. While, as for strict narrative faculty, the lady who could write both Simple Susan and l’Amie Inconnue, with the unmawkish simplicity of the first and the unmannerised satire of the second, had it as it has been possessed by very few indeed of her class.