Home  »  Volume XI: English THE PERIOD OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION  »  § 7. Watts’s Divine Songs

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

XVI. Children’s Books

§ 7. Watts’s Divine Songs

By Bunyan stands a lesser man but a more skilled artificer—Isaac Watts. His Divine Songs have already been treated. They are quoted every day, and usually misquoted. Some of them—three or four, at most, it may be; but that is an honourable percentage—will resound through nurseries for generations yet to come: the rest are dead, slain by time. For their epoch, they were not far from perfection, as publishers saw. They were reprinted endlessly for far more than a century. Mrs. Trimmer, in 1789, gave them renewed vogue by a Comment setting forth their virtues and elaborating their doctrinal teaching. Another writer adapted their theology to unitarian beliefs. They were at once carried off into the literary Alsatia of the chapbook. A kind of imitation appeared in 1751, Puerilia, by John Marchant, “Songs for Little Misses, Songs for Little Masters, Songs on Divine, Moral and other Subjects.” They had a certain spirit, but did not strike the imagination of the day: only two editions were issued.