Unintelligible fables for unnaturally sagacious children

Unintelligible fables for unnaturally sagacious children

Entertaining instructions : in a series of familiar dialogues between a parent and his children : interspersed with original fables well adapted to the capacities of youth. London: Printed for J. Hatchard, Bookseller to Her Majesty, No. 190, opposite Albany House, Piccadilly, London, 1805. iv, 150, [2] pages of publishers’ advertisements: illustrations ; 17 cm. Bound in original boards, with leather spine stamped in gilt, wear to head and heel of spine and points. Lacks free endpapers but collation otherwise complete.

A collection of fables and dialogues between a father and his two children, Camillus and Louisa. The book was published anonymously, but a contemporary notice attributes it to a female author. “We have heard the name of a Lady of Distinction mentioned as the writer of these dialogues: but we do not feel at liberty to make it public.”

One reviewer complained that the stories were too abstract to make sense without the didactic exchanges:

[I]n the greater part of the fables, though Master Camillus is made to say “I understand it so well,” it would puzzle a much older head than his, or his father’s, to discover the moral. The previous dialogues, therefore, are essentially necessary to render them intelligible to common understandings, which are not endowed with the pre-eminent sagacity of Master Camillus and Miss Louisa”

Regrettably, the dialogues are excessively turgid and unnatural:

Sir W. T. Well, Camillus, how do you find yourself this morning after our conversation of yesterday?

Camillus. Indeed, my mind, I am sure, is much the better for it, as the fable which you read to me made me think all the time I as going through the shrubbery, what should I do without you to help me, as the Laurel did the poor honeysuckle, when it found how weak it was in the storm.

Sir W. T. Your reflection, my boy, is very just; and as long as you will depend upon my assistance in all the storms of life, as well as the sunshine (which you may find will dazzle and blind you for a time), you may be sure of my utmost efforts to be of use to you.

Fortunately, the 22 charming woodcuts that illustrate this small volume compensate for the defects of the writing.

An uncommon volume. In addition to the example in the Osborne Collection (p. 885), OCLC records only five copies: University of Washington, UCLA, University of Manchester, V&A, Bodleian.


  • Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine 20 (1805): 188 
  • Monthly Review LII (1807): 321

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