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date: 13 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Countering the conventional instruction-to-delight narrative given to chart the evolution of verse for children in the eighteenth century, we argue that children were immersed in verse. By recovering what had been dismissed as didactic and situating it not in opposition to the comic but rather within a spectrum we show children’s everyday experiences with verse at home, at school, at play, and in church. Children, we explain: played with verse (flap-books and puzzles); sang verse (street cries and ballads); acquired literacy by learning to read through rhyming alphabets and to practice handwriting by copying out famous poems; cultivated religion in verse (John Bunyan’s Country Rimes, Isaac Watts’s Divine Songs, and Mrs. Barbauld’s Hymns in Prose); trained the memory reciting everything from accumulative rhymes to plays written especially for them; and learned to take a political stand by reading anti-slavery poems in anthologies such as Lucy Aikin’s Poetry for Children.

Keywords: poetry, children, didacticism, literacy, education, religion

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