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The Accidents of Youth: Consisting of Short…
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The Accidents of Youth: Consisting of Short Histories Calculated to…

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This ridiculous collection of stories was meant for schoolteachers to read to children in order to scare them away from specific varieties of misbehavior. Some of the stories are believable, but a lot of them are simply humorous.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I recommend it for a look at the morbidity and seriousness of 19th century schoolteachers.

What happens when a child climbs a tree? Of course he (always he) falls out and dies. What happens if a child walks by the river bank? It collapses and the child drowns.

One little girl got her head stuck in the railing of a staircase, but she luckily ended up with no greater injury than a scratch on her ear. But this story reminded the author of a little boy who climbed onto a staircase railing and thus fell to his death.

One sad child who "was frequently beaten by the neighbors, but not sufficiently", throws a rock at a flock of birds and accidentally kills his own mother. His father, who was coming towards him, repulses in horror, because "he would not permit so unworthy a child to approach him."

There is also a boy who was deliberately frightened by his friends and as an immediate result caught epilepsy.

A little girl runs with "sciccars", and of course she "ran the points into the eye of one of her companions. She was very sorry indeed; but that did not remedy the accident".

In another case a child who was climbing the kitchen furnishings was discovered hanging from a high shelf. The boy's father "took him down, and then flogged him well."

The book does occasionally give good advice. It presumes that catching on fire is not an unusual problem, or one that can necessarily be avoided through moral attention. As a result, fire management advice is provided. "This remark may be useful to you: -if your hair or dress should catch fire, instead of crying out, without endeavoring to remove the danger, make haste and smother the flame with the first thing that you find."

Some of the book's well-meaning advice is itself rather nutty. For instance, it absolutely forbids exposing yourself to wind or drinking cold water after exercise. "If you drink too soon, you will check the perspiration, and bring on an illness that may end in death." Another example is this, "Take care, then, my dear children, never to go near a well, or a window, for both are dangerous."

This book is in the public domain, and is available in scanned form at the Public Domain Review or in text at Archive.org. ( )
  wishanem | Oct 16, 2013 |
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