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Delight in Friendship: The Proprieties of Affection in Early British Children’s Literature

Children Playing 500x250

Jean-Baptiste Joseph Pater (French, Valenciennes 1695–1736 Paris), The Golden Age. Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982.

Date: Wednesday 12 February 2014
Time: 6.00 - 7.00pm
Webb Lecture Theatre, Geology and Geography Building, The University of Western Australia.
Pam Bond
Presenter: Professor Matthew Grenby, Newcastle University, UK

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Friendship, unsurprisingly, features prominently in children’s literature, perhaps most particularly in the school stories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the eighteenth century, however, the period when children’s literature was first becoming established as a separate sector of print culture, the question of friendship was more vexed. ‘Love and Affection … will naturally lead you to delight in Friendship’, writes one mid eighteenth-century author to her young readers. But, she goes on to warn, ‘Delight in Friendship may lead you into all manner of Errors’. This paper will consider the place and proprieties of friendship in early British children’s books and ask why, to many authors, friendship was a perilous exercise that brought more harm than good both to the individual and society.