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GODWIN, Mary Jane.

Dramas for Children.

Imitated from the French of L. F. Jauffret, by the Editor of Tabart's Popular Stories.

London: For M. J. Godwin, at the Juvenile Library, 1809 Stock Code: 135586
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A rare survival of Mary Jane Godwin's educational plays

First edition of these educational plays by Mary Jane Godwin (1768-1841), Mary Shelley's stepmother.

Although published anonymously and generally attributed to William Godwin, Dramas for Children was in fact written by Mary Jane Clairmont who, before marrying Godwin, had worked as editor for Benjamin Tabart, publisher and bookseller of the Juvenile Library in New Bond Street. She thus brought her expertise and experience to the Godwins' own rival Juvenile Library, begun in 1805. By that time, the couple had, between them, five young children at home. William, who was actively taking part in their education, making "no difference between children male and female" (Grenby), was particularly involved in helping Mary Jane's son, Charles Clairmont, through his learning difficulties. Driven by his construct of children "as apprentice adults, and therefore in need of cultivating both reason and imagination, thought and feeling, heart and mind" (Paul, p. 145), William Godwin's endeavour was to ensure that book and child were matched, for, as he explained in a letter to his wife, "a book read when it is desired is worth fifty of a book forced on the reader without seasons & occasions" (ibid.).

Louis-François Jauffret (1770-1840) was a French pedagogue, poet, and fabulist. He was the founder of the Société des Observateurs de l'Homme, thought to be the cradle of French anthropology. Among others, Jean Itard's memoir Victor de l'Aveyron, l'enfant sauvage, considered by some the first documented case of autism, was read and discussed at the Société upon publication in 1801. A successful published author, advocate of knowledge, and insatiable student of life, Jauffret found his purpose as a popularizer of sciences, and educator of youth - much like the Godwins.

With a contemporary prize inscription to the front free endpaper, "for application in English Lesson in the 3rd class obtained by Margaret Martineau, 19th June 1809". The school is not named, and would perhaps have been a nonconformist school, much like the one briefly run by Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green.

A rare survival: Library Hub lists one copy only in the UK (BL), five in the US and Canada, and one in Australia.

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Duodecimo (155 x 90 mm). Contemporary marbled boards, somewhat crudely rebacked in late 19th-century green cloth.


Engraved frontispiece by Charles Knight, dated 25 Oct. 1808; 3 pp. of publisher's advertisement at end.


Cocked, some wear to extremities, boards rubbed, slightly shaken, light foxing to last few pages; else a clean copy.


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