The recent tradition on World Book Day (1st March) is for schoolchildren to dress as characters from their favourite books. Whilst the Cathedral’s Library and Archive does have an extraordinary range of texts and characters, Ellie Jones – Cathedral Archivist, has picked a more educational volume from the shelves to share:
“A plain and short history of England, for children; in letters from a father to his son, with a set of questions at the end of each letter”
(London: Francis & John Rivington, 1850).
It’s quite charming. Written by George Davys – one-time tutor of the future Queen Victoria, and Bishop of Peterborough from 1839–1864 – it is a sort of abstraction and commentary on ‘History of England’ first published in Cottager’s Monthly Visitor.
The bishop wrote a series of letters to his son, simplifying the history and then setting questions at the end of the letter. In the first letter he begins with explaining that Great Britain is an island, then talks about the Romans and Saxons, including the arrival of Christianity in England, letter ii talks about the Norman Conquest, then each letter proceeds generally chronologically, mostly taking the ruling monarchs as the focus, and ending with George III. Letter I ends “P.S. Pray don’t read over this little history in a hurried manner, but consider it well as you go along. And that you may remember it the better, I shall generally put a few questions at the end of my letters; and you must get somebody to ask you these questions, to see whether you can give the proper answers to them. In looking at a map, remember that the top is the north, the bottom south, the right hand east, and the left hand west.”