“Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast”
This introduction proposes that Golden Age children’s authors and members of the cult of the child were at best ambivalent and often hostile to the growing cultural pressure to conceive of children as a separate species from adults. Rather than wholeheartedly embracing the “Child of Nature” paradigm, figures such as Lewis Carroll and Kenneth Grahame conceived of children as socially saturated, highly acculturated beings—and, unlike Dickens and other chroniclers of childhood writing primarily for adults, these and other children’s authors refused to assume that precocious exposure to the civilized world would doom the child to a depressing fate. Contemporary reviews of Golden Age children’s classics and 19th-century discourse about the cult of the child reveal that Golden Age commentators recognized this: ironically, the two groups most strongly faulted by recent critics for portraying childhood as a static, remote, and idealized state—children’s authors and members of the cult—were censured in their own time for failing to promote a Romantic ideal of primitive simplicity.
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