This large section of the period’s output has of late been much researched; but two broad statements made by experts in the field need taking with a pinch of salt. One is that most of these books are not ‘literature’, only interesting social documents. The average standard of writing was in fact quite high, perhaps because the authors felt obliged to express themselves briefly and simply. They showed, as a class, no less imagination than contemporary poets or novelists, and were often more skilled at manipulating their readers’ emotions. Their observation of adult as well as juvenile behaviour was generally acute, and their criticism of life was not necessarily superficial or immature. Children’s literature developed during the nineteenth century from books intended simply to entertain the young.
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