London: Macmillan, 1881. First edition. Finely bound by J & JP Edmond & Spark of Aberdeen for S. Drostane's College. Full calf with gilt to spine and college crest in gilt to front board. All edges and endpapers marbled. Small bump to crown of spine; occasional light foxing largely confined to margins. Presentation inscription to front blank: "S. Drostane's College. John Patrick Cash, Prize for Writing -- Third Form. Midsummer 1887. Presented by Major Cash, Strathpeffer." A charming copy of this scarce book of poetry by a leading women's activist, it is the only first edition on the market and is held by only 10 institutions in the U.S. according to OCLC.
A surreptitiously activist selection of poems designed for children by activist Dinah Mulock Craik. "Although she had the training to become a governess, she turned to writing as a profession. Her earliest work was in genres that could be quickly written and sold...consolidating Dinah Mulock's reputation as a popular writer who delineated complex emotional states with unusual power and understanding" (ODNB). Here, she draws on her educational background to present juvenile readers with a mixture of fanciful poems, throughout which she interweaves work on social justice. On the surface, the presence of titles like Violets, Young Dandelion, and The Midsummer Fairy suggest that the collection will be a run-of-the-mill batch of lyrics for the young. Every so often, however, a poem will jar the reader by bringing up serious subjects. The Young Governess, for example, draws attention to how family poverty can force young girls -- still children themselves -- into the workforce. "I mean to be a governess And earn my daily bread; For we have many mouths to feed -- And oh! They must be fed...Though I am but just fourteen, I'm big and stout and tall, And I can learn my lessons best, They say among us all." Other poems, like Our Black Brother on Board an English Ship, push children to see the injustices of racism and slavery, to find human commonality, and even to question the methods by which they're taught to assume superiority. "Bring him forward, to the light, Our black brother -- Knock his chains off, horrid sight!...His poor mother Thought him as he walked or ran, All that's beautiful in man." A scarce and important piece of educational activism, presented as a prize in a Scottish schoolroom. Near Fine (Item #3025)