London: The Religious Tract Society, . First edition. Original publisher's cloth stamped in gilt and blind. Yellow endpapers. Measuring 140 x 90mm and collating complete including frontis: viii, 279, [1, blank]. Early pencil ownership signature "R. N--- Osborne" in pencil to front endpaper. Small binder's ticket to rear pastedown. Spine slightly toned and a trifle cocked; gentle rubbing to spine ends and corners. Front hinge tender but holding. Internally fresh, unmarked, and illustrated throughout. The only example currently on the market, OCLC reports only four copies in libraries.
A pocket-sized guide to children's science education, the present text participates in a larger trend of women learning about natural history alongside the children they teach by using dialogue-driven texts. Here, a Mrs. Heywood returns home to her father's parish after having been widowed; and as she seeks to occupy her grieving children, she takes them on walks in the countryside, teaching them elementary lessons in biology, geology, botany and other fields using the land, plants, and animals they observe. Preceded by the works of Jane Marcet and Maria Elizabeth Jackson, and contemporary to those of Mary Roberts, the author E. B. stands out for two notable reasons. The first -- that Mrs. Heywood, rather than being a generic avatar of motherhood onto whom readers can project themselves, has a backstory of her own. Happily married only a few years before, her husband is not her first major loss. "Out of the lovely group of seven children, of which she had been the happy mother, three only were surviving." Like so many of her readers, Mrs. Heywood has experienced maternal loss as well. The narration of its effects upon her stir the emotions, urging the reader to connect with her on a more personal level. And this is what, the author hopes, will aid in the book's other goal and its second notable quality -- unlike the other books by citizen scientists, this one attempts to balance observable scientific fact with religious belief. "The early removal of her other children had given , if that were possible, a deeper earnestness to Mrs. Heywood's one desire for those still spared to her, that they should be trained up in the fear and love of God." Lessons always incorporate both methods of viewing the world, but surprisingly never to the detriment of scientific accuracy. For example in a conversation regarding weather patterns and cloud classifications, Ernest notes that one cloud looks like a figure and asks "mamma, do you think that is really an angel's mantel?" To which Mrs. Heywood responds, "No Ernest, that is only a poet's fancy. But I do think beautiful things which we see either in the sky or on earth can help us understand what we shall see in heaven." From here, she continues to discuss Linnean Cirrus clouds.
Published two years before Darwin's Origin of Species would stir English readers' fascinations with and anxieties about the influence of science on human development, a woman writer drew of the feminine tradition of education to suggest that spirituality should never obfuscate the truth or withhold scientific fact. (Item #5238)