Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Courthope Bowen, H. A Descriptive Catalogue of Historical Novels and Tales. For the Use of School Libraries and Teachers of History (1882)

Courthope Bowen, H. A Descriptive Catalogue of Historical Novels and Tales. For the Use of School Libraries and Teachers of History. London: Edward Stanford, 1882.
H. Courthope Brown was a former headmaster who later lectured on the theory of education at Cambridge. Brown had already produced resources such as Studies in English, prose and poetry (1876), Simple English Poems (1879) and a student edition of Macaulay's Lord Clive and would later produce English Literature Teaching in Schools: Two Lectures with Examples (1891) amongst other similar works aimed at educational reform.

A Descriptive Catalogue of Historical Novels and Tales For the Use of School Libraries and Teachers of History was published in 1882.

“As nothing teaches, so nothing delights, more than history.” - Locke

My object, in drawing up the following list of “Historical Novels,” has been two-fold. In the first place, I hope that it may serve as a useful catalogue for those who have the charge of School Libraries. In the second place, I have tried to provide what seems to me a valuable aid to the School Teacher of History. I am sure – I speak from experience – that he or she will find the History-work of the school considerable freshened and enlivened, if, when treating any period, care be taken that the pupils shall know what are the best novels which relate to that period, and be encouraged to read them. The little harm which the fancy and invention of the writer may do will be amply compensated by the interest which is sure to be gained. Moreover, to paraphrase the words of Jean Paul, “it is not the intention of so sportive an instruction as this to absolve the pupil from the necessity for real exertion; but rather it is hoped that thereby a passion may be awakened in him, which shall not only facilitate, but shall eve necessitate, the strongest exertion on his part.”

                It has not always been easy to decide whether a book shall be admitted as an Historical Novel or not. There is an immense variety of tales and romances, ranging from mere sketches of domestic life at certain periods, such as Miss Austen’s works, to elaborate treatises on public events, such as Bulwer’s “Harold,” or Kingsley’s “Hypatia,” and I may not have always been consistent in drawing the line, though I have tried to be so. There are novels, too, in which historical characters indeed appear, but only as phantoms, never emerging from the back-ground, and never doing anything historically characteristic; while again, in many, the facts are so distorted, and the period so misunderstood, or so vaguely sketched, that they do not seem likely to be of much use for my second purpose. These strictures may, I am afraid, apply to a great many of the novels I have included; but when this has been discovered to be the case, the offenders will be excluded from future editions.

                I am indebted for nearly all the names under the heading of the “United States,” and for about a fifth of the others, to the admirable catalogue of Mr Justin Winder, formerly head of the Boston Public Library. The only edition of this catalogue which I have seen, however, bears a date five years old, and contains an immense number of names quite unsuited to my purpose; while I trust that my list is fairly complete down to January 1882.

                In conclusion, while thanking the fifty publishers who very kindly sent me their catalogues, let me say that I have no myself read even half the books whose names I give; but that I trust they will be found, in various degrees, suitable to boys and girls of different ages. Teachers and schoolmasters must exercise their own knowledge and discretion in the selection of the best

H. Courthope Bowen

May, 1882

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