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Secret Gardens: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

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Studies children's literature authors, identifies common sources of inspiration, and explores those aspects of their culture that prompted them to artistically make childish sense of the grown-up world. Studies children's literature authors, identifies common sources of inspiration, and explores those aspects of their culture that prompted them to artistically make childish sense of the grown-up world.


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Studies children's literature authors, identifies common sources of inspiration, and explores those aspects of their culture that prompted them to artistically make childish sense of the grown-up world. Studies children's literature authors, identifies common sources of inspiration, and explores those aspects of their culture that prompted them to artistically make childish sense of the grown-up world.

30 review for Secret Gardens: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    This was a tough book to stay excited about. The author is very intelligent and knowledgeable but tended to allow his (seemingly) latent cynicism to overpower the narrative too frequently. This was a nice introduction to the authors of England’s renaissance of children’s literature and their most famous works. I couldn’t get past the overall gloom of the author, however, especially when he tried to portray the ultimate successes and epiphanies of the writers. Ultimately, this book would be best- This was a tough book to stay excited about. The author is very intelligent and knowledgeable but tended to allow his (seemingly) latent cynicism to overpower the narrative too frequently. This was a nice introduction to the authors of England’s renaissance of children’s literature and their most famous works. I couldn’t get past the overall gloom of the author, however, especially when he tried to portray the ultimate successes and epiphanies of the writers. Ultimately, this book would be best-served as a starting point for academic discussion of Victorian (or pre World War I) children’s lit.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    I'm having a difficult time deciding how to rate this book. Some parts seemed accurate, some not so accurate, and others I knew nothing about before hand, and I couldn't decide whether they were ridiculously inaccurate or ridiculously accurate. All of it was fun to read: I enjoy literary criticism because it gives me the perspective of someone who hopefully knows more on the subject than I. This includes mini biographies and short criticisms of the following Golden Age authors: Charles Kingsley, I'm having a difficult time deciding how to rate this book. Some parts seemed accurate, some not so accurate, and others I knew nothing about before hand, and I couldn't decide whether they were ridiculously inaccurate or ridiculously accurate. All of it was fun to read: I enjoy literary criticism because it gives me the perspective of someone who hopefully knows more on the subject than I. This includes mini biographies and short criticisms of the following Golden Age authors: Charles Kingsley, C. L. Dodgson, George MacDonald, Louisa Alcott, Richard Jefferies, Kenneth Grahame, E. Nesbit, Beatrix Potter, J. M. Barrie, and A. A. Milne. Many other authors are mentioned briefly, but these are the ones around which the book revolves. Humphrey Carpenter views the first four authors on the above list as "destroyers." They paved the way for the Golden Age authors by destroying previous notions about literature (children's literature, in particular). Basically, they began the movement but did not fully realize it. The remaining six authors were "creators." Most interesting to me was seeing how these authors are similar, and what the common thread is that connects their works. I do think some of Carpenter's opinions are a bit hasty and unjust --- including his opinions of George MacDonald. He doesn't comprehend MacDonald AT ALL, and that's all there is to say on the subject. I'm just afraid Carpenter also misunderstands some of the other authors, and I may never give them a fair chance because I read Carpenter's book before reading any of their books (those authors would be Charles Kingsley, Richard Jefferies, and J. M Barrie: I do intend to read The Water Babies and the Peter Pan books, but Richard Jefferies style would almost certainly NOT suit me, and I'll probably avoid his books.) I was also interested in his suggestions that the Alice books are an outright mockery of God, that C. L. Dodgson had an unwholesome infatuation with beautiful young girls (as George MacDonald perhaps did too, according to him), and that MacDonald had a sadistic streak ( Of him, Carpenter says: "At times, indeed, he bears a resemblance to one of his wife's aunt's, of whom it was said that 'she could never lie comfortably in bed if she might not believe in hellfire and everlasting pains.'" That is irrefutable evidence that Carpenter knew nothing about MacDonald.). It was all extremely entertaining, and I scarcely believed a word of it. Even though I don't agree with Humphrey Carpenter on many points (and the bit on Charles Kingsley and his wife Fannie was beyond what I'm comfortable reading about), this was entertaining and served as a reminder of some books I need to read!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The author’s examination of these children’s books and their authors does not seem to suggest anything “Golden.” Lots of dirt, much innuendo or speculation about sex, and loads of anti-Christian explanation of what stories *really* meant on display here. But I suppose a subtitle of “The Murk, the Muck, the Icky of Children’s Literature from 1890 to 1930” might not have drawn many hopeful readers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Latham

    I've had a second-hand copy of this book for ages but only just got around to reading it. It's well-written, as you'd expect from Humphrey Carpenter, and fascinating. Don't read it if knowing the peccadilloes of your favourite children's author is likely to put you off... I've had a second-hand copy of this book for ages but only just got around to reading it. It's well-written, as you'd expect from Humphrey Carpenter, and fascinating. Don't read it if knowing the peccadilloes of your favourite children's author is likely to put you off...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Delightful if uneven. This was published 30 years ago, soon after (perhaps inspired by) his "Oxford companion to children's literature" (compiled with his wife Mati Prichard). The "golden age" is roughly 1860-1930, and the common motif linking the chapters, which are a mixture of biography and literary criticism, is the "other world" which occurs often in the classics of children's literature - the secret garden, the enchanted places, Never Never Land, etc. - all Arcadias of one sort or another. Delightful if uneven. This was published 30 years ago, soon after (perhaps inspired by) his "Oxford companion to children's literature" (compiled with his wife Mati Prichard). The "golden age" is roughly 1860-1930, and the common motif linking the chapters, which are a mixture of biography and literary criticism, is the "other world" which occurs often in the classics of children's literature - the secret garden, the enchanted places, Never Never Land, etc. - all Arcadias of one sort or another. He touches on what went before and a little on what came after, but the main interest is the period mentioned (I did feel that some of the authors, important as they were, did not quite fit easily into the "Arcadia" theme - the ones whose world is more realistic, if idealised, such as Louisa Alcott). There are some interesting and in some cases startling insights into the lives of some of the authors (why were they so odd, especially the men?) His favourite of all seems to be "The wind in the willows". I am not sure I can follow him down every path (e.g. with some of the religious interpretations) but there is much insight here, as one would expect from this author.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily Polson

    -did not read whole book, just consulted introduction and one chapter for research.- I must say I don't think it's worth reading this whole novel. The author takes a decided and presumptuous bias regarding J. M. Barrie, accusing him of manipulating everyone he knew, using the people he knew for the sole purpose of being able to write about them, and Carpenter even goes so far as to call Peter Pan a new "religion" Barrie invented. Also, the facts are false in several occasions. He says that Peter c -did not read whole book, just consulted introduction and one chapter for research.- I must say I don't think it's worth reading this whole novel. The author takes a decided and presumptuous bias regarding J. M. Barrie, accusing him of manipulating everyone he knew, using the people he knew for the sole purpose of being able to write about them, and Carpenter even goes so far as to call Peter Pan a new "religion" Barrie invented. Also, the facts are false in several occasions. He says that Peter can bring people back from the dead, using Wendy shot by an arrow as his example...Wendy didn't die from this; the basis of his argument is thus wholly false. This is one of several large and presumptuous errors in this one chapter alone. I was repeatedly disgusted with how horribly unfair Carpenter was to Barrie. I have no desire to read any more in this book as one chapter alone of Carpenter's unprofessional tone and extreme bias make me doubt the value of this work as a whole. I was disgusted.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Overbey

    I also didn't read the whole book due to time constraints. I read the introduction, conclusion, and a couple chapters here and there. I do plan on returning to it for my honors thesis next fall. It was written really well and answered questions that I had been lingering on for quite some time. I really enjoyed it! I also didn't read the whole book due to time constraints. I read the introduction, conclusion, and a couple chapters here and there. I do plan on returning to it for my honors thesis next fall. It was written really well and answered questions that I had been lingering on for quite some time. I really enjoyed it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Juli Anna

    Insightful and engaging look at the writers and works from around the turn of the twentieth century that created children's literature as we know it. Part biography, part literary analysis, this book is a page-turner despite its being nonfiction. Highly enjoyable--books discussed include the Alice books, Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, The Beatrix Potter tales, and more. Insightful and engaging look at the writers and works from around the turn of the twentieth century that created children's literature as we know it. Part biography, part literary analysis, this book is a page-turner despite its being nonfiction. Highly enjoyable--books discussed include the Alice books, Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, The Beatrix Potter tales, and more.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A good treatment of English children's literature. As with any such treatment, each reader will be disappointed with the omission of some favorite work. Carpenter takes a Freudian angle at most of these works (and certainly the sex lives of some of the authors do seem to demand this), which can be tedious and also leaves out important elements in the structure of the stories. A good treatment of English children's literature. As with any such treatment, each reader will be disappointed with the omission of some favorite work. Carpenter takes a Freudian angle at most of these works (and certainly the sex lives of some of the authors do seem to demand this), which can be tedious and also leaves out important elements in the structure of the stories.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mumbler

    Eeeh, I gotta look at this to see if I've read it. Eeeh, I gotta look at this to see if I've read it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides

    I didn't read the whole thing, but I liked the biographical sketches more than I liked the lit crit in the parts I read. The selection of photographs and illustrations was very nice. I didn't read the whole thing, but I liked the biographical sketches more than I liked the lit crit in the parts I read. The selection of photographs and illustrations was very nice.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Francesca

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kay

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sue Bridgwater

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cazzie

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hank Hoeft

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Sarah

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I had high expectations for this one. I think the title is kind of misleading a bit.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten (lush.lit.life)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  25. 5 out of 5

    [辟邪]

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amy Quigley

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lee

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kim

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allie Farrell

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