'this is all a fairy tale...and, therefore, you are not to believe a word of it, even if it is true'
The Water-Babies (1863) is one of the strangest and most powerful children's stories ever written.
In describing the underwater adventures of Tom, a chimney-sweeper's boy who is transformed into a water-baby after he drowns, Charles Kingsley combined comic fantasy and moral fable to extraordinary effect. Tom's encounters with friendly fish, curious lobsters, and characters such as Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby are both an exciting fairy tale and a crash course in evolutionary theory. They also reflect the quirky imagination of one of the great Victorian eccentrics. Tom's adventures are constantly interrupted by Kingsley's sideswipes at contemporary issues such as child labor, and they offer a rich satiric take on the great scientific debates of the day.
This edition reprints the original complete version of the story, and includes a lively introduction, detailed explanatory notes, and an appendix that reprints Kingsley's first attempt to describe the mysterious creatures that live under the sea.
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About the Author
Charles Kingsley was a clergyman, professor, historian, and writer who lived during the 19th century, and was known most prominiently for writing children's literature.
Brian Alderson has long been involved in the study of children's literature as editor, translator, lecturer, and exhibitions organizer. He takes a particular interest in bibliographic aspects, especially those related to the history of British and American publishing and illustration.
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is the author of Becoming Dickens (Harvard UP, 2011), winner of the 2011 Duff Cooper Prize, and he has edited editions of Dickens's Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books and Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor for Oxford World's Classics. He writes regularly for publications including the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, TLS, and New Statesman.
Table of ContentsAcknowledgements Introduction Charles Kingsley: A Brief Chronology A Note on the Text
Appendix A: William Blake, “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (1789, 1794)
Appendix B: Matthew Arnold, “The Forsaken Merman” from The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems (1849)
Appendix C: From Heinrich Hoffman, Struwwelpeter (1845)
Appendix D: From Lewis Carroll, “The Mock-Turtle’s Story” in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Appendix E: From Margaret Gatty, “Whereunto?” Parables From Nature (1861)
Appendix F: From Maria Susanna Cummins, The Lamplighter (1854)
Appendix G: From Samuel G. Goodrich, Peter Parley’s Method of Telling About Geography to Children (1831)
Appendix H: Reflections of Charles Kingsley on Nature and Sanitation
- From Charles Kingsley, Glaucus; or,The Wonders of the Shore (1855)
- From Charles Kingsley, Madame How and Lady Why or, First Lessons in Earth Lore for Children (1870)
- From Charles Kingsley, “Air-Mothers,” in Sanitary and Social Lectures and Essays (1880)
- From Letter XII
Appendix I: Joseph Noel Paton’s Illustrations for the First Edition of The Water-Babies (1863)
Appendix J: Reviews of The Water-Babies
- The Anthropological Review (November 1863)
- New York Times (25 December 1863)
- The Times (26 January 1864)
- The Times (12 December 1885)