Mrs. Mortimer

I was curious to see how many members of LibraryThing have a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus. Apparently, there are 76 of us, all sharing a taste for this decidedly odd book. That got me thinking about weird and wonderful books, and I saw that LibraryThing members have been discussing some of the examples in their libraries. That led me to discover the Victorian authoress Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer. She was a devout woman who wrote improving tales for children. To most modern sensibilities, they are outlandish in the extreme. If you thought that Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter was hardhitting, then how about this little extract from Mrs. Mortimer’s Peep of Day:
How kind of God it was to give you a body! I hope that your body will not get hurt. Will your bones break? Yes, they would, if you were to fall down from a high place, or if a cart were to go over them. If you were to be very sick, your flesh would waste away, and you would have scarcely anything left but skin and bones. … How easy it would be to hurt your poor little body. If it were to fall in the fire, it would be burned up. If hot water were to fall upon it, it would be scalded. If it were to fall into deep water, and not to be taken out very soon, it would be drowned. If a great knife were to run through your body, the blood would come out. If a great box were to fall on your head, your head would be crushed. If you were to fall out of the window, your neck would be broken. If you were not to eat some food for a few days, your little body would be very sick, your pulse and your breath would stop, and you would grow cold, and you would soon be dead. … Kneel down and say to God, ‘Pray, keep my poor little body from getting hurt.’ God will hear you, and go on taking care of you.
Not for the fainthearted, obviously. I note that Peep of Day is still available. At first I thought it was still being published as a curiousity, rather like Struwwelpeter, but then I found that Grace and Truth Books ("Character Building Books for the Family") describe it as a "family devotional guide". Clearly for evangelical versions of the Addams Family.
If you’d like to get a full flavour of the madness of Mrs. Mortimer, then I refer you to the Project Gutenberg’s publication of Far Off. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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