My latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World discusses 'Cautionary Tales' for children. When Jane was a little girl, many moralistic tales were available to help set children's feet on the right path in life.
Stories like these were parodied in some of Jane Austen's juvenilia, such as Love and Freindship.
One of Jane's favourite stories was the History of Little Goody Two-Shoes. Anne Fisher's Pleasing Instructor or entertaining moralist (c.1756) was another extremely popular work.
Children’s literature was an area of publishing where women authors like Mary Wollstonecraft, Mrs Barbauld, and Mme de Genlis increasingly gained acceptance.
In Emma, the eponymous heroine says that Mrs Weston’s new little girl will be “educated on a more perfect plan” like Adelaide in de Genlis’ story Adelaide and Theodore.
Of course, Austen's mature fiction, like Mansfield Park, also includes some cautionary tales for her readers.
Title Page of Anne Fisher, The Pleasing Instructor or Entertaining Moralist, T. Fisher, c.1780. Author’s collection.