I recently got hold of a “Commonplace Book” which dates from 1859. Commonplace books have been a feature of home life since at least the 1600s. Most often women—though not exclusively women—would compile various poems, drawings, or copy out “advice columns” from books and newspapers into these books for keeping later on.
It would have fallen to the lot of a poorly paid Victorian governess to practice playing Robin Hood with children in the nursery.
The British people and the American people did not always like each other. The Americans had broken away from the empire in 1783 and relations remained frosty for over a century. But in the late Victorian era, British writers’ feelings about Americans began to change.
Did film completely destroy the market for Robin Hood books? Perhaps not as quickly as we might think.
“I had four blak arrows under my belt, Four for the greefs that I have felt, Four for the number of ill menne, That have opressid me now and then.”
During the late-Victorian and Edwardian period many children’s books telling the story of Robin Hood were published, such as John B. Marsh’s Robin Hood (1865), Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883), Henry Gilbert’s Robin Hood and the Men of the Greenwood (1912), and Paul Creswick’s Robin Hood and his Adventures (1917). Stephanie Barczewski argues that Robin Hood in late Victorian children’s books is an anti-imperialist figure, and she bases this assertion largely upon the fact that Robin Hood children’s books are critical of Richard I’s foreign adventures. Yet the situation was more nuanced than that: many of the late Victorian Robin Hood children’s works that were published in the period projected Robin Hood and his fellow outlaws as men who lived up to the Public School Ethos, cultivating the virtues of athleticism, fair play, chivalry, and devotion to duty. Indeed, Edward Gilliatt’s novel In Lincoln Green (1898) is even set in a very ‘Victorianised’ medieval public school. Thus these works represented the ideal qualities that young men would need if they were to serve the country, and thus, as the proposed paper argues, were subtly imperialist.
The writers of biographical and fictional works in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries sought to instil these values into young people’s minds. These were the values of what is known as the public school ethos. This post shall examine the ways in which the values of the public school ethos were imparted to readers within such literature.