Contents Index

fairy tale

Although Charles Perrault (1628-1703) is firmly a citizen of the seventeenth century, his Contes des fees, popularly known as Mother Goose Stories, had by late in the eighteenth century become staples of children's literature and had prompted many imitations. William Lane of the Minerva Press in London, publisher of numerous fictional pot-boilers, for instance, also brought out two-volume sets of fairy tales in 1788 and 1794. Closer to home, Mary Shelley's father, William Godwin, under his psuedonym of Edward Baldwin, in 1805 published a set of Fables Ancient and Modern for very young children that went through numerous editions; and the Juvenile Library, which he ran with his second wife Mary Jane Clairmont, specialized in children's books with useful morality appended. This series published the first English translation of Johann David Wyss's perennial Swiss Family Robinson in 1814. Mary Shelley was thus as a child uniquely conditioned by contemporary notions of children's literature, and she was also encouraged to become a writer at a very young age. The careful noting of Clerval's age (9) when he wrote his fairy tale indicates that Mary Shelley has in mind her own debut at the age of 11, in a satirical parody about an Englishman in France, Mounseer Nongtongpaw, that was published in January 1807.