This week I must get a gift for my niece’s birthday. Of course it will be a book as nothing else will please her so much. She will be 13, quite a young lady now. She has a lovely reading voice and she often reads aloud to her little brother and sister, and sometimes to her mother and her fashionable friends. She enjoys poetry and she loves the Newbery books, which arrive fresh from London in crisp new editions. She has a whole set of them in her room, Goody Two Shoes has been her favourite for years. Her aunts and uncles buy them for her for Christmas, New Year and Easter.
In her tomboy years she read Robinson Crusoe until the book fell apart, and she led her brother and sister through his island home building a stockade out of branches and choosing one of her siblings to play Friday. That’s all behind her now, but the little ones continue to play the Crusoe game, introducing the story to their friends. Gil Blas has been another favourite, she revels in the adventurous spirit portrayed, and I see she still keeps her copy by her bed.
I think she is ready for Madame de Genlis, not in French yet, but in Luke White’s English language reprints. (Click here for Genlis) I think I will try her with Adelaide and Theodore, or perhaps Theatre of Education. I’d like to see her reaction to Rousseau, but her mother objects to Rousseau, she says he toys with the emotions of young women and leads them astray.
I'm sure she would enjoy some of the plays of Goldsmith or Sheridan, perhaps She stoops to conquer, or The rivals. They are so full of wit and verve and she would see the potential for acting them out. She could get together a cast of friends and put on the plays in her mother’s drawing room.
Decision made: I will get her a parcel of books. A book of poetry is a must, definitely Shakespeare’s sonnets. I think a selection of writings from the best modern authors would suit her temperament. John Archer has just brought out The young lady’s pocket library, I will get that in a pretty binding. I will decide on one by Madame de Genlis, and The rivals to give her a good laugh on the subject of unapproved reading.