Flowers of Instruction


Mary Elliott, née Belson, (1794-1870) was one of a number of late 18th- and early 19th-century writers, mainly women, who wrote moral and instructional tales for children. Here the frontispiece vividly depicts ‘passion’s angry storm’, showing one child attacking another while playing with a doll. To modern eyes it is odd to see the adult onlooker remaining serenely seated. Instead of intervening, as we might expect, she holds up a mirror to the angry child. The illustration thus encapsulates the objective of the book: to reflect back to child readers their bad behaviour so that they can correct it. Elliott perhaps took the decision to write the lessons in verse to heighten their appeal to both children and parents, as well as to show off her literary prowess. 

Elliott was a prolific and popular writer in her lifetime, and her books, which were all printed by the firm of Harvey Darton, were re-printed to keep up with demand. Some, including her Tales for Boys and Tales for Girls (c. 1829), were translated into French. The Orphan Boy (1812), which Elliott wrote while she was a teenager, is mentioned approvingly in Mary Martha Sherwood’s The Fairchild Family (1818), giving an idea of its popularity at the time.

Full title:
Flowers of Instruction: or Familiar Subjects in Verse
estimated 1820, London
Book / Children's book / Illustration / Image
Mary Belson, afterwards Elliot
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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