Sarah Trimmer's Fabulous Histories


Sarah Trimmer was an educationalist who pioneered the use of animals, birds and the natural world in children’s moral literature, introduced in her Fabulous Histories

Who was Sarah Trimmer? 

While educating her own 12 children, Sarah Trimmer established a Sunday School in 1786 and later a weekday school of industry for girls. This established a model which she promoted widely: girls were to be given Christian moral instruction and basic skills to equip them to be servants. In creating teaching materials she popularised the use of images in books and the use of animals as anthropomorphic models of good behaviour. She also advocated the avoidance of abuse of animals and the natural environment. 

How is her work related to William Blake? 

As a strong believer in the need for children’s stories to have a moral purpose, Trimmer’s stance is considerably simpler than the complexity of William Blake’s duality in the Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Yet in standing out against the use of animals as merely a resource, she echoes the anti-birds-nesting stance of Christopher Smart and Blake’s position of outrage at the abuse of those that cannot protect themselves. Blake engraved images for at least one of Trimmer’s works, so he may have been familiar with this book. 

In the pages shown, the children of the family are told not to feed birds before humans, and the birds are given human attributes as well as names.

Full title:
Fabulous histories, designed for the instruction of children, respecting their treatment of animals. By Mrs. Trimmer
1786, London
Sarah Trimmer
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

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