This 16-page illustrated chapbook from the early 19th century tells a moral tale about Jacky Jingle and Sulky Sue.
What is a chapbook?
Chapbooks were cheaply produced books with paper covers, made of single or half sheets, printed on both sides and folded into a booklet. They were an affordable printed product, usually selling for not more than a penny. The sellers of these books were known as ‘chapmen’. They usually consisted of ballads, folk tales and stories, together with basic illustrations. The illustrations in this book are quite simple and cheaply produced, but they were comparatively lavish for the time. There is one per page, rather than just one per book!
At the beginning of the 19th century there was a rise in chapbooks for children. The market for inexpensive children’s reading material grew as affluence and literacy increased. This book states that it was aimed at ‘both great and small’. The narrative rhyme makes it appealing to children and easy to remember.
What does the story tell us?
The first page (missing here) tells us that Jacky Jingle is a truant and reluctant schoolboy. Sulky (or ‘Sucky’) Sue is moody and stubborn. What is to be done to make them more agreeable? In the 19th century discipline still largely centred on physical punishment, so that narrator advises: ‘A smart touch with a cane/Will make her good/When she feels the pain’. According to this little rhyme the punishment worked: the children mend their ways and work hard.
Jacky tries to woo Sue by impressing her with his cow and pig. Although Sue tells him she does not care about them because she has a velvet purse that holds a great fortune. But Jacky plays a trump card and says that his loyalty is worth more than earthy riches: ‘I've got a horse and cart;/I've got a still better thing,/Which is a constant heart’. The couple’s good behaviour is rewarded and they become sweethearts and set up a farm as man and wife. Like lots of children’s books at the time, the story has a purpose: to instruct children on admirable qualities, in this case obedience and loyalty.