Authors: Elliott, Mary (Belson)

Categories: Verse


Children / Youth


Year: 1829

Publisher: William Darton, 58, Holborn Hill (c. 1781-1854)

Pagination: 72

Dimensions: 14.5 x 9 cm

Illustrations: 5 plates. Frontispiece: "Frontispiece to 'Innocent Poetry'"; p. 35: "Charity"; p. 47: "Evening Prayer"; p. 54: "Blind Boy."

City: London

Document Type: Book

Language: English

Printer: William Darton, 58, Holborn Hill

Seller: William Darton, 58, Holborn Hill; Harvey and Darton, 55, Gracechurch Street; John Harris, St. Paul's Church Yard

Binding: Quarter calf, front and back covers marbled board. Spine [gilt tooled]: INNOCENT POETRY

Edges: Trimmed

Marginalia: There are pencil marks beside poem titles throughout.

Provenance: Book Plate: 'To Henrietta Walker In Testimony of Regard from Her mother 18**' [date is water damaged, in black ink]


Mary Elliott's success as an author of children's books can be attributed to the growing demand for juvenile literature beginning in the early nineteenth century. Concurrent with a steadily increasing middle-class and a rise in literacy was a growing interest in literature for the youngest members of society. Publisher: William Darton Jr. was the eldest son and second child of William and Hannah Darton. Due to his Quaker upbringing, his education was completed in Quaker institutions: the Friends' school in Clerkenwell, London and Ackworth school in Yorkshire. In 1795, Darton Jr. was apprenticed to his father, who co-owned Harvey and Darton--a printing, publishing, engraving, and bookselling firm. His apprenticeship was completed in 1802, and in 1803/1804 he set up his own business in Holborn Hill, London as a publisher, printer, engraver, and bookseller. Like his father, Darton Jr. specialized in children's books and, occasionally, literature related to his Quaker concerns and beliefs. The books he published heavily emphasized Christian morality, religious duty, and the importance of the nuclear family. He also forayed into jigsaw puzzles, maps, and children's games, which became known for their remarkable decorative detail. In 1806, William Darton Jr. entered into a business partnership with his brother Thomas, who specialized in engraving. The partnership lasted for five years, at which point Thomas left to begin his own engraving business. Darton Jr. was married to Phoebe Harvey on May 3rd, 1808. Their marriage produced five children, one of whom eventually took over his father's firm. In 1825, Darton Jr. briefly named his business "Repertory of Genius" which, according to an 1829 advertisement, sold "Maps, Charts, and Plans," "Extensive collections of Books for the use of CHILDREN and YOUNG PEOPLE," "WORKS of MERIT," "School Books in every branch of Education," and "Books in all Languages, ARTS, SCIENCES, & POLITE LITERATURE." He retired in 1836 and died on July 28, 1857 at 47 Hemingford Terrace, Islington, London. Printer: Although the text does not specify a printer, it can be assumed that Elliott's book was printed through William Darton Jr.'s firm. Darton was involved in most aspects of the book trade over the course of his career: publishing, engraving, printing, and bookselling. He identified himself as an engraver and printer when he began his business in 1803. In 1809, he registered two presses at 19 Charles Street, Hatton Garden. Given this information, it is likely that the 1829 publication of Innocent Poetry was printed on one of Darton's presses. See "Publisher" section for more information on Darton. Seller info: William Darton, see "Publisher." Harvey and Darton was a printing, publishing, engraving, and bookselling firm co-owned by business partners Joseph Harvey and William Darton Sr. Harvey and Darton was formed in 1791 when Harvey became Darton's partner in the printing business. Subsequently, James Harvey (Joseph Harvey's brother) became a partner in the printing firm in 1805 and Samuel Darton (William Darton's son) joined the publishing house in 1810. William Darton died in 1819, Joseph Harvey retired in 1833, Samuel Darton died in 1840, and Thomas Harvey retired in 1841. The firm itself continued to exist for five years after Thomas' retirement, finally closing down in 1846. Harvey and Darton specialized in a variety of areas related to the book trade; specifically, printing, publishing, engraving, and bookselling. The firm specialized in children's books, although--due to the owners' adherence to the Quaker religion--it also printed and published anti-slavery literature and various political and religious tracts. John Harris began his career as a publisher and bookseller as an apprentice to Thomas Evans. He briefly worked for John Murray before becoming the manager for publisher Elizabeth Newbery. The Newbery firm was one of the first publishing companies to specialize in publishing children's literature in the eighteenth century. Harris bought Newbery's business between 1801 and 1802. He continued to specialize in children's literature, although he also issued publications such as the Gentleman's Magazine. Harris experienced great success with small picture books, and published a series of texts that combined engraved texts and plates following the popularity of The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog. He died a wealthy man in 1846, leaving 30,000 pounds to his family and friends in investments and bequests. It is interesting to note that William Darton Sr. and John Harris both had connections to the Newbery firm: in 1792, Darton Sr. bought from John Newbery's descendents the copyright to 24 sixpenny children's books. Summary: p. i title page. p. iii contents. p. 5-72 text. p. 73 advertisement. Innocent Poetry is a collection of 53 short poems addressed to and meant for a juvenile audience. The majority of the poems are written in ballad meter, with the occasional heroic couplet. Mary Elliott's verses depict a harsh world in which transgressions--be they ever so mild--have severe consequences. While good behavior is justly rewarded, the reader is consistently reminded that one must exercise vigilant morality as eternal sorrow lurks behind every immoral slip. Elliott emphasizes the importance of religious piety, moral behavior, virtue, wisdom, duty to one's parents and the poor, and work ethic. She warns against idleness, revenge, pleasure, discontent, censure, and overall spiritual distance from God. Political subject matter occasionally enters Elliott's poems. "God Every Where" has an abolitionist message, emphasizing the equality of man before God, regardless of nation or race. Her poetry has the specific purpose of inculcating morality, yet she also includes meditations on the wonders of youth and on the beautiful innocence of children. However, Innocent Poetry is not so much a celebration of childhood as it is a religious guidebook for its young audience. The book's publication date is not stated within the text. The date specified is based on the date printed underneath each illustration: May 1, 1829. Based on the fact that the first edition states that Innocent Poetry is the work of "two Young Ladies" and that each poem in that edition is attributed to either Eliza or Mary, it can be conjectured that the authorship of the book should be credited to Eliza and Mary Benson. However, it cannot be proved that this text was co-authored by the two Benson sisters. References: Avery, Gillian. "Darton, William (1755–1819)."Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. [, accessed 26 May 2009] David, Linda. "Children's Books Published by William Darton and his Sons: a catalogue of an exhibition at the Lilly Library, Indiana University." April-June, 1992. Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington). 88 p. : ill. ; 28 cm. [] Moon, Marjorie. Children's Books of Mary (Belson) Elliott: Blending Sound Christian Principles with Cheerful Cultivation. Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1987.

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