Lessons for Little Learners

14. There was a market for works that were not merely instructive, or emphasizing right conduct according to middle-class values, but religious and didactic. Much of the fiction for children, whether published as cheap tracts or upmarket novels, was didactic, with a strong moral or lesson pinned to a weak narrative frame. Mary, the Milkmaid (London: Religious Tract Society, n.d.) by Hannah More is a typical story of a young girl who overcomes hard circumstances and tragic events, finding her way in life by work, thrift, modesty and faith. Not all such works are uninteresting, and the range of didactic fiction is in fact quite large, including religion, science and history, as well as aspects of rural and urban life, domestic management and courtship, labour and education.