“GOOD FUN OF A SIMPLE KIND”: 1807 EDITION OF THE PEACOCK ‘AT HOME
[DORSET, Catherine Ann]. The Peacock “At Home:” A Sequel to the Butterfly’s Ball. Written by a Lady. London: Printed for J. Harris, 1807. 16mo, original blue paper wrappers, 16 pp. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $3000.
First edition of this popular children’s poem, a sequel to The Butterfly’s Ball, which ushered in a new era in children’s books, “an era in which the moral tale was no longer dominant and levity—fun for fun’s sake—came into its own” (Morgan Library 159). Illustrated with six full-page copperplate engravings.
In January 1807, John Harris published The Butterfly’s Ball, verses written by Member of Parliament William Roscoe for the private amusement of his young son. It was reprinted several times in the following months, and in September 1807, Harris began publishing “a crop of sequels, the first of which was, for a wonder, not at all inferior to its inspiration” (Darton, 200). The Peacock At Home “tells how ‘the tenants of Air’-the birds-are envious of the splendors of the Butterfly’s Ball and hold their own feast on St. Valentine’s Day, with the Peacock as host. The guests are described one by one, and, after the dancing, supper is announced… The poem concludes with the departure of the company as they sing the dawn chorus” (Carpenter & Pritchard, 397). The first edition listed the author simply as ‘A Lady,’ but in 1809 the book was re-issued in revised form with the author identified. The Peacock At Home “was widely commended. Its popularity with parents was probably due to the fact that it combined a certain amount of instruction in natural history with the levity of its narrative. The Gentleman’s Magazine for November 1807 also suspected that it was a ‘Satire upon the manners of the times, and of the Great” (Carpenter & Pritchard). “The Peacock At Home and The Butterfly’s Ball between them achieved a sale of 40,000 copies during their first year… they certainly serve no end which Georgian morality or modern psychology could label educational. They are merely good fun of a simple kind; not bettered in that class” (Darton, 200-01). Bookplate.
Scattered foxing; very light soiling to original paper wrappers. A fine copy of this scarce children’s classic.