anthology makes an implicit argument. Marilyn Pemberton's is quite
clear: "the fairy tale," she tells readers, "changed
its format and function during the nineteenth century, in accordance
with the changes that were happening to its readers, who were, after
all, members of an ever-evolving family, and an ever-evolving
society" (52). British society certainly changed between 1818,
the earliest date Pemberton gives for a tale in this collection, and
1899, when the last tale was published. Enchanted Ideologies
is designed to reflect this change.
to provide a historical context for this collection of fairy tales,
Pemberton, in her introduction, rightly asserts that middle-class
values like "thrift, self-control, restraint, personal ambition,
and deferred gratification" found their way into didactic
stories long before the middle class gained real political power (31)
and that although female education before the 1870s was minimal,
"with the main emphasis being on the acquisition of those
domestic and social accomplishments deemed necessary for them to
fulfill their role in life as wives and mothers" (44), by the
end of the century "the New Woman had found her voice"
explaining the importance of class and gender during the Victorian
period, the introduction leaves much to be desired. As many critics
have noted, the Romantics played a major role in the
nineteenth-century reception of fairy tales (see for example Judith
Plotz's Romanticism and the Vocation of Childhood and Alan
Richardson's Literature, Education, and Romanticism). But
Pemberton skips straight from the late eighteenth-century pedagogues
like Sarah Trimmer and Maria Edgeworth to the Brothers Grimm,
completely ignoring the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
most important task for an introduction to an anthology is to make
clear the governing principles; in an anthology of moral fairy tales,
one expects a detailed discussion of what a "moral fairy tale"
is. Pemberton notes that scholars haven't established a firm
definition of fairy tales, and mentions the major fairy tale critics
(like Jack Zipes, Maria Tatar, Bruno Bettelheim, and Vladimir Propp).
But this section of the introduction feels rather perfunctory.
Pemberton never makes it clear what is at stake among the different
definitions, or what makes a moral fairy tale different from other
kinds of fairy tales. And perhaps most importantly, she makes no
mention of the numerous critical works specifically about Victorian
fairy tales (like U. C. Knoepflmacher's Ventures into Childland
or Jack Zipes's anthology Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the
Fairies and Elves).
chart of "fairy tales included in this book" (53-4)
precedes the tales themselves. The chart includes columns for the
name and sex of the author; the date and medium (book or periodical)
of publication; the main theme; the sex of the protagonist; and
whether the fairy tale includes a wish and/or ends in marriage. Such
quantitative analysis illuminates details that are presumably
important to Pemberton's implicit argument. The chart makes it clear,
for example, that all the tales after 1880 feature female
protagonists, and that while early tales teach female readers how to
be amiable, supportive wives and mothers, the later tales are more
concerned with true love and happy marriages between equals.
of the items in the chart, however, are not as quantitative as they
first appear, and potential challenges provide an entry point into a
discussion of the tales themselves. A category as simple as "sex
of the protagonist" proves problematic in certain cases, as with
Dinah Mulock Craik's "Magnus and Morna: A Shetland Fairy Tale."
Pemberton claims the sex of the protagonist to be female, privileging
Morna, although Magnus is arguably just as central a character. Morna
is a fairy (a sea-maid), which perhaps accounts for Pemberton's
choice, but for the anonymously published "Lady Sybil Fancourt"
she lists the protagonist as female, even though the fairy is male.
the most problematic of the columns marks whether or not the tale
"includes a wish." This column seems present in order to
justify the inclusion of Mary Martha Sherwood's "The Wishing
Cap," which is the only story included in this collection that
doesn't include elements of magic or the supernatural. Pemberton's
footnote to the story reads, "This is not a fairy tale, but is
included because it uses a common fairy-tale device of the wish"
(81). There is nothing about a wish, however, in the definition of
"fairy tale" in the introduction, which is sufficiently
vague that a case could be made that "The Wishing Cap" is
a fairy tale. In Sherwood's story, a wealthy benefactress buys
children whatever toys they wish for, and the moral is that one
should wish only for God's blessing; in Mary de Morgan's "Leila's
Gold", a woman gives an unsolicited magical gift that turns out
to be a curse. One could perhaps come up with a definition of "wish"
that applies to both stories, and the introduction would be the place
to do so. But no such definition is offered.
quantitative analysis in the chart pays off in the category "main
theme," however, which I had at first expected to be the most
problematic. But since many of the fairy tales offer explicit morals,
and Pemberton means the collection to demonstrate a thematic
progression, this column in the chart is essential. Pemberton nicely
summarizes the tales' themes, and the progression she portrays is
clear: early tales have themes like "Proper female behavior - to
be amiable" (the anonymously published "Elmina: A Tale for
Young Ladies" ), while later ones have themes like "Proper
behavior - selfless love and female self-sufficiency" (Mary
Louisa Molesworth's "The Three Wishes" ). I question
why "use of a flower" is listed here; if important at all,
it would seem to warrant its own category, and is certainly less
ambiguous than a wish. I would also quibble with a few of Pemberton's
readings: Mary Senior Clark's "The Ivory Harp" has more to
do with abuse of power than with happy families, and Ponson du
Terrail's "The Christmas Fairy" is not at all about greed.
But in general she pinpoints the tales' main themes accurately, and
the presentation in the chart accomplishes what she wants it to.
Ideologies will be most
useful to scholars interested in the authors included here, and
looking for previously unavailable texts. Contrary to the publisher's
statement about the book, these authors are not "unknown today":
many are central to current discussions of children's literature.
Marah Gubar discusses Craik, Nesbit, and Molesworth at length in
Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children's Literature
(2009), and both Sherwood
and Evelyn Sharp regularly appear in studies of nineteenth-century
children's literature. Access to fairy tales by these authors will
open doors to further scholarship.
the format of Enchanted Ideologies makes the book less useful
than it might otherwise be. The biggest problem is the table of
contents, which lists only titles, and not authors: one must go to
Pemberton's chart, buried on pages 53-54, for a full list of authors.
And the poem by Nesbit at the beginning appears just as if it were
one of the tales, which is confusing since all of the tales, except
this poem, are in chronological order.
footnotes are also too intrusive. Even when they are useful and
insightful, like those in "The Christmas Fairy" about
French coins, they take up too much space: a one-line footnote takes
up three inches on the page, most of it empty white space. And
sometimes the content of a footnote raises more questions than it
answers: in a note to the anonymous "Elmina: A Tale for Young
Ladies," for example, Pemberton suggests that the tale may be
based on Charles Masson's Elmina; or the Flower that Never Fades,
published by E. Newbury (Pemberton likely means Newbery) (87). A
quick Google search reveals that this work went through at least six
editions between 1791 and 1812. Surely Pemberton could have checked
some of these against the text she includes, and explained why this
is the only republished tale in the collection.
interested in nineteenth-century children's authors (especially
Sherwood and Sharp, who each have two tales in this collection) may
find Enchanted Ideologies a useful resource. But in an age
when so many texts are available digitally, a printed anthology
should provide a useful scholarly introduction and present its texts
in a practical manner. This book, unfortunately, does neither.
Fleming is a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia. His
dissertation, entitled "The Moral Tale and Its Legacy,"
investigates connections between the novel and late 18th-century