by Thomas Day
Thomas Day was a follower of the teachings of Rousseau, whose "noble savage" combined nature, simplicity and virtue. Day's purpose in The history of Sandford and Merton (published 1783) was to demonstrate how the child--wilful and undisciplined by nature--should be trained to become an acceptable adult.
The account of naughty Tommy Merton's gradual transformation to something resembling Harry Sandford's natural and simple virtue is interspersed with chapters of natural history (including how to kill a polar bear, and how to escape from a crocodile) moral fables, and scientific titbits which were probably more attractive to its readers than the conversations of the sanctimonious Mr. Barlow and his pupils.
A sample chapter of The history of Sandford and Merton is available on this website.
The full text can also be read online or downloaded free of charge. It is in XHTML format, like this page. Please note the file size is 720kb and it may take some time to open-up if you choose to read it online. Downloading for reading later may be the preferred option and this can be typically achieved by calling up an option box. If you have a mouse and it is configured for left click to select, right clicking the link may give you this option. Link to the full text of The history of Sandford and Merton,
While Day's purpose in writing The history of Sandford and Merton was primarily didactic, the book must also have given pleasure to a great many children, with its mixture of adventure, natural history, stories and practical information on subjects such as baking, house building, the principles of the lever, etc. While Harry Sandford is very good and rather boring, Tommy Merton is naughty, snobbish, disobedient, untruthful, lazy, accident prone, and a much more interesting character altogether. No wonder that even Thomas Day gently teases his hero when at the end of the book he resolves to improve himself:
...from this time, I shall apply myself to the study of nothing but reason and philosophy; and therefore I have bid adieu to dress and finery for ever.
It was with great difficulty that the gentlemen could refrain from laughing at Tommy's harangue, delivered with great seriousness and solemnity. They, however, concealed their emotions, and encouraged him to persevere in such a laudable resolution.
Page created 19 November 2002 and last
updated 19 November 2002
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