"Slovenly Betsy"

image Walter Hayn via
You've probably never heard of Slovenly Betsy, and for good reason.  It's a collection of stories from over a hundred years ago that was probably best forgotten, but thanks to the magic of Project Gutenberg, now we can enjoy Betsy's slovenliness all over again.  The author is Heinrich Hoffman, the infamous creator of Struwwelpeter.

Much in the vein of Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories, this book offers a series of morality tales that is intended to teach female children the value of cleanliness, the folly of pride, or the fatal consequences of playing with matches.  Select titles include "The Story of Romping Polly," "The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches," and "The Little Glutton."

The illustrations are crude but quite creative--witness the literalization of "crying one's eyes out" above, and in another memorable drawing, a girl whose neck has stretched from pride must tote it and her head alongside the rest of her in a wagon.  My favorite, however, is when Polly breaks her leg (well, snaps it off, actually) and the text accompanying the illustration reads: "See how her brother bursts in tears / When told the dreadful story; / And see how carefully he bears / The limb all wet and gory."

Lesson learned:
Per "The Story of a Dirty Child"--"A sloven will be always viewed / With pity by the wise and good; / While ev'n the vicious and the base / Behold with scorn a dirty face."

Hoffman, Heinrich.  Slovenly Betsy.  Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1911.
Buy Slovenly Betsy (Wee Books for Wee Folk)

1 comment:

  1. I read this book as a child - it had been my grandmother's. Scarey stuff, but oddly goofy. Thanks for the review with pictures.