Child Life in Colonial Days


motives or significance, but the proof they give of tenderness and affection in the family are beautiful to read and to know. The quotations from manuscript letters, records, diaries, and accounts which are here given could only have been acquired by precisely the method which has been followed,--a constant and distinct search for many years, combined with an alert watchfulness for items or even hints relating to the subject, during as many years of extended historical reading. Many private collections and many single-treasured relics have been freely offered for use, and nearly all the sentences and pages selected from these sources now appear in print for the first time. The portraits of children form a group as rare as it is beautiful. They are specially valuable as a study of costume. Nearly all of these also are as true emblems of the generous friendship of the present owners as they are of the life of the past. The rich stores of our many historical associations, of the Essex Institute, the American Antiquarian Society, the Long Island Historical Society, the Deerfield Memorial Hall, the Lenox Library, have been generously opened, carefully gleaned, and freely used. The expression of gratitude so often tendered to these helpful kinsfolk and friends and to these bountiful societies and libraries can scarcely be emphasized by any public thanks, yet it would seem that for such assistance thanks could never be offered too frequently, nor too publicly. Nor have I, in gathering for this,--as for my other books,--failed to exercise what Emerson calls "the catlike love of garrets, presses, and cornchambers, and of the conveniences of long housekeeping." Many long-kept homes have I searched, many an old garret and press has yielded conveniences for this book. Though this is a record of the life of children in the American colonies, I have freely compared the conditions in this country with similar ones in England at the same date, both for the sake of fuller elucidation, and also to attempt to put on a proper basis the civilization which the colonists left behind them. Many statements of conditions in America do not convey correct ideas of our past comfort and present and liberal progress unless we compare them with facts in English life. We must not overrate seventeenth and eighteenth century life in England, either in private or public. England was not a first-class power among nations till the time of the Treaty of Paris, in 1763. When our colonies were settled it was third-rate. Life among the nobility was magnificent, but the life of the peasantry was wretched, and middle-class social life was very bleak and monotonous in both city and country. From early days life was much better in many ways in America than in England for the family of moderate means, and children shared the benefits of these better conditions. A child's life was more valuable here.

Alice Morse Earle

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