Listen to the Recess! Clip
“Little Annie’s Ramble” Transcript
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s first published story for children, “Little Annie’s Ramble,” appeared in late 1834 in an annual intended as a holiday gift for children entitled Youth’s Keepsake: A Christmas and New Year’s Gift for Young People. Although the story is about a five year old girl, it is narrated by an adult and all scenes and events are described by the adult with philosophical musings by him on their encounters.
In summary, an older gentleman standing on his front porch sees Annie, a young neighbor girl who lives across the street, standing on her front porch and they both hear the town crier announce that an elephant, a lion, a tiger and “other strange beasts from foreign countries have come to town and will receive all visitors who choose to wait upon them.” Together they walk from their neighborhood towards the animal corral, observing the hustle and bustle of the busy town, stopping along the way to peer into bakeries, bookstores, and toy stores, listening to an organ grinder, and finally stopping in the square where the animals are on display. They are totally absorbed in watching the animals when the town crier reappears announcing that a little girl in a blue dress is lost. The narrator realizes that the crier is speaking of Annie and remembers that they left without telling her mother, who has become worried. Having been reminded of this, the two of them return home.
Although I’m sure the child readers enjoyed the lively descriptions of the town, the wonderful toys, the mouthwatering pastries, and the exotic animals, I’m not sure what they thought of all the world weary philosophy. When Annie wants to dance to the music of the organ grinder, the gentleman notes that there is no one to dance with her: older people are too feeble or too fat or too stiff to dance, and he himself is “a gentleman of sober footsteps” so they move on. And in the final paragraph the reader can almost hear the gentleman sighing as he thinks about how his dreary spirits and worldly cares have been lifted during a few brief moments spent in the circle of joy and charm spread by the child.
Perhaps Hawthorne had similar thoughts. Although its inclusion in the Keepsake implied that it was written with the juvenile audience in mind, it had only a brief existence as a children’s story. Its next appearance in print was in 1837 as one of the stories in the first edition of Twice-Told Tales, a book clearly intended for an adult audience and “Little Annie’s Ramble” was one of the stories consistently singled out for praise by contemporary reviewers.
Wadsworth, Sarah A. “Nathaniel Hawthorne, Samuel Goodrich, and the Transformation of the Juvenile Fiction Market” in Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, Spring, 2000.