Menu Close

Scenes in America

Author Rita Smith
Air Date 11/1/2001

Scenes in America Transcript

The travelogue storybook became an extremely popular genre in children’s literature in the 1870’s and 80’s, but much earlier than that, British children were being given glimpses into the world outside England. One of the earlier writers of these books was Isaac Taylor, who wrote a series of popular books in the 1820’s containing numerous wood cut vignettes and tidbits of information about different parts of the world. His book on the Americas, published in 1822, was entitled Scenes in America, for the Amusement and Instruction of Little Tarry-at-Home Travellers. In this book he tells children about some big things that happened in America: how the first people immigrated to the wilds of America because of religious persecution at home, how they fought a cruel war with England and declared their freedom, how Americans are traveling westward, pushing into the frontier, living in log cabins.

He also mentions some little things, how fish are preserved with salt how a rattlesnake uses its rattles and, some very little things like the firefly. “In America, he writes, “there are several species of insects very luminous which enliven their vallies as soon as it is dark, flitting in every direction by thousands. The larger kind seem all on fire within; and from some point comes a luminous radiance of great brilliancy. Six or eight of them put in a clear vial, will give light enough to read or write by.”1 I’m sure this image amused and delighted the child reader and to instruct him and help him make the connection between the fire fly and his own “light,” Taylor adds a little poem.

Buzzing, glittering, flickering flame
This wayt, that way, mocking sight;
Sporting, frisking, gay thy game,
Dancing in self-shining light

When the shades of evening rise,
Dark and gloomy all around,
Then the blaze of a thousand flies
Cheers, and gilds the dark profound.

Let but daylight’s brighter beam
Glance, thy glories disappear:
Darkness makes thee brilliant seem;
Thou are dull when light is near.

Let me shine, that all may see;
Works of goodness, clear and bright.
Moral brightness stream from me,
Glowing with celestial light.2

1 Taylor, Isaac. Scenes in America, p. 80.
2 Ibid.

Taylor, Isaac. Scenes in America, for the Amusement and Instruction of Little Tarry-At-Home Travellers. 2nd Ed. London: J. Harris and Son. 1822.

Posted in Literature