Version classiqueVersion mobile

Telling Tales

David Blamires

19. Picture Books

Texte intégral

1It is not possible within the scope of this book to deal with all the German illustrators whose work found its way into British children’s books during the nineteenth century. That would really require a separate study. We shall note elsewhere Wilhelm Kaulbach’s illustrations for The Heroic Life and Exploits of Siegfried the Dragon Slayer (1848), and his designs for Goethe’s Reynard the Fox (1860) circulated much more widely. Ludwig Richter’s illustrations to Bechstein’s fairytales were used for both The Old Story-Teller (1854) and As Pretty as Seven. Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s pictures for the Nibelungenlied accompanied Lydia Hands’s retelling of the story as Golden Threads from an Ancient Loom (1880). While these artists are of course famous in Germany, their names tend to be known only to specialists in Britain, and their illustrative work is simply an accompaniment to a significant text. There are, however, a number of German children’s books whose reputations derive principally from their illustrations or from a marvellous coherence of their words and pictures.

2In 1844 there appeared in England a book entitled The Child’s Picture and Verse Book: Commonly Called Otto Speckter’s Fable Book, with the original German and with French, translated into English by Mary Howitt (London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans). This is a book that requires some explanation. It is based on two German books – Funfzig Fabeln für Kinder (Fifty Fables for Children) and Noch funfzig Fabeln für Kinder (Another Fifty Fables for Children), both with pictures by Otto Speckter (Hamburg: Friedrich Perthes, 1833 and 1837). The author who provided the verses insisted at first on remaining anonymous, but was the Protestant pastor and teacher Wilhelm Hey (1789-1854), who had in 1832 just been appointed superintendent of Ichtershausen, near Erfurt, in Thuringia, and had married for the second time. Hey was very modest about his literary talents, but his fables were received very warmly and continued to be frequently reprinted in Germany up to the opening decades of the twentieth century. Each of the fables consists of two six-line stanzas skilfully crafted to the understanding of small children and expressing pleasure at the small things of daily life. Otto Speckter (1807-71) provided a lithographed illustration for each fable, and because only his name appeared on the title-pages it was often thought that he had also written the verses. It is understandable therefore that in Britain the fables were thought of as his book. Yet this first English collection of Hey’s fables is not decorated with Speckter’s original lithographs, but with engravings derived from those of Friedrich Wilhelm Gubitz (1786-1870), based on Speckter’s lithographs and done for the French version published by Perthes in 1840. Speckter was himself invited to provide designs for new wood-engravings in 1850 and was apparently disgusted with those that had previously been done. In looking at both German and British editions of Hey’s fables, therefore, we find that what is credited to Speckter may often be his only at a remove.

3The translator of this first British edition was Mary Howitt (1799-1888), who, together with her husband William and their children, had just spent a protracted period in Germany and who was shortly to become of one the first translators of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales into English. Mary Howitt was a prolific author of children’s books, writing short stories, novels and verses throughout her long life. Though popular in her own day, few of them have survived into the twentieth century. Only the opening lines of her poem ’The Spider and the Fly’, first published in 1834, are still remembered and quoted – ’”Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly, – / ”’Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy... ” ’Her translation of Hey’s verses keeps very close to the original.

4A small selection of Hey’s fables and their pictures was included in a collection of Short Stories and Poems (London: James Burns, 1846), the engravings being reversed from a Hamburg edition of c. 1845. The translation is a new one and nothing like as good as Mary Howitt’s. The book is further witness to Burns’s interest in German literature that we have noted elsewhere.

5The next sight we have of Hey and Speckter comes a dozen years later with Picture Fables drawn by Otto Speckter, engraved by the Brothers Dalziel, with rhymes translated from the German of F. (sic) Hey by Henry W. Dulcken (London and New York: George Routledge & Co., 1858). The sequence of fables and pictures follows the 1833 German edition for the first twelve items, but then adopts a different pattern. The variations discernible between pictures in the various editions make it questionable to what extent we are really dealing with Speckter’s designs. If we look, for example, at the illustrations to ’Bird at the Window’, both Speckter’s 1833 original and the 1844 Longman edition have a window with rectangular panes and a mother looking out alone, while the 1858 Routledge edition has diamond panes and a small child in front of the mother. It is instructive too to compare the verses for ’The Snowman’:

Seht den Mann, o große Noth!
Wie er mit dem Stocke droht
Gestern schon und heute noch!
Aber niemals schlägt er doch.
Schneemann, bist ein armer Wicht,
Hast den Stock und wehrst dich nicht.

See that man, O fly! quick! quick!
How he threatens with his stick;
Yesterday and still to-day!
Yet his threatening is but play.
Snowman! thou art a wretched elf,
Armed, yet can’t defend thyself.

Look at him, O what a Guy!
Who would not before him fly,
Standing thus, with stick so stout,
Threat’ning all his foes to rout,
Did we not, from day to day,
See him stand the self-same way?
(Burns edition)

Look at the man there! Run, boys, quick!
See how he grasps his great thick stick;
Two whole days he’s been standing so,
Yet he never hath struck one blow.
Snow Man, poor man, I’d scorn to be,
Holding a useless stick, like thee.

6Each of the translations keeps to the verse-form of the original and makes a good attempt at conveying the mood and content, but it is easy to see that verse translations cannot hope for strict accuracy. Mary Howitt’s version has an echo of the old alphabet rhyme sometimes known as ’Tom Thumb’s Alphabet’. When she refers to the snowman as ’a wretched elf’, she recalls ’U was a usurer, a miserable elf’, where ’elf’ doesn’t have the sense of ’fairy’, but is simply a derogatory term for ’creature’. Howitt’s use of the forms ’thou’ and ’thyself’ may have a dialectal rather than a would-be ’poetic’ resonance, as is possible for Dulcken’s ’thee’, but that may be used to get a convenient rhyme. Dulcken’s ’hath’, however, is a needless archaism.

7Dulcken’s translation was republished in 1868 with the title One Hundred Picture Fables, but there do not appear to have been any more British editions of Hey and Speckter’s fable book. However, two further translations were made by S. Klingemann and published in Gotha by Friedrich Andreas Perthes, the son of the original Hamburg publisher, as Fifty Fables for Children (1867) and Other Fifty Fables for Children (1869). Speckter’s name is known in Britain chiefly through his pictures for Hey, but he also provided designs for an edition of Puss in Boots; and the Marquis of Carabas (1844) and a translation of the Grimms’ fairytale ’Brüderchen und Schwesterchen’ called The Charmed Roe (1847), both published by John Murray.

8Before we continue our consideration of books combining verses and pictures, we need to take a look at one of the most striking educational picture books of the mid century. Nicholas Bohny’s The New Picture Book; being Pictorial Lessons on Form, Comparison and Number for Children under Seven Years of Age (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1858) consists of thirty-six large plates full of hand-coloured pictures calculated to appeal to and instruct a small child. Animals, birds, flowers, trees, butterflies, fungi, fish, soldiers, toys, household objects and so forth are presented both singly and in groups, providing an absorbing introduction to the larger world. Each set of images is provided with questions to capture and extend the child’s interest. From a modern point of view the book is a rich and fascinating document of social history. This British version was popular enough to reach a sixth edition in 1873.

9The original German work was written by the Swiss educator Niklaus Bohny (1815-56) and was designed for children from two-and-a-half to seven years old, to be used in families, nursery schools, institutions for the deaf and dumb and the first stage of elementary education. It was first published in 1848 by Schreiber and Schill in Esslingen, near Stuttgart, and was translated into many languages and disseminated widely in Europe and North and South America up to the 1920s. Anyone who sees a copy of this or the translation will marvel at the wealth of material presented and the detail of the engaging illustrations. The German book forms part of a tradition that goes back as far as Jan Amos Comenius’s Orbis pictus (1658) and has as its most distinguished predecessor Friedrich Justin Bertuch’s encyclopedic Bilderbuch für Kinder (Picture Book for Children) (1790-1830). Bohny, however, was not aiming primarily at scientific accuracy, but rather at providing an educational tool that would teach children basic concepts of form, number and comparison and stimulate them to increase their knowledge of the world. In this he appears to have enjoyed considerable success.

10Returning now to the regular kind of children’s picture book, we come to Oscar Pletsch (1830-88), a German artist whose work became well known in the latter half of the nineteenth century. At least seventeen books were published in Britain with illustrations by him, either exclusively or accompanied by others, in the period between 1862 and 1875. Their titles make it clear that they deal chiefly with scenes and events in the life of small children, so they very much follow the pattern set by Speckter, though reflecting the style of a later generation. Buds and Flowers of Childish Life, with illustrations by Oscar Pletsch, beautifully printed in colours (London and New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1870) is typical of Pletsch’s work. The thirty-two colour plates were printed by Leighton Brothers in rich natural colours and present a delightful range of domestic scenes picturing mainly small children, occasionally also parents and servants. A number of outdoor scenes capture activities at different seasons of the year – sledging in the winter, digging in the garden, flying kites, pumping water. This is very much the idyll of middle-class family life with lots of happy children amusing themselves, sometimes unsupervised, other times with father or mother. One scene depicts parents with five children round the dining table and a maid bringing in a big tureen of something to eat. Another shows father, a soldier in uniform, playing with a little girl and her dolls. This is a book designed to give pleasure, and one can readily imagine the enjoyment that Pletsch got out of his drawing and successfully conveyed to his readers. He does include little childish squabbles and tantrums, but nothing that will spoil the mood for long. Simple verses accompany the pictures, but there is no indication of who composed them or whether they were meant as translations. That hardly matters, since the pictures are the main thing. Above all, the book is a world away from the moralizing that dominated the first half of the century.

11Pletsch’s books are essentially variations on the theme of a happy family at home. In 1861 he drew and engraved twenty-five pictures for an alphabet book that was published as Wie’s im Hause geht / Nach dem Alphabet (A Domestic Alphabet) (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung). Pletsch wrote the verses for each picture and cleverly included a number of items for each letter of the alphabet. He omitted J, which in the German gothic alphabet is identical with I, and combined X and Y in one picture. There is a separate drawing for the title-page. The illustration for P (Papa) is a self-portrait of Pletsch with his easel in the background and two children playing at his feet. The drawing for I shows a boy with two old soldiers, and the verses, which refer to the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, which freed Germany from Napoleon, show them to be Invaliden (invalids) with two shots in the arm and three in the leg. XY also has a picture of Pletsch and a verse telling the children he knows no words beginning with those letters. For the rest of the alphabet he has no problem in finding suitable objects within the range of a small child’s understanding.

12This engaging book was turned into English as Little Lily’s Alphabet (London: Frederick Warne and Co., [1865]), and new verses were written by a person identified only by the initials S. M. P. The pictures do not all correspond to the same letters of the alphabet in English, so there had to be a skilful reassignment for about half of them. The illustration for P (Papa in German) is changed into D for Dolly, taking up the little girl’s doll in the picture as its focus instead. Similarly, the picture for N (Naschkatzen or children always nibbling at sweet things) becomes V for Very naughty children. Naschen, looking for nice things to eat between meals, seems to be regarded as a particularly widespread bad habit in nineteenth-century German children’s books, but it is almost the only negative piece of behaviour in Pletsch’s alphabet. We might perhaps add the picture for T in German, which shows two little girls trying to shut the door to keep out their brother so that they can play by themselves. T stands for Tölpel, ’blockhead’, Thunichtgut, ’good-for-nothing’ and Thür, ’door’. This is converted into N, which apparently stands for Nelly, the name of the older girl, and naughty, which is how Nelly describes her brother. Apart from this, the rest of the illustrations depict typical scenes of family life inside and near the home. Pletsch’s designs portray significant events in a child’s daily life and are full of interesting detail. They contain a wealth of social observation.

13Another book of Pletsch’s is Happy Child Life, with rhymes for mothers and children by Mrs Charles Heaton (i.e. Mary Margaret Heaton) (London and New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1875). There is also an undated edition with the same title published by Frederick Warne. The book originally appeared in English with the title Happy Spring-Time (1874). The twenty-two colour plates closely resemble those in Buds and Flowers of Childish Life in character, providing a mixture of indoor and outdoor scenes, the latter being very obviously German in their townscapes and mountain scenery. One picture that must have elicited a good deal of boyish glee shows a little girl playing an upright piano with a boy sitting turned away from her with his hands covering both ears. Mrs Heaton’s verses display no particular distinction and generally anglicize proper names, though she does allow a dog to retain the typically German name Spitz.

14Little Lasses and Lads (London: Seeley, Jackson & Halliday, 1869) is in a larger format than Happy Child Life and Buds and Flowers of Childish Life, but Pletsch’s nine illustrations are of a very similar character. They are larger in size and printed in rather subtle muted colours on a rectangular beige ground. Some bear the date 1867 and were presumably done for a German book. Here, however, they are used for a long story, divided into eight chapters, about life on an English farm, though no author’s name is given.

15Pletsch’s style and subject-matter clearly commended itself to several publishers, and his reputation as an illustrator is well deserved. His scenes of childhood and family life are cleverly structured and clearly reflect their day-to-day realities, especially the interplay of small children with their siblings. They have been looked at here as successors to Speckter and have taken us into the latter half of the nineteenth century. Now, however, we have to turn back to a completely different author and illustrator, who, though untrained and amateurish, nonetheless produced a picture book that has never been out of print since it was first published in 1845. The author is Heinrich Hoffmann, and the book is Struwwelpeter.

  • 1 In his Lebenserinnerungen (written in 1889-92) Hoffmann stated that the first edition consisted of (...)

16Like many other successful children’s books, Der Struwwelpeter began its life as a parent’s attempt to amuse one of his own children. Heinrich Hoffmann (1809-94), a young doctor in Frankfurt am Main, despaired of finding a suitable book to give his three year old son Carl for Christmas 1844 and returned from the shops with a blank exercise book, in which he proceeded to draw six stories in pictures and verses. Friends and relatives were so taken with what he had done that they urged him to get the stories published. There thus appeared, in time for Christmas 1845, a printed version entitled Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder (Merry Stories and Funny Pictures), published in an edition of 3000 copies,1 price 59 kreutzers, by Dr Löning at the Literarische Anstalt, Frankfurt. The author was named as ’Reimerich Kinderlieb’, which translates roughly as ’the rhymester fond of children’. The six stories corresponded to what we know in English as ’Cruel Frederick’, ’The Inky Boys’, ’The Man that went out Shooting’, ’Augustus who would not have any Soup’, ’Little Suck-a-Thumb’ and, finally, ’Shock-Headed Peter’. The book sold out in a month, so a second edition followed, this time attributed to ’Heinrich Kinderlieb’, with two more stories – ’Harriet and the Matches’ and ’Fidgety Philip’. With the third edition ’Shock-Headed Peter’ appeared on the title-page. Only with the fifth edition did ’Shock-Headed Peter’ move to the first position among the stories. Two further stories were added – ’Johnny Head-in-Air’ and ’Flying Robert’ – and the author finally identified himself fully as Dr Heinrich Hoffmann, thus completing his gradual emergence from pseudonymity to full and open acknowledgement of his authorship. These early, lithographically illustrated editions followed the author’s original drawings very closely, but in 1858 they were redone as wood-engravings with some modifications in the pictorial form. This latter format is the basis of most subsequent editions, which now, in Germany, have passed the thousand mark. After Grimms’ fairytales it is the most widely circulated German children’s book.

17An English-language version was first published in Leipzig in 1848 by Friedrich Volckmar and quickly became popular in England. The anonymous translation became the standard English version. Though other renderings were made later, none were able to supplant it. Indeed, when Blackie produced a new translation, an anonymous commentator in The Times (6 January 1910) went carefully through it and concluded: ’In every poem are changes, and all are for the worse. Although, as for that, the quality of the change is immaterial; it is the fact of change at all that is wrong. A few things are sacred still’. The original translation had become so familiar to generations of British parents and children that they quoted and recited it at the drop of a hat. Any divergence could only be experienced as alienating and not the real thing at all. This new translation, like all the others, including Mark Twain’s Slovenly Peter (first published New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1935), had little success in Britain.

28. Little Lily’s Alphabet. With Rhymes by S. M. P. and Pictures by Oscar Pletsch (c. 1865). W for Winter.

18The original translation, The English Struwwelpeter or Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures, naturally took over the lithographically reproduced pictures of the early German editions, which have attractive curlicues, leaves and branches linking the different phases of the pictorial representation of some of the stories. The pictures were hand-coloured. This format then gave way to that of the German editions of 1858 and afterwards, which has remained the standard up to the present day. Though some people may have certain verses imprinted indelibly in their minds, for the majority of readers it will be Hoffmann’s pictures that have become part of their living memory. Struwwelpeter himself, with his bizarrely long finger-nails and gigantic Afro-style hair, is perhaps the most, though not the only, striking figure. Hoffmann’s book, in whatever version, presents an inspired fusion of stories and pictures. The images are what have given the book its enduring appeal. Attempts at replacing Hoffmann’s ’naïve’ drawings and their often oddly proportioned figures with the work of other, professional artists have never succeeding in ousting them permanently. The originals and their 1858 successors have an untamable vitality that is aptly embodied in the figure of Struwwelpeter himself.

19We now need to take a closer look at The English Struwwelpeter and examine how the German book was transplanted from one culture to another. What kind of changes were made, consciously or unconsciously, in the process? What was the nature of the book’s appeal, and why did it become so popular?

20Both the German and the English versions of the complete Struwwelpeter have twenty-four full-page lay-outs of pictures and verses, printed on only one side of the page. After the title-page Struwwelpeter himself occupies the next page and has a status equivalent to that of the portrait of the author that so often appears as a frontispiece in books of the period. Insofar as he has a ’story’, this is concentrated in the one picture of the extraordinary boy, accompanied by the discarded scissors and comb. Each of the following items tells a proper story with several narrative stages and an appropriate series of pictures to accompany them. The verbal and pictorial narratives are closely correlated, and a small child would be able to follow the story from the pictures alone. The pictures are clear, packed with action and gesture, brightly coloured and conceived as a unity with the verses on each page. The balance of text and image is cleverly calculated. Some of the pages have structural links between the pictures in the form of plant or tree scrolls, but the more one examines the lay-out of each page, the more one admires Hoffmann’s skill in varying the techniques that he uses for dividing the pages. In ’The Story of the Inky Boys’, for example, the woolly-headed black-a-moor and the white boys, Edward, William and Arthur, are placed as it were north, south, east and west on a complex framework representing a garden, each of them engaged in a different activity. Each boy is separately delineated and stands out from the whiteness of the page, as do the flowers, shrubs and other ornaments that decorate the page and provide additional, but no distracting interest. The two pages that depict ’tall Agrippa’ (the German ’der große Nikolas’) each have the massive figure in his long red gown and tasselled cap dominating the page, with the respective verses squeezed into the small space left. For ’Little Suck-a-Thumb’ there are four pictures, of which the first two and the last one occupy the left half of the page, while the frightening picture with the ’great, long, red-legg’d scissor man’ dashing in from the right takes up the whole of the top half of the second page of the story.

21The revised version of ’Flying Robert’ (i.e. those following the German editions of 1858 and later) places the three illustrations within picture-frames and puts them alternately on the left, right and left sides of the page with the verses next to them. These can thus be seen to mimic the pattern of landscape paintings in which a human figure adds interest to the scene. They are the only illustrations in the book that have this character. Where there are landscape elements elsewhere, as in ’Cruel Frederick’ and, to a lesser degree, ’The Man that went out Shooting’, they have more in common with medieval paintings in which several chronological phases of a narrative are combined in a single picture. The sheer inventiveness of Hoffmann’s technique in varying the lay-out of pictures and verses and in knowing precisely what impression he wants to give of the characters in his stories is a major factor in the book’s enduring appeal. It is a book to which children (and parents) can return again and again, not only to enjoy this variety, but also because they are captivated or mesmerized by many of the images. The scissor-man is the most memorably terrifying of these images (many people have told me how frightened they were as children by this picture), but Harriet’s blazing frock and Augustus’s decline from being a ’chubby lad’ to scarcely weighing as much as a sugar-plum, dying on the fifth day, are comparably stark.

22Undeniably, several of the pictures, much more than the verses, have the capacity to scare small children. Some parents and educationalists, especially in recent times, have castigated Struwwelpeter for this very reason and regard the book as totally unsuitable for today’s children. This position is misguided. The history of the transmission of fairytales is strewn with examples of editors and adapters who have bowdlerized such favourites as ’Little Red Riding-Hood’, ’Hansel and Gretel’ and ’The Juniper Tree’ in the attempt to protect children from frightening or unsuitable material. Today’s children seem to be more resilient with regard to horror than their parents. They do not require a diet that is all sweetness and light and never exposes them to pain or fear. Heinrich Hoffmann would have read the stories together with his three year old son and would have been able to reassure him in the event of anxiety or tears, but his intention was primarily to amuse, as the book’s original German title, Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder, plainly indicates. We have to remember that cautionary tales and a strongly moralizing authorial viewpoint were the norm in both nineteenth-century Germany and Victorian Britain. Children were commonly regarded as having natural proclivities to thoughtlessness, disobedience and wickedness that had to be checked and controlled. It was Hoffmann’s genius to have set his awful warnings firmly in a humorous context. The fact that the conclusion to every story is so over the top is meant to provoke laughter and be understood as a satire at the expense of the traditional moral tale. Twenty years later Lewis Carroll also cocked a snook at the habit of moralizing with the figure of the Duchess in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Carroll uses parody and the absurd to make his point; Hoffmann relies on grotesque exaggeration.

23By and large both formats of The English Struwwelpeter conform to their German models, though there are some small differences. The German original and the version of 1858 and later contain in ’Cruel Frederick’ a chamber pot beneath the naughty boy’s bed, to which he has to retire on being bitten by the dog. This is eliminated from both English versions. This seems to be a part of the universal squeamishness of the British about anything to do with the natural functions of the body. It affects the transmission of the stories of Till Eulenspiegel, which abound in scatological incident. Moreover, none of the nineteenth-century translators of the Grimms’ ’The Fisherman and his Wife’ could cope with the fact that in the Low German original the couple first lived in a chamber pot.

24The differences between the earlier and later German editions are too numerous to go into in detail, but there is one that affects the accuracy of the English text. In both the original German and the first English edition of ’Harriet and the Matches’, the girl is definitely wearing an apron, and this is explicitly mentioned in the English and German accompanying verses. The apron remains in the German editions of 1858 and later, but it has vanished in the later English editions, thus creating an incongruence between text and image. There had been a similar incongruence in the original German drawings for ’Der böse Friedrich’, since the text says that the dog had brought the whip with him and was carefully looking after it when he was scoffing the food originally meant for Friedrich. There is, however, no sign of the whip in the picture, but later versions correct the mistake. The first English version likewise has no whip, but the later versions do.

25Translating verse from one language to another is trickier than translating prose. The anonymous English translator of Struwwelpeter followed the rhythms and rhyming patterns of the German very closely. The verses consist almost wholly of four-beat rhyming couplets, mainly with a monosyllabic rhyme, with a very few short lines for special effects. The English version uses a few more lines for eight of the eleven pieces (including the title-page) and abbreviates one. This gives a total of 365 lines as against the German 321. Obviously, a number of changes were necessary to make the book suitable for an English readership. The German proper names were changed into English ones. The title held firm to ’Struwwelpeter’, but in the verses he becomes ’Shock-headed Peter’. ’Friedrich’ becomes ’Frederick’, and the anonymous dog ’Tray’. ’Paulinchen’ is re-christened ’Harriet’, but Minz and Maunz, the cats, lose their names altogether. The German ’Ludwig’, ’Kaspar’and ’Wilhelm’ become ’Edward’, ’William’ and ’Arthur’ in ’The Inky Boys’. ’Der große Nikolas’, the descendant of St. Nicholas, who doles out presents and punishments to German boys and girls before Christmas and who looks like Tsar Nicholas I in the illustrations, has no place in British tradition, but is replaced by a menacing, equally untraditional ’Agrippa’. Konrad of ’Little Suck-a-Thumb’ and ’Philipp’, the fidget, get English spellings for their names. ’Suppen-Kaspar’ is converted into ’Augustus who would not have any soup’. The familiar ’Hanns Guck-in-die-Luft’ turns easily into ’Johnny Head-in-Air’, while in the final story ’Robert’ needs no change at all.

26A number of other alterations point to changes for cultural reasons. In ’Cruel Frederick’ the dog eats soup, pies and puddings (in the text) rather than the German cake, liver-sausage and wine, though the picture remains the same. Similarly, in ’Fidgety Philip’ the German plate, bottle of wine and bread are replaced by ’Glasses, plates, knives, forks and all’. In ’The Inky Boys’ there is no mention of the German Brezel (pretzel) that Arthur still carries in his hand in the English book; it has no equivalent in British culture. The title-page verses have a rather different ring to them in the two languages. The English makes no reference to the Christ Child of the German, and while the verses begin with a list of how children are expected to be ’good’, they go on to more specific detail about bad behaviour:

Naughty, romping girls and boys
Tear their clothes and make a noise,
Spoil their pinafores and frocks,
And deserve no Christmas-box.

27Hoffmann’s original contains no such negatives here. Such other differences as there are between the German and English texts are largely a matter of slight amplifications or contractions, usually supported by the illustrations. ’Harriet and the Matches’actually introduces a new figure into the story – Nurse, who, together with Mamma, had left the unfortunate girl alone. Father, who, so the cats point out, forbade Paulinchen to touch the matches, is entirely eliminated. Otherwise it is fair to say that the tone of the German original is very well kept.

28Given the character of Hoffmann’s book in both its German and its English manifestations, how do we evaluate it today? Clearly, patterns of child-rearing have changed dramatically since the mid nineteenth century. Many parents would now roundly condemn the bogy-man threats that figure in ’The Inky Boys’ and ’Little Suck-a-Thumb’. The ’great, long, red-legg’d scissor-man’ is indubitably the most disturbing of Hoffmann’s creations, for girls as well as boys – we need not go into the possible fears of castration – but Hoffmann must have considered its relation to the habit of thumb-sucking as being as disproportionate and absurd as Robert being blown away in a storm no one knows where or Paulinchen (Harriet) being burnt to ashes through playing with the matches. Modern parents may disagree about the rightness or wrongness of the threat, but the image of the scissor-man remains immensely powerful.

29The ten stories as a whole encapsulate timeless problems in children’s behaviour. Parents still worry about children sucking their thumbs, get annoyed at them for refusing to eat certain things, fidgeting on their chairs at the dinner-table, failing to look where they are going, refusing to keep themselves neat and tidy. Like Cruel Frederick, children can be wilfully cruel to animals and other people, and they are apt to mock and bully other children who are not just like themselves. Children also still have to learn what things in the home and elsewhere are dangerous and may injure or even kill them. The enactment of these universal struggles between parents and children reflects the expectations and priorities of the mid nineteenth century, but it is surely clear from the first page that this is a book in which fantasy, not realism, prevails. What actual child could ever acquire those long fingernails and that bush of hair? What cruel boy could be displaced at the dinner-table by a dog so fastidious as to wear a napkin round his neck?

30The world of Struwwelpeter is marked by extremes. It encompasses violence perpetrated by and on children. Danger and death are near at hand. Harriet is burnt to death through playing with matches; Augustus starves to death in five days through refusing his soup; Robert is blown to oblivion in a storm; Conrad has his thumbs cut off; Johnny is almost drowned; Frederick is bitten by the dog and confined to bed; Edward, William and Arthur are dyed black as ink. Yet in none of these instances is any punishment or retribution carried out by a parent. There are threats and prophecies, to be sure, but in the one instance where the parents are present – with Fidgety Philip – their actions are mild. Mamma first ’look’d very grave’, then ’did fret and frown’, while ’Papa made such a face!’ Though Philip is ’in sad disgrace’, his parents are not described as undertaking any punitive measures:

Poor Papa, and poor Mamma
Look quite cross, and wonder how
They shall make their dinner now.

31Critics might well point out, however, that the doctor in ’Cruel Frederick’, Agrippa and the scissor-man are all displaced parent-figures. The doctor, indeed, is hardly a disguise, since that was Hoffmann’s own profession.

32The assorted children in these stories are all alone. This is what sets them apart from the majority of fairytale protagonists, from Marie and Fritz in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nutcracker, from the four brothers in The Swiss Family Robinson, from the happy children in Pletsch’s illustrations. Heinrich Hoffmann’s child characters appear to be only children with no support from siblings or friends. Even the animals are lined up against them. One dog bites Cruel Frederick, and another knocks over Johnny Head-in-Air. The fishes laugh at the latter’s discomfiture. The two cats warn Harriet of the danger of her disobedience. Everything seems weighted against the children. The only story that offers a different pattern – ’The Man that went out Shooting’ – has an animal, the hare, in a situation of powerlessness that elsewhere characterizes the child. This is a nice example of role reversal, but the fact that Hoffmann transposes it into the realm of animals perhaps reveals his unwillingness to countenance a story in which a child might get the better of an adult. Most children reading this story, however, will instinctively recognize their identity with the hare and laugh at the huntsman’s predicament and the shooting of his wife’s coffee-cup and saucer. There is a slight sting in the tail when the hare’s own child gets scalded by coffee from the cup. Was even this success of the hare/child too subversive to be left unalloyed?

29. Heinrich Hoffmann, The English Struwwelpeter. Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures for Little Children. Fifteenth Edition (c. 1858) ’The Story of Fidgedy [sic] Philip’.

33Struwwelpeter, being written by a father for his little son, is naturally a very boy-centred book. Poor Harriet, the only girl, burns to ashes through her disobedience. Did that mean that little Carl Hoffmann was more easily able to accept the import of that story for his own behaviour? That is a story in which Mamma and Nurse are the authority figures, as Mamma also is in ’Little Suck-a-Thumb’. Her smug satisfaction at her son’s loss of both his thumbs at the hands of the scissor-man links strongly with the grim silence she displays at the actions of Fidgety Philip. Mamma is a rather fearsome person, more so than Papa. Cruel Frederick’s whipping of Mary, his Nurse, is his last vicious act before attacking the dog. But Mary surely deserves our sympathy.

34The twenty-four pages of Struwwelpeter present an astonishing diversity of material. The book’s strength and durability surely stem from the fact that it does not view everything from exactly the same angle. It breaks the mould of the deadly serious moral tales and rhymes that were a staple of both German and British children’s books of the time. The moral messages are still present, but Hoffmann’s use of fantasy, humour and extraordinary visual inventiveness are primary. His stories are anchored in everyday family life. That is their starting point, but the stories in every other respect transcend them.

35The earliest English editions of Struwwelpeter were published in Germany, and it is not certain just when the first edition was published in Britain. Many were co-published with the original German publisher, Literarische Anstalt Rütten and Loening of Frankfurt, but it was rare for them to bear a date. The book became extraordinarily popular. Round about 1865 the firm of Routledge, Warnes and Routledge attempted to muscle in on this money-spinner and published a new edition, entitled Struwelpeter (sic), with new pictures and newly translated verses. This was in every way an inferior version. The alterations seem to have been calculated to avoid copyright problems, beginning with the different spelling of the title (with a single ’w’) and the lack of any author’s, illustrator’s or translator’s name. Although ’Struwelpeter’ provides the book’s name, there are no picture and verses about him, nor is there any equivalent to the German title-page. Moreover, the story of ’Suck-a-Thumb’ is also omitted. The eight stories retained are presented in an entirely different order from the original complete editions and are given different titles. The characters are for the most part given different names as well. The pictures are based on Hoffmann’s, but drawn in a different style and printed with less variety in colour. However, as the verses are printed on separate pages and rarely on the same double spread as the pictures, the book completely lacks coherence.

36There are too many differences from the English original for all to be noted, so the following must suffice. ’Johnny Head-in-Air’ is now called simply ’Bob’, and his writing-case (German ’Mappe’) is wrongly given as an atlas. In ’The marvellous Story of the Sportsman and the Hare’ the hare’s child is misinterpreted as a little pig, which results in the following conclusion to the hare’s shooting of the hunter’s wife’s coffee cup:

The spoon which dropp’d beside the well,
A little pig pick’d it up as it fell,
And, knowing ’twas silver by the smell,
He ran with it to a Jew to sell.

37Several changes are made to ’The Surprising Story of the Three Boys and the Blackamoor’. The naughty boys are called Tom, Walter and Master Jack’, and Agrippa (’der große Nikolas’) becomes ’the wise and good Magician Hum’, who is depicted wearing a blue gown with a red lining and yellow facings that comes only just below his knees. The blackamoor is shown, not with bare torso and red shorts as in the original, but with calf-length striped trousers, a blue jacket, red waistcoat and a straw hat, cutting a rather dandified figure. In ’The Surprising Story of Alfred and his Bread and Milk’ Augustus is the only character to acquire a surname as well as a new first name; he becomes Alfred Jones. On the fifth day of refusing his bread and milk (not soup) he becomes ’lighter than a feather’ and dies. While the verses in this edition keep to the general sense of the original, they are often metrically and syntactically awkward. Given all the inadequacies of this edition, affecting pictures, verses and lay-out, it is not surprising that it made no headway.

38While there were a number of American translations of Struwwelpeter during the nineteenth century, beginning as early as 1849, they are outside the purview of this book as none of them, to my knowledge, made it across the Atlantic. The only exception is Mark Twain’s Slovenly Peter, composed in 1891, but not published until 1935 (New York: Limited Editions Club, The Marbanks Press; also New York and London: Harper & Brothers). Several other British translations were made, but copies are not easy to locate. Among them are The Magic Lantern Struwelpeter (London: Frederick Warne, 1896; possibly related to the Routledge, Warnes and Routledge edition): Struwelpeter of Today (London: Dean, c. 1900); Shock Headed Peter and Other Funny Stories, by Dr Hoffmann (Books for the Bairns, no. 68, October 1901); The English Struwwelpeter (London: Dean, 1905; a rag book); Struwwelpeter, or Merry Stories and Funny Pictures (London: Blackie & Son, c. 1909).

39The Books for the Bairns edition is radically different from the others in that the format is much reduced in size and thus both verses and pictures are spread out over more pages. The pictures are modelled on those of the earliest hand-coloured editions, but rely solely on line without any colour. The characters’ dress is mainly brought up to date, but Johnny Head-in-Air wears what looks like a kilt rather than the trousers he has in the post-1858 editions. Some of the characters are renamed, so in ’The Very Sad Story of the Matches’ Paulinchen (Harriet) becomes Katie, while the cats are called Tib and Tab. In ’The Story of the Black Boys’ the white youngsters are called Bobby, Tom and Will, and the tale is anglicized enough for Will to carry a Union Jack. The wife of the man who went out shooting is burlesqued as ’Mrs Nimrod’. Little Suck-a-Thumb remains as Conrad, but Augustus is converted into Jack and refuses to eat porridge rather than soup. The verses are a largely independent translation with occasional phrases reminiscent of or perhaps lifted from the first English version. This Books for the Bairns edition was very modest in format, but it was actually among the twenty-five items from the series that was reissued by Ernest Benn in 1926.

40The Blackie and Son edition has already been alluded to on account of the negative reaction to the translation by a writer in The Times. As is the case with several of the other editions, this indulges in a certain amount of renaming of the characters. Although the verses call the eponymous hero ’shock-headed Peter’, the title above the stock picture has ’Untidy Peter’. Poor Harriet is called Pauletta, and the cats (as in the Books for the Bairns edition) are Tib and Tab. In ’The Story of the Little Black Boys’ the ’pitch-black nigger-boy’ is referred to as ’inky Sambo’, the name no doubt being an allusion to Helen Bannerman’s hugely popular Story of Little Black Sambo, first published in 1899. The white boys are called Arthur, Charlie and William, and the pretzel is described as a ’curly bun’. The boy who sucked his thumbs is here called Jimmy, while the boy who wouldn’t eat his soup is Tommy. Curiously, in the pictures for the latter the cross for his grave is still marked ’Augustus’. The pictures for this edition are the traditional ones; only the verses have been redone. Later editions published by Blackie and Son reverted to the well-worn verses.

41The amazing thing about Struwwelpeter is the fact that once Heinrich Hoffmann’s book had got off the ground it spawned all manner of imitations. While the firm of Rütten and Loening zealously defended its copyright of Hoffmann’s pictures and verses in the German-speaking countries, his humorous approach to the cautionary tale was quickly adopted in both Germany and Britain. The firm of Dean and Son round about 1858 brought out a ’New Series of English Struwelpeters, or, Amusing Stories, with Comic Engravings. Fit for little boys and girls’. It started off with ’No. 1. English Struwelpeter. Translated from the original German, with the original cuts’. The booklets that followed varied the themes relentlessly. We find verses on ’The Dainty Little Boy’, ’The Little Boy who Bit his Nails’, ’The Girl who Sucked her Fingers’ (no. 2, Comic Crumbs to Feed Little Ones), ’The Little Boy who would not be Washed’, ’The Boy who Played with Fire’, ’The Girl who would not Comb her Hair’ (no. 4, Naughty Boys and Girls). If we trawl through the series of ten booklets, we gain a virtually complete inventory of childish misbehaviour, but few of the fates narrated display much of the fantasy combined with grotesque comedy that is Hoffmann’s hallmark. Some of the verses may amuse, but they are chiefly designed to instil obedience through warning examples. They rub in their messages with unnecessary admonitions as if their readers might otherwise fail to see the point.

42One of the more attractive examples of these Struwwelpeter derivatives was a German book entitled Lachende Kinder, with pictures by Theodor Hosemann (Frankfurt am Main: Literarische Anstalt Rütten & Loening, 1850). The verses were by Adolf Glassbrenner, whose name, however, does not appear on the title-page. This book is one of the few derivatives that have enjoyed a considerable life of their own. A seventeenth impression was published as late as 1913. The book contains ten tales and an ABC, all illustrated in a style similar to Hoffmann’s, but displaying the obvious skill of one of Germany’s most distinguished illustrators. It was translated into English by Madame de Chatelain as A Laughter Book for Little Folk (London: Cundall & Addey, 1851), the ABC being omitted. The ratio of female to male protagonists is more evenly balanced than in Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter: there are four girls to six boys. We have ’Slovenly Kate’, ’Tell-Tale Jenny’, ’Headstrong Nancy’ and ’Screaming Annie’ to line up against ’Envious Tom’, ’Untidy Tom’, ’Charley, the Story-Teller’ (i.e. the fibber), ’Sammy Sweet-Tooth’, ’Ned, the Toy-Breaker’ and ’Prying Will’. Sammy Sweet-Tooth is the reverse of Augustus who would not eat his soup: he grows so fat ’He cannot waddle – much less run’. The verses continue:

Still, like a bubble filled with air,
He swells enough to make one stare, –
And, should the worst come to the worst,
To-morrow he will surely burst!

43’Headstrong Nancy’is very much in the tradition of tales like the Grimms’ ’King Thrushbeard’ and Bechstein’s ’The Two Bones of Contention’, in which an unruly female is tamed. Nancy’s three dollies first warn her one night about her headstrong ways, but on getting no satisfactory response plant a moustache over her lips and take their leave for better children. All her close relatives do the same, and the moustache sticks firmly to her ever after. Proper behaviour is thus strictly gender-related, but it is a sad conclusion that being headstrong is somehow acceptable in a male, though not in a female. Hosemann’s illustrations are deftly amusing, but they don’t pick out the particularities of each character in the way that Hoffmann’s do.

  • 2 See David Blamires, ’Some German and English Political Travesties of Struwwelpeter’, in Connection (...)

44Hoffmann, probably unconsciously, but certainly serendipitously, touched such deep places in the human psyche that his characters and their misfortunes resonated with readers long after they had exchanged juvenile anxieties and pleasures for sober adulthood. The result was that, from the late nineteenth century onwards, Struwwelpeter provided a model for all kinds of political and social satires.2 The pictures and verses were so well known that they could be taken for granted and pressed into service for other ends. In Germany Henry Ritter’s Der politische Struwwelpeter (Düsseldorf: Buddeus, 1849) can be seen as the most accomplished of the early adaptations, here focussed on the political upheaval of the 1848 revolution and its aftermath. It is perhaps not so remarkable that Hoffmann’s children’s book gave rise to such satires in Germany, but it is extraordinary that there were several in Britain at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. The Political Struwwelpeter, by Harold Begbie, with illustrations by F. Carruthers Gould (London: Grant Richards, 1899), centred on the problems of the British Empire in South Africa and Ireland, went into a second edition within a month and was followed by The Struwwelpeter Alphabet by the same pair and the same publisher in 1900. The earlier book depicts the British Lion as Struwwelpeter and declares:

See the British Lion pose,
Wildly groping for his foes!
Men who tinker up the laws
Never manicure his claws:
And you will observe with pain
No one ever crimps his mane;
Seeing that he’s so neglected
Do you wonder he’s dejected?

45These books are an amazing confirmation of how widely known the English Struwwelpeter was. The satire would have had little resonance without it. In 1914 it served once more as the starting point for Swollen-headed William. Painful Stories and Funny Pictures after the German! (London: Methuen & Co.). The text was by E. V. Lucas, drawings by Geo. Morrow. This was just one of many satirical attacks on the Kaiser. During the Nazi period Struwwelpeter was used again to attack Hitler and his henchmen in three further parodies – Truffle Eater. Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures, by Oistros (pseudonym for Humbert Wolfe) (London: Arthur Barker, 1933); Struwwelhitler. A Nazi Story Book by Doktor Schrecklichkeit, by Robert and Philip Spence (London: Haycock Press, 1941); and Schicklgrüber, by Robert Colling-Pyper and Margaret Stavridi (Calcutta: Thacker’s Press and Directories, 1943).

  • 3 See Adelheid Hlawacek, ’Der Aegyptische Struwwelpeter – ein Kuriosum der österreichischen Kinderli (...)
  • 4 See David Blamires, ‘Social Satire in English Struwwelpeter Parodies’, Princeton Library Journal 6 (...)

46In addition to these political satires there were some others, more in the nature of burlesques, that focussed on social or cultural themes. The Egyptian Struwwelpeter (London: H. Grevel & Co., [1896]) was a translation of Der Aegyptische Struwwelpeter (Vienna: Carl Gerold’s Sohn, 1895), of which the manuscript was originally done in 1894 by Fritz, Magdalena and Richard Netolitzky as a present for a friend of the family.3 The Austrian edition had to be withdrawn because of infringements of Rütten & Loening’s copyright, but the English edition escaped these problems. The transposition of Hoffmann’s stories and pictures to an ancient Egyptian setting is very engagingly achieved. Next came two independent British parodies. Petrol Peter, by Archibald Williams, illustrated by A. Wallis Mills (London: Methuen & Co., [1906]), is a satire on the very recent introduction of the motor car on to the road, while The Marlborough Struwwelpeter, by A. de C. Williams (Marlborough: The ’Times’ Office, [1908]) adapts the theme to public school life.4 No other countries apart from Germany and Britain have given rise to such an abundance of translations and satirical adaptations of Hoffmann’s masterpiece.

47The enthusiasm with which Struwwelpeter was received in Germany led Hoffmann to compose a number of other children’s books in a similar style, but none came anywhere near Struwwelpeter in popularity. Only one of them was translated into English. This was his Christmas fantasy König Nußknacker und der arme Reinhold. Ein Kindermährchen (Frankfurt am Main: Literarische Anstalt Rütten & Loening, 1851), which was deftly rendered into English by J. R. Planché as King Nut-Cracker or the Dream of Poor Reinhold. A Fairy Tale for Children (London:? William Tegg, 1855). The idea of children interacting with toys coming to life goes back, of course, to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nußknacker und Mausekönig and had often been re-used in Germany. Clara Fechner had included in Die schwarze Tante (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1848) a story entitled ’Nußknaker und Zukerpüppchen’, which had appeared in English as Nut-Cracker and Sugar-Dolly, translated by Charles A. Dana (London: Joseph Cundall, 1849). Robert Reinick also used the idea in Die Wurzelprinzessin (1848).

48Heinrich Hoffmann’s King Nut-Cracker lacks the bite and memorable verses of Struwwelpeter and the structural complexity and shimmering perspectives of his namesake’s subtle story. It is, in fact, a sentimental tale of a poor, sick boy who is taken by an angel one Christmas Eve into a delightful world of living toys, from which he awakes the next morning restored to health and happiness and with a Christmas tree and all kinds of toys to entrance him. Hoffmann’s verses are more varied and ambitious than those he wrote for Struwwelpeter, but they have less impact. The main interest of the book lies in the extended opportunity for illustration that its thirty-two pages provided. The scene depicting market stalls set out on the Römerberg in Frankfurt and the picture of the trumpeter are the most striking images in the book, but we have to note, towards the end, the reappearance of Struwwelpeter and his companions in a procession that properly ends with the thread-thin Augustus who would not eat his soup. Reinhold is a slightly older boy than the children in Struwwelpeter; he is six or seven in the German original, but Planché does not indicate his age. The English version did not enjoy the commercial success of Struwwelpeter. It does not appear to have been republished after its first appearance, and consequently copies are now scarce and very expensive when they come on to the market.

49King Nut-Cracker is a genial, but superficial piece of writing, completely lacking the ambivalence that makes Struwwelpeter so powerful in its psychological impact. The author to whom we now turn, Wilhelm Busch, shares some of that ambivalence and power, but operates in a different context and with different aims. For one thing, Busch was a professional artist, while Hoffmann was an amateur, and for another, Busch’s target audience was not only or principally small children, but more general and included adults. Even his child readers were older than the three to six year olds for whom Struwwelpeter was written. He worked on a much broader front than Hoffmann.

50Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908) was born in Wiedensahl, a village in the kingdom of Hanover, but not far from Westphalia. It was a place that he was greatly attached to and returned to frequently as an adult. He studied first at the Polytechnic in Hanover, then went to the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf and later to Antwerp and Munich. From 1859 he contributed to the satirical Fliegende Blätter and the Münchner Bilderbogen, both highly popular publications. In 1865 he published his best known work, Max und Moritz, but both before and after there came from his pen a steady stream of humorous stories in pictures and verse that constitute his claim to lasting fame. Alongside this Busch also was a serious painter, much influenced by the seventeenth-century Dutch school, but alert too to the contemporary work of the French Impressionists. Busch’s paintings and drawings reflect his abiding interest in the people, daily life and landscape of his boyhood home. Their skill and strength, however, have never gained the public recognition accorded to his other work.

51Busch’s most famous work, Max und Moritz, presents a sequence of seven tricks played by the eponymous pair of boys on various people in their village – Widow Bolte, Tailor Böck, Schoolmaster Lämpel, Uncle Fritz, the baker and Farmer Mecke. Max and Moritz are pranksters in the lineage of Till Eulenspiegel, makers of mischief for its own sake. They kill and steal Widow Bolte’s hens and cock. They lure Tailor Böck on to a footbridge from which they have sawn the supports so that he falls into the water. They fill Schoolmaster Lämpel’s pipe with gunpowder and cause an explosion. They put cockchafers into Uncle Fritz’s bed. After this things change somewhat. Falling down the baker’s chimney, they are made into huge loaves and baked in the oven. Although they manage to eat themselves out of the bread, in the last episode Farmer Mecke takes them in sacks to the mill, where they are ground into little pieces and eaten by the miller’s fowls. The pranks thus form a circular sequence, beginning and ending with domestic fowls, but with reversed results. Meanwhile, everyone in the village rejoices that they will be plagued no longer by the troublesome pair.

52The book begins with tricks in which the reader is expected to identify with the two boys. From a child’s point of view the widow, tailor, schoolmaster and Uncle Fritz are legitimate targets, and their discomfiture is amusing, though they have done nothing to deserve Max and Moritz’s attentions. But then the tables are turned, and in the last two episodes the boys get their come-uppance, after which the village reverts to adult control and quiet. From the adult point of view there is no lasting harm, but from the child’s point of view it is clear that the pranks cannot be tolerated. Max and Moritz are disposed of in a way every bit as drastic as Paulinchen (Harriet), Suppen-Kaspar (Augustus) or Flying Robert. But while the characters in Struwwelpeter have parents close at hand, Max and Moritz are curiously alone and independent. They are free agents, free from parental control and with no apparent home. It’s not clear whether they are friends or brothers, though to judge from their divergent pictorial appearances the former is more likely. In any case, they are always together and function as a unit. Possibly Busch took their names from Glassbrenner and Hosemann’s Lachende Kinder, in which there are two stories entitled ’Vom neidischen Moritz’ (Envious Moritz) and ’Vom unordentlichen Max’ (Untidy Max). Busch’s boys, however, do not have any distinguishing traits of behaviour.

53Busch is often thought of as an ancestor of the comic strip, and rightly so. His stories are essentially visual in character and full of lively incident. Beginning with the two boys, the one with a round face and shock of hair, the other with a pointed chin and three odd tufts of hair, the various actors in Busch’s drama are caricatures. Widow Bolte is fat and plain, with a dumpling of a nose, while Böck wears a bizarre red hat and Lämpel is grotesquely tall and thin. Like many another of Busch’s comic male figures, Uncle Fritz has laughably thin legs and buttocks. But even though the cartoon-like pictures carry the story, Busch matches them with his deft and witty verses. He is a master of the rhyming couplet, whether it stands alone or forms part of longer narrative unit.

54The first translation into English was actually an American edition entitled Max and Maurice. A Juvenile History in Seven Tricks, by William Busch, translated from the German by Charles T. Brooks (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1871). Unlike the original, which has coloured illustrations, this edition contents itself with black and white, but since Busch’s emphasis was on line rather than colour there is little loss. A few changes were made to proper names. Widow Bolte becomes Widow Tibbets (with a convenient rhyme on ’exhibits’), Tailor Böck is changed to Buck, while Lämpel and Uncle Fritz remain the same. Busch does not name the baker, and Brooks deals similarly with the farmer. This translation was reissued in 1895 by the same publisher, then again in 1899 and 1902 by Little, Brown, and Co. of Boston. Meanwhile, the original publishers in Munich, Braun & Schneider, published another translation in collaboration with A. N. Myers and Co. of London in 1874. Here the title was given as Max and Moritz. A Story in Seven Tricks. This translation was reissued, re-set, by Siegle, Hill and Co. of London in an undated edition. The copies I have seen of both editions have coloured illustrations. Now we have a Widow Bolt, Snip the tailor, Doctor Whackem as the teacher, Uncle Fritz as ever, an unnamed baker and peasant Meck. With these names the characters slide away from their German origins into a more generalized comedy setting. The dog, however, as in the American version, keeps the name of Spitz. A third translation, rather free and using a quite different metre, was made by Arundell Esdaile and issued in a larger format (London: George Routledge & Sons, [1913]. Four of the characters bear different names again – Widow Poppletops, tailor Lambkin, Dr. Potts the teacher and Uncle Toby. It is worth noting that the British editions, following the pattern set with Struwwelpeter, remove the chamber-pot that the German editions show underneath Onkel Fritz’s bed. Esdaile’s version was not the last English translation: further ones have appeared at later dates in the twentieth century.

55While Max and Moritz is Busch’s best known work, it was not the first to be translated into English. It was preceded by a small collection of tales entitled A Bushel of Merrythoughts, described and ornamented by W. Harry Rogers (London: Sampson Low, Son, & Marston, 1868). Rogers’s contribution is the English verses and a title-page decoration to each of the four items; Busch’s illustrations remain. The first item is ’The Fearful Tragedy of Ice-Peter’ (’Der Eispeter’), the story of a boy who is frozen into spikes of ice after extricating himself from a fall into the water while out skating. Brought home to thaw in front of the stove, his body melts into ’the soft consistency of pap’ and is scooped up into a pan:

And lastly, in the well-stocked cupboard, where
Preserves are kept in pots of earthenware,
One jar, which most the curious fancy tickles,
Is PETER, stored among the jams and pickles.

56The ending resembles that of Max and Moritz, and Peter’s fate is a worthy counterpart to that of Paulinchen (Harriet) in Struwwelpeter.

57’The Terrible Punishment of the Naughty Boys of Corinth’ (’Diogenes und die bösen Buben von Korinth’) tells how two unnamed boys (avatars of Max and Moritz) tease the philosopher Diogenes, but come to grief when they roll him in his barrel. Their clothes catch on the nails, they are pulled along and squashed flat underneath it. In ’The Exciting Story of the Cat and Mouse’ (’Katze und Maus’) Busch gives free rein to his hostility towards cats, as everything goes wrong in the cat’s pursuit of the mouse through a series of domestic obstacles. The mouse escapes and rejoices, while the cat has to be pulled out of a boot in which it has got stuck (the boot has a hole in the foot through which the mouse escaped). When the cat attempts its own escape, the man servant squashes it in the kitchen door.

58The final item in the book is called ’The Disobedient Children who Stole Sugar-Bread’ and is Busch’s adaptation of the fairytale ’Hänsel und Gretel’. This is not exactly the story we are familiar with from the Grimms. The children are told by their mother not to go into the wood, but they catch sight of a hare and follow it, then come across a trap for children and are captured by an ogre and a witch. The picture shows the trap baited with Brezeln, which is turned into ’sugar-bread’ in the English, but the story is hardly one of disobedient stealing. The children are both placed in a cage while the witch stokes the fire in preparation for putting them in the cauldron, but when she pulls Gretel out of the cage, Hänsel escapes and pushes the witch into the cauldron herself. The ogre picks her out with a pitchfork, but she is dead. When he next turns to the children and attacks them, he gets caught in the cage, is imprisoned there and pushed into a deep bog. The children return home with half-eaten Brezeln in their hand, but they see their mother ready for them with a birch. This is a considerable twist on the fairytale, giving Hänsel rather than Gretel the leading role is disposing of the witch and depicting the children as naughty at the outset and the conclusion rather then as innocent victims of their mother.

59This collection of cautionary tales was reprinted in different order by W. T. Stead as no. 48 of his Books for the Bairns (February 1900). He acknowledges the original British publishers and slightly adapts their title as A Book of Merry Thoughts. Because of the different format the illustrations are not always printed in the same size, so the tales do not have the careful unity of scale that Busch intended.

60The 1870s seem to have been the prime decade for English versions of Busch’s tales. Pious Jemima. A Doleful Tale, freely translated by John MacLush (Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo, 1872), is a long biographical story, recounting the protagonist’s wilfully naughty childhood and youth, her progress to marriage and final decline into alcoholism. After a typical set of mischievous pranks with which Jemima torments her aunt and uncle, the main target of the book’s satire is sanctimony, false religiosity cloaking secret sins. This English version is astonishingly up-to-date, since the German original, Die fromme Helene, was first published in the same year. The first seven chapters, dealing with Jemima’s youth, end with an episode redolent of ’Cat and Mouse’, in which Jemima disturbs two romping cats, slams the door on master Tom’s tail, wraps paper and sealing wax round it and sets it alight. There is a quite sadistic streak in Busch’s imagination, but at least up to this point the story centres on a young person and the manifold ways in which she tests the patience of her aunt and especially her uncle. However, when Jemima enters the realm of matrimony with John Plum and becomes a pious churchgoer, her adult life seems hardly calculated to be of interest to a young reader. The book moves from juvenile comedy to serious satire, as Busch changes horses midstream in the tale and addresses a different kind of reader. Busch’s humour is rarely, if ever, completely carefree. He was interested in human folly at every age, and though his stories and pictures were designed to amuse, they would also prod many readers to reflect. John MacLush’s adaptation was quickly reissued with the title Naughty Jemima: a Doleful Tale (London: Ward, Lock & Co., [1874]), but there do not appear to be any later reprints.

611872 also saw another of Busch’s stories appear in English. This was Buzz a Buzz; or, the Bees, done freely into English by the author of My Bee Book (i.e. W. C. Cotton) from the German (London: Griffith & Farran; Chester: Phillipson & Golder). This was a version of Schnurrdiburr oder die Bienen (1869), a series of comic adventures centring on a beekeeper and his anthropomorphized bees, a young lady, a lover and, of course, a boy who gets up to no good. For Busch amorous relations between the sexes are always a matter for comedy, especially when the couple concerned make romantic assignations. The pictures, organized into ten chapters, are what carry the various episodes, but Busch’s German verses are cast in more varied metres than usual and make play with both classical allusions and Low German dialect speech. The English version can hardly be claimed as a translation. Indeed, the author himself admits that his German was very limited and that he wrote his verses on the basis of the pictures.

62Many of Busch’s short picture tales were published in collections rather than as separate items. Fourteen of these smaller items were presented to the English public under the title Fools Paradise with the Many Wonderful Adventures there as seen in the Strange Surprising Peep Show of Professor Wolley Cobble (London: John Camden Hotten, [1872]). Unlike Pious Jemima and Buzz a Buzz, this book has the illustrations printed in colour. Among the items is a different version of ’The Troublesome Boys and Diogenes the Wise’ from the one we have already noticed, but the rest are new to the British readers. Several merely take a simple idea and expand it, as we see in ’The Music Master’ (’Ein Neujahrskonzert’), which consists of caricatures of different styles of playing the piano. ’The Merry Sledge Party and their Marvellous Slide’ (’Die Rutschpartie’) depicts a rollicking youth bumping into or picking up a series of unlikely passengers as his sledge careers down a hillside. ’Sixteen Startling Scenes in a Monkey’s Life’ (’Der Affe und der Schusterjunge’) is a sequence of pictures showing how a monkey gets the better of a boy who has been teasing him. ’The Laughable Goings on, and Goings off, of the Comical People of Noseyland’ is a visual fantasy about people with noses a foot or two feet long and all the problems and opportunities that this causes. ’The Woeful Panorama of the Toothache’ (’Der hohle Zahn’) turns what must have been a terrifying experience in the days before anaesthetics into a boisterous comedy. These are just a few of the ways in which Busch created fun and laughter out of the events of ordinary life. The village is the main setting of these scenes – Busch seems to have little to say about the world of industry or commerce. He is most at ease when he is depicting small-scale events in human intercourse, exaggerating and fantasizing, but still reflecting and poking fun at recognizable human types and situations. A later edition of The Fool’s Paradise (London: Griffith & Farran, [1883]) mentions that the contents are taken from Busch’s contributions to the Münchener Bilderbogen.

63Another selection from Busch’s shorter tales was translated by H. W. Dulcken under the title Hookeybeak the Raven, and Other Tales (London and New York: George Routledge & Sons, [1878]). The title-piece is taken from Hans Huckebein, der Unglücksrabe (1867), the story of a boy who catches a young raven and of the havoc that the raven causes in the household before it finally strangles itself. Dulcken was not the most adroit of translators, and what he does with the German names is disconcerting. The German boy Fritz lives with his Aunt Lotte, which Dulcken turns into an implausible Tommy Tit and Aunt Matilda Tabitha. The dog Spitz, which we have noted time and again as the most common German dog’s name, becomes the utterly bizarre ’Tooticums, who was a Poodle Pup’, while the tomcat is the equally odd ’Bouncibell the Cat’. Dulcken provided versions of seven more tales in the book, including ’The Pea-Shooter; or, the Tragedy in a Country Garden’ (’Das Pusterohr’) and ’The Story of the Worrying Bluebottle; and of the Gentleman who lost his Temper’, which Busch with admirable concision simply called ’Die Fliege’ (the fly).

64At the end of the 1870s A. B. Westmacott did separately published versions of three of Busch’s short tales – Diogenes and the Two Naughty Young Corinthians; Cousin Freddy’s First and Last Donkey-Ride (’Vetter Franz auf dem Esel’); and The Power of Sound; or, the Effect of Music (’Der Virtuos’) (London: Alfred Hays, 1879). This seems to mark the end of new material in English by Busch, although, as we have seen, there were later reissues of previously published tales. There were also several more translations of Busch in the United States, but they lie outside the scope of this book.

65The quantity of Busch’s graphic work and verses is extensive enough to fill six volumes in a modern edition. Only a small proportion of it was adapted into English during the late nineteenth century and first published in a period of about a dozen years. The illustrations were reproduced intact except for a very few instances in which English words were substituted for German ones where they actually cropped up in a picture. But Busch’s verses, calculatedly spare, mordantly witty and adroitly rhymed, did not fare as well. They never achieved the memorable status of the first Struwwelpeter translation. While the majority of Busch’s tales were designed to appeal to children, their sardonic view of human nature, especially smugness and social pretensions, addresses adults as well. His drawings are caricatures of human frailty and surely popular with children because his child characters indulge every temptation that well-behaved children are taught to resist. Max and Moritz may become chicken feed at the end of their adventures, but they’ve had a lot of fun beforehand. Moreover, Busch’s story world is largely lacking in parents, so children have a much freer time of it. The role of parent is usually taken by an aunt or uncle, and they are thus placed at a safer (if not entirely safe) distance for the children. What is perhaps more disturbing for the modern reader is Busch’s unfeeling attitude towards animals. There is none of the sentiment or sentimentality that characterizes present-day attitudes. The more one reads of Busch, the more one recognizes these recurring patterns in his stories. But the last word has to be with his masterly technique as a graphic artist. His skill at creating images imbued with vitality, quirkiness and plausibility looks effortless. His style is unmistakable, and the pictures make their appeal regardless of the questionable character of some of the so-called translations.


1 In his Lebenserinnerungen (written in 1889-92) Hoffmann stated that the first edition consisted of 1500 copies, but Ulrich Wiedmann, quoting from a letter Hoffmann wrote in October-December 1845, has convincingly argued that it must have been 3000. See Ulrich Wiedmann, ‘Fünfzehnhundert? Wer bietet mehr?’ Struwwelpost, 4 (1998), pp. 13-16.

2 See David Blamires, ’Some German and English Political Travesties of Struwwelpeter’, in Connections: Essays in Honour of Eda Sagarra on the Occasion of her 6oth Birthday, edited by Peter Skrine et al. (Stuttgart: Hans-Dieter Heinz, 1993), pp. 19-27.

3 See Adelheid Hlawacek, ’Der Aegyptische Struwwelpeter – ein Kuriosum der österreichischen Kinderliteratur?’, in Struwwelpeter-Hoffmann gestern und heute, edited by G. H. Herzog et al. (Frankfurt am Main: Sinemis, 1999), pp. 88-106.

4 See David Blamires, ‘Social Satire in English Struwwelpeter Parodies’, Princeton Library Journal 62, 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 45-58.

Table des illustrations

Légende 28. Little Lily’s Alphabet. With Rhymes by S. M. P. and Pictures by Oscar Pletsch (c. 1865). W for Winter.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,2M
Légende 29. Heinrich Hoffmann, The English Struwwelpeter. Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures for Little Children. Fifteenth Edition (c. 1858) ’The Story of Fidgedy [sic] Philip’.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,0M


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search