Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 07/30/15 3:24 PM

Books: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

                                Threadbare, old and worn,  yet priceless.


This review  is as much personal as professional.

This falling-to-bits but very very precious copy of Charles Kingsley`s THE WATER BABIES, belonged to the name on the flyleaf shown in one of the snaps below: Paruvakat Kalyani Kutty, my much-loved grandmother. It now belongs to me.

The illustrations on the title page, the motif on the endpaper, the gorgeous colour plates, all fairly take one`s breath away. This edition was published by Ward, Lock & Co Ltd but unfortunately, neither the year of printing nor the illustrator`s name is given.

The classic fairy tale is no less entralling. Kingsley, a Church of England priest, university professor, reformer, poet, wrote The Water Babies in 1862. He was a supporter of Darwin`s infamous-at-the-time theory of evolution, and his story of Tom the chimney-sweep who falls into a river and becomes a water baby, is a thinly disguised satire, making its point about child labour, the origin of species, politics and science in equal measure.

This book was a game-changer. It actually helped bring about legislation to help the many poor young children who were forced to crawl inside chimneys to keep them clean.

The book acquired cult status in the pantheon of children`s literature but came under fire much later for disparaging references to Jews, Blacks and Irish Catholics.

Just as in the case of a later analysis of some of Enid Blyton`s works, we cannot unknow what we now know.

However, I`d reccommend a dispassionate reading of this beautifully told tale of creatures living underwater. You will take from it what you want to take from it.

                                                           Redolant of another time…

                                                       As in,  Paruvakat Kalyani Kutty.

                                                                The illustrated endpaper

                                                          The embellished title page

                                                              The glorious frontispiece.


                                                           Just look at this colour plate!


                                            Colour plates such as this one dot the book in a marvellous  way.


Links to my other Photo Features:

Photo Feature: Picture Postcards

Photo Feature: Critters of Odisha

Photo Feature: Eden and its serpent!

Photo Feature: Eating Chinese food in China

Photo Feature: Paths in the Kumaon foothills

Photo Feature: China chronicles

Photo Feature: Jaipur`s jharokas and more!

Photo Feature: The Lake District

Photo Feature: Views from a Bangalore Window

Photo Feature: Kiwiland Calling!

Photo Feature: Himachal Heights

Photo Feature: Scotland

Photo Feature: Cats of Turkey

Photo Feature: A Nilgiris montage

Photo Feature: A Ladakh journey

Charles Kingsleyclassiccolour platesThe water babies

Sheila Kumar • July 30, 2015

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