The Four Seasons of the Year, by SHORT, Bob, pseud.,…

in common rather than blank verse... and without long descriptions
SHORT, Bob, pseud., ie WRIGHT, George.

The Four Seasons of the Year, to which are added Rural Poems, and Pastoral Dialogues, Imitated from Mr. Gay, with occasional Notes and Illustrations, for the Use and Entertainment of young Gentlemen and Ladies. By Bob Short. Author of the Country Squire, &c. &c. London, H. Turpin & C. Stalker; Pearson and Rollason, Birmingham, and E. Andrews, Worcester, 1787.

First Edition? 12mo (164 x 100 mm), pp. 48, with eight part-page woodcuts in the text, on the section titles, damptstaining to the title-page and first three leaves, otherwise occasional blemishes and some light browning, several leaves cut close but no actual shaving to page numbers or text, wanting the endpapers, in the original green Dutch floral boards, with faded gilding, spine a little worn but largely present: a lovely copy preserved in a folding box.

A very scarce rewriting of Thomson’s Seasons for a juvenile market, together with ‘The Shepherd’s Day’, a pastoral dialogue written in imitation of John Gay, and other poems. Published under the pseudonym Bob Short - a nom de plume used throughout the eighteenth century by writers including Eliza Haywood, Robert Withy and Robert Wiley - and attributed by E.W. Pitcher to George Wright, author of The Country Squire, 1781, The Rural Christian, 1772, and a frequent contributor to the Lady’s Magazine. One of three short poems that conclude the volume is a four stanza idyll under the title ‘Colin, a Pastoral, on the Death, and in Imitation of Mr. John Cunningham’; this has the footnote, ‘Mr. Cunningham would frequently lie about in the fields, under an hedge or a tree, in which situation he wrote many of his pastorals’. This is a delightful copy of a large format book of verse for children bound in Dutch floral boards.
‘The following Poems are recommended to the Perusal of young Gentlemen and Ladies, who are fond of rural Scenes, and the Pleasures of Country Life; as they describe the Innocence, Simplicity, and unenvied Happiness of Sylvan Retirement, in a natural, concise, and entertaining manner; while the Seasons of the Year are taken from,
and pourtrayed in the lively Colours of the late Mr. Thomson, but in common Verse, for the use of those who are not fond of blank poetry, nor long descriptions’ (Advertisement).
ESTC records another edition of this work printed in London by H. Turpin &c. in 1787 (with the same collaborative imprint as this edition) but with pp. 96. This other edition appears to be printed in the smaller format associated with children’s books, ie. 16mo (the Bodleian copy measuring height 9.5cm), which would account for the greater number of pages (see ESTC n18595, at Bodleian and Toronto only). We have not been able to compare copies of the two works, but a possible explanation would be a simultaneous publication of editions for children (the pocket-sized edition) and for young people (the present edition). The choice of Dutch floral boards puts this copy firmly in the category of children’s books, but this unusually large format, suited to the more slightly more sophisticated subject matter, does suggest that it may have been intended for rather older ‘young ladies and gentlemen’.

See Osborne Collection I, p. 78 for the 16mo edition (under Bob Short).

ESTC t72853, at BL, Bodleian, Cornell and Harvard only.

Keywords: Children
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