Rural Walks, in Spring: by [RURAL.]


Rural Walks, in Spring: Containing a Display of the Various Productions of the Season. Interspersed with Moral Reflections. Birmingham: Biddle and Hudson, circa 1815.

First Edition? 12mo (136 x 86 mm), woodcut frontispiece used as pastedown and pp. [3]-47, final leaf also used as pastedown, woodcut vignette on title-page and 8 part page woodcut illustrations accompanying the text, 1 woodcut tail-piece, some slight browning, in the original brown stiff printed wrappers, woodcut illustration on the front cover, title printed within typographical border, the border repeated on the lower cover along with bookseller’s advertisements for ‘Juvenile Books, embellished with Beautiful Wood Cuts’, sewing visible but slightly loosening, with the ownership inscription ‘L. Burgess’ and a small stain on the title-page.

One of two known editions of this charming little book of ‘Walks’, or conversations, both editions undated, both provincial (the other is printed in Coventry, ‘by and for Pratt, Smith & Lesson) and both held at the British Library only.
Made up of 8 Walks and a Conclusion, the work recounts the nature rambles and conversations of the Smith family: the respectable Mr and Mrs Smith their two children, William, aged 10 and Mary, aged 8, together with a visiting nephew, Thomas, a boy of a weak constitution sent to the country for his health. Mr and Mrs Smith had retired ‘from the bustle of a very lucrative business’, to live in the West of England, where they dedicate themselves to leisure and the education of their children.
The curiosity and antics of the children in the course of the walks prompt adult explanations on subjects ranging from the cruelty of stealing birds’ nests, to astronomy, the propagation of flowers, ploughing and sewing wheat, and details on the life cycles and habits of butterflies, swallows, rooks and many other creatures. Country pastimes such as maypole dancing are described and some commentary given on social hierarchies of the past: ‘That is, my dear child, a Castle, where formerly some great Lord resided, who then had a sovereign power over his tenants, whom he used to force to fight for him in his quarrels, but happily for us, those days of ignorance and slavery are gone, and the poor enjoy the same common privileges with the rich’ (Walk V, pp. 28-29). The final walk has the children returning home to admire his uncles ‘feathered tribes’, which include hens, swans and a peacock, and to wander around his hot house where he grows grapes, melons and pineapples.
The woodcut frontispiece depicts a may day scene with children skipping around the maypole and creating an unlikely configuration of ribbons. The text includes delightful woodcut illustrations depicting scenes such as sheep shearing, the milkmaid milking a cow, the ploughman at work, a carriage with a gloomy castle and the father showing the children his greenhouse.

OCLC and JISC/Copac record only the British Library copy, which has an inscription dated 1820.

Not in the Osborne Collection catalogue; not in Cotsen, The Nineteenth Century.

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