The Story of Doctor Dolittle

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

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by Hugh Lofting
     
 

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INTRODUCTION

There are some of us now reaching middle age who discover themselves to
be lamenting the past in one respect if in none other, that there are
no books written now for children comparable with those of thirty years
ago. I say written FOR children because the new psychological business
of writing ABOUT them as though they were… See more details below

Overview

INTRODUCTION

There are some of us now reaching middle age who discover themselves to
be lamenting the past in one respect if in none other, that there are
no books written now for children comparable with those of thirty years
ago. I say written FOR children because the new psychological business
of writing ABOUT them as though they were small pills or hatched in
some especially scientific method is extremely popular today. Writing
for children rather than about them is very difficult as everybody who
has tried it knows. It can only be done, I am convinced, by somebody
having a great deal of the child in his own outlook and sensibilities.
Such was the author of "The Little Duke" and "The Dove in the Eagle's
Nest," such the author of "A Flatiron for a Farthing," and "The Story
of a Short Life." Such, above all, the author of "Alice in Wonderland."
Grownups imagine that they can do the trick by adopting baby language
and talking down to their very critical audience. There never was a
greater mistake. The imagination of the author must be a child's
imagination and yet maturely consistent, so that the White Queen in
"Alice," for instance, is seen just as a child would see her, but she
continues always herself through all her distressing adventures. The
supreme touch of the white rabbit pulling on his white gloves as he
hastens is again absolutely the child's vision, but the white rabbit as
guide and introducer of Alice's adventures belongs to mature grown
insight.

Geniuses are rare and, without being at all an undue praiser of times
past, one can say without hesitation that until the appearance of Hugh
Lofting, the successor of Miss Yonge, Mrs. Ewing, Mrs. Gatty and Lewis
Carroll had not appeared. I remember the delight with which some six
months ago I picked up the first "Dolittle" book in the Hampshire
bookshop at Smith College in Northampton. One of Mr. Lofting's
pictures was quite enough for me. The picture that I lighted upon when
I first opened the book was the one of the monkeys making a chain with
their arms across the gulf. Then I looked further and discovered Bumpo
reading fairy stories to himself. And then looked again and there was
a picture of John Dolittle's house.

But pictures are not enough although most authors draw so badly that if
one of them happens to have the genius for line that Mr. Lofting shows
there must be, one feels, something in his writing as well. There is.
You cannot read the first paragraph of the book, which begins in the
right way "Once upon a time" without knowing that Mr. Lofting believes
in his story quite as much as he expects you to. That is the first
essential for a story teller. Then you discover as you read on that he
has the right eye for the right detail. What child-inquiring mind
could resist this intriguing sentence to be found on the second page of
the book:


"Besides the gold-fish in the pond at the bottom of his garden, he had
rabbits in the pantry, white mice in his piano, a squirrel in the linen
closet and a hedgehog in the cellar."

And then when you read a little further you will discover that the
Doctor is not merely a peg on whom to hang exciting and various
adventures but that he is himself a man of original and lively
character. He is a very kindly, generous man, and anyone who has ever
written stories will know that it is much more difficult to make
kindly, generous characters interesting than unkindly and mean ones.
But Dolittle is interesting. It is not only that he is quaint but that
he is wise and knows what he is about. The reader, however young, who
meets him gets very soon a sense that if he were in trouble, not
necessarily medical, he would go to Dolittle and ask his advice about
it. Dolittle seems to extend his hand from the page and grasp that of
his reader, and I can see him going down the centuries a kind of Pied
Piper with thousands of children at his heels. But not only is he a
darling and alive and credible but his creator has also managed to
invest everybody else in the book with the same kind of life.

Now this business of giving life to animals, making them talk and
behave like human beings, is an extremely difficult one. Lewis Carroll
absolutely conquered the difficulties, but I am not sure that anyone
after him until Hugh Lofting has really managed the trick; even in such
a masterpiece as "The Wind in the Willows" we are not quite convinced.
John Dolittle's friends are convincing because their creator never
forces them to desert their own characteristics. Polynesia, for
instance, is natural from first to last. She really does care about
the Doctor but she cares as a bird would care, having always some place&

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940012128010
Publisher:
SAP
Publication date:
01/30/2011
Series:
Doctor Dolittle Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
0 MB

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