The Water-Babies

Overview


'this is all a fairy tale...and, therefore, you are not to believe a word of it, even if it is true'

The Water-Babies (1863) is one of the strangest and most powerful children's stories ever written.

In describing the underwater adventures of Tom, a chimney-sweeper's boy who is transformed into a water-baby after he drowns, Charles Kingsley combined comic fantasy and moral fable to extraordinary effect. Tom's encounters with friendly fish, ...

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The Water-Babies

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Overview


'this is all a fairy tale...and, therefore, you are not to believe a word of it, even if it is true'

The Water-Babies (1863) is one of the strangest and most powerful children's stories ever written.

In describing the underwater adventures of Tom, a chimney-sweeper's boy who is transformed into a water-baby after he drowns, Charles Kingsley combined comic fantasy and moral fable to extraordinary effect. Tom's encounters with friendly fish, curious lobsters, and characters such as Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby are both an exciting fairy tale and a crash course in evolutionary theory. They also reflect the quirky imagination of one of the great Victorian eccentrics. Tom's adventures are constantly interrupted by Kingsley's sideswipes at contemporary issues such as child labor, and they offer a rich satiric take on the great scientific debates of the day.

This edition reprints the original complete version of the story, and includes a lively introduction, detailed explanatory notes, and an appendix that reprints Kingsley's first attempt to describe the mysterious creatures that live under the sea.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

The adventures of Tom, a sooty little chimney sweep with a great longing to be clean, who is stolen by fairies and turned into a water baby.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
It's the straight story, which has been around for over one hundred and thirty-five years. In this edition, beautiful color plates and dozens of two-color illustrations enhance the story. Tom flees his hard life and mean master and he finds himself in a world under water where life is much nicer. Kingsley was concerned about the treatment of children and his story was part of his effort to stimulate social reforms. That doesn't take away from the charm of the tale. This version is perfect for gift giving and a great book for reading aloud. Peter Glassman provides an Afterword.
Naomi Wood Kansas State University
"A new and unabridged edition of The Water-Babies is an unlooked-for pleasure. Everyone who has an interest in the exuberant, eclectic, ecological, and erotic aspects of Victorian literature should know this book. When combined with the definitive illustrations by Linley Sambourne and a wealth of explanatory notes, appendices, and other critical tools, this edition becomes indispensable. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Kelly and to Broadview Press for editing and re-issuing this delightful and important work of Victorian children's literature."
Brendan A. Rapple Boston College
"This is a long overdue, thoroughly detailed, and informative edition of Kingsley's classic Victorian children's tale. Though The Water-Babies has had great popular success since first publication, especially in the UK, it has frequently been read in abbreviated versions with many of Kingsley's often lengthy asides on politics, religion, education, and other pressing topics of the day omitted. This Broadview edition, following closely the first book text of 1863, includes all of Kingsley's fascinating diversions. The work is greatly enhanced by Professor Kelly's many scholarly appendices and numerous instructive annotations on the text. The result is an excellent edition that renders this intriguing classic much more amenable to the modern reader."
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Charles Kingsley was a clergyman, professor, historian, and writer who lived during the 19th century, and was known most prominiently for writing children's literature.

Brian Alderson has long been involved in the study of children's literature as editor, translator, lecturer, and exhibitions organizer. He takes a particular interest in bibliographic aspects, especially those related to the history of British and American publishing and illustration.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is the author of Becoming Dickens (Harvard UP, 2011), winner of the 2011 Duff Cooper Prize, and he has edited editions of Dickens's Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books and Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor for Oxford World's Classics. He writes regularly for publications including the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, TLS, and New Statesman.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Once upon a time there was a little chimney-sweep, and his name was Tom. That is a short name, and you have heard it before, so you will not have much trouble in remembering it. He lived in a great town in the North country, where there were plenty of chimneys to sweep, and plenty of money for Tom to earn and his master to spend. He could not read nor write, and did not care to do either; and he never washed himself, for there was no water up the court where he lived. He had never been taught to say his prayers. He never had heard of God, or of Christ, except in words which you never have heard, and which it would have been well if he had never heard. He cried half his time, and laughed the other half. He cried when he had to climb the dark flues, rubbing his poor knees and elbows raw; and when the soot got into his eyes, which it did every day in the week; and when his master beat him, which he did every day in the week; and when he had not enough to eat, which happened every day in the week likewise. And he laughed the other half of the day, when he was tossing half pennies with the other boys, or playing leap-frog over the posts, or bowling stones at the horses' legs as they trotted by, which last was excellent -fun, when there was a wall at hand behind which to hide. As for chimney-sweeping, and being hungry, and being beaten, he took all that for the way of the world, like the rain and snow and thunder, and stood manfully with his back to it till it was over, as his old donkey did to a hail-storm; and then shook his ears and was as jolly as ever; and thought of the fine times coming, when he would be a man, and a master sweep, and sit inthe public-house with a quart of beer and a long pipe, and play cards for silver money, and wear velveteens and ankle-jacks, and keep a white bull-dog with one gray ear, and carry her puppies in his pocket, just like a man. And he would have apprentices, one, two, three, if he could. How he would bully them, and knock them about, just as his master did to him; and make them carry home the soot sacks, while he rode before them on his donkey, with a pipe in his mouth and a flower in his buttonhole, like a king at the head of his army. Yes, there were good times, coming.

One day a smart little groom rode into the court where Tom lived. Tom was just hiding behind a wall, to heave half a brick at his horse's legs, as is the custom of that country when they welcome strangers; but the groom saw him, and halloed to him to know where Mr. Grimes, the chimney-sweep, lived. Now, Mr. Grimes was Tom's own master, and Tom was a good man of business, and always civil to customers, so he put the half-brick down quietly behind the wall, and proceeded to take orders.

Mr. Grimes was to come up next morning to Sir John Harthover's, at the Place, for his old chimney-sweep was gone to prison, and the chimneys wanted sweeping. And so he rode away, not giving Tom time to ask what the sweep had gone to prison for, which was a matter of interest to Tom, as he had been in prison once or twice himself. Moreover, the groom looked so very neat and clean, with his drab gaiters, drab breeches, drab jacket, snow-white tie with a smart pin in it, and clean round ruddy face, that Tom was offended and disgusted at his appearance, and considered him a stuck-up fellow, who gave himself airs because he wore smart clothes, and other people paid for them; and went behind the wall to fetch the half-brick after all; but did not, remembering that he had come in the way of business, and was, as it were, under a flag of truce.

His master was so delighted at his new customer that he knocked Tom down out of hand, and drank more beer that night than he usually did in two, in order to be sure of getting up in time next morning; for the more a man's head aches when he wakes, the more glad he is to turn out, and have a breath of fresh air. And, when he did get up at four the next morning, he knocked Tom down again, in order to teach him (as young gentlemen used to be taught at public schools) that he must be an extra good boy that day, as they were going to a very great house, and might make a very good thing of it, if they could but give satisfaction.

And Tom thought so likewise, and, indeed, would have done and behaved his best, even without being knocked down. For, of all places upon earth, Harthover Place (which he had never seen) was the most wonderful, and, of all men on earth, Sir John (whom he had seen, having been sent to gaol by him twice) was the most awful.

Harthover Place was really a grand place, even for the rich North country; with a park full of deer, which Tom believed to be monsters who were in the habit of eating children; with miles of game-preserves, in which Mr. Grimes and the collier lads poached at times, on which occasions Tom saw pheasants, and wondered what they tasted like; with a noble salmon-river, in which Mr. Grimes and his friends would have liked to poach; but then they must have got into cold water, and that they did not like at all.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Note on the Text
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Charles Kingsley
THE WATER-BABIES
Appendix I: Textual Variants
Appendix II: 'The Wonders of the Shore'
Explanatory Notes

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