Janet Adam Smith (1905–1999) was a Scottish writer and critic. Educated at Oxford, she worked as an editor at a number of literary publications, including The Listener, The Criterion and New Statesman. She also edited the Faber Book of Modern Verse and its companion volume, the Faber Book of Children’s Verse. An accomplished mountaineer, Smith wrote about her adventures in Mountain Holidays; her other books include Life Among the Scots and John Buchnan and His World.

The Real RLS

When Robert Louis Stevenson died in Samoa in 1894, Henry James told Fanny Stevenson “how much poorer and shabbier the whole world seems, and how one of the closest and strongest reasons for going on, for trying and doing, for planning and dreaming of the future, has dropped in an …

Yrs. Aff. Beatrix Potter

When in 1966 Philip Hofer published facsimiles of nine of Beatrix Potter’s letters to children, he could say that “To be sure, more letters of this same sort, with pictures, exist, but they are jealously guarded by their owners.” Now Judy Taylor has by zeal, persistence, and cajolery rounded up …

Hard Times

“Hans Christian Andersen slept in this room for five weeks—which seemed to the family AGES.” So Dickens inscribed a card which he stuck on a mirror in the guest room at Gad’s Hill. The readers of Andersen’s diaries will easily understand why. As an unhappy schoolboy Andersen poured out his …

Rackhamland

Some years ago a London Sunday paper had a feature on J.R.R. Tolkien. The photograph, by Lord Snowdon, showed the author of The Lord of the Rings sprawling against a tangle-rooted, gnarled-trunked, wild-branched tree: man and tree seemed to be growing into each other. It was the perfect image for …

Poohdom

“It is ghastly to think of anyone who wrote such gay stuff ending his life like this,” wrote P. G. Wodehouse in 1954 on hearing that his old acquaintance A. A. Milne had been paralyzed by a stroke. Two years later Milne’s life did indeed end sadly: his only son …

Life After Squirrel Nutkin

Very winsome are Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Squirrel Nutkin, and other Beatrix Potter creations as they appear on the mugs and porridge plates on sale in National Trust shops. Delightfully quaint were the mice from the Tailor of Gloucester in eighteenth-century costume that last Christmas made the window display at …

Unchildish Activities

“Somebody’s been putting ideas into your head”—there, down the ages, is the voice of authority, in the form of parent, nanny, teacher, when faced with questions that threaten received ideas and their privilege of “Allow me to know best.” That they have been busily putting ideas into children’s heads—ideas of …

Not So Grimm

Maurice Sendak is a great illustrator, rightly honored by the current exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library. It is showing the watercolors and preliminary drawings for his latest book, the recently discovered tale by Wilhelm Grimm now published as Dear Mili. But there may be some mixed feelings even among …

Cleaning Up Snow White

Grimms’ Tales started as the work of scholars. The brothers Jakob and Wilhelm, with their interest in language and folklore, aimed to preserve in print stories hitherto only known in oral versions—told by traveling pedlars, market women, spinners at their wheels, parents to children. Deeply patriotic, the Grimms saw their …

Big Little Books

Children’s books are now big business, Stories for children may not be subject to the direct censorship practiced on school textbooks in some American states; but both in America and in Britain there are subtler pressures on authors and illustrators to trim their work to make it more salable, less …

Great Scot

The Act of Union of 1707 joined the Scottish and English parliaments, but left Scotland her own legal system (and her Kirk). Politicians were drawn to London; lawyers stayed in Edinburgh, a resident aristocracy. Into this elite was born Henry Cockburn, in 1779. He is one of Scotland’s cherished characters.

Exodus

Disaster threatens a tribe. Warned by a prophet, led by a wily hero, a small remnant escape to find a new homeland. Their exodus is beset by enemies who swoop from the sky, set ambushes on the ground, infect the air with poison that can blind. On their progress they …

Does Frodo Live?

“FRODO LIVES!” The message is still printed on buttons, chalked up on subway platforms, though it is years since the first explosion of the campus cult. Does Tolkien live? Are his tales more endurable than the cult? Mr. Kocher is sure that they are, and his study will help readers …

The Great God Wish

Lewis Carroll wrote Alice for the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. Edward Lear made up his Nonsense Songs and Stories for the children at Knowsley Hall where he was painting Lord Derby’s parrots. Beatrix Potter told the Tale of Peter Rabbit to entertain a five-year-old invalid. In collecting …

Inscapist

“Please Close this GATE” orders the notice. You do, and you walk up the flagged path between the phlox and the heliotrope, the spreading rhubarb, and the old-fashioned roses, and gaze at the porch and the stone walls, and you almost expect to see Tom Kitten bursting out of the …