Ansichten und Aussichten- Festschrift für Hans-Heino Ewers
Edited By Gabriele von Glasenapp, Ute Dettmar and Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff
Unverstanden: Death of a Child and Life of Children’s Literature: Jean Perrot
Florence Montgomery’s Misunderstood, first published in England in 1869 and in German translation under the title Unverstanden in 1874 in Basel, Switzerland, was reissued multiple times in Germany. Little known nowadays, it was a ‚bestseller‘ in its day; its diffusion throughout Europe inspired much international literary creation. This case corroborates the remarks of Hans-Heino Ewers who writes in La littérature moderne pour enfants of the transformations undergone by children’s literature at the beginning of the 20th century under the influence of the revisionist „Rousseauist-Philanthropinist reform of education and children’s literature“ inspired by Basedow and the emergence of a „resolutely modern“ literature in which „the child’s perception and experience are central“ (Ewers 1998, 448f.).
This article examines the place of Florence Montgomery’s narrative in the development of German and European Letters in the 19th and 20th centuries. Narrated by an omnniscient adult, Misunderstood tells of the tragic death of seven-year-old Humphrey who, though motherless, is lively and generous, but misunderstood by his father who thinks he is heartless. The boy is haunted by Biblical images from the Book of Revelation (14: 2,3) introduced to him through the preaching of the local Anglican pastor. He impulsively escapes from his governess, described as having fragile „nerves“, – she is French! – quite different from the „deutsche Gouvernante“ (Asper 2012, 89) thus endangering the life of his younger brother, Miles. However, he is the one to perish as a result of this crazy adventure born of disobedience. Both brothers fall from the...