Peter Parley’s tales of the ancients

Portrait 299.4: ‘History was all about those men and what they did and that was what Peter Parley's Tales about Greece and Rome were all about. Peter Parley himself was on the first page in a picture. There was a road over a heath with grass at the side and little bushes: and Peter Parley had a broad hat like a Protestant minister and a big stick and he was walking fast along the road to Greece and Rome.’

Peter Parley (i.e. Samuel Griswold Goodrich) was the author of a series of remarkably popular instructional books for children published from the 1820s. They originated in America, but their approachable style endeared them to children more widely.

Peter Parley’s History of Ancient and Modern Greece and his Tales about ancient Rome: with some account of modern Italy were published in Boston in 1832, as Don Gifford notes. Neither carry the woodcut to which Joyce refers. In fact, this appears at the very beginning of the Tales of Peter Parley about America (Boston, 1827), with the houses of early nineteenth century America framing the horizon rather than the ruins of the ancient world:

The tales of Peter Parley about America

By Samuel Griswold Goodrich (ed. 3, 1830, p. 8)

[Google Books]

Peter Parley’s success led to the creation, in 1833, of Parley’s Magazine for Children and Youth (Boston). The prospectus, appearing with the first issue of 13 March, reads:

The editors will endeavor to present truth and knowledge in a guise, as attractive to the youthful mind, as that in which fiction has generally been arrayed… The style which the author of Peter Parley’s Tales has chosen as a vehicle of instruction for youth, will be adopted in its pages, and Peter Parley, in his proper character of story teller and traveller, will often appear as a contributor.

John Simpson

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