Pieces from “The Schoolboy” were a consistent feature of the Children’s Magazine. Originally, the pieces appeared in The Juvenile Magazine, published in England the year before. Usually, the reprinted version was a duplicate of the original, thus giving a very British air to the American magazine.

Not this time. The original version includes a paean to the British system of government. It’s a page-and-a-half lead-in to the Schoolboy piece in the June 1788 issue, which explores British law.

Not surprisingly, the new American magazine in the new American republic left out the glorification of British government in this essay. And it wasn’t around to edit (or snub) the essay in June. This essay was, in fact, the last from “The Schoolboy.” April was the last issue of the Children’s Magazine.

It’s tempting to think that the piece hints at the magazine’s demise. Having injured himself jumping over a hedge, the Schoolboy receives a gentle reminder from his teacher to look before he leaps again. It seems good advice for editors, too: there may be hidden obstacles on the way to the “universal approbation” you hope your periodical will gain. “[T]he next time,” the Schoolboy’s teacher concludes, “prior to jumping over a hedge, you will observe well, whether there be a ditch on the other side.” In the history of early American periodicals for children, there were a lot of ditches, but, luckily, there were a lot more hedges.

“The Schoolboy” (from Children’s Magazine, April 1789; pp. 150-153)
To the Editors of the Children’s Magazine.


Since you have been so obliging as to honor my first essays of writing for the amusement of young people, with so early an appearance in your entertaining Magazine, I cannot employ the leisure hours this afternoon affords me, in a way more pleasing to myself, or likely to be attended with better[ ]effects among my equals in age, than by an attempt to describe to them the mode in which our worthy instructor, Mr. Shepherd, acts towards us; by which he effectually gains, what is seldom attained by Masters, the love as well as fear of all his scholars.

But before I enter at large on the rules by which we are governed, suffer me just to recite a few words which passed between him and his pupils this morning, while assembled round the breakfast-table in our hall.

My good boys, said he, I suppose that few among you keep so poor an account of what are called by Almanack-makers, Red Letter Days, as not to recollect that this is Shrove-Tuesday: as it is customary in most schools, not only to celebrate that festival with a huge dish of pancakes, but also to indulge the boys with a holiday, I willingly adopt that long established plan; as I never enjoy my plea-

p. 151

sure so highly as when it is in my power to let others partake of it equally with myself.

Although we are in what is called the Winter quarter, yet, as the weather is so uncommonly delightful, I am of opinion that a walk to Mr. W——’s park this afternoon, would be full as agreeable as in the midst of Summer; and though I think it imprudent that thus early in the year you should throw off your cloaths, sit much out of doors, or lay on the grass, as you too frequently do even in the Dog-days; yet, the amusement of racing, or as yourselves term it, hunting, would, in those spacious premises, be full as amusing now, as at any time of the year. I will, therefore, willingly accompany you in your walk; and as you all know, I ever encourage an unreserved freedom of discourse, if any thing worthy of remark occur, or you should wish to be informed on any subject, or chuse to communicate to me your own sentiments on any point; you, I dare say, need not be told, that you may speak to me with that frankness, which you know I admire; and be sure, at the same time, of receiving a satisfactory information to the question you may propose.

All our countenances sparkled with joy at this kind and pleasing proposal; and the hall echoed with the thanks of every one present.

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Though I have been at two schools before, at both of which the Masters were generally beloved, yet I glory in thus publicly declaring it as my opinion, that from the real worthiness of Mr. Shepherd, we have not a boy who would not most joyfully obey him in all his commands; and though a half-holiday on Shrove-Tuesday, at other schools, is by no means unusual, yet the manner in which our excellent Governor confers even the most trifling favours, greatly enhances the value of them; and I will venture to say, there was not a single one among us whose heart did not exult with joy, more from the generous and friendly mode in which he discoursed to us, than at the idea of a few hours cessation from study.

Mr. Shepherd then addressed himself to me: As for you, my dear Doctor, I am heartily sorry that we cannot have you of our party; but the pain you suffer from your recent accident, will, doubtless, teach you one piece of wisdom, and convince you, that the advice contained in the old proverb, to ‘Look before you leap,’ would have proved an excellent caution, had you, in what is the cause of your present confinement, used your eyes before you had your legs: and I will risk my word for

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it, that the next time, prior to jumping over a hedge, you will observe well, whether there be a ditch on the other side.

The Schoolboy.

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