At its beginning, The Youth’s Companion was intended by founder Nathaniel Willis to teach the values of “piety, morality, brother love.” Early issues often included at least one obituary. “Little Edward” may strike twenty-first-century readers as morbid, but its graphic details probably were intended to inform young readers about the inevitable and to inspire them to take to heart the suggestion at the end of the piece.
[Editorial] “Little Edward” (from Youth’s Companion, February 8, 1832; p. 152)

Now, Eliza, if you will come here and sit down with me a few minutes, I will tell you a story. It is a true one. It is about a little boy who died at our house. I was with him all the time that he was sick, and when he died. He was my cousin. As he was a good little boy I loved him very much. He had two sisters, one older and one younger than himself. He was about five years old.

His mother lived a great many miles from us, and one summer concluded to take her little boy and his youngest sister, to come to visit us. When they came we were very glad to see them. They were all well and happy. Edward loved his mother very much, and always did as she told him. And he was so good and obedient, that his mother loved him, and we all loved him.

They came to our house on Tuesday, late in the afternoon. Two days after they came, this dear little boy was taken sick; but he was very patient. He grew worse and worse until Saturday. When the doctor came in on Saturday, he looked at him, and shook his head, and said that he could not get well—that he must die. We all wept when we heard it, for we loved this little boy so much, that we could not bear to part with him. He suffered a great deal; but he was a good boy, and would take the worst medicines, and be pleasant and kind to us all. He would smile and thank us when we gave him any thing.

Saturday night we thought he would die—but soon he seemed a little more quiet. Monday forenoon we saw a change. It was very evident that he was growing worse. About one o’clock, he complained of feeling very cold, and we found his little limbs were growing cold. When people die, they always grow cold and a great many clothes will not warm them. In the afternoon Edward was very sick. Sometimes he would lie upon the bed with his eyes shut, pale and breathing very quick and short, and then he would be in such an agony, that he would throw himself from one side of the bed to the other. Once, I recollect, when he was so distressed, he started right up on his feet, and would have gone off the bed, if we had not caught him. While he was suffering so, once he said something, which his mother thought was not patient, and she told him that he soon would die, and he seemed happy and patient after that.

He lived until 3 o’clock that Monday evening, and then he died. We hope that he went to Heaven. He was a little boy, but he loved to hear his mother talk about Heaven; and he loved to learn Hymns and Prayers and repeat them. His mother was a pious woman, and used to teach him to pray; and she would pray with him every morning and night. One morning his father was very sick, and his mother could not leave him then, and little Edward went to her, and begged her to come and read and pray. And because Jesus Christ loves good little children, we hope that he loved little Edward, and that he now is in heaven.

Will not every child who reads this, go to his mother and ask her to talk to him about dying and about Heaven.

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