A Mother’s Lessons on Kindness to Animals is an illustrated book by an author known simply as C.S. It was originally published in Britain in the 19th century, but several subsequent editions of this book were also issued. The edition featured in this exhibition is the 4th edition, and this specific copy was given to George T. Angell, the founder of both the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and the American Humane Education Society (AHES) by Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
This book, which has recently been digitized, was “intended to impress the tender minds of the young with kindly feelings towards the dumb creation,” and C.S. combined stories, poems, images, and lessons in Humane Education to attempt to achieve this goal. For example, a poem by S.W.P. entitled “The Bird’s Petition” appears under a picture of a small songbird perched on a tree branch. The poem is a plea directed at children, reminding them that if they disturb a bird’s nest there will be dire consequences for the birds.
Oh, stay your hand, my little boy,
And do not rob my nest;
Why should you, for a moment’s joy,
My happy brood molest.
My little ones, my hope and pride,
Have not yet learn’d to fly;
And if you take them from my side,
They will soon pine and die.
Think, gentle boy, what you would feel,
And your dear mother too,
If to your bed some their should steal,
And hurry off with you?
Oh, do not, do not climb the tree,
To spoil our nest so warm,
For you indeed must cruel be
If you would do us harm.
Return, then, to your happy home,
And be it happy long;
And to your window I will come,
And thank you with a song.
The language of the poem is intended to generate empathy in the reader, and following the last lines of the poem is a an item intended to turn that empathy in to action. A brief entry entitled “Remember the Birds” follows S.W.P.’s poem, and suggests that readers of A Mother’s Lessons on Kindness to Animals leave out “crumbs from the breakfast-table” each morning to assist the birds in finding a meal in cold weather.
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