1999 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. Historical stereotypes notwithstanding, the Victorian era did not "discover" childhood. The tendency to define childhood as intrinsically different from adulthood had been growing over many decades before the teenage queen ascended the throne, as evinced by the attention given to child psychology and the training of the young by such figures as John Locke (1632-1704), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), and Irish educationists Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817) and his daughter Maria (1768-1849). These theorists' ideas about the developmental significance of environment and empirical experience shaped Victorian views, and indeed still resonate today. Nor can the Victorians be credited with having invented children's literature. What is often termed the first picture book for children, Johannes Amos Comenius's Orbis Sensualium Pictus, appeared in 1658, while the eighteenth century produced much fiction and poetry aimed at the young, and today's scholars continue to argue the place of children's reading in earlier cultures: medieval Europe, classical Rome, even ancient Sumer.
A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture