C A Jones, Cecilia Anne Jones, Christian Soldiers, Eva Travers, Gardner Dalton & Co, Little Angel, Little Tracts for Little Readers, Lost Between the Leaves, Morgan and Scott, Paternoster Buildings, Religious Tracts, Under the King's Banner
Tucked inside a rather nice copy of Cecilia Anne Jones’ Under the King’s Banner: Stories of the Soldiers of Christ in all Ages, c 1880, (Gardner, Dalton & Co: London, 5th edition), I found this little, four-page tract entitled Little Angel, by Eva Travers. It contains the story of six-year-old Angel whose poor, widowed mother tells Angel, on Christmas Day no less that there is no food left and that she and her five siblings must starve. “Oh, dear children” cries Angel’s mother “pray with me to God to help us, for I do not know where to turn for help”. So Little Angel, on her way to school (yes, school, on Christmas Day!) stops to pray in the peace of a church and appeals to God for help and food. Upon reaching home at the end of the day, she finds the dinner table laden with bread and meat and puddings. Her mother explains to Angel that a lady had heard her praying and, moved by God, sent a Christmas feast. “She was God’s Angel to us. Let us praise Him, my children.” The tract ends with a general appeal to children to pray and, if they are not themselves hungry for food, they will be hungry “in soul” and should be “God’s little servants, giving aid to others”. There’s even a wee engraving of Little Angel, praying and crying, in church.
Such moralistic, Christian tracts were ten-a-penny in the late 19th century, usually preaching Victorian and Christian values in the most unsubtle ways. Eva Travers, who also wrote hymns and a range of other tracts and Christian works, was a prolific author of such stories. This particular tract is No. 13 (one is tempted to think ‘God help us!’ here too) of a series called Little Tracts for Little Readers, which could be ordered by booksellers from the publisher (in this case Morgan and Scott of 12, Paternoster Buildings in London) for 3 shillings and sixpence per thousand.
The book in which I found the tract is of similar ilk – highly moralistic, evangelical tales of “Christian soldiers”, martyrs and saints (incidentally the publisher of the book, Gardner, Dalton & Co, were based in the same places – Paternoster Buildings – as the Tract’s publisher). I rather pity the poor children to whom the book and tract were given to read but no doubt it was done with love and the best of intentions.