Our Darlings "The Best Monthly Magazine For Young Folks"
We recently purchased a collection of annuals from auction. In among them were a few copies of “Our Darlings”. These annuals really stood out to me as they are attractive books with pictorial front covers and illustrated by well known artists of the time (the editions we purchased were from the early 1900's).
If you are a fan of the Louis Wain – most famous for his cat illustrations - and you weren't aware of these annuals then you are in for a treat! There are some colour plates as well as black and white text illustrations featured in some of these annuals (but sadly not all of them).
Above: Examples of Louis Wain illustrations
Each annual has approximately 280 pages. There seems to be a few long stories serialised throughout the annual and then many more short stories and verses to keep the reader entertained.
Some of the authors I recognized included Catherine Shaw, Gordon Stables, Mabel Mackintosh, Duncan McLaren and Alice Corkran. As with the illustrations, the majority of the stories are uncredited – this seems a shame as they are sweet stories dealing with all manner of things.
If I had to guess I'd say that a typical copy seems to be aimed at girls aged 7-15 – much of the text is small, although not challenging to read – and there is a definite bias towards typical girls hobbies and interests of the time. Typical stories include school stories, moral tales (I particularly liked the story entitled 'Green-Eyed Jealously'!), animal stories in the great anthropomorphic tradition, tales of childhood, and some stories teaching about nature and wildlife. They also contain quite a lot of verse. There are a few factual articles scattered through the volumes. One on girls' hobbies caught my eye; it vividly describes how to swim – but just as vividly describes how one drowns! Enough to give anyone nightmares and put you off swimming for life!
Trying to research these annuals I found very little information about them. I know from the copies I have that they were published by John F. Shaw Ltd. After that it gets very hazy. I believe they were published between 1882 and 1936 based on a note in one of my reference books on annuals. Interestingly, all the copies I have, have an advert for 'Allenbury's Foods' for babies on the back. If anyone has any more information i'd be happy to hear from you!
I suspect these were designed as Christmas presents of children of the era – they are a far cry from the typical Christmas presents of today. Although I would argue they probably provided more hours of amusement and enjoyment than the average computer game!
Contributed by Maria
(Published 28th Feb 2015)