Lace in Literature – Harry’s Monkey; How it Helped the Missionaries


The cover of Harry’s Monkey, 6-1/4″ x 4-3/8″. It was published together with another morality story, “How Sadie Slipped”, by Jennie Chappel.

Here begins a new category on LaceNews. Lace related themes have been used in literature for many years, and come from a wide variety of sources, many long forgotten. To bring these works to the attention of the lace community after so many years is in itself news. They are especially interesting in that we can learn something about the evolution of lace terminology.

When we view some of these with our present day perspective and attitudes formed by the Civil Rights movement, there are passages that are a little hard to take. So be prepared; some of the content of the earlier books is not readily acceptable.

Among earlier lace literature are morality tales, often written a strong religious bias. There are two definite camps here, roughly along the Catholic and Protestant lines. I’ll cover the former in another post, but the latter can produce some surprisingly inventive stories, as is often typical of children’s literature in any age. Among these is a work by Mrs. C. E. (Charlotte Elizabeth Richmond) Bowen (1817-1890)  called “Harry’s Monkey; How it Helped the Missionaries”. The book I am showing here was published in 1890, although one reference shows it first published in 1866 as “Harry’s Monkey; How it Saved the Missionaries”. See http://tinyurl.com/28w7asg for a good listing of her works. This references notes that works of Sarah Schoonmaker Baker were sometimes attributed to Bowen – I do not know if this applies to Harry’s Monkey.

There is virtually no information about Charlotte Bowen on the Internet, other than her birth/death dates, and a few listings of her stories in catalogs. She produced many morality tales for children, such as “How Paul’s Penny Became a Pound”, and “How Peter’s Pound Became a Penny”. Enough said. Her works were published both in England (S. W. Patridge, London) and the US (E. P. Dutton, New York). Her story, “Sybil, and Her Live Snowball” has recently been reprinted.

The plot of Harry’s Monkey concerns Harry’s efforts to earn money to help the missionary effort in Africa. (Try to view the description of the benefits of such activities in this story in the light of the 1860’s – things are obviously different today).  He is able to train his pet monkey to do various tricks to entertain at children’s parties – among the tricks is bobbinlace making. The 10 pounds, 13s 6d he finally is able to contribute to the cause would be worth about 871 pounds using the retail price index for 2009. That would be about $1,400 today, although the exchange rate has varied a lot this year.

Click here to read Harry’s_Monkey. Set your web browser to ‘fit page’, and use the ‘Page Up’, and ‘Page Down’ keys on your keyboard for most effective viewing.

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