For the past couple years I’ve subscribed to the Project Gutenberg RSS feed, mostly to watch for books related to subjects I’m interested in, but also because occasionally I’ll run across some very odd books and authors. Lucy Aikin certainly fits that bill.
According to Wikipedia, Aikin was a novelist born in the late 18th century who published a number of children’s books pseudonymously under the pen name Mary Godolphin, and then several apparently a novel and several court histories under he own name.
It’s those children’s books that I ran across on Project Gutenberg. Among other things she did under the Mary Godolphin pen name was take popular adult books, like Robinson Crusoe, and create children’s versions of them. But Godolphin went beyond simply abridging the books and editing them so they would be readable by a younger audience — no, she went whole hog and rewrote books Robinson Crusoe, the Swiss Family Robinson, and Pilgrim’s Progress using only words of one syllable.
So the opening paragraphs of Robinson Crusoe now reads like this,
I was born at York on the first of March in the sixth year of the reign of King Charles the First. From the time when I was quite a
young child, I had felt a great wish to spend my life at sea, and
as I grew, so did this taste grow more and more strong; till at
last I broke loose from my school and home, and found my way on
foot to Hull, where I soon got a place on board a ship.
When we had set sail but a few days, a squall of wind came on,
and on the fifth night we sprang a leak. All hands were sent to
the pumps, but we felt the ship groan in all her planks, and her
beams quake from stem to stern; so that it was soon quite clear
there was no hope for her, and that all we could do was to save
And it goes on from there. What a peculiar task that must have been.
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