Victorian Bedtime Stories to Traumatize Your Children With

These are actually real,  I didn’t make these up.

I got these stories from a very old children’s book I found at an estate auction a few years ago…



Nothing like a nice, cheerful bedtime story about a dying sibling,  to send the kids off to dream-land,  I always say.



Ah.   Another bedtime story of a very sick child, who appears to undergoing a near-death experience.

But she apparently got better because of a wonderful, happy dream about angels.

(Probably induced from the morphine they used to put in kids’ cough syrup back then..)




This is one of my favorites.    In this case, someone DID die…a little girls’ mother.

And on her deathbed, Mommy says  “Don’t count on your father to help you…he’s a drunk!”


So the kid is left to fend for herself, and take care of an infant sister.

Today, Child Protective Services would have been involved.

But back then, the entire village just back and did nothing.    Except marvel at how clean Aggie kept the cottage.

Ahhh…to be a child in the Gay Nineties.

How wonderful that must have been, I dare say.




The one isn’t part of any story, this is all there is:    just a one-page illustration of a cow, with a  caption.

Yet they still manage to turn it into something sad and disturbing for the kids.

“Once upon a time, there was a Mommy cow who loved her baby cow very much.   Look at how happy they are….TOO BAD they will be seperated soon”.

Enjoy your veal, kiddies.

And maybe one day, you might seperated from your Mommy too.




This one isn’t traumatic, but I find it interesting. as a commentary on the sign of the times.

Oh…Great Auks aren’t seen any more, but maybe we can find some, if we go REALLY far north.


Great Auks were hunted to extinction by the 1850’s.

You guys just didnt’ realize it yet.



I love the last sentence:  “How happy Granny seems to be!”

Yeah…she’s so CHEERFUL looking.

Not to mention, she’s not even focussing anywhere near Little Nan’s direction.

It must be either a stroke, or an advanced case of Alzheimers.



My, what a cute, cuddly picture of a demon-gorilla, guaranteed to make the little ones wake up screaming in a cold sweat.

Don’t worry, kids.  You can always sleep with a night-light.

(Whoops…sorry, I forgot, you didn’t have electricity back then.)

Oh well…




“The girl in the picture skates very well.   The man in the sleigh is looking at as if he thinks so”

No.  The man in the sleigh is GLARING at her.

And, I dare say,  he looks like he is thinking of dragging her off into the frosty woods, and cleaving her skull with his ice-pick.




Umm…who the HELL is “Mademoiselle Claire” ?

Because again, this is not part of a story.  It’s just the one illustration again, with a caption.

But what a wonderful moral this teaches the children:

“Always judge a book by its cover.”



A cat.  Something as simple as a  CAT.

But they cant’ even tell a story about that, without turning into something sad and horrific.

“Hey, kids.  This is my cat.   My other DIED.   But it’s his own fault.

But here is my new cat.

And he wants to KILL my pretty pet bird.

So it will probably DIE too.

The End. ”


The best part of the book is on the back cover, with ads for the medicines available at the time.

Click on the photo and look at “Chlorodyne”.

It’s good for coughs, consumption, bronchitis, ashtma, diptheria, fever, croup, ague, diarrhea, chorlera, dysentery, epilepsy, hysteria, palpiation, spams, neuralgia, rheumatism, gout, toothaches, and meningitis.

Good LORD.

What DIDN’T people catch back then?

No wonder all those kids are dying in that story book.


Also check out  the “American Sugar Coated Pills”.

Wow.  What medical science they had back then.

Though I guess they must have been effective, because look:  there’s a picture of a wise, white European ministering to the “savages”.


This makes me realize how lucky we all are to be alive right now.

Because it’s a miracle our great-grandparents survived that era.


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9 Comments on “Victorian Bedtime Stories to Traumatize Your Children With”

  1. Steph Says:

    My mouth is still gaped open. First, that is a beautiful book. Congrats on such a find! Second, it’s so full of…wow. I mean, wow. By my contemporary standards, it is utterly HORRENDOUS. What kind of storybook? It’s close to nonsense.

    Yet at the same time, I can’t help but think of what an intriguing glimpse it is into Victorian thought. I also think of how I was brought up and it actually wasn’t all that different, coming from a strict Catholic family…

  2. I agree with Steph – an amazing find and curious glimpse into the Victorian world.

    Those ads for “medicines” scared me the most. If our ancestors took those it IS amazing they survived.

  3. Steph Says:

    CAW: Ha! Too true. Although maybe they just passed a lot of shit down to us.

  4. Friar Says:


    Yeah…can you imagine being a tot and having Mummy or Aunty read you stories about infant death and God knows what else? Good Lord.

    I showed this book to my friends kids (who were ~ 8-12) at the time. They were old enough to appreciate the humor, and spend the afternoon poking fun at these horrible stories. 🙂

    @CAW and Steph
    I remember reading that it was only by the late 19th Century, that there was any statistical benefit of seeing a doctor. Before that…you were just as better off not seeing anyone and doing nothing (medial science was THAT bad).

    After reading these ads, now I can see why.

  5. Friar's Mom Says:

    You have a rare find. The publisher Ward, Lock, Bowden published books from 1893-1897. From 1897 to present it became Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd. However, I can’t find any info about this gem of yours via Google.

    You’ll be pleased to know that the website claims that Ward, Lock published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

    However, Wikipedia informs us that Alice was published in 1865 by MacMillan & Co.

    Did you know that Lewis Carroll is a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgs?

    You can learn from Friar’s Posts.

  6. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom

    I googled the title,but it never occurred to me to google the publisher. So that puts the book close to what I guessed…around 1900.

    Friar’s Mom learns from Friar’s posts. Friar doesn’t. But I appreciate your trivia tidbits.

  7. Donald Mills Says:

    These are outstanding, Friar. More children should read books like this.

    Reading about monkeys cohabitating with men in yellow hats doesn’t teach you anything but to be wary of men in yellow hats.

    I particularly enjoyed seeing the name “Aggie” in print. When I say that name out loud people give me the oddest looks – like I’d made it up or something.

    All the best,


  8. Friar Says:


    I know this story book is a bit before your time. But I wonder if you had similar bed-time stories when you were a young lad?

    Always delighted to have you drop by

    – Friar

  9. cephash Says:

    Good grief. It wasn’t so long ago that the death of a child was a frequent occurrence in many a family, even in the developed world. Maybe the Victorian authors were looking for ways to help children (and adults) cope with a common happening? And who here hasn’t lost a pet?

    Maybe it’s a lot healthier for a woman to tell her kids, “You know, honey, I really could’ve had you aborted, just like the ones before you!”

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