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Mopsa the Fairy,
by Jean Ingelow
with illustrations by Maria L. Kirk
 

 

Foreword

I have a 1964 edition of Mopsa in addition to the facsimile of the 1920 Lippincott edition with Maria Kirk's illustrations which I have tried to reproduce. Although it is far less strkingly illustrated, it does offer a biography of Jean Ingelow which is well-worth including here:

JEAN INGELOW was born on 17th March 1820 at Boston in Lincolnshire, and lived there until she was fourteen, when she moved to Ipswich with her parents. She was brought up very strictly, was never taught dancing and never entered a theatre. Her parents discouraged authorship, but when they gave her no writing paper she scribbled verses on the white shutters in her bedroom, until they came to realize that she had been endowed with the literary talent-which should be encouraged and not buried.
 
Jean Ingelow became one of the most famous poets of her period, and though she is now remembered in this way by only a few poems in anthologies, such as 'The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire', many people suggested that when Tennyson died she should succeed him as Poet Laureate. During her lifetime she enjoyed the friendship and encouragement of such writers as John Ruskin, Robert Browning and Christina Rossetti, and when she died (on 20th July 1897) Andrew Lang wrote a notable estimate of her achievements as a poet and edited a selection of her best poems.
 
Nevertheless she is now remembered best by one book, her strange and haunting fantasy for children, 'Mopsa the Fairy' (1869). She wrote novels for adults, all now forgotten, and several other books for children in which only an odd story like 'The Ouphe in the Wood' ('The Little Wonder-Horn', 1872) rises above the ordinary level. But 'Mopsa the Fairy' has always held a place apart: Charlotte Yonge ranked it with 'Alice in Wonderland' and Mrs Molesworth's 'Four Winds Farm'; and Harvey Darton wrote of 'all who in childhood loved that delicious book', and described it as 'pure artless fantasy'.

Well, in spite of the fact that I would never have characterized Mopsa as "artless," I would agree that, among other things, it is most assuredly a marvelous fantasy, and greatly deserving of more currency among the children of the 21st century! I would add that, like George MacDonald"s and Charles Kingsley's stories, it also represents a moving characterization of both the cruelties and the absurdities of human culture toward the natural world and toward other human beings.

Finally, I have produced this edition as a paperback version rather than a cloth-bound one like the original because I would like to see it sold in bookstores where children may discover it for themselves by browsing among the other paperbacks on display in the children's section.

Yours,

Mary Macomber Leue

Down-to-Earth Books

Ashfield, Massachusetts,

December, 2006.