The Fortunate Blue-Coat Boy

The Fortunate Blue-Coat Boy - Orphanotropian [These notes were made in 1992:]. By "An Orphanotropian". I read this in a 1987 reprint edition edited by Reginald Watters. The original was published by Christ's Hospital in 1779. The nom de plume of our anonymous author means "one brought up in an orphanage," he explains. And, indeed, this book must have derived much of its contemporary interest from the portraits of the masters and functionaries of Christ's Hospital in the 1720s. All of this is carefully explained for us in notes by the author, and by Watters. The story itself, which I take to be fictional, is fairly objectionable both in content and style. If it illustrates anything at all, it is the proverb (which it quotes): "It is better to be born fortunate than wise." Benjamin Templeton is the younger son in a farming family, semi-orphaned, and on the verge of manhood. A very rich young widow takes a fancy to him, proposes, arranges for his discharge from the school, and marries him. And that is all the plot. The tone of the narrator is objectionably cynical & opportunistic (as indeed I find his hero to be). No attempt is made to fathom the lady's motives -- all the loving detail of characterization is given to the various masters at the school. As for the style, it is in somewhat loose and windy eighteenth-century prose, interminably conjunctive. "He did A, and then he did B, for C was the case, so that D, which E, and F, for G!" The reprint is bound in what I think of as Dover Books style - a largish, sewn, paperback with a highly glossed cover and pages. This is nice for the illustrations (which are interesting) but makes the text unfortunately difficult to read, for they have overdone the gloss on the inner pages. A facsimile reprint, with lots of 18th-century white space, would have been better.