13 June 2019

13th June 1809 - Heinrich Hoffmann born

I remember reading and being a bit frightened from an early age by Struwwelpeter, an illustrated book that portrayed children misbehaving and the consequences. The book was written by Heinrich Hoffmann, a German Psychiatrist, born on 13th June 1809.

Hoffman was a doctor who took over running the Frankfurt lunatic asylum even though he had no psychiatric experience. But that soon changed. He threw himself into the new venture. According to Wikipedia he was a friendly chap and the patients liked him, and he went on to successfully campaign for a new, modern asylum building with gardens.

Unhappy with the boring books available for children at the time, Hoffman wrote and illustrated Struwwelpeter, as a Christmas present for his three-year-old son. The book relates in verse and pictures the often gruesome consequences that befall children who torment animals, play with matches, suck their thumbs, refuse to eat, fidget at meals, etc...

It almost makes me cry to tell
What foolish Harriet befell.
Mamma and Nurse went out one day
And left her all alone at play;
Now, on the table close at hand,
A box of matches chanced to stand;
And kind Mamma and Nurse had told her,
That, if she touched them, they should scold her.
But Harriet said: “O, what a pity!
For when they burn it is so pretty;
They crackle so, and spit, and flame;
Mamma, too, often does the same.”

The pussy-cats heard this,
And they began to hiss,
And stretch their claws
And raise their paws;
“Me-ow,” they said, “me-ow, me-o,
You ’ll burn to death, if you do so.”

But Harriet would not take advice,
She lit a match, it was so nice!
It crackled so, it burned so clear,—
Exactly like the picture here.
She jumped for joy and ran about,
And was too pleased to put it out.

The pussy-cats saw this
And said: “Oh, naughty, naughty Miss!”
And stretched their claws
And raised their paws:
“’T is very, very wrong, you know,
Me-ow, me-o, me-ow, me-o,
You will be burnt, if you do so.”

And see! Oh! what a dreadful thing!
The fire has caught her apron string;
Her apron burns, her arms, her hair;
She burns all over, everywhere.

Then how the pussy-cats did mew;
What else, poor pussies, could they do?
They screamed for help, ’t was all in vain!
So then they said: “We ’ll scream again;
Make haste, make haste, me-ow, me-o,
She ’ll burn to death, we told her so.”

So she was burnt, with all her clothes,
And arms, and hands, and eyes, and nose;
Till she had nothing more to lose
Except her little scarlet shoes;
And nothing else but these was found
Among her ashes on the ground.

And when the good cats sat beside
The smoking ashes, how they cried!
“Me-ow, me-oo, me-ow, me-oo,
What will Mamma and Nursy do?”
Their tears ran down their cheeks so fast,
They made a little pond at last

Thankyou to wikipedia  June 13th for the date.

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