The Peterkin Papers

The Peterkin Papers reminds me of a young child who tells a joke that makes everyone laugh. Then she tells the same joke again and again and again and again, looking for the same satisfying response. 

The Peterkins–Mr. and Mrs., Agamemnon, Elizabeth Eliza, Solomon John, and various unnamed younger brothers–are a family with lofty aspirations and nothing to ground them.  If the Christmas tree is too tall for their living room, they raise the ceiling instead of cutting the tree down to size. In short, they are silly fools. The lady from Philadelphia is their salvation. After they’ve exhausted their harebrained ideas, she solves their problem with one sentence of common sense.

The foolishness is funny at first blush, but gets tiresome quickly.  On the plus side, the illustrations are well done, complementing the text.  The chapter on Agamemnon’s education entertained me because it was close enough to the truth to be very funny. This is the best taste of the book I can offer.

Agamemnon had always been fond of reading, from his childhood up. He was at his book all day long. Mrs. Peterkin had imagined he would come out a great scholar because she could never get him away from his books.

And so it was in his colleges; he was always to be found in the library, reading and reading. But they were always the wrong books.

For instance: the class were required to prepare themselves on the Spartan war. This turned Agamemnon’s attention to the Fenians, and to study the subject he read up on Charles O’Malley and Harry Lorrequer, and some later novels of that sort, which did not help him on the subject required, yet took up all his time, so that he found himself unfitted for anything else when the examinations came. In consequence he was requested to leave.

Agamemnon always missed in his recitations, for the same reason that Elizabeth Eliza did not get on in school, because he was always asked the questions he did not know. It seemed provoking; if the professors had only asked something else! But they always hit upon the very things he had not studied up.

Mrs. Peterkin felt this was encouraging, for Agamemnon knew the things they did not know in colleges. In colleges they were willing to take for students only those who knew certain things. She thought Agamemnon might be a professor in a college for those students who didn’t know those things.

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2 thoughts on “The Peterkin Papers

  1. @LauraLLD – I’m reading through a collection of Children’s Classics, many of which, although I’ve had them for more than twenty years, are new to me!  I’m currently finishing up Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Wonder Book. 

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