The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes

The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is a children's story published by John Newbery in London in 1765. The story popularized the phrase "goody two-shoes" as a descriptor for an excessively virtuous person or do-gooder.[1]

The cover of the 1888 edition of Goody Two-Shoes

Plot edit

The fable tells of Goody Two-Shoes, the nickname of a poor orphan girl named Margery Meanwell, who goes through life with only one shoe. When a rich gentleman gives her a complete pair, she is so happy that she tells everyone that she has "two shoes". Later, Margery becomes a teacher and marries a rich widower. This serves as proof that her virtue has been rewarded and her wealth earned, a popular theme in children's literature of the era.[2]

Publication edit

A woodcut of the eponymous Goody Two-Shoes from the 1768 edition of the novel

The anonymous story was published in London by the John Newbery company, a publisher of popular children's literature.[3] In his introduction to an 1881 edition of the book,[4] Charles Welsh wrote:

Goody Two-Shoes was published in April 1765, and few nursery books have had a wider circulation, or have retained their position so long. The number of editions that have been published, both in England and America, is legion, and it has appeared in mutilated versions, under the auspices of numerous publishing houses in London and the provinces, although of late years there have been no new issues.

The anonymous author edit

The story has been attributed to the Irish author Oliver Goldsmith, though this is disputed. Because Goldsmith frequently wrote for pay and because of his copious fiction in essays (e.g., The Bee and Citizen of the World), the attribution to Goldsmith is plausible. Washington Irving was one supporter of this attribution; he wrote: "Several quaint little tales introduced in Goldsmith's Essays show that he had a turn for this species of mock history; and the advertisement and title-page bear the stamp of his sly and playful humor."[5] The book has also been attributed to Newbery himself and to Giles Jones, a friend of Newbery.[6]

Origin of the phrase "goody two-shoes" edit

Although The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is credited with popularizing the term "goody two-shoes", the actual origin of the phrase is unknown. For example, it appears a century earlier in Charles Cotton's Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque (1670):[7]

Mistress mayoress complained that the pottage was cold;
'And all long of your fiddle-faddle,' quoth she.
'Why, then, Goody Two-shoes, what if it be?
Hold you, if you can, your tittle-tattle,' quoth he.

The name is used herein to point out the mayoress's comparative privilege; "Goody" (a shortening of "Goodwife"),[8] being the equivalent of "Mrs." and "Two-shoes", implicitly comparing her to people who have no shoes.

References edit

  1. ^ Feinsilber, Mike; Elizabeth Webber (1999). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster. p. 234.
  2. ^ O'Malley, Andrew (2003). The Making of the Modern Child: Children's Literature and Childhood in the Late Eighteenth Century. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-94299-7.
  3. ^ Matthew O. Grenby (2013). "Little Goody Two-Shoes and Other Stories: Originally Published by John Newbery". p. vii. Palgrave Macmillan
  4. ^ Goody Two-Shoes: A Facsimile Reproduction of the Edition of 1766 [EBook #13675]. London: Griffith & Farran. 1881.
  5. ^ Irving, Washington (May 2001). Life of Oliver Goldsmith. ISBN 1-58963-236-2.
  6. ^ Thwaite, Mary F. (1972). From Primer to Pleasure in Reading (2d ed.). London: Library Association. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-85365-465-0.
  7. ^ "Goody Two-Shoes". American Notes and Queries. 5 (1): 3. May 3, 1890.
  8. ^ Farmer, John Stephen; Henley, W.E. (1893). Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present: A Dictionary ... with Synonyms in English, French ... Etc. Compiled by J.S. Farmer [and W.E. Henley], Volume 3 (ebook digitized 2 April 2009 ed.). Princeton University: Harrison & Sons. p. 180. Retrieved 12 September 2015.

External links edit