Moral Songs for Children, translated from the German

Posted on 27th February 2020 by simonbeattie

Also in our newly-released Anglo-German catalogue is a copy of the extremely rare first (and only) edition in English of a book by Christian Felix Weiße containing over 50 songs for children, an early appearance for a German children’s book in English.  It is also featured in our New York book fair list, available by clicking here.

[Weisse, Christian Felix]. Moral Songs for Children; translated from the German. London: Pritned by H. Reynell … for J. Searle … and sold by Riley … and Appleyard … 1789.

‘Mr. Weisse, the Author of these Songs, very ingeniously hit upon the Idea of conveying moral Maxims to the Heart of Youth, by the charms of Music.  As nauseous Medicines are often rendered palatable to the Tongue, by being diluted in sweet and aromatic Vehicles, so serious and solemn Morality is softened by the melting Notes of pleasing Harmony …  And that musical Youth may familiarize their Hearts to Virtue, while they are improving in an Accomplishment, which hitherto has been but little adapted to so sublime a Subject, he [i.e. the translator] has caused Six Songs to be set to Music by an eminent Professor of this fashionable and delightful Art.  The Songs, marked with Numbers in this Collection, may be Sung, and answer to the same Number in the musical Set of Six Moral Songs adapted to the Piano-Forte, Harpsichord, Harp, German-Flute, and Guitar, published by T. Skillern …’ (Advertisement), apparently now lost.

Weiße (1726–1804) had mingled with the likes of Lessing, Gottsched, and Gellert whilst a student in Leipzig, where he later became a tax-collector, comfortably off and well respected.  As a writer, he produced poetry, librettos, and plays, including the ‘improved’ Shakespearean tragedy Romeo und Julie (1767).  His Kleine Lieder für Kinder (Flensburg, 1766, and later editions) is one of a number of books by him for children, by which he also made a reputation (see Wegehaupt 2223–58).  His lyric poetry prompted settings by many composers, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and New Grove notes that ‘the Scherzhafte Lieder and the Kleine Lieder für Kinder, in particular, match the liveliness and variety of his operatic song texts’.

Stay tuned for the PDF of Anglo-German Cultural Relations, available soon.

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