By Mrs. J. Nevill Jackson
Dolls provide the outlet for a perfectly natural instinct in childhood; the "mothering" of a doll by a little girl may seem pretty or foolish play to the adult, but to the child herself it is a serious business in life.
A girl of three or four is often on as intimate and friendly terms with an old and battered doll as with her own mother, father, or attendant. She first invents the life ,of the doll, basing the events in its career on the happenings in her own nursery. She shares in those events, rejoicing in the doll's joys, sympathising in her sorrows, and confiding all troubles to the toy to whom she has not only given a personality but also a temperament.
Strangely enough, it is not necessarily the child lacking companionship and receiving the least home sympathy who craves the most intimate companionship from dolls - it is a matter which has to do entirely with temperament. A little girl surrounded by brothers and sisters, and with a mother full of sympathy, may yet demand from her play the means of projecting herself beyond her own world. Dolls provide such a means.
The little girl who mothers her doll and loves it is subconsciously preparing herself for what should be the glory of a duty properly fulfilled. She is developing her character without undue strain, she is building up her own experience in play, and heredity makes the matter easy for her.
Boys, who have no ancestral history with regard to the special care of children, seldom care for dolls. Their ancestors fought, hunted, and explored, therefore they love the games where warfare, the chase, and adventure bulk largely. Even the boy of the "mean street." who has never seen a wild rabbit alive, needs only to be shown once the incidents of the chase to fall into it readily and show himself equal to inventing further adventures on the same lines, his imagination leaping at once to the hunting of lions, tigers, bears, and other exciting quarry.
Wax doll dressed as a Court lady of the time of Louis XVI.; painted brocade dress. 10 1/2 inches. Such dolls are rare and extremely valuable.
We deprecate the fashion of freak dolls. Golliwogs, though lovable people in their way, develop no sense of motherhood in a child. Policeman dolls are an abomination. What should a child know of crime and its detection? Fat women dolls, brownie dolls, black dolls, soldier dolls, all such things are unnatural and absurd. They are a very decadent set, unworthy to take the place of the little girl or baby doll, who can be loved and petted, undressed, put to bed, rocked to sleep, dressed, fed, taught, slapped, and tormented with face-washing and hair-combing, just as nurse has worried the little mother on so many occasions.
Professor Stanly Hall, from, statistics gathered in the United States, places the climax of the doll passion in girls at the age of eight or nine. We have, however, known many cases to linger several years longer; sometimes, after remaining quiescent for several months, it will flare up again, if a child is brought in contact with another enthusiast, such as a younger sister.
Spontaneity is one of the most important elements in play, whether for children or adults. When play needs effort of the mind or a spur to the desire for it, it ceases to be play. Pleasure is only taken in a toy when it satisfies a want. It is for this reason that materials other than toys so often form instruments in absorbing games. The child with fine imagination will unpack her Christmas parcel and for ten minutes delight in an elaborate puppet which can be wound up and will dance and say "Mamma." But she will return for companionship to the old well-worn doll she has played with and woven stories about for years. A boy under similar conditions, if he has a mind which loves best that which makes a demand on the imagination, will watch the mechanical toy, tire of it, and then either open it to see how it works or play with the wooden packing-case, paper, and string in which it was packed.
As a rule, children get more joy out of the toys which demand skill and ingenuity in order to build up the play. For this reason, we would place mechanical dolls on the lowest plane. They are suitable only for dull children and adults who have lost that Heaven-sent gift of "let's pretend," which provides, for those who are lucky enough to retain it throughout life, a delicate fascination unknown in any form of materialism.
Children are quick to see essentials, and having them, details are comparatively unimportant. Thus we see the most elementary doll has an upright line for body and legs, and a round knob for the head. The dolls used by the children of primitive peoples are usually a stick, and a gourd or nut for the head - these are the essentials. It is interesting to note that the specimen of native dolls illustrated, though comparatively high up in the scale of dolldom, having hair and embroidered features, yet retains the upright line much exaggerated in the long neck. The feeling for the upright line was sub-consciously working in the mind of the maker.
As the elementary doll advances, a piece of wood is added at the shoulder-line to the upright stick and gourd, so that a rag hung on it, or wrapped round, gives a semblance of width where it should be; pendant arms follow, and much later some kind of joint or division, so that the doll can sit or bend. When this is achieved, features, hair, fingers, and the rest follow quickly, and the twentieth century has given to the nurseries a Paris realism. The wise mother will not look upon her little girl's doll play as beneath her notice. She will watch the pretended joys and sorrows which are the foundations of the doll games. For the child who loves dolls lends her soul to the doll, and as the mind is forming all her thoughts are given to the games, so that they will accurately reflect the progress of the child's character.
Children b6be who has a gramophone in her chest which emits noises, by courtesy termed words.
But enough of modern
In a dozen cases in toy history of the world character has been foreshadowed in play. I take but one instance - Jane Welsh Carlyle, who had so many opportunities of sacrificing her own desires in after life for the sake of her husband's eccentricity and genius, showed in her doll play her passion for usefulness and personal deprivation. Even with her dolls she tried to act the stoic, for which she was not well equipped. At the age of ten years, having been promoted to the learning of Latin, she thought that it was no longer seemly to play of Dido was recited, the doll's bed and dresses, with cedar pencils and a stick of cinnamon as spice for the funeral pyre, were set alight, the little mother stabbing the doll with her penknife.
Doll of the crinoline period: carved wood hands and body head and hair of composition moulded in one.
22 inches in height.
Native doll from a village on the Upper Nile. Embroidered features; human hair. 8 incheshigh with dolls. therefore the doll must die, and in a classic manner
While the 1 speech
But the student of Virgil had over-rated her povendurance endurance or under-rated her love for the doll, for when the flames frizzle Dido's hair and twisted the arms and legs and spurted out the bran stuffing, sc that Dido seemed to suffer, Jane screamed with anguish of mind, and had to be forcibly conveyed to the house, lest the neighbours should be disturbed.
Undoubtedly doll play is fostered by the natural tendency for imitation of other people's ways, and there seems to be in the child an intense pleasure in getting away from authority and getting someone else into subjection. The large place occupied by washings and hair-brushings in doll rites is not alone accounted for by the love of cleanliness in the child; it is owing to the delight in inflicting the irritations on someone else that nurse so often inflicts on the child.
The more the doll resembles the child the. better for the game.
But, so vivid is a child's imagination, that natural deficiences in form and structure in no way diminish the doll's popularity. That doll soon becomes a real living being in the child's eyes, and for this reason little girl dolls are more popular than little boy dolls.
Her doll the child wants as a companion, in whose presence she can throw off all her natural reserve and shyness.