Jacob Abbott (1803-1879) graduated from Bowdoin College, pursued ministerial studies at Andover-Newton, taught mathematics at Amherst, and founded the Mount Vernon School for girls in Boston. He was the author of more than 180 books for young people. His many series included three from which copies survive in Moore’s library: the Rollo books about a young boy with a feisty personality and enough naughtiness to give his parents ample opportunity for correction; The Franconia Stories, about a brother and sister schooled by their mother; and Historical Biographies. Considered among the first serious books for children, Abbott’s works offered language adult enough to foster intellectual inquiry and development along with examples of stout moral rectitude.
Moore’s published comments on Abbott’s books suggest that she had internalized some of their elements. For example, in reviewing George Moore’s Conversations in Ebury Street she wrote: “[Moore’s writing recalls] some of Jacob Abbott’s most dramatically lifelike colloquies. . . .” (Complete Prose, 103); and when asked “What books did most to shape your vocational attitude and your philosophy of life?” she replied: “Beechnut, Grimkie, Florence and John and the Rollo books, by Jacob Abbott.” (Complete Prose, 670).
The books that remain in her library at the Rosenbach Museum & Library are:
From the Rollo Series:
Rollo in Paris. NY: Mershon, 1858
From the Franconia Stories:
Beechnut. NY: Harper’s, 1878
Rudolphus. NY: Harper and Brothers, 1852
The entire series of the Florence Stories:
The English Channel. NY: Sheldon, 1868
Excursion to the Orkney Islands. NY: Sheldon, 1868
Florence and John. NY: Sheldon, 1869
Florence’s return. NY: Sheldon,1869
Grimkie. NY: Sheldon, 1868
Visit to the Isle of Wight. NY: Sheldon, 1869
From the Historical Biographies Series:
History of Alexander the Great. NY: Harpers, 1870
History of Cyrus the Great. NY: Harper and Brothers, 1850
Histories of Xerxes the Great. NY: Harper and Brothers, 1854.
The texts of Abbott’s books are available online through googlebooks, archives.org, and Project Gutenberg.