David Rands has kindly shared with readers of the Victorian Web his site about the life and works of W. B. Rands, the prolific writer of children's literature and originator of The Boy's Own Paper. Readers may wish to consult this site for more information about this little-known figure who had an immense influence upon Victorian children. [GPL]
Arthur Compton-Rickett, in his History of English Literature, wrote of Rands's children's verse:
"There is a delightful whimsicality about his work and some of his graceful absurdities will long outlive the portentous verses of many a contemporary. The two volumes of "Henry Holbeach" and "Views and Opinions" give us of his best in wise, witty and trenchant sayings on the life of his day. He was not merely the maker of aphoristic apothegms; he had the power of visualising certain types of character with a dry humour that reminds the reader of Oliver Wendell Holmes."
F.J. Harvey Darton, in 1958, in his Children's Books in England, refers to Chaucer's England as a work "not yet superseded".
It is in the three Lilliput books that his chief originality appears. He was, or seems, nearly always sincere in them, not as one writing for effect or condescending to children, although in Lilliput Lectures he defines and defends what means by writing down; his is the best argument that can be given for the faintly didactic manner which is sometimes needed, in all; honesty, to bridge the gulf between old & young. His nonsense, however, has no pretence, and he often mixes it with a whimsical moral pathos which is entirely his own - as in the poem about the giant who was reformed by being given a custard three times as big as the moon. His direct pathos, as in The ship that sailed into the Sun has touches of great beauty, even when it is based on the lost-brother tradition of sentimentalism.
Thormanby, the actor Willian Willmot Dixon, writing in his book of reminiscenses, The Spice of Life, refers to WBR as
a highly gifted man, who would have won wider fame had he written always under his own name, instead of frittering his reputation away on a number of pseudonyms. As Matthew Brown, he wrote some charmingly original essays in the Argosy . . . one story, "Shoemaker's Village" is of quite unique excellence, full of the quaint, whimsical humour that was peculiarly his own. As a writer of fairy tales for children he had no superior and hardly any equal. Lilliput Legends contains as much graceful verse and beautiful fancy as any poems for children that I know.
Alexander Strachan, founder and editor of The Contemporary Review, Strachans Annual and publisher of Good Words for the Young and other magazines as well as publisher of most of WBR's books, made a public appeal for financial help a few days before Rands' death:
In my judgement no word lower that genius could rightly characterize the very special literary qualities shown in such books as The Shoemaker's Village, Tangled Talk, Lilliput Levee & Lilliput Lectures, etc, and, though these works failed to reward their writer anything like commensurately, (not, as I venture to think, much to the credit of our public), they are well-known outside the UK, especially so in America, and have obtained a general recognition as belonging to our standard literature… the sensitiveness of disposition which led him so persistently to practice anonymity (and the burden which that sensitiveness of mind was to him, only a very few personally acquainted with him know) was wholly against his extending his business connection, and was a constant disadvantage to him in a worldly sense. It was one of the most prized gratifications coming to me in a long publishing career, that I was the main instrument in obtaining Mr. Rands' pen for the delight of the public; and if, by urging this appeal upon you on his behalf, I can do him a last friendly service, it is my duty to do it.