Essays in Romanticism

Doctor Beddoes’s Democratic Toys: Education, Embodiment, and Empowerment

Essays in Romanticism (2019), 26, (2), 115–129.

Abstract

Though he is primarily known for his researches into factitious airs, Beddoes also designed a set of “rational toys” intended for use by parents and in schools. This article reads the toys in conjunction with texts by Beddoes himself and others in his circle that advocate political, social, and educational reform. The rational toys, I argue, are a material manifestation of Beddoes’s democratic materialist philosophy. Furthermore, they represent not only his own philosophical beliefs, but point to a larger trend in Romantic pedagogy that was adopted by figures connected to the Bristol circle, such as Erasmus Darwin, Tom Wedgwood, and William Wordsworth.

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Author details

Robertson, Lisa Ann