I’ve always wondered about the origin of the expression “Goody Two-shoes,” and I finally found the answer in a Victorian Era’s Children’s book. This is not the original version, which I have been unable to locate, but the story is the same. It was initially published in 1768 by John Newbury Co. In London and tells the story of an orphaned girl who does well in life despite her impoverished beginnings. As with most stories of the time, the girl succeeds by being unfailingly kind and sweet, and she is rewarded with a happy marriage to a wealthy man. Uggh! So it’s basically Cinderella without the cinders and marriage is the ultimate success for a girl. Goody’s brother also does well, by going to sea and having lots of adventures while amassing a fortune. Why do the boys always get to have adventures, but the girls must become capable and good wives?
It’s a short book, so I’ve attached all the illustrations below the fold if you’re interested.
It isn’t certain who wrote the story. In those days, publishing houses paid writers for anonymous work. Some people argue that Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith may have penned the story. Others suggest that John Newbery himself wrote the story, or possibly Giles Jones, a friend of Newbery’s. There is little evidence for any of these claims.
The 1768 book isn’t the origin of the phrase, however, which is first seen in literature in 1670 in the book Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque by Charles Cotton.
Mistress mayoress complained that the pottage was cold;
‘And all long of your fiddle-faddle,’ quoth she.
‘Why, then, Goody Two-shoes, what if it be?
Hold you, if you can, your tittle-tattle,’ quoth he.
– Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque, 1670, by Charles Cotton
The phrase being used in this instance to point out the Goodwife’s (Goody) privilege (having 2 shoes as opposed to others who have none.) The 1768 book did, however, make being a Goody Two-Shoes into a desirable trait for a girl.
Next week we’ll look at a different sort of book for girls.
Source for book and illustrations: The Internet Archive
Source for information on Goody Two-Shoes: Wikipedia