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The Period of the French Revolution
> Nursery Rimes
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.
§ 10. Nursery Rimes.
So, the fairy tale attained print, and tradition became literature. About the same period, the other strain of traditional lore, also, was glorified into printed matter. Nursery rimes have all manner of origins, and may be detected in allusions long before they appear whole and unadorned. But, there was, apparently, no
Corpus Poetarum Infantilium
till, in 1744, Cooper published
Tommy Thumbs Pretty Song Book,
in two volumes. Here, for the first time, some unknown hand established a classic. Here was the nucleus upon which, in all probability, all later collectionsand there was not much to be added to itwere founded. The rimes, in themselves, do not call for comment. Except for a few which would offend modern taste, they are the sameverbally, for all practical purposesas nurses use to-day.
No earlier collection, if one was made, survives; and it is sixteen years before another is recorded
The Top Book of All;
the date, 1760, is determined by a little wood-block at the end. This is not entirely a nursery rime book; it contains nine familiar rimes, Wattss
some riddles and three well-known short tales. To the same datebut not with any certaintyis ascribed the famous
Gammer Gurtons Garland,
published at Stockport: it is described on the title-page as a new edition, with additions. In or about the same yearhere, too, there is not any certainty, for not one copy of the first edition is knownwas born the chief rival of the alleged Gurton as a rimer, mother Goose.
Newberys surviving copyrights in 1780 included
Mother Gooses Melody.
There is reason to believe the book had been in existence for some time before, though there is no evidence whatever for a statement sometimes made that the publisher Fleet first issued it in 1719.
. The instructive full title is given in the bibliography of this chapter.
. The name is, of course, a translation of
Mère de lOie,
who presided over Perraults fairy tales. But it is much older. Gammer Gurton and Tom Thumb have a similar oral antiquity.
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