Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Old Mother Hubbard

With most nursery rhymes, the origin is often lost in obscurity but we know for sure the origin of Old Mother Hubbard. Sarah Catherine Martin wrote and illustrated the rhyme in 1805 after being told to by her brother-in-law, John Pollexfen Bastard to, “Go away and write one of your silly verses.”

Evidently, Sarah was a frequent visitor to Kitley Manor, the stately home of her brother-in-law Bastard who was a busy Member of Parliament. To keep her nieces and nephews occupied and out of their father’s way as he busied himself with matters of state, she amused them by writing verse. Perhaps the children were noisy or boisterous the particular day that evoked the terse response from her brother-in-law, but one thing is for sure, Old Mother Hubbard would become one of the better-known nursery rhymes in history.

The rhyme was inspired by the housekeeper at Kitley Manor who, when she retired went to live in the cottage on the estate. The cottage is now a restaurant close to Yealmpton in Devon.

Old Mother HubbardWent to the cupboard To fetch her old dog a boneBut when she got thereThe cupboard was bareAnd so the poor dog had none.

After Sarah wrote the rhyme, she took it to a friend, John Harris who typeset and printed the piece. Sarah presented it to her brother-in-law for his birthday on June 1, 1805.

Being an astute businessman and recognizing the value of the nursery rhyme, John Harris printed 10,000 first edition copies, all of which were sold.

Kitley House Hotel >>
Old Mother Hubbard Restaurant >>