Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Mother Goose’s Melodies
John Newbery, ed. (1713–1767)
Mother Goose’s Melodies. Few books in the English language have had so widespread a circulation as the collection of nursery rhymes known as ‘Mother Goose’s Melodies.’ Indeed, the child whose earliest remembrance does not embrace pictures of ‘Little Boy Blue,’ ‘The House that Jack Built.’ ‘Who Killed Cock Robin,’ ‘Baa, Baa Black Sheep,’ and ‘Patty Cake, Patty Cake, Baker’s Man,’ has sustained a loss of no small magnitude. In 1860 a story was started to the effect that “Mother Goose” was a Boston woman; and she was identified as Elizabeth Goose, widow of Isaac Vergoose, or Goose, and mother-in-law of Thomas Fleet, a well-known Boston printer, said to have issued a collection of the ‘Melodies’ in 1719. There is an entire lack of evidence however, to support this assumption; although Boston has a true claim upon the fame of “Mother Goose,” because two Boston publishers issued the book in 1824. But it is now conceded that “Mother Goose” belongs to French folk-lore and not to English tradition; and some writers even connect her with Queen Goosefoot, said to be the mother of Charlemagne. Charles Perrault, born in Paris in 1628, was the first person to collect, reduce to writing, and publish the ‘Contes de ma Mère l’Oye,’ or ‘Tales of Mother Goose’; and there is no reason to think that “Mother Goose” was a term ever used in English literature until it was translated from the French equivalent, “Mère l’Oye.” It is probable that her fame first reached England in 1729, when ‘Mother Goose’s Fairy Tales’ were translated by Robert Samber. The original ‘Mother Goose’s Melodies’ was not issued until 1760, when it was brought out by John Newbery of London. While “Mother Goose” herself is of French origin, many of the ‘Melodies’ are purely of English extraction, some of them dating back to Shakespeare’s time and earlier.  1
  Famous writers of fiction “may flourish and may fade,” great poets pass into distant perspective; but until time has ceased to be, it is certain that ‘Mother Goose’ will reign in the hearts, and murmur in the ears, of each succeeding generation.  2

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