Old Mother Hubbard

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One of the first superstars of the nursery rhyme field, Mother Hubbard featured in the Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog printed by J. Harris in 1805, which was an immediate success, sold tens of thousands of copies, and spawned pirate editions, parodies, and sequels, and the rhyme itself was reprinted in countless other collections. Almost overnight Old Mother Hubbard became a stock figure in early 19th-century popular culture. The fourteen-verse rhyme was written by Sarah Catherine Martin (1768–1826) in 1804, and the first verse at least is still very well known. Nothing is simple in the nursery rhyme field, however. It appears that Miss Martin did not compose the whole piece, but took an already known three-verse rhyme and extended it with new stanzas, possibly modelled on another rhyme concerning Old Dame Trot and her Comical Cat. These three verses had appeared in print in the 1790s and were probably even older still, but we have no evidence to prove it.

Opie and Opie, 1997: 374–80.

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