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Street, or Pearl Street, the baby was sung to sleep with London ditties.
London Bridge is broken down,
Dance over, my Lady Lee,
. With a fair Ladye. Will not some of the active literary clubs of St. Ethelburger's Church in Bishopsgate, in East Lon. don, tell us what this means :
You owe me five shillings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's. All this was sung to New England children, thank God! without note or comment, and with
no other explanation. But the American traveller who goes into Baring Brothers', Bishopsgate, with his credit, feels a thrill which the clerk who attends to him does not understand, if one speaks to him of St. Helen's or St. Ann's.
All this accounts for Mother Goose as Fleet reprinted her baby songs as early as the year 1700. But as the reader will see, somebody had the editing of the baby's text book who was not afraid of his own time. I think that the very latest verses which will be found here are those of Scott's Donald Dhu. Walter Scott wrote this for Campbell's Anthology in 1816. The presence of these verses fixes the latest date of any lines in the collection, except, as Mr. Whitmore has observed, the line “ Boston Town” is changed into “Boston City," so that must have been written after 1822.
But it is interesting to see that no American line of comment seems to have slipped in. There was no lack of nationalism in the air, but I cannot find any reference to a cent, a dime, a governor, or a President. Now on the printed handkerchiefs, such as children used to buy on Election Day in the street, I remember the Ballad of John Gilpin ended,
Now, let us sing, “Long live the President
And Gilpin, Long live he."
But the wise editor of our Boston Mother Goose had no such fears for the republicanism of his baby hearers. Those were happy years in which the imagination of babies and their older brothers and sisters were permitted to run free.
I have asked and asked and have received no answer, as to the artist who made many of the admirable designs which are distinctive in this book. Abel Bowen's name is signed to one, and his initials appear on several. N. D. means Nathaniel Dearborn. One is signed “Chicket,” but this does not account for the greater number of them. I was the son of a printer and type-founder, so we had a "type book” as a classic in our nursery. So I knew, even as a little child, that there were pictures in Mother Goose which were put there merely because the block from which they were printed existed in the printer's office. But there were other designs made by some artist of genius; and who was he? He represented the man in the moon, hanging with one arm to the crescent of the moon. That man, whoever he was, is to be ranked among the original artists of the world. He gave to childhood his first and best images of the blackbirds who were baked in the pie.
This question I have asked again and again, and no man and no woman has answered it. But the chances seem to be that we owe them also to Abel Bowen, the first wood engraver recorded among the engravers in the period after the Revolution. We have specimens of his work more in pictures of landscape or of buildings than in drawings of men and women. But there can be but little doubt that most of the blocks from which the Mother Goose of our childhood were printed were engraved by him, and there seems to be good reason to believe that the designs were by him as well. The pity is that no old portfolio can be found with other designs from his pencil. But, alas, the chances are that they have gone where so many other manuscripts have gone, which would delight the antiquaries.
Thanks to the publisher and editor of this book, the designs, of whatever hand, are now preserved for another generation.
I have said that I am not learned in the interesting genealogical discussion of the subject, but I like to call attention to the fact that the English Norwich was the birthplace and home of Fleet, and that it is possible that in the annals of that city light may be gained as to the history of the man in the Moon.
I have always thought that the close connection of our maritime people with London had something to do with the names of our streets. The most striking instance is in the name of Cornhill, where this very Thomas Fleet had his book store, and where book stores have been an institution from that day to this. Our Cornhill in its relations to our water front occupies the same con.