"Nursery Rhymes: A Dialogue" is Samuel Goodrich's scathing review of Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes of England, which he felt was filled with rhymes that were not only useless clutter in a child's brain, but could be downright dangerous because of their crude subjects and language. Ironically, his parody nursery rhyme, "Higglety, Pigglety Pop!," is now a standard in American nursery rhyme collections! Robert Merry's Museum didn't long remain a bastion of logic over nonsense: some of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales were printed here after they were translated into English.


NURSERY RHYMES*: A DIALOGUE, by Samuel G. Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1846, pp. 52-54)

Timothy.--Mother! mother! do stop a minute, and hear me say my poetry.

Mother.--Your poetry, my son? Who told you how to make poetry?

T.--O, I don't know; but hear what I have made up.

M.--Well, go on.

T.--Now don't you laugh; it's all mine. I didn't get a bit of it out of a book. Here it is!

"Higglety, pigglety, pop!
 The dog has ate the mop
      The pig's in a hurry,
      The cat's in a flurry--
 Higglety, pigglety--pop."

M.--Well, go on.

T.--Why, that's all. Don't you think it pretty good?

M.--Really, my son, I don't see much sense in it.

T.--Sense? Whoever thought of sense in poetry? Why, mother, you gave me a book the other day, and it was all poetry, and I don't think there was a bit of sense in the whole of it. Hear me read. [Reads].

      "Hub a dub!
      Three men in a tub--
And how do you think they got there?
      The butcher,
      The baker,
      The candlestick-maker,
They all jumped out of a rotten potato
'Twas enough to make a man stare."

And here's another.

"A cat came fiddling out of a barn,
 With a pair of bagpipes under her arm;
 She could sing nothing but fiddle cum fee--
 The mouse has married the humble-bee--
 Pipe, cat--dance, mouse--
 We'll have a wedding at our good house."

And here's another.

      "Hey, diddle, diddle,
      The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon--
      The little dog laughed
      To see the craft,
And the dish ran after the spoon."

Now, mother, the book is full of such things as these, and I don't see any meaning in them.

M.--Well, my son, I think, as you do they are really very absurd.

T.--Absurd? Why, then, do you give me such things to read?

M.--Let me ask you a question. Do

* See "Nursery Rhymes, of England, &c., collected and edited by James Orchard Halliwell, Esq.," recently published.

p. 53

you not love to read these rhymes, even though they are silly?

T.--Yes, dearly.

M.--Well, you have just learned to read, and I thought these jingles, silly as they are, might induce you to study your book, and make yourself familiar with reading.

T.--I don't understand you, mother; but no matter.

"Higglety, pigglety, pop!
 The dog has ate the mop;
 The pig's in a hurry--"

M.--Stop, stop, my son. I choose you should understand me.

T.--But, mother, what's the use of understanding you?

"Higglety, pigglety, pop!"



M.--Listen to me, or you will have cause to repent it. Listen to what I say. I gave you the book to amuse you, and improve your reading, not to form your taste in poetry.

T.--Well, mother, pray forgive me. I did not mean to offend you. But I really do love poetry, because it is so silly!

"Higglety, pigglety, pop!"

M.--Don't say that again, Timothy!

T.--Well, I won't; but I'll say something out of this pretty book you gave me.

      "Doodledy, doodledy, dan!
I'll have a piper to be my good man--
And if I get less meat, I shall get game--
      Doodledy, doodledy dan!"

M.--That's enough, my son.

T.--But, dear mother, do hear me read another.

      "We're all in the dumps,
      For diamonds are trumps--
The kittens are gone to St. Paul's--
      The babies are bit--
      The moon's in a fit--
And the houses are built without walls."

M.--I do not wish to hear any more.

T.--One more; one more, dear mother.

"Round about--round about--
      Maggotty pie--
 My father loves good ale,
      And so do I."

Don't you like that, mother?

M.--No; it is too coarse, and unfit to be read or spoken.

T.--But it is here in this pretty book you gave me, and I like it very much, mother. And here is a poem, which I think very fine.

"One-ery, two-eery,
 Ziccary zan,
 Hollow bone, crack a bone--
 Ninery ten:
 Spittery spat,
 It must be done,
 Twiddledum, tweddledum,
 Hink, spink, the puddings stink["]

M.--Stop, stop, my son. Are you not ashamed to say such things?

T.--Ashamed? No, mother. Why should I be? It's all printed here as plain as day. Ought I to be ashamed to say any thing I find in a pretty book you have given me? Just hear the rest of this.

"Hink, spink, the puddings--"

M.--Give me the book, Timothy. I see that I have made a mistake; it is not a proper book for you.

T.--Well, you may take the book, but I can say the rhymes, for I have learnt them all by heart.

"Hink, spink, the puddings--"

M.--Timothy, how dare you!

T.--Well, mother, I won't say it, if you don't wish me to. But mayn't I say

"Higglety, pigglety, pop!"

p. 54

M.--I had rather you would not.

T.--And "Doodledy, doodledy dan"--mayn't I say that?


T.--Nor "Hey diddle, diddle"?

M.--I do not wish you to say any of those silly things.

T.--Dear me, what shall I do?

M.--I had rather you would learn some good sensible things.

T.--Such as what?

M.--Watts's Hymns, and Original Hymns.

T.--Do you call them sensible things? I hate 'em.

"Doodledy, doodledy dan!"

M.--[Aside.] Dear, dear, what shall I do? The boy has got his head turned with these foolish rhymes. It was really a very unwise thing to put a book into his hands, so full of nonsense and vulgarity. The rhymes seem to stick like burs [sic] in his mind, and the coarsest and vilest seem to be best remembered. I must remedy this mistake; but I see it will take all my wit to do so. [Aloud.] Timothy, you must give me up this book, and I will get you another.

T.--Well, mother, I am sorry to part with it--but I don't care so much about it, as I know all the best of it by heart.

"Hink, spink, the puddings--"

 fs; M.--You'll have a box on the ear, if you repeat that.

T.--Well, I suppose I can say,

"Round about--round about--
Maggotty pie--"

M.--You go to bed!

T.--Well, if I must, I must. Good night, mother!

"Higglety, pigglety, pop!
 The dog has ate the mop;
 The cat's in a flurry,
 The cow's in a hurry,
 Higglety, pigglety, pop!"

Good night, mother!

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