Wednesday, February 04, 2015
The Lost Idyll of Ladybird
"Fiddle-de-dee, fiddle-de-dee, the fly shall marry the bumblebee..."
But most of all, I loved the illustrations:
Frank Hampson turned out to be an inspired choice. His pictures are some of the most evocative in children's literature.
In his illustrations, Hampson created an idyllic, pre-industrial England of villages and market towns, without a single Satanic mill in sight.
The fashions and buildings were (like many of the rhymes) mostly 18th century, but sometimes a steam engine, Victorian top hat or Tudor ruff would add a note of temporal discombobulation.
I often wonder whether these illustrations inspired my later life. I do seem to have ended up living somewhere that's remarkably similar to this illustration for 'Hot Cross Buns'. Is that Lewes Castle in the background?
Many of the verses are of unknown provenance, but the occasional obsolete rhyme points to their antiquity. For example, in 'Tweedledee and Tweedledum', barrel rhymes with quarrel.
The rhyme, which appears in the second volume, has the benefit of a little-known additional verse to 'Jack and Jill', in which "Dame Dob...patched his nob." A line that would have caused no end of sniggering when I was at school.
Old Mother Hubbard discovers that her cupboard is bare, there is no hint of any possibility of redemption. Something that my three-year-old self found quite hard to take.
this very disturbing Japanese manga version. I had to exorcise myself afterwards by listening to the Carpenters.
The Wikipedia entry for Doctor Fell, which is said to date from 1680 (the rhyme, not the Wikipedia entry), is a fascinating read. I had no idea that Fell was a real person, or that Hannibal Lecter used the name as a pseudonym.
It met with a mysterious accident. My son didn't complain.
Proust had his madeleines. I have my Ladybird books of nursery rhymes. Just one look at any of the illustrations is a bittersweet experience, recalling a happy time in my childhood, but also reminding me that I don't live in a carefree world of endless summers and tricorn hats.
I don't think I've ever quite recovered from the disappointment.