The figure of Mother Goose is the imaginary author of a collection of French fairy tales and of English nursery rhymes. As a character, she appeared in a song, the first stanza of which functions now as a nursery rhyme. This, was dependent on a Christmas pantomime, a successor to, still performed in the United Kingdom; the term's appearance in English dates back to the early 18th century, when Charles Perrault’s fairy tale collection, Contes de ma Mère l'Oye, was first translated into English as Tales of My Mother Goose. A compilation of English nursery rhymes, titled Mother Goose's Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle, helped perpetuate the name both in Britain and the United States. Mother Goose's name was identified with English collections of stories and nursery rhymes popularised in the 17th century. English readers would have been familiar with Mother Hubbard, a stock figure when Edmund Spenser published the satire Mother Hubberd's Tale in 1590, as well as with similar fairy tales told by "Mother Bunch" in the 1690s.
An early mention appears in an aside in a versified French chronicle of weekly events, Jean Loret's La Muse Historique, collected in 1650. His remark, comme un conte de la Mère Oye shows that the term was understood. Additional 17th-century Mother Goose/Mere l'Oye references appear in French literature in the 1620s and 1630s. In the 20th century, Katherine Elwes-Thomas theorised that the image and name "Mother Goose" or "Mère l'Oye" might be based upon ancient legends of the wife of King Robert II of France, known as "Berthe la fileuse" or Berthe pied d'oie described as spinning incredible tales that enraptured children. Other scholars have pointed out that Charlemagne's mother, Bertrada of Laon, came to be known as the goose-foot queen. There are sources that trace Mother Goose's origin back to the biblical Queen of Sheba. Despite evidence to the contrary, it has been claimed in The United States of America that the original Mother Goose was the Bostonian wife of Isaac Goose, either named Elizabeth Foster Goose or Mary Goose.
She was the second wife of Isaac Goose, who brought to the marriage six children of her own to add to Isaac's ten. After Isaac died, Elizabeth went to live with her eldest daughter, who had married Thomas Fleet, a publisher who lived on Pudding Lane. According to Early, "Mother Goose" used to sing songs and ditties to her grandchildren all day, other children swarmed to hear them, it was said, her son-in-law gathered her jingles together and printed them. No evidence of such printing has been found, historians believe this story was concocted by Fleet's great-grandson John Fleet Eliot in 1860. Iona and Peter Opie, leading authorities on nursery lore, give no credence to either the Elwes-Thomas or the Boston suppositions, it is accepted that the term does not refer to any particular person. Charles Perrault, one of the initiators of the literary fairy tale genre, published a collection of such tales in 1695 called Histoires ou contes du temps passés, avec des moralités under the name of his son, which became better known under its subtitle of Contes de ma mère l'Oye or Tales of My Mother Goose.
Perrault's publication marks the first authenticated starting-point for Mother Goose stories. In 1729, an English translation appeared of Perrault's collection, Robert Samber's Histories or Tales of Past Times, Told by Mother Goose, which introduced Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots and other Perrault tales to English-speaking audiences; the first public appearance of the Mother Goose stories in America was in Worcester, where printer Isaiah Thomas reprinted Samber's volume under the same title in 1786. Maurice Ravel ‘s Ma mère l'oye suite is dependent on Perrault’s collection. Starting with five pieces for piano duet in 1908-10, he orchestrated them for a ballet in which two of the episodes were named after the fairy tale characters Sleeping Beauty and Tom Thumb; the ballet was first performed in Paris in 1912 and that year in Chicago. John Newbery was once believed to have published a compilation of English nursery rhymes titled Mother Goose's Melody, or, Sonnets for the cradle some time in the 1760s, but the first edition was published in 1780 or 1781 by Thomas Carnan, one of Newbery's successors.
This edition was registered with the Stationers' Company, London in 1780. However, no copy has been traced, the earliest surviving edition is dated 1784; the name "Mother Goose" has been associated in the English-speaking world with children's poetry since. In 1834, John Bellenden Ker Gawler published a book deriving the origin of the Mother Goose rhymes as arising from political disaffection expressed in a invented Flemish language, an effort described by the Opies as "the most extraordinary example of misdirected labour in the history of English letters". In addition to being the purported author of nursery rhymes, Mother Goose is herself the title character in one recorded by the Opies, only the first verse of which figures in editions of their book. Titled "Old Mother Goose and the Golden Egg", this verse prefaced a 15-stanza poem that rambled through a variety of adventures involving not only the egg but Mother Goose's son Jack. There exists an illustrated chapbook omitting their opening stanza that dates from the 1820s and another version was recorded by J. O. Halliwell in his The Nursery Rhymes of England.
Other shorter versions were recorded later. All of them, however
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