Little Miss Muffet
DESCRIPTION: "Little Miss Muffet Sat on a tuffet Eating her curds and whey. Along came a spider And sat down beside her And frightened Miss Muffet away."
EARLIEST DATE: before 1797 (cf. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose)
KEYWORDS: food bug
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Opie-Oxford2 369, "Little Miss Muffet" (1 text)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #141, p. 114, "(Little Miss Muffet)"
Jack, p. 110, "Little Miss Muffet" (1 text)
Dolby, p. 79, "Little Miss Muffet" (1 text)
NOTES: This is probably only a nursery *rhyme*, and not a nursery *song*, and so properly does not belong in the Index. But Tony and Irene Saletan recorded it as part of their version of "Hail to Britannia" (which includes many nursery rhymes), so it does have a musical tradition of sorts. I include it, very tentatively, on that basis.
The Baring-Goulds state, incidentally, that this is the most frequently illustrated of all nursery rhymes, even though (according to them) the word "tuffet" is otherwise unattested.
The word "tuffet" may have been a forced rhyme, because, according to Joe Schwarcz, That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles, ECW Press, 2002, p. 207, the story is real. Patience Muffet was the daughter of one Thomas Muffet, a physician who lived in the sixteenth century and kept spiders because he liked their webs.
The Opies, in fact, say that Thomas Muffet wrote poetry, causing some to attribute this to him. However, they add that his poetry was not very good. And they note several variations which eliminate that troublesome "tuffet." - RBW
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