Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester
DESCRIPTION: "Doctor Foster went to Gloucester In a shower of rain, He stepped in a puddle, Right up to his middle, And never went there again."
EARLIEST DATE: 1844 (Halliwell)
KEYWORDS: travel nonballad
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Opie-Oxford2 170, "Doctor Foster went to Gloucester" (2 texts)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #93 note, pp. 88-89, "(Old Dr. Foster)"
Jack, p. 31, "Doctor Foster" (1 text)
Dolby, p. 65, "Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester" (1 text)
NOTES: The Opies and Jack both mention an hypothesis that this item refers to Edward I (reigned 1272-1307), who encountered difficulties on a visit to Gloucester and never returned there. This has several problems. First is the fact that the piece would have had to survive for half a millennium without anyone noticing it. Second, why call Edward I "Doctor Foster"? And third, there are plenty of reasons why Edward would not have needed to go back to Gloucester.
An alternate explanation, derived from a text in the Baring-Goulds, is that "Doctor Foster" is in fact "Doctor Faustus," which raises a different set of questions but still doesn't explain the rhyme.
The inimitable Katherine Elwes Thomas connected it to the battle of Newberry in the English Civil War, but Thomas could connect anything with anything, except reality.... - RBW
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