The Only True Mother Goose Melodies
by Anonymous - History of the Goose Family

History of the Goose Family.

Cotton Mather And Mother Goose.

MR. EDITOR:--Your correspondent, N.B.S., has so decisively given a QUIETUS to the question as to the birthplace of Cotton Mather, that there is no danger of its ever being revived again. But there is another question of equal importance to many, to the literary world in particular, which should in like manner be put to rest. WHO WAS MOTHER GOOSE? and WHEN were her melodies first given to the world? These are questions which have been often asked, but have never been satisfactorily answered. The recent publication of a book called "Mother Goose for Old Folks" has again revived these questions, which serves to show that the subject has not yet lost its interest.

Many persons imagine that Mother Goose is a myth,--that no such person ever existed. This is a mistake. MOTHER GOOSE was not only a veritable personage, but was born and resided many years in Boston, where many of her descendants may now be found. The last that bore this ancient paternal cognomen died about the year 1807, and was buried in the Old Granary Burying Ground, where probably lie the remains of the whole blood, if we may judge from the numerous grave-stones which mark their resting place. The family originated in England, but at what time they came to this country is unknown,--but probably about the year 1656. This was the "Wealthy family of Goose" which is immortalized by Mr. Bowditch in his book of Suffolk Names, who at the same time has immortalized himself. They were landholders in Boston, so early as 1660. Nearly half the space between West and Winter streets, on Washington street, and extending westerly towards Tremont street, 275 feet belonged to this family, as did also a large tract of land on Essex, Rowe, and Bedford streets, upon which now stand two churches and a large number of dwelling houses. SO MUCH FOR MOTHER GOOSE. Now for her melodies.

It is well known to antiquarians that more than TWO hundred years ago there was a small book in circulation in London bearing the name of "Rhymes for the nursery; or Lulla-Byes for Children," which contained MANY OF THE IDENTICAL PIECES which have been handed down to us and now form part of the "Mother Goose's Melodies" of the present day. It contained also other pieces much more silly, if possible, and some that the AMERICAN types of the present day would refuse to give off an impression. The "cuts" or illustrations thereof were of the coarsest description.

The first book of the kind known to be printed in this country bears the title of "Songs for the Nursery; or, Mother Goose's Melodies for Children." Something probably intended to represent a goose with a very long neck and mouth wide open, covered a large part of the title page, at the bottom of which, Printed by T. Fleet, at his printing house, Pudding Lane, 1719. Price, two coppers. Several pages were missing, so that the whole number could not be ascertained.

By the record of marriages in the City Registrar's office, it appears that in "1715, June 8, was married by Rev. COTTON MATHER, THOMAS FLEET TO ELIZABETH GOOSE." The happy couple took up their residence in the same house with the printing office in Pudding lane. In due time their family was increased by the birth of a son and heir. Mother Goose, like all good grandmothers, was in ecstasies at the event; her joy was unbounded; she spent her whole time in the nursery, and in wandering about the house, pouring forth, in not the most melodious strains, the songs and ditties which she had learned in her younger days, greatly to the annoyance of the whole neighborhood--to Fleet in particular, who was a man fond of quiet. It was in vain he exhausted his shafts of wit and ridicule, and every expedient he could devise: it was of no use--the old lady was not thus to be put down; so, like others similarly situated, he was obliged to submit. His shrewdness, however, did not forsake him; from this seeming evil he contrived to educe some good; he conceived the idea of collecting the songs and ditties as they came from his mother, and such as he could gather from other sources, and publishing them for the benefit of the world--not forgetting himself. This he did--and thus "Mother Goose's Melodies" were brought forth. The adoption of this title was in derision of his good mother-in-law, and was perfectly characteristic of the man, as he was never known to spare his nearest friends in his raillery, or when he could excite laughter at their expense.

COTTON MATHER AND MOTHER GOOSE thus stand in juxtaposition; and as the former was instrumental in cementing the union, which resulted in placing the latter so conspicuously before the world, it is but just that it should be so,--although the one was a learned man, a most voluminous writer, and published a great many books, some wise and some foolish, it may well be doubted whether any one, or all of them, together, have passed through so many editions,--been read by so many hundreds of thousands, not to say millions,--put so many persons to sleep, or in general done so much good to the world as the simple melodies of the other.