Nursery Rhymes: A Dialogue” is Samuel Goodrich’s scathing review of Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes of England, which he felt was filled with rhymes that were not only useless clutter in a child’s brain, but could be downright dangerous because of their crude subjects and language. Ironically, his parody nursery rhyme, “Higglety, Pigglety Pop!,” is now a standard in American nursery rhyme collections! Robert Merry’s Museum didn’t long remain a bastion of logic over nonsense: some of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales were printed here after they were translated into English.
“Nursery Rhymes*: A Dialogue,” by Samuel G. Goodrich (from Robert Merry’s Museum, August 1846; pp. 52-54)

Timothy.—Mother! mother! do stop a minute, and hear me say my poetry.

Mother.—Your poetry, my son? Who told you how to make poetry?

T.—O, I don’t know; but hear what I have made up.

M.—Well, go on.

T.—Now don’t you laugh; it’s all mine. I didn’t get a bit of it out of a book. Here it is!

“Higglety, pigglety, pop!

The dog has ate the mop

The pig’s in a hurry,

The cat’s in a flurry—

Higglety, pigglety—pop.”

M.—Well, go on.

T.—Why, that’s all. Don’t you think it pretty good?

M.—Really, my son, I don’t see much sense in it.

T.—Sense? Whoever thought of sense in poetry? Why, mother, you gave me a book the other day, and it was all poetry, and I don’t think there was a bit of sense in the whole of it. Hear me read. [Reads].

“Hub a dub!

Three men in a tub—

And how do you think they got there?

The butcher,

The baker,

The candlestick-maker,

They all jumped out of a rotten potato

’Twas enough to make a man stare.”

And here’s another.

“A cat came fiddling out of a barn,

With a pair of bagpipes under her arm;

She could sing nothing but fiddle cum fee—

The mouse has married the humble-bee—

Pipe, cat—dance, mouse—

We’ll have a wedding at our good house.”

And here’s another.

“Hey, diddle, diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon—

The little dog laughed

To see the craft,

And the dish ran after the spoon.”

Now, mother, the book is full of such things as these, and I don’t see any meaning in them.

M.—Well, my son, I think, as you do they are really very absurd.

T.—Absurd? Why, then, do you give me such things to read?

M.—Let me ask you a question. Do

* See “Nursery Rhymes, of England, &c., collected and edited by James Orchard Halliwell, Esq.,” recently published.

p. 53

you not love to read these rhymes, even though they are silly?

T.—Yes, dearly.

M.—Well, you have just learned to read, and I thought these jingles, silly as they are, might induce you to study your book, and make yourself familiar with reading.

T.—I don’t understand you, mother; but no matter.

“Higglety, pigglety, pop!

The dog has ate the mop;

The pig’s in a hurry—"

M.—Stop, stop, my son. I choose you should understand me.

T.—But, mother, what’s the use of understanding you?

“Higglety, pigglety, pop!”



M.—Listen to me, or you will have cause to repent it. Listen to what I say. I gave you the book to amuse you, and improve your reading, not to form your taste in poetry.

T.—Well, mother, pray forgive me. I did not mean to offend you. But I really do love poetry, because it is so silly!

“Higglety, pigglety, pop!”

M.—Don’t say that again, Timothy!

T.—Well, I won’t; but I’ll say something out of this pretty book you gave me.

“Doodledy, doodledy, dan!

I’ll have a piper to be my good man—

And if I get less meat, I shall get game—

Doodledy, doodledy dan!”

M.—That’s enough, my son.

T.—But, dear mother, do hear me read another.

“We’re all in the dumps,

For diamonds are trumps—

The kittens are gone to St. Paul’s—

The babies are bit—

The moon’s in a fit—

And the houses are built without walls.”

M.—I do not wish to hear any more.

T.—One more; one more, dear mother.

“Round about—round about—

Maggotty pie—

My father loves good ale,

And so do I.”

Don’t you like that, mother?

M.—No; it is too coarse, and unfit to be read or spoken.

T.—But it is here in this pretty book you gave me, and I like it very much, mother. And here is a poem, which I think very fine.

“One-ery, two-eery,

Ziccary zan,

Hollow bone, crack a bone—

Ninery ten:

Spittery spat,

It must be done,

Twiddledum, tweddledum,


Hink, spink, the puddings stink[”]

M.—Stop, stop, my son. Are you not ashamed to say such things?

T.—Ashamed? No, mother. Why should I be? It’s all printed here as plain as day. Ought I to be ashamed to say any thing I find in a pretty book you have given me? Just hear the rest of this.

“Hink, spink, the puddings—”

M.—Give me the book, Timothy. I see that I have made a mistake; it is not a proper book for you.

T.—Well, you may take the book, but I can say the rhymes, for I have learnt them all by heart.

“Hink, spink, the puddings—”

M.—Timothy, how dare you!

T.—Well, mother, I won’t say it, if you don’t wish me to. But mayn’t I say

“Higglety, pigglety, pop!”

p. 54

M.—I had rather you would not.

T.—And “Doodledy, doodledy dan"—mayn’t I say that?


T.—Nor “Hey diddle, diddle"?

M.—I do not wish you to say any of those silly things.

T.—Dear me, what shall I do?

M.—I had rather you would learn some good sensible things.

T.—Such as what?

M.—Watts’s Hymns, and Original Hymns.

T.—Do you call them sensible things? I hate ’em.

“Doodledy, doodledy dan!”

M.—[Aside.] Dear, dear, what shall I do? The boy has got his head turned with these foolish rhymes. It was really a very unwise thing to put a book into his hands, so full of nonsense and vulgarity. The rhymes seem to stick like burs [sic] in his mind, and the coarsest and vilest seem to be best remembered. I must remedy this mistake; but I see it will take all my wit to do so. [Aloud.] Timothy, you must give me up this book, and I will get you another.

T.—Well, mother, I am sorry to part with it—but I don’t care so much about it, as I know all the best of it by heart.

“Hink, spink, the puddings—”

M.—You’ll have a box on the ear, if you repeat that.

T.—Well, I suppose I can say,

“Round about—round about—

Maggotty pie—”

M.—You go to bed!

T.—Well, if I must, I must. Good night, mother!

“Higglety, pigglety, pop!

The dog has ate the mop;

The cat’s in a flurry,

The cow’s in a hurry,

Higglety, pigglety, pop!”

Good night, mother!

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Authors at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.