Friday, April 13, 2007

"The Tailor of Gloucester"

"In the time of swords and peri wigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets--when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta--there lived a tailor in Gloucester. He sat in the window of a little shop in Westgate Street, cross-legged on a table from morning till dark."

So begins my very favorite of the Beatrix Potter tales! Perhaps because I sew, stitch and quilt ~ this story has always really touched my heart. I love the mice who come to the aid of this charming little old man who falls ill. I love that it is set on Christmas eve. I love the total enchantment of the mice and Simpkin, the cat's frustration at trying to catch them.
Margaret Lane tells of the origins of this story in her book, "The Tale of Beatrix Potter". Beatrix heard of this tale while visiting her cousin at Harescombe Grange. There is a charming account of Beatrix 'finding' her tailor for her own book in Chelsea.

"...she saw through a window exactly what she wanted - an old man in spectacles sitting cross-legged on a low counter, stitching at a garment and surrounded with pieces of stuff. She walked past, pulled a button off her coat, returned and went into the shop. While the tailor worked at this small repair she was able to have a long look at him; the tape-measure, the tailor's 'goose', teh brass bowl of water; and carried away more details for her story."

The story was written for Freda who was Noel Moore's sister. She had written "Peter Rabbit" for Noel while he was ill. Here is an excerpt of the letter:

"My dear Freda,

Because you are fond of fairy tales, and have been ill, I have made you a story all for yourself - a new one that nobody had read before.

And the queerest thing about it is - that I heard it in Gloucestershire, and that it is true - at least about the tailor, the waistcoat, and the 'No more twist!' "

Margaret Lane goes on to talk about Beatrix's fears of the new books failure.

"A week before Christmas 1902 she ws able to send him a copy from Bolton Gardens. 'I send the little book. I hope that all events you will not think the story very silly...I undertook the book with very cheerful courage, but I have not the least judgment whether it is satisfactory now that it is done.'

Thankfully, her 'mouse book' as Beatrix called it, had been accepted by Norman Warne and we have the continued enjoyment of reading this wonderful Christmas tale that entertains children of all ages, like myself.

I will share a progress photo of my Beatrix Potter Quaker sampler on Monday.


Anonymous said...

That little mouse sitting on the spool of thread is adorable! Her illustrations are amazing, aren't they? ♥

Tracy said...

Heidi, isn't Beatrix Potter wonderful?

Deb said...

Dear Heidi, Thank you so much for the darling Beatrix tale. I needed that tonight, and I appreciate your taking the time to tell it with pictures for me and others. I love your blog.... I going to start my B.P. Quaker sampler this week, too. Looking forward to seeing yours!
Deb in FL