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The Percy Society.
THE RT. HON. LORD BRAYBROOKE, F.S.A
THOMAS AMYOT, Esq. F.R.S. TREAS. S.Ą).
WILLIAM HENRY BLACK, Esql
J. A. CAHUSAC, Esq. F.S.A.
WILLIAM CHAPPELL, Esq. F.S.A. Treasurer.
JOHN PAYNE COLLIER, Esq. F.S.A.
T. CROFTON CROKER, Esq. F.S.A. M.R.I.A.
REV. ALEXANDER DYCE.
JAMES ORCHARD HALLIWELL, Esq. F.R.S. M.R.I.A.
G. P. R. JAMES, Esq.
WILLIAM JERDAN, Esq. F.S.A. M.R.S L.
CHARLES MACKAY, Esq.
T. J. PETTIGREW, Esq. F.R.S. F.S.A
E. F. RIMBAULT, Esq Secretary
JAMES WALSH, Esq.
THOMAS WRIGHT, Esq. M.A. F.S.A.
In the present age of literary revivals of all kinds, the members of the Percy Society will not perhaps reject an attempt to rescue from the hand of oblivion and introduce into notice the works of an ancient series of bards, who amidst the general resuscitation of early literature have never hitherto been favoured with any vindicating critic. That their works have at one time or other been in every one's mouth, is, I presume, a sufficient proof of their genuine right to fame ; and if the names of their several authors be as difficult to settle satisfactorily, as that of the Iliad itself, yet the modesty that was the reason in the first instance of their being withheld, only serves now to enhance the reputation of these writers. The lullabies of the ancients are for
ever lost, and a future race may not despise the knowledge of our method of primary instruction for our children, οτε παππαζουσι και μαμμαζουσι.
If we had any credible sources of information, it would be a subject worthy of investigation, to ascertain the origin of the popularity of these national nursery melodies: but, like most other branches of popular literature and traditional anecdotes, their history is wrapped up in great obscurity. We can ascertain that they have been current in our nurseries for nearly two centuries, in all parts of England, under forms very slightly differing from each other; but more than this we know not. And these traditional nonsense-scraps have come down to us in such numbers, that in the short space of three years the Editor of the present volume had collected considerably more than a thousand. A selection is
here presented to the reader.
A few nursery rhymes can be traced back to a very early period. Every child will remember the lines on Bryan O'Lin,
"Bryan O'Lin, and his wife, and wife's mother,
The bridge was loose, and they all tumbled in,
which are found, under a very slightly modified form, in a little black-letter book, by W. Wager, called, "The longer thou livest the more Foole thou art," printed about the year 1560:
"Tom a Lin, and his wife, and his wives mother,
The bridge was broken and they fell in,
The devil go with all, quoth Tom a Lin."
A few more examples of this kind will be found in the following pages!
In attempting a classification, I am well aware that much question may arise concerning the true appropriation of many of the nursery rhymes to their several classes, and I must claim the indulgence of my readers for any mistakes I have committed in this respect.
I may here also take the opportunity of stating, that it was originally my intention to have introduced also a collection of merriments upon which many of these rhymes are founded, but the project was overruled by a gentleman, who gave it as his opinion that the Society would by their publi