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Darton’s Nursery Songs

April 21, 2022
by the gentle author

I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Nick Darton whose ancestor William Darton Junior (1781 – 1854) was a publisher in the City of London two hundred years ago and published these charming Nursery Songs on June 15th 1818.

The Juvenile Review described it  as ‘A very foolish book, ….. what, for instance,  can be more ridiculous than the idea of “a dish running after a spoon,” or the moon being in a fit?’ yet it was published in many editions over the next fifty years and numerous other publishers followed in a similar tradition.

William Darton Junior attended the Friends School in Clerkenwell but was removed at the age of eight to help in his father’s publishing business in Gracechurch St. After two years, he was sent to Ackworth School in Yorkshire before returning to London when he began his apprenticeship with his father at the age of fourteen. He showed early promise as an engraver and was adding his signature his own work even before his full seven years of apprenticeship were up. In 1804, he left his father’s business in his early twenties to set up by himself at Holborn Hill, concentrating on the publication of children’s books, games, educational aids, pastimes and juvenile ephemera.

Let us go the wood, says this pig

What to do there? says this pig & c.

When the bough breaks,

The cradle will fall,

And sown will come cradle

And baby and all.

To bed, to bed, says sleepy head.

Let’s stay awhile says slow,

Put on the pot, says greedy gut.

We’ll sup before we go.

See Saw Margery Daw

Pat it and prick it and mark it with C

And then it will serve for Charley or me.

The Clock struck one,

The mouse came down,

Hickory Diccary Dock.

Who comes here? A Grenadier

What do you want? A pot of beer

Where’s your money? I’ve forgot

Get you gone, you drunken sot.

Cushy Cow bonny, let down thy milk.

Jack & Jill

Baa baaa, black sheep, have you any wool?

Little Jack Horner

The Lion & The Unicorn

Little Robin Redbreast sat upon a tree

Little boy blue, blow your horn

The cat’s run away with the pudding bag string

There was an old woman, she lived in a shoe

Ding Dong Bell, Pussy Cat’s in the Well

The Man in the Moon

The little husband

There was a little man & he had a little gun

Little Johnny Pringle

Taffy was a Welchman, Taffy was a Thief

Four & Twenty Blackbirds baked in a pye

He’ll sit in a barn

And keep himself warm

And hide his head under

his wing, Poor Thing!

Images courtesy of Nick Darton

You may also like to take a look  at

The Tragical Death of Apple Pie

Old Mother Hubbard & Her Wonderful Dog

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Joan Cooksley permalink
    April 21, 2022

    I’m wondering if there might be any connection between the school Darton attended in Yorkshire and Dickens’ Wackford Squeers?
    The names are so similar.

  2. Marcia Howard permalink
    April 21, 2022

    An interesting post! I loved my own book of Nursery Rhymes which I remember from being a small child. I also remember singing the rhymes at infant school, doing all the appropriate actions. In time, my own children loved their nursery rhymes, as did my granddaughter. I admit some of the drawings from your post above might have made me feel differently, but my own book thankfully had more friendly looking pictures in it.

  3. April 21, 2022

    A.A.Milne had the talent to write special nursery rhymes and songs. It is always a pleasure to read them.


    If people ask me,
    I always tell them:
    “Quite well, thank you, I’m very glad to say.”
    If people ask me,
    I always answer,
    “Quite well, thank you, how are you to-day?”
    I always answer,
    I always tell them,
    If they ask me

    I wish

    That they wouldn’t.

    Love & Peace

  4. Akkers permalink
    April 21, 2022

    Another interesting article. My Mum used to sing some of these to me as a child – happy days.

  5. Saba permalink
    April 21, 2022

    So, William Darton must have done the engravings? I find them quite wonderful. Danger often lurks in nursery rhymes as, for instance, the baby falls out of a tree. The engravings honor the spooky shadows that hover just outside the frame.

    I nestle into Spitalfields Life every morning while shadows do loom in society, thanks to disease, war, and the power-hungry.

  6. April 21, 2022

    Thanks for this: another member of the family, F. J. Harvey Darton (1878–1936), published a history of children’s literature:, which is still worth a read.

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