Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes
First edition cover
|Publisher||Frederick Warne & Co.|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||Tom Kitten's Painting Book|
|Followed by||The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse|
Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes is a collection of nursery rhymes written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1917. Potter had a lifelong fascination with rhymes, and proposed a book of short verses called Appley Dapply to Warne following the release of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902. Warne preferred Potter's original fantasies to her derivative work, and gave Appley Dapply little encouragement. The book was set aside in favour of other projects.
In 1917 Frederick Warne & Co. suffered a scandal, and asked Potter for a book in an effort to stave off the firm's complete ruin. Potter was unwilling to become involved in the intense labour of preparing an entirely new book, and suggested the publisher raid the Appley Dapply dummy book prepared a decade and a half earlier. Seven rhymes with their accompanying illustrations were chosen and published as Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes. The book sold well.
Modern critics consider Appley Dapply an uneven compilation of illustrations spanning decades and styles across Potter's career and suggest that it fails as a unified work. The rhymes of Potter's composition are critically considered not particularly memorable, and one critic has described the book as "the last squeezings of an almost dry sponge."
Beatrix Potter's career as a children's author and illustrator was launched in 1900 when she revised a tale written in 1893 about a humanized rabbit, fashioned a dummy book in imitation of Helen Bannerman's 1899 bestseller Little Black Sambo, and privately published her work in December 1901 after a series of publishers' rejections. Frederick Warne & Co. had rejected the tale but, eager to compete in the burgeoning and lucrative small format children's book market, reconsidered and accepted the "bunny book" (as the firm called it) following the endorsement of their prominent children's book artist L. Leslie Brooke. Potter agreed to colour her pen and ink illustrations for the trade edition, and chose the then-new Hentschel three-colour process for reproducing her watercolours. On 2 October 1902 The Tale of Peter Rabbit was released.
Potter continued to publish for Warne (usually two books per annum) and in 1905 bought Hill Top, a working farm of 34 acres (14 ha) in the Lake District, with profits from the sales of her books and a small legacy from an aunt. Her small format books thereafter took inspiration from the farm, its natural surroundings, and neaby villages. Her career came to an end in 1913 when marriage to William Heelis, the demands of an aged mother, failing eyesight, and the business of operating Hill Top prevented her from investing any time and attention in book production. She continued to publish sporadically after 1913, but her work lacked the brilliance of her earlier years and depended upon the retrieval of decades-old artwork and concepts rather than artistic growth and expansion.
Composition and publication
Potter was enthralled with nursery rhymes and enjoyed rewriting traditional rhymes to refer to her animal characters. Her early work was crammed with rhymes, as evidenced in the privately printed edition of The Tailor of Gloucester.
Her interest in rhymes was partly an attraction to the rhythms of older forms of English, and partly to the mysteries and riddles many rhymes presented. Potter took inspiration from childhood favourite Randolph Caldecott, especially his rhymes that gave prominent place to animals, and, in her 1902 correspondence with her editor Norman Warne about the publication of Peter Rabbit, indicated she "sometimes thought of trying some of the other rhymes about animals, which [Caldecott] did not do."
Following the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902, Potter planned a book of nursery rhymes called Appley Dapply, but Warne preferred her original (rather than her derivative work) and offered only modest encouragement. The project was dear to Potter's heart, and she continued to develop the concept while working on other productions for Warne. Potter planned Appley Dapply as a large format book with page borders and decorations in a style reminiscent of Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott, and even considered publishing the book at her own expense if Warne lost what little interest he had in the project. In late 1904 she offered Warne a dummy book of ninety-four pages and thirty rhymes, twenty-one of which Warne approved for future publication. When Warne died suddenly and unexpectedly in August 1905, the book of rhymes was set aside, and Potter turned her attention to other projects.
Early in 1917, Frederick Warne & Co. faced financial ruin after then publisher Harold Warne was convicted of forgery and sentenced to eighteen months of hard labor in a London prison. Potter was the company's greatest creditor and artistic property, and, when asked to do what she could to save the firm, she agreed to provide a book for Christmas: "I hope Appley Dapply will be in time to be useful, and that it will be as good a season as can be had during this war."
She had other interests and concerns at the time, and did not look forward to the intense labour necessary to prepare a book for publication. She suggested instead the company raid the dummy book of 1904 for material and publish their choices in a small format book similar to The Story of Miss Moppet from 1906. "I'm afraid this sounds very lazy," she wrote Fruing Warne, Harold Warne's brother and then head of the publishing firm, "But you don't know what a scramble I live in; and the old drawings are some of them better than any I could do now."
Fruing grabbed at Potter's proposal. Applely Dapply's Nursery Rhymes was released in October 1917 with a revised edition of Peter Rabbit's Painting Book and the new Tom Kitten's Painting Book. Applely Dapply sold well. Potter was satisfied and wrote Warne in late October, "I am much pleased with A. D., it makes a pretty book." It was reprinted in November 1917, and, by the end of the year, 20,000 copies had been sold. The dummy book would be raided again in 1922 to compile a collection of nursery rhymes called Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes as a companion to Appley Dapply.
The book opens with a three-stanza rhyme about Appley Dapply, a mouse who raids cupboards for treats, and is accompanied with three illustrations, one which depicts a little mouse running away from a cupboard with a tray of pies:
- Appley Dapply
- has little sharp eyes,
- And Appley Dapply
- is so fond of pies!
The following rhyme tells of Peter Rabbit's sister, Cotton-tail, and her implied courtship by a little black rabbit who leaves a gift of carrots at her door. In The Tale of Mr. Tod, Cotton-tail is married to the black rabbit. Like the first rhyme, the little black rabbit rhyme is of three stanzas accompanied by three illustrations.
The third rhyme tells of Old Mr. Pricklepin, a hedgehog, who, elsewhere in Potter is identified as Mrs. Tiggy-winkle's uncle. His shining eyes, his wrinkled paws, and his human shoes emphasize their relationship. The single stanza is accompanied by an illustration Potter believed to be the finest she ever produced.
As early as 1893 Potter illustrated and made a booklet of "There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe". There, the Old Woman's children are depicted as scampering mice, and their mother as a mouse whipping her children in a shoe in the background. In Appley Dapply however, the author speculates upon the identity of the old woman in two stanzas, believing she was a mouse due to being able to live in a shoe. In the first illustration, the mouse and her children tumble from an elaborately beaded turquoise-blue shoe, and, in the illustration accompanying the second stanza, the mouse knits peacefully – presumably while the children are in bed.
The fifth rhyme tells of Diggory Delvet, the first mole in Potter's work. He may have been inspired by the mole in Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina or possibly Moley in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. "Diggory Delvet" and the last rhyme in the book about a guinea pig are two of the few limericks written for children by someone other than Edward Lear.
The sixth rhyme is a single stanza and accompanied by an illustration depicting a pig in a dress sitting in a high-backed chair and peeling potatoes:
- Gravy and potatoes
- In a good brown pot —
- Put them in the oven,
- And serve them very hot!
The seventh and last rhyme is a limerick about an "amiable guinea-pig" (the first guinea pig in Potter's work) who brushes his hair back like a periwig and dons a blue tie. The verse is accompanied by three illustrations depicting the guinea pig in various stages of coiffing and dressing. Guinea pigs would have their own story told in the tale of Tupenny in Potter's The Fairy Caravan of 1929.
Ruth K. MacDonald of the New Mexico State University observes in Beatrix Potter (1986) that Potter recommended to Warne that Appley Dapply be printed in a format similar to Miss Moppet, which had originally been printed in a panorama style but, in 1916, had been reprinted in a format slightly smaller than the other books in the Peter Rabbit collection. Miss Moppet was intended for babies and very young children, and MacDonald believes Potter's suggestion indicated she also intended Appley Dapply for the very young who are satisfied with vignettes and the sorts of simple, isolated incidents nursery rhymes present, rather than longer, more complex plots.
MacDonald believes the illustrations are some of Potter's best, but the book suffers from its small format and would be better suited to the larger format Potter originally intended. Much detail in the illustrations, MacDonald argues, is obscured with the reduction in book size.
M. Daphne Kutzer of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh argues in Beatrix Potter; Writing in Code that the charm of Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes lies in the illustrations rather than the text, and that the book (like other nursery rhyme collections) is not a sustained narrative but a series of short verses. Such collections are typically unified in style and design, but Appley Dapply lacks this unity because the illustrations range over a number of years in which Potter's style changed significantly.
The illustrations for the opening verse about Appley Dapply, for example, date from 1891 and reveal an artist with an original vision, technical mastery, and a near obsession with almost photographic realism, but the looser, more fluid illustration for the sixth rhyme about gravy and potatoes (recycled from The Tale of Pigling Bland of 1913) is less concerned with straight lines, microscopic detail, and photographic realism. The latter illustration displays Potter's development and maturity as an artist and the effect her failing eyesight had on her style.
Potter biographer Judy Taylor argues Appley Dapply is an uneven book and produces the impression of a compilation rather than a unified original work. The Appley Dapply rhyme at the opening of the book is illustrated with framed pictures and evidence suggests the material was intended for a small booklet of its own. Some illustrations are executed in a fluid manner while others are in the style of Potter's early dry-brush technique. The simple nursery rhymes Potter composed capture the rhythm of such verse, but none of the rhymes are especially memorable. Taylor describes the book as "the last squeezings of an almost dry sponge."
Potter confidently asserted her tales would one day be nursery classics, and part of the process in making them so was marketing strategy. She was the first to exploit the commercial possibilities of her characters and tales with spinoff merchandise such as a Peter Rabbit doll, a board game called The Game of Peter Rabbit, and nursery wallpaper between 1903 and 1905. Other "side-shows" (as she termed the ancillary merchandise) were produced over the following two decades.
In 1947 Frederick Warne & Co. gave Beswick Pottery of Longton, Staffordshire rights and licenses to produce the Potter characters in porcelain. Nine figurines based on Appley Dapply were released beginning in 1959: Old Woman in a Shoe; Amiable Guinea Pig; Appley Dapply; Little Black Rabbit; Diggory Diggory Delvet; Old Mister Pricklepin; Old Woman in a Shoe, Knitting; Mrs. "Cotton-tail" at Lunchtime; another figurine of the Amiable Guinea Pig; and Two Gentelman Rabbits from the frontispiece. All the figurines were retired by 2002.
In 1975 Crummles of Dorset began producing 1 and 5/8 inch (41.3 mm) diameter enamelled boxes depicting scenes and characters from the Potter tales. Little Black Rabbit and Old Mr. Pricklepin were the only two characters from Appley Dapply released. In 1994 and 1995 Crummles was commissioned to create exclusive works for an American distributor. Little Black Rabbit was produced, and a stamp box depicting scenes from both Appley Dapply and Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes. Crummles closed its doors abruptly in 1995, and only 80 of the planned 150 stamp boxes were produced.
In 1977 Schmid & Co. of Toronto and Randolph, Massachusetts was granted licensing rights to Beatrix Potter. In 1978 the firm released an Old Woman in a Shoe music box and in 1981 an Amiable Guinea Pig music box. In the middle 1980s, music boxes featuring Gentleman in the Snow from the frontispiece (playing "Try to Remember"), Appley Dapply, another Old Woman in the Show, and Diggory Delvet were released. In 1984 flat ceramic Christmas ornaments were released depicting Amiable Guinea Pig, Gentleman in the Snow, Old Woman in a Shoe, Old Woman Knitting, Little Black Rabbit, and Diggory Delvet. Schmid became the exclusive importer of Potter figurines from the Italian firm of ANRI. The Potter figurines were sculpted in a synthetic material called Toriart. Gentleman in the Snow and Amiable Guinea Pig were released.
In 1973 The Eden Toy Company of New York was the first American firm to acquire rights to manufacture stuffed Potter characters in plush. Little Black Rabbit was issued in 1976 and Amiable Guinea Pig in 1984. In 1999 C & F Enterprise distributed a Christmas needlepoint pillow depicting the Two Gentlemen Walking in Snow from the frontispiece. Linda Long Original has produced hand-stitched, free-standing figures in fabric of Two Gentlemen in the Snow and Little Black Rabbit.
- Lear 2007, pp. 144-7
- Hobbs 1989, p. 15
- Taylor 1996, p. 76
- Kutzer 2003, p. 153
- MacDonald 1986, p. 81
- Kutzer 2003, p. 154
- Taylor 1996, p. 140
- Taylor 1987, pp. 153-4
- MacDonald 1986, p. 82
- Taylor 1996, p. 141
- Lear 2007, pp. 284-7
- Kutzer 2003, p. 156
- Taylor 1996, p. 153
- Taylor 1987, p. 58-9
- MacDonald 1986, p. 83
- Taylor 1987, p. 130
- MacDonald 1986, pp. 81-2
- Kutzer 2003, p. 155
- Taylor 1987, pp. 155-6
- MacDonald 1986, p. 128
- Lear 2007, pp. 172-5
- Taylor 1987, p. 106
- DuBay 2006, pp. 30,37
- Dubay 2006, pp. 78,89
- Dubay 2006, pp. 106,108,120,130,132
- DuBay 2006, pp. 92,144,151
- Works cited
- DuBay, Debby, and Kara Sewall (2006), Beatrix Potter Collectibles: The Peter Rabbit Story Characters, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., ISBN 0-7643-2358-X
- Kutzer, M. Daphne (2003), Beatrix Potter: Writing in Code, New York & London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-94352-3
- Lear, Linda (2007), Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, New York: St. Martin's Griffin, ISBN 0-312-37796-7
- MacDonald, Ruth K. (1986), Beatrix Potter, Boston: Twayne Publishers, ISBN 0-8057-6917-X
- Taylor, Judy; Whalley, Joyce Irene; Hobbs, Anne Stevenson; Battrick, Elizabeth M. (1987), Beatrix Potter 1866–1943: The Artist and Her World, F. Warne & Co. and The National Trust, ISBN 0-7232-3561-9
- Taylor, Judy (1996) , Beatrix Potter: Artist, Storyteller and Countrywoman, Frederick Warne, ISBN 0-7232-4175-9