Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, June 17, 2011


THE TAILOR OF GLOUCESTER by Beatrix Potter is about a tailor whose work on a waistcoat is finished by the grateful mice he rescues from his cat, Simpkin.  It was based on a real world incident involving a tailor - John Pritchard, from Gloucester - who was commissioned to make a suit for the new mayor.  The tailor  returned to his shop on a Monday morning to find the suit completed except for one buttonhole. A note attached read, "No more twist". His assistants had finished the coat in the night, but Pritchard encouraged a fictitious explanation that fairies had done the work and the incident became a local legend.

"A mouse threads a needle with cherry coloured twist."
"No more twist."

Beatrix Potter set her tale in the 18th Century. She made an extraordinary effort to create the setting as authentic as possible. Passing a tailor’s shop in Chelsea one day, she deliberately tore a button off her coat and took it in to be mended so she could observe first hand the tailor’s posture, tools and workbench.  She went to the same great lengths in seeking inspiration for the Mayor of Gloucester's 18th Century embroidered waistcoat when she visited the costume collection owned by the local museum in South Kensington, the "Victoria and Albert Museum".
Cream satin waistcoat embroidered with
coloured silk, Gloucester, England, UK, 1770.
Museum no. 652A-1898
She wrote to her publisher, Norman Warne:
I have been delighted to find I may draw some most beautiful 18th century clothes at the South Kensington Museum. I had been looking at them for a long time in an inconvenient dark corner of the Goldsmith’s Court, but had no idea they could be taken out of the case. The clerk says I could have any article put on a table in one of the offices, which will be most convenient.
(Her sketches are so accurate that it is possible to identify the original garments, including the mayor’s waistcoat, "worked with poppies and corn-flowers", which can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum's costume collections to this day!)
Beatrix's sketch of the waistcoat.

In May 1903, Beatrix made many sketches of the town of Gloucester.  The street scenes in her story, particularly that of the tailor’s shop in College Court, depict actual places in the city.
Miss Potter gave a copy of the book to her Chelsea tailor who, in turn, displayed it to a representative of the trade journal, The Tailor & Cutter. The journal's review appeared on Christmas Eve 1903:
...we think it is by far the prettiest story connected with tailoring we have ever read, and as it is full of that spirit of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, we are not ashamed to confess that it brought the moisture to our eyes, as well as the smile to our face. It is got up in choicest style and illustrated by twenty-seven of the prettiest pictures it is possible to imagine.
(Source: Victoria and Albert Museum website. Visit their Beatrix Potter Page!)

1 comment:

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