- Mary Had a Little Lamb
- There have been many claimants to the authorship of what has been claimed to be the best-known four lines of verse in the English language, and also a number of pretenders to the honour of being the original Mary. One Mary Hughes, of Worthing, Sussex, even has a tombstone pronouncing her fame, but unfortunately in error (FLS News 19 (June 1994), 13). The facts, as laid out by Iona and Peter Opie, are that the original four-verse poem was written by Mrs Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), of Boston, in early 1830, and first published in September of that year in the Juvenile Miscellany. The poem's other claim to fame, however, is that it is probably the most parodied of verses in the English tradition. As soon as children get too old and wise to appreciate the real thing, they get devilish delight in debunking it, and as they grow older the parodies get ruder or cleverer, and adults are not above using them in comedy routines and satire. All that is needed is the formula 'Mary had a little . . . ' and the audience understands perfectly what is going on.■ Opie and Opie, 1997: 353-5.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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