The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog (1819)

The figure of "Old Mother Hubbard" first appeared in print in 1805, the creation of Sarah Catherine Martin (1768-1826), the sister of Thomas Byam Martin, a British Royal Navy officer. The inspiration for the rhyme was the housekeeper of Martin's sister, the rather wonderfully named Mrs Pollexfen Bastard, and it was primarily written to entertain the guests staying at her house in Devonshire. It tells of an old lady and her dog who indulges in a wide array of human activities, such as playing the flute, reading the newspaper, and dressing up in clothes. The version of the book featured above was published in 1819 (by J. Harris, the same publishers who brought out the original 1805 version), complete with a set of delightful coloured illustration, one for each verse. This edition was followed a year later by The Comic Adventures of Old Dame Trot and her Cat (1820), featured below, which seems to be another version of the tale involving similar characters, with Mother Hubbard transforming into Dame Trot and the dog being joined by a cat, the latter taking centre stage. Here, the familiar gender roles of the time are clearly discernible: the male dog being rather mischievous and troublesome, while the female cat helps with various chores around the house.