Click to enlarge. ONE winter's evening the sexton's wife was sitting by the fireside with her big black cat, Old Tom, on the other side, both half asleep and waiting for the master to come home. They waited and they waited, but still he didn't come, till at last he came rushing in, calling out, 'Who's Tommy Tildrum? I was digging away at old Mr Fordyce's grave when I suppose I must have dropped asleep, and only woke up by hearing a cat's Miaou. And what do you think they were carrying?
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Why, a small coffin covered with a black velvet pall, and on the pall was a small coronet all of gold, and at every third step they took they cried all together, Miaou -- '. MacDonald, professor of English at New Mexico State University observes that Tom Kitten is the first of Potter's Sawrey books and introduces characters that would make appearances in the following Sawrey books.
Tabitha Twitchit was a longtime resident at Hill Top who kept the rats in check and figures prominently in three of the books and peripherally in another. She is a blend of Potter herself and probably her mother or another proper Victorian lady who resembled her. Tom Kitten's very name suggest carefree, mischievous boyishness in the manner of the 19th century's exemplars of boyhood, Tom Sawyer , Ton Aldrich [ citation needed ] , and Tom Brown.
He is unusually defiant of parental strictures and taboos.
Tom's mother tries to dignify the rascal by calling him Thomas, dressing him in elegant clothes, and by issuing taboos once he is groomed and dressed to walk upon his hind legs and to stay away from the pig sty, the ash pit and other animals. Not only has Tabitha forced her children into unnatural human clothing but forces them into unnatural postures.
However, in the end her efforts are in vain, and Tom and his sisters lose their clothes and remain as carefree and mischievous as ever. She was educated by governesses and tutors, and passed a quiet childhood reading, painting, drawing, visiting museums and art exhibitions, and tending a nursery menagerie of small animals. Her interests in the natural world and country life were nurtured with holidays in Scotland, the Lake District , and Camfield Place, the Hertfordshire home of her paternal grandparents. Potter's adolescence was as quiet as her childhood.
She grew into a spinsterish young woman whose parents groomed her to be a permanent resident and housekeeper in their home. Potter had maintained contact with her last governess Annie Carter Moore and had grown fond of her children.
Thomas Cat's Tale: Volume 1
Through the s, she wrote the children story and picture letters. Moore recognized the literary and artistic value of the letters and urged her former charge to publish. Leslie Brooke. Potter continued to publish with Warnes. Potter became deeply depressed and was ill for many weeks,  but rallied to complete the last few tales she had planned and discussed with Warne.
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In , Potter experimented with book formats for babies and very young children just acquiring verbal skills. One of the three books produced during this period was The Story of Miss Moppet , a Victorian moral tale about teasing and its consequences with a kitten as the titular heroine.
As the model for Miss Moppet, Potter borrowed a kitten from a mason working at Hill Top and wrote Millie Warne, Norman Warne's sister, "I have borrowed a kitten and I am rather glad of the opportunity of working at the drawings. It is very young and pretty and a most fearful pickle. Potter began work on Tom Kitten in the summer of , and used the gardens and interior of the farmhouse at Hill Top as the setting for the tale.
A week after the letter to Millie Warne she wrote her publisher Harold Warne, "I have not quite finished the Kitten, it is an exasperating model; and I always find it difficult to settle to work in the country. I hope I have not been inconveniently long about it.
Another charming cat tale from Tom Cox and his pets
Three weeks later, she was on holiday at the rented country estate of Lingholm on the shores of Derwentwater with her parents and wrote, "I am wishing most heartily I was back at Sawrey, but I suppose I shall scramble along for a bit here; at all events I must get some drawing done, that kitten book has been sadly neglected. She missed the sheltered open air and gardening at Hill Top.
She was back at Hill Top in October and wrote Millie Warne that she was busy gardening and was stealing garden plants from her neighbours. Tom Kitten was written out in an inexpensive exercise book with the text divided into short paragraphs and 24 pencil sketches pasted in at their corners. Satterthwaite's cats at Belle Green where Potter was staying while alterations were underway at the Hill Top farmhouse.
The illustrations of the garden depict what Potter hoped to see following her labours there, and detail some of the flowers, trees, shrubs, and butterflies Potter described in her letters to Millie Warne. The farmhouse interior and its furnishings are precisely rendered. The entrance porch with its Barthay slate walls, the stone flagged floors, the oak panelling and deep-set windows were all original to the house and faithfully depicted.
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Potter added her personal furnishings to the illustrations: her flowered washbasin, the cane chair where the kittens sit to be scrubbed, her hall clock and wall mirror. The white wicket gate and the fern covered stone wall are real world details as are the views looking out over Hill Top, Smithy Lane, Stoney Lane winding up to Bank Wood, and the dry stone walls crossing the fields. Some of the pictures of the ducks were made in London. As models, she used ducks belonging to a distant cousin who lived at Putney Park.
She wrote to Warne of her pictures, "I hope to bring the remaining four in a few days, if I get to Putney again tomorrow. I hope you will like them. I think myself they will lighten up the book.
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It is a refreshment to do some outdoor sketching again. A pencil sketch illustrating the line "[The three Puddle-ducks] stopped and stood in a row, staring up at the kittens" depicted the duck on the right facing the other two ducks, apparently in conversation. However when Potter copied her sketch for the book picture she inadvertently turned the duck's head to the right like the other two ducks with all three now facing the same direction.
Although the kittens are not shown in the picture, the ducks now have their backs to the kittens sitting on the wall and cannot be staring up at them as the line indicates — but only those who are familiar with Sawrey would realize this. Potter made several revisions to her manuscript using strips of paper pasted over lines in the manuscript to indicate her changes.
Harold Warne criticized the line "all the rest of Tom's clothes came off" and thought "all" should be changed to "nearly all" but Potter objected:. That would not signify: I could give something over but there are not many garments for Mr. Drake to dress himself in; and it would give the story a new and criminal aspect if he forcibly took off and stole Tom's trousers. The galley proofs arrived dated 21 February and Potter carefully read through them, making corrections where necessary and changes where appropriate.
Some of the pictures are very bad, but the book as a whole is passable, and the ducks help it out. Potter created a series of miniature letters for child fans between and These letters were written as from her characters and intended to continue their lives outside their tales. Each letter was folded to represent an envelope, and addressed to the child recipient; there was a tiny stamp in the corner drawn with a red crayon.
They were sent to the children in a miniature post bag Potter had made herself or in a bright red toy tin mail box. Six letters involving the characters from Tom Kitten are extant. Tom accepts for his sisters and himself and promises "[we] will all come, if our Ma doesn't catch us".
King o’ the Cats
Rebeccah Puddle-Duck however is "laid up with a sore throat" and writes Mrs. Ribstone Pippin from The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan asking for the loan of a red flannel petticoat to wear as a comforter. Pippin replies:. I am sorry to hear of your sore throat, but what can you expect if you will stand on your head in a pond? The following year, in October , The Tale of Samuel Whiskers was published, which again featured Tom Kitten, as well as his mother and sisters.
Tom Kitten's Painting Book was published in June with a cover by Potter depicting Tom standing at an easel, paint brush in hand. The books were composed of pairs of pictures with short, appropriate texts at the foot of each page. When the book was opened, the fully coloured picture on the left page served as a model for the child artist to follow while colouring the outline picture on the right page.
Peter Rabbit's book was abridged in , and seven pairs of pictures were cut to create Tom Kitten's Painting Book. One new pair of pictures was added to Tom's book and three new pairs of pictures to Peter's book with the result that there were eight pairs of pictures in both books. Chester, Ltd. The first book contained six easy piano solos and the second book six easy piano duets.
Both books were intended for children aged ten to twelve years. Potter thought the music charming but too difficult for children to perform. She supplied six illustrations for the first book and twelve for the second book because it was a collection of duets. Some are better or worse than others. I am having another try at Pit Pat Puddle. She was disappointed with the results. Both volumes were released in by millimetres Potter asserted her tales would one day be nursery classics, and part of the process in making them so was marketing strategy.
Beswick Pottery of Longton, Staffordshire was one of the first and a porcelain figurine of Tom Kitten was one of the first ten Beswick Potter figurines released in Tabitha Twitchit, Mr. Drake Puddle-Duck, Rebeccah Puddle-Duck, and Mittens and Moppet were released either as single figurines or in combination with other characters. A Tom Kitten mug, plaque, and tableau were issued.
In sum, 12 Tom Kitten figurines were released by Beswick between and Crummles of Poole, Dorset began producing small enamelled boxes beginning in Three boxes had lids depicting characters from Tom Kitten : Tabitha Twitchit scrubbing Moppet's face, the Puddle-Ducks diving for Tom's lost clothes, and an image of Tom Kitten holding his book taken from the book's endpapers. Stuffed toy manufacturers had sought licensing rights for the Potter characters as early as , but it was not until the s that an English firm was granted worldwide rights. Their labour-intensive products were unprofitable however, and in , The Eden Toy Company of New York became the exclusive manufacturer of Potter characters.
A plush Tom Kitten dressed in his finery was one of the first ten characters released in