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The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse
The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1910. The tale is about housekeeping and insect pests in the home, and reflects Potter's own sense of tidiness and her abhorrence of insect infestations. The character of Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse debuted in 1909 in a small but crucial role in The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies, and Potter decided to give her a tale of her own the following year. Her meticulous illustrations of the insects may have been drawn for their own sake, or to provoke horror and disgust in her juvenile readers. 25,000 copies of the tale were initially released in July 1910 and another 15,000 between November 1910 and November 1911 in Potter's typical small book format.
Mrs. Tittlemouse is a woodmouse who lives in a "funny house" of long passages and storerooms beneath a hedge. Her efforts to keep her dwelling tidy are thwarted by insect and arachnid intruders who create all sorts of messes about the place: a lost beetle leaves dirty footprints in a passage and a spider inquiring after Miss Muffet leaves bits of cobweb here and there. Her toad neighbour Mr. Jackson lets himself into her parlour, stays for dinner, and searches her storerooms for honey but leaves a mess behind. Poor Mrs. Tittlemouse wonders if her home will ever be tidy again, but after a good night's sleep, she gives her house a fortnight's spring cleaning, polishes her little tin spoons, and holds a party for her friends.
Potter's life had become complicated with the demands of ageing parents and the business of operating a farm before the composition of Mrs. Tittlemouse, and, as a consequence, her literary and artistic productivity began a decline following the tale's publication. She continued to publish sporadically but much of her work was drawn from decades-old concepts and illustrations. Mrs. Tittlemouse marks the end of her two books a year output for Warnes. Scholars find the book's depictions of the insects its great attraction. One critic finds a "nightmarish quality" in the tale reflected in Mrs. Tittlemouse's almost endless war waged against insect pests. Characters from the tale have been modelled as porcelain figurines by Beswick Pottery beginning in 1948, and the mouse's image appeared on a Huntley & Palmer biscuit tin in 1955. Other merchandise has been marketed depicting Mrs. Tittlemouse and her friends. Mrs. Tittlemouse was a character in a 1971 ballet film and her tale was adapted to an animated television series in 1992.
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