Books: Little Beauties

THE OXFORD NURSERY RHYME BOOK (224 pp.)—assembled by Iona and Peter Opie—Oxford ($4.50).

When asked how her garden grew, Mary did not always give the same answer. At least once she replied: "With silver bells, And cockle shells:/ Sing cuckolds all on a row." And in Nancy Cock's Pretty Song Book, published around 1780, the row of cuckolds may be seen in a pretty woodcut, horns and all.

The origins of many nursery rhymes are shrouded in the fumes of taverns and mughouses, in a day when English ale and language were both stronger than they are now. How the songs got from...

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