Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away
A recorded version of the “Little Miss Muffet” nursery rhyme dates back to the early 19th century England. It was first printed in the “Songs for the Nursery” collection published in 1805.
The origin of “Little Miss Muffet” is most commonly attributed to Dr Thomas Muffet, a notorious physician and entomologist from the 16th century, and author of a scientific illustrated guide about insects. “Little Miss Muffet” is about a girl named Patience, who was Dr Muffet’s stepdaughter. The lyrics probably tell the story of an incident when Patience ran away from her breakfast, being frightened by a spider from Dr Muffet’s collection. However this speculation was never proved.
As well as being a medical doctor, Dr Muffet was fascinated by the world of insects and spiders, a subject that people had not studied much up to that time. In those days it was thought that spiders could help cure illness. Some people used to wear a spider in a nutshell when that had a high temperature and others believed that swallowing a spider wrapped in a ball of butter could help them get better. It is thought that Dr Muffet was interested in finding out whether spiders could be used to cure the common cold. It is said that he used to treat his daughter with spiders when she was ill. This could well by why she ran away!