The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
Illustrations by the author
Short Story (1903)
A tailor, who is kind to mice, must finish making a coat for the mayor's Christmas wedding, or risk becoming destitute. All may be lost when he is too ill to work.
As everyone knows, Beatrix Potter wrote sweet and simple tales to accompany her beautiful illustrations. For Christmas, she takes us away from the more usual Lake District, and essentially gives us a version of 'The Elves and the Shoemaker'. I may have overused the word 'charming' in this endeavour, but nevertheless that is how I must describe this story: charming. It is a little different from other stories by Potter, partly because of the different setting, and also because the animals only speak on the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (which I believe is a legend connected with the animals in Jesus's stable). For children to imagine such a thing happening while they are sleeping away the time until Christmas morning is, I think, a lovely idea. I also adore Simpkin, who happens to be the only character in the story with a proper name. The illustrations of him look sweet and furry enough to stroke, while beneath that cute exterior he really is a very catty cat indeed!
'...and although it was the middle of the night the throstles and robins sang; the air was quite full of little twittering tunes.
'But it was all rather provoking to poor hungry Simpkin!'
Beatrix Potter, 'The Tailor of Gloucester' (Penguin, 2002), pp.39-40.
An illustration of Simpkin, courtesy of tate.org.uk.