A Celebration of Women Writers


by "Jan Struther"
(Joyce Maxtone Graham, 1901-1953)
author of Mrs. Miniver;
illustrated by Ernest Shepard.

Copyright, the Estate of Jan Struther, 1936.
This authorised internet edition was published with the permission of the Maxtone Graham family, and the assistance of Joyce Maxtone Graham's son, Robert Maxtone Graham, in 2001.
It is illegal to reproduce this work without permission.

to the Internet Edition
by the author's son, Robert Maxtone Graham, 2001.

First published in "Punch" magazine in 1935, with black-and-white drawings by Ernest Shepard.

First published in book form by Methuen and Company Limited, London, 1936, with coloured illustrations by Ernest Shepard.

Jan Struther (Joyce Maxtone Graham, 1901-1953, author of Mrs. Miniver) and her first husband Tony had three children, James, Janet and Robert. On Tony's side there were also eight nephews: Patrick, Philip and Charles Smythe; Anthony and David Townsend; and Peter, Michael and John Maxtone Graham, the last two being twins.

So of the eleven cousins, my sister Janet was the only girl. "Struwwelpeter", Heinrich Hoffmann's classic (but now rather horrific) volume of cautionary verses, dealt with eleven children, of whom one was a girl. The coincidence was too much for Jan to miss. "The Modern Struwwelpeter" first appeared weekly in "Punch" magazine in 1935, illustrated with Ernest Shepard's black-and-white drawings. When collected into a book, the several dozen illustrations were in colour.

This Internet edition of the verses only (copyright, Estate of Jan Struther) was published in 2001, with the permission of the Maxtone Graham family. Some specimens of the Shepard illustrations are included (by permission of the Shepard family) in the biography of Jan Struther (The Real Mrs. Miniver) by my daughter Ysenda Maxtone Graham, London, John Murray, 2001.

Jan's dedication was to the eleven cousins, whose ages at the time of the "Punch" articles ranged from twelve (Patrick Smythe) to four (myself).






Many many years ago
Heinrich Hoffmann, as you know,
Wrote in simple rhyme and meter
The immortal Struwwelpeter.

What would Doctor Hoffmann say
If he were alive to-day ?
"Bless my soul, this is a change!
Life's become extremely strange.
How do modern girls and boys
Stand the dangers and the noise?
How can they, when there's so much
More to do and taste and touch,
Know for sure, as children should,
Which is bad and which is good?
What they need, it's plain to see,
Is another book by me."

Since, alas! he isn't here,
Other hands must volunteer:
And if he should chance to look
Down upon this picture-book
From the deathless banquet where
He's allowed a special chair,
Let us hope that he'll be kind
And gentle to the undersigned–

                   Jan Struther
                   Ernest H. Shepard

The Story of Patrick in London

When Patrick went to London Town
To stay with Aunt Matilda Brown
He promised faithfully to do
Exactly what she told him to.
"Or else" (his mother said), "it's plain
You won't be asked to stay again."

For several days young Patrick did
Most carefully as he was bid.
He brushed his hair and blew his nose
And folded up his underclothes
And washed his hands and wiped his feet
And walked sedately in the street–
In fact, he was so meek and mild
He seemed to her the Perfect Child;
And in return she tried to grant
His wishes like a Model Aunt.

They saw the Tower and the Zoo,
The Marble Arch, the Horse Guards too,
And that ingenious waxwork show
Designed by Madame M. Tussaud.
He much admired the Serpentine;
The Changing of the Guard was fine–
And all went well until they found
Themselves upon the Underground.

See! Aunt Matilda now prepares
To step upon the moving stairs.
She takes her little nephew's hand;
Upon the right they duly stand,
And off they go–but "Ha!" cries Pat,
"I know a trick worth two of that!"
Astride the hand-rail down he flies
Before his aunt's astonished eyes.

"Come back!" she screams. "You wicked boy!"
"All right, I will!" shouts Pat with joy;
Then up the other stair he nips
While Aunt Matilda downward slips;
And as she rises on his trail
He flashes past her down the rail.

So down and up and up and down
Go Pat and Aunt Matilda Brown,
Until she cries in sheer despair
"Official! Stop the moving stair!"

Thus ends at last her breathless chase.
Poor Pat's sent home in deep disgrace,
And never more is asked to stay
In London for a holiday.

The Story of Frozen James

What a charming boy was James!
Good at lessons, good at games,
Courteous to his aunts and others,
Patient with his younger brothers . . .
Yet this almost perfect lad
One unholy passion had:
He would think and talk and dream
All day long about ice-cream.

In the middle of the morning
First would come the tinkled warning;
Out he'd rush and gobble up
"Block" and "cornet," "brick" and "cup."
Then between his lunch and tea
He'd dispose of two or three,
And before the day was done
Manage yet another one.
Foolish child! This chilly diet
Caused his parents much disquiet.
"James," they said with bated breath,
"Mark our words–you'll freeze to death."

Parents' warnings (some have found)
Aren't so silly as they sound;
James, ignoring their advice,
One fine day was turned to ice.
What a lamentable plight!
Half was pink and half was white,
While where fingers should have been
Icicles were plainly seen.
"Will the wretched boy expire?
Quickly–we must light a fire!
Henry, fetch some sticks and straw . . . ."
Just in time: his parents saw
James at last begin to thaw.

Now once more he's safe and warm,
Quite restored to human form:
But somehow he doesn't seem
Half so partial to ice-cream.

The Story of Foolish Philip

Philip, when he walked to school,
Bore in mind his mother's rule:–
"When you wish to cross the street
Please be cautious and discreet.
In your purpose do not weaken–
Look for the Belisha beacon
Which with cheerful orange face
Smiles at every crossing-place.
In between those studs of steel
You may safely set your heel,
While the traffic's raging tide
Stands respectfully aside;
(Drivers take especial care
Not to kill pedestrians there)."

All went well, until one day
Philip spied across the way
In the window of a shop
A delicious lollipop.
Straightway from his greedy head
All his mother's warnings fled:
Out he dashed with smile seraphic
Right into the thickest traffic . . . .

What a dreadful scene it makes!
Skidding wheels and squealing brakes,
Hooting horns and tinging bells,
Women's shrieks and drivers' yells . . . .
Vain, alas! the noise and fuss–
Philip lay beneath a bus.

Foolish boy! He was not dead,
But with sore and bandaged head
Ten long weeks he spent in bed;
And his mother made him say
Four-and-twenty times a day:–

"I should not have had this pain
If I'd used a traffic lane.

The Story of Peter and the Halibut

Poor Peter was, at six years old,
A martyr to the common cold.
It stopped him going, many a time,
To party or to pantomime,
For when the longed-for morning broke
Poor Peter would begin to croak,
To sneeze and snuffle, cough and sniff
And use his pocket handkerchief
In vain they dosed the wretched child
With physics strong and physics mild;
For though he took them as he should
They did him not the faintest good.

At last his parents in despair
Consulted Doctor Debonnaire.
"Haliver-oil!" the great man cries.
"Yes, that's the cure that I'd advise:
For halibut–I grant it's odd–
Contains more vitamins than cod."
But wayward Peter did not like
The stuff, and straightway went on strike.
He fought and scratched and kicked and swore
And stamped upon the nursery floor.
In vain they coaxed him and cajoled him;
"Open your mouth!" his parents told him:
But Peter kept it firmly shut
Against the oil of halibut.

That night (a trifle feverish
Perhaps) he saw a monstrous fish
Swimming, as though in deep-sea gloom,
About his little moonlit room.
A drooping mouth the creature had;
Its eyes were large and round and sad,
And every time it moved its fins
The air grew thick with vitamins.
"Pray tell me," Peter said (for he
Was tender-hearted as could be),
"What makes you such a tearful fish?
Speak–is there anything you wish?"
"Alas!" the halibut replied,
"I weep because of wounded pride.
In vain for children's sakes I toil–
They do not like my liver oil.
So here I swim, a gloomy ghost
Hated by those I love the most."

"Ah, say not so!" the boy exclaimed.
"You make me bitterly ashamed.
See–I will swallow it with pleasure!"
And down his throat it went full measure.
The halibut, immensely cheered,
Smiled gratefully, then disappeared:
And Peter since that day, I'm told,
Has never had a single cold.

The Story of Anthony, the Boy Who Knew Too Much

Anthony, though not unkind,
Had a disbelieving mind.
At a pantomime or play
Anthony would yawn and say,
"Let's go home–for I perceive
This is merely make-believe."
When his mother came and read
Story-books to him in bed
Anthony would shake his head
"Mother, dear, I've had enough
Of this wishy-washy stuff.
If it's all the same to you
Kindly read me something true."
So his mother, with a sigh,
Meekly laying fiction by,
Read him books about machines,
And scientific magazines.

Christmas time came round once more.
See him sitting on the floor
At a party, after he
Has enjoyed a sumptuous tea.
Solemnly the Conjurer stands
Spreading out his empty hands:
Then from nose and ears he hauls
Half-a-dozen billiard-balls,
Shows them with a smile, and then
Makes them disappear again.
Children clap him with a will:
Only Anthony sits still,
Saying loudly, "I believe
That he's got them up his sleeve."

The Conjurer, who must have heard,
Looked at him, but said no word.

So with all his other tricks:
Flour and butter he would mix
In a bowl, and "One–two–three!"
There the finished cake would be.
Loud applause–but Anthony
Merely said, "Well, I believe
That he had it up his sleeve."

Coins he'd find in Susan's hair
Which she didn't know were there;
Handkerchiefs of every hue
He would draw from Edward's shoe,
And produce, as pat as pat,
Rabbits from an empty hat.
All the other girls and boys
Laughed and clapped with merry noise:
But Anthony said, "I believe
He had the whole lot up his sleeve."

The Conjurer politely smiled
At the infuriating child,
And said, "Come close, my little man,
And learn my secrets if you can."
Young Anthony marched up with glee
Remarking, "Huh ! You can't catch me!"
"Now," said the great man, "one–two–three!"
And Anthony–ah, where was he?

His mother wildly glanced around.
The boy was nowhere to be found:
But in the Conjurer's top-hat
A third and extra rabbit sat . . . .

Children, when you go to parties
Never talk like little smarties:
Even if you don't believe,
Keep your knowledge up your sleeve.

The Dreadful Story of Janet

Janet, when she went out shopping,
Had a tiresome trick of stopping
Every yard to point and say,
"Mother, buy me that, I pray!"
First a coat of squirrel's fur–
That, she thought, would just fit her;
Then a gown of velvet blue–
That would suit her nicely, too;
And this fashionable hat–
"Please, Mamma, I must have that!"

"Tut, my child!" her mother chid.
"Come along as you are bid.
Children nowadays–it's funny–
Seem to think one's made of money."
Janet tossed her head and pouted
When her wishes thus were flouted,
And to give Mamma a fright
(Serve the silly creature right!)
Into Horridge's she slipped
While her mother onward tripped.

No one stops her. Up she goes
Till she comes to Children's Clothes;
Sees a cupboard, creeps inside–
Just the very place to hide!
Soon Mamma will come and get her,
Hug and kiss and pat and pet her,
And in future dress her better:
(So at least she fondly thinks,
This designing little minx!)

Oh, how slow the hours crawl, . . .
Scarcely seem to move at all.
First she nodded, then she dozed:
When she woke the shop was closed.
Janet–a courageous child–
Nothing daunted, simply smiled,
Doffed her clothes, and then got dressed
In all the things she liked the best.
There she strutted, bold as brass,
Smirking in the looking-glass,
Till a voice addressed her thus:–
"Now, of course, you're one of us."

Janet, turning in a fright,
Saw a most unnerving sight–
Half a dozen waxen brats,
Dressed in costly coats and hats,
Facing her with glassy stare,
Painted cheeks and flaxen hair.
"How d'ye do? I'm Simpering Sue.
These ones here are Preening Prue,
Dandy Dick and Mincing Molly,
Namby Nick and Prinking Polly.
Now with us you're bound to stay,
Never move the livelong day,
Never work and never play,
Only stand and smile and pose
In the most expensive clothes."

And, these horrid words to prove,
Janet found she couldn't move. . . .

In the window now she stands,
Holding out her waxen hands.
Other children as they pass
Drag their mothers to the glass:
"What a lovely coat and hat!
Look, Mamma ! I must have that. . . ."
And, these foolish words to hear,
Janet sheds a waxen tear.

The Story of Ruthless Mike and Reckless John

As John and Michael did not like
Their governess, Miss Marlinespike,
They did their utmost every day
To drive that worthy soul away.
They perched wet sponges on the door;
They sprinkled tin-tacks on the floor;
They smeared her spectacles with soap,
Lassoed her with a skipping-rope,
And placed a hedgehog, lately dead,
Right in the middle of her bed.
I shudder to report the sins
Devised by these ingenious twins:
But still, undaunted, undismayed,
Miss Marlinespike just stayed and stayed.

Says Ruthless Mike to Reckless John:
"These gentle hints must not go on."
Says Reckless John to Ruthless Mike:
"We must bump off Miss Marlinespike."
(This horrid phrase, I fear, had been
Picked up from gangsters on the screen.)
"But how?" says Mike. "We have no gat,"
(No gun was what he meant by that),
"And stainless nursery table-knives
Are not much use for taking lives."
"I know!" cries John. "We'll have to give her
A good hard push into the river."
But Michael quickly crushes him:
"You fool–Miss Marlinespike can swim."

One day their dear mamma was sent,
By way of an advertisement,
A sample tube of "Kreemidew"
Which on the floor she idly threw.
Michael and John with one accord
Retrieved it for their private hoard,
And oh! their triumph as they read:
"VANISHING CREAM" was what it said . . . .

At last–or so it seemed to them–
They would get rid of poor Miss M.
And though quite dead they'd have preferred her,
Perhaps 'twas best to do no murder.

At tea-time they contrived to spread
The stuff in secret on some bread,
Then passed their governess the plate
And watched in silence while she ate.

Miss M. had scarcely time to mutter
"There's something queer about this butter . . ."
Before her voice grew thin and small
Till it was hardly heard at all,
While gradually her hands and face
Both vanished into empty space;
Soon all the rest dissolved as well–
Until, miraculous to tell,
There was nobody to be seen
Where poor Miss Marlinespike had been.

Cries Ruthless Mike to Reckless John:
"Hip! Hip! Hooray! She's really gone!"
Cries Reckless John to Ruthless Mike:
"Now we can do just what we like!"

"Oh, no, you can't," a whisper said
From somewhere just above his head;
And then he shed unmanly tears,
For unseen hands had boxed his ears;
While Mike, across a ghostly knee,
Was soon as sore as sore could be.

A wretched life from that time on
Led Hapless Mike and Luckless John:
For unexpected prods and slaps
And cuffs and clouts and tweaks and raps
Were showered all day from empty air
Upon the miserable pair,
While always the reproachful sound
Of whispering followed them around.

Children, pray be warned by them–
Make the best of your Miss M.:
Better one you do not love
Than a disembodied gov.

The Story of Cheeky Charles

Now Charles had been brought up with care
At Number 12 Begonia Square,
And taught while still extremely young
Not to misuse the English tongue.
No words unfit for him to hear
Had ever reached his sheltered ear–
For instance, such disgusting slang
As "Gosh" and "Golly," "Blow" and "Hang."
Imagine, therefore, what a pang
His learned father felt one day
When Charles distinctly said, "Okay."

"Charles!" cried his father in amaze,
"Where did you learn that vulgar phrase?
Refrain from using it, I pray."
And meekly Charles replied, "Okay."

The horrid habit grew and grew:
It seemed the only word he knew.
Whatever he was asked to do–
To eat or drink, to work or play–
All Charles could answer was "Okay."

At last his father took him to
That interesting place, the Zoo,
And most politely asked to see
The Head Curator, Mr. B.
"I wish," he said in accents pleasant,
"To make the Zoo a little present.
Your parrot-house, as I have heard,
Has ample room for one more bird.
Then take, I beg, this creature here,
Whose squawking grates upon my ear."

"Delighted!" Mr. B. replied.
"One of our birds has lately died.
I'll just take down his name and age . . . .
Keeper! Conduct him to his cage."

So now, whene'er the weather's fine,
His brothers, Claude and Constantine,
Are brought on Sundays, after Church,
To look at Charles upon his perch.
"Observe, before it is too late,
Your disobedient brother's fate,
And see how vulgar catchwords can
Transform a little gentleman."
"Yes, yes, Papa," the boys reply,
While wicked Charles pretends to cry.
But after they have gone away
He cocks his head and screams "Okay!"

The Story of Disobedient David

Young David was forbidden quite
To play with the electric light,
But when he asked the reason why,
He got this very strange reply:
"Two hundred volts," his father said,
"Are quite enough to kill you dead."
"But what are volts?" the boy enquired.
"Don't worry, child! Your father's tired."

Now David, who was rash and bold
And seldom did what he was told,
At once determined to find out
What all this fuss could be about.
His pocket-knife he quickly drew
And cut the electric wire in two.

Imprudent boy! A monstrous spark
Flew out at him–then all was dark.
Poor David shrieked in wild alarm,
For through his hand and up his arm
Two hundred raging demons leapt,
And pinched and pricked him till he wept.
Blindly he stumbled from the room
He could not dodge this dreadful doom.

All over him the demons clung
And mercilessly stabbed and stung;
With horrid glee and fiendish grins
They plied their little red-hot pins.
They drove him, howling, down the stairs
And out into the streets and squares,
And people wondered, as he passed,
How any boy could run so fast.

His parents searched for him in vain:
David was never seen again.
So now they sit (unhappy sight!)
And mourn their loss-by candle-light.

The Story of Robert and the Telephone

Though Robert, luckiest of boys,
Possessed a cupboard full of toys,
He liked far more than all his own
His mother's toy, the telephone.
Upon her desk of satinwood
This fascinating object stood,
And Robert often saw her sit
Quite half an hour in front of it,
Talking as gaily as could be
To people that he couldn't see.

Young Robert, thinking it a game,
Decided he would do the same.
So down the nursery stairs he crept
One morning, while his Nannie slept,
And found himself at last alone
With the delightful telephone.

Now first of all he boldly took
The big receiver off its hook,
Then thrust his eager fingers in
The dial's holes to make it spin.
How merrily the letters go !
He tried them all from A to O,
And then, when he was tired of that,
He dialled DOG and COW and CAT
And HEN and HOG and RAM and RAT:
(These simple creatures, truth to tell,
Were all the words that he could spell.)

At last the telephone (annoyed,
No doubt, at being thus employed)
Let out in Robert's startled ear
A screech most horrible to hear–
As though the RAT, the CAT, the DOG,
The RAM, the COW, the HEN, the HOG,
Were all shut up in one small cage
And all in a tremendous rage . . . .

With thumping heart poor Robert fled
Back to his safe and friendly bed:
And since that day he's left alone
His mother's toy, the telephone.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom