Monday, 26 March 2012

Mabel Lucie Attwell - please remember - don't forget - never leave the bathroom wet!

Back in the nineteen fifties no home was complete without a Mabel Lucie Attwell wall plaque or biscuit-tin money box. Sadly, my sister, brother and I missed out on the money box but we did have a rather rusty tin plaque in the bathroom. I loved the words on that plaque and can still recite them some 50 years later –


Please remember - don't forget - never leave the bathroom wet.
Nor leave the soap still in the water that's a thing we never ought'er.
Nor leave the towels about the floor. Nor keep the bath an hour or more when other folks are wanting one. Please don't forget - it isn't done! But if you really do the thing, there's not the slightest need to sing.

You can still buy reproduction plaques like the one pictured here, but they omit the last two lines of the poem.  – See updates at the end of this post.

Mabel Lucie Attwell was born on the 4th June, 1879 in Mile End, London and was educated at the Coopers’ Company school. Later, she funded her own studies at Heatherley’s and St. Martin’s school of art (1895-1900) but disliking formal training, completed neither course.

Turning to commissions for illustrated gift books, she produced the first of her highly successful children’s annuals in 1922 and three years later, was elected to the Society of Women Artists.

A prolific worker, with a keen business sense, she also designed postcards, posters, figurines, advertisements and calendars. Later her designs were used on ornaments and crockery.





Thanks to Bevi Kinnear from Woolvey Antiques for the following information - Both Mabel Lucy Attwell and her husband Harold Cecil Earnshaw were seeing some success in their respective careers as illustrators when they married on Mabel's 29th birthday, June 4th 1908. Their first child, a daughter, was born on May 13th 1909. Marjorie Joan, known as 'Peggy', was the inspiration for Mabel's "Chubbies". Peggy Earnshaw became an artist in her own right. She married Michael Wickham and went under Peggy Wickham for much of her work. The family moved to the south of London before adding two brothers for Peggy; Max (known as Peter) in 1911 and Brian in 1914. In the mid 1930s, Mabel lost both her youngest son, Brian (1934), and her husband Harold (1937).

At the end of the Second World War, she settled in Fowey, Cornwall, with her son Peter and remained there until her death in 1964.

Mabel Lucie Attwell illustrations were extremely popular when I was growing up, and no birthday or Christmas was complete without a card featuring one of her winsome children. I recall carefully pasting them into a scrap album, but I've no idea what happened to it when I grew up. Such a shame, I would love to look at it again.

Further reading; Chris Beetles’ biography of Mabel Lucie Attwell, published by Pavilion Books in 1985.


Updates to this post;

I’ve just received an email from ‘John’ reminding me of another line  –
 "And as you've been so often told, Never let the hot run cold"
 Thank you John, I'm not quite sure where the line fits, but I remember it too.

Several people have asked me where they can buy a Mabel Lucie Attwell plaque. My reply is always the same – I've seen them advertised on Amazon and on eBay in the past, but I don't know if there are any available at the moment. The other places  to try are vintage markets/shops. If you know of any other suppliers, please let me know so I can pass the information on. 

Thank you to ‘Shirley’ (see comments) for adding another line - Who will forget the chain to pull
Who leaves the basin nearly full of dirty water, suds of soap and such like things. Not you I hope?
Further update January, 2013.

Florence contacted me to say she also remembers the ‘and as you've been so often told never let the hot run cold’ line and thinks it goes like this;

Please remember - don't forget - never leave the bathroom wet.
Nor leave the soap still in the water that's a thing we never ought'er.
And as you've been so often told never let the hot run cold.
Nor leave the towels about the floor. Nor keep the bath an hour or more when other folks are wanting one. Please don't forget - it isn't done! But if you really do the thing, there's not the slightest need to sing.


It's always worth reading the comments section underneath this post to see if more information has been added.

49 comments:

  1. How fascinating. I loved reading your account of Mabel Lucy Atwell and I love the pictures featured too. That's so cute that you can remember that little poem from your childhood, it's funny how things like that stick in our heads :)

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  2. I think they are lovely and their vintage appeal is beautiful. The first two illustrations are quite timeless - I'll bet a lot of people buying the reproduction plaques don't realise how long ago they were painted The little 'angel' reminds me of the Christmas cards we used to get when we were young.

    It is amazing how we remember something like this poem from childhood but can't recite something we read just the other day!

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  3. Gosh, I don't remember these, but they are darling.

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  4. barbaraannefisher26 March 2012 at 22:13

    Hi Donna, I’m glad you think so, I’ve always loved them, but I suppose they are not everyone's cup of tea!

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  5. barbaraannefisher26 March 2012 at 22:25

    Sharon, how right you are! I often go to tell someone about an amazing book I’ve just finished reading and can’t remember what it was about! I know it was good; I know I enjoyed it, but that’s about all! As I get older, my long-term memory seems to be getting better while my short-term memory gets worse!
    I wonder if some of those 'angel' Christmas cards were by Mabel Lucie Attwell, her artwork was on everything for a very long time.

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  6. barbaraannefisher26 March 2012 at 22:29

    I’m really pleased you enjoyed it, thanks for leaving a comment. It is funny how something so unimportant stays put – while important things like telephone numbers desert me!!

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  7. I love the poem on the plaque. What a great way to teach children bathroom etiquette. Ms. Attwell sounds like an enterprizing woman, one I would have loved to have met. Her pictures are adorable.

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  8. What a great poem! I can see why you still remember it. I like Ms. Attwell's work and I especially love the fairyland one! I think their vintage style is part of their appeal. Thanks for including information about her life- as I didn't know anything about her!

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  9. These are new to me but oh so cute!

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  10. I'm sure my great aunt had a "nursery" Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Atwell. Great post, Barbara!

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  11. barbaraannefisher28 March 2012 at 19:15

    Darlene, thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s lovely to know that others like her artwork as much as I do.

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  12. barbaraannefisher28 March 2012 at 19:16

    Jess, I must have read it hundreds of times when I was growing up. The fact that it was always on the wall (not hidden in a book) really drummed the words into my head. The fairyland one is the one I like best too. It's not in great condition because it's on the back of a children’s annual, but I wanted to include it as it’s so pretty.

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  13. barbaraannefisher28 March 2012 at 19:18

    Hello Diane,
    If you think they are cute the really must be! You have such cute things on your blog.

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  14. barbaraannefisher28 March 2012 at 19:29

    Hi Ali, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Her Alice illustrations are quite beautiful. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for calling in.

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  15. They are beautiful vintage works, Barbara. I especially adore the last one. (Both the tall Teddy and the bowing character pipped my curiosity.) And the words provide a good lesson to children, don't they? 'Nor keep the bath an hour or more when other folks are wanting one.' Two of my sisters take hour-long showers. That plaque might have served as polite reminders to them!

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  16. barbaraannefisher29 March 2012 at 19:23

    The picture with the tall teddy comes from a book by A. H. Marshall published in 1920 with illustrations by Mabel Lucie Attwell. The book is called Wooden. I’ve not read it but when I listed it on my website, I skimmed through and wrote this brief synopsis - Eight-year-old Peggy is woken by the sound of a motor car and thinking it's just her father outside, she is about to go back to sleep when she suddenly realises that the car is not outside but in her bedroom! And who should be driving it but Teddy, whom she last saw lying on the pillow by her side. That was not nearly all, for everything was changing all around her. The apple-blossoms on the wall-paper had become real apple-blossoms, and were dancing in a bright spring breeze….
    Maybe you should copy the words from the plaque print them out and hang them in the bathroom for your sisters.

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  17. Wish I could draw like her. She's a favourite of mine and I have some of her lovely vintage books. I love her illustrations, she just seems to capture the cuteness of everything. Look at the Teddy Bear strutting into the picture, he's so adorable. She just nails it doesn't she and they are dated (in a nice way) compared to the illustrations we see today but that's what makes them so charming.

    I've never heard that saying before - it's so sweet.
    Michelle

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  18. barbaraannefisher30 March 2012 at 09:02

    Hello Michelle, have you done a post on your MLA books? I would love to see them. I had to have another look at teddy after you mentioned him strutting into the picture – and what do you know – he really is! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, I appreciate it.

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  19. I love the Mabel Lucie Attwell illustrations. I don't think anyone illustrates like that anymore and that's quite a shame.

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  20. barbaraannefisher1 April 2012 at 22:30

    Hello Nikki-ann, I suppose they are from a bygone-age, but I agree they are beautiful, and it is a shame. Thanks for calling in.

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  21. Hi, unfortunately I have one of the newer ones that omit the last two lines buy I think it's still brilliant. My nana used to have it up in her bathroom and gave it to my mum when she moved to somewhere smaller. For 15 years ive had the poem memorised and it's strange that this is the only memory of being 5 that I have! Really enjoyed reading this!

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  22. barbaraannefisher24 April 2012 at 21:34

    Hello Jenny, it’s still fun without the last two lines, and if you didn’t know they were supposed to be there I’m sure you wouldn’t miss them. It’s just that I grew up with the longer version so that’s the one I remember. If you are anything like me, you will probably never forget the words. Thank you so much for calling in and leaving a comment, it’s lovely to know you enjoyed the post. Barbara

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  23. I found your blog while looking for the 'Nor leave the towels about the floor' line, which I was having trouble recalling after 50 years or more. As I'd only ever seen it in the bathroom of a guest house my family stayed in for a fortnight when I was a child, however, I think I can pat myself on the back for remembering as much as I have.

    One thing I'm sure of, though, is that the plaque I remember was also missing the last two lines. They are utterly foreign to me.

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  24. barbaraannefisher27 June 2012 at 01:11

    Hello Jon,
    I wonder if there have always been two versions – one with the extra lines and one without. Maybe the plaques came in two different sizes, with the smaller size missing out the last two lines?
    I think you did very well to remember any of it after only two weeks. It was easier for me as it hung on the bathroom wall throughout my childhood.
    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

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  25. Perhaps there was one version for those that approved of singing and one for the miseries. :-)

    "I can yodel opera
    Even while I scrub
    Everybody's happy
    While singing in the tub"

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  26. i love mabel lucie attwell and have a tin sign in my bathroom. And i had a set of 5 prints on my wall as a child. i have tracked down 4 of the 5 but cant remember - until i see it - what the 5th picture was. is there a book of her illustrations or a list somewhere online that i could look at? any suggestions please?

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  27. barbaraannefisher19 July 2012 at 13:43

    Hello Jayne, have you tried the Mabel Lucie Attwell club at http://www.mabellucieattwellclub.com/index.htm they may be able to give you some more information - or know someone who can. Hope this helps, Barbara

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  28. Hello! I love Mabel Lucie Attwell illustrations.
    I have two cup and plates set with them, one I have already shown in this post:
    http://tazasycuentos.blogspot.com.ar/2012/09/los-boo-boos-de-mabel-lucie-attwell.html
    Your blog is wonderful, I'm enjoying a lot.
    Besos from Argentina, Silvina

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  29. barbaraannefisher13 October 2012 at 08:38

    Hello Silvina,
    Thank you so much for calling in and leaving a comment. I will be over to your blog as soon as I’ve left this reply. Best wishes, Barbara

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  30. My parents have an original wall plaque hanging in their bathroom where it has hung since my childhood some 40+ years ago. My mother brought this from her childhood home where it also hung for many years. This is most definitely an original (exactly as the picture above) but does not contain the last two lines you describe. Think that its a shame that you dissuade people from buying it, as I think its a delight whatever the words say!

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  31. barbaraannefisher16 November 2012 at 07:45

    Hello Rachel, I’m sorry if my comment sounded disparaging it was not intended in that way. My memories are for the rust spattered tin version that we had at home when I was a small child 60+ years ago. The ‘newer’ versions are perfectly fine it’s just that I would like to find the one I remember. I don’t think its ever going to happen because it was very rusty back then so it would probably be completely worn out now. Thanks very much for calling in and leaving a comment.Barbara

    Several people have emailed and asked if I have any plaques for sale, sadly I don't, but if you are looking for one eBay is a good place to try.

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  32. barbaraannefisher16 November 2012 at 09:11

    Hello Jon, I've only just found your rhyme (some months after you left it) but wanted to say... I love it!

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  33. It's a fun song. Here's the complete lyric: http://www.lyricsmania.com/singing_in_the_bathtub_lyrics_r_crumb_and_his_cheap_suit_serenaders.html

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  34. barbaraannefisher18 November 2012 at 09:46

    I knew the “I'm forever blowing bubbles
    pretty bubbles in the air” bit but not the rest of it – thanks for that.

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  35. My husband also remembers:

    Don't forget the chain to pull or
    Leave the basin nearly full of
    Suds of soap
    Not you I hope.

    This was on a plaque in his Grandmother's bathroom (1950s) I would love to get a copy with these words on for him or even a complete copy of the rhyme.

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  36. barbaraannefisher13 January 2013 at 11:40

    Thank you Shirley, when I first read your comment the words meant nothing to me - but they have started to ring a bell. I'm not sure if it's memory or just because they sound as though they should be there. How strange, memory is a funny thing!
    I don't think we can be far short of the complete rhyme - you are welcome to print them from this blog if that would help. Barbara.

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  37. Actually I misquoted it should read:

    Who will forget the chain to pull
    Who leaves the basin nearly full
    of dirty water, suds of soap and such like things
    Not you I hope?

    Mark says that the word such was spelt 'sitch'.

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  38. barbaraannefisher13 January 2013 at 15:22

    Thanks Shirley, I've updated the post.

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  39. Do you take into account optimizing your content for search engines?

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  40. i remember the bathroom poem from when i was nine years old and used to live in a childrens home in pontypridd, i am now forty eight.

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  41. barbaraannefisher18 February 2013 at 14:05

    It looks as though that little poem is remembered and loved by lots and lots of people. Thanks for calling in and leaving a comment. Barbara.

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  42. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabel_Lucie_Attwell

    it says she had 3 kids and none named peggy and peter??????????????

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    Replies
    1. Hello, thanks for the extra info, I've included a note at the end of the post. Barbara.

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    2. Information about Mabel Attwell's 3 children was found @
      http://www.woolvey.com/mabel-lucie-attwell-a-40.html
      Both Mabel Lucy Attwell and Harold Cecil Earnshaw were seeing some success in their respective careers as illustrators when they married on Mabel's 29th birthday, June 4th 1908. Their first child, a daughter, was born on May 13th 1909. Marjorie Joan, known as 'Peggy', was the inspiration for Mabel's "Chubbies". Peggy Earnshaw became an artist in her own right. She married Michael Wickham and went under Peggy Wickham for much of her work.
      The family moved to the south of London before adding 2 brothers for Peggy; Max (known as Peter) in 1911 and Brian in 1914. In the mid-1930s, Mabel lost both her youngest son, Brian (1934), and her husband Harold (1937).

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    3. Thanks so much Bevi I will add another note to the post.

      Delete
  43. It's really interesting to hear about your progress on this! I can't exactly help but it looks like the people in the comments have certainly come to your rescue!

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    1. Hello Somerset Wedding Gal, there are some lovely folks about. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I've just noticed you are down the road from us, my husband was there a few weeks ago taking 'photos for The Gazette. Barbara

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  44. How I loved all these books as a child. I wonder what happened to the plaques that were on our bedroom wall? Love Sue xxx

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    1. Hello Sue, I have no memory of them going, but I suppose we grew up and lost interest, and they went in the bin. It may have been me because as a teenager (after you were married) I covered the walls in beer mats – mum had an awful job to get them off and sort the walls after I left home. I can’t think how I got away with doing it. I don’t think I would have been so tolerant with Steven. xxx

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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