Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse

Mavis Guzelian was born in Allepo in Syria in 1920 and went on a sailing holiday with her family in the Lake District in 1928. Arthur Ransome, also sailing on Lake Coniston that summer, based his young character Titty Walker on her in his classic novel Swallows and Amazons (1930). She later trained at art school with Henry Moore, worked for a news agency in Jerusalem during the second war, and was an artist afterwards in Bradford, West Yorkshire. In life (according to her sister) she exhibited a fierce intelligence. In the book Ransome portrays her as the most imaginative of the children; she prospects for water with a dowsing twig, attempts sorcery with a wax image of an oppressive Great Aunt, dreams of being marooned on an island and is the able seaman of the yacht.

Mavis’s favourite English fairy tale was Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse from the 1890 English Fairy Tales collected by the Australian folklorist Joseph Jacobs. She was therefore known in the family by the nickname ‘Titty’. The BBC broadcasts a filmed version of Swallows and Amazon next Wednesday, but in a puerile act of corporate clean-up the producers have changed the character’s name to ‘Tatty’. What a depressingly prim display of prudery. The ugly term ‘titties’, a frat-boy American slang deployed for spring break-type frolics, was invented years after Ransome wrote. This sort of hysteria should be faced down not pandered to.

In the fairy tale Titty mouse and Tatty mouse eat from an ear of corn and Titty is scalded to death in a boiling pot, Tatty cries, a walnut tree sheds its leaves and a little bird moults its feathers, a thatcher jumps from his ladder deliberately to break his neck and the great walnut tree falls down with a crash onto a house that crushes Tatty to death beneath the ruins.

Those old fairy tales knew that children were not to be fobbed off with impoverished language.

Books, Law

Lady Chatterley’s Lawyer

Jeremy Hutchinson QC was the leading criminal defence barrister of the 1960s and 1970s. I have just finished reading a  book about fourteen of his famous cases by Tom Grant*. The book reveals a Zelig-like Hutchinson popping up throughout the twentieth century. Here he is representing at trial Penguin Books (for Lady Chatterley’s Lover) and Christine Keeler during the Profumo affair; here he is defending the spy George Blake and the Great Train robber Charlie Wilson; here he is battling Mary Whitehouse over the distribution of Last Tango in Paris; here he is representing a defendant charged with the theft of the World Cup in 1966. Here he is playing games on holiday with T.S.Eliot; here he is mentioned in Virginia Woolf’s and John Gielgud’s diaries; here he is married to the daughter of Coco Chanel’s lover ‘Boy’ Capel; here he is clinging to the wreckage with Lord Louis Mountbatten of H.M.S. Kelly after it was sunk by the Luftwaffe off Crete in May 1941; here he is in Los Angeles with Aldous Huxley; here he is building a brick wall with Churchill in the garden at Chartwell; here he is married to Dame Peggy Ashcroft; here he is being taught how to tie a bow tie by Lytton Strachey; here he is lunching with Charlie Chaplin. It is a remarkable fact that Hutchinson is still alive and well and living in Sussex, aged 100.

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