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Wenceslaus Hollar, 'Of the Court Mouse, and Country Mouse' (The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse), etching from 'The fables of Aesop paraphras'd in verse by John Ogilby', 1665. Printed by Thomas Roycroft for John Ogilby in London. National Art Library Pre

Wenceslaus Hollar, 'Of the Court Mouse, and Country Mouse' (The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse), etching from 'The fables of Aesop paraphras'd in verse by John Ogilby', 1665. Printed by Thomas Roycroft for John Ogilby in London. National Art Library Pressmark: CLE.W.10

 

The National Art Library has a large collection of illustrated Aesop's Fables dating from the 15th century to the present day. The following extract is taken from The Fables of Aesop by Joseph Jacobs (London: Macmillan & Co., 1894).

'Now you must know that a Town Mouse once upon a time went on a visit to his cousin in the country. He was rough and ready, this cousin, but he loved his town friend and made him heartily welcome. Beans and bacon, cheese and bread, were all he had to offer, but he offered them freely. The Town Mouse rather turned up his long nose at this country fare, and said:

"I cannot understand, Cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come you with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life."
No sooner said than done: the two mice set off for the town and arrived at the Town Mouse's residence late at night.

"You will want some refreshment after our long journey," said the polite Town Mouse, and took his friend into the grand dining-room. There they found the remains of a fine feast, and soon the two mice were eating up jellies and cakes and all that was nice. Suddenly they heard growling and barking.
"What is that?" said the Country Mouse.
"It is only the dogs of the house," answered the other.
"Only!" said the Country Mouse. "I do not like that music at my dinner." Just at that moment the door flew open, in came two huge mastiffs, and the two mice had to scamper down and run off.
"Good-bye, Cousin," said the Country Mouse,
"What! going so soon?" said the other.
"Yes," he replied; "Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear."'

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