‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ is such a familiar rhyme for children, that we often forget the fact that it has a named author – Jane Taylor (1783-1824). The rhyme is the first stanza of a poem in Rhymes for the Nursery (1806), a volume of verse for children written by Jane Taylor in collaboration with her sister Ann. The poems were specially commissioned by publishers Darton and Harvey following the success of a previous book of verse by the sisters. The charm and originality of ‘The Star’ surely lies in Jane Taylor’s ability to express a tenderness in the relationship between mother and baby as they look at the night sky together. In her autobiography, Ann remembered Jane describing her writing process: ‘I try to conjure some child into my presence, address her suitably, as well as I am able and when I begin to flag, I say to her, “There love, now you may go”’.
The poem is famously parodied in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) when the Hatter recites:
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!