Well-respected publishing house The Threadbone Press today stands accused variously of [i] dumbing down and pandering to political correctness whilst, at the same time, [ii] "perpetrating an act of unspeakable colonialist collaboration" as well as, yet more heinously in some eyes, [iii] "committing an act of literary vandalism on a much-loved children's classic". All of the above follow from its decision to publish a revised version of Botox Porter's  The Tale Mr Cockle and Mrs Tinkle. Ms Em O'Liant, a spokesperson for the Ladybone Press [the subsidiary which is responsible for the reprint] has denied that the company has acted improperly and asked that readers be "allowed to decide for themselves".
The row broke out after a new, lavishly illustrated and "slightly updated" version of the children's classic was issued yesterday and critics on both sides decided to "have a field day with it", a Threadbone bookstore employee said. [She subsequently denied that staff had voted it their Children's Book of the Week, before rapidly changing their minds and choosing instead Maisy Puke and the Bright Green Snot Rag.]
The Facts [Checked!]:
The Tale Mr Cockle and Mrs Tinkle was first published by The Child Morality Press in 1887. It marked the debut of author[ess] [that's OK it's historic [Ed]] Botox Potter who went on to pen many children's classics prior to her death in 1953. [It is hardly her fault if several of her books proved to be acknowledged sources of inspiration to well-known political activists Unity Mitford, Sir Oswald Mosely, Franklyn Ingleman, Philip Harben and Arthur Askey amongst others.]
Ms Botox was a non-evangelical Latitudinarian Anglican who flirted briefly with Methodism, Spiritualism and non-orthodox [united reformed] Tai-chi. She was well-known as a supporter of the Monarchy and of Empire and featured a number of "colonial" narratives in her work which was unashamedly aimed at non-boarding school children who, she believed, deserved better morals and firmer behavioural guidance than the voluntary and board schools of the time were able to provide. She was a vocal supporter of corporal punishment, arguing that "sparing the rod only prepared children for a later encounter with Satan". At the height of the suffragette movement, she famously accused Mrs Pankhurst of putting herself before her duties "to make her home comfortable and attractive for her husband" and Miss Emily Wilding Davison of putting herself before a racehorse.
She was "very much of her time and would have been rather out of step with ours I think", says social historian Jusquà la Minute. "What she'd have made of a family brick let alone a hazelnut cluster we can only speculate".
So, in conclusion, to say that she is a controversial author to modern eyes and ears is something of an understatement.
Yet, knowing this, the Threadbone Press, still went ahead with a revised version of The Tale Mr Cockle and Mrs Tinkle albeit one shorn of all references to science, religion and politics. In doing so it must have known it was treading on thin ice [troubled waters? [Sub Ed]; No idiot you can't tread on troubled waters unless you are Jesus. Jesus! [Ed]] and that it was bound to attract criticism.
The Threadbone Press appears to be trying to "have it both ways", insisting that the book is substantially the same as that written by Ms Porter and therefore a genuine re-issue, whilst seeking to distance itself from the 1887 volume by claiming that it has been shorn of all offensive and controversial materials. To the charge of simplifying and rendering anodyne the strikingly uncompromising original, the editors must surely plead guilty. On the charge of flagrant opportunism, the jury is still out pending sales receipts. Only a full disclosure and close line-to-line scrutiny is likely to put this episode to bed.
In a surprise move, the Threadbone Press has issued a line-by-line comparison between the two versions of The Tale Mr Cockle and Mrs Tinkle in order to allow "proper consideration of the changes involved" and "to put the matter to bed". "Only by these means can the truth be told and a mature judgement be arrived at", Mr Joshua Threadbone of Threadbone, Threadbone and Threadbone said. "Furthermore", he added, "lest the Threadbone Press be additionally accused of making money out of the present difficulties, the comparison will be made available [paperback and digital download only] for the very modest price of £24.99".
That much-anticipated, much-sought-after, hi-def, line-by-line, compact digi-version HERE