Of Spiders And Maidens
So few childhood stories and rhymes have any basis in actual events or people, that when one comes along which does have some kind of connection to the real world, nobody can ever agree on the facts. Little Miss Muffet is a classic example.
It is generally accepted that the rhyme originated with one Dr. Thomas Muffet (d.1604) who penned the poetry for his daughter, Patience. Muffet was known for other lively verse in his "The Silkwormes and Their Flies".
Skeptics however, think the name and the fact that Muffet had written about a topic related to spiders, was all that linked his name to the rhyme, and that it actually wasn't written for another 200 years, first appearing in Songs For the Nursery (1812) as "Little Mary Ester, sat up on a tester..."
The one thing they do agree on, is that Miss Muffet is not a veiled reference to Mary Queen of Scots, who apparently had violent dislike for the Scottish religious reformer, John Knox.
Her "tuffet" was also a subject of debate, with some claiming it as a three-legged stool, and others as a hillock of grass. At least they usually do concur on the fact that curds and whey is the equivalent of cottage cheese.