"In the time of swords and periwigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets—when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta—there lived a tailor in Gloucester."

The Tailor of Gloucester was written by Beatrix Potter and first published in 1903. It is set in the middle ages.



"The Tailor of Gloucester" Book Cover



Shop in Westgate Street
House in College Court


The Tailor sits in the window of a little Shop in Westgate Street in the town of Gloucester every day from early morning until dark, sewing fine clothes for the town's residents. The Tailor is a little old man who wear glasses, has old crooked fingers, and wears a suit of thread-bare clothes because he is very, very poor. He hardly wastes any fabric, leaving only very small snippets of cloth that are too small to use for anything except as waistcoats for Mice. One cold day near Christmastime, the Tailor starts making a coat for the Mayor of Gloucester to wear for his wedding on noon on Christmas Day. The coat is made of cherry-colored corded silk embroidered with pansies and roses and a cream-colored satin waistcoat trimmed with gauze and green worsted chenille. The Tailor works diligently and talks to himself while he works. He measures the silk and trims it into shape with his shears and the table becomes filled with cherry-colored snippets. When the Tailor finishes his work for the day, he leaves twelve pieces of cloth for the coat, four pieces of cloth for the waistcoat, pocket flaps, buttons, fine yellow taffeta for the coat's lining, and a cherry-colored twist (a strong thread used by tailors) for the waistcoat's button holes on the table. He leaves everything ready to sew together in the morning except for a single skein of cherry-colored twisted silk. He leaves the Shop because he doesn't sleep there at nights; only little brown Mice live in the Shop in Westgate Street at night. They go in and out and run from house to house and all over the town without going into the streets because there are little mouse staircases and secret trapdoors behind the walls of all the old houses in Gloucester. After leaving the Shop, the Tailor walks through the snow to a house in House in College Court. The Tailor is so poor that he can only afford to rent the house's kitchen, where he lives with his cat, Simpkin. Later that night, the Tailor sends Simpkin out with a groat (coin) which is the last of their fourpence (a coin worth 4 pennies) and a china pipkin (cooking pot)to buy a penny's worth of bread, a penny's worth of milk, and a penny's worth of sausages. The Tailor tells Simpkin to use the last penny to buys penny's worth of cherry-colored silk. He tells Simpkin to make sure he doesn't lose the last penny because he doesn't have any more twist for the coat. Simpkin takes the groat and the pipkin and goes out to buy the items. The Tailor is very tired and begins to get ill. He sits down by the fireplace and talks to himself about the coat, saying that he has just enough taffeta for the coat and will not have any leftover snippets for tippets (scarf-like clothing) for Mice. Suddenly, he hears a number of little sounds coming from the dresser, which is filled with teacups, mugs, pots, and bowls. The tailor walks across the kitchen and stands still beside the dresser and he hears the little sounds again and decides to pick up an upside-down teacup. Suddenly, out steps a little lady mouse who curtseys to the Tailor, hops off the dresser, and under the wall. The Tailor goes back to the fireplace and sits back down to warm his cold hands. But, all at once, he hears other little noises coming from the dresser. The Tailor turns over another teacup and out steps a little gentleman mouse who bows to the tailor. All of a sudden, a chorus of little tappings come from all over the dresser, all sounding together and answering one another. Out from under other teacups and bowls step out more little Mice who also hop off the dresser and into the wall. The Tailor sits back down by the fireplace and wonders if he was wrong in letting all the little Mice loose because they probably belong to Simpkin. He mutters to himself about the coat, saying it must be finished by noon on Saturday. The little Mice come back out and listen to the Tailor and they notice the pattern of the wonderful coat. They whisper to one another about the taffeta lining and about little mouse tippets and then, all at once, run away together down the passage behind the wall. Then, Simpkin opens the door and bounces in, frustrated because he hates snow and he has snow in his ears and collar. He sets down the loaf, the sausages, and the pipkin filled with milk on the dresser while he looks suspiciously at the teacups; he had been looking forward to a supper of little fat mouse. The Tailor asks Simpkin where his twist is but Simpkin is upset with the Tailor for letting the mice go, so he hides a little parcel privately in the teapot. The Tailor goes to bed feeling sad and discouraged.Simpkin searches for a mouse all night long, looking into cupboards and into the teapot where he had hidden the twist but he never finds a mouse. The poor, old tailor becomes very ill with a fever, tossing and turning in his bed and dreaming about not having any more twist. He is still ill the next day and the next day and the next and is unable to go to the little Shop in Westgate Street to work on the coat. Late at night on Christmas Eve, as the moon looks down over the gateway into House in College Court and all the city of Gloucester is fast asleep under the snow, Simpkin hears the Cathedral's clock strike twelve followed by some sort of echo. He opens the door and wanders through the snow and hears a thousand merry voices singing old Christmas rhymes. There is light and sounds of dancing in an attic room and Simpkin sees cats coming out from over the way. He sees birds singing, which is very appealing to him because he is still very hungry. Then Simpkin hears some shrill voices from behind a wooden lattice and walks away shaking his ears when, suddenly, he notices a glow of light coming from the Tailor's Shop. When the cat takes a look in the window, he sees that it's full of candles and full of mice. The little mice cut fabric and sew with thread as they sing loudly and happily. Simpkin meows and scratches at the door but the little Mice laugh and sing another song. All at once, the little Mice begin to shout at Simpkin about how the Tailor has no more twist and they bar up the windows to shut out the cat. Simpkin goes back home and finds the Tailor without a fever, sleeping peacefully. Simpkin walks over to the dresser and takes out the little parcel of silk from the teapot. He looks at it, feeling ashamed of his behavior. When the Tailor wakes up the next morning, he finds Simpkin standing next to his bed and a skein of cherry-colored twisted silk. The Tailor quickly gets dressed and leaves for the Shop, with Simpkin running before him. As the Tailor walks to his Shop, he worries that although now he has twist, he doesn't have enough time to make the coat because it's already Christmas morning; there is only enough time for him to make a button hole. The Tailor unlocks the door to his Shop and Simpkin runs in, expecting to see the little Mice, but no one is there. Instead, they find a beautiful coat, more beautiful than any coat that the Mayor has ever worn. The Tailor shouts in excitement. The coat is finished except for a single button hole. In place of the button hole, the Tailor finds a note with tiny writing that says there is no more twist. After that day, the Tailor's luck changes and he becomes quite rich. He starts making the most wonderful waistcoats for all the rich merchants of Gloucester and for all the fine gentlemen in the entire country. He makes beautiful ruffles, embroidered cuffs, and lappets! But his button holes are the greatest triumph of all. The stitches of those button holes are so neat and small that people wonder how they could be stitched by an old man in glasses, with crooked old fingers, and a tailor's thimble. The stitches of those button holes are so small that they look as if they are made by little Mice.