Over the course of more than two centuries of publication, the story of Dame Trot has shifted many times. Though many of the books tell nearly identical stories, many others have been altered and shifted immensely.
The original narrative, first appearing in 1803, consists of a set of rhymes in which Dame Trot leaves to do an errand and comes back to find her cat doing something unexpected or silly. This pattern persists throughout the whole history of Dame Trot publications, though the specific actions of both Dame and cat may vary.
Direct sequels to this original narrative follow two different storylines, both of which appear by 1806. One seems to have originated with the publisher Harris, in which the cat slips Dame Trot’s supervision and has a daring night about town. The other comes from the press of William Darton, and features the cat taking a lover and having kittens, who have shenanigans of their own.
Throughout the 19th century, additional variations on the story appeared. From the appearance of the puppet Punch and the popular song “Go Buy a Broom” to the cat’s enthusiastic beating of a drum, many of the new rhymes and actions in these versions may have been influenced by contemporary cultural trends and historical events.
In addition to these common patterns, there are a few oddball narratives which, though clearly inspired by the original story, branch out in new directions. These include the misadventures of the original cat’s son, the cat’s kindly care for a neighboring feline, and a “fairy” cat.
The story of Dame Trot and her marvelous cat, in all its many iterations, remains a fascinating case study for the development of children’s literature and the printing industry throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.