Lesson #214: Jack Spratt

This is the second attempt at this post. Cyberspace ate the last one. Anyway, as I was saying…

Speaking of Charles I being an epic wanker,* my maternal grandmother handed me a copy of a book this evening** about the fascinating and sometimes sordid history of nursery rhymes. Because liking this sort of weird stuff runs in my family.

Jack Spratt is most widely accepted among people who know and study these things to be about Charles I. The earliest recorded version of the nursery rhyme dates back to 1639 and reads: “Jack will eat no fat and Jill doth love no lean, Yet betwixt them both they lick the dishes clean.”

After Parliament refused finance for the war Charles I so desperately wanted with Spain (thus inciting the storming of the House of Commons, the retreating to the north to sulk and raise an army and then the civil war), our buddy Chuck was a little bit overdrawn in the expense column, meaning “he could eat no fat because there wasn’t any.” His lovely wife, Henrietta Marie, however, was known for her opulent taste, which meant “she couldn’t abide lean, or poor, times.” Charles’ solution? Implement a war tax (to pay for, um, the war) and assess other random taxes (to pay for Henrietta’s extravagance) by which the two “licked England clean one way or another.”***

*We were. The other day.

**I’m in the New York capital region for the evening on my way down to the Mid-Atlantic city where I did my undergraduate work to see some friends. And attend a funeral.

***All quoted text is from Chris Roberts’ Heavy Words, Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, pages 175-176.

One thought on “Lesson #214: Jack Spratt

  1. Rachel says:

    Please bring this book with you when you visit so that I can borrow it from you!

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