See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: The Three Monkeys

As part of my coming release of “The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin,” I completed research on the Three Mystic Apes, as there are references to the extended maxim within my story’s plot line. I thought you might enjoy a bit of history on this phenomenon.


Three wise monkeys 20 October 2007 Tumi-1983~Licensing The copyright holder of this work released this work into the public domain.

Three wise monkeys
20 October 2007
The copyright holder of this work released this work into the public domain.

The three wise monkeys (Japanese: 三猿, san’en or sanzaru, or 三匹の猿, sanbiki no saru, literally “three monkeys”), sometimes called the three mystic apes, are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of good mind, speech, and action. In the Western world the phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by turning a blind eye.

In English, the monkeys’ names are often given as Mizaru, Mikazaru, and Mazaru, as the last two names were corrupted from the Japanese originals.

The source that popularized this pictorial maxim is a 17th-century carving over a door of the famous Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, Japan. The carvings at Toshogu Shrine were carved by Hidari Jingoro, and believed to have incorporated Confucius’s Code of Conduct, using the monkey as a way to depict man’s life cycle. There are a total of 8 panels, and the iconic three wise monkeys picture comes from panel 2. The philosophy, however, probably originally came to Japan with a Tendai-Buddhist legend, from China in the 8th century (Nara Period). It has been suggested that the figures represent the three dogmas of the so-called middle school of the sect.

In Chinese, a similar phrase exists in the Analects of Confucius from 2nd to 4th century B.C.: “Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety” (非禮勿視, 非禮勿聽, 非禮勿言, 非禮勿動). It may be that this phrase was shortened and simplified after it was brought into Japan.

It is through the Kōshin rite of folk religion that the most significant examples are presented. The Kōshin belief or practice is a Japanese folk religion with Chinese Taoism origins and ancient Shinto influence. It was founded by Tendai Buddhist monks in the late 10th century. A considerable number of stone monuments can be found all over the eastern part of Japan around Tokyo. During the later part of the Muromachi period, it was customary to display stone pillars depicting the three monkeys during the observance of Kōshin.

Though the teaching had nothing to do with monkeys, the concept of the three monkeys originated from a simple play on words. The saying in Japanese is mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru (見ざる, 聞かざる, 言わざる?) “don’t see, don’t hear, don’t speak.” However, -zaru, an archaic negative verb conjugation, is pronounced the same as zaru, the vocalized form of saru (猿?), “monkey,” so the saying can also be interpreted as the names of three monkeys.

It is also possible that the three monkeys came from a more central root than a play on words. The shrine at Nikko is a Shinto shrine, and the monkey is an extremely important being in the Shinto religion. The monkey is believed to be the messenger of the Hie Shinto shrines, which also have connections with Tendai Buddhism. There are even important festivals that are celebrated during the year of the Monkey (occurring every twelve years) and a special festival is celebrated every sixteenth year of the Kōshin.

“The Three Mystic Apes” (Sambiki Saru) were described as “the attendants of Saruta Hito no Mikoto or Kōshin, the God of the Roads.” The Kōshin festival was held on the 60th day of the calendar. It has been suggested that during the Kōshin festival, according to old beliefs, one’s bad deeds might be reported to heaven “unless avoidance actions were taken….” It has been theorized that the three Mystic Apes, Not Seeing, Hearing, or Speaking, may have been the “things that one has done wrong in the last 59 days.”

According to other accounts, the monkeys caused the Sanshi and Ten-Tei not to see, say or hear the bad deeds of a person. The Sanshi (三尸?) are three worms living in everyone’s body. The Sanshi keep track of the good deeds and particularly the bad deeds of the person they inhabit. Every 60 days, on the night called Kōshin-Machi (庚申待?), if the person sleeps, the Sanshi will leave the body and go to Ten-Tei (天帝?), the Heavenly God, to report about the deeds of that person. Ten-Tei will then decide to punish bad people, making them ill, shortening their time alive, and in extreme cases putting an end to their lives. Those believers of Kōshin who have reason to fear will try to stay awake during Kōshin nights. This is the only way to prevent the Sanshi from leaving their body and reporting to Ten-Tei.

An ancient representation of the ‘no see, no hear, no say, no do’ can be found in four golden figurines in the Zelnik Istvan Southeast Asian Gold Museum. These golden statues date from the 6th to 8th century. The figures look like tribal human people with not very precise body carvings and strong phallic symbols. This set indicates that the philosophy comes from very ancient roots.

Meaning of the Proverb
Just as there is disagreement about the origin of the phrase, there are differing explanations of the meaning of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

**In Buddhist tradition, the tenets of the proverb are about not dwelling on evil thoughts.
**In the Western world both the proverb and the image are often used to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety, looking the other way or feigning ignorance.
**It may also signify a code of silence in gangs, or organised crime.

Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the three others; the last one, Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of “do no evil.” He may be shown crossing his arms or covering his genitals.

In another variation, a fourth monkey is depicted with a sulking posture and the caption “have no fun.”

Cultural Influences
The three wise monkeys and the associated proverb are known throughout Asia and in the Western world. They have been a motif in pictures, such as the ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock printings) by Keisai Eisen and are frequently represented in modern culture.

Mahatma Gandhi’s one notable exception to his lifestyle of non-possession was a small statue of the three monkeys. Today, a larger representation of the three monkeys is prominently displayed at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where Gandhi lived from 1915 to 1930 and from where he departed on his famous salt march. Gandhi’s statue also inspired a 2008 artwork by Subodh Gupta, Gandhi’s Three Monkeys.

In Planet of the Apes (1968 film), near the end of the tribunal to determine Taylor’s origins, the three orangutan judges strike a Three Wise Monkeys pose, emphasizing their refusal to acknowledge the evidence at odds with their dogma.

The maxim inspired an award-winning 2008 Turkish film by director Nuri Bilge Ceylan called Three Monkeys (Üç Maymun).

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UK “Real” Estate: Wimborne Minster’s Grandeur

Wimborne Minster’s Grandeur

800px-wimborne_minsterKnown locally as the Minster, Wimborne Minster is the parish church of Wimborne, Dorset, England. The Minster has existed for over 1300 years and is recognised for its unusual chained library (one of only four surviving chained libraries in the world). The Minster, a former monastery and Benedictine nunnery, is the resting place of King Ethelred of Wessex.

Dedicated to Sain Cuthburga, who founded a Benedictine abbey of nuns at the present day minster in circa A.D. 705. A monastery for men was built around this time, adjacent to the abbey. In 871, Alfred the Great buried his brother King Ethelred in the Minster.

The women’s monastery was destroyed by the Danes in 1013 during one of their incursions into Wessex and never rebuilt, though the main abbey building survived. In 1043, Edward the Confessor founded a college of secular (non-monastic) canons, consisting of a dean, four prebends, four vicars, four deacons, and five singers at the minster. The minster was remodelled and rebuilt by the Normans between 1120 and 1180, to support that institution.

The West Tower

The West Tower

In 1318, Edward II issued a document that made the minster a Royal Peculiar, which exempted it from all diocesan jurisdiction. The choir used to wear scarlet robes, a legacy of this ‘Peculiar’. Similar robes of this type are worn in Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. In 1496, Lady Margaret Beaufort, granddaughter of John of Gaunt and mother of Henry VII, founded a small chapel in the minster. With the reign of Henry VIII, the remaining parts of the monastery were adopted into part of the minster to avoid being destroyed. However much of the wealth of the minster was confiscated by King Henry VIII.

Sixty six years later in 1562 a grant was obtained from Queen Elizabeth I by which part of the property formerly belonging to the college, together with all ecclesiastical rights and prerogatives was returned to Wimborne and vested in twelve governors. The charter was surrendered to James I and a new charter was obtained from Charles I at a cost of £1000 with the addition of an organist and singing men. During the English Civil War, when Charles I was beheaded his coat of arms was painted out from the wall of the minster, but on the restoration of Charles II the arms were speedily replaced and have now been restored.

the pulpit

the pulpit

In 1846 the Royal Peculiar was abolished, and now all that remains of the old order is the control by 12 governors of some of the minster affairs. The church was renovated towards the end of the 19th century and its last addition, a vestry was added at the same time. Today the church is a place of visit and worship for the local community and visitors.

The old Treasury which housed the wealth of the minster has an important chained library. The library was founded in 1686 and is the second largest chained library in the country and also one of the first public libraries. Some of the collections of the library include a manuscript written on lambskin in 1343, a book bound for the Court of Henry VIII, an incunabulum printed in 1495 on the works of Saint Anselm, and a Paraphrase of Erasmus printed in 1522 with a title page designed by Holbein.

Wimborne Minster is the home of an astronomical clock, one of a group of famous 14th to 16th century astronomical clocks to be found in the west of England. It is currently maintained by notable Wimborne resident Bruce Jensen.

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The Concept of a “Marriage of Convenience” as a Plot Line in Jane Austen’s Novels

What hope was there for the dowerless daughters of the middle class during Jane Austen’s lifetime? Such is a topic Austen explored repeatedly in her novels. Elizabeth and Jane Bennet sought men of a like mind. The Dashwood sisters found their choices limited by their financial situation. Fanny Harville and Captain Benwick could not marry until he earned his future. General Tilney drove Catherine Morland from his home because of the lady’s lack of funds. Charlotte Lucas accepted Mr. Collins as her last opportunity for a respectable match. The intricacies and tedium of high society, particularly of partner selection, and the conflicts of marriage for love and marriage for property are repeated themes.

a3b80-80m Marriage provided women with financial security. Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey explains, “… in both [marriage and a country dance], man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal: that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each.” Women of Austen’s gentry class had no legal identity. No matter how clever the woman might be, finding a husband was the only option. A woman could not buy property or write a will without her husband’s approval. If a woman was fortunate, she would bring to her marriage a settlement – money secured for her when she came of age – usually an inheritance from her mother. The oldest son or male heir received the family estate, and the unmarried or widowed females lived on his kindness.

emma-and-knightley-dancing The ladies of Sense and Sensibility have this reality thrust upon them when Uncle Dashwood changes his will and leaves Norland to his grandnephew. In Uncle Dashwood’s thinking, this change will keep Norland in the Dashwood family. However, the four Dashwood ladies suddenly find themselves living in a modest cottage with an income of £500 annually. As such, they have no occasion for visits to London unless someone else assumes the expenses. Their social circle shrinks, and the opportunities to meet eligible suitors becomes nearly non-existent. With dowries of £1000 each, the Dashwood sisters are not likely to attract a man who will improve their lots.

Jane Austen, herself, lived quite modestly. The Austens lived frugally among the country gentry. The Austen sisters were well educated by the standards of the day, but without chances for dowries, Jane and Cassandra possessed limited prospects. Jane met a Mr. Blackall the year Cassandra lost her Mr. Fowle. In a letter, Blackall expressed to Mrs. Lefroy a desire to know Jane better; yet, he confided, “But at present I cannot indulge any expectation of it.” To which, Jane Austen responded, “This is rational enough. There is less love and more sense in it than sometimes appeared before, and I am very well satisfied.” Imperfect opportunities were Jane Austen’s reality. In 1802, Jane Austen accepted an offer of marriage from Harris Bigg-Wither. With this marriage, Jane would have become the mistress of Manydown.

200px-CassandraAusten-JaneAusten(c.1810)_hires Yet, despite her affection for the family, Austen could not deceive Bigg-Wither. The following morning, she refused the man’s proposal. Whether she thought to some day find another or whether Austen accepted the fact that her refusal doomed her to a life as a spinster, we shall never know. In the “limited” world in which Jane Austen lived, she could not have known her eventual influence on the literary canon.

Austen held personal knowledge of young women seeking husbands in one of the British colonies. Reverend Austen’s sister, Philadelphia, traveled to India in 1752, where she married an English surgeon Tysoe Hancock, a man twenty years her senior. When the Hancocks returned to England a decade later, Reverend Austen traveled to London to greet his sister. However, Philadelphia and Tysoe were not to live “happily ever after.” Unable to support his family in proper English style, Tysoe returned to India to make his living. He never saw his wife and child again. Despite its tragic ending, this “marriage” secured Philadelphia’s future and the lady’s place in Society. Only marriage could offer a woman respectability.

In Jane Austen for Dummies (page 134), Joan Klingel Ray breaks down the financial prospects of the Dashwood sisters. Converting the £500 to a modern equivalent, Ray comes out with a figure of $46,875. For the gentry, supporting four women, two maids, a man servant, paying rent, buying clothes, food, coal, etc., that sum would have meant a poor existence. I find in reading Sense and Sensibility that I am often disappointed with the eventual choices of the Dashwood sisters. Edward Ferras and Colonel Brandon have less of the “glitz and the glamour” that my innate Cinderella syndrome requires in a love match. However, if any affection did exist between the couples, then Marianne and Elinor, under the circumstances and the times, made brilliant matches.

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, George IV, Georgian Era, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Medieval Misconception: All Women Were Chattel, A Guest Post by Kim Rendfeld, who is Celebrating the Release of “The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar”

Medieval Misconception: All Women Were Chattel

By Kim Rendfeld

Early medieval women were far from passive damsels waiting for a knight to rescue them.

Of course, this time period is hardly an ideal time for women: childbirth so risky expectant mothers were urged to confess their sins before they went into labor, fathers choosing whom a girl would marry, age 13 considered marriageable, wife beating defined as a right.

But to say that girls were nothing but pawns valued only for their ability to produce sons grossly oversimplifies medieval women’s reality, and it gives a false impression that women in this era were merely victims who contributed little to their society. Truth is, they tried to shape their situations.

In the mid-eighth century, Saint Boniface depended on both nuns and monks to assist him in his mission to strengthen the church in Europe and spread Christianity. The women left the security of their abbey in Britain and took an uncomfortable, hazardous journey to areas east of the Rhine. Those who were appointed abbesses were not only pious. They were in a position of influence; therefore, they needed to act independently.

On the secular side, aristocratic women did more than produce an heir, although husbands did try to set aside wives unable to bear children. The queen’s role was “to release the king from all domestic and palace cares, leaving him free to turn his mind to the state of his realm,” according to the ninth-century treatise The Government of the Palace. In an age when the personal and political were intertwined, the queen was the guardian of the treasury, and she controlled access to her husband. When houseguests were foreign dignitaries, royal hospitality was key to international relations.

453px-Bertrada_Broadfoot_of_Laon_Berthe_au_Grand_Pied_VersaillesBertrada, Charlemagne’s mother, had been her husband’s full partner as they seized the kingdom of Francia in a bloodless coup. After he died, she became a diplomat whose most important mission was peace within her own country. Her sons, Charles and Carloman, each inherited half the kingdom, and Bertrada kept the rivalry between the brothers, ages 20 and 17, from escalating to civil war.

Bertrada is just one example. After Carloman died of an illness, and Charles seized his dead brother’s lands, the widow Gerberga was not about to let her toddling sons lose their kingdom without a fight. Likely a teenager, Gerberga crossed the Alps with two little boys in tow and sought the aid of Desiderius, the Lombard king furious over Charles’s divorce from his daughter. Later, Charles’s third wife, Hildegard, might have been the one to convince him to make her sons his heirs, perhaps excluding the son by his first marriage.

perf6.000x9.000.indd These historic women are why the heroines of my novels try to solve their own problems, even when it’s painful. Alda in The Cross and the Dragon has a household to run and servants to keep in line. She bargains with the merchants and gives to charity. Leova in The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is a peasant, but at the beginning of the novel, she is a free woman with responsibilities, including children to raise and a house and farm to maintain with her husband. When she is betrayed and sold into slavery, she resents being seen as property and yearns to be a respectable woman again.

The existence of slavery meant that some women were chattel, but so were their male counterparts. But as one can see in this excerpt from The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, even slaves could use their wits to get their way.

Looking down, Leova stepped forward, her limbs stiff. Her thoughts were consumed with worry that Deorlaf would rush forward to defend her, just as Derwine would. She glanced over her shoulder.

Sunwynn stood rigid. Deorlaf’s body was tense like a cat ready to pounce into a fight. His hand strayed to his belt where his eating knife used to be. Deorlaf, don’t!

“Peace, Deorlaf,” Ragenard called over Leova’s shoulder. “I mean your mother no harm.”

She felt Ragenard’s hands on her sides and started. The touch against her ribs was gentle. Turning toward Ragenard, she met his gaze. She saw no malice in his amber eyes. A smile flickered on his lips. Then, he straightened and dropped his hands.

“You have cared for her well, my lord,” said Ragenard, his chiseled features impassive. “She is comely and has the temper I seek. So many other serving women are crushed and almost useless or lazy and willful. But this colt is worth more than the best maidservant.” He patted the sleek animal’s shoulder. “He is in his prime, obedient to the rein, yet has enough spirit to charge into the hunt.”

Leova seized the opportunity. “You’re right, Ragenard,” she said, hoping to keep the tremor from her voice. “A horse is worth more than me. Take the children as well.”

“Be still, woman,” Pinabel snarled. “Or I’ll rip out your tongue.”

Medieval Women Monastics: Wisdom’s Wellsprings, edited by Miriam Schmitt, Linda Kulzer

Charlemagne: Translated Sources, P.D. King

Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, translated by Bernhard Walters Scholz with Barbara Rogers

“Pavia and Rome: The Lombard Monarchy and the Papacy in the Eighth Century,” Jan T. Hallenbeck, published in 1982 by Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

“Women at the Court of Charlemagne: A Case of Monstrous Regiment?” Janet L. Nelson, The Frankish World 750-900

“Family Structures and Gendered Power in Early Medieval Kingdoms: The Case for Charlemagne’s Mother,” Janet L. Nelson. Women Rulers in Europe: Agency, Practice and Representation of Political Powers (XII-XVIII)

Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, Pierre Riche

Kim Rendfeld author photoMeet the Author:
Kim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon. 

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students and correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association. Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition. 

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and three granddaughters.

To read the first chapters of either novel [The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press) or The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar (2014 Fireship Press)]  or learn more about Kim, visit
You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist, at, like her on Facebook at, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim@

Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar
“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” — Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

“The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles

Ashes Tour GraphicVisit The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar Fireship Press Virtual Book Tour at

Posted in book excerpts, book release, customs and tradiitons, excerpt, legends and myths, medieval, military, real life tales, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Victorian Folklore Legend: Spring-Heeled Jack

220px-Mothman_prophecies_posterAs a native West Virginian, I grew up on the Mothman prophecies, the story line behind the 2002 movie of the same name, which was intermixed with the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The Mothman was a legendary “Devil-like” creature, who made himself known to many of the town’s people – some claiming the ten-foot moth-like man was an alien. Naturally, when I came across a similar Victorian Era legend, I was completely fascinated by the concept.

Jack6The first claim of a sighting of Spring-heeled Jack came in 1837 in Sheffield, England. The last reported sighting is said to have been in Liverpool in 1904. An entity of English folklore, “Jack” has made appearances in much of Great Britain, including Scotland. Reportedly, a girl by the name of Mary Stevens was returning to her employment in the Lavender Hill area after having spent time with her parents in Battersea. Passing through Clapham Common, the girl was accosted by a strange figure, who leapt at her from a dark alley. According to Miss Stevens, the man held her in a tight grip and kissed her face. He also ripped her clothes and pawed at with claws as cold as those of a corpse. Her attacker fled when she screamed. Residents could find no such attacker when they searched the area.

The same man supposedly attacked a second woman on the following day, very near to Miss Stevens’ attack. Eventually, the legend changed: The attacker would jump in front of a passing carriage, frightening the coachman and the horses, and causing the coachman injury. He would then make his escape over a wall, while babbling with a high-pitched laughter. The press labeled the “man” Spring-heeled Jack.

“The attacker was tall and thin, had pointed ears and fiery eyes, and wore a cloak. He tore at his female victims’ clothes and ripped their flesh with hands that felt like iron. When he escaped, he did not run; he bounced away. Those who saw his feet swore he had springs in his boot heels.” (Science: Spring-heeled Jack)

220px-Jack4On 9 January 1838, Sir John Cowan, the Lord Mayor of London, revealed an anonymous complaint at a public session held in the Mansion House. The correspondent, who signed the letter “a resident of Peckham,” wrote…

“It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the highest ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion, that he durst not take upon himself the task of visiting many of the villages near London in three different disguises – a ghost, a bear, and a devil; and moreover, that he will not enter a gentleman’s gardens for the purpose of alarming the inmates of the house. The wager, has, however, been accepted, and the unmanly villain has succeeded in depriving seven ladies of their senses, two of whom are not likely to recover, but to become burdens to their families.

“At one house the man rang the bell, and on the servant coming to open the door, this worse than brute stood in no less dreadful figure than a spectre clad most perfectly. The consequence was that the poor girl immediately swooned, and has never from that moment been in her senses.

“The affair has now been going on for some time, and, strange to say, the papers are still silent on the subject. The writer has reason to believe that they have the whole history at their finger-ends but, through interested motives, are induced to remain silent.” (Simpson, Jacqueline. Spring-Heeled Jack (leaflet, January 2001) International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.)

The matter was reported in The Times on 9 January, with other newsprints following in the next week. The Lord Mayor received a large number of letters with reports of similar pranks. Stories from Hammersmith, Kensington, Ealing, Camberwell, Vauxhall, Brixton, Stockwell, Lewisham, and Blackheath poured in. The Brighton Gazette printed a like story in April 1838.

Similar entities have been reported around the world. In Chile, one finds “La Viuda” or “the widow.” The Spring Man of Prague, Pérák, is spoken of in Czechoslovakia. Other names include Krampus, London Monster, Owlman, Jiangshi, and Jersey Devil.

“In1808, a letter to the editor of the Sheffield Times recounted how ‘Years ago a famous Ghost walked and played many pranks in this historic neighbourhood.’ The writer went on to identify this entity as the ‘Park Ghost or Spring Heeled Jack,’ and briefly described its ability to take enormous leaps and frighten random passers-by, but concluded, ‘He was a human ghost as he ceased to appear when a certain number of men with with guns and sticks to test his skin.’” (The Legend of Spring Heeled Jack)

ufo-theory-010Two teenage girls were likely the most famous of the victims. Jane Alsop claimed to have answered her father’s door on the evening of 19 February 1838 to a man claiming to be a police officer. Foolishly, she followed the officer to the adjoining lane because he had requested she provide him a light as part of his investigation. Instead, the “officer” threw off the cloak he wore. The girl reported that the man vomited blue and white flames, and his eyes were upon fire. She also said he wore a large helmet and a white oilskin. He tore her gown with his claws, as well as leaving marks upon her neck and arms. The sudden appearance of one of her sisters sent the attacker fleeing from the scene.

Lucy Scales and her sister were approached some eight days later. They were returning home from a visit with their brother, a butcher in Limehouse. As the girls passed Green Dragon Alley, a man in a large cloak spit blue flames in her face, which deprived Lucy of her sight and brought on violent fits. Their brother heard the screams and came to his sisters’ rescues. The difference the Scales’ report was Lucy claimed the attacker was tall, thin, and gentlemanly in his appearance.

The Times boasted a headline reading “The Late Outrage At Old Ford” on 2 March 1838. It was a report on the Jane Alsop attack. One Thomas Millbank had bragged to his drinking buddies at the Morgan’s Arms that he was Spring-heeled Jack. Millbank was immediately arrested and tried at Lambeth Street court. The arresting officer was James Lea, who had earlier arrested William Corder, the Red Barn Murderer. (See my article on The Red Barn Murder for more details.) Millbank was shown to have been wearing white overalls and a greatcoat on the evening of the attack. The candle he dropped was also located. He escaped conviction only because Alsop swore her attacker breathed fire. Obviously, Millbank could not perform such a “skill.”

Spring-heeled Jack became one of the most popular characters of the Victorian period. He was the subject of several penny dreadfuls, as well as cheap theatricals. In the Punch and Judy shows, the devil was named “Spring-heeled Jack.” In 1843, a second wave of sightings swept England. Reports of the “devil-like” creature came from Northamptonshire and East Anglia and Teighnmouth in Devon. In 1847, Captain Finch was convicted of two charges of assault against women during which his accusers described him as being seen in a disguise with bullock’s hide, a skullcap, horns, and a mask. The legend was linked with the phenomenon of the “Devil’s Footprints,” which appeared in Devon in February 1855. Although sightings have been made into the 1990s, the last major reports came in the 1870s.

No one was ever identified as Spring-heeled Jack. The crimes were never prosecuted. Some believe there must be a logical explanation, while others choose the more fanciful approach. A popular rumor in the 1840s was that “Jack” was an Irish nobleman, the Marquess of Waterford. Waterford was known for his drunken brawls and his vandalism. Reportedly, the marquess was not so beloved by the fairer sex. E. Cobham Brewer, the compiler of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, as well as The Reader’s Handbook, accused Waterford of the stunts, saying the Marquess was known to amuse himself by frightening unaware travelers and others often mimicked Waterford’s efforts. In 1842, the Marquess married and settled in Curraghmore House, County Waterford, and reportedly led an exemplary life until he died in a riding accident in 1859.

“The most recent of a Spring Heeled Jack type creature comes an elementary school in West Surry. Children only see him there, but they describe him as ‘all black, with red eyes and had a funny all-in-one white suit with badges on it.’ They also said he could run as fast as a car, and would approach dark haired children and tell them ‘I want you.’

“Of course, none of this means Spring Heeled Jack is supernatural, or extra-terrestrial, or anything other than the invention of a few generations of adroit, and lucky, pranksters. Some have claimed that the phenomenon is merely an exaggeration of the activities of an old religious zealot who used to dance on rooftops (i.e., E. C. Brewer). Others have identified possible Jacks: Waterford, a law student named Henry Hawkins, and somebody well connected enough to have a descendant bar the use of his name in connection with the attacks.” (The Legend of Spring Heeled Jack)

After these incidents, Spring-heeled Jack became one of the most popular characters of the period. His alleged exploits were reported in the newspapers and became the subject of several penny dreadfuls and plays performed in the cheap theatres that abounded at the time. The devil was even renamed “Spring-heeled Jack” in some Punch and Judy shows, as recounted by Henry Mayhew in his London Labour and the London Poor:

This here is Satan,-we might say the devil, but that ain’t right, and gennelfolks don’t like such words. He is now commonly called ‘Spring-heeled Jack;’ or the ‘Rossian Bear,’ – that’s since the war.

220px-Springheel_JackBut, even as his fame was growing, reports of Spring-heeled Jack’s appearances became less frequent if more widespread. In 1843, however, a wave of sightings swept the country again. A report from Northamptonshire described him as “the very image of the Devil himself, with horns and eyes of flame”, and in East Anglia reports of attacks on drivers of mail coaches became common. In July 1847 “a Spring-heeled Jack investigation” in Teighnmouth, Devon led to a Captain Finch being convicted of two charges of assault against women during which he is said to have been “disguised in a skin coat, which had the appearance of bullock’s hide, skullcap, horns and mask”. The legend was linked with the phenomenon of the “Devil’s Footprints” which appeared in Devon in February 1855.

The last reports
In the beginning of the 1870s, Spring-heeled Jack was reported again in several places distant from each other. In November 1872, the News of the World reported that Peckham was “in a state of commotion owing to what is known as the “Peckham Ghost”, a mysterious figure, quite alarming in appearance”. The editorial pointed out that it was none other than “Spring-heeled Jack, who terrified a past generation”. Similar stories were published in The Illustrated Police News. In April and May 1873, there were numerous sightings of the “Park Ghost” in Sheffield, which locals also came to identify as Spring-heeled Jack.

This news was followed by more reported sightings, until in August 1877 one of the most notable reports about Spring-heeled Jack came from a group of soldiers in Aldershot’s barracks. This story went as follows: a sentry on duty at the North Camp peered into the darkness, his attention attracted by a peculiar figure “advancing towards him.” The soldier issued a challenge, which went unheeded, and the figure came up beside him and delivered several slaps to his face. A guard shot at him, with no visible effect; some sources claim that the soldier may have fired blanks at him, others that he missed or fired warning shots. The strange figure then disappeared into the surrounding darkness “with astonishing bounds.”

Lord Ernest Hamilton’s 1922 memoir Forty Years On mentions the Aldershot appearances of Spring-heeled Jack; however, he (apparently erroneously) says that they occurred in the winter of 1879 after his regiment, the 60th Rifles, had moved to Aldershot, and that similar appearances had occurred when the regiment was barracked at Colchester in the winter of 1878. He adds that the panic became so great at Aldershot that sentries were issued ammunition and ordered to shoot “the night terror” on sight, following which the appearances ceased. Hamilton thought that the appearances were actually pranks, carried out by one of his fellow officers, a Lieutenant Alfrey. However, there is no record of Alfrey ever being court-martialled for the offence.

In the autumn of 1877, Spring Heeled Jack was reportedly seen at Newport Arch, in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, wearing a sheep skin. An angry mob supposedly chased him and cornered him, and just as in Aldershot a while before, residents fired at him to no effect. As usual, he was said to have made use of his leaping abilities to lose the crowd and disappear once again.

By the end of the 19th century the reported sightings of Spring-heeled Jack were moving towards the north west of England. Around 1888, in Everton, north Liverpool, he allegedly appeared on the rooftop of Saint Francis Xavier’s Church in Salisbury Street. In 1904 there were reports of appearances in nearby William Henry Street.

Modern sightings
In the late 1970s, residents of Attercliffe, Sheffield began to complain about a “red-eyed prowler who grabbed women and punched men.” The man was said to bound between rooftops and walk down sides of walls.

In south Herefordshire, not far from the Welsh border, a travelling salesman named Marshall claimed to have had an encounter with a similar entity in 1986. The man leaped in enormous, inhuman bounds, passed Mr. Marshall on the road, and slapped his cheek. He wore what the salesman described as a black ski-suit, and Marshall noted that he had an elongated chin.

He was sighted again at an unspecified point after by schoolchildren in west Surrey, who claimed he was “all black, with red eyes and had a funny all in one white suit with badges on it.” They also said he could run as fast as a car, and would approach dark haired children and tell them, “I want you.”

In February 2012, Scott Martin and his family were travelling home by taxi from Stoneleigh at about 10.30pm, when they saw a “dark figure with no features” run across the road in front of them, before climbing over a 15 ft (4.6 m) roadside bank in “seconds”, near Nescot College on the Ewell bypass. The family later likened the figure to the legendary Spring-heeled Jack.

No one was ever caught and identified as Spring-heeled Jack; combined with the extraordinary abilities attributed to him and the very long period during which he was reportedly at large, this has led to all sorts of theories of his nature and identity. While several researchers seek a rational explanation for the events, other authors explore the more fantastic details of the story to propose different kinds of paranormal speculation.

Sceptical positions
Sceptical investigators have dismissed the stories of Spring-heeled Jack as mass hysteria which developed around various stories of a bogeyman or devil which have been around for centuries, or from exaggerated urban myths about a man who clambered over rooftops claiming that the Devil was chasing him.

Other researchers believe that some individual(s) may have been behind its origins, being followed by imitators later on. Spring-heeled Jack was widely considered not to be a supernatural creature but rather one or more persons with a macabre sense of humour. This idea matches the contents of the letter to the Lord Mayor, which accused a group of young aristocrats as the culprits, after an irresponsible wager. A popular rumour circulating as early as 1840 pointed to an Irish nobleman, the Marquess of Waterford, as the main suspect. Haining suggested this may have been due to him having previously had bad experiences with women and police officers.

220px-Marquess_of_Waterford The Marquess was frequently in the news in the late 1830s for drunken brawling, brutal jokes and vandalism, and was said to do anything for a bet; his irregular behaviour and his contempt for women earned him the title “the Mad Marquis”, and it is also known that he was in the London area by the time the first incidents took place. In 1880 he was named as the perpetrator by E. Cobham Brewer, who said that the Marquess “used to amuse himself by springing on travellers unawares, to frighten them, and from time to time others have followed his silly example.” In 1842, the Marquess married and settled in Curraghmore House, County Waterford, and reportedly led an exemplary life until he died in a riding accident in 1859.

Sceptical investigators have asserted that the story of Spring-heeled Jack was exaggerated and altered through mass hysteria, a process in which many sociological issues may have contributed. These include unsupported rumours, superstition, oral tradition, sensationalist publications, and a folklore rich in tales of fairies and strange roguish creatures. Gossip of alleged leaping and fire-spitting powers, his alleged extraordinary features and his reputed skill in evading apprehension captured the mind of the superstitious public — increasingly so with the passing of time, which gave the impression that Spring-heeled Jack had suffered no effects from ageing. As a result, a whole urban legend was built around the character, being reflected by contemporary publications, which in turn fuelled this popular perception.

Paranormal conjectures
A variety of wildly speculative paranormal explanations have been proposed to explain the origin of Spring-heeled Jack, including that he was an extraterrestrial entity with a non-human appearance and features (e.g., retro-reflective red eyes, or phosphorus breath) and a superhuman agility deriving from life on a high-gravity world, with his jumping ability and strange behaviour, and that he was a demon, accidentally or purposefully summoned into this world by practitioners of the occult, or who made himself manifest simply to create spiritual turmoil.

Fortean authors, particularly Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, list “Springheeled Jack” in a category named “phantom attackers”, with another well-known example being the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon”. Typical “phantom attackers” appear to be human, and may be perceived as prosaic criminals, but may display extraordinary abilities (as in Springheeled Jack’s jumps, which, it is widely noted, would break the ankles of a human who replicated them) and/or cannot be caught by authorities. Victims commonly experience the “attack” in their bedrooms, homes or other seemingly secure enclosures. They may report being pinned or paralysed, or on the other hand describe a “siege” in which they fought off a persistent intruder or intruders. Many reports can readily be explained psychologically, most notably as the “Old Hag” phenomenon, recorded in folklore and recognised by psychologists as a form of hallucination. In the most problematic cases, an “attack” is witnessed by several people and substantiated by some physical evidence, but the attacker cannot be verified to exist.

In popular culture
The vast urban legend built around Spring-heeled Jack influenced many aspects of Victorian life, especially in contemporary popular culture. For decades, especially in London, his name was equated with the bogeyman, as a means of scaring children into behaving by telling them that if they were not good, Spring-heeled Jack would leap up and peer in at them through their bedroom windows, by night.

However, it was in fictional entertainment where the legend of Spring-heeled Jack exerted the most extensive influence, owing to his allegedly extraordinary nature. Three pamphlet publications, purportedly based on the real events, appeared almost immediately, during January and February, 1838. They were not advertised as fiction, though they likely were at least partly so. The only known copies were reported to have perished when the British Library was hit during the Blitz, but their catalog still lists the first one. The titles were:

“Authentic particulars of the awful appearance of the London Monster, alias Spring–heeled Jack, together with his extraordinary life, wonderful adventures and secret amours. Also an account of his horrible appearance to Miss N— and his singular letter to the Lord Mayor of London”

“The surprising exploits of Spring-Heel Jack in the vicinity of London, etc.”

“The Apprehension and Examination of Spring-Heel’d Jack, who has appeared as a Ghost, Demon, Bear, Baboon, etc.…”
Several plays where he assumed the main role were staged as well.

The most notable fictional Spring-heeled Jacks of the 19th and early 20th centuries were:

A play by John Thomas Haines, in 1840, Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London, which shows him as a brigand who attacks women because his own sweetheart betrayed him.

An 1863 play, Spring-Heel’d Jack: or, The Felon’s Wrongs, written by Frederick Hazleton.

Spring-heel’d Jack: The Terror of London, a 40 part penny dreadful published by the Newsagents Publishing Company in 1863, then reprinted in 1867. The only known almost complete version of this penny dreadful is in the British Library, and even it is missing part 14.

Spring-heeled Jack: The Terror of London, a serial published in Charles Fox’s paper,The Boys’ Standard,1st Series, vol. 5, April, 1878. Written either by veteran author of dreadfuls George Augustus Henry Sala or by Alfred Burrage (as “Charlton Lea”). Reprinted in “The Boy’s Standard” in 1885.

Spring-Heel Jack; or, The Masked Mystery of the Tower, appearing in Beadle’s New York Dime Library #332, 4 March 1885, and written by Col. Thomas Monstery.

“Spring-Heeled Jack, The Terror of London,” A 48-part serial published in 1886, reprinted in 1889. This was published by Charles Fox, who also published “The Boy’s Standard.” but the two stories are completely different. Written by Alfred Burrage (as “Charlton Lea”) Fox also collected the parts together as a hardback book.

“The Mystery of Springheel Jack; or, the Haunted Grange,” by S. Clarke Hook, The Marvel,volume VIII, No. 189, June 1897. London: Alfred Harmsworth.

“Spring-Heeled Jack, The Terror of London,”The Boys’ Monster Weekly, 1899. A reprint of The Boy’s Standard version.

“Spring-Heeled Jack”, also known as the “Spring-Heeled Jack Library.” 1904. Twelve weekly issues with color covers, published by the Aldine Publishing Co.; Written by Alfred Burrage under the name, Charlton Lea.

Director Paul Leni’s Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (1924) presents the character as an amalgam with Jack the Ripper.

A play based on the Aldine penny dreadfuls entitled The Curse of the Wraydons, written in 1928 by surrealist Swiss author Maurice Sandoz.

Later Springheel Jack is the central, titular figure of The Wireless Theatre Company’s award-winning radio series, The Springheel Saga. The first series entitled The Strange Case Of Springheel’d Jack, starred Julian Glover, while Nicholas Parsons features in the second, called The Legend Of Springheel’d Jack. A third series has also been recorded.

More recently, Spring-heeled Jack was a major character in Mark Hodder’s Steampunk novel The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack published in 2010 as the first of three novels in the “Burton & Swinburne” series. In this book many of the seemingly bizarre appearances described above are explained in the context of time travel.

Spring-Heeled Jack is a children’s novel published in 1989 by Philip Pullman.

Spring-heeled Jack is the name of a recurring secondary antagonist that has abilities similar to the legend, in the dark fantasy book series, Skulduggery Pleasant.

He is the often mentioned nemesis of the DC Comics characters Knight and Squire, having been blamed for killing Knight’s father and setting fire to London, amongst his other crimes

Originally published in 1997, characters from the Predator: Nemesis comic book micro-series refer to the predator antagonist as “Springheeled Jack.”

Spring-heeled Jack appears in the Jackie Chan Adventures episode, “The Return of the Pussycat.” He is depicted as a short troll who always speaks in rhyme.

“Spring-Heeled Jack” is the title of a humorous song by Lemon Demon from the album View-Monster.

In the video game Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion during the Thieves Guild quest line you are asked to retrieve the boots of a dead thief named Springheel Jak from the family crypt of a man called “Jakben, Earl of Imbel” (an allusion to the poem Jack Be Nimble).

Spring-heeled Jack can be summoned in the video games Scribblenauts and Super Scribblenauts.

In series five of the TV show Primeval, a raptor enters London in 1868 via an anomaly and is mistaken for Spring-heeled Jack.

The 2012 album Horseplay by UK band Lazarus & The Plane Crash features the track “Spring Heeled Jack” telling a narrative from the perspective of the monster. It references several historical accounts of Spring-heeled Jack.

Chapters 27 and 28 of the webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court, which focus heavily on the character Jack Hyland, are titled “Spring Heeled,” in reference to the legend.

Featured as a gruesome supernatural serial-killer in the Cal Leandros novel Slashback.

In the second series of the BBC One show, Luther, Luther pursues a serial killer who emulates Spring-heeled Jack.

In the Stephen King’s anthology Night Shift, a serial killer who leaves no tracks in the snow is referred to as “Springheeled Jack”.

Wizards of the Coast released a card called Springjack Pasture for Magic The Gathering in the July 2008 set Eventide.

Spring-heeled Jack appears as a villain in the popular urban fantasy series, Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Spring-heeled Jack was used as a vigilante super hero in the style of Batman by the UK based The Hotspur comic in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Flora’s Dare, the second of the Flora Segunda series by Ysabeau S. Wilce, features Springheel Jack as a wanted criminal whose power derives from a pair of possessed cowboy boots.

In episode 15, series one (“The Benders”) of the American supernatural drama series Supernatural, the protagonists refer to an entity known as a Spring-heeled Jack.

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Origin of “Rub-a-dub-dub” Nursery Rhyme

As part of my writing of “The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin,” I completed research on “Rub-A-Dub-Dub,” an English language nursery rhyme first published at the end of the eighteenth century. The nursery rhyme plays out as part of the mystery in newest novel. The rhyme has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 3101.

This rhyme exists in many variations. Among those current today is:

Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they were?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick-maker,
They all sailed out to sea,
‘Twas enough to make a man stare.

Origins and Meaning
The earliest versions of this rhyme published differ significantly in their wording. The first recorded version in Christmas Box, published in London in 1798, has wording similar to that in Mother Goose’s Quarto or Melodies Complete, published in Boston, Massachusetts around 1825. The latter ran:

Hey! rub-a-dub, ho! rub-a-dub, three maids in a tub,
And who do you think were there?
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker,
And all of them gone to the fair.

This led Iona and Peter Opie to conclude that they were three respectable townsfolk “watching a dubious sideshow at a local fair.”

By around 1830 the reference to maids was being removed from the versions printed in nursery books. In 1842, James Orchard Halliwell collected the following version:


Rub a dub dub,
Three fools in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
Turn them out, knaves all three.

Some believe the rhyme’s origin comes from the tale of a fair with three maids reclining in a tub. The women were being watched by a mostly male audience. As such, three men decided to join them, but they were turned out by the fair’s owner.

On Reason Behind the Rhyme on NPR, Chris Roberts, author of “Heavy Words Lightly Thrown,” describes the origin of Rub-a-dub-dub as, “The original version goes: `Hey, rub-a-dub, ho, rub-a-dub, three maids in a tub. And who do you think were there? The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and all of them going to the fair.’ Now this version goes back to about the 14th century. And in a sense, it’s bang up to date at the same time. British tabloids love stories about respectable tradesfolk doing–being caught in places they shouldn’t be caught in. Today it would be perhaps a lap-dancing venue. They love celebrities being caught out. In this case, it’s a fairground attraction with naked ladies, which the–can you say pooge on American radio? The upper-class, the respectable tradesfolk–the candlestick maker and the butcher and the baker–are ogling, getting an eyeful of some naked young ladies in a tub. And that’s “Rub-a-Dub-Dub,” essentially.”

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Movie Discussion ~ 1995’s Pride and Prejudice

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Movie Discussion of Pride and Prejudice 1995

In reading Jane Austen, one can easily imagine the Austen children acting out a play created by the boisterous Jane. Her novels have all the elements of drama: a small cast, limited settings, and no special effects. In this manner, Austen writes cinematic novels – those easily adapted to the screen. We find in Austen’s works very precise stage directions (“Darcy shook his head in silent acquiescence.”) and characters who disclose their inner lives through dramatic interactions with others. Translation: Austen writes telling dialogue. I spent many years in teaching theatre and acting, as well as being a major media literacy proponent. I love dissecting scenes and actions. Therefore…

Today, we discuss Andrew Davies 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and, specifically, Colin Firth’s portrayal of Fitzwilliam Darcy. I do not wish to debate who was “the best Darcy.” What I wish to discuss is how Davie created the image of Darcy. Firth once said, “What Darcy doesn’t say” is as important as what he does say. As viewers, we observe Darcy looking disapprovingly at all the Meryton residents. He puts distance between himself and others. We watch Firth observe Jennifer Ehle’s character, and we have no doubt that as Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet’s disregard for him piques his interest. In reality, Firth has few lines in the first half of the series; yet, he “speaks” to us. He must convey Darcy’s thoughts and attitude with a raise of an eyebrow or a tightening of a jaw line.

Davies creates scenes and emotions (not expressed in the novel) to “flush out” Darcy’s character. In truth, Darcy is a MAJOR  minor character. In the novel, he meets Elizabeth at Michaelmas (the end of September) and is at Netherfield until the ball (end of November). Darcy then does not see Elizabeth until Easter at Rosings Park. They are together a fortnight before the disastrous first proposal separates them once more, leaving the suspense to build to the fateful meeting at Pemberley during the first week of August. In other words, he has been in her company three months spread over a year before his second proposal. Yet, Davie was smart enough to know that the dominant female audience would want to see Darcy fall in love with Elizabeth Bennet.

In the first half (up to the first proposal), Firth is invariably shown leaning against a mantle (usually with a mirror above) or staring out a window. Both stances are done in profile, indicating he is shutting himself off from new experiences and new people – it is his distancing technique. Even at the Meryton assembly, Firth is shot in profile when he meets the Bennet sisters for the first time. Also, at the party at Lucas Lodge, Darcy remains in profile by a mirror. (Notice that he is seen reflected in an opposite mirror. I love those types of shots for they tell the story so well!) At Netherfield, Darcy remains in profile at the window as the Bingley sisters discuss Elizabeth.
We do not see Firth in full face until the scene about an “accomplished lady.” He stares at an unseen object/person, which we viewers assume is Elizabeth. This is a pivotal point in our definition of Darcy. He is watching Elizabeth, but we are watching him watch her. Immediately following this telling scene, Davies adds an unscripted Austen scene: Darcy is in his bath. When he steps to the window to observe Elizabeth with the dog, again we watch him observe her. Did you not develop an opinion of Darcy’s growing affections for Elizabeth without Davies telling you so in words? A simple visual effect told the story.

From the bath scene onward, Darcy spends a great deal of time observing Elizabeth. This provides the viewer with characterization, but it was also a manipulative film technique to hook the obvious female audience. It was a glamorized framing of Firth as Darcy – offering him up to the feminine belief in true love. Even when Darcy returns to profile while he watches Elizabeth and Jane leave Netherfield, we know he observes her with growing interest. We automatically interpret his gaze.

From Elizabeth’s departure from Netherfield and up to the first proposal, Darcy retreats to the profile, indicating he is fighting his attraction for Elizabeth. At the Netherfield ball, we first discover Darcy in profile before he turns to look upon Elizabeth. At the Hunsford parsonage, he sits in profile when he visits with her and the Collinses, along with Col. Fitzwilliam. In the first proposal, he is back standing before a mirror; he moves in profile after the rejection and then returns to the mirror. All of this staring out windows and standing before mirrors is the filmmaker’s way of telling the viewers that Darcy’s character has never looked at his true self nor at Elizabeth as a true choice for a partner.
Davies displays Darcy’s sexual attractiveness, revealing the character as a sensitive man, as well as a physically fit one. Sensitivity is shown when he embraces a distraught Georgiana after her aborted elopement and with his distress when he discovers at Lambton Elizabeth’s grief over Lydia’s actions. Physically, this Darcy rides, hunts, fences, fishes, and swims. Although Darcy disappears from the novel for some time after the first proposal, Davies keeps the sexual tension by showing us Darcy fencing to fight his growing need for Elizabeth and then cooling his desires in the lake. Note that the fencing scene comes right before we first see Pemberley. It tell us who Darcy is, not what he owns.

When Darcy writes Elizabeth the letter of explanation (the beginning of the second half of this series), his anger and mortification is conveyed to the viewers through a man in shirt sleeves, with disheveled hair, and a grim countenance. He labors over the writing. This second half of the series creates a “new” Darcy. Even the opening shot (his leaving the parsonage) shifts the focus from Elizabeth to Darcy. Davies’ adaptation follows Austen’s book faithfully in most respects, except with Darcy. Those visual images to which we are introduced emphasize Darcy’s emotional rollercoaster. We are teased with an image of Wickham’s debauchery followed by the section of the letter where we shift scenes from Darcy’s writing to Elizabeth’s reading, creating sexual attraction.
Davies created an image of a determined Darcy, seeking Wickham and Lydia in London. Darcy is kept in our mind’s eye with images of this calculated search. Darcy buys information on the street from a penniless waif. He nearly forces his way into Mrs. Younge’s home. Later, we see Darcy standing up with Wickham at the church. Davies keeps Darcy’s character in the viewers’ minds even without Austen telling us these things. Note how Davies alternates between Elizabeth’s staring at Darcy’s portrait and Darcy’s dip in the lake. This alternation builds tension for their meeting.
When Darcy returns to Longbourn, he reverts to that stiff, proud character. Again, he is seen in profile before he stares out the window. However, it is not just Darcy who reverts. Think how Elizabeth is once again embarrassed by her mother during Bingley’s proposal, during Lady Catherine’s visit, and with their first walk out together. Returning the characters to an earlier behavior builds suspense.
At the Netherfield ball (one of 15 different dances in this adaptation), there is a sense of challenge between Darcy and Elizabeth. Firth actually said of the scene, “We see an honesty and a playfulness in Elizabeth, while there’s something slightly comical about Darcy’s trying to maintain his formal manner while holding up his end of the repartee. She’ll say something that stings him, and he has an entire eight-step circle to do before he is permitted to respond.” (pg. 102 of The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin)
So, what did you think? Did you learn something new today? Are there similar secrets you might share with the rest of us? I could go on and on, and we will discuss other facets of this adaptation later because it is one of the most successful ones.  One thing you will find about me is that I love movie trivia!!!
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