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Origins: Lucy Locket

Kitty Fisher painted by Joshua Reynolds. Oil on canvas

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it,
Not a penny was there in it,
But a ribbon ’round it.

A couple of years ago I did a great deal of research into Kitty Fisher for a <pretentiousness alert> sequence of sonnets I was writing on prostitutes in the 10th-18th century. Forgive me.

Kitty Fisher is a dazzling character. An eighteenth century courtesan, she was remarkably profligate, and (probably) the first of her profession to employ liveried servants – no mean feat. Kitty Fisher was famous for hosting debauched parties for the men she entertained, and on one occasion even served herself up for dessert. Quite a character.

Kitty Fisher’s story is a fascinating one, but she is only one half of the exchange we see here. What of the titular Lucy Locket?

Lucy Locket was employed by the Cock (now Ye Olde Cock Tavern), Fleet Street. The story goes that Lucy Locket took a lover who compensated her for her time financially, thus becoming her ‘pocket’. Miss Locket quickly ran through her lover’s available funds and cast him aside. As a consequence he turned to Kitty Fisher for comfort. Fisher’s reasons for taking Locket’s spurned lover, since he was unable to compensate her financially, remain unknown – perhaps it was a love match. Regardless, Fisher taunted Locket for her meanness. The jibe that the pocket had been found ‘with a ribbon round it’ refers to the practice among prostitutes keeping a stash of money beneath their skirts, secured around the thigh with a ribbon.

Lucy Locket remembers this catty exchange. It is perhaps fortunate that the children that repeat it today know nothing of its origins.

2 responses »

  1. Cool! I had read about Kitty Fisher (and maybe about the whole of this story) but had forgotten it.

    Reply
  2. Oh my god! that’s awesome my little brother came home today saying that his teacher sang that to his class so i looked it up and…..XD just made my day.

    Reply

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