At its origins “Jack Sprat” was known as a proverb, and the term used to refers at short people in the 16th century.
It was first mentioned by John Clarke in English proverbs collection from 1639,
“Jack will eat not fat, and Jull doth love no leane,
Yet betwixt them both they lick the dishes cleane”.
Later on, around 1765, it was collected in a nursery songs book, the “Mother Goose’s Melody “
Historically, there are many theories about the character of Jack Sprat, but there are no many evidences to support those suppositions. So Jack Sprat could refer to King Charles I, this story being about a conflict between the King and the Parliament of the time. It is said the King intended a war against Spain and the Parliament didn’t support its costs. In this condition, he dissolved the Parliament, and his wife Queen Henrietta Maria, illegally laid on a “war tax” from citizens.
The Jack Sprat could also be related with the Robin Hood Legend, and the story of King John and his brother Richard I, both characters portrayed in the famous legend.
Another theory relates the Jack Sprat’s character with Prince John and the story of his marriage with Joan, which ended up canceled. Attempting at England’s crown, John was involved in a plan, together with Duke Leopold, of taking King Richard captive and asking in change a 150,000 marks ransom. He had to raise the price, and then to pay the rescue, so he was left hard up. The marriage with his ambitious wife was cancelled, and after the King’s death John was crowned.
“Jack Sprat” Lyrics
Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean
Jack ate all the lean,
Joan ate all the fat.
The bone they picked it clean,
Then gave it to the cat