Thursday, 30 January 2014

Anne Jefferies and the Fairies

ANNE JEFFERIES was the daughter of a poor labouring man, who lived in the parish of St Teath. She was born in 1626, and is supposed to have died in 1698.
When she was nineteen years old, Anne, who was a remarkably sharp and clever girl, went to live as a servant in the family of Mr Moses Pitt. Anne was an unusually bold girl, and would do things which even boys feared to attempt. Of course, in those days every one believed in fairies, and everybody feared those little airy beings. They were constantly the talk of the people, and this set Anne longing anxiously to have an interview with some of them. So Anne was often abroad after sundown, turning up the fern leaves, and looking into the bells of the foxglove to find a fairy, singing all the time--
"Fairy fair and fairy bright;
Come and be my chosen sprite."
She never allowed a moonlight night to pass without going down into the valley, and walking against the stream, singing--
"Moon shines bright, waters run clear,
I am here, but where's my fairy dear?"
The fairies were a long time trying this poor girl; for, as they told her afterwards, they never lost sight of her; but there they would be, looking on when she was seeking them, and they would run from frond to frond of the ferns, when she was turning them up its her anxious search.
One day Anne, having finished her morning's work, was sitting in the arbour in her master's garden, when she fancied she heard some one moving aside the branches, as though endeavouring to look in upon her; and she thought it must be her sweetheart, so she resolved to take no notice. Anne went on steadily with her work, no sound was heard but the regular beat of the knitting-needles one upon the other. Presently she heard a suppressed laugh, and then again a rustle amidst the branches. The back of the arbour was towards the lane, and to enter the garden it was necessary to walk down the lane to the gate, which was, however, not many yards off.
Click, click went the needles, click, click, click. At last Anne began to feel vexed that the intruder did not show himself, and she pettishly said, half aloud --
"You may stay there till the kueney grows on the gate, ere I 'll come to 'ee."
There was immediately a peculiar ringing and very music laugh. Anne knew this was not her lover's laugh, and she felt afraid. But it was bright day, and she assured herself that no one would do her any mischief, as she knew herself to be a general favourite in the parish. Presently Anne felt assured that the garden gate had been carefully opened and again closed, so she wait anxiously the result. In a few moments she perceived at the entrance of the arbour six little men, all clothed very handsome in green. They were beautiful little figures, and had very charming faces, and such bright eyes. The grandest of these little visitors, who wore a red feather in his cap, advanced in front the others, and, making a most polite bow to Anne, addressed her familiarly in the kindest words.
This gentleman looked so sweetly on Anne that she was charmed beyond measure, and she put down her hand as if shake hands with her little friend, when he jumped into her palm and she lifted him into her lap. He then, without any more ad clambered upon her bosom and neck, and began kissing her. Anne never felt so charmed in her life as while this one little gentleman was playing with her; but presently he called his companion and they all clambered up by her dress as best they could, and kissed her neck, her lips, and her eyes. One of them ran his fingers over her eyes, and she felt as if they had been pricked with a pin. Suddenly Anne became blind, and she felt herself whirled through the air at a great rate. By and by, one of her little companions said something which sounded like "Tear away," and lo! Anne had her sight at once restored. She was in one of the most beautiful places -- temples and palaces of gold and silver. Trees laden with fruits and flowers. Lakes full of gold and silver fish and the air full of birds of the sweetest song, and the more brilliant colours. Hundreds of ladies and gentlemen were walking about. Hundreds more were idling in the most luxurious bowers, the fragrance of the flowers oppressing them with sense of delicious repose. Hundreds were also dancing, engaged in sports of various kinds. Anne was, however, surprised to find that these happy people were no longer the small people she had previously seen. There was now no more than the difference usually seen in a crowd, between their height and her own. Anne found herself arrayed in the most highly-decorated clothes. So grand, indeed, did she appear, that she doubted her identity. Anne was constantly attended by her six friends; but the finest gentleman, who was the first to address her, continued her favourite, at which the others appeared to be very jealous. Eventually Anne and her favourite contrived to separate themselves, and they retired into some most lovely gardens, where they were hidden by the luxuriance of the flowers. Lovingly did they pass the time, and Anne desired that this should continue for ever. However, when they were at the happiest, there was heard a great noise, and presently the five other fairies at the head of a great crowd came after them in a violent rage. Her lover drew his sword to defend her, but this was soon beaten down, and he lay wounded at her feet. Then the fairy who had blinded her again placed his hands upon her eyes, and all was dark. She heard strange noises, and felt herself whirled about and about, and as if a thousand flies were buzzing around her.
At length her eyes were opened, and Anne found herself on the ground in the arbour where she had been sitting in the morning, and many anxious faces were around her, all conceiving that she was recovering from a convulsion fit.
From 'Popular Romances of the West of England' by Robert Hunt. 


More than two hundred years ago there lived in the parish of St. Teath,
a poor labouring man called Jefferies, and this man had one daughter,
called Anne.  Anne was a sweetly pretty girl, and a very intelligent one,
too; but she was a terrible hoyden.  She shocked all the old ladies in the
village, and all the prim people, dreadfully, and instead of being
ashamed, she seemed to glory in it.

Everyone wondered how she came to have such a spirit, and whom she took
after, for her mother was as quiet and meek a little woman as ever was
born, and always had been; while her father was a stern, silent man, who
looked upon his flighty daughter as a thorn in his side, a cross laid upon
him for his good.  But the fact remains that Anne was the most daring of
all the young people in the parish, doing things that even the boys were
afraid to do, for she had no fear, nothing awed her, and there was nothing
she would not attempt.

In those days the fairies and piskies, witches and goblins of all sorts
were all over the land, and everyone knew it, and was more or less in awe
of them.  The young people appealed to the fairies for everything, to be
helped in their work, to get love-draughts, to be made beautiful, and to
know their fortunes.  At the same time they all, except Anne, would have
been scared to death if they had caught sight of one.  Anne, indeed, often
boldly declared that she longed to see them, and would love to have a talk
with them; and she made up her mind that she would, too, and when once
Anne had got an idea into her head, she generally managed to carry it out.

So, without saying anything to anyone, she went out every evening as soon
as the sun was gone down, and wandered about looking into the fox-glove
bells, and under the ferns, examining the Fairy Rings and every other
likely spot, singing:--

     Fairy fair and fairy bright,
     Come and be my chosen sprite!

For though she had got a very good and true sweetheart, named Tom, she had
a great fancy for a fairy one.  Perhaps she was thinking of the lovely
presents that people said the fairies gave, or perhaps she thought that
she would like to live in a palace, and be dressed in silks and velvet,
none of which things could poor Tom give her, of course.

On moonlight nights Anne crept away by herself to the banks of the stream
which ran through the valley, and here, walking against the current, she
would sing:--

     Moon shines bright, water runs clear,
     I am here, but where's my fairy dear?

She sang it wistfully enough to touch the heart of any fairy, but though
she went on for a long time repeating all the charms she knew, and trying,
by every means she could think of, to please the Little People, and though
she often nearly put her hand on one during her searches, the Little
People never showed themselves to her.

They noticed her, though, and were only biding their time.

One beautiful warm summer's day, Anne, having finished her housework
early, took her knitting and went and sat in an arbour at the foot of the
garden, for she never could bear to be cooped up indoors if she could
possibly get out.  She had not been sitting there very long when she heard
a rustling amongst the bushes, but she took no notice of it, for she felt
it was sure to be her lover, coming to have a talk with her; and now that
she was so possessed with the thought of a fairy lover, she had ceased to
care for poor Tom, and was extremely cool and off-hand with him.

So, at the sound of the rustling, even when it was repeated, she did not
even raise her eyes from her knitting, or turn her head.

Presently, though, the bushes were rustled more violently, and then
someone gave a little laugh.  Anne moved this time, for the laugh was
certainly not Tom's laugh.

A lane ran along at the back of the arbour, a lane which one had to pass
down to get to the garden gate, and it was from here that the laugh came.
Anne peeped carefully out through the trellis-work and bushes to try to
see who it was who was laughing at her, but not a sign of any living being
could she see.  She felt annoyed, for it is extremely unpleasant to feel
that someone is looking at you through a peep-hole, and making game of

Anne grew so vexed she could not keep her vexation to herself.
"Well," she said aloud, feeling sure it was Tom who was trying to tease
her, "you may stay there till the moss grows over you, before ever I'll
come out to you."

A burst of laughter, peculiarly sweet and ringing, greeted her words.
"Oh," she thought to herself, "whoever can it be?  I'm certain sure Tom
could never laugh like that.  Who can it be, I wonder?"

She felt really nervous now, for there was something unnatural about it
all, but she tried to reassure herself by thinking that nothing could
happen to her in broad daylight such as it was then.  Besides which, she
did not know of anyone who wished to harm her, for she was a favourite
with everyone in the village.  She waited anxiously, though, to see what
would happen next.

She went on with her knitting, seemingly paying no heed to anything, but
her ears were strained to catch the least sound, and when, after a little
while, the garden gate was softly opened and closed again, she heard it
distinctly, and glancing up to see who was coming, she saw to her
astonishment, not Tom, or anyone else she knew, but six little pisky
gentlemen, handsome little creatures, with pleasant smiles and brilliantly
shining eyes.

To her astonishment they did not seem at all disturbed at seeing her, but
came up and ranged themselves in a row before her and bowed to the ground.
They were all dressed alike in green knickerbockers and tunics, edged with
scarlet, and tiny green caps, and one, the handsomest of the lot, had a
beautiful red waving feather at one side of his.  They stood and looked at
Anne and smiled, and Anne, not at all frightened now, but pleased, smiled
back at them.  Then he with the red feather stepped in front of the
others, and bowing to her in the most courtly manner, addressed her with a
charming friendliness which set her at ease at once.

Whether this strange little gentleman was really attracted by her charms,
or whether he acted in the same way to every pretty girl he met, one
cannot say, but he certainly looked at Anne very affectionately and
admiringly, and poor Anne's heart was captured at once.  She was certain
there never had been such a charming little gentleman before, nor ever
could be again, nor one with such good taste.

Stooping down she held out her hand, whereupon the little gentleman
stepped into it, and Anne lifted him to her lap.  From her lap he soon
climbed to her shoulder, and then he kissed her, and not only kissed her
once, but many times, and Anne thought him more charming than ever.
Presently he called his companions, and they climbed up and kissed Anne,
too, and patted her rosy cheeks, and smoothed her hair.  But while one of
them was patting her cheek, he ran his finger across her eyes, and Anne
gave a terrible scream, for with his touch she felt as though a needle had
been run through her eyeballs, and when she tried to open them again she
found she was blind.

At the same moment she felt herself caught up in the air, and for what
seemed to her a very long time she was carried through it at a tremendous
rate.  At last they came to a stop, whereupon one of the Little Men said
something which Anne could not understand, and, behold, her eyesight at
once came back!

And now, indeed, she had something to use it on, for she found herself in
what seemed to be a perfectly gorgeous palace, or rather two or three
palaces joined together, all built of gold and silver, with arches and
pillars of crystal, large halls with walls of burnished copper, and
beautiful rooms inlaid with precious marbles.  Outside was a perfect
paradise of a garden, filled with lovely flowers, and trees laden with
fruit or blossom.  Birds were singing everywhere, such rare birds, too!
Some were all blue and gold, others a bright scarlet, then again others
shone like silver or steel.  There were large lakes full of gold and
silver fish, and marble fountains throwing jets of water high into the
air.  Here and there were dainty bowers covered with roses, and filled
within with soft moss carpets and luxurious couches.  Walking about
everywhere in this lovely place were scores of little ladies and
gentlemen, dressed in rich silks and velvets, and with precious stones
sparkling and flashing from their fingers, their hair, their shoes, indeed
they seemed to sparkle all over, like flowers covered with dewdrops.
Some strolled along the walks, others reclined in the bowers, some floated
in little scarlet or ivory boats on the lakes, others sat under the
blossoming trees.  There seemed, indeed, no end to them, and to Anne's
great astonishment, neither they nor her six companions seemed small now,
also, to her great delight, she was dressed as beautifully as any of them,
and wore as beautiful jewels.  Though she did not know it, she had shrunk
to their size, and a very lovely little fairy she made.

Her gown was of white silk, with a long train bordered all round with
trails of green ivy, and over her shoulders she wore a long green silk
cloak with a little scarlet hood.  Her hair looked as though it had been
dressed by a Court hairdresser, and amidst the puffs and curls sparkled
emeralds and diamonds, like trembling stars.  Her little green slippers
had silver heels, and diamond buckles on the toes, round her waist hung a
diamond girdle, on her neck, too, and fingers gems sparkled and flashed
with every movement.

Oh, how proud and delighted Anne did feel, and how eagerly she hoped that
she might always live like this!  Instead of having one cavalier as most
of the ladies had, she had six, but the one with the red feather was her
favourite, and hour by hour he and Anne grew more deeply in love with one

Unfortunately, though, the other five began to grow very jealous, and they
kept such a watch on Anne and her friend, that the poor lovers had no
chance to get away and talk by themselves, or exchange even a look, or a
kiss, or a handclasp.

However, when people are determined they usually succeed in the end,
and one day Anne and her handsome lover managed to slip away unobserved.
Hand in hand they ran to a garden which lay at some little distance from
the others, one that was seldom used, too, and where the flowers grew so
tall and in such profusion that they soon were completely hidden amongst

Here they made their home, and here they lived for a time as happily as
any two people could who loved each other more than all the world beside.

Alas, though, their happiness was too great to last!  They had not been in
their beautiful retreat very long, when one day they heard a great noise
and disturbance, and to Anne's dismay the five little men followed by a
crowd of fairies, equally angered, burst in on them.  They had traced the
lovers to the garden, and even to the lily-bell in which they had made
their home.  With drawn swords and faces full of anger, they surrounded
the lily and commanded the lovers to come down.  Nearly mad with jealousy
as they were, they heaped the most cruel and insulting speeches on the
poor little pair.

Furious with indignation Anne's lover sprang down, sword in hand, and
faced his attackers, but what could one do against such odds?  His sword
was knocked out of his hand, he himself was overpowered by the numbers who
hurled themselves on him.  For a while he fought desperately, his back to
the wall, his courage unfailing, but the blows fell on him so fast and
furious, that in a few minutes he lay bleeding and lifeless at poor Anne's

What happened next Anne never knew.  She remembered looking down on her
dead lover through eyes almost blind with tears, she remembered seeing his
blood staining her dainty green slippers, and splashing her gown, then
someone passed a hand over her eyes, and she could see nothing.  She was
as blind as she had been once before.

All about her she heard strange noises, like the whirring and buzzing of
numberless insects; she felt herself being carried through the air at a
terrific rate, until her breath was quite taken away,--then she was placed
on a seat, and in a moment her sight came back to her.

She was back in the arbour where she had first seen the fairies, but,
instead of six little men, she now saw about six-and-twenty big men and
women all staring at her with frightened eyes and open mouths.

"She's very bad," they were whispering, "poor maid, she do look ill!
'Tis a fit she's had, and no mistake!"  Then seeing her open her eyes and
look about her, they crowded nearer.  "Why, Anne, child, you've been in a
fit, haven't 'ee?"

Anne lifted her arm and looked at it and her hand; there was not a
single jewel on either.  She glanced down over her gown,--it was of
linsey-woolsey, not silk or velvet.  She closed her eyes again that they
might not see the tears that sprang to them.

"I don't know if I've been in a fit," she said wearily, but to herself she 
added sadly, "I know, though, that I've been in love."
 from  Cornwall's Wonderland, by Mabel Quiller-Couch
"AN account of Anne Jefferies, now living in the county of Cornwall, who was fed for six months by a small sort of airy people, called fairies; and of the strange and wonderful cures she performed with salves and medicines she received from them, for which she never took one penny of her patients.
- In a letter from Moses Pitt to the Right Reverend Father in God, Dr. Edward Fowler, Lord Bishop of Gloucester."
Anne Jefferies, who was afterwards married to one William Warren, was born in the parish of St Teath in December 1626, "and she is still living, 1696, being now in the 70th year of her age." From the published narrative, we learn that Mr Humphrey Martin was requested by Mr Moses Pitt to see and examine Anne in 1693. Mr Martin writes, "As for Anne Jefferies, I have been with her the greater part of one day, and did react to her all that you wrote to me; but site would not own anything of it, as concerning the fairies, neither of any of the cures that she did. She answered, that if her own father were now alive, she would not discover to him those things which did happen then to her. I asked her the reason why she would not do it; she replied, that if she should discover it to you, that you would make books or ballads of it; and she said, that she would not have her name spread about the country in books or ballads of such things, if she might have five hundred pounds for it."
Mr Pitt's correspondent goes on to say that Anne was so frightened by the visitors she had in the arbour "that she fell into a kind of convulsion fit. But when we found her in this condition we brought her into the house and put her to bed, and took great care of her. As soon as she recovered out of her fit, she cried out, 'They are just gone out of the window--they are just gone out of the window. Do you not see them?'" Anne recovered, and "as soon as she recovered a little strength, she constantly went to church." "She took mighty delight in devotion, and in hearing the Word of God read and preached, although she herself could not read."
Anne eventually tells some portions of her story, and cures numerous diseases amongst the people, by the powers site had derived from the fairy world. "People of all distempers, sicknesses, sores, and ages, came not only so far off as the Land's End, but also from London, and were cured by her. Site took no moneys of them, nor any reward that ever I knew or heard of, yet had she moneys at all times sufficient to supply her wants. She neither made nor bought any medicines or salves that ever I saw or heard of, yet wanted them not as she had occasion. She forsook eating our victuals, and was fed by these fairies from that harvest time to the next Christmas day; upon which day she came to our table and said, because it was that day, she would eat some roast beef with us, the which she did--I myself being then at the table."
The fairies constantly attended upon Anne, and they appear to have vied with each other to win her favour. They feel her, as we have been already told ; and the writer says that on one occasion site "gave me a piece of her bread, which I did eat, and I think it was the most delicious bread that ever I did eat, either before or since." Anne could render herself invisible at will. The fairies would come and dance with her in the orchard. She had a silver cup, given at her wish by the fairies to Mary Martyn, when she was about four years of age.
At last, "one John Tregeagle, Esq., who was steward to John Earl of Radnor, being a justice of peace in Cornwall, sent his warrant for Anne, and sent her to Bodmin jail, and there kept her a long time." The fairies had previously given her notice that she would be apprehended.
"She asked them if she should hide herself. They answered no; she should fear nothing, but go with the constable. So she went with the constable to the justice, and he sent her to Bodmin jail, and ordered the prison keeper that she should be kept without victuals, and she was so kept, and yet she lived, and that without complaining. But poor Anne lay in jail for a considerable time after; and also Justice Tregeagle, who was her great prosecutor, kept her in his house some time as a prisoner, and that without victuals."
We have a curious example of the fairies quoting Scripture. I am not aware of another instance of this. Anne, when seated with the family was called three times. "Of all these three calls of the fairies, none heard them but Anne. After she had been in her chamber some time, she came to us again, with a Bible in her hand, and tells us that when she came to the fairies, they said to her, 'What ! has there been some magistrates and ministers' with you, and dissuaded you from coming any more to us, saying, we are evil spirits, and that it was all a delusion of the devil? Pray, desire them to read that place of Scripture, in the First Epistle of St. John, chap. iv. ver. I, "Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God;" and this place of Scripture was turned down so in the said Bible. I told your lordship before, Anne could not read."
Anne was at length liberated from confinement. She lived in service near Padstow, and in process of time married William Warren.
How honestly and simply does Moses conclude his story!
"And now, my lord, if your lordship expects that I should give you an account when, and upon what occasion, these fairies forsook our Anne, I must tell your lordship I am ignorant of that. She herself can best tell, if she would be prevailed upon to do so; and the history of it, and the rest of the passages of her life, would be very acceptable and useful to the most curious and inquisitive part of mankind." [a]
[a] "An Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall." C. S. Gilbert 1817.
from Popular Romances of the West of England by Robert Hunt

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