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John Melton (c. 1593—1640) author and politician


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The belief that a cricket singing in the house means something is well attested from the early 17th century onwards, but there is no consensus whether it is good or bad. John Melton (1620: 46) was quite clear: ‘It is a signe of death to some in that house, where Crickets have been many yeeres, if on a sudden they foresake the Chimney Corner’, whereas only 30 years later, Nathaniel Homes (Daemonologie (1650), 59) maintains that death is foreshadowed ‘of a cricket crying in an house, where was wont to be none’. Charles Dickens titled one of his stories The Cricket on the Hearth (1846) in which there is no equivocation, ‘To have a cricket on the hearth is the luckiest thing in all the world!’ Charlotte Burne (1883: 238) sums it up in her work on Shropshire lore: ‘The cricket on the hearth appears somewhat in the light of a domestic familiar, or household bogy, sometimes regarded as a “lucky” inmate and sometimes as quite the reverse.’

Opie and Tatem, 1989: 104–5.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.

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