Darby And Joan

Meanings of “Darby And Joan”

The phrase “Darby and Joan” means an elderly couple having lived with each other for a long, and has become an archetype for old age.

Origin of “Darby And Joan”

The phrase had a common use in the UK to denote an old couple living in their retirement years. The phrase “Darby and Joan” is stated to have been coined by Henry Woodfall in the memory of his employer, John Darby, and his wife, Joan Darby, to whom he modeled as a good couple. It is stated that he authored a song, “The Joys of Lover,” which was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine back in 1735. The song goes thus:

“Old Darby, with Joan by his side,
You’ve often regarded with wonder:
He’s dropsical, she is sore-eyed,
Yet they’re never happy asunder.”

The reason for its popularity in the 20th century, however, lies in the song of Hammerstein and Kern, “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” released in 1937. The song has presented both Darby and Joan as “Jack and Jill” to create a rhythmic pattern with its line “The folks who live on the hill.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Darby And Joan by Bernard Shaw

There they sit, day by day,
They do not talk, there is nothing to say.
Darby and Joan the eighties for bye.
Enjoying the Sun and the light blue sky.
They smile to each other a tender smile.
Theirs has been truly a life worthwhile.
Children give them a great delight.
They feed the birds, a wonderful sight.
Then one day they are no more there.
Gone forever in God’s good care.
Memories dim others take there place.
Things seem to quicken at a much faster pace.
Soon I will sit with my lovely wife.
Darby and Joan as large as life.
We too will be slow and not have much to say.
But our love will live on, until one day.
Some-one will notice that we have gone away.
Away to a place where love will reign.
And we will be young and living again.

Creating the story of the romantic lifestyle of the couple, Darby and Joan, the author celebrates such a couple, saying that only their life is truly “worthwhile.” He then compares his life with theirs to say that like that couple, the future generation will be delighted at their example. Then he relishes the memory that in the future he and his wife would emulate the old couple, and somebody else would recall them to follow. The phrase has been used twice in the poem as a metaphorical representation as well as an allusion.

Example #2

 Darby and Joan by The Babe Rainbow

One, two, three, four
Sure is a cup will fill you up
But a drop is all you got
Music when others refuse it
Just teach your eggs and shut up

Call the lifeboat doctor
We ride rocket radio boom
I think she’s trying to love him
Darby and Joan

Joan she didn,t care
In the greenest envy Darby beware
We don’t take kindly to love advice
When we are falling so lovely through the air.

The speaker states that when all others are enjoying the music, the critic should keep teaching his siblings and stop paying attention to the music. The second stanza, then, mentions the phrase in the last line to show that it is possible to be Darby and Joan in this modern age, though, now Joan does not care about John who is also beware of envy. Yet, the modern couple first gets counseling and then start loving. The phrase shows the use of the allusion, and also of the extended metaphor.

Example #3

 The Heart on the Railings by John Henderson

Earnest, Florence and Babs rented 20 Taviton Street – some 300 yards from the back door of UCL – and moved there in March 1920. The family may not have been well-off, but they kept a cook. Florence makes it sound a cozy family ménage, describing herself and Ernest as “Darby and Joan” with music around the piano in the evening.

These lines talk about Earnest Starling, a great research physician in his times. He believes that they lived on Taviton Street where he and his family lived a traditional married life. Florence, his wife, used to call it a simple and loving lifestyle equating it with the same Darby and Joan life, using that phrase. Therefore, it shows the good use of the phrase as an allusion.

Example #4

The Man Who Did The Right Thing: A Romance by Sir Harry Johnston

I daresay you have heard or read where and how. It was one of the closing scandals of the Second Empire. But then the goody-goody son married after she succeeded – married a sister of Lord Towcester. She was killed in the hunting field and her rather limp husband died of grief afterwards, or of consumption, and Francis came into the title rather unexpectedly five years ago. Then he was embarrassed by his Darby and Joan attachment to Mrs. Bolsover. – However, then she died – and so – at least he felt free to marry…

This passage sheds light on the life of Lord Francis who married the sister of Lord Towcester. However, Lord Francis was also attached to Mrs. Bolsover like Darby and Joan, as the phrase has been used as an adjective of the ‘attachment.”

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Mary’s and Bernard’s life reminded me of Darby and Joan, always in love, always together. It was beautiful.”

Example #2: “You can consider us a Darby and Joan couple. We are in our retirement years and want to live the rest of our lives together, happily.”

Example #3: “Although Nathan and Janet consider themselves Darby and Joan, yet they often fought with each other.”

Example #4: “My grandma and grandpa always reminded me of Darby and Joan. I hoped I would have that kind of love one day.”

Example #5: “Mr.Smith was very ill and it concerned me how would the couple manage. But Mrs. Smith rose to the occasion and did everything possible to make him alright. They both reminded me of Darby and Joan.”