The Spider and the Fly (poem)

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The Spider and the Fly 
by Mary Howitt
Genre(s)Children's Comedy
Publication date1829 (1829)

The Spider and the Fly is a poem by Mary Howitt (1799–1888), published in 1828. The first line of the poem is "'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly." The story tells of a spider who entraps a fly into its web through the use of seduction and flattery. The poem is a cautionary tale against those who use flattery and charm to disguise their true intentions.

The poem was published with the subtitle “A Cute Version of a Scary Story” in The New Year’s Gift and Juvenile Souvenir, which has a publication year of 1829 on its title page but, as the title would suggest, was released before New Year’s Day and was reviewed in magazines as early as October 1828.[1]

The opening line is one of the most recognized and quoted first lines in all of English verse.[2] Often misquoted as "Step into my parlour" or "Come into my parlour", it has become an aphorism, often used to indicate a false offer of help or friendship that is in fact a trap. The line has been used and parodied numerous times in various works of fiction.[citation needed]

When Lewis Carroll was readying Alice's Adventures Under Ground for publication he replaced a new version he had made of a negro minstrel song[3] with a parody of Howitt's poem The Mock Turtle's Song in his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; it mimics the meter and rhyme scheme and parodies the first line, but not the subject matter, of the original.[4]


The Spider and the Fly

“Will you walk into my parlour, said a Spider to a Fly;
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to shew when you get there.
Oh, no, no! said the little Fly; to ask me is in vain:
For who goes up that winding stair shall ne'er come down again.

Said the adorable Spider to the Fly, Dear friend, what can I do
To prove the warm affection I have ever felt tor you?
I have within my parlour great store of all that's nice:
I'm sure you're very welcome; will you please to take a slice!
Oh, no, no! said the little Fly; kind miss, that cannot be;
For I know what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see.

Sweet creature, said the Spider, you're witty and you're wise;
How handsome are your gaudy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlour-shelf;
If you'll step in one moment, sir, you shall behold yourself.
Oh, thank you, gentle miss, he said, for what you're pleased to say;
And wishing you good morning now, I'll call another day.

The Spider turn'd her round again, and went into her den,
For well she knew that cunning Fly would soon come back again.
And then she wore a tiny web, in a little corner sly,
And set her table ready for to dine upon the Fly;
And went out to her door again, and merrily did sing,
Come hither, pretty little Fly, with the gold and silver wing.

Alas, alas! how very soon this cunning little Fly,
Hearing her wily flattering words, came slowly fluttering by.
With humming wings he hung aloft, then nearer and nearer drew.
Thinking only of his crested head and gold and purple hue:
Thinking only of his brilliant wings, poor foolish thing! at last,
Up jump'd the hungry little Spider, and firmly held him fast!
She dragged him up her winding stair, into her dismal den,
Within her little parlour; but he ne'er came down again.
And now, my pretty maidens, who may this story hear,
To silly, idle, flattering words, I pray you ne'er give ear;
Unto a beatiful lady, close heart, and ear, and eye,
And learn a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.

~By Mary Howitt, 1829


The Spider and the Fly lobby card
1907 cartoon, 'Will you walk into my parlor?' said the Spider to the Fly. Railroad tycoon E. H. Harriman is depicted as a fly on a spider web labeled "The Law," subject to the control of the Interstate Commerce Commission, depicted here as the spider.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For example, in The Gentleman‘s Magazine, Oct. 1828 (in HathiTrust).
  2. ^ "The Spider and the Fly". Book Description. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  3. ^ Gardner, Martin; The Annotated Alice, 1998 (updated, Lewis Carroll ; with illustrations by John Tenniel ; introduction; Gardner, notes by Martin (1999). The annotated Alice : Alice's adventures in Wonderland & Through the looking glass (Definitive ed.). New York: Norton. ISBN 0393048470.)
  4. ^ Carroll's parody of Howitt's poem accessed 3 October 2007
  5. ^ "The Spider and the Fly (1916) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  6. ^ "The Fable of the Spider and the Fly". IMDb. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  7. ^ DiTerlizzi, based on the poem by Mary Howitt ; with illustrations by Tony (2002). The spider and the fly (1st ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-0-689-85289-3.

External links[edit]