The American Joan of Arc Goes Insane

Author Adrienne Morris

Firebrand Young Lady Firebrand Young Lady

Do you ever sometimes wish 19th century asylums still existed for those troublesome relatives who make family gatherings so trying?

My great grandmother was sent to an asylumbecause she had lucrative properties in Jersey City, NJ. Her evil daughter (my grandmother’s sister) wanted the brownstones and vacant squares as an early inheritance so she had her mother put away. My great grandfather tried to have her released, but somehow couldn’t, so after his wife committed suicide in the asylum, he did the same.

My grandmother was offered a piece of the inheritance but preferred to live poor as a church mouse with her husband and 9 children a few towns away in a haunted house.

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (The Joan of Arc of the Union) came from Philadelphia Quaker stock. Her father died when she was two and the family could have used a few Jersey…

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Careful with that axe Eugenia

Actonbooks

I recommend this blog from Strange Company about… well, as (s)he says:

“For me, one of the innumerable joys of the “Illustrated Police News” is that while they did report on a lot of women who were victims of the domestic abuse, robberies, natural disasters and ‘orrible murders that were a staple of this august publication, they balanced this by depicting a remarkable number of kick-ass females who fought their own battles, took no prisoners, and generally raised hell.”

There are copious pics such as this onewimmin

The link is here:-

http://strangeco.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/newspaper-clippings-of-day.html?spref=tw

I should know how to link this properly rather than this spit and gaffer tape  version, but go there anyway.

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Mind that ice!

Notes from 19th Century Birmingham

'Elements of Skateing. Making the most of a passing friend, in a case of emergency!', 1805. Artist: James Gillray

The following salient warning comes from Birmingham Daily Gazette, January 30th, 1865

Street Accidents – If our readers had an opportunity of inspecting the books at the hospitals, it would teach them caution in walking through the streets during the continuance of the present frosty weather. On the out-patient books there are long lists of what are comparatively minor casualties, but which every one would be anxious to avoid. Broken arms are numerous, and there are some more serious cases too. On Saturday, a man named Hemming, a brassfounder of Cottage Lane, was admitted to the General Hospital with a compound fracture of the leg. A child of eight years of age named Chace, living in Rickard Street was admitted with a fractured leg.  An old woman of 65 years of age named Jane Hyde of Old Cross Street was admitted with an external fracture of the “external malleolus”. At…

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“The acutest, the astutest, the archest enemy of southern slavery that ever existed”

Author Adrienne Morris

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John Quincy Adams. Shall we bow our heads for an early nap before discussing a white dead president? It’s kind of superficial to judge a person because they’re white and dead, don’t you think?John Quincy was pretty cute (okay that’s superficial) as a young guy, but he was much more than that.

You know how we always love to trash kids who have famous parents?We say they got where they got because their father knew, say, George Washington, but a meeting with a president doesn’t always assure you a brilliant career. John Quincy started his brilliant career at the age of 14. Yes, fourteen. He accompanied Francis Dana as a secretary on a mission to Saint Petersburg. (WIKI)

Do you know any fourteen-year-olds? How many impress foreign diplomats and presidents? Well, maybe Justin Beiber did in his prime, but if you check out John Quincy’s love poems to…

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On this day: Queen Victoria died in 1901

In Times Gone By...

Death of Queen Victoria 22nd January 1901

On the 22nd of January, 1901, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland died at the age of eighty-one.

A woman who inherited the throne at eighteen, she reigned for sixty-three years and seven months and was Britain’s longest-serving monarch, as well as the world’s longest-serving female monarch.

Queen Victoria receiving the news of her accession to the throne, 20 June 1837.

Queen Victoria receiving the news of her accession to the throne, 20 June 1837.

She was buried in a white dress and her wedding veil, as she had left instructions for her funeral to be white. Her death marked the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the Edwardian Era.

799px-Queen_Victoria_Prince_Albert_and_their_nine_children

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Twelfth Night: confectionery and customs

Notes from 19th Century Birmingham

Twelfth001 Mary Clitheroe’s Twelfth Night party by “Phiz”

In recent times Twelfth Night has become the traditional time for taking down the Christmas tree, although there is now some dispute over whether the occasion should fall on the 5th or the 6th of January. A celebration dating back to the Middle Ages, during the nineteenth century it was one of the most popular of the Christmas holiday celebrations.

A detailed explanation of the origins and customs of the occasion was presented in a two column article in Birmingham’s Daily Post, January 6th, 1871, opening with a vivid description of an expected street scene:

This evening, if it happens to be tolerably fine, there will be a crowd at every confectioner’s window, admiring those indigestible dainties – the Twelfth Cakes; resplendent in all the colours of the rainbow, adorned with a multiplicity of grotesque ornaments and figures reposing amidst flowers, fruits and…

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Joseph Grimaldi, Clown 1778–1837

A story is told that in 1806 a man goes to visit a doctor who is acclaimed for his ability to treat melancholia. “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep,” says the man. “I feel constantly miserable.  Please help me, doctor.”

“Laughter is the best medicine, my friend,” says the doctor. “Take yourself off to Covent Garden Theatre* where you will find The Great Grimaldi performing in Harlequin and Mother Goose; or the Golden Egg. It is exquisitely funny and will cure you of all your ills without any pills or potions from my cabinet.”

The man looks at the doctor for a moment.  “Ah,” he says. “That won’t help.”

“Why not, sir?”

The man shrugs. “I am Grimaldi.”

Grimaldi in 1819 by J.E.T. Robinson

Grimaldi in 1819 by J.E.T. Robinson

Apocryphal or no, I have little doubt the story’s origins go much further back. It would not surprise me if it was first told in Ancient Greece about an actor performing in one of Aristophanes’ comedies. It is a tale that has been attached to several comedians since, not least Dan Leno, whose depression was also legendary.

Joseph Grimaldi came from a line of Italian dancers and performers but was born and brought up in London. It is he we have to thank for the prominence of clowns in entertainment and for British pantomime existing in the form it does. A master craftsman when it came to performing in Commedia dell’Arte, an Italian style that became popular in the 16th century, Grimaldi’s antics in 19th-century Harlequinades transformed the clowning to such an extent that the clown ended up replacing the character of Harlequin.

The It’s Behind You site says this about his performance in the doctor-recommended Harlequin and Mother Goose:

The lack of great theatrical scenes allowed Grimaldi to project himself to the fore ‘he shone with unimpeded brilliance’ once critic wrote. Another marvelled at his performance ‘whether he robbed a pieman, opened an oyster, rode a giant carthorse, imitated a sweep, grasped a red-hot poker……. in all this he was extravagantly natural!’

Next time you go to a Christmas pantomime and sing along, think back to The Great Grimaldi for it was he whose comic songs were so popular that they became a permanent fixture in pantomime.  And if you’ve ever wondered why clowns are so often called Joey, think again of Grimaldi.

Grimaldi by John Cawse

Grimaldi by John Cawse

Andrew McConnell Stott, who has recently written a biography of Grimaldi — The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness and the Story of Britain’s Greatest Comedian — writes:

The audience was in hysterics. Grimaldi had been their idol since he first came to prominence in 1806, having been thrust into the highest sphere of celebrity with a virtuoso comic performance in the original production of Mother Goose, a show that took record profits and ran for longer than any other pantomime in history. Its success brought him national recognition, enormous fees, and a social circle that included Lord Byron, Sarah Siddons, Edmund Kean, Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis and the entire Kemble family. The critics Leigh Hunt and William Hazlitt sang his praises, the young Charles Dickens edited his Memoirs….”

Having retired in 1823 from ill-health and exhaustion — ‘I have overleaped myself’ — Grimaldi ran out of money in 1828, though he was then helped by a yearly pension of £100 from the Drury Lane Theatrical Fund, and various benefit performances were staged to help him.  He spent his remaining years in great pain from a body that he had pushed to the limit.

When he died in 1837, The London Illustrated News despaired that audiences would ever look upon his like again. It’s Behind You quotes from the periodical:

Grimaldi is dead and hath left no peer… We fear with him the spirit of pantomime has disappeared.

Joseph Grimaldi's grave

Joseph Grimaldi’s grave

Joseph Grimaldi is buried in the courtyard of St James’s Chapel in Pentonville and is commemorated every year on the first Sunday in February at the Holy Trinity Church in Dalston, The Clowns’ Church, with the Joseph Grimaldi Memorial Service. Since 1967, clowns have been able to attend the service wearing their costumes.

*Now The Royal Opera House

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

Originally published on First Night Design 7th February 2014

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The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness and the Story of Britain’s Greatest Comedian

The Red Portfolio: more tales of old Brompton

The Library Time Machine

It’s an archivist’s joke. The watercolour paintings by an unknown artist which were formerly kept in a red portfolio are now stored in a green archive box labelled…the Red Portfolio. The pictures, probably loose sheets by the time they fell into the archivist’s hands were carefully removed from the portfolio and mounted or (later) put into acetate sleeves. On the reverse of the sheets the artist wrote notes, some of them copious. These were later transcribed, not always precisely, as the archivist was sometimes better informed than the artist on certain historical points.

Old Brompton 2530The village of Old Brompton in the late 1820s (“opposite Brompton Heath and Selwood Lane”). A rural spot with a motley collection of houses looking a little like they might be about to collapse. In the house on the left the hindquarters of a horse are visible, and a woman in the window remonstrating with someone. Actually…

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