Description:

The Victorian Clown is a micro-history of mid-Victorian comedy, spun out of the life and work of two professional clowns. Their previously unpublished manuscripts - James Frowde's account of his young life with the famous Henglers' circus in the 1850s and Thomas Lawrence's 1871 gag book - offer unique, unmediated access to the grass roots of popular entertainment. Through them this book explores the role of the circus clown at the height of equestrian entertainment in Britain, when the comic managed audience attention for the riders and acrobats, parodying their skills in his own tumbling and contortionism, and also offered a running commentary on the times through his own 'wheezes' - stand-up comedy sets. Plays in the ring connect the circus to the stage, and both these men were also comic singers, giving a sharp insight into popular music just as it was being transformed by the new institution of music hall.