This is a companion piece to the author’s recent post called Dancing at Cremorne. The Cremorne crowd loved their dancing and drinking but it wasn’t the only reason to come there.
There was something for thrill seekers of all tastes.
De Vere, changing things in a startling way, creating illusions and surprises, even dabbling in necromancy.
And the rabbit in the hat of course.
Fresh from Drury Lane, Professor Risley and his slightly not to scale sons.
And the Chantrells:
No end to their balancing skills, it seems.
If Madame Caroline wasn’t enough for you, on special occasions there could be some re-enactments.
A medieval tournament brought back to life for entertainment and edification.
The remarkable underwater activities of the Beckwith Frogs, an entire family capable of diverse aquatic pursuits.
Your author has been reading Matthew Sweet’s excellent treatise Inventing the Victorians, included in which is an educational chapter on “freaks”, a term not much used in the days of Cremorne. The term prodigies was preferred when referring to performers such as this gentleman:
This “remarkable specimen of humanity on a small scale, who was present at the Massacre at Cawnpore and an eye-witness of many of the battles in India” held court at the Indian Temple (near the King’s Road entrance).
Performers such as Mr Baux became celebrities of the age, rather than objects of ridicule or pity. I cannot promise the same for these two performers.
Discounting the possibility of fakery, there is a medical / genetic condition which would give rise to excessive body hair. There were of course many bearded women in circuses and travelling fairs well into the twentieth century. Mr Sweet argues that the Victorian attitude to people who made a living from their unusual appearance was no more unenlightened than modern views. (Think of all those television documentaries about sensational afflictions).
World of the Strange!
Step inside, Madam and see what awaits in the fortune teller’s booth. Or come and see an even stranger phenomenon.
The Fakir performed a levitation act, apparently balancing the “entranced girl” on “two solid silver pedestals” which are then removed leaving her floating unsupported in the air.
There were skeptics then as now, who insisted that it was merely an illusion, and the Fakir a faker. But there were greater marvels to be found in the spiritual world:
While bound to a chair (purely to prevent any cheating) Mrs Anderson makes contact with the world beyond our own, conversing with angels and cherubs, causing musical instruments to play themselves, and messing about with disembodied objects, with witnesses seated close by observing all. Who could fail to be amazed?
No? Well, get back to the Dancing Platform, ladies and gentlemen. The orchestra is in full swing, and there will be fireworks later.
And come back another day. There is always something happening.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Talking Fish.
Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians is an excellent antidote to the cliches about 19th century life and I have been enjoying it recently.
I referred you to Lee Jackson’s The last pleasure garden in the recent Cremorne post. The book also features the Beckwith Frogs.