Black Performers in the Nineteenth-Century Circus

The circus has always been, and still is, inclusive by nature. The ‘modern’ circus, founded by Philip Astley over 250 years ago, was underpinned by a wealth of talented black performers. Some became famous in their own right, and were very much in the public eye; their names became household words. Some had just a single named reference in an advertisement, and others were just mentioned by their ethnicity. What has to be remembered, applauded, and celebrated is that in

Read more

Joseph Hillier: The forgotten ‘Gentleman of Colour’ of the Victorian Circus

The Victorian era was the golden age of the circus. A popular form of entertainment for the masses, it embraced all classes of society; from the lowly paid factory worker to the aristocracy, and even royalty. Everybody seemed to love the circus. By the time that Queen Victoria became monarch of the United Kingdom, the circus had been in existence for almost 70 years. From its humble roots with Philip Astley on the banks of the river Thames in London,

Read more

Richard Scully, ‘The Epitheatrical Cartoonist’; or, Matthew Somerville Morgan and the World of Theatre, Art and Journalism in Victorian London’

Richard Scully examines the close connections between the world of Victorian comic journalism and the theatre, taking Matthew Somerville Morgan (1837-1890) as a case-study. Morgan’s brilliant cartoons for Fun, Judy, and The Tomahawk (all competitors of Punch) owed much to his background as a scene-painter and designer of pantomime and melodrama. In fact, so bound up were his cartoons with theatrical modes of composition and subject-matter, that he can be described as an ‘epitheatrical’ cartoonist. ‘Epitheatrical’ is a recent coinage

Read more