|An excited audience awaits the beginning of|
the Panto on December 26, 1826. This satirical
print is by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, brother of
the better known illustrator George Cruikshank.
British Museum Collection
Chances are that if he wandered into the New Theatre in Wimbledon to see Cinderella this Christmastide Grimaldi would have difficulty recognizing it as the entertainment he knew. Over the years Panto changed and developed - sometimes for the better, often for the worse. Gradually the fairy tale element took over and Panto became an excuse for extravaganzas with ballets, chorus girls, parades and music hall comedy. The Dame, the Principal Boy, the Double Act, the Ghost scene, the sing-along and the Grand Transformation all had their roots in Georgian pantomime but Harlequin and Clown faded not just into the background but eventually from the stage.
|Joseph Grimaldi owned and sign this copy of Tegg's |
Prime Song Book with vignettes by Thomas Rowlandson.
Princeton University Library
Fortunately the Harlequinade tradition was captured by the pens of many writers and illustrators. In 1838 Charles Dickens took a rather weighty manuscript left by Grimaldi and edited it under the pseudonym "Boz". The Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi was published later that year as a two volume set with illustrations by George Cruickshank. Dickens, in words, and Cruickshank, in drawings, recorded scenes that became the foundations of a treasured British Christmas tradition.
But they were not alone - at Panto time the illustrated periodicals of the time were filled with items and drawings hinting at what was to be expected at Drury Lane, Sadler's Wells, Covent Garden, the Haymarket and a myriad of places of entertainment for Christmastide. When the pen was being held by "Alfred Crowquill" the illustrations were often of a satirical nature as he poked fun at the old traditions. The pseudonym is somewhat odd as it was used jointly by two brothers: Alfred Henry Forrester (1804-72) and his older brother Charles Robert Forrester (1803-50). Alfred specialized in witty sketches for Comic Arithmetic, Punch and The Illustrated London News. By the end of 1843, he had apparently ceased to publish caricatures under this pseudonym, leaving it for the exclusive use of his older brother. His pantomime sketches with humorous verses beneath (as seen in The Illustrated London News during the Christmas season of that year and later published in book form in 1826) must have been among his last graphic works placed before the public under that nom de plume.
* Along with Grimaldi's Clown, James Barnes as Pantaloon and Jack Bologna as Harlequin were the stars of Georgian Pantomime.Poor Arlechino took a prance
To merry England via France;
Came just in Christmas-pudding time,
And welcomed was by Pantomime.
But Pantomime's best days are fled:
Grimaldi, Barnes, Bologna* - dead!
December 30 - 1919: Lincoln's Inn in London, England, UK admits its first female bar student