Southwark Fair (HD download)
The Show-cloth in this Print, representing "the Stage Mutiny," is taken from a large etching by John Laguerre (son of Louis Laguerre, the historical painter), who sang at Lincoln's Inn Fields and Covent Garden Theatre, painted some of their scenes, and died in 1748. « The Stage Mutineers or a Playhoue to be Let, a tragi-comico-farcical-ballad-opera, which was published in 1733, will throw some light on the figures here represented by Hogarth.
A Poetical Epistle on this Print, by Banks, alludes to the disputes between the Managers of Drury Lane and such of the Actors as were spirited up to rebellion by Theophilus Cibber, and seceded to the Haymarket in 1733.
The figure in the corner is designed for Colley Cibber the Laureat. He had just sold his share in the Playhouse to Mr. John Highmore, who is represented holding a scroll, on which is written, "It cost £.6000." The man in his shirt is John Ellis, the principal Scene-painter to the theatre. Over the heads of Highmore and Ellis is a flag, inscribed, "We’ll starve 'em out." On that borne by the seceders, on the opposite side, is written, "We eat." Theophilus Cibber is represented under the character of Pistol; Harper under that of Falstaff. The female waving a flag, on which is inscribed, "Liberty and Property," is intended as a portraiture of the notorious Mistress Doll Tearsheet.
A monkey is exhibited sitting astride the iron that supports the sign of the Rose, a well-known tavern. A label issuing from his mouth contains the words, "I am a Gentleman."
"The Siege of Troy," upon another show-cloth, was a celebrated droll, composed by Elkanah Settle, and printed in 1707 ; it was a great favourite at Fairs.
The Adam and Eve, on a third show-cloth, probably alludes to an old mystery, called "The Creation." The one underneath it, of Punch wheeling his wife into the jaws of destruction, is well known.
Thus it appears that Stage Plays may be considered as the chief of the holiday amusements of the year 1733. The Play now enacting is "The Fall of Bajazet." This Tragedy, it must be owned, is here represented as acting to the life; for the unsure scaffolding tumbles to the ground; and threatens destruction, not only to the unlucky actors, but to the china and all beneath it.
A booth was built in Smithfield this year, for the use of Theopliilus Cibber, Griffin, Bullock, and H. Hallam; at which the Tragedy of "Tamerlane, with the Fall of Bajazet," intermixed with the Comedy of "The Miser," was actually represented.
The Amazonian, with a feathered hat and drum, is a beauty of Hogarth's school, belongs to a strolling company, and is beating up for an audience. The gaping astonishment of two rustics is inimitably described. A buskined Hero, perhaps arrayed for Alexander, has his career of glory stopped by some sheriff’s officers. A thief is employed in emptying the pockets of a country gentleman with a whip in his hand, who is lost in astonishment at all he sees, and seems more particularly attracted by a prizefighter, furrowed with scars, who makes his entry on horse- back, and hurls defiance on all competitors.
By the paper lantern, dwarf drummer, and little figure, at a temporary door, it appears that the "Royal Wax-work," and the "Whole Court of France," are at the Royal Oak ; near which "Faux's Dexterity of Hand" is to be seen.
In front of the Picture, a Savoyard music-grinder is exhibiting her galante show, attended by a dwarf drummer. On the opposite side, are a woman with a dice-box, and a countryman she has attracted to his ruin. Near them is a little fellow playing on the bagpipes, attended by a dancing dog, dressed en militaire, and moving his Fantoccini figures with his toe. Both these groups are in evident danger from the "Fall of Bajazet."
In the distance is a number of figures, who are carrying on their shoulders the victor in a game of quarter-staff.
A hat on the end of a pole is probably the prize for the best wrestler; as the chemise will reward the fair racer who is swiftest of foot.
The figure vaulting on the rope was designed for Signor Violante, who signalized himself in the reign of George the First; and the tall man exhibited on a show-cloth was Maximilian, a Giant, from Upper Saxony.
The man flying from the steeple was one Cadman, who descended in the manner here described from the steeple of St. Martin's into the Mews. He broke his neck in an experiment of the like kind at Shrewsbury.
In this Print also is a Portrait, which has been taken for that of Dr. Rock; but was more probably meant for another Quack, who used to draw a crowd round him by seeming to eat fire, which, having his cheeks puffed up with tow, he blew out of his mouth.
In a Sale of Pictures in 1746, belonging to Mrs. Edwards, the original Painting of "The Fair" sold for £.19. 8s. 6d.