Pugilists and Greasepaint : Theatrical Encounters with a Bare-knuckle Fighter and Pantomime Clown
One of the advantages of the key-wording of entries in the new British Library Manuscript Catalogue is that it facilitates the identification of plays dealing with particular issues or events. It thus allows us to build up a richer understanding of the Victorian theatrical scene and its interaction with contemporary society. Here, Norwood analyses the mid-nineteenth-century theatre's response to one noteworthy event and in doing so highlights contemporary celebrity culture. Among the many domestic and foreign happenings of 1860 were the opening of Victoria railway station, the establishment of Battersea Dogs' Home and the end of the Second Opium War with China following the British capture of Peking. None of these incidents seems to have provoked much interest in the theatre. What undoubtedly did was an event that gripped the nation's imagination in April - a bare-knuckle prize fight between Tom Sayers and John Carmel Heenan, otherwise known as the Benicia Boy.