Wednesday, 13 January 2010
"Joey Grimaldi, the greatest clown of the 19th century, made his debut at the age of four in The Triumph of Mirth. The triumph was hard-won. His father, a fine and original clown himself, was a monster Dickens would have been proud to have invented, a savage brute (known as the Signor, but more generally referred to as Grim-All-Day) whose idea of training children for the theatre was to put them in the stocks or suspend them in a cage 40ft above the stage. He routinely beat his wife and terrified the household with his obsession with his own death. The devil had informed him in a dream that he would die on the first Friday of the month, whereafter the Signor kept vigil on that day, every month, in a room filled with clocks, gibbering till dawn. His favourite reading was The Uncertainty of Signs of Death; his dread of being buried alive led him to stipulate in his will that when he died his children should sever his head from his body, a task duly performed by his daughter, who kept a hand on the saw worked by the surgeon hired for the purpose."