An exuberant portrait of the original funnyman-as-celebrity, and a dazzlingly colorful chronicle of his theatrical milieu, from the frequent Drury Lane riots to stage elephants running amok The son of a deranged Italian immigrant, Joseph Grimaldi (1778?1837) was the most celebrated of English clowns. The first to use white-face makeup and wear outrageous colored clothes, he completely transformed the role of the Clown in the pantomime with a look as iconic as Chaplins tramp. His friends included Lord Byron and the actor Edmund Kean, and his memoirs were edited by the young Charles Dickens. But as this intimate portrait shows, underneath the stage paint, Grimaldi struggled with depression and his life was blighted with tragedy. His first wife died in childbirth and his son would go on to drink himself to death. In later life, the extreme physicality of his performances left him disabled and in constant pain. The outward joy of his performances masked a dark and depressing personal life, and instituted the modern figure of the brooding comedian. Drawing on a wealth of source material, this work is the definitive biography of Grimaldi and a highly nuanced portrait of Georgian theater in London.
Andrew Mcconnell Stott