Fair Sights and Sounds


Ladies and Gentlemen, before we continue let me share with you some of my memories from past fairs that I have visited!!

Ahhh, Memories:
     At the trade fairs I attended, I witnessed the bargaining skills of the many businessmen trading livestock, cheese, hardware, and products hoping to economically benefit from their day at the fair [1].  Most of my time was spent, however, at pleasure fairs. I remember: the sound of the vendors screaming out the need for their products rang above all other noise and they cried out, " the best wool in England for the cheapest prices one day and one day only at the magnificent May Fair;" and the gasps of the crowd as they watch with a concerned look on their faces a man eat fire. I also remember the roar of laughter coming from the alehouses and taverns as the male fairgoers took a break to eat, drink, and exchange stories mostly boasting about the money they one gambling earlier that day.

Drinking the Night (and Day) Away at the Ale House...

     I can also remember hearing: the cheers of the children as they rode the merry-go-round and ran to and from the different game booths trying not to drop their candy; the beat of the drums and the blow of the trumpets as the marching band stomped by; and the applause of the crowd during the actor's final bows at the end of a quite comical theatrical performance.

     I can remember seeing a dancer walking on rope, high in the air, holding a long pole trying to maintain his balance as he tips to the right and then to the left during his performance.  I can also remember seeing lions, tigers, and dancing Negroes dressing the scene with their exotic flare.

Back to Our Tour:

     Now let us continue our tour of the Bartholomew Fair, so that I can add to my memories and so that you can continue to form yours. Ladies and Gentlemen get excited because at this fair you will expect to see, "Albinos, painted Indians, Dwarfs, the Horse of knowledge, and The learned Pig, the Stone-eater, the man that swallows fire, Giants, Ventriloquists, the Invisible Girl, The bust that speaks and moves its goggling eyes, The Wax-work, Clock work" [2].
     I do not suggest that you leave empty handed. Many people take home trinkets from the fair. Many fairgoers leave the fairs with prizes, food, and pets. I heard that at the Mayfair, "A tiger will sell almost as cheap as an ox; and I am credibly informed, a man may purchase a cat with three legs for very nearly the value of one with four" [3].  I thought I just heard the roar of a tiger here at the Bartholomew Fair--did you?  It is so fashionable that we are encountering all of these delightful exotic displays.  We are sure to be the talk of London, if only you would purchase a panther or a dwarf.  Believe it or not, strange or mutated humans are just as popular as exotic animals as pets.  This might seem a little inhumane, but how else are you to flaunt your wealth?!  I must warn you that when it became increasingly easier to buy these exotic pets, they quickly became replaced with other fads of the fair.
     Interestingly, spoons were the token of choice at many of England's fairs. Can you honestly imagine getting that worked up over a utensil?  I must admit that I do have a rather small collection, though I have not added to my wares in some time.  Keep in mind, dear friends, that we must not waste too much time acquiring new trinkets because we still have to stop by the theatre, or at least wager a bet on a cock-fight (only the men may participate in this event).

Place a Bet in the Cock Fight!!!!!!

William Hogarth's The Cockpit 1759

     Well my friends, as we exit the Bartholomew Fair, take one last look around.  As dusk is approaching we should be able to see a crowd gathering to dance at the pole in the center of the green. This is the time to really unwind and enjoy each other's company.  Please notice that class status is not a determining factor in the May-Pole dance and everyone is welcome, as long as they are not dressed as common servants that is.  Let us grab a ribbon and join the fun as we twirl and spin.  For those of you just joining us from the tavern or ale houses, be careful not to over exert yourselves as we have already spoiled our costumes with the Roast Pig from earlier!!

Modern Fairgoers recreate the 18th century tradition of the
May Pole Dance, so popular on the fair greens.




Next Stop: Southwark Fair!!


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