Third Stop: Southwark Fair
Ah, here we are at our last stop of our tour. Really, I am quite tired and looking forward to some time out of the sun. I just hope that my fair complexion maintains its alabaster glory, for having color is so common. I have lastly brought you to Southwark Fair because it holds a place near and dear to my heart. As a girl I was raised in Southwark, which is a section of London just south of the Thames River and London Bridge.
You might have noticed, that my person is front and center in William Hogarth's painting Southwark Fair--I am the grand lady holding her drum. Mr. Hogarth was a great frequenter of English fairs and I was just lucky enough to be noticed by him. At first, the painting might seem too busy, but Mr. Hogarth has done a wonderful rendering of the chaos and confusion present at all English fairs. "The painting shows (among other distractions) a variety of the theatrical entertainments that were typical of the fair: strolling musicians, a pimp trying to lure away two country girls, a pickpocket, gambling, and a dancing dog dressed up in man's clothing. Hogarth was not so much painting Southwark Fair in particular as, in his words, "the Humours of a Fair" in general" .
This is a different version of the painting you first encountered on our journey. Mr. Hogarth presented this image in his engravings. Notice that I am center stage, so to speak--how flattering! It is especially flattering that Mr. Hogarth thought that the Southwark Fair worthy enough to capture his metaphor of life being theatre-like . This fair is dear to my heart, because it did not receive the attention that the May Fair and Bartholomew Fair did. As today is September 7th, 1707, the Southwark Fair is just getting underway! We will, more than likely, see many of the same sights at this fair that we did at the Bartholomew Fair, as most fairs utilized many of the same companies for entertainment purposes . If we were to come back to this same spot in 1762, we would not find the gaiety presented in Mr. Hogarth's engraving, for the King declared Southwark Fair a public nuisance and operations soon ceased.
How sad for the English people, that by the end of the eighteenth century almost all of the popular fairs were shut down as public, open air entertainments. Although, I must admit that the onset of riots and lewd comments greatly increased throughout the century. Something had to be done, but it is unfortunate that such drastic measures had to be taken! I suppose that as many of the more popular fairs were originally intended as religious celebrations, that the unlawful nature of fairs, like that at Southwark became glaringly sacreligious.
The time has come, my friends, for us to part ways. I have had a most enjoyable time leading you through some of the most popular open-air entertainments in eighteenth century England. But alas, I must make my way home before the blasted pimp (shown in Mr. Hogarth's above engraving) tries to take me home with him again! Do not fret, my dear companions, as I will not leave you unattended. I have provided for you the opportunity to meet and greet the many personalities present atour fairs. A hodge-podge, or who's who of sorts to illustrate the social contexts to be found at the fair.
Again, thank you for your attention and your pleasant demeanor! It is so refreshing to get out of my position in the painting and make new acquaintances. I hope you enjoy meeting yours on the next stop of your tour. Have a blessed afternoon. Ahh, the characters we are likely to meet!
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