Mercoledi Musicale

Grimaldi as clown in the pantomine Harlequin &
Frair Bacon at Covent Garden in December 1820
as captured by Issac Robert Cruickshank.

Museum of the City of London

Last week I wrote about the great clown and namesake of every clown in the world: Joseph “Joey” Grimaldi. His story is a fascinating if sad one of a child performer who grew to become a major star of his era but ended, if not forgotten, certainly neglected.  It’s recorded that at his final benefit on 27 June 1828 he aroused himself from his sick bed – he was in constant pain from injuries incurred during a childhood and later life of performing his famous tricks – and entertained an audience of 2000 who had waited for hours to gain entrance to Drury Lane.  He lived another nine years – the last few alone (his wife and son had both died), in penury and prone to alcoholism.

But if his life was an example of the sad clown, on stage he was a remarkable entertainer who could quell even the toughest audience – and audiences of the time were tough!  And nothing pleased his audience more than when he stood centre stage and told the tale of the little old lady who sold her codlins (baked apples) in the streets of London.

Hot Codlins – a watercolour from 1827 by
Charles Cooper Henderson.

Museum of the City of London

Peddlers plied their wares on the streets of every major European city.   Though shops abounded the streets of London were filled with the cries of men, women and children hawking food stuffs of every kind – produce, game, meat, cooked food, sweet snacks and there were even nutmeg grinders.  Milkmaids would sell you milk right from the cow that they lead into the square by your house; should you be lactose intolerant (yes they knew what it was) there was asses’ milk readily available with the beast trotted up to your door step.   Vegetables, herbs and fruit were carried through the streets in baskets balanced on the heads of the sellers. And Grimaldi’s little old lady would have transported her brazier and codlings much after the fashion of the woman in the drawing at the left. Indeed many of Grimaldi’s audience may well have bought one of her apples, hot, hot, hot to have as a snack during the performance or as a missal for a less than appreciated artiste.

When Grimaldi sang his little ditty the only thing the audience ever threw was the last word of each verse.  Here’s the only version I could find of the original sung by, appropriately, The Grimaldi Band.


January 14 – 1933: The controversial “Bodyline” cricket tactics used by Douglas Jardine‘s England peak when Australian captain Bill Woodfull is hit over the heart.

Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

1 thought on “Mercoledi Musicale”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s