Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Curiosities of Street Literature

Curiosities of Street Literature: Comprising "cocks", or "catchpennies", a large and curious assortment of street-drolleries, squibs, histories, comic tales in prose and verse, broadsides on the royal family, political litanies, dialogues, catechisms, acts of Parliament, street political papers, a variety of "ballads on a subject", dying speeches and confessions (1871)

That subtitle pretty much sums it up except maybe to add an errata note inside the cover - "The 'Execution Paper' of John Gregson, for the Murder of his Wife, at Liverpool is CANCELLED and Eight Pages, 'The Heroes of the Guillotine,' supplied instead."  A taste for the lurid seems eternal though Victorian England was one of its high (low?) points.  

What really makes this worth attention is variety of graphic styles with screaming headlines, varied fonts, eye-grabbing illustrations, anything to get you to read.  I doubt that any are attempting to replicate the originals (though for all I know this is covered in the introduction which admittedly is in such small type that it's hard to read) but these certainly stand out.

Among all the crimes, royal tales, battles, ghost stories, casual misogyny ("How to Cook a Wife" runs one) and what not it's worth noting the poem "The Funny He-She Ladies" (p157) about transvestites.  There's also a description (p161) of the execution of Sir John Oldcastle who was the inspiration for Falstaff.  What about "Secrets for Ladies during Courtship" (p43) or more poems about political reform than you would ever want?  It's all here.