Out of Mayhew: Punch

The performer of Punch that I saw was a short, dark pleasant looking man, dressed in a very greasy looking and very shiny green shooting -jacket. This was fastened together by one button in front, all the other button holes having been burst through…

‘…I suppose in my old age I shall have to take to the parish broom. All out forefathers died in the workhouse. I don’t know a punch’s showman that hasn’t. One of my pardners was buried by the workhouse; and even old pike, the most noted showman as ever was, died in the workhouse…

‘Punch, you know, sir, is a dramatic performance in two hacts. It’s a play, you may say. I don’t think it can be called a tragedy hexactly; a drama is what we names it. There is a tragic parts, and comic and sentimental parts, too. Some families where I perform will have it most sentimental — in the original style; them families is generally sentimental theirselves. Others is all for the comic , and then I has to kick up all the games I can. To the sentimental folk I am obliged to perform werry steady and werry slow, and leave out all comic words and business. They won’t have no ghost, no coffin and no devil; and that’s what I call spiling the performance entirely. It’s the march of hintellect wot’s a doing all this — it is sir.’

Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, ‘Our Street Folk’; ‘Street Entertainers’.

Victorian London; Etext; Amazon