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Gaslight Fairies

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Report i
Subjects Christmas; New Year; Holidays and Seasonal Celebrations
Popular Culture; Amusements
Supernatural; Superstition; Spiritualism; Clairvoyance; Mesmerism; Ghosts; Fairies; Witches; Magic; Occultism
Theatre; Performing Arts; Performing; Dance; Playwriting; Circus
Other Details
Printed : 10/2/1855
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume XI
Magazine : No. 255
Office Book Notes
Views : 2926

Dickens refers in paragraph 3 to the 'big heads' used in Victorian pantomime whereby many of the actors, especially the supers, wore gigantic grotesque heads of papier-mâche, originally used as 'transformation' devices (see G. Frow, 'Oh, Yes, It Is!': A History of Pantomime [1985], pp. 104-105).

Literary allusions

  • 'mad Lear with straws in his wig': see Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 4, Sc. 6, 'Enter LEAR fantastically crowned';
  • 'so potent art': Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 5, Sc. 1;
  • 'killed ... as Polonius': Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Sc. 2;
  • 'Juliet': Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet;
  • 'as Sterne took his Captive': see Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey, Vol. 2 (1768), 'The Captive, Paris';
  • 'Rolla': Rolla is the hero of Pizarro (1799), Sheridan's highly popular adaptation of Kotzebue's drama Die Spanier in Peru.

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851-1859, 1998.

DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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