A Successful Acrobat

During the course of more than two centuries St James’s Fair [in Bristol] degenerated from its more proper business intention into a kind of popular carnival, wherein many entertainments of sufficient innocence were accompanied with others of degrading viciousness. Feats of strength and of acrobatic skill by notable performers were among the lest exceptional of the amusements.

Of these acrobats we may perhaps be permitted to mention one – Maddox, who in a note to Mallet’s poem of “Tyburn” is characterised as a “person well known to his readers, and particularly to our sovereign lords the rabble – the monstrous many-headed beast, whose admiration was always boisterously called forth at seeing Maddox on his wire.”

… an anecdote .. in a letter to Felix Farleys Journal 1821, Mr C J Harford thus relates : “In the year 1786.. I was at Moscow, and met in a large company a Mr Maddox, who, having 6 horses to his carriage, I knew must have the rank fo Brigadier-General; being introduced as coming from Bristol he seemed much delighted. ‘Pray sire, can you inform me is St James’ Fair still kept up? And is old Seward the trumpeter still alive?’ Much surprised at these questions, I assured him St James’ fair would take place the next Friday (as it was the last week in August this took place) and I had seen old Seward trumpeting before the sheriffs the March preceding. ‘And now, Mr Maddox, allow me to inquire how you could know anything of St James’ fair? Or be interested about old Seward?’ … ‘many a time have I acted Punch, and played on the salt-box in the gallery, at the corner of Silver Street, I think you call it; and Seward is my uncle, who brought me up from a child. ‘ By your name, Mr Maddox,’ I replied, ‘I suppose you are some relation of the famous Tom Maddox, the rope dancer, who with all his family and troupe, except one infant that floated ashore in the cradle, were lost (about 1757) in a packet off Holyhead?’ ‘Mr Harford, I’m that child, my uncle Seward bred me up, and here you find me, director of the opera or theatre, and keeping a Vauxhall at Moscow.’ I frequently dined with this extraordinary character, who always spoke with pleasure of St James’ fair.”

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