This cut-out figure was used as an advertising novelty for the pantomime Dick Whittington for the 1894–1985 season at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Ada Blanche appeared as Dick, while Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell took the parts of Idle Jack and Eliza the Cook. Dick is shown sitting with a cat on a swing, with the line ‘Dick Whittington now in full swing at Drury Lane’. Victorian pantomimes could often last over five hours, and would probably include slapstick, male and female impersonation, topical songs and acrobatics.
Dick Whittington was performed as a pantomime. It is loosely based on the character of Richard Whittington, a merchant and Lord Mayor of London in the later 14th century. In the pantomime, Whittington and his cat venture to London in the belief that the streets are paved with gold – yet they soon discover this to be fictitious. Their fortunes soon change, however, as a result of the cat’s incredible ability to catch vermin, such as rats and mice, and after a prediction made by the Bow Bells, Whittington becomes Lord Mayor of London.
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- Popular culture, The middle classes
Judith Flanders describes how many of our own Christmas traditions – from trees and crackers to cards and carols – have their origins in 19th-century industrial and commercial interests.