Playbill for the Victoria Theatre advertising Mathews and Harrison and their Celebrated Dogs


The Victorian period established the modern conception of the dog as an acceptable domestic pet. At the time this poster for a performing-dog show was produced, it would still have been quite uncommon to see many dogs outside of a farming or hunting environment. Bill Sykes’s bulldog Bullseye from Oliver Twist (1828) would have been a novelty in London not just because of his breed, but by the sheer fact of him being led through the streets by his master.

Performing animal shows were very popular during the mid-Victorian period, when they featured in music halls, circuses, magic acts and even scientific demonstrations. The more exotic the animal – or in the case of dogs, the more exotic the breed – the better. The extent of Britain’s empire allowed circus entrepreneurs in particular to import lions, tigers, elephants and seals to Britain, where native audiences would simply have never seen their like before.

Full title:
Victoria Theatre licensed to Eliza Vincent, Barkham Terrace, St. George's Road, Southwark. Greatest novelty of the season for this night only. Monday March 21. Mathews and ... Harrison and their celebrated dogs! Laughing gas Monsieur Plege! Herr Boorn. St
estimated March 1853, now the Cut, Lambeth, London
Advertisement / Ephemera / Playbill / Illustration / Image
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Related articles

Echoes of Empire

Article by:
Tim Youngs
Power and politics

Professor Tim Youngs considers how Victorian authors chronicled and questioned Britain’s imperial expansion.

Theatre in the 19th century

Article by:
Jacky Bratton
Popular culture

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were only two main theatres in London. Emeritus Professor Jacky Bratton traces the development of theatre throughout the century, exploring the proliferation of venues, forms and writers.

Dickens the performer

Article by:
Simon Callow
The novel 1832–1880

Simon Callow CBE examines Dickens as an actor who gave lively and emotional performances of his own works to an enthralled public on both sides of the Atlantic.

Related collection items

Related works

Hard Times

Created by: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) published this ‘Condition of England’ novel in 1854. His setting was a ...