Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life Is Good Sometimes...

OK, here I was -- last week I guess -- reading Robert L. Mack's Wonderful And Surprising History Of Sweeney Todd, ISBN 978-0826497918, Continuum Press, 2007.  It was utterly absorbing and appeared to prove beyond the shadow of a dount that Sweeney Todd, to my astonishment, was JUST AN URBAN LEGEND.  You know, like the Choking Doberman or the Rat In The Pepsi Bottle?  He proved his point using a variety of well-researched sources, including The Newgate Calendar, old horror stories from France and Italy, and seemingly every opera, serialized shudder-story from the London newspapers and even street maps of London.  I was especially delighted by the detour into the history of the British meat pie. 

I have to say, I was a bit crushed to learn that there was no Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

OK, so I had already ordered another book on the same subject by Peter Haining, called simply Sweeney Todd -- ISBN 978-1861055873, Robson Books, 2002.  It arrived right after I finished Mack's book.  I plunged right in.  Mack had quoted Haining in several places and appeared to respect his work, so I hoped to get more dirt on this incredibly long-running, tenacious story. 

...and WHAT DID I SEE? 

Well, sir and madam, Haining spent 186 pages drawing on The Newgate Calendar, the London newspapers, streets maps of the city, old horrostories from France and Germany, and the entertainment industry that sprang up like mushrooms on the corpse of this story, ALL TO PROVE CONCLUSIVELY THAT SWEENEY TODD REALLY EXISTED.



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