In the newspapers there are worries about war; Germany and Austria squaring up to the might of Russia, France on the sidelines (can they really make common cause with such an autocratic ruler as the Czar?), Italy watching developments from the opposite corner. But in Lelant, there are more important concerns. It is Monday 6th February 1888, and the second day of Lelant Feast. The sermons are all out of the way, and now villagers can look forward to their social evening in the Village Hall.
There will be the usual games, books and amusements available, but this year something more is on offer. Mrs Jarley’s Waxwork Show.
The waxworks have already been on show over in Penzance. There’s all kinds of entertainment on offer over there, every week, and people have a choice of what to do of an evening. But Mrs Jarley’s show was still “a fund of genuine and innocent amusement”. Not only that, but “unimpeachable on the score of morality”.
Villagers have read the reviews, and are hoping that Chang, the Chinese giant, will be there, and Captain Kidd. They want to hear the patter of Mr Lobb, the “capital” showman, as he introduces the Chamber of Horrors – which includes Shakespeare, Gladstone and (of course) a policeman. Most of all, they want to see “The Giggler”, wound up to provide “mechanical hilarity” that spread to the St John’s Hall audience. Some of the Feast-goers may be disappointed, as only three of the tableaux are promised. But three will be quite enough excitement for Lelant.
It’s all in aid of the font, badly in need of some restoration after being found in that farmyard down the road. So turn out whatever the weather, and bring your pennies! Those “wax figgers”, you’ll find, are quite the thing: some say, better than Shakespeare.
Mrs Jarley's waxworks was a widely travelled and well known show, not least because it figures in Dickens' Old Curiosity Shop. The book shown above contains detailed instructions onhow to mount the various tableaux for which the show was famous.
For more on Mrs Jarley see Simon Beatties' blog
Cornish Telegraph 26 January 1888 p8, 9 February 1888 p5
Information the font at Lelant St Uny can be found here.