Friday, January 16, 2009

1749 The Bottle Hoax of London

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

On this day in London, one of the worst theatre riots ('The Battle of Bottle-noddles') in history occurred. An unknown person advertised that he would this evening, at the Haymarket Theatre, 'play on a common walking cane the music of every instrument now used, to surprising perfection' and 'get into a tavern quart bottle, without equivocation, and while there, sing several songs, and suffer any spectator to handle the bottle; that if any spectator should come masked, he would, if requested, declare who they were; and that in a private room he would produce the representation of any person dead, with which the person requesting it should converse some minutes, as if alive.'

Spectators did, indeed, show up, in great numbers, including the Duke of Cumberland, and paid up to 7 shillings and sixpence. When no performer showed up, a joker in the audience called out that if they paid double, someone would get into a pint bottle. Then pandemonium broke out, with the audience pulling down the theatre sets and the good Duke waving his sword. Someone grabbed it from him and ran with it, saying "Fools should not have such chopping sticks!" (Later, much fun was had by an advertiser in the paper called Old England, who put in a Lost and Found ad for the sword, lost 'from the fat sides of a certain great general in his hasty retreat from the Battle of Bottle-noddles'.) The hoaxer never got any money: his whole reward was the sight of the Haymarket Theatre being dismantled and burned in a pile.

The Bottle Hoax of Haymarket Theatre, otherwise known as the Battle of Bottle-noddles, was hugely famous in its day; Herman Melville makes mention of the event in Moby Dick.

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Blogger Fignatz said...

In other words, a non-show that brought the house down.

9:42 AM  

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