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The Blondin Memorial Trust – Funambulus / Funambule – A Potted History

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“The London Spy” (Ned [Edward] Ward) mentions a rope-walker whose ‘Tyburn locks foretold such an unhappy destiny that I was fearful of his falling, lest his hempen pedestal should have catch’d his neck. He commanded the rope to be alter’d according to his mind with such an affected lordliness that, by his imperious deportment, I perceiv’d he was master of the apes. Then, looking steadfastly in his face, I remember’d I had seen him in our town, where he had the impudence to profess himself an infallible physician. Upon this I ask’d my friend the meaning on’t’.

“Poh,” says he, “I am sorry you are so ignorant. Why, we have dancing physicians, tumbling physicians, and fools of physicians, as well as college physicians. Nay, and some of them, too, if they will, can play much stranger tricks than you are aware of. But these fellows, you must know, are bred up between death and remedy, that is the rope and the medicine, and as they grow up, if they happen to prove too heavy heel’d for rope-dancers or tumblers, they are forc’d to learn first how to be fools, and once a grown expert jack-puddings, the next degree they commence is Doctor, and leave off a painted coat and put on a plush one.”

via The Blondin Memorial Trust – Funambulus / Funambule – A Potted History.