Seventy Years a Showman

During the autumn I came across a book, long out of print, that blew my socks off. I’ve republished it, and now you can enjoy it for yourself.

It’s the 1910 autobiography of a circus showman called ‘Lord’ George Sanger. Born into an early Victorian family of travelling showfolk, he went on to become Britain’s biggest circus entrepreneur, as famous as PT Barnum – and the American’s equal in skill, pluck and cheek. Find out more and read extracts here.

In one show alone, Sanger gathered on stage 700 actors, 13 elephants, nine camels and 52 horses, plus ostriches, emus, pelicans, kangaroos, buffaloes and, at the centre of it all, two African lions.

But it’s his early years that most enthrall. Life was violent and lawless for travelling showfolk. And here’s the key – Sanger is a master storyteller. Each short chapter is honed to shock and surprise.

One minute Sanger is bare-knuckle fighting in an East End pub, the next he’s recruiting a fake tribe of red Indians from Liverpool slums, dodging the fury of a Chartist riot or chatting with Queen Victoria about elephants.

This is real-life Dickens, and a wonderful counterpoint to the sanitised splendour of that recent film about PT Barnum The Greatest Showman.

I’ve added some illustrations, thanks to my pal John Foreman, the great printer and music hall singer, written a new introduction – and I’m proud to have published the book through my company Muddler Books.

It’s £10.99 in paperback from Muddler Books. There’s a Kindle version too.

Go on, treat yourself to a wild read this January.

Stop press. First review out this morning from the Camden New Journal. They love it.