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Mr Foote's Other Leg: Comedy, tragedy and murder in Georgian London Hardcover – 11 Oct 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (11 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033051783X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330517836
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.9 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 508,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Kelly's perceptive wit, and interest in his densely theatrical material, makes him an ideal biographer for this pint-size peacock . . . Foote's imprint deserved uncovering.' Sunday Telegraph

'[In this] uproarious account of Foote's career . . . Kelly handles theatrical rumour and apocrypha with great care' Guardian

'Ian Kelly, an actor and writer, has found a perfect subject in this larger-than-life theatrical phenomenon . . . [he] is a charming and knowledgeable guide' Literary Review

'Ian Kelly's splendid biography . . . [is a] thrilling piece of literary archeology' Scotsman

'I thought this was an exceptionally entertaining book about an extraordinary man. Foote was clearly an extraordinary character even by the standards of Georgian London and one cannot help but feel that if he had not actually existed it would have been necessary to invent him. Kelly gives us a vivid and graphic portrayal of this one-legged satirical genius and the dangerous and compelling world that he inhabited, from the court to debtors' gaol. Highly recommended.'

Catharine Arnold, author of Bedlam: London and its Mad



‘Dazzling . . . Kelly is a master at recreating atmosphere and making the reader feel he is living alongside the book’s subject’ Daily Express

Book Description

A tale of murder, comedy and tragedy: the riotous story of the one-legged superstar of Georgian London.

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 11 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover
I came across a review of this book on the website of the BBC History Magazine, and thought it sounded a very intriguing book. So I looked it out to read.

Samuel Foote was born probably in 1720 in Cornwall, the youngest of three boys in his family. His mother came from a well-to-do family of some lineage, but the family were for a very long time embroiled in court cases over inheritances and property. Sam's mother and her two brothers were no different, and Sam's first chance at some fame (or infamy) came in 1741 when one of his uncles was killed. The ensuing scandal and trial were utilised by Sam in writing of the events, and this helped him to get himself free of debtor's prison - the first time. Already, Sam's life was taking twists and turn unusual even in the rather rarefied atmosphere of Georgian London. Sam was clearly a character, and was well-known about town - friends with such as Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick. His wit and gregarious nature seems, right from the start, to have won him friends and influenced people.

Foote's next foray towards fame and fortune took him on to the stage. From there, we follow Foote's often eccentric and even rather bizzare public and private life. Along the way, we read of the Georgian staff and theatre, of eighteenth century sexual proclivities and their reception amongst Society, and the horrors of eighteenth century amputations, amongst other items of wonder and delight. Foote's rise amongst the wits, his run in the theatre and amongst well-known Society, and his scandalous fall are laid out for the reader with frank openness. Sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, often sad, Foote's life seems to have been a most unusual one, even for his times. This book is well written, very engaging to read, and offers a glimpse into the type of life most of us would never have dreamed could have existed. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book on a number of levels. It gives a wonderful insight into London of the eighteenth century, the Georgian theatre and the talent of the hitherto largely unknown Samuel Foote. Mr Kelly takes us through the hilarious side of Foote's life and career, Living in the eighteenth century and making a successful living through your own talent was not for the squeamish; nor is this book. How sheltered and cocooned we are in comparison. You made it if the audience liked you no agents, no spin, just talent and Sam Foote made it. But you could also come a cropper in eighteenth century society and Sam Foote does and parts the stage in ignominy, deserted by his friends at the end. I am glad I read this book and to have found out about the man and his extraordinary life and talent.
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Format: Paperback
This would be an interesting tale if it was just about one of the biggest celebrities and most famous comedians of his age, or about a famous murder case written up and sensationalised by the nephew of both the victim and the accused, or about a Georgian sex scandal. It is all of these and more. Has a large cast of equally interesting players. And by the way the main character had his leg removed after an accident following a bet with a member of the royal family. Would make a great tv show. Sometimes went into repetitive detail about staging Footes' plays and his spats with Garrick, which is why I dropped a star. Very detailed research, evidenced in the notes.
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Fascinating account of a character I had not previously heard of despite a lifelong love of theatre. Full of atmosphere and interesting facts about the era when the coffee house ruled supreme in the intellectual life of London...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book, intensely well written and admirably researched. Samuel Foote [I had never heard of him] was a friend and colleague of David Garrick, but while Garrick became THE successful actor, Foote specialised in a sort of dangerous satirical mimcry on stage and was, until his downfall , very successful. The book reveals a multitude of historical facts, illustrated with vivid examples from Foote's career, about the development of theatre in the mid eighteenth century; one item charts the change in styles of Shakespearean acting with particular regard to the interpretation of Shylock. Sam Foote lost a leg following an accident, and the research into the amputation procedure, written in grisly but factual detail is unforgettable; so is the suggestion [put forward by John Hunter the surgeon who attended him later] that he suffered personality disinhibition as the result of the head injury he sustained at the same time. Most interesting, to me, was the information gleaned on gay life in London in the mid eighteenth century - Sam was ultimately involved in a scandal which effectively wiped him from historical memory.
The writing is thoughtful, demanding and sometimes very funny - see the story surrounding the death of the actor who became the most famous Drury Lane ghost. I recommend it wholeheartedly, with the simple caveat that due to the quality of the writing it is not a quick read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book vibrant with facts newly revealed by energetic scholastic archaeology; but it is not for the faint hearted:"Mr Foote's Other Leg" was amputated on a table in a Scottish castle. However, this character actor uses his painful infirmity as a "running" gag for the rest of his combative life. This not just a stage door celebrity story; is is more a tale of a personally self-imposed disastrous life, ducking and diving in the ruthless jungle of Society, Stage, and Politics.
There is, however, a certain roughness and repetition in the structure of the book which hardly detracts from its energy, but must be mentioned.
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