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Mr Foote's Other Leg
on 11 March 2013
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.