Harlequin Press - Weymouth & Mr. Punch Reviewed

Some reviews of Weymouth & Mr. Punch:

  • Dorset Life Book of the Month

'This book tells the story not only of the Punch and Judy shows at Weymouth, but also of Weymouth's development into a major resort and of the history of Punch from his earliest incarnation in the Commedia dell'Arte. The book is superbly researched, and there are more than a hundred fascinating illustrations to savour. Devotees of bad verse will adore William Holloway's magnificently appalling 'ODE on his MAJESTY'S ARRIVAL at WEYMOUTH'; admirers of Virginia Woolf will gape to learn of her involvement in the hoax perpetuated on HMS Dreadnought; nor will Hardy fans be disappointed - the author is one of those rare people who have actually read The Dynasts. And any book which introduces one to the verse of John Byng, Viscount Torrington, is worth the asking price: 'Each belle and beau, Promiscuous go...To Upwey's famous spring.' '

  • Theatres Magazine

It is often suggested that King George III was responsible for the development of Weymouth as a major holiday resort in the latter part of the 18th Century. But, as writer and researcher Judith Stinton argues, credit for the town's upturn in fortunes could equally be given to two other men, Ralph Allen and James Hamilton. Ralph Allen made his first fortune by devising a postal system for the city of Bath, which was so successful that it was soon accepted countrywide. Allen moved to Weymouth in 1750, where he spread the fashionable idea of 'taking the waters' from his native city to the seaside town. James Hamilton was the architect responsible for many of Weymouth's finest buildings, including the Royal Crescent. Hamilton was also engaged to refurbish the town's first theatre, the 1770 Theatre Royal in Augusta Place. Mr. Punch's association with Weymouth can be traced back to at least 1877, and the Punch & Judy Show continues to be a popular seaside entertainment in the town.

By combining the history of entertainment in Weymouth, as well as that of the Punch & Judy Show, via a series of interwoven tales, Judith Stinton's book is something of an oddity. It is, nevertheless, a uniquely fascinating read. Beginning with the story of the writer and philosopher, John Cowper Powys, whose 1934 novel Weymouth Sands is a celebration of the town in which he holidayed as a boy in the latter half of the 19th Century, it moves on to provide a history of the Pierrot and the other Commedia dell'Arte characters, and the many Punch & Judy professors who have ensured the show's survival to the present day, including the late Guy Higgins. Whilst the story continues to refer back to its chief protagonist, and is obviously a 'must' for any fan of Punch & Judy, Stinton also provides plenty of information about Weymouth's 1770 Theatre Royal, which still remains albeit in a much altered state today.
 

  • Richard Garnett, author

'I much enjoyed the book, the lively and intelligent writing held together the really very disparate subjects. It is a book which needed to be written.'