Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I just read
Peter Haining - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
book on Sweeney

I just do not know when I first heard of Sweeney Todd. There was also Maria Marten and the Red Barn. Melodramas from Victorian times that were supposed to be fact!
I am sure my parents would have understood Sweeney to be real. The famous police force the Scotland Yard Flying Squad is known as the Sweeney. Todd rhymes with Squad. In London rhyming slang you drop the rhyming word. Aussies says Captain Cook for a "look" Londoners say Butcher's (hook assumed).

I was never sure when Sweeney was supposed to have been running his barber shop - I supposed early 19th century. Well Peter tells me 1785. And that he was born 1756 and has a complete life story leading up to the murders and how the Bow Street runners responding to complaints about foul smells from St Dunstan's investigate and find out it is due to all the all the bodies.
Peter has a number killed like 160 - due to all the clothes found. But Sweeney is only charged with killing someone called Thornhill. And in the trial a doctor identifies Thornhill's bone - due to some breakage that the doctor treated and the way it has healed. The whole case against Sweeney in Peter's "research" sounds very vague and it sounds like a good defence would have squashed it.

Trouble is Peter never gives sources for his findings. Except he quotes a paragraph or so found in material from a Broadway play in 1940s. Hardly an actual source.

Peter starts the book with a coverage of legends from Middle Ages time frame about "demon barbers" and human flesh eating murderers - some in France and one called Swaney Bane in Scotland. How strange that Peter tells us the story is a legend and then treats the 1785 events as genuine history.

Wiki article is quite clear Sweeney was fiction
Sweeney Todd - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  I just checked the 17/19th century newspapers at Australia National Library eResources - List item and not hit on Sweeney until 1852 when Llyod's weekly has the "string of pearls" story as a serial. Which Peter tells about in his book. He has an excellent coverage of Penny Dreadful writers and all the books and plays about Sweeney.  Peter Haining - Wikipedia whilst disparaging his work on Sweeney does acknowledge his research into literature and Sherlock Holmes.   Very strange that he should produce a book with so much research and resource quotes. without any resources for the his main story the actual existence of Sweeney  Todd.      

No comments:

Post a Comment

I usually delete comments from Anonymous