Joseph Grimaldi was London’s first clown. On the eve of his death in 1837 he sat forgotten in a dimly lit tavern.
– ‘Woss’ rong, Mister?’ said the young boy collecting the glasses. ‘Youse looks like the saddest man I ever did see.’
– ‘I was the man that once made London laugh.’
– ‘Bill the butcher wouldn’t even laugh at your face,’ said the Boy.
Within that moment, Mr Grimaldi began to pull one of his famous faces, his mask cracking in the candle light against a huge elastic smile.
The boy giggled.
With great dignity, Joseph Grimaldi looked back down at his feet.
© Simon Jagger