In December 1832 two Italian street artists (or ‘strollers’), Bartalona Carstilina and Louiza Caraaro where charged with obstruction the passageway near Brunswick Square.
They had a small caravan ‘drawn my two foreign half-starved dogs’, an ‘indelicate-looking monkey’, many more dogs (one dressed up in military uniform, while others were dressed according to their gender, either in a motely collection of ‘muslin spangled dresses and fashionable bonnets’, complete with ‘busks so as to resemble ladies of ton’ [i.e fashionable members of the Bon Ton] or as gentlemen ‘dandies’.
They must have made a memorable impression on anyone that witnessed i=the spectacle, no less so when they appeared together in the police court at Hatton Garden. PC Collins (from E Division) told the magistrates that he had heard the troupe before he saw them, the sounds of drum and trumpet accompanied by the ‘bellowing and laughter of a large crowd of persons’, had carried some distance and attracted his attention.
When he arrived at the scene the dogs were performing a dance (a ‘lively reel’ ) before being led through a series of exercises where they leapt over each other or jumped sticks held by the Italian couple. All of this watched over by the monkey who apparently acted as ‘master of ceremonies’.
There had been several complaints he deposed, from ‘gentlemen’ and mostly about the appearance of the monkey who was ‘horrible to look at’. The question of whether the dogs were being mistreated was not aired in court, presumably because no one was that bothered about ‘foreign’ animals, despite the obvious and parlous state of them.
As they spoke little or no English the accusations were put to the Italians via an interpreter who explained that the troupe had only just arrived in London from the Continent. The sitting justices discharged them on the grounds they back their bags and return directly to Italy, they were not wanted in London however entertaining their show might be to the many Londoners that had gathered to watch it.
Had they remained, or indeed had they been resident in Britain they might have expected a fine for obstructing or ‘causing a crowd’ to gather. One presumes that was a risk they were prepared to take, street entertainers like themselves were well used to being moved on by the police and would have accepted the occasional fine as an occupational hazard that would be more than compensated by the money they earned passing round the hat during performances.
On this occasion however they promised to return to Italy forthwith, taking their colourful troupe with them.
[From Morning Post, Thursday 20 December 1832]