The Purple Nose

“The audience… was the coarsest and most brutal assembly that we have ever chanced to see. Every variety of dissolute life was represented in it. The purple nose, the scorbutic countenance, the glassy eye, the bullet head, the heavy lower jaw, the aspect of mingled lewdness and ferocity – all were there. Youths, whose attire exhibited an eruptive tendency towards cheap jewellery, lolled upon their seats, champing tobacco and audibly uttering their filthy minds… The atmosphere fairly reeked with vulgarity.”

The “fanatically decorous” New York Tribune, reporting on an 1866 staging of “Mazeppa”, quoted in Bernard Falk, The Naked Lady, or Storm Over Adah : A Biography Of Adah Isaacs Menken (1934). Plus ça change…

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