KayEm (ladystormcrow) wrote in little_details,

Circus performers in Victorian England - how would they be viewed?

Time: the late 1880s
Place: London, with flashbacks to Baltimore and the American South
Search terms used: "circus performers in victorian england", "circus performers in victorian society", "circus performers outside of work"

Hi everyone,

I've been working for a while now on an urban fantasy novel set in the late 1800s. The heroine is a young, widowed black woman from the United States, and works as an acrobat in a traveling circus where most of the employees are (secretly) various were-animals, who use the circus as a cover for their need to transform once a month - the heroine herself is a were-leopard. During the course of the story, the circus (which in-universe is fairly famous) travels to London, where the heroine and her colleagues get involved in a murder mystery and she meets her eventual love interest, a police officer.

My question is, how would the circus employees be viewed/treated by London society when they're not performing? I've found a lot of articles that talk about how popular and subversive circuses were in Victorian society, due to the way they attracted people from all classes and walks of life (and some amusing notes about how moral guardians objected to the female acrobats), but not much about how the performers themselves were viewed off-duty. I know that actresses were looked down on - would my heroine be subject to the same treatment? What places would be acceptable for someone like her to socialize in the city? How would her relationship with the hero be viewed? (From what I understand, unless you were very high up in the ranks, police were considered working class.)

I'm aware that American and English social rules could be quite different - I'm mostly looking for English ones, although American ones are good too, and could help set up some moments of culture clash for the characters.

There are a number of book titles I've come across that look promising, but before I start delving through all of them, I thought I'd see if anyone had any recommendations, or other sources I should check out?
Tags: 1880-1889, uk: history: victorian era, ~fairs carnivals & circuses, ~vampires witches and werewolves oh my

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