Via the always-delightful Improbable Research blog comes this incredibly handy piece by Oxford scholar Michael Burden: “Pots, Privies and WCs: Crapping at the Opera in London Before 1830.”
We here at Olivia Waite love a good opera scene in a historical romance, and this article offers plenty of rich details, just the sort of gritty, astonishing information that historical authors are always looking for:
In general, the documented behaviour of London audiences suggests that it had little or nothing in common with anything that might be experienced by opera-goers today. These audiences pushed, shoved, argued and, as the vomiting character in the centre of Figure 1 suggests, the crush could be tight. Recorded incidents in the nineteenth century include a terriﬁc squeeze at the Opera House in 1830, where there were ‘torn clothes and a few fainting ﬁts’;8 a Mr Jones who was knocked over and crushed, and emerged gushing blood from his ears, eyes and mouth;9 the positioning of ﬁre engines at the stage doors in an effort to persuade the audience to remain under control;10 and a crowd ‘violent beyond precedent’ for Jenny Lind’s long-expected debut that gave currency to the expression ‘a Jenny Lind crush’.11
It’s available to read online as a PDF; I highly encourage you to read the whole thing.