Ponder the small fry

On the Greenwich Safari we ponder the small fry served up at popular nineteenth century whitebait dinners. There were those those who mocked these faddish fishy feasts. Among them was playwright John Maddison Morton. He is best known today for Box and Cox, a story about an ingenious landlady who rents out the same room to two men – Cox who works day-shifts and Box who works nights – without either of them knowing. Hence the expression ‘to box and cox’.

Morton penned the ‘laughable farce’ Whitebait at Greenwich in 1853. The theatre bill shown here is for a performance at Plymouth Theatre Royal in May 1861. Evidently a long-running hit, I suspect its appeal would today be lost in translation. Not so, the enduringly glorious green typography.