Charlie Chaplin

Chaplin, Charlie (Circus, The)_01Susie Boyt at The Financial Times:

Peter Ackroyd’s compact new life of Charlie Chaplin opens magnificently in the heart of south London in the last decade of the 19th century. This is a London rife with the “suspect pleasures” of gin and music halls; a London crammed with factories making biscuits, glue and pickles; a London of timber warehouses and slaughterhouses; a London reeking of smoke, beer and poverty. Young Chaplin’s existence in this world was never stable. No birth or baptismal certificates relating to him have ever been found. He was not even certain of the identity of his biological father, taking the name of a successful music hall singer who was, for a spell, married to his mother – herself a music hall artiste and later a mender of old clothes.

Chaplin’s childhood was perilous and often frightening, with disturbances and deprivation to rival Oliver Twist. Frequent flits from a series of rented rooms with a mattress on his back were a fact of his boyhood. There were periods spent in the Southwark workhouse, nights sleeping rough with his half-brother Sydney, a time at a school for the destitute.

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