chapter  2
29 Pages

Metropolitan Minstrelsy

During the second half of the nineteenth century, minstrelsy continued the process of adaptation to British popular culture while also developing into an established form of show business. As the authors have seen with Haverly, the appeal of large-scale minstrelsy lay primarily in the precursory 'spectatoritis' that would become associated with 'mass culture' in the early twentieth century. This chapter explains why Harry Hunter's work repays historical attention, and the way it illustrates the aesthetic standards of British minstrelsy as a form of popular culture. Hunter's songs were written first and foremost as songs, songs to be performed on stage and as part of an assorted package of popular entertainment. British minstrelsy may seem to us now to be riddled with racist assumptions and values, but to understand it historically only in those terms is to miss, or misinterpret, its various attractions and pleasures as entertainment.