Toadies

Andrew Allen looks at one of the bizarre fairground attractions of Georgian England and the fate of its practitioners.

A witch feeding her toad-imps in a 1630 woodcut.No fair in 17th or 18th-century England was complete without a toad-eater or 'Toady': a man who swallowed live toads for his living. Toad-eaters, for the most part, were ill-paid hirelings who travelled from village to village, fair to fair, and market to market in the retinue of a mountebank or itinerant quack doctor 'swallowing live toads, popularly supposed to be poisonous, in order to make their employers effect seemingly miraculous cures'.

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