Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1787-1846 - Strand (Covent Garden)

Actor and dancer John Peter [Jack] Bologna was born in Italy in 1775. After arriving in England with his performing family in 1787, he made his London debut in July 1797 at the Covent Garden Theatre as Harlequin in the pantomime Niobe; or, Harlequin’s Ordeal. From 1802, he appeared at Sadler’s Wells as Harlequin and starred in the burletta Edward and Susan. Also in the cast was Joseph Grimaldi, who played the part of Clown. Bologna and Grimaldi would often collaborate professionally and continue a lifelong friendship.

In 1806, he along with Grimaldi starred in Thomas Dibdin’s Christmas pantomime Harlequin and Mother Goose; or, the Golden Egg. The show ran for ninety-two nights, selling 300,000 tickets. On 8 July 1808, Bologna was hired to entertain guests at a masked ball at Burlington House where he met Lord Byron. The poet admitted to being such a fan of pantomime that he based his poem Don Juan on an afterpiece given by Delpini, a character from the harlequinade. Bologna was also an amateur machinist who often showcased his mechanical designs, using them on stage as part of his productions.

In 1810 in recognition of his works, Bologna was given a licence to hold an exhibition of his mechanical contraptions at the Sans Pareil Theatre, Strand (later renamed the Adelphi Theatre). By 1840, his mechanical exhibitions no longer attracted any interest, and he briefly entered a workhouse. He died penniless in 1846 in Glasgow.

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