Mr Foote's Other Leg

Ian Kelly

12 September 2013
480 pages


In 1776 Foote's was the most talked-of name in the English-speaking world. By 1777 it was almost unmentionable. Samuel Foote, friend of David Garrick and Dr Johnson, is the greatest lost figure of the eighteenth century; his story defies belief and has only been forgotten for reasons both laughable and shocking. Foote wrote the first true-crime bestseller, was the first celebrity impressionist and lost his leg after a bet with the Duke of York when a practical joke went disastrously wrong. Out of this was born the most singular career in stage history.

In this unique biography not only does award-winning historian Ian Kelly uncover the tragicomic tale of this Oscar Wilde of the eighteenth century, but he tells the story of the first media storm and the first victim of celebrity culture, and offers a joyous hop around the mad theatre of London life - high and low.

Ian Kelly's Mr Foote's Other Leg has also been adapted into a play by the author.

'I thought this was an exceptionally entertaining book about an extraordinary man. Foote was clearly an extraordinary character even by the standards of Georgian London and one cannot help but feel that if he had not actually existed it would have been necessary to invent him. Kelly gives us a vivid and graphic portrayal of this one-legged satirical genius and the dangerous and compelling world that he inhabited, from the court to debtors' gaol. Highly recommended.'

Catharine Arnold, author of Bedlam: London and its Mad

'Kelly's perceptive wit, and interest in his densely theatrical material, makes him an ideal biographer for this pint-size peacock . . . Foote's imprint deserved uncovering.' Sunday Telegraph
‘Dazzling . . . Kelly is a master at recreating atmosphere and making the reader feel he is living alongside the book’s subject’ Daily Express