Friday, February 20, 2015

Figure of the Day: John Liston as “Paul Pry,” 1820-29

John Liston as Paul Pry
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This Staffordshire figure, made in the 1820s, depicts John Liston (1776-1846), considered one of the leading comic actors of his day. The figurine shows Liston in character as “Paul Pry” in the play of the same name. This was one of the actor’s most famous roles and, therefore, this is one of several different figurines of Liston as Pry, the nosy and interfering star of the comic play by John Poole, which were produced in the 1820s—each modeled after contemporary engravings. 

Liston made the annoying character seem quite charming, somehow. The play enjoyed considerable success and, even, introduced several of the character’s catch-phrases into the popular vernacular. By 1825, people were quoting “Pry,’ with: “I hope I don't intrude,” “Just dropped in,” and “It's nothing to me,” with considerable gusto, and, soon, the name Paul Pry became a colloquial term for a busybody.

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