Pole Tosser

POLE TOSSERBoswell, in his life of Dr. Johnson, writes that Oliver Goldsmith "once at the exhibition of the fantoccini in London, when those who sat next to him observed with what dexterity a puppet was made to toss a pike, could not bear that it should have such praise, and exclaimed with some warmth, 'Pshaw! I can do it better myself.' " When one remembers that Goldsmith had a keen and delicate sense of humour, and that Boswell had none, the story becomes an illustration of Boswell's (utter inability to understand the gazellelike quality of Goldsmith's mind.

The marionette which Goldsmith and his friends enjoyed was probably very simply strung, like the one here pictured. Strings to head and back are attached to one stick; the centre string effects a bow. Strings from the hands go up through holes in the pole to a second stick; when raised sharply, it causes the hands 10 be tossed up and the pike, or bar, to travel up into the air several inches. Then it slides down the strings by gravity and is neatly caught in the uplifted hands.

Perhaps this is all that the eighteenth century figure could do. But by running two more strings from the toes through the bar to a third stick, one can make the marionette toss the bar from its hands to its feet and back again as it lies on its back. This is done by pulling up sharply on the hand-string stick and the footstring one alternately. The figure may also be made to balance the pole on its head if two small nails are driven into it, about an inch apart, to keep the pole from rolling off.

One heel-string, attached to the end of the head-string stick, enables the marionette to skip on and off stage, and to dance between stunts. A strong-man weightlifter is operated on the same principle.