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You’d think I made it up, wouldn’t you? Well I didn’t.

Taming a Tartar; or, Magic & mazourkaphobia, “an operatic, romantic, magical, semi-burlesque, terpsichorean burletta, in two acts, founded on the grand ballet spectacle, called ‘Le diable à quatre'” is one of the works by Charles Selby (1802? – 1863) held in the Templeman Library of the University of Kent at Canterbury. Selby was something of a wag with titles, like his 1857 Tragedy in the Seven Dials (I’ve seen a few of those in my time), or Phantom Breakfast: a farce in one act (it’s the only breakfast I seem to get).

I think I would have liked one of Selby’s shows. It’s around this time of year that I get mazurkaphobia, and if ‘Taming a Tartar’ was only semi-burlesque, you wonder what Selby got up to when he really went for it.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist