Britain's Joseph Grimaldi has been known as the "greatest clown in history". Joseph Grimaldi (18 December 1778 – 31 May 1837), is the most celebrated of English clowns. Grimaldi's performances made the 'Joey Clown' character the central character in British harlequinades. He was born in Clare Market, London, the son of an Italian, Signor Joseph 'Iron Legs' Grimaldi, ballet-master at the Drury Lane and Rebecca Brooker, a dancer in the theatre's corps de ballet.
His father died when he was nine, and plunged the family into debt.
When less than two years old, he was introduced to the stage at
Drury Lane; at the age of three, he began to appear at the Sadler's
Wells theatre. As a young man, he fell in love and married the
daughter of the principal proprietor of Sadler's Wells. Maria
Grimaldi died in childbirth 18 months after their marriage. He found
solace in performance, and eventually married again, to Mary
Bristow. After he passed away, his burial site and the area around
it was later named Joseph Grimaldi Park.
Charles Dickens was invited to edit and improve a clumsily written
life of Grimaldi, which had been based on the clown's own notes. The
'Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi' sold well for Dickens.