Real Truth Behind Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Books ANONYMOUS Sweeney Todd or the String of Pearls (Wordsworth Editions, Pounds 2.99)
Byline: by Lorne Jackson
SWEENEY Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, was known for his exuberant way with a razor.
A close shave with this fictional fiend usually turned into a close shave with death.
In other words, he was a notorious hack.
The same could be said about the man behind the legend.
Edward Lloyd published the String Of Pearls, the 1847 tale where Sweeney first appears as a protagonist.
This was the era of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and the Brontes.
But Todd wasn't created to stand a chance of literary immortality.
Lloyd - a dodgy dude, indeed - would have been shocked that his villain had a future as a near mythical character.
When he first published Sweeney's exploits, there was no grander motive than to turn a quick buck.
Yet this month, the demon barber resurfaces on the big screen, in director Tim Burton's musical epic, Sweeney Todd, starring Johnny Depp.
Now the original version of the story has been re-published.
Helen Trayler, Managing Director of Wordsworth Editions, who has undertaken the enterprise says: "When I was looking for ideas for a new series, it occurred to me that a mystery and supernatural theme would give us the opportunity to publish long forgotten classics of the genre.
"The Victorians were great fans of supernatural fiction, but many authors who, in their day, were as popular as Dickens, are long forgotten.
"Most people don't realise that authors such as Rudyard Kipling and Edith Nesbit, who wrote The Railway Children, produced some wonderful supernatural tales.
"When we were researching for possible titles, we became aware of the remarkable story of the creation of Sweeney Todd.
"Up until then, to me, like most people, Sweeney Todd was a character whose origins seemed to lie somewhere between fact and fiction.
"But I learnt that he made his first appearance in 1847 in a serial published by Edward Lloyd."
So who, exactly, was Mr Lloyd?
Helen has a few facts about this dark prince of the printing presses. …