In The Age of Equipoise, children, who constituted 30–40 per cent of the population in mid-Victorian Britain, are neither seen nor heard except on matters concerning education. 1 Yet their role in this period calls into question the ‘enviable stability’ which characterized the age for Burn. 2 The codifying of laws relating to employment, education and the age of consent, among others, did not come without a fight either inside or outside Parliament, especially among those who viewed state interference as inherently intrusive and therefore undesirable in democratic society. This essay concerns one segment of the population of children, namely performers, who in contrast to their peers in the textile and mining industries affected by the Factory Acts of the 1830s and 1840s, remained untouched by legal controls. This gulf widened when the statutes were further extended in the next generation to include children in other industrial occupations, such as bleaching and dyeing, paper staining and cartridge making. 3 While the employment of children in the entertainment world was, relative to these other occupations, not extensive, it was highly visible given the fact that these ‘prodigies’ were displayed spectacularly in theatres, music halls and circuses. 4 Since Burn was concerned with the role of public opinion in the shaping of mid-Victorian morality and law, he would have been interested in these workers; to be sure, they sparked much controversy during this period. Furthermore, given his interest in ‘disruptive forces’, he might have found in their potentially destabilizing influences a challenge to his notion of mid-Victorian equipoise. 5 With the benefit of a sophisticated historiography of childhood, a literature which developed concurrently with the publication of Burn’s book, it is possible to use the controversy over child performers, particularly acrobats, to explore the nuances of the ‘age of equipoise’. 6