The murderous barber Sweeney Todd and his pastry-chef accomplice Mrs Lovett made their first appearances in fiction long before Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street first appeared on Broadway in 1979. They were not devised by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, neither did they originate as melodramatic caricatures on the British stage. Instead, Sweeney Todd of Fleet Street and Mrs Lovett of Bell Yard first appeared in the columned pages of a type of periodical referred to as a ‘penny blood’ (the ‘penny dreadful’ was a later, supposedly more respectable, version of this genre). These short, cheap, easy-to-read publications were aimed at a wide audience of poor and working-class people, and they contained serialized tales, often with criminal subject matter and a vaguely historical setting. The story in which Sweeney first appeared went by the title The String of Pearls, and it was published between November of 1846 and March of 1847. 1