Persons ready to quarrel for anything. The allusion is to the
jugglers who “eat” flaming tow, pour melted lead down their throats,
and hold red-hot metal between their teeth. Richardson, in the
seventeenth century—Signora Josephine Girardelli (the original
Salamander), in the early part of the nineteenth century—and
Chaubert, a Frenchman, of the present century, were the most noted of
“The great fire-eater lay unconscious upon the floor of the house.”
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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