Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Honey ...

A frustrating day. I got led astray. Checked into e-bay. Nothing interesting. Just ‘rare’ Adelina Pattis, Christine Nilssons and Maud Branscombes (not even identified!). These vendors are pretty pathetic! But don’t get me on to treacherous e-bay ‘descriptions’ …

So, I looked back to yesterday, when there was a nice photo, but at a ridiculous price, of George Honey. Of the original Pyne and Harrison company. Should I ‘do’ him. Just check first and make sure someone else hasn’t. Eh? What? Here’s a nice little piece on him, with a picture of his grave. Someone who evidently isn’t a theatre specialist, rather a graveyard specialist, has nevertheless put together a well-researched piece. Perhaps I won’t ‘do’ George. But what is this? A tentative suggestion that he might have been connected to the well-known Mrs [Laura] Honey? Oh no, that can’t be.

So that was me hooked. And I’ve wound in and out of the Honeys all day. Firstly, blow me down, Mrs Laura Honey is in the Dictionary of National Biography. Well, OK. The more the merrier. And she got quite a detailed obituary in a couple of papers when – like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe – she died young, at about 26 years of age. Put the one with the other and that means, yes! She has a Wikipedia article. Well, there isn’t a heck of a lot of room, in 26 years, to go wrong, but … here’s my version.

We start with a Hampshire shoemaker, by name Frederick Bell, who had a little daughter whom he christened Anne. She was a pretty little Anne, and she sang delightfully, and in her early teens she began singing in public. The biogs say the first was at Gosport in 1814, but the first sighting I have made is, a little later, at a Benefit for one legged man who had broken his other leg … ‘Miss Bell sung several airs in a most inimitable manner, and was warmly and deservedly applauded’. By 1817, I spot her singing Julia Mannering (‘sung her songs in a style that gave great satisfaction’) at Southampton’s Theatre Royal. However, Miss Bell’s venture into the big world was fraught with peril, and on 6 December of 1816 or 1817 (the articles don’t agree, and I have no evidence) she gave birth to a little Lauretta Martha Rosier Bell. 

I can only assume that ‘Rosier’ was the father, unless she was conceived behind a rose bush. Fast forward a bit. 28 November 1823 Anne got legal. She married one John Young, and produced some legitimate children. I spot only a John William (6 March 1831) and a Fanny (1834), before Mr Young evidently clocked out. And by which time Laura was a married woman and well-and-truly established as a delightful singing soubrette on the London stage.

Laura had married, 13 October 1831, a lad around town by name William Honey. The two had a daughter, after which Mr Honey went boating on the Thames on the 8-ton Lady Emma. The boat tipped over, off Lambeth Palace, and most on board were drowned. Including William. 17 July 1836, Laura was a widow. 

She was also a favourite actress. But I’m not going to detail her career. She was simply another beautiful girl, with a good voice, and winning ways, who – I am convinced – owes her enduring ‘fame’ to her early death. And a certain etching …

Laura got herself another man. A gentleman this time. His name was Ernest Gaston, he was ‘independent’, he wrote, apparently decidedly tuneful, songs from time to time (some heard in the London theatres), and he gave Laura another child. I think. And here’s a puzzle…

Laura died in 1843. Mr Gaston survived her. And so did her two children. Her will -- yes, at 26, she made a will, three months before her death? don’t tell me that she didn’t know she was doomed – nominates Gaston as guardian of her children, Laura (legitimately born 26 May 1834) and ?Ada. Mr Gaston in the 1851 census is looking after just ‘Anne, born Jersey, aged 10’.

But mother! Mother is still going strong! In 1840 she is acting and singing at the Grecian, and on the bill is a fairly lowly tenor, by name Tom Woollidge. I wonder if he’s the same person as the Tom Newman, with whom she is living in the 1841 census. Anyway, she married the man. And as Mrs Woollidge she would remain, through her long career, until she was laid low by a stroke, after nearly half a century on the stage, in 1861.

End of story. Oh no.

(1) Fanny Young. Mrs Honey’s legitimate younger sister. Fanny also made something of a theatrical career, and played for a bit in London. But she made her home in Bristol, and worked largely in the Bath and Bristol theatres, up till her death, aged 29 (39 Queens Square Bristol 8 March 1860).

(2) Laura Dalton Honey. Yes, I’m curious about that ‘Dalton’. Laura’s legitimate daughter by William. She, too, went on the stage. The name must have helped. She did all right in Britain, before she married a certain Mr Samuel Wentworth Stevenson. And went west. (He promptly died). Well … there’s an article on the web under ‘Canada’s Early Women Writers’ from Simon Fraser University, which purports to tell the story of ‘Laura Agnes Stevenson’. Canada? Why Canada? Is it for real? Is it mixing up, partly, one Laura with another? Her latter day Californian career is rather … well, she WOULD write … anyway, she died 25 December 1884, theoretically as Mrs Church.

PS, yes, there were other ‘Laura Honey’s. It was a buzzword name. See the one (Mrs Fred Caddick) who sang on the English music halls, played with the Gaiety Theatre company in Australia, and mothered singers Sara Beryl and Leila Roze …

(3) Actress ‘Marie Dalton’. CLOSE relation to Mrs Woollidge ... presumably not legitimately, or … but why did Laura jr have Dalton for her middle name? Explain!

I have spent a whole day on THIS?

Well, here it is, for what it is worth. But if you want to put ‘Mrs Honey’ into a book or on to a webpage, these are the facts as I know them …

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mary Wells: From Boucicault to burlesque to "The Black Crook"


I’ve found a new way of picking my ‘subject for the day’. See what the best picture is on ebay and go for it!  Today, the grand Mary Wells turned up … and I was feeling shopping’n’sunbathy … so I decided on her. Because I’d already sort of ‘done’ her, when I was writing my Lydia Thompson biography, and prepared little biogs of Lydia’s co-workers, which in the end I didn’t use. So here is Mary in character … as…?

And here is a brief resumé of her career which includes her period as …


The stock company at Wood’s Museum was not made up entirely of wannabe actresses related to the manager. There were also some capable and established local performers amongst the troupe and, given the range of roles to be covered, not all of them were sweet sixteen years of age. In fact, the ‘first old woman’ of the company, ‘tall and stately’ Mary Wells was all of forty, and long a well-known player in class companies, when she appeared for a little while with the Thompson troupe.

WELLS, Mary (b Lincoln, England 11 December ?1827; d 436 6th Avenue, New York 16 July 1878)

I’m pushing it a little classing Mary Wells as any sort of a ‘Blonde’, but the fact remains that she did play in burlesque for a time with the Thompson company at Wood’s Museum, and therefore must not be ignored.

Mary was born in England – in Lincoln, so her long Clipperobituary said, affirming at the same time that the event took place 11 December 1829. An English paper picking up the news, made it 1820. I can’t find either. But I cannot see why one would profess to be born in Lincoln if it weren’t true.

The same obituary says she made her first stage appearance on 3 December 1850 at Albany. An excellent book on the Albany Theatre says she was born 1827 and made her first appearance on any stage as Fanny Tubbs in The Ocean of Life on 28 December 1850. Only a programme would decide who it right! The same book says she ended her time at Albany 14 June 1852.

I first pick her up in Buffalo and Rochester in 1853 (‘tall and stately and while not handsome had an interesting face’). She is already, in her twenties, playing the ‘old woman’ character roles which would become her speciality.

In 1856 she joined Laura Keene’s company for her first New York appearance, playing Mme Deschapelles in The Lady of Lyons and she remained with Ms Keene, playing mothers and madames and statuesque dames (Mrs Mountchessington in Our American Cousin, Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream &c) for three seasons. 

From Keene’s, she moved on to Niblo’s Garden where she took the part of Missisarris ‘a duenna ready to do anything to hitch with Peddagogus’, as played by Davidge, in the burlesque The Race-course of Love, otherwise She Stoops and Doesn’t Conquer,which had once been Talfourd’s Atalanta.She was to stay for seven seasons at Niblo’s, playing character roles from Mrs Candour to Lady Franklin in Money, Shelagh in The Colleen Bawn, Regan in King Lear, and Elsie of the Glen in The Connie Soogar, while also appearing when the occasion demanded in burlesque or extravaganza. In that way, she appeared as another vain duenna, Dame Barbara, in a critically panned, but leggy, new Niblo’s show entitled The Black Crook.

She played Queen Safronilla in The White Fawna more coherent attempt to repeat the Black Crook formula at Wallack’s Theatre, and then in 1868 joined the company at George Wood’s new theatre. She didn’t take part in the original Blonde show of Ixion – the role of Minerva which she would later play was taken by Harry Beckett – but when it was followed up by Ernani she was there as, of course, ‘Jacinta, a Duenna, appointed to take care of Elvira, but by no means disinclined to take care of herself’. 

When the Thompson troupe moved on from Wood’s, Mary said goodbye to them, and went on to engagements at the Lingards’ Theatre Comique, at Philadelphia’s Arch Street, at Selwyn’s Theatre, Boston, and in 1870 at Booth’s Theatre playing the shrewish Gretchen to Jefferson’s famous Rip van Winkle.

In 1871, she had time out for an operation for breast cancer, but she returned to Booth’s management to appear in such roles as Tilly Slowboy, Audrey, the Duchess of York, Martha opposite Wallack in The Bells, in Arragh na Pogue, as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, Betsy Trotwood, Mrs Squeers, Mistress Quickly, Lady Sneerwell, Widow Melnotte, La Frochard, Lady Creamly in The Serious Family… 

Just occasionally, she came up against other and blonder ex-Blondes. Emma Grattan joined the Booth’s Company … Edith Blande that at the Fifth Avenue … But these were the real singing, dancing, be-tighted blondes of yore. Mary Wells wasn’t that. I don’t think I ever see her listed for a song. Although she was known to break into a merry jig in an Irish play. She was simply the classic duenna of the American Victorian Theatre. The prototype of the Katishas and Lady Janes to come in the next decade.

But Mary didn’t make it to the next decade. The cancer returned, and she died at her home in New York ‘aged 49’ in 1878. So I guess the English report was an error. But she was given her due in sizeable obituaries by the theatre press: ‘one of the best “old women” in the New York Theatre’.
I don’t know whether Mary was born as Mary Wells or not. The name was that of a well-known English actress who died in 1829, so maybe it was simply a nom de théâtre. She died as Mary Stapells or Stoepels, the wife of hairdresser turned theatrical treasurer and agent Richard Stapells (apparently né Staples 1832-1891) whom she married, as Mary Wells, at St Clement’s Church, New York, 13 June 1867. His aunt, Eliza Ann Staples (Mrs Richard F) Medhurst, widow of another hairdresser, was witness. 

But in 1858, already, the press refers to Mary as a married woman. So was Mary twice wed? I’m working on that one. I wonder who is the 17 year-old Susan Burgess living with the couple in the 1870 Boston census.

I see, on the Findagrave website, that Mary lies in Cypress Hills Cemetery. She is buried as Mary Staples … born 1829 …  oh, well.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dinner for one please, James ...


Or, rather, Charly.

One of the glorious things about my Winter Palace (and there are plenty of glories!) is that you can get so well fed. And that is, to me, one of the basic necessities of life. I’ve related before, how that great gourmet, Gerry Bordman (American Musical Theatre), berated me – after taking me on a tour of the best restaurants of the Côte d’azur, in the 1980s – ‘you don’t CARE about food’. Well, dear Gerry is dead and gone, but if he could see me now … he’d be proud. I care hugely about food. I am a devoted ‘foodie’. And I don’t mean complex, show-off, ‘Masterchef’-style food, I mean glorious, fresh, tasty food with a real, home-made touch …

So, last night, after having demolished a delicious Gordon’s gin, with fresh limes from the market and home-made ice, on the Palace patio, I decided to treat myself to dinner out.

We are just days away from the Winter solstice, so it’s dark at 5.45pm …. But the fingernail moon was out, and there are restaurants just beyond ‘my lawn’ (well, it’s really the village green) so I grabbed my trusty walking-stick and set gallantly forth.

Hmm, the Italian and the Burger Joint have gone on winter hols. Good old Tom, the Chinese, is gamely open, and I’m saving Sunny and Rams’s Indian for when my vegetarians arrive. Which leaves, tiens! How did you guess? What a coincidence. The French Pan Tree.

Now, I’ve written about the French Pan Tree before, but when Cyclone Renee heard I was headed that way, she messaged: ‘take photos, that way I can pretend I’m there!’. So I did. And here’s my evening in pictures.

Settled in my little corner table and … a glass of very nice blanc de blanc …

The delicious beef carpaccio of the house, glistening with citrus …

Another glass of that blanc de blanc please ..

Goodness this is supposed to be the off-season. The place is filling up. I asked the granny with her little girl if I could photograph them (it’s so good to see the young being introduced, as in France, to Good Food) but she looked at me as if I were an heterosexual deviant and said ‘no’.

Main course. Jewfish. Oh my! Oh my, my, my.

Blanc de blanc no 3 …

Am I just in a good mood, or is that just THE best bit o’ fish I’ve eaten in aeons?

Can’t finish there! A little heap of Comté … a little glass of calvados …

Pop out the back and hug the chef. And his wife. That was one perfect ‘me’ dinner. Sigh.

Now down the hill … the moon’s still there, with its bright star … there’s Orion … er … wait a moment … how many moons does this planet have …

100 metres to go … and home.

And what! Nephew Harry has arrived in town .. well, come Wednesday I might have to introduce him to these delicacies! OK, OK, Renee .. he’s your son! So you can come too … but I think we may have to book. The news is clearly getting around ...

Ever-lovin' Adelaide: Baltimore's prima donna

‘The singing of Miss Adelaide Randall is so natural and full of soft melody that, together with her sweet handsome face, and fairylike movements, one could almost imagine that her song was a sweet note from Heaven falling on the mortal ear…’ (Wheeling, Illinois, 1876).

Gosh. Quite a rave. Yes, I have passed by Miss Randall many a time, on the way to other things and folk, but she somehow didn’t inspire me to deviate and dig. Until today.

When I chanced on that marvellous photo of Laura Joyce, on ebay, the vendor had, alongside it (also with the ridiculous postal charge, which stopped me buying either or both), this delightful photo of Miss Randall. It’s still available, if damaged, so go for it … 

And I thought, well, I had better spend 24 hours on this pretty lady … Here’s the result.

Adelaide was never a major star. To start with, she was a light mezzo-to-soprano. But she could play the lighter roles of the operatic soprano repertoire, was a charming, sparkling actress (‘good voice … chic and verve of a popular actress’), and was the picture of a comic opera heroine. So she, wisely attempting nothing more hefty, had a fine career all around America for over two decades.

[Jane] Adelaide Randall was born in Maryland. Probably Baltimore. I can’t prove the exact date, but she’s not yet born in the 1850 census, is 8 years old in the 1860 one, so let’s say 1852. I say ‘probably Baltimore’, because her father, George H Randall, originally from Virginia, was a printer and journalist in that city, before moving to Westminster, Md, to run the Carroll County Democratthere. 

Now, I have uncovered two newspaper ‘biographies’ of Addie: one from the 70s, one from 20 years later. They don’t quite agree in their details, but the earlier one (on searching) proves the more exact, the later more lyrical and mildly indiscreet. George, it appears, was a bit of a wastrel. His wife, Emmeline, apart from supplying him with and bringing up five children and a grandchild, plus a couple of extra Kentuckians by name Mattingley, apparently kept the newspaper afloat too, doing everything from writing to typesetting while George … well, I don’t know what he was doing. But doing it, whatever it was, down by the branch railroad of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, one dark-of-night in February 1862, he ‘fell under a train’. So Emmeline was left to bring up the family. Which she was doubtless doing anyway.

We see them in the 1870 census, in Washington, Emmeline 50, eldest son George M[attingley?] D (d 1892) aged 25, printer, Adelaide aged 19, youngest sister Clara V aged 13, what seems to be eldest sister, Fanny Hagger 30 and her fatherless daughter Emma, 5, and Joseph A Mattingley, carpenter, 32. Three of this bunch would end up on the stage.

By the 1880 census, the family is in New York, and I suspect has been there a while, because Addie is said to have studied with Signori Torriani and Steffenoni, and begun her career. To which we now move.

My first sighting of Addie as a vocalist is 3 June 1874, and she is the alto part of a ‘Schubert Vocal Quartet’ performing at Bridgeport, Ct. But by 20 January 1875, she is making her ‘first appearance this season’ (hmm) at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music singing Siebel to the Marguerite of Annie Tremaine-Beaumont with Clarence Hess’s Kellogg Opera Co. In April, I see her with Maretzek’s Italian Opera as Gina in L’Ombra and by June she in in San Francisco in L’Etoile du nord, again for Hess. In October she supported no less a star than Therese Titiens in concert at New York’s Steinway Hall.

Mr James Redpath of the Lyceum Boston sent out a little ‘opera company’ in 1875-6, playing Marthaand L’Ombra.The cast wasn’t listed, but I suspect Addie was of it, for in 1876 she can be seen in its successor, ‘E S Payson’s English Comic Opera Co’, playing Nancy in Martha, Manuelita in Vertigo (a version of the Offenbach Pépito) and Philip a strange piece called ‘Gounod’s The Love Test’ which appears to have been, apparently built on Longfellow’s A Student’s Tale. Mr Payson apparently toured more successfully than Mr Redpath and the engagement stretched into 1877, when she turns up in California with Hess once more singing the eternal Martha.

She toured in opera with Anna Granger Dow, joined a Mr Ruben for a season at New York’s Grand Opera House (it wasn’t) singing everything from to the Gipsy Queen to Lady Allcash to a light mezzo Azucena, and in 1878 returned to Hess and his latest project: the Emma Abbott English Opera. The repertoire was just Addie’s line – The Bohemian Girl, Faust, Fra Diavolo, MarthaMaritana, Mignon, Les Cloches de Corneville – and I spot her singing the obvious Siebel, Lady Allcash and Lazarillo. When Miss Abbott subsequently put out her own extremely successful troupe, Addie was again hired. She shared the mezzo and contralto roles with the deeper-voiced Zelda Seguin, but she was still cast as Emma’s mother, Mme delaTour, in Massé’s Paul and Virginia.

In 1879, she spent time at Haverley’s Lyceum, and dates beyond, playing Hebe in HMS Pinafore, before a fresh tour with Miss Abbott, and then a venture in a 3-part role with Tracy Titus in an attempt at an American musical, U S Buttons. She also got married. Her husband was Charles T Atwood, at the time business manager for Shook and Collier. The following year, he managed the Berger Family, and I see Addie singing with them in Canada.

In 1881, however, she was back with Hess, starring in his Acme troupe as Bathilde in Olivette and in the title-role of La Mascotte (‘She not only sings it admirably but acts it in a very acceptable way’). The company tried another semi-American musical, The Widow, and showed it briefly at New York’s Standard Theatre, but quickly returned to the safety of their French repertoire. In between, however, Addie took a turn in the most successful native piece to date, when The Doctor of Alcantara was given a showing at the Metropolitan Alcazar. Hess played Fra Diavolo with Addie as Zerlina, MaritanaMartha, Les Cloches de Corneville, La Mascotte, Olivette, The Bohemian Girl … Addie, Rose Leighton, Lizzie St Quinten, Emma Elsner and a lady named Cora R Miller led the female casts.

In December 1882, Addie got to dip again into the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire. Iolanthe was produced at the Lyceum, Philadelphia, and she was cast as … Phyllis! When Broadway’s Phyllis, Sallie Reber, got ill, she was switched to New York, and the press was not shy to say that she was an improvement! But she had been engaged for another new semi-American piece down Philly way, so she had to give up the role and return. The piece in question was Fortunio, a re-setting of Planché’s popular extravaganza by local musician, Francis Thomas Sully Darley. In spite of a good cast, it went the way of all such pieces.

In 1884, she was hired by Kerker and Donnelly as leading lady for a season of comic opera at the Bijou Theatre, playing Les Cloches de Corneville, Fra Diavolo, The Bohemian Girl and Maritana, and went out with a fallible ‘New York Ideals’ company … but in the end she seemingly took matters into her own hands. In 1885 the Bijou Opera Company went on the road. Manager: C T Atwood. Star Mrs C T Atwood. Comprimaria: Miss Clara Randall. For three successful years, Adelaide Randall and her troupe toured America, playing La Mascotte, HMS Pinafore, The Mikado, Les Cloches de Corneville, Billee Taylor, Giroflé-Giroflà, The Doctor of Alcantara, The Bridal Tap (Serment d’amour), Le Princesse de Trébizonde, Madame Boniface, The Bohemian Girl until the enterprise was put to bed in July1888. 

Addie moved on to feature with Gustav Hinrich’s ‘New American Opera Company’, to play Paolawith J C Duff, to visit Milwaukee’s Schultz Park, and in 1890 to even try another American musical, this one with music by Hinrichs. Onti-Ora (28 July 1890) died swiftly.

And then mystery struck. Mr Atwood, who had recently been managing Maggie Mitchell’s troupe, but had undertaken a very unfortunate theatrical tour to Canada, which was rumoured to have caused a breach with his wife (her money?), was found in the streets of Chicago: demented. He was taken to Cook County Hospital where 7 November 1891 he died. Demented? The usual cause of dementia in young men in these times was syphilis …

Addie did bits and pieces for a couple of years. It was as if the oomph had gone out of her. She penned little stories for ladies’ magazines, played summer season, tried a theatre in Denver, but found her best shop playing ‘the Opera Queen’ in John T Kelly’s farce comedy McFee of Dublin. Then Rush City. I see her in 1896 playing Minna in The Black Hussar for
Maurice Grau, in 1898 writing a cooking column …

In the censi of 1905, 1910 and 1920 I see her sharing what seem to be decreasingly-sized homes with sister Clara, but in 1930 – well, I guess Clara must have died – she is alone, in one room …

Addie Randall died in NYC 25 July 1933, aged 81. Maybe hers had not been a glamorous life and career, but as theatrical ones go, I think it can be judged pretty successful.

Clara had a bit of a career, largely as a chorine. However, niece (?) Emma Hagger did rather better. Between 1884 and 1894, she worked as an actress with Janauschek, Gus Williams, Rose Coghlan, Sol Smith Russell, Thomas Q Seabrooke, Milton Nobles, Mrs Bernard Beere et (doubtless) al. ‘A pretty and vivacious little lady’. They seemed to run in the family. ‘A southern girl, of Spanish extraction …’. Er, what? Born Maryland, mother from Kentucky ..  Southern?  Do I have something else to discover about this family? Spanish?  Anyway, I’ve no idea what became of Emma after the age of thirty …


Thursday, June 14, 2018

From Wales to Broadway ... with Bells on!


I was doodling over my morning cuppa, wondering whose life and career I would delve into today, when I chanced on a delightful photograph of Miss Laura Joyce. Victorian vocalist. I remembered investigating her years ago – probably as a sometime rival to Emily Soldene – so, well, why not her? If Microsoft hadn’t rendered her file unreadable. Nope! It had survived.

I glanced at her obituary … 'born in Berkshire 1858, real name Hannah Joyce Maskell, trained at the Royal Academy…’. Three lies in one breath! Undoubtedly, the Goddess of Truth and her pageboy, Mr Gänzl, were needed. So I loined up my girths, dug away, and now, with my daily lime and gin, I shall render the correct facts on the lady – which are pretty easy to sort out – for your delectation. Small warning, for some reason I gathered minutious notes of Laura’s background, all those decades ago, and I’m going to put most of them into this essay: so you can skip down a bit, if that doesn’t interest you. It interests me. I like to know the family background of my artists …

So first, place and date of birth. Laura Joyce Maskell’s birth record says she was born in the Commercial Road, Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. Yes, Laura. She was always Laura. Though I can imagine that some handwritten ‘Laura’ might at some stage have been misread as ‘Hannah’. Anyway, Hannah had nothing to do with it.
The date of her birth was 6 May 1854. Has someone got mixed up with her Manchester christening which didn’t take place till later? Anyway, 1854.

Father was one James Henry Maskell (b Islington, 20 August 1824), son of the elder James Henry Maskell, mine host of the White Horse Inn and Posting House, Fetter Lane (d 78 Camden Road, 29 December 1870) and his wife … Joyce. I know little about the younger James. And the little isn’t very flattering. I see him in the 1861 census, saying he’s an auctioneer, and I see him at least once being bankrupted. That, plus future form, makes me think he was a bit of a hopeless Henry. He had two siblings who went into showbiz: George K who was a sometime manager of the Devonport Theatre and perished one night in the river near Gourock Pier, while seemingly out trolling, and Fanny ‘of the Brighton Theatre’ who became Mrs Walter Baynham ‘of the Brighton Theatre’.

 Mother was Maria Dalton Dauncey, daughter of James Dauncey sometime of Uley, Gloucestershire. The Daunceys appear to have been into the profitable local clothmaking manufacture. Maria was a tall, ‘imposing’ woman with ‘a sonorous voice’ and she subsequently decided on a career as a Reciter and Reader under the name ‘Mrs Dauncey Maskell’. So James became ‘Mr Dauncey Maskell’. Mrs Maskell was mildly appreciated as a ‘reader of average ability’ in women’s clubs (‘The Bells’, ‘The Diver’, ‘Dream of the Reveller’), from about 1864, when I see her in the ‘elocution class’ of the Barnsbury Institute.

 Anyway, this unpromising pair produced a daughter (just one, I have a feeling they gave up trying) who was going to outshine anyone else in the family. And it must be admitted, one or both of them certainly gave her the chance. She was plugged and pushed from an early age. But she did NOT study at the Royal Academy of Music. She was coached in acting by her mother, and she studied music at the underrated London Academy of Music. Teacher: Schira. Who was perfectly good teacher.

Next ‘fact’. She made her debut at the Strand Theatre in The Loan of a Lover. Well, it’s not a total lie, this time. But I don’t think that non-professional performances really count as a ‘debut’. This event took place 4 August 1870, and it was an amateur evening mounted by her mother (’to show off her two pupils’). It was a very amdram event. The other girl went to pieces, missed entrances, mamma hadn’t learned her part, had to be loudly prompted and only Laura gave a performance. But Mamma (I presume) continued to supply tickets and paras to the press, who reported ‘Miss Maskell is destined for the lyric stage and arrangements have been made to bring her out in English opera next season’, before sending the teenager out on ‘a starring tour through Lancashire and Yorkshire’ in ‘an entertainment called Happy Hours of Fanciful Fun by Frank Green and Alfred Lee and, oh dear, Papa. She survived. Manchester even found her ‘a clever versatile and attractive actress and sustains with éclat a long series of character sketches and impersonations with the utmost vivacity and brilliance’. So Mamma decided to bring her to town. 

On 11 May 1871 Mamma gave an evening at St George’s Hall. And Laura was starred in two soi-disant operettas. Cupid mid the Rosesand Love’s Disguises. Once again, everything but Laura was a shipwreck, and she headed back to the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute and like venues …

 But salvation was coming. Manchester obviously like her and, at Christmas 1871 she was cast as Oberon in the prologue to The Children in the Wood at the Theatre Royal. The Erapronounced: ‘in Miss Laura Joyce the theatre has secured a valuable actress and vocalist’. During 1872 she toured, as one of his attendant sylphs, with Howard Paul … but, more importantly, she somehow got herself on the books of a high-flying agent: Mr D’Oyly Carte.

The big musical and spectacular theatre managers of New York fed off agents such as Mr Carte for new and lovely performers. Niblo’s Garden had done a treat with such as the slightly passé British Mrs ‘Millie’ Lawrence of the music halls who had made the hit of The Black Crook under the pseudonym ‘Millie Cavendish’. There had been mishaps, such as poor Lucy Egerton in The White Fawn, but, by and large, ‘blawsted’ British was as fashionable in the New York theatre as, these days, are loud Russian sopranos in Berlin.

Jarrett and Palmer were about to produce their latest Niblo’s spectacular, and they contacted Mr Carte for starry singing ladies. Carte lined up the big, blonde soprano Cornélie d’Anka for them, and then a fine little singer named Marie Rossetti (she was Miss Brennan from Norwich). But Cornélie she changea-da-mind, so Miss Laura Joyce was sent instead. And thus she set sail on the City of Baltimore 15 October 1872 for what was to be a new and splendid career. Oh, and of course, Mamma came too.

The two English girls (and the mise-en-scene) were the successes of Leo and Lotos, and Laura’s singing of ‘The Beautiful Blue Danube’ (‘her powerful voice floating along’) was a highlight. Miss Brennan then went off to try herself in opera in Europe, but Miss Joyce stayed. Maybe Mamma couldn’t get out of her old mindset, and at one stage it was announced the Laura would bring out the old ‘entertainment’, but happily she didn’t. She stayed on at Niblo’s to feature in Azrael(Lisette) and The Beats of New York(Mary), and then she went and got married. 

She married one James Valentine Taylor, a well-off young man from Boston who was well-off only on inherited money. Which, in traditional fashion, he was spending fast. I sha’n’t spend time on Mr Taylor. They had two sons … between which Mrs Taylor returned to the stage to star in the title-role of Evangelineat the Boston Globe, alongside Harry Beckett … and divorced. She claimed he was drunk and violent, he claimed she and her family were draining him dry, and that father was the drunk … one way and another, I think it was not a marriage made on Olympus. We don’t need to follow them further, do we. Well, I have, but …

She returned to the stage at Christmas 1875, starring at the Boston Globe as Prince Amabel in Turko the Terrible, after which I see her in concert with the Berger Family and Jules Levy, then playing Caste (Polly Eccles) and Our Boys with the ‘New England Comedy Company’. Mamma was lecturing to Boston’s ladies about ‘What I Know About Readers and Reading’.

Then Laura escaped from Boston. She went to play her Evangeline role in Philadelphia, and there got a 6-month’s engagement with John Ford. Baltimore, Washington … Miss Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, Lady Wagstaff in Pink Dominos, Miss Zulu in Forbidden Fruit … she ‘paralysed Joseph Jefferson with her Lydia Languish at Washington DC...’ played in Camille with Modjeska, and when her divorce was settled ventured back to Boston for more Evangeline …

 If her career seemed, at the moment, to be axed towards the non-musical stage, that was soon to change. In November 1878, she was hired to play Germaine to the Serpolette of Catherine Lewis in Les Cloches de Corneville, after which she appeared with another company (10 February 1879) as an ‘an admirable Buttercup’ to the Josephine of Annie Pixley. She was hired for more Buttercups, with Annis Montague and William Castle (Haverly’s Theater, Brooklyn, Philadelphia) and also took the title-role in Fatinitza and played Lady Allcash in Fra Diavolo, in the American musical The First Lifeguards in Brighton and as Lange in La Fille de Madame Angot.

In February 1880 she was hired, in the midst of a weak cast, by D’Oyly Carte to play Ruth in a firstPirates of Penzance in Chicago.She, A W F McCollin (Major General) and Marie Conron (Josephine) just saved the pirate ship from sinking.

Later that year she was engaged for Daly’s Theatre, New York. She played in a mixture of non-musical and musical plays (Hebe Josselyn in Our First Families, Signora Zanina in a perversion of Nisida entitled Zanina, Silena in Needles and Pins -- and deputising for Ada Rehan in the lead --, Gabrielle Prince in Quits, Mrs Leonora D Livermore in Americans Abroad, Georgette in Royal Youth, Merope Mallow in Cinderella at School), but henceforth she was to become a prized komische Alte in the musical theatre … and not just any theatre: she played for Comley Barton, at the Bijou, the Casino, the heart of American comic-opera world, and in the companies of John McCaull.

In the 1880s she appeared as Bathilde in Olivette, Lady Jane in Patience, Lady Sangazure in The Sorcerer, Mrs Cowslip in Virginia, Donna Scolastica in Heart and Hand, Manola in La Princesse de Trébizonde, Diana then Juno in Orphée aux enfers, Palmatica in The Beggar Student, Lady Clare in Nell Gwynne, more Lady Janes, more Ruths ..

In the middle of all this, she changed her name. She became Laura Joyce Bell (3 March 1883). She married the musical-comedy star Digby Valentine Bell. He took in Mamma and the two boys, they had one daughter together, and lived happily ever after for the 20 years until Laura’s death. Mamma lasted longer. Papa didn’t like Nyack, NJ, and fled back to Britain, but I guess he knew what side his bread was jammed and he was soon back.

McCaull was at his peak, at this time, shuffling first-class comic opera companies round America  -- I see Laura in The Mikado, The Crowing Hen, Indiana, Ruddigore – until finally he had to rationalise, and reduce to one company. He kept Laura to be his star character contralto, and Emily Soldene went home.

However, the golden period was over. Laura appeared in a series of indifferent American musicals (The Tar and the Tartar, Jupiter, The Queen of Brilliants, Princess Bonnie, Madeleine, The Sphinx, Nancy Lee etc) and toured in companies with her husband, first in comic opera, then, with considerable success, in farce comedy (The Midnight Bell, The Hoosier Doctor, The Walking Delegate, Joe the Hurdy Gurdy Gentleman).She took over from Ada Deaves in The Burgomaster in Chicago, and appeared with DeWolf Hopper, as Mrs Bardell, in Mr Pickwick (Digby was Sam Weller) …

And midst all this Papa died in New York (4 September 1897 aged 74).

Mamma lasted twenty years longer (d 2 December 1917), but Laura didn’t. She died in at her home at 1476 Lexington Ave, NYC 29 May 1904 of ‘heart disease’.

I’ve followed up the three children, Valentine, Herbert and Mrs Harry C Schlichting (inter alia), but have found naught to tell. The memorable Digby, of course, is enshrined in my Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre which everybody has …

Phew. Basta. 7.15pm. I think I’ve earned another lime (and gin). Now, who tomorrow?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The first modern Olympic Games ..


We all know when the first Olympic Games of the modern era took place, don’t we?
Of course. Athens, 1896.

Wrong. We are quarter of a century too late with the fact and forty years late with the idea.

I have in front of me a report on the Olympian Games, date line 27 November 1870. Warning ‘it is only lately that anything like a systematic course of training for competitive athletic exercises has been seriously entertained’, it goes on to describe how the bequest of a certain wealthy Peloponnesian, living in Jassy, by the name of Evangelos Zappas (d 1865), had left a sum of thirty thousand francs per annum ‘to assist in establishing an Exhibition of [Greek] National Industry and of Competitive Athletics sports under the title of the ‘Olympia’ … [to] recur at intervals of four years, as in ancient times’.

A ‘tasteful building’, the Zappeion, 50 metres by 25, was erected among the ruined columns of the temple of Jupiter Olympus, to house the exhibition, and the ‘Olympian Games’ took place ‘on a recent Sunday afternoon in the ancient stadion at Athens’. Gosh! Those were the days! The games all over in an afternoon.

The stadion had in recent years been ‘a grass grown hollow frequented by flocks of sheep’, so the King had to buy up the paddocks from the ‘owners’. Which meant he got to keep the marble Hermes that was dug up. The excavations also uncovered the ancient marble judges’ (?) chairs and the ring of the race track …

When the big afternoon arrived the place was packed. 20,000 spectators it was estimated. And ‘some thirty well-formed men, whose flesh-coloured tights were the nearest approximation to the oiled nakedness of their ancestors’ appeared to take part. There was jumping (with and without the pole), and wrestling and running – 2 lengths of the stadion, so circa 400 metres – rope climbing, climbing the 20 metre mast, rope-pulling, throwing the 25cm discus or quoit, javelin throwing not for distance but at a target… and at the end of each event the victor climbed to the King’s seat to receive an olive crown from the royal hands. Second place got an olive branch from the Queen. Third a sprig of bay leaves. Mr Zappas had asked for gold and silver medals, but the olive was regarded as more authentic. And probably less expensive.

‘On the whole’ reported our witness, the [feats] were of a higher order of merit than was generally expected at this, the first attempt to revive the Olympic Games on the spot where the ancient Greeks covered themselves with glory over twenty-two centuries ago’.

I wonder if there was a second Olympian Games in 1874. Or if Mr Zappas’s money got sidewound into something else. I wonder if the King stuck with the enterprise. Probably not, given the state of Greece in the late C19th. But I must say, give or take the flesh-coloured body-stockings, I would have so loved to have been there. When Games were Games, and synchronized swimming and ping-pong weren’t invented …

A little more history. Mr Zappas. I’m sorry he wasn’t around to see his games. He’d been trying so hard for so long. And he had even got the Queen-Regent of Greece to sign a decree as long ago as 1858, re-establishing the Olympic Games. Sponsor, of course, Mr Zappas. Well, he got the Exhibition off the ground in 1859, but the Games (in spite of what is written) had to wait a bit longer. Still, when, in 1896, the new proposal to mount the ‘international’ (alas, dread word) games was mooted ‘mainly due to France and America’ and ‘the sudden growth of a taste for athletics in France’ was begun Evangelos was not forgotten. The press remembered his efforts.

Do folk today? I wonder. Pierre de Coubertin, secretary of the original 1896 committee (the president was the Baron de Courcel) gets the credit nowadays of being the father of the bloated baby now known as ‘the Olympics’. I think that title belongs to Evangelos.

PS can we reintroduce the long-jump with pole?

PPS this story isn't new, Evangelos is even on Wikipedia, but it is new to me, and the description warmed me!

A Bit of Jessie Bondage

Or, stuff about the lady you, maybe, didn’t know...

BOND, Jessie [Charlotte] (b Pratt Street, London 10 January 1853; d Worthing 17 June 1942)

I have decided not to include in this collection of essays those performers who have had an entire book or books devoted to them … and Jessie Bond supplied her own, which is apparently (I have not read it) reasonably factual. But, in spite of the fact that the D’Oyly Carte fictions concerning her pre-Cartesian life have been largely swept away, and replaced by something nearer reality …

Anyway, I’ve decided to deal only with her early concert life and leave her when she takes to the comic opera stage.

Jessie was the daughter of John Bond (jr), a hereditary piano-maker, and lawyer’s daughter Elizabeth née Simson (m 13 April 1848), born in Camden Town, apparently in the Simson house, in 1853. She was the third child of a family which included two elder brothers and soon after two younger sisters.

The family moved to Liverpool when Jessie was three, and she studied piano with Isouard Praeger, making what appears to have been her first appearance at the Hope Hall in his concert of 18 May 1865 ‘aged 11’ alongside another local pianistic teeny aged 12. The next year (8 June 1866) the little girls repeated their act.

She subsequently studied voice with local music-master Ferdinand Alexis Schottländer, and made her public debut as a vocalist 18 November 1869 at a concert of his pupils, singing ‘Ah, quel giorno’ (Semiramide) and her teacher’s ditty ‘Oh, do say yes’. In 1871 (30 January) she made her ‘second appearance in public’ at a concert under her own name, singing ‘O thou afflicted’ (St Peter), the Dinorah goatherd song and his ‘The Spanish Beggar Girl’.

We are told that the teacher was a bad egg, and that he seduced the teenager (or worse) and forced or bamboozled her into a marriage (9 March 1870). A child was born, and died, he was allegedly unfaithful, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1872. Weird story.

Anyhow, Ferdinand whisked off to Ireland, remarried, had more children and lived long enough to see his ex-wife become a star.

Jessie was seen in Lancashire concerts for the next few years: with Mr and Mrs Howard Paul at the Royal Alexandra and the Queen’s Hall, in her first Messiah with the Liverpool Societa Armonica, singing ‘Ah quel giorno’, ‘Nobil signor’ and two of Horton C Allison’s songs at the young pianist’s concert (1872), at Birkenhead with Edith Wynne and Montem Smith in The May Queen, at Oswestry and the Liverpool Institute in more Messiahs and in a number of de Jong’s concerts in Liverpool, Bradford and Manchester (Dinorah, ‘The Sailor Boy’s Farewell’, ‘Looking Back’, ‘Ah quel giorno’, ‘Auld Robin Gray’, Randegger’s ‘Sleep dearest sleep’, ‘The Sailor Boy’s Return’ ‘quiet unassuming manner … ‘a contralto or mezzo-soprano of good quality, not however distinguished by power, and each effort was warmly received’).

She sang at the Liverpool Saturday Concerts (‘Terence’s Farewell’, ‘Wapping Old Stairs’ etc) in 1873, took the contralto music in Elijah with Edith Wynne, Bywater and Orlando Christian in Birkenhead (‘very far above the rank experience has taught us to look for in local singers’) and gave her ‘careful and finished rendering’ of The Messiah at the Liverpool Amphitheatre on Good Friday. She appeared in various miscellaneous concerts, another Messiahat Oswestry, Jephtha at Birkenhead, at Southport with Edward Lloyd, and at the Liverpool Ballad Concerts with Antoinette Sterling, Wynne, J W Turner and Whitney.
In 1876, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music. The statement that she ‘went to the RAM [as a pianist] and discovered a voice’ is so much nonsense, as are all other versions which elide the first half dozen years of her career into almost nothing. In fact, she passed a modest time at the Academy and very quickly stopped advertising herself as ‘RAM’.

She appeared at the Aquarium with Annie Tonnellier in September 1876, but she returned to Birkenhead at Messiah time, and also gave a concert (‘of the Crystal Palace and Aquarium? … I’ve missed something! Ahha! Sullivan's Aquarium?) under her father’s management, at Douglas, Isle of Man in October. She sang ‘Ah s’estinto’ and Barnby’s ‘When the tide rolls in’ and played piano.

In 1877, she was seen in Liverpool with the Philharmonic Society alongside Mrs Osgood, Cummings and Maybrick, sang at Rivière’s proms at the Queen’s Theatre, the Scarborough Aquarium, the Glasgow Saturday Evenings, Kilburn (Balfe’s ‘Killarney’), with Helen Taylor’s lectures at Sadler’s Wells (Elijah), and with Thurley Beale in the concertina concerts at Langham Hall. On Good Friday 1878 she sang with Fred Packard in The Messiah in Liverpool.

Miss Jessie Bond seemed promised a little career, in minor and provincial concerts, to supplement her teaching activities. And then Mrs Howard Paul got terminally ill. And the tale of Jessie Bond, Savoyard, began.

She joined D’Oyly Carte to play a stripped down version of the part intended for Mrs Paul in HMS Pinafore, and stayed on to play the ‘Jessie Bond parts’ in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Which is related in detail in many books. Including mine.

She played several other engagements away from Savoy in later years (the musical comedy Go Bang, Gilbert’s His Excellency), and even pops up singing with Madame Konss-Baylis’s Gipsy Revellers in 1890, before retiring to a rather more satisfactory second marriage.

Jessie’s sister, [Miriam] Neva Bond (1854-1936) – who shows up in the Saturday concerts at Liverpool, along with Miss Florence Bond and Mr W Bond (‘cello) in 1877 -- also became a member of the Savoy company.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Putting Emily in order: W S Gilbert's forgotten lady producer.


It’s strange how some, once famous, actors, actresses and singers just disappear from public memory. It seems that a life full of theatrical and musical successes, some at the highest level, aren’t as effective as a bit of scandal or a royal or aristocratic connection. Pathetic creatures such as chorines Evelyn Nesbitt and Billie Carleton get a mention in print, now and again, a century and more on, but no one even knows what happened to such great stars as Anaïde Castellan and Amélie Deméric-Lablache. Oh, well, I guess that’s life. And publicity.

 I am prompted to these musings by the case of ‘Emily Fowler’. I suppose there are a dozen or two folk who, like myself, are immersed in the Victorian theatre who know who she was. And yet, she was a leading lady with Henry Neville, Dion Boucicault, Henry Irving, Charles Wyndham … she created the English version of the famous The Two Orphans… and she, three times, took theatres and produced plays such as W G Wills’s Nell Gwynne and a new musical comedy by Freddie Clay and W S Gilbert. So a few of the more avid Gilbert fans know her name. But anything about her?

 Well, much to my surprise (and pleasure), someone has put her on Wikipedia. It’s evident that the piece has been taken holus bolus from, I suspect, The Era, and it mentions a lot of the right plays and places, but it has got a bit tortured on the way from that Era to this. ‘She portrayed Helen Barry in The Two Orphans’. No, my dear, Helen Barry was an actress, a cast member. Emily had the lead, she portrayed the blind girl, Louise. Anyway, I thought I had better tidy her up. So here goes.

First off, Emily wasn’t born ‘Emily’. She was born in Rochdale 31 July 1847, the daughter of Samuel Matthew Fowler, a cabinet-maker, and Sophia née Fox, and christened Susannah, after grandma. There were two sisters (Clarissa, Sophia) and one brother (Samuel), and father died in 1860. By which time the family was in London.

I was pretty sure that with father dead, mother doing sewing for a living, and four children, someone with theatrical propensities would be pretty swiftly out earning a wage. So I looked. There! ‘Miss Fowler’ serio-comic performing at Deacon’s Music Hall next to Sadler’s Wells. Also at Jude’s, Dublin, and the Victoria, Newcastle. But always back at Deacon’s. Oh, look! Miss E Fowler at Palmer’s Music Hall, Upper Holloway (‘sang her serio comic songs with much taste and point and was loudly encored’) in 1863. Then ‘Miss E’ again in 1864 at Thornton’s in Leeds with Harry Liston. Why is she having an initial all of a sudden? 

Splat! Probably because Miss Fowler of Deacon’s brought her little sister on to the bill in Islington. Clara. Clarissa? No. Clara. And Miss becomes ‘Louisa Fowler’. There they are in the 1861 census, in Amwell, with widowed mother Mary, staymaker. Oh, heck, a wholly different family! They are going to get in my non-existent hair!

They didn’t. Louisa and Clara, ‘The Sisters Fowler’ got out of Amwell. In 1866, they got a job singing and dancing in variety in America. From New York, they headed to New Orleans … but they never got there. Their ship, with the Alhaiza opera troupe and their variety team aboard … over fifty theatricals in all … sank, and all but two of the passengers were drowned.

Susannah, now metamorphosed into Emily, surfaced, the following year (14 September 1867) on the London stage. The marvellous ‘Pattie’ Oliver had taken the little Royalty Theatre, in Dean Street, and there produced with huge success a burlesque version of Black-Eyed Susan. Long runs were not the style of the time, and so, as the burlesque travelled on to its 100th, 200th, 300th performance, a few cast changes intervened. Fanny Heath had created the bright little pants part of Gnatbrain. She’d moved on, and Emily (‘a comparatively speaking newcomer’) was hired as her replacement. She was entirely successful, and went on to play another boy, Augustus (‘a youth addicted to smoking surreptitiously’) in the not very successful Humbug, in the familiar forepieces John Jones and Married Daughters and Young Husbands, and then, 21 March 1868, when ‘See-u-san’ had finally been withdrawn, yet another boy, the foppish Florestein in a burlesque of The Bohemian Girl. The Merry Zingara of W S Gilbert.

Emily as Florestein
Pattie closed her season in July, but even without poor Louisa and Clara around, I don’t see ‘Emily’ around again for nearly half a year. This is a feature of her career: she seemed to have money, or access to money. She didn’t do no shit jobs. Just waited around for the good ones. Mind you, she had got married. If you could call it that. He was a chorister in the Royalty company who called himself ‘Renouf’. His actual name was John Frederick Fenner and, since they were wed 3 August 1867, it looks as if Emily was in the chorus at the Royalty before she got her first part with Pattie. Anyway, she got rid of him pretty smartly. Or he wandered off. They both ‘married’ again and he died in 1877.

Back to 1868 and Emily. Her next ‘shop’ was a nice one. John Hollingshead was putting together a company with which to open the brand new Gaiety Theatre. It was in one way unusual, in that a number of its members came, not from the theatre, but from the music halls. There was Annie Tremaine, there was Connie Loseby and … there was Emily Fowler, who, not so long since (well, I’m presuming it was she, Miss E!) had been singing at Thornton’s, Leeds. Annie and Connie would go on to be the singing stars of the Gaiety for years, while Emily moved on, but it seems that, at the start at least, it was Emily (with a less legitimate voice than those girls) who was top of the burlesque-girls list. Alongside burlesque boy, Nellie Farren.

This may be the role of Alice. Emily didn't get into skirts often art this stage.
Thus, on the opening night of the Gaiety, Emily appeared as Butts (a maid) in the play On the Cards, and as principal girl, Alice, in a burlesque of Robert le diableRobert the Devil of W S Gilbert. Connie and Annie had smaller parts, and Isabella was turned into a beauty role for one Lillian Hastings’s legs. Emily played (‘Queen of Kokatouka’) in the next burlesque, Columbus, too, but, when the season ended, she was up and gone. Where? Why to the little Charing Cross Theatre, from where managers Messrs Bradwell and Field had just made a delicate exit. The new manager was to be Miss E Fowler. Aged 22.

Now, I can’t pass this event by without a very big WHAT? WHY? Leasing a London theatre was a vastly perilous exercise. Hiring a company and staff … they went bankrupt regularly. And Mrs Fowler is still sewing? Sorry, Emily has to be a front for somebody. Or somebody is supplying her with money. Well, I have the odd idea …

 Emily’s management opened with the drama Edendale, left over from the previous managers, and a new burlesque Very Little Faust and More Mephistopheles. She, of course, was Mephistopheles. In the ten months of her season, the theatre played a few old pieces, several burlesques (Abon Hassan, Ixion each with Emily in the title-role), and some new pieces, written and performed as leading man by Mr Wybert Reeve (Won at Last, Not So Bad after all). In spite of mediocre reviews, Reeve’s plays were kept on the bill for a considerable time. Was he Emily’s ‘backer’? However, the season would today be quite forgot, along with Mr Reeve’s plays, and the Illusions of Joseph J Dilley, were it not for the last new production, a musical comedy entitled The Gentleman in Black. Music by Freddie Clay, book by … W S Gilbert. About which enough has been written. Emily was the leading 'boy'.

Miss Fowler’s management of the Charing Cross ended at the finish of June, and it was gossiped that she was going to America. Maybe she did, but not for long, because at Christmas she was starring at the Olympic as Prince Lardi Dardi in The White Cat. And then as Kate Bertram in The Rights of Woman… a bit of a change! And it was a change.

 In 1871, she went out for a short tour with Dion Boucicault’s London Star company, playing Rosie Aircastle in his Elfie and Sam Willoughby in The Ticket of Leave Man, in 1872 she played opposite Dolly Dolaro in the burlesque of Zampa at the Court Theatre, and in 1873 she rejoined Neville, now managing the Olympic, for a run of increasingly important roles (Florence in Mystery, Lady Kate Fanshawe in Sour Grapes, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, Lady Betty Noel to the Lady Clancarty of Ada Cavendish, Suzanne in The School for Intrigue, Martha Gibbs in All That Glitters, Louise in The Two Orphans). She played her Much Adoat the Crystal Palace, as well as Helen in The Hunchback, alongside Creswick and Genevieve Ward, took the role of May in a major revival of The Ticket-of-Leave Man, appeared in a Benefit at Drury Lane acting in French (En Wagon)and then she got married again.

Her husband John Callin Pemberton was the son of actress Amy Sedgwick. Unfortunately, the ceremony came a little too soon. Or fortunately. Anyway, they were divorced in 1879 on the grounds that ‘Mr Renouf’ hadn’t quite died wjhen thney were wed, so the marriage was illegal.

Emily moved on to play Katharine in Henry V at the Queen’s, in an unsatisfactory season at the St James’s (The Scar on the Wrist, more Lady Clancarty), and then she once again was billed as manager. Back at the Royalty where she had once been a chorus girl. This time it was shorter, but wholly successful. She appeared in the title-role of W G Wills’s Nell Gwynne and scored a huge success. And a supporting piece, from the French, entitled Scandal,was also liked. The next year, after appearances at Drury Lane (Perdita in A Winter’s Tale), the Princess’s, the Royalty and the Haymarket, she would take the two pieces to the country. Then As You Like It with Henry Neville, Constance in The Love Chase at a Benefit …

And she got married a third time (Reigate, 25 December 1880). And this time she got it right. Her husband was a career military man, Captain (later Major) Walter Latham Cox. Somewhat younger than she. He seems to have been quartered in Oxfordshire for a while.

 Anyway, Emily appeared, now, infrequently on the London stage. In 1881 she joined Henry Irving to play Emily L’Esparre in The Corsican Brothers at the Lyceum, but dropped out, so the papers suggested coyly, to have a baby. I don’t know about that. But for more than a decade Miss Fowler was absent from the West End stage. And then, in 1894, came the news that she had been summoned from China to play Lady Winifred Skipton in a version of Le Gendre de M Poirier for Charles Wyndham at the Criterion. And she came. Unfortunately An Aristocratic Alliance turned out to be a badly adapted piece and a failure.

And that was it. I don’t think Emily wanted it to be. She advertised ‘disengaged’ through 1895 …

She was still, more or less, in the public eye. So I am rather surprised that, when she died, some time in mid 1897, I can find no report of it, anywhere. No obituary, no listing in the year’s theatrical necrology. And she didn’t die in China, she’s there in the deaths listings for Shoreditch, June quarter 1897. Why? And if she had money, where is her will? So, even if I’ve managed to summarise pretty accurately her splendid theatrical career, Emily still has the odd secret from me…  I suppose it’s another case of shell out a few quid for a death certificate!

The pictures in this article are mostly from the grand Guy Little collection at the V&A. Emily was much photographed …!