Saturday, April 18, 2020

Cartesians: Goddam you Millie Vere!

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If I hadn't renounced the demon drink 3 1/2 weeks ago, I'd be reaching for the bottle. It is nearly 3pm, and have spent the whole day, since dawn, trying to get to the bottom of Miss 'Millie Vere', Cartesian contralto. Why so long? Because she kept of throwing up HINTS of her identity, and I investigated each one until each ended in a brick wall. Surely, sometime, I thought, in her long career someone must have said something ... well, they did, but ...

But first, that career. My first sighting of 'Milly' or 'Millie' is in 1874, when she joins P E van Noorden's ladies' minstrel group, the Blondinette Minstrels, as pianist. She stayed with the group until 1876 (and maybe longer), rising to feature as a contralto vocalist as well. Another member of the group was harpist Annie Wade, and Annie and Millie could be seen appearing together until 1878. Annie played at Riviere's proms, Millie got a date at the Crystal Palace, another at Glasgow's New Year's Day Concert and joined 'Mr Federici' in a vocal group (1878), and both girls appeared with Paganini Redivius's concert party ('a contralto voice both sweet and pleasing') before Annie disappears. Sister, I wondered. Mother, even? 'Wade' wasted an hour, at least.


At Christmas 1878 Millie played Polly Larboard in Charles Bernard's Robinson Crusoe at Newcastle and Sunderland ('splendid voice ... repeatedly encored'), with Joseph Eldred as comedian, and was immediately signed for his touring burlesque company, but soon she joined the HMS Pinafore tour, initially as Hebe. During the tour, she played in conductor Ralph Horner's operetta Four by Honours, alongside Robert Brough, Florence Trevallyan annd John Le Hay. As Betsy the maid she went 'far to securing the success of the performance'.
In 1880, she played Jack in the Beanstalk with Nellie Power, before rejoining Carte for another tour. But in May, in Dublin, she was laid low with gastric trouble, and the company went on without her. In 1881, I see her in concert in Sunderland, in 1882, on tour in a chorus role with Emily Soldene in Boccaccio (with Miss Annie Vere alongside her!), then with H S Dacre in the title-role of Olivette, and at Brighton for Little Red Riding Hood, before in 1883 she rejoined Carte for an extended period during which she featured as Iolanthe and Katisha, and, in an emergency, conductor. And a provincial critic mentioned that she was 'Mrs Wallace'. Clue number two, another two hours.
It was fairly clear who the 'Wallace' was. She was seen for some time thereafter in concerts with another ex-Cartesian who went by the name of Welbye WALLACE.


He had previously been Mr W Harrington Mitchell. Whether that was his real name, I know not, but under that name he had sung in amateur concerts in Cheshire and Hull in the early 1870s. Maybe he was the William Chandler Harrington Mitchell gent from Manchester (d November 1891). He had made a big effort to establish himself 'after his return from Italy' as a tenor, concert giver, lecturer, manager, musical you-name-it in the 1870s, but without real success. So, he ended up as singer-staff with Carte between 1882-5. And, apparently, married or 'married' Millie.

'Welbye Wallace'

After leaving the Carte, Millie was seen in concerts (Crystal Palace etc), took part in the Drury Lane panto of 1887 (Puss in Boots) behind Tillie Wadman and Letty Lind, and in 1888 went on the road as Teresa in a revamp of the musical Rhoda, with show's original star, Kate Chard and her husband, and Cartesian Robert Fairbanks. It lasted a little longer this time, but kept clear of the West End.  Millie was soon touring as Javotte in the much more successful Erminie (1888-9). In 1889 she and Welbye (and Fairbanks) are on the bills at Southsea's Clarence Pier, but in 1890, I see her only singing for the Masons. In 1891 she sang Alfred King's The Epiphany and, seemingly, the Verdi Requiem at Brighton, in 1892 in a concert of mainly old Cartesians, playing 'her original part' (it wasn't) in Quits, before getting a job in the West End playing in The Wooden Spoon as a forepiece to The Wedding Eve. The Wedding Eve topbilled Decima Moore, Mabel Love and Kate Chard, so maybe contralto Millie was not an understudy.
Thereafter, I spot her in a couple of one-off performances (The Competitors, A Laggard in Love), as Oberon in pantomime at the Brighton Aquarium (Jack and the Beanstalk 1894) and Titania in Cinderella in the north (Cinderella 1895). Cinderella was played by a Daisy Wallace. I started looking, but enough is enough and the age was wrong. But, by now, Millie was what she needed to be: a character lady, and the stage jobs began flowing. She toured as Mrs d'Erskine to Billie Barlow's The Bicycle Girl, as Mrs Smith in Dandy Dan the Lifeguardsman, as Madame Moulinet in The Topsy Turvey Hotel, as Miss Basingstoke in The Gay Grisette ... and, I thought, it stops here. But then I found a 1909 notice from the Granville, Walham Green: Who's my Dad? with Millie Vere as Miss Semolina Snipe ... and there she is writing
to The Stage in 1913 ...
So she should be in five or six censi, but I can't find her (or 'Welbye') in any of them. And I've tried. Wade, Wallace, Mitchell ... oh, I should say that one provincial paper billed her as 'Clara Millie Vere'. So I've looked there too ... the nearest I've got is a widowed Mary Ann Wade née Wilkinson, in 1871, at 1 Canonbury Square, Islington, with two daughters, Melina 24 'musical profession' and Clara 22 ditto. In 1881 Melina (1864-1923) is still professor of music, but Clara has gone. Annie and Millie? Straws are made to be clutched at.  

Post scriptum a year later: Mr W Chandler [H] Mitchell 'actor' had a daughter. Daisie Marie Wade Mitchell ... WADE! She married another actor, William Willoughby West  ... Amelia Annie Mitchell in witness ..  MILLIE ... Looks as if I were right first time up. Died Amelia Ann Mitchell of 13 Drakefield Road, Balham, Widow, 5 July 1931 ... administration Daisie Marie Wade West (1882-1952).  Oh, Millie. Her estate was L8 4s 6d. But what is this? 
I go in search of Wade .... and there we are! Mrs Amelia Annie Mitchell aged 45, born Bloomsbury, married, with her sister, Emily McGee, in the 1901 census in Streatham .. 1891, William, Millie, daughter Daisie, two servants in Reigate ...  Wait a minute, her unmarried sister is named McGee? What happened to Wade?
1861, John McGee, 48, boardinghouse keeper 5 Montague Street. Wife Alice née Gillett, daughter Amelia born 21 January 1855. So that's Millie! And who is Annie Wade? And why does she give the name Wade to her daughter? Well, I'm skipping this one. All I know is that the Wade connection led to Millie's disrobing!
VERE, Millie [McGEE, Amelia Annie] (b Bloomsbury 21 January 1855; d 13 Drakefield Rd, Balham 5 July 1931).  I shall have to give the too-hard basket a new name now  ...


Here are some other straws that were, initiallly, clutched, mostly to better advantage.

[Emily] Gertrude JERRARD (b Lambeth 1873; d St Helens Hospital, Hastings 9 March 1952) was originally on my who-the-hell list, because the first mention of her which I found called her Gerrard. And belatedly I clicked. So, here she briefly is. Born Lambeth to a father, Henry Charles Jerrard, who professed 'vocalist' and his wife Rachel née Rowell, she was brought up in Melbourne, Australia, whither the family emigrated when she was rising seven. She was prominent is South Yarra amdrams from the age of 20 (Serpolette, Plaintiff), and sang in progressively more ambitious Melbourne concerts (Cavalleria rusticana, 'O luce di quest'anima') until 1895 when, now parentless, she left for London to 'study with Santley'.



She made her first English appearance 10 March 1897, and by September had got herself a first job on the stage as Clementine in the touring The Duchess of Dijon. Soon after, she joined the Carte organisation as a chorister, and it was reported back to the Australian press in 1898 that Mr Gilbert had spotted her, and promoted her to understudy to Casilda. Next she was sent on for four emergency performances as the Plaintiff, and then in Isabel Jay's place, as the Sultana in The Rose of Persia (1 January 1900). Or was it Scent-of-Lilies ... Or both. She went on tour with the piece therafter, and then moved on. I next see her in 1902, touring as Poppy Preston (Hilda Moody's role) in San Toy, before she made her biggest splash of all. But it wasn't on the stage. It was in the society marriage pages. Gertrude married Mr Henry Charles Blake MVO, Athlone Pursuivant of Arms, nephew of the Governor General of Ceylon. She managed to sport an uncle who was a CMG. And I suppose they lived happily ever after.

[William] Charles RAMSAY (b Southwark 1843; d 1908) was one of six children of clergyman, John James Ramsay and his wife Harriet. He grew up in Brompton, and became, first, a clerk in a fruit warehouse. He married 14 December 1867 Martha Harriet Appleyard (d 1900), started a family, and moved into the job which would be his for the rest of his life, manufacturing spirit levels. But, like others of the Cartesian London chorus members, he had a night job as well: singing at the Opera Comique and, it seems, later, the Savoy. And he still had time to father William John, Arthur Hugh, Alfred Dalhousie and Ethel Adrienne (Mrs John Johnson). Apparently he was still at the Savoy in 1892.

Marion JOHNSON (b 3 East Street, Red Lion Square 23 September 1852; d? Croydon 1927) was the daughter of Thomas John Johnson, lithographer and engraver, and his wife Mary Ann née Wilkins. She played in the chorus of the original HMS Pinafore, and played the role of Hebe for a time. The archive tells us that she became a personal friend of Mr Gilbert with whom she corresponded over the years. She left the Savoy chorus in 1885 when she married architect Charles Long. They had one daughter, Elsie. Marion's mother's sister, Alice Sarah Wilkins played with the Carte companies under her married name of Alice PILON (1839-1915).

Another part-time Hebe was Haidee CROFTON [MOORE, Haidee Sophia] (b 5 December 1853; d Easthampstead 1915 or 1928]. Yes, her dates are a puzzlement. Her birth is registered in 1854, yet her christening record records it as two years later, in 1855. As usual, I think the earlier date is the right one. The death is more problematic.
Haidee was born into an influential theatrical family, the daughter of Charles Moore, theatre manager and his wife Haidee Sophia née Ackland. Her younger sister, Mary, was to become an actress of repute and the wife of two celebrated theatre managers, James Albery, then Charles Wyndham of the Criterion Theatre. When Haidee was born, however, father was a 'parliamentary agent', and in the 1871 census the family is living comfortably in Islington: mother, father, six children, a governess and two servants.
I first spot Haidee touring in the ill-famed Duke's Daughter/La Fille de Madame Angot &c company. Prima donna problems struck and the leading roles ended up being shuffled among Selina Dolaro, Pauline Rita and Bessie Sudlow, while Haidee, originally cast as Doretti and Amaranthe was equally shuffled to fill this week's vacant roles. An engagement with George Buckland, singing to accompany his Entertainment, must have been a relief. She played Margery Daw in Jack and the Beanstalk, the traditional York Easter panto, went on tour with Edwards and R G Waldegrave, playing the title-role in the Lurline burlesque, played more pantomimes (Puss in Boots at Edinburgh, Bluebeard at Leeds with J H Ryley), before being called upon to take up the role of Hebe at the Opera Comique. 1880, she was back in pantomime, as Alice in Dick Whittington at Nottingham. In 1881 Charles Bernard sent out a Billee Taylor tour, with Fred Solomon starred: Haidee was cast in the leading lady's role of Phoebe, but she was already booked for another Alice Fitzwarren, at Edinburgh, for Christmas.


In 1882, she went out as Fiametta in Kate Santley's starring tour of La Mascotte, in 1883 she toured in the title-role of The Merry Duchess, and in 1884 she rejoined the Carte management to play the title-role in Iolanthe on the road. But at Christmas she was off to Liverpool for ten weeks in Sinbad. Pantomime over, she returned to the Carte tour for more supporting roles and a marriage. Her husband was William Thomas WITHY known for the stage as W T HEMSLEY (b Dartford 19 June 1854; d Twyford 18 September 1952). At the end of 1885 was born Haidee Hemsley Julia Withy. Mother returned in time to feature in the last nights of the pantomime, Fayre Rosamund, at Bradford and then rejoined the Carte touring ranks for several seasons (Pitti Sing, Phoebe, Tessa). She had a pause in March-April in which she appeared in Clarence Corri's Manchester musical In Summer Days.
In November 1891 she was stopped by a bout of meningitis, and when she returned it was at the 'family' theatre, the Criterion. She appeared in Haste to the Wedding and in an adaptation of Pomme d'api titled Poor Mignonette. The little piece proved as delicious as it had in French, and Haidee played it again to accompany sister Mary's The Silent Battle and the Criterion revival of La Fille de Madame Angot, in which she again played Amaranthe.

Haidee can be seen in St Pancras, with her sister, Florence. She is calling herself Hemsley, but there is no sign of William. He's alive. He lived to the age of 98. And in 1911 he has reconverted to being a tobacconist and postmaster in Hertforshire. And in 1939 he's still selling tobacco. But Haidee is gone by 1939. And here's the puzzle. There is a grave in Abney Park Cemetery for Haidee Sophia Withy, died 1915, aged 49. But the death of another (presumably) Haidee Sophia Withy is registered as taking place at Easthampstead, Berks in 1928. Un-be-lieveable! Which one is she? Mary Smith be damned ...

Cruising through the other and mostly more minor names in the HMS Pinafore original production in The British Musical Theatre, I find there are several which mean little to me. And one that I am slightly shocked to see there.

I don't know anything about Frank Talbot, who covered Dick Deadeye. Ten years later a Frank Talbot played with William Duck's company, but I rather feel that Mr Talbot might have been another part-timer.  Similarly Mr Bosanquet. There aren't that many Bosanquets around in London in 1881, but the obvious choice is John Bosanquet, musician, 39? 59?, born St George's in the East, married, but boarding in Shoreditch. Then we have Alice Mandeville who went on as Josephine. Awful choice of name: not many years before the previous Alice, sister to the better-known Agatha States, had been drowned off the American coast.

Much more important is Elinor LOVEDAY who was a genuine take-over as Josephine. I suspect (with evidence) that she was one of the grand Loveday family, George Beaumont and Annie Tremaine, Henry Joseph et al, but 'Elinor'? Yes! At last! She is Mrs Henry Joseph! See 1881 census for more evidence. Henry Joseph (musician) and wife Ellen (27 singer). And why have we not seen her before? Ellen (9) Amy (7), Henry (4). She had a fine career as a leading lady from HMS Pinafore via the forgettable Lola, to The Beggar Student between 1879 and 1886, before I lose her, but she is still claiming 'professional singer' in 1901. Husband Henry, of course, has moved memorably on to be stage director to Henry Irving at the Lyceum. So, Ellen Jane née HODGKINSON (b Ashon-in-Makerfield, Lancashire 9 May 1850; d Hampstead 14 February 1927), daughter of John Hodgkinson, file cutter ... Why didn't I find that years ago?

The Archive has come up with dates for Frederick [Langdale] BICKERSTETH (b Liverpool 6 July 1846; d 24 Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill 28 February 1901). And that is confirmedly he. He started his working life as a marine insurance broker in Tynemouth, in 1881 he is a metal merchant in Glasgow, and by 1891 he is an operatic vocalist in Bloomsbury. We know its the same man because he has his wife, Eliza (m 1869) along with him. Well, apart from a concert in Matlock, in 1874, where F L Bickersteth Esq sang 'The moon hath raised her lamp above' and 'The Stirrup Cup', I see him not. And I know not what he did between 1881 and 1891 to turn him from a metal merchant into an operatic vocalist. I've leafed through some of the cast lists in British Musical Theatre ... tiens! there is Helier le Maistre in the chorus of Jakobowski's Dick ... but I see him not.

And then ... we know that Messrs Carte, Sullivan and Gilbert sometimes made 'errors' in their casting. But even some of their soprano shockers can't have come up to this one. [Ernest Richard] D'Arcy FERRIS (b Bath 1855; d Holloway 4 June 1929) certainly deserved a prize for trying. But, as one kindly writer, remembering his days in amateur operatics in Cheltenham, remarked 'his voice was extremely pretty but far from big'. A tenorinetto. I see him in concerts in his native Bath and Weston-super-Mare in 1874, he published an amateurish song in 1875, sang with Mons Guilmant's organ concerts in Sheffield, and stage a concert of his own at a house in Eaton Square in 1877. By 1878 he was advertising from 8 Russell Square that he would visit Cheltenham each week to give singing lessons. He traipsed to Wales with his 'Waft her Angels'. And he appeared at London's Dilettante Club in Signor Tartaglione's operetta The Critical Day. The critic was appalled. 'One of the very worst actors that ever strutted and fretted'. He didn't even like his singing although his main number was given credit for being 'graceful'. But nothing stopped Mr Ferris. He got to sing Samson at Northampton, and was allowed on stage again for a local operetta, For Lack of Gold, at Cheltenham, he sang a Messiah at Bristol (1880) and when he sang at Worcester the local press assured 'he has gained a considerable reputation in London'. What! You can fool the provinces some of the time. I don't know how he got involved with the Carte organisation. I don't think he would have been in the HMS Pinafore chorus. Maybe his appearance(s) as Ralph Rackstraw were a trial.

Mr Ernest Richard d'Arcy-de Ferrars
Mr Ferris drags on for many years. His name pops up in all sorts of places which I'm not going to bother to enumerate. Until he decided that he was going to be 'Mr D'Arcy-de Ferrars'. Yes, Mr Ferris had social pretensions. He had no right to them. His father, Samuel Charles Ferris, had been a clerk in the East India Company in Calcutta, his mother, Fanny née Evill, a schoolmistress. His eldest brother was an Apostolic Catholic clergyman. But there you are. Anyway, he married Isabel Mary Browne from Wales in 1889 (as de Ferrars!) and fathered three daughters and a son ... and left them 56L at his death. And there I shall leave him.



And today's bundle of Cartesians.



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