Thursday, June 18, 2020

Cartesians: a dip in the 'G's, or sweetheart and scandal

Back to D'Oyly Carte-land ... and, for no particular reason, a wee dip into David Stone's letter 'G' page. I've been there before, so it's mostly the hard ones and the impossible ones (I don't do the well-known ones) that are left ... but today my first three all 'co-operated' so I have two little stories and one hulking, scandal-filled tale to tell.

Ladies first.

Jessie Kathleen GILES (b 11 Gerrard Street, Reading 9 August 1869; d St Francis Nursing Home, Littlehampton 12 May 1948) was the second daughter (they would have a bundle more!) of Alfred Collins Giles, watchmaker and jeweller and his wife Lucy Ann née Leaver.

She apparently started her career as Jessie Giles (she was actually known as Kathleen) with the Carte companies, singing in the chorus of The Gondoliers in America and on tour in England in The Mikado and The Yeomen of the Guard through 1890. Immediately after, she returned to America, where she toured as Bruhetta in Ship Ahoy, Violet in The Little Tycoon and as Annie O'Tool in Myles Fadh, and ventured for the first time into the music hall, in tiny down-the-bill print at Tony Pastor's. She rose up the bill as she played at the Imperial, at Proctor's, at Keenan's Lyceum in Washington, but after some two and a half years she called an end to her American adventure and returned home.
Jessie, now billing herself as 'Jessie K Giles' (there were at least two other Jessie Gileses, and the one from Hastings had changed her name to 'Jessie Mayland') set foot in England 30 July 1893, and within weeks was appearing at the Holborn Royal ('a new serio of some promise'). After a visit to South Africa, she invested the music halls of London and Great Britain for some five years, and proved a very decided success

She was a particular favourite at Sam Collins's Music Hall on Islington Green, where her song 'Oh! Georgie' went down a treat ... 'a bright comedy songstress who embarrassed the double bass player, by addressing him as 'Georgie' and loading him with endearments and professions of love' (1893) 'She affords evidence of the possession of a very good voice ... in one of her songs she makes love to members of the band, and is undecided as to her final choice, although the drummer seems to stand very high in the vocalist's estimation ...'. Sunderland put her talents in a nutshell: 'an extremely sweet and well-cultivated voice ... mistress of a rare fund of humour'. Jessie K Giles seemed to be heading for the top. But she didn't stick to it. 13 March 1897 she married Captain John Austin Hussey (b 18 April 1858), master mariner and, within a couple of years, retired to the south coast.
It seems to have been Austin who continued artistic pursuits. I see him, in 1935, not long returned from a voyage to South Africa, writing and reciting a poem, 'Farewell to the Sea', at the Brighton and Hove Master Mariners Association: 'a sigh of regret for the passing days of the sailing ship'.
He died, aged 89, in 1947 and Jessie Kathleen, 'of the Franciscan Convent, Littlehampton' the following year.

Surprising, the folk whose life includes a period as a musical theatre chorister (spoken with feeling, the case being my own!). Robert GRAHAM [YOUNG, Robert Honiatt] (b Stepney 15 November 1869; d Hampstead 1922) was the son of Charles Vernon Young (b Tewkesbury 1831; d Earlswood House, Hackney 19 February 1880), attorney and solicitor, and his second wife, Valentia Aymer Frampton née Valentine. Mr Young was 'fourth son of Robert Young Esq of Tewkesbury', local worthy, and brother to another solicitor, Robert Young of Battle. So, what more normal that the sons and grandsons of these legal gentleman should follow the family calling. It seems to have been a paying professions, I see Charles in the 1871 census with wife, 8 child, 4 servants settled in for a life's career as a Stepney lawyer. His life was not all that long, he died aged 49, and Valentia ('second daughter of the Rev W Valentine MA, incumbent of St Thomas's Stepney') was left with her children and 3000L. Her stepson George became a solicitor, and Robert, too, was intended that way .. but oh! he would sing. By the age of 21, he was already describing himself as a professional vocalist. Apparently he was a member of the Savoy company in 1898-9, and in 1901 he is still vocalist and teacher (in Waterlooville, Hants), in 1911 'singer and vocal trainer'. I don't know where he sang (and he must not be confused with R E Graham or Jack Graham or ...) for he doesn't seem to have emerged from the chorus.
He married Laura Jane Davies in 1902, and I see that by 1911 they had produced four children ...

There are eight entries (4m, 4f) for the surname 'Gordon' in the G&S archive. 'Duglas' and her sister I have already disrobed, and the other two ladies are twentieth-century and, thus, out of my zone. Which leaves four men: E L, George, H G and J M.  J M (who was born McRobbie) has been roundly dealt with, not least in his published memoirs. 
So I thought I'd have a go at the others. I swiftly found nothing on E L who appears nowhere else in the history of the theatre except in his performance as Private Willis, unless he is Mr E Gordon of the Mohawk Minstrels (who was a tenor) or E Gordon Cleather sr moonlighting, and that George and H G were the same person: Hubert George GORDON or GORDON-MOORE (b Avenue St Cloud Paris x 8 February 1858; d Hill House Minster Ramsgate 29 October 1931).
Breeding (or, as it turned out, ill-breeding) by Cecil James Gordon 'commonly called Lord Cecil Gordon'. The hyphen-Moore bit (it was his wife's surname), and the christian name of 'Lord', clearly meant to suggest a title, were later additions. Mr Gordon the senior -- shall we call him 'Lord Cecil'? -- was actually fifth son of the Marquis of Huntley, and for a while held a purchased commission in the Highlanders. He married  and bred fluently, he went to prison as a bankrupt in 1857, and fled to France (where Hubert was born, 'father: nobleman'), and crowned his career of disrepute by abandoning wife and children and running off with his wife's much younger half sister, Lady Elinor Fitzgibbon (who was married to a close friend). The episode made a huge splash in the papers, as did the subsequent divorce suit (Cavendish v Cavendish and Gordon), as papers mused on what could cause a young wife and mother to run off with an old, ugly, penniless semi-relation. 'Lord' Cecil became a society laughing stock, as said papers came to the glaring conclusion that he was after her money. He was condemned by the courts to pay Cavendish 10,000L. I wonder if he ever did. Anyway, all this to say that, although grandson of a Marquis and 'related to a peer', Hubert George was not exactly brought up in esteem and wealth.
He was sent to Sutton's Hospital, Charterhouse, and, apparently, led a blameless career until he wed Helena Ann White in 1882. Here's the certificate: the Gordons turned out for the occasion. I presume Lady Cecil Gordon (harrumph!) is mama, who had retrenched to a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court after her 'trouble', and not the bolter... the Metaxa is from Helena's side

Well, bad blood will out. A year or so later Helena was suing for divorce, and the recital of George's marital misdeeds that was brought before the court did not make pleasant reading. She kindly forebore to name a co-respondent. It may not have been female ... Anyway, Helena got her divorce ...

I don't know where George was in the next years. He seems to have sidestepped the censi. We know he was in England in 1885 to 1901, because he was playing Pish Tush, Arac et al with the Carte ... 

He pops up in 1911, on tour, in Sculcoates, rooming with one 'Drake Goodban' ...

And just when I'd sussed all this, I found this little article from an Aberdeen paper of 1935 ...

The Miracle was 1911. And silent.

George was not the only one of the children and grandchildren of 'Lord and Lady Cecil Gordon' to go on the stage. Nor the only one to get shamed in the divorce courts: brother Cecil starred in the newsworthy Goss divorce suit. 
On the theatrical side, George's niece, [Gabrielle] Marguerite Cornille (b 1881), daughter of sister Edith and her French husband, Oscar Henri Félix Cornille, made a very much more remarkable career than did her uncle, starring on the music halls from her teenage years. 

She married the motorist Arthur Cecil Edge, who died at the age of 28.

The progeny of the Marquis of Huntley and their 'exploits' would fill a book. But someone else can write it.

I'm going for another dip in the 'G'. 

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