Saturday, August 1, 2020

Gertrude ... the prima donna with four surnames

Trying to get my not-quite-complete solutions to a good half-dozen Cartesians of all shapes and sizes ready for blogging ... Burke, Baker, Benitz, Branson, Broderick, Burnham, Briant (yes, I got stuck in hre Bs), Coop, Clarke, Davenport, Deveine ... oh dear!  And then a lovely photo of 'Gertrude Cave-Ashton' popped on to my desk, and I thought .. right ..  I've DONE her, so ....

CAVE-ASHTON, Gertrude [ANDREWS, Gertrude Eva] (b 27 West Square, Southwark 17 April 1855; d 34 Devonshire Street, Cavendish Square 30 March 1886)


The soprano who would be known as Gertrude Cave-Ashton was born, in London in 1855, into a musical family. Musical on its female side, in any case. Father, John Holman Andrews, was a warehouseman, a laceman. But mother, who was known as Jenny Constant, was a ‘professor of music’: a singer, the composer or arranger of several dozen published songs from 1840 onwards, but, most particularly, a well-known voice teacher.


She was also nine times (at least) a mother, having borne her first surviving child, Theodosia (b 4 Distaff Lane 18 November 1836), at nineteen, followed in quick succession by Henry, Holman and John, and then at a more leisurely pace by four more daughters Constance Sarah (b 7 November 1847), Mary Florence (b West Square, 17 April 1851), Harriet Edith (b West Square, 9 February 1853) and Gertrude Eva (b 17 April 1855), as well as one more son, Russell (b February 24 1849; d 1904).


I don’t know what Theodosia got up to. She seems to have died in 1914 after a difficult, unmarried life. Constance married a gentleman by the name of Morecraft who worked in the bicycle business and Russell was a choirboy at Westminster Abbey until puberty got the better of him and he ended up as a bachelor ‘commercial clerk’ and a ‘cigar merchant’. The other three girls, however, all followed in mother’s footsteps and made a career out of music. 


Florence – who taught music from a young age -- seems to have had something of a career as a vocalist, under the name of ‘Florence Ashton’. She can be seen in 1871 (‘pupil of Signor Lago’) being launched in a revival of George Tolhurst’s infamous oratorio Ruth at Chatham, singing with Mrs Macfarren at Islington and elsewhere, and on 13 December of the same year promoting her own modest concert at the Victoria Hall with a bill including Ellen Glanville, Anita Leoni and the Signori Danieli and Rocca on the bill. In the following February, she is on the programme at Sophia Flora Heilbronn’s concert along with Miss Leoni, Blanche Reives and others, and in August 1872, I spot her singing at the Bijou Theatre at the Ladies’ Industrial Society’s concert, on a semi-professional bill including a young actor Lionel Brough, Emma Schiff, Edward Murray and the pianist Alexandra Ehrenberg. In 1873 she toured an entertainment in partnership with Edward Compton, son of the well-known actor, and in 1874 she even made an appearance on the comic opera stage, playing Mlle Lange in William Offord’s tiny La Fille de Madame Angot company. In 1875 she was a member of P E van Noorden’s girl group, The Blondinette Minstrels. Thereafter, however, she seems to have limited herself to teaching and in the 1881 census she described herself as a ‘musical governess’.


Edith Holman Andrews, as she billed herself, had by far the longest career of the sisters in music but, as in the case of Florence, only a limited part of that career was as a performer (Bath Assembly Rooms ‘of the Albert Hall Concerts’ 1872). Edith at first helped, and later became the successor to, her mother who, as far back as the 1850s, was advertising: ‘Mrs John Holman Andrews’s Singing Class at the Hanover Square Rooms every Saturday at 12 o’clock. Ladies are requested to make personal application to Mrs Andrews on Wednesday or Saturday mornings. Terms of Messrs Cramer and other principal music-sellers’, or in 1860: ‘Mrs John Holman Andrews. Practice of Vocal Concerted Music at Cedar Lodge, Blackheath, on Mondays, and Saturdays at the Hanover Square Rooms’, and still, in the 1870s;  ‘… Brighton, Blackheath, Richmond, Croydon  … 38 Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square’.

From 1872, Edith’s (and, briefly, in 1872, Gertrude’s) name appeared alongside Jenny’s on the advertisements and, after their mother’s death (29 April 1878), the advertisements still flourished: ‘Miss Edith Holman Andrews’s series of soirées musicales for the practice of concerted music. Address 205 Albany Street, Gloucester Gate, Regents Park’ (1885); ‘Miss Edith Holman Andrews announces that she visits London on Wednesdays for the purpose of giving singing lessons at No 9 Nottingham Terrace, York Gate, Regents Park. Miss Holman Andrews has also resumed her visits to Reading, Putney, Sydenham, High Barnet, Finchley, Southgate, Oakley Park, Blackheath. address The Cottage, Ashstead, Surrey’ (1887). 

Edith had as long a career in music teaching as her mother had had, and she died at Eastbourne in 1923 (8 April).


Gertrude, however, if she was neither the first nor the most durable of the sisters in the world of music, was far and away the most successful. She began her career, in tandem with Edith, when not yet in her teens, billed in her earliest years as Gertrude Holman Andrews. The girls appeared together as early as 1867, when they can be spotted at a concert for the aid of the Building Fund for the British Schools, put on at Richmond on 6 November. The local critic decided that they ‘deserve special notice’, praising their ‘clear enunciation and pure tone’ and their mother for her ‘careful training’. Thereafter they were seen regularly singing unpretentious music in unpretentious surroundings whilst simultaneously giving lessons in both piano and voice. Gertrude also followed her mother’s lead as a songwriter and in 1871 Duff and Stewart published the song ‘Angels’ by sixteen-year-old ‘Gertrude Holman Andrews’.


I spy the girls in the 1872 summer season at the Margate Assembly Rooms, alongside tenor Montem Smith, and in the new year ‘Mrs Holman Andrews’ two daughters’ duetted – as they had done now for numerous years -- at their mother’s concert, in the company of such established singers as Edith Wynne, the Pateys and W H Cummings (‘[they] sing with an ease an a fluency rarely met with in such young artists’). In May, they were seen at the Hanover Square Rooms, in Helen Hogarth’s annual concert singing alongside Gardoni, Nordblom, Helen D’Alton, Katharine Poyntz, Vernon Rigby and the like, but around this time Edith retreated from performing and, come July, when Miss Gertrude Holman Andrews was seen out at the Brighton Aquarium, performing Benedict’s duet ‘Why am not I?’, it was in tandem with the (very) odd Yorkshire tenor who called himself Signor Tesseman. However, ‘Gertrude Holman Andrews’ (which was never the lady’s real name, pace the reference work of Messrs Brown and Stratton and all those who have copied them) had already bowed her last. For ‘Gertrude Ashton’ had taken her place. 


Gertrude’s first teacher had, of course, been her mother. But she had, for some reason, seemingly, subsequently gone for a few lessons to Mr Thomas Thorpe Peed or Pede ‘of the Royal Academy of Music’, a tenor vocalist, lecturer, songwriter and the composer of a number of little operettas. In 1873, with the aim of giving his stage works a showing, Mr Pede took a lease on the under-popular Alexandra Theatre in Park Street, Regent's Park. He opened what he called the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Opera House, on 31 May, with a bill including his own operetta Marguerite. Gertrude was cast in the title-role, alongside the young tenor J W Turner, Estelle Emrick, T J Montelli and Kate M Nott. From May till the following February, Pede kept ‘his’ theatre open, and a full-length piece called The Magic Pearl (29 September), in which Gertrude played the Princess Zalouna alongside Turner, Alice Barth and a certain Mrs Mary Ann Marshall who called herself Marion St Clair, and who was apparently paying the bills, and two other short two-handed operettas, Moonstruck and A Lesson in Love with Miss Ashton and Mr Turner featured, were all given time on the stage, along with a Christmas extravaganza, In the Clouds and a pantomime, Mother Red Cap.


In the aftermath of this first appearance on the stage, Gertrude was, alas, obliged to put in another kind of appearance … in court. Estelle Emrick sued Pede, who had sacked her, for a year’s salary at 6gns a week. She called his music ‘rubbish’, he called her ‘ignorant and conceited’. Gertrude was among those who came into court tentatively to say dubiously supportive things on Pede’s behalf, but the lady won … and got a farthing and no costs!


The Alexandra experience over, Miss Ashton returned to the concert stage, and in 1874-5 she put in a number of distinctly successful appearances at the Margate Assembly Rooms, the Brighton Aquarium and Ramsgate’s Granville Hall. She also sang alongside Antoinette Sterling and Mme Lemmens-Sherrington at Islington on Hospital Sunday, featured with Edith Wynne, Edward Lloyd and Augusta Roche in a St Patrick’s Day concert at St James’s Hall, and took part in Edwin Ransford’s Ballad concert and his Golden Wedding concert, as well as appearing on a number of occasions with Thomas Lawler’s groups of soloists at city dinners. Undoubtedly her most upmarket platform engagement, however, was on 23 June at a charity concert mounted in the name of Christine Nilsson. Nilsson was supported by Titiens, Trebelli, Anna Belocca, Victor Capoul, Sims Reeves, Signor Foli, M de Soria … and Miss Ashton. Gertrude joined Foli and Capoul in the trio from Lucrezia Borgia.


During this time, she had also, if briefly, put her foot back on the dramatic stage in a performance, with Richard Temple and Wilford Morgan, of Breaking the Spell at the Alexandra Palace, but in June 1875 she moved into the West End for the first time. Marie Litton produced a little one-act operetta by B C Stephenson, music by Arthur Sullivan, as part of a bill at the St James’s Theatre (5 June), and she hired a pair of vocalists for the leading roles. The gentleman was an ephemeral American light baritone by the name of Carlos Florentine, the lady was Gertrude, who thus created the part of Laetitia in The Zoo. Miss Gertrude Ashton began the run of The Zoo, but she did not finish it under that name. For on a date unknown Gertrude Eva Andrews allegedly married one Frank Hugh Cave, a gentleman (according to the 1881 census) said to be of private means (but who is noticeably absent from nearly all public documents), at a place unknown …  Since she ‘remarried’ as ‘Andrews’ after his vanishment, after four children and not many more years, I beg to doubt the verity of the ‘marriage’ if not, even, of his identity. Unless he fiddled with his name, of course.

 Her next engagement confirmed that the young ‘Mrs Cave’ was going places. The venerated Mr Sims Reeves was booked to give guest performances of a number his standbys, including Rob Roy (20 July) and Guy Mannering (7 August), at the Crystal Palace, and Gertrude was hired to be one of his leading ladies. They led off with Rob Roy and the new young prima donna scored well: ‘As Diana Vernon, Miss Gertrude Cave-Ashton proved how greatly she has advanced in a short time as an artiste. She sang the duets with Mr Sims Reeves in excellent style and introduced ‘O where and o where has your hielan’ laddie gone’ and ‘Came ye by Athol’, both of which she gave with great brilliancy, and her share of the concerted music was also given with musicianly correctness. As an actress Miss Ashton has yet something to learn, but her intelligence is so great that we feel she will not be long ‘ere she is in every way fully competent to take a foremost position on the lyric boards. A great merit we must mention which was the very clear articulation of the text. Many singers mumble the words as if their mouths were full of plums. Not so with Miss Ashton, we could hear the dialogue with the greatest ease…’

In Guy Mannering Reeves was strongly supported, as Lucy Franklein and Annie Thirlwall were also in the cast. But it was Gertrude who played Julia Mannering and performed ‘Home Sweet Home’, ‘Bid me discourse’ and the ‘Echo Duet’ with Reeves.

The association with Sims Reeves continued through October and November, for the famous tenor spent those two months on the road, on a concert tour. He took with him as supporting artists Madame Cave-Ashton (soprano), his wife’s pupil, Helen D’Alton (contralto), Signor Foli (bass), Bertha Brousil, Henry Nicholson (flute) and Sydney Naylor (piano).


By 1876, the 21year-old Gertrude found herself firmly established in the London concert world. She appeared at the Royal Aquarium concerts (‘The Bird That Came in Spring’, Mme Sainton-Dolby’s ‘Song of the Sea’, ‘Robin Adair’ &c), at St James’s Hall on St Patrick’s Day (‘The Angel’s Whisper’, ‘Rory o More’), as featured vocalist at the Saturday pops (‘The Charmer’ and Sullivan’s ‘The distant shore’, accompanist: Julius Benedict), alongside Clara Schumann as featured pianist, and in the Boosey Ballad concerts, as well as joining the Reeves concert party for a further tour, and also appearing with the country’s favourite tenor in Guy Mannering and The Waterman at the Alexandra Palace. And in the midst of this activity, she found time to give birth to her first son, Harold Constant Cave (27 December 1875).


In 1877, she again appeared at Boosey’s London Ballad concerts (‘Love the Pilgrim’, ‘Rory O’More’), alongside Reeves, Lemmens-Sherrington, Maybrick, Lloyd and Antoinette Sterling, gave birth to an Arthur or Edward Reeves Cave (5 April 1877), and then, in August of the year, she began her most substantial operatic engagement to date when she joined Rose Hersee’s company at the Crystal Palace, sharing the soprano duties with the manageress in a brief series of thrice weekly performances. They opened (4 August) with The Marriage of Figaro, with Gertrude as Susanna to Miss Hersee’s Countess and the Figaro of Harry Campobello, and Gertrude subsequently appeared as Arline, to the Thaddeus of William Parkinson, in The Bohemian Girl and as Eily in The Lily of Killarney with J H Pearson, before a new opera company moved in and Miss Hersee‘s team headed for Manchester. At the Queen’s Theatre, Les Huguenots was given with Gertrude as Marguerite to the Valentine of Miss Hersee (‘scored an undisputed success’), and The Waterman, in which she played Wilhelmina opposite William Parkinson, as well as repeating her Arline and her Susanna and appearing in the title-role of Maritana.


This company, with various combinations of artists, continued on until Christmas, making a return visit to the Crystal Palace where The Secret Marriage was played with Gertrude teamed with Alice Barth, Florence St John, Lane, Temple and George Fox, and ending up filling the regular operatic Christmas slot at Cork and Limerick, with what was now called ‘William Parkinson’s Opera Company’, with Gertrude sharing prima donna-dom with Ida Gilliess Corri and Rose Hersee. Gertrude did Maritana (‘Madame Cave Ashton was Maritana and although during the first act she showed signs of nervousness these soon wore off and her performance on the whole was highly finished and artistic’), Arline to the Thaddeus of Parkinson, Eily alongside the Myles of Bernard Lane, Susanna to the Countess Almaviva of Rose Hersee and shared performances Leonora (Trovatore). 

In the new year, the company continued to Limerick, but with Annie Tonnellier as prima donna. For Madame Cave-Ashton had stepped briefly back into a lighter type of music and taken over the role of Aline in The Sorcerer at the London Opera Comique. However, she was soon back to more usual things, fulfilling concert engagements around the country, teaming again with Sims Reeves in Guy Mannering, and giving birth (22 May 1878) to her third child, a daughter who was named Eva Jenny Constant Cave, in memory of Jenny, who had died just weeks earlier.


The next years found Gertrude spending most of her time with one English opera company or another – at the Alexandra Palace with Richard Temple’s organization, at Covent Garden with Sims Reeves in The Waterman and The Beggar’s Opera, on tour with Charles Durand’s company as co-leading lady with Sophia Mariani in a wide repertoire of operas, with Frederick Archer’s , sharing prima donna duties with Blanche Cole, and in 1879 with Miss Cole’s company at the Standard Theatre. 27 June 1879 she gave birth to a premature, stillborn, fourth child.


In 1880, she toured for Charles Bernard, alongside Frank Celli and Annie Tonnellier, in the star role of La Petite Mademoiselle, visited Birmingham to play A Gay Cavalier, The Beggar’s Opera and Guy Mannering with Reeves, and also created leading roles in two new English comic operas, mounted in the provinces; John Crook’s The King’s Dragoons at the Theatre Royal, Manchester (1 November) and J E Mallandaine’s rather less consequent Celia at Reading (27 September). At Christmas time, she visited the Manchester Theatre Royal and played Fatima to the Bluebeard of Charles Collette. ‘Madame Cave-Ashton, who sings most charmingly has added to her prestige with the Manchester public by her triumphant share in the present production.’


In 1883 (21 August), she was back again at the Crystal Palace with what was now Richard Temple and Faulkner Leigh’s company, but which still included Rose Hersee, Lucy Franklein, Bessie Palmer and other Palace regulars, as well as the same J W Turner with whom Gertrude had made her stage debut at the Alexandra and a third prima donna, William Parkinson’s daughter Emily. Gertrude repeated her Susanna to the Countess of Miss Hersee, repeated her Eily, with composer Benedict conducting, sang Leonora in Il Trovatore with Turner, Bolton and Josephine Yorke and took the title-role in a first ever attempt to put on stage Sterndale Bennett’s highly popular cantata The May Queen (18 October). The Era reported ‘Madame Cave Ashton, although not the ideal of a May Queen, was to be praised greatly for her spirited rendering of the music, not only in the solo passages, but in the concerted music, where her bright, telling voice was of the utmost value’, but the essentially undramatic piece did not make an impression as an opera.


The following year, 1884, she took out her own little company, billed intermittently as the Crystal Palace Opera Company, but mostly as Mme Cave-Ashton’s company. They gave a two-week season in Norwich (14 April) playing Il Trovatore with William Parkinson as Manrico, Richard Cummings as Luna and Louise Lyle as Azucena, Maritana, Faust, La Sonnambula, Fra Diavolo, Die schöne Galathee, and The Rose of the Auvergne, with Madame taking the leading role in each and every opera. The season was a fine success, and Gertrude (‘she possesses vocal attainments of a high order, united to a pleasing style and these she utilises to considerable advantage’) and Parkinson, in particular, much appreciated, but the tour was an in-and-out affair. Parkinson was soon gone to bigger things and, more often than not, dates were filled just by Madame, Louise Lyle, Faulkner Leigh and baritone Conrad Gilbert King, giving selections from Rigoletto and Faust and performances of their shorter operettas – the Offenbach, the Suppé and the inevitable The Waterman --  to piano accompaniment. They did, however, pick up one prestigious addition to their little troupe when they went back into action on August Bank Holiday at Colchester. ‘Madame Carsoni, piano’ had been replaced by the elderly Sir Julius Benedict, and Gertrude advertised staunchly ‘Madame Cave-Ashton’s Opera Company. Full Chorus with Sir Julius Benedict. Rapidly booking for 1885. Only vacant dates three nights November 6th and six nights November 10th. Midland cities preferred. Three good sopranos required for chorus and two good basses able to sing small parts, also a leader (violin). Repertoire includes Il Trovatore, Maritana, La Sonnambula, Fra Diavolo, Rose of Castille, The Lily of Killarney, Faust &c … season recommencing Halifax 15 January 1885, reproduction of Benedict’s The Bride of Song conducted by the composer…’

At Colchester they gave Il Trovatore, with Gertrude teamed with Miss Lyle, Leigh as Manrico and J M Gordon as Luna, and on night two a selection from Lily of Killarney, with the composer conductingAt Ipswich, the performance consisted of parts of Faust, the Lily selection, piano-playing by Benedict, and the Rigoletto quartet. At Yarmouth Il Trovatore, The Waterman, Faust and Lily of Killarney were the backbone of the affair, and at Reading Faust, Maritana, Il Trovatore and bits of Lily, programmed, at each place, according to the forces available, in the list of mostly pleasant summery spots they visited .. Scarborough, Harrogate, Yarmouth, Brighton’s Pavilion, Newport, Reading West Hartlepool. Benedict’s contribution soon faded to a piano solo once or twice a date, and the occasional bit of stick-waving, but the reviews were invariably good (‘a rare musical treat’ etc) and, in its unpretentious way, what Gertrude’s team offered was well liked.


However, soon after the company had started on its 1885 tour, the bills changed. It was no longer the Cave-Ashton company, but The Grand Duchess company, sole and responsible manager Mr W M D’Almaine, with Sir Julius Benedict, Madame Cave-Ashton as the Grand Duchess and Miss Annie Poole as Wanda. William D’Almaine was a music-hall tenor singer of long experience, now attempting to get into management. Miss Poole was a fine comic opera soubrette. The rearranged team can be spotted, in March, at the Comedy Theatre in Manchester playing to ‘capital houses’ where Gertrude is noted as vivacious, and Annie Poole as interpolating a new song by Benedict, and the ancient himself ‘partially conducting’ and playing piano. They are clearly the main attractions. F Leigh and Mr King are still there, but Messrs Craufurd (Miss Poole’s husband) and Wotherspoon have arrived for the other main roles. And then Miss Poole is playing the Duchess. Mme Cave-Ashton is still there, though, for when they reach Great Yarmouth in the first week of April, she takes part in a sacred concert. And a wedding. During the Yarmouth date of D’Almaine’s struggling company, Gertrude Eva Cave became Gertrude Eva Lee. Mrs Faulkner Lee. She had married the tenor.


Faulkner Lee or Leigh? Who was he? The Era, which, at the time, wasn’t in the habit of printing nonsense, printed a piece in 1887 saying that his real name was Charles Oswell, ‘formerly of London, Cardiff, Yarmouth et al’, that he had been a surveyor, but gave it up temporarily to go on the stage. But the 1881 census lists Faulkner Lee vocalist born Shipdham, Norfolk, and the birth registers show a Faulkner Lee born at the end of 1848 and registered in exactly the right little area of Norfolk, so…? Well, it turns out that both are right.  The bankruptcy notices, for 1887, list Faulkner Lee sometimes known as Faulkner Leigh, Charles Oswell and Henry Leslie of Devonshire Street, Great Portland Street, formerly of Northampton Square, Middlesex, then of Norwich, Cardiff, Yarmouth, Thorpe, Manchester, Hull, Preston, Nottingham, Bradford and other places, surveyor, formerly operatic vocalist. Hmm. Mr Lee was the son of one, Francis Lee, land surveyor, registrar of births and deaths, agent to the Age Life Insurance Company and schoolmaster, and his wife Elizabeth née Woodrow, who shared his duties at the registry and hosted live-in boarders. Both Faulkner and his brother John were trained as organists, and the 1871 census shows young Faulkner living in Richmond as ‘organist, choirmaster and assistant architect’. He first came into a small part of the public eye as a vocalist in 1878, at the age of thirty (‘a small but not disagreeable voice which would be heard to advantage in a drawing room’), and his career was short. But for the moment it was at its peak. He was singing Manrico and Elvino and Don Jose and Fra Diavolo.

For yes. Suddenly, the repertoire was back. The company hit Norwich and Gertrude was back in saddle as Maritana, Amina in La Sonnambula, Wilhelmina, Leonora, the beautiful Galatea and Zerlina. And the Grand Duchess. William Parkinson was back too, Annie Poole was re-demoted (for one performance) to Wanda ... but one notable name was missing. Sir Julius wasn’t there. He had caught cold in Manchester and gone home to die.

And then the whole affair exploded. The next weeks the advertisements went out ‘Madame Cave-Ashton and Mr Faulkner Leigh are not now in any way connected with the company’… and, right next to that: ‘Grand Opera Company season opens at Norwich Whit Week, Madame Cave-Ashton and Mr Faulkner Leigh specially engaged, all communications to Mr Neil Carlton, Theatre Royal, Norwich. NB Mr W D’Almaine has no connection whatever with this company’. Gertrude and Lee had decided to flit to pastures greener, in the person of Mr Carlton, but of course the costumes for the half-a-dozen operas, costumes which had been so praised all round the country, were theirs, and they weren’t going without them. Carlton wrote a letter to D’Almaine’s manager asking him to get the costumes out of the theatre … and the explosion happened. It would end in the law courts.

Gertrude and Lee did open in Norwich. Not at the Theatre Royal but the Agricultural Hall. Parkinson joined them, and Lucy Franklein, and they put up The Bohemian Girl and Fra Diavolo for Faulkner Leigh’s fellow Norfolkians. And then, while poor, underfunded D’Almaine went to perdition, Gertrude and Lee sailed on to London. And on 31 July they opened … at the Empire Theatre. As a stop-gap programme in the off-season. The off-season of a house which was struggling even in the on-season. They gave The Rose of the AuvergneThe Waterman and their chunk of Faust with Henry Lewens, Herbert Sims Reeves, Mr Bentley, Louisa Lyle and Charles Manners. Alas, the thing had been flung on, the band were at a loss, the scenery and chorus were feeble, and Gertrude (whose personal reviews were excellent), Lewens, Lyle and Manners were left to their own. Reeves was termed ‘ladylike’ as Tom Tug, Leigh damned for his acting, and after a week or so the announcement went up for ‘Signor Arditi’s promenade concerts’ with Mme Cave-Ashton, F Leigh, C Manners and H Sims Reeves. Arditi. First Benedict, now Arditi. Anyway they don’t seem to have promenaded much. Soon, the Empire was closed.


think this was the last time that the name of Gertrude Cave-Ashton appeared on a bill. Certainly on a London bill… She died in March 1886, at thirty years of age. ‘Disease of the liver, disease of the kidneys, dropsy…’, recorded the death certificate of ‘the wife of Mr Faulkner Lee, gentleman’. But Mr Lee wasn’t there to register his young wife’s demise: that was done by her sister, Constance Morecraft. Liver, kidneys … aged thirty .. ?


I don’t know what became of her children. Arthur is visible. After showing up in a boys’ home in the 1891 census, in 1901 and 1911 censi , he is a mechanical engineer or ‘stationary engineman’ in Kingham. Arthur Reeves Cave died in Saltley, 19 November 1948. Harold seems to have become a trunk-maker in St Pancras. Maybe. Eva is listed, in the 1911 census, as a hospital nurse.


But I do know what happened to her widower. Faulkner Lee sang on a bit. He ran the choir at St Matthias, Earls Court. And, apparently, he went into the Mohawk Minstrels and the Christy Minstrels for a little. But, mainly, he’d taken up surveying again. Then the fascinating tenor surveyor met a rather older widow lady from Exeter, by the name of Mary Ann Lound.  Mrs Lound was noticeably comfortably off, but had been rather close with her cash, much to the annoyance of her son, a lawyer, who wanted her to give some of it to him, to fill a few embarrassing holes. Faulkner Lee moved in with Mrs Lound, as her ‘manager’, and they travelled from Exeter to Brighton and Eastbourne and sometimes Paris, spending money, until Mr John Adams Lound jr was fit to burst. And did. The boiling barrister and the wounded tenor ended up in court – where the barrister had been a few times before, involved in cases ranging from misuse of trust funds to fraud to assault. Of course, he was right to be worried, for, in 1888, Mrs Lound became a slightly wrinkled bride. Faulkner Lee apparently continued to ‘pick up the odd five guineas by singing’ thereafter, but the career he had tried to build with Gertrude was over.


Gertrude Cave Ashton’s career had, at her early death, apparently already passed its peak. The dazzling young woman who had so appealed to Sims Reeves had, after her husband’s death or disappearance, frittered away into less than top-class engagements and companies. And into the less than first-class company of Mr Faulkner Lee. While such of her sometime co-workers as Blanche Cole, Sophia Mariani and Rose Hersee went on to head major companies, down through the years, she had ended up doing operatic selections to piano in her own small outfit. With Faulkner Lee. Or Leigh or Oswell.


And Mr Cave? Surely he is not the F H Cave who turns up in amateur dramatics at Richmond in 1900 … he’d have been 60 … 



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