In Victorian times, the little pieces which acted as makeweights, alongside the main show of the evening in theatres round Britain, were pretty much ‘trifles’. Little farces, and 1-act comedies, or ‘operettas’ with a handful of songs, manufactured largely to get the audience ‘in’ to the night’s entertainment, and out again in a merry state of mind. Even if they had watched a gruesome melodrama for most of the time.
Sometimes, these pieces featured a ‘star’ actor in a well-worn show-off role, but mostly they were just little or reasonably little pieces of fun, or nonsense, or burlesque. With or without songs. And they were cast accordingly. The stars were in the big piece, and unless you brought in Julia St George or her like to star in a burlesque, the afterpiece gave opportunities to the second-string players. Including the understudies, if the theatre ran to such a thing.
Which brings me (almost) to Trial by Jury. A slightly unusual combination. A sung-through 1-acter. Miss Dolaro (in theory) and Mr Carte (mostly in practice) had put together a company for La Périchole, the main piece of their season, and the accompanying playlets. The banner for the Royalty Theatre’s opening under its new management included the names of Dolly Dolaro, Linda Verner, Miss Leblanc, Miss Lassalle, Fred Sullivan, C W Norton, Charley Campbell, Charles Kelleher, Walter Fisher plus Lin Rayne, W H Stephens and Miss Bessie Hollingshead. An ‘opera’ with Dolly and Nelly Bromley, was announced as ‘in preparation’. Norton and Miss Verner appeared in the play along with ‘little Miss Elliston’, a ‘Miss Douglas’ was fourth lady in Périchole, and B R Pepper played a tiny part. Miss Leblanc gave way to Mdlle Louise Verdoni from the amateur dramatics, and Julia Beverley replaced Miss Douglas, Misses Mortimer, Nellie St George and Edward George Osborn flitted across or onto the bills … some of them staying around for very short periods.
When Trial by Jury was produced, the cast was largely taken from the company already hired: Miss Bromley, Sullivan and Fisher at their head. But the piece requires a fairly large supporting cast. We all know who Nelly Bromley, Fred Sullivan, Walter Fisher and Charley Campbell were, or became. If you don’t, I’ve written them up already. Nelly and Charley on my blog, the other two in my Encyclopaedia, but who were the rest of them?
I was curious. So I have spent a day or two looking. The Gentlemen of the Jury and the People in the Gallery, for the moment aside, the supporting cast seems to have been Mr Hollingsworth (Counsel), Charles Kelleher (Usher), B R Pepper (Associate), Mr Bradshaw and Mr Husk ‘and others’ (Jurors). With the odd swap of parts! The ladies – bridesmaids all – were Linda Verner, Amy Clifford, Julia Beverley, Cissy Durrant, Annie Palmer, Misses Lassalle, Villiers, Graham[e] and Lee ‘and others’. Julia Barber and Laura Carthew were not originals, but joined during the run.
Well, I had a bit of a start. Some of the more professional folk among these had crossed the path of Emily Soldene so, while researching my biography of that megastar, twenty years ago, I looked into them a little. Or, in one case, a lot. And that case was ‘CISSIE DURRANT’ who turned out to be more than your average chorine. She ended up a wealthy wife and mother …
I worked really hard on Cissie 20 years ago. The Australian papers and her 1878 Australian marriage certificate said she was Cissie King, widow, daughter of James M Davett organist at the church in Spanish Place. It was just inaccurate enough to keep me 20 years off her track. Until today.
‘Cissie’ was born in London, as Caroline Cicely McDavitt (yes, that little dot that looked like a fullstop was a ‘c’), in early 1852, one of the seven children of a Glaswegian engraver, James McDavitt, and his wife Rosa Caroline née Nash. I see her, aged 19 and unmarried, with her family in 1871, and I can’t find any record of Mr King .. Father pops up occasionally in the musical world: I see him in 1856 in concert at the London Mechanics’ Institute, and perhaps he is the Mr McDavitt conducting at the Phil in pre-Soldene days. However H C Nixon was organist at the Spanish church …
So, in 1873 Cissie joined the chorus of Emily Soldene’s famous company, playing in Geneviève de Brabant and La Fille de Madame Angot and later La Grande-Duchesse. She played Bacchus in Amy Sheridan’s Ixion Re-Wheeled at the Opera Comique, rejoined Soldene for more opéra-bouffe, but instead of doing the Soldene American tour, joined Dolly at the Royalty and became a bridesmaid. She toured with Dolaro – now promoted to 1st Bridesmaid and a Cousin in Périchole – but turned back to Soldene, playing good supporting roles, for the famous 1876-7 tour to America and Australia. She flitted before New Zealand, though. Not to another theatre, to marriage.
Cissie wed wealthy Sydney landowner, Harry McQuade, they had three children, and lived then comfortable life, until Harry’s death in 1898. That left Cissie as the ground landlord of Sydney’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, which she teamed with J C Williamson to rebuild after its destruction by fire in 1902. Cissie died 14 August 1938, aged 87, of cancer, at 3 Hans Crescent, Chelsea, London. Her daughter, Amelia Rose, was the wife of the celebrated ‘cellist, Jean Géraldy.
The ‘most important’ of the girls at this stage was however ‘LINDA VERNER’ who got to play the 1st Bridesmaid and, later, took over as the Plaintiff. Linda (who also played in the other support pieces at the Royalty) would have a proper theatrical career, of nearly twenty years, as a supporting singing actress.
Hannah Sarah Palmer was born in 1855 the daughter of Thomas William Palmer and his wife Hannah née Newton. I imagined it were she playing in Dublin in 1874 with the Julia Mathews/Catherine Lewis La Fille de Madame Angotcompany, but it may not be. For the Erareview of the opening night of the Royalty Theatre credits both ‘Miss Verner’ and ‘Miss Linda Verner’. And Linda seems to be at the St James’s Theatre playing with Dolly Dolaro in The Black Prince, alongside Norton and Miss Hollingshead. Annoyingly, there are a number of ‘Miss Verner’s over the years to come – in jobs ranging from music-hall to the drama – so I just have to stick to the Lindas.
Linda took over the lead in Trial by Jury allegedly because Dolly had with got jealous of, or fallen out with, Nellie Bromley. I suppose it is possible. It is always tough when a supposedly supporting piece becomes the big attraction. But Dolly and Nelly had just co-starred in The Black Prince, and when Dolly, months later, staged her Benefit night, she chose to play Clairette in La Fille de Madame Angot opposite the Lange of … Nellie Bromley. So…?
Anyway, Linda played the Plaintiff at the Royalty and on the road, then took part in the bowdlerized The Duke’s Daughter. She joined Emily Soldene to play in Geneviève de Brabant, played Princess Sabra in the panto at the Alexandra Palace, Princess Balroubadour at Liverpool … and if she took some time out it was understandable For ‘Linda’ was Mrs George Potier, wife of a ‘wheel band manufacturer’ and between 1876 and 1885 she would bear him 5 daughters and a son.
When Dolly brought her Périchole back to town in 1879, Linda was there, and when Dolly produced Another Drink to follow, Linda was still there. She (and Misses Barber, Clifford and Carthew) travelled to Dublin with Lydia Thompson, played more pantomime and ended up back at the Opera Comique Theatre in Lila Clay’s all-woman troupe playing An Adamless Eden. In 1884 she took a tour with the Princess Ida company, playing Lady Psyche, in 1886 appeared in Herne the Hunted and as Arabella in Billee Taylor at Toole’s Theatre and then took on the role of Madeleine in Le Postillon de Lonjumeau at the Empire! She supported Florence St John in La Béarnaise and then found herself a job at the Gaiety Theatre, playing Madame Gondelaurier in the second edition of the burlesque Miss Esmeralda. She became a fixture in the new burlesque productions, going on to play in London, the provinces, America and South Africa with George Edwardes’s companies (Carconte in Monte Cristo jr, Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué, Jolande de Bar in Joan of Arc, Little Jack Sheppard, Cinderellen-up-too-Late, Carmen up to Data). She died of the weather in Johannersburg while on tour 24 August 1892.
Fred Leslie’s biographer relates that Leslie raised 100 pounds to aid her five children and her ‘long incapacitated’ husband. Incapacitated? Not wholly. He promptly remarried and had four more children before his death in 1908.
Death intervened rather earlier in the case of JULIA BEVERLEY. Julia Cecilia Beverley (b Leeds 26 February 1854; d Clonmel 1885) was one of the brood of illegitimate children of a commercial traveler, George Beverley, and a Liverpool grocer’s daughter, Ellen Emma Bankes. Three of the daughters, Louise (the most successful), Julia and Blanche appeared on the London musical stage. Julia started as a teenager at the Alhambra in Le Roi Carotte, and later toured with Joseph Eldred’s comedy and burlesque company, and played, after her bridesmaid stint, at the Olympic. In 1883 (28 March) she married Assistant Commissary-General Alfred Ely, Commissariat and Transport Staff, and died two years later in what appears to have been childbirth.
Julia seems to have been the only one of the original bridesmaids to have worked under her veritable name. ‘Miss Lassalle’ and ‘Miss Villiers’ are as instantly recognisable as stage names as would be Miss Cholmondely or Miss Paunceforth-Brown. It was even known, in the Victorian theatre, for such monikers simply to cover whoever played a certain role (witness the midshipmen in HMS Pinafore). Thus, finding out who such ladies were and what became of them is almost impossible. ‘Miss Lassalle’ comes from nowhere to play third cousin in Périchole with the equally ephemeral ‘Miss Leblanc’ being no 2 (the cousins were noticed as being equipped with pretty weak voices – all right when they sang at the same time -- but looking decorative). And she is a bridesmaid. And that, as far as I can see, is it. ‘Miss Villiers’ is a tad more problematic. It was a popular pseudonym. There was ‘Kate Villiers’ (née Elizabeth Spencer) who sang in English opera, there were two Miss Villiers, one ‘sentimental and Scotch’ and the other ‘serio-comic’ on the halls, and a dancing one who appeared at Sadler’s Wells as Columbine. I think our one just might have been the Miss Villers who toured in burlesque with the Gaiety company in 1872, and appeared at the Opera Comique in The Wonderful Duck and at the Princess’s in Manfred.She was probably the ‘Miss L Villiers pupil of Mabel Brent’. But Miss Lizzie Villiers was a song-and-pedestal-dance act … and I would guess that none of them was a kosher Villiers. Anyway our one played a bridesmaid in town and country and …
‘Miss Lee’ is quite impossible. There were more ‘Miss Lee’s than there were ‘Miss Villiers’, the most famous being the one who became Jennie Lee, and among the possibles her sisters Ada and Kate. Until I find an initial, I’m not even going to attempt her. And ‘Miss Graham’ or sometimes ‘Grahame’? Well, there are possibilities. Although the irregular spelling also hoots ‘pseudonym’. But she seems to have had the name of Clara. Well, I haven’t got my hoard of programmes any more, but if it isClara (and I don’t think it’s her sister Nellie, who was a long-serving actress in the provinces), she was a West End wonder. For fifteen years, Clara Graham went from one hit and/or West End show basically without a break. She never played leads, she played ‘supports’, she was always billed, she played the best theatres with the biggest stars … what was her wrinkle? Was she related to someone, was she living/sleeping with someone (for fifteen years?) this is more than just being ‘useful’. In the 1881 census, she is living ‘actress, unmarried’ ‘aged 25’ in Curzon Street, with a cook and a housemaid … if this were Paris, I’d say oyoy, somebody’s mistress. But …
Anyway, when Nellie married, later in life, she said her name was Nellie Susanna Rosalind Boyce. Yeah. Miss or Mrs? So maybe our Miss Graham is a ‘Boyce’. Presumably not Miss Clara Boyce of the Theatre, Coatbridge … arggggh!
AMY CLIFFORD. Real name or not? But she worked under that name for something like a decade. Again, ‘Miss Clifford’s were numerous. There was a persistent amdram lady who called herself ‘Zoe Clifford’, there was a Miss Clifford in Marshall and Snelgrove’s shopgirls’ theatre company ... but the first time I see ‘Amy Clifford’ mentioned as such is as a member of the Thespian Literary Club’s amdram company in 1872. She hadn’t learned her lines. But in 1873, Amy turns up in the cast of Black Crookat the Alhambra, getting a pretty mention in the little role of Florican. And there she is (surely there can’t be two Amys?) singing serio-comic numbers at Crowder’s Music Hall (‘A young lady with a clear placid countenance and a gentle graceful carriage … sang, and danced beautifully’), then back in the amdrams playing, good heavens, Pauline in The Lady of Lyons! Next, she appeared at the Charing Cross in W H C Nation’s company (The Last of the Legends), before being hired for the Royalty Theatre. She was one of the number of the Royalty cast who followed Dolly and Carte into their production of The Duke’s Daughter, after which she joined Kate Santley in her touring company (Princess Toto, Cattarina, Orphee aux enfers, La Fille de Madame Angot, Trial by Jury). IK see she was cast as Cupid in Orphée.In 1878 Amy shows up (with Julia Beverley) in The Two Orphansat the Olympic, in 1879 in Alcantaraat the Connaught, and in pantomime at Exeter where she remained for a season. And in 1880 she was back at the Royalty, appearing in Kate Lawler’s Don Juan jr.
And then … is she the Amy (serio-comic) doing the halls in 1890? Or the one touring in The Shop Girl in 1897. Probably not. But if I persist with this one, I may sort her out in the end.
ANNIE PALMER. Real name or not? It seems strange that, while Miss Hannah Palmer changed her name to Linda Verner, another member of the same cast decided to be Annie Palmer. Odd, too, that ‘Linda’ actually had a sister, Annie. Odd too, that a ‘Miss Verner’ appears briefly in Périchole (unless she is a typo) before vanishing, and Miss Palmer appears. But I’m just guessing. She could be the Selina Annie Palmer, actress, from Weston-super-mare who can be seen living next door to actor-singer Francis Gaillard in 1881. Or the Mrs Annie Palmer (née Annie Elizabeth Hall), 28, music teacher, mother of Patricia Annie and Florence Lydia in Southwark in 1881. Born Rotherhithe. Rotherhithe? Linda’s sister Annie was born in Rotherhithe! 22 March 1846. Oh. But she was Mrs [Charles Hilton] Palmer, had six children and died in 1889. Sigh. Forget the who, and get onto the what?
|Chorus ... girls from Don Juan junior ... is one Amy?|
I spot a Miss Palmer in the cast of The Bohemians at the Opera Comique in 1872, but ‘Annie Palmer’ turns up at the Charing Cross in W H C Nation The Irish Belle/Last of the Legends before, like Miss Clifford, continuing on to the Royalty, then to the provinces with Dolly, a second round at the Royalty. She may have, in between, also appeared at the Lyceum with Soldene and Dolaro in Emily’s season of La Grande-Duchesse and La Fille de Madame Angot, and she was certainly in the cast of Madame L’Archiduc with Soldene and Charley Campbell when Charles Morton produced that piece at the Opera Comique in 1876. She played in the opener The Hornet’s Nest, was Giacometta in the opéra-bouffe, and since the afterpiece was Trial by Jury, with Fred Sullivan, Campbell, Connell and Penley in the cast, I imagine she donned her bridesmaid’s dress once again. She certainly donned it at the Crystal Palace, and made up part of the Carte company for The Duke’s Daughter, before joining the fine company put out by Richard South, playing La Fille de Madame Angot, La Belle Hélène, Pom etc on the road. And that seems to have been it. Off went Annie to wherever chorus girls go when they stop being chorus girls.
I’ll finish this wee survey with a glance at the small number of replacement bridemaids whom I have managed to suss out. Just five of them. Of Miss Amherst I know absolutely nothing except that she had had a little part in Le Roi Carotte at the Alhambra. But the other four all have points of interest. Two had showbiz connections. Josephine Russell was a sister of ‘the prima donna of the music halls’, Charlotte Russell, and thus a connection of the famous Henry Russell. She had a modest stage career before retiring as Mrs Leo Engel, and died at 90 Great Russell St 6 July 1888. Josephine [Maude] Corri (1858-1937) was one of the myriad young Corri girls – all descended, one way or another from the great Domenico Corri. This Josephine, too, daughter of Pat of the Grecian, had a modest career and retired to marriage (Mrs Sam Sykes Turton Bright) in 1878. Her sister [Mary] Kathleen (1857-1936), on the other hand, had a splendid career in light opera, and played leading roles including the Plaintiff in Trial by Jury. The Corri girls were briefly sisters-in-law to the Kate Villiers mentioned above.
JULIA BARBER I knew already. Because Julia, like Cissie Durrant, belonged to the comic opera company that goes down in history as the greatest in the Antipodean theatre: the Soldene troupe. Julia Grace Smith or Barber was born in Lambeth 24 July 1855, daughter of Samuel Taylor Thompson Barber and Emma Isabella (née Smith) as a dancer. She joined the Soldene outfit and can be seen as 'Miss Julian Grace' at the Opera Comique, playing one of the four Maids of Honour in La Grande-Duchesse (Misses Durrant and Carthew who two others) at the Lyceum, before she visited America with the star, toured Britain and then made the famed voyage to Australia. This fidelity to the corps was the result of her relationship (ten years and four children) with ‘Johnnie Wallace’ (John Henry Clark), the stage director of the troupe and Miss Soldene’s ‘left hand’. The Wallaces returned to Australia after the main trip, but in 1884 Julia married a much younger man by the name of Edwin William Stidolph ‘of the acrobatic Faust family, well known in vaudeville and minstrelsy in America and Australia’ and quit the Antipodes for America. I didn’t think I’d ever find out what became of her, but a tiny comment in 1911: ‘Ted Faust of the Faust Brothers, musical act, and Julia Faust, proprietor of the Lewellen Hotel, 73 East Street, Columbus, O …’. And on 14 October 1914 .. died. Mrs Ted Faust. ‘Loved by the profession the world over’. I wonder about the Wallace-Clark children.
‘LAURA CARTHEW’ was one of those chorines everybody wanted. She worked solidly through the 1870s, in the best companies with the biggest stars, often in tiny featured parts, but never anything more demanding. Yet it was she whom Soldene chose to replace the beauty queen of her company, sister Clara Vesey, in her pants role, when the latter was too ill to appear on New York opening night. So she clearly had something. A photograph would probably show what it was. Sadly, I haven’t been yet able to unveil her real name etcetera, but I can rattle off her career! When she came to the Royalty, Laura had simply been four years at the head of the Soldene chorus.At the Philharmonic, on the road, at the Opera Comique, at the Lyceum, on tour in America, and playing Geneviève de Brabant(Isoloine and in emergency Oswald), Fleur de Lys, La Fille de Madame Angot (Babet), La Grande-Duchesse (Maid of Honour), Chilpéric (the dancing role of Fana and the breeches part of Clodomir).
|Julia Barber. Later.|
And when she had finished her bridesmaid interlude, she went right back to the Soldene/Morton management to play more of the same. She didn’t go on the big trip, but instead stayed home and joined up with the other most visible company of the day: Lydia Thompson. She appeared at the Folly Theatre in Robinson Crusoe and Oxygen and I see her playing Mrs Coaxer in The Beggar’s Opera, in The Babes in the Woodat Manchester, in A Night of Terror (alongside Clara Graham), and above all in a wee featured chorus step-out in the record-breaking Les Cloches de Corneville. When the show went on tour, she played her little bit again, behind the Serpolette of … Kathleen Corri.
In 1878 she played Sir Terence St Patrick, veritable leg-role, in the Covent Garden pantomime, then joined up with Miss Thompson (plus Misses Verner, Beverley and Clifford) in her Carmenburlesque ... and after that I’m not quite sure. ‘Miss Carthew’ turns up on odd occasions. But she’d been ‘Laura Carthew’ for years. So, alas, I lose her.
I’d love to be able to supply photos of all these girls. I dug up some for my Emily Soldenebook. I’ll add the pictures as I find them.
‘Why am I always the bridesmaid’ is running through my head as I end this best-I-can-do of the girls of the Royalty Trial by Jury. I’ve gone on too long. The gentlemen can wait till tomorrow’s article.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to the ‘chorus line’ and any adds or identifies much welcomed!