Friday, April 24, 2020

Cartesians: Who do you think you are ...?

There's no method in today 'discoveries'. One person sort of leads you into another and so forth ... but I started off with a couple of folk who hid themselves behind pseudonyms ...

FREDA BEVAN [WILKINS, Florence Bruton, later Florence BUTLER] (b Bath 1855; d Fulham 1949).
Florence Butler Wilkins was one of a gaggle of daughters of dentist Thomas Butler Wilkins and his wife Eliza née Stockburn: they were Renee Marianne Hephzibah (Mrs Ayres), Florence Bruton, Lottie Butler (Mrs Meredydd Evans), Kate Margaret, Eleanor Sophia ('Nellie') and Hope Sarah Augusta (Mrs Leonard Miller), and they all indulged largely in musical and theatrical activities ...

Mother was the daughter of a sometime mayor of Northampton, and it was there that the family settled. Father, when not dentisting, was active in conducting school and other choirs, organising concerts et al. He gave a performance of Farmer's Christ and his Soldiers in which daughter Florence sang the contralto solos. In 1882, Florence became Freda Bevan and joined the Carte tours. She stayed until 1885, and then went home to private life. Lottie died after two babies in 1888, mother later the same year, father in 1892 ...  Florence and Nellie moved to Fulham, reduced to earning their living by dressmaking, and died there in 1949 and 1955 respectively.

Another who flashed across the Cartesian sky for a few seasons, as leading lady, and then disappeared from the professional singing scene was Bessie WILKINSON. My identification of her is uncertain, given that the Archive gives her birth in 1863 at Penge, whereas the Bessie I have latched on to was born in Scotland and lived in Willingar Doe. Bessie 'of the Savoy Theatre' can be seen playing Trial by Jury at Brentwood in December 1887, and in 1892 accompanying Millie Vere, Lucy Carr-Shaw, Robert Fairbanks and W R Morton in Mr Welbye Wallace's Concert and Opera Party (Quits, Widows Bewitched) at Southsea, and in concert at Preston (5 March).  My Scottish farmer's daughter Bessie can be seen in concert 10 October 1889 at Ongar (with Albert Visetti on piano), then at Chelmsford and Willingar Doe ('pupil of Randegger'). Are they the same Bessie. I've no idea. It may not even have been her real name.

One who hid behind a very definite pseudonym was the gentleman known, through thirty years of Carteing as George SINCLAIR. His real name was Atillio Richard Hutchinson MELANDRI (b London 1858; d 21 Helena Rd, Hastings 10 December 1936), and he was the son of Vincenzo Melandi, an Italian cook and restaurant-keeper and his wife Elizabeth née Hutchinson. Not surprisingly, he began life as a waiter before taking to the stage. Most of his working life, from 1887 (or1884 if he is the George at the Prince's Manchester in that year), was spent with the Carte companies, although the Archive loses tracks of him in the early 'nineties. Unfortunately, there is another George Sinclair, baritone, operating at the same time. At least, I assume it's another one, as he is singing mostly when Atillio is Carteing -- Van Biene's proms in 1887, La Prima Donna and The Field of the Cloth of Gold at the Avenue (1889-90), the title-role in Paul Jones for Charles Wibrow in 1891, Captain Meredith in The New Mephistopheles (1897), Prince Quahn in The Celestials (1898), In Gay Piccadilly (1899) ... and is that he singing opera in Australia in 1889? 

Atillio remained a bachelor, and I see him sharing digs with another mature and long-serving Cartesian bachelor, both on tour in 1891 and again (still?) in 1911 at 80 Portland Place. Edward A 'Paddy' WHITE (b Ireland c1862) appears more frequently in the theatrical cricket columns than in reviews. He was one of the country's outstanding theatre cricketes, and even got invited, with Herbert Marchmont, to play in the county teams in a Notts v Staffs match. 
White also had several spells away from the Carte companies -- in 1887 he toured as Blueskin in Little Jack Sheppard, in the eternal Dorothy (captain of the cricket team), in 1896 he was Joe Jaffrey inJ Hermann Dickson's A Merry Madcap, in 1897 he played Brown from Colorado in Morell and Mouillot's Shop Girl tour. Then he shuffled back to 63 Drumcondra Rd, Dublin, until he rejoined Carte. He apparently left the company in 1914. If he, too, went to Hastings, there was an Edward A White died there, aged 67, in 1928. If he didn't, maybe the one in Holborn aged 59 in 1920?

Sometime, the folk who use their real name for the stage are as hard to decipher as those who don't. I got into a muddle with the two Bemister sisters, from Southampton where most Bemisters come from. The muddle was caused by their first names, which led me to wonder if the two were actually one ... until I found them on different continents at the same time. The girls were the daughters of Frederick George Bemister (d 30 June 1897), sometime postmaster and undertaker at Eastleigh, and his wife Clara née Murray. Their eldest daughter was Clara Louise Bemister, who I see was a member of the Theosophical Soicety, spent time in India and wrote a vegetarian cookbook of some note. Second daughter was Ada Amelia BEMISTER (1862-1918) and the third Adele Lucia Florence BEMISTER later Lucy Florence BEMISTER (b 1865), known as Lucy and Florence for the stage.

Ada took her first steps with the D'Oyly Carte touring company of The Mikado (see George Low's salary list) and got her chance to go on at Llandudno as Yum Yum. She was praised by the local press as 'charming appearance, pleasant and full soprano voice ...'. And, indeed, she was promoted to the part of Yum Yum and Patience for the continental tour in 1887. On her return, she played at the Avenue Theatre in Don Juan jr (Gulbeyah) and at Glasgow in Babes in the Wood, but in 1889 she went travelling again, this time to South Africa for Gilbert Tate. She stayed through the whole of 1890 as leading lady in the vast range of musical pieces played by the Edgar Perkins Opera Company and was acclaimed 'the mainstay of the company'. On her return to England, however she seems to have found little work: I see her in variety, as Dick Whittington at Glasgow, and the Archive tells us that she actually rejoined Carte, in the chorus, between 1895-7. 
In 1896 she married Charles W Tayleur 'of independent means', in 1901 she lost him, at the age of 37. and in 1904 she remarried Alexander Thomas. 

So Clara for India, Ada for Europe and South Africa, and Florence ...? She largely made her theatre career in America. I spot her singing at Mabel Bourne's underpar concert in London in 1881, and she next shows up in New York in 1882 playing Zelia (!) in Iolanthe. She played Ella to the Patience of Lillian Russell, An officer in Lieutenant Helene of the Guards in Philadelphia, in the Marie Vanoni Orpheus and Eurydice, Lady Psyche in Princess Ida, one of the General's daughters in Polly and, ultimately, the title-role in Iolanthe with J H Ryley and Miss Russell (1887). She returned to Britain in time for the 1891 census, when she was at home in Southampton with mother ('Lucy Bemister') after which I lose her ...

Much simpler to decipher was Rudolph LEWIS (b 20 Fan Street, Cripplegate 2 March 1846; d London 21 November 1917). Yes, it was his real name. And whereas so many principal artists are ignored by wikipedia, he has an article. Well, a curios sort of an article. It is really just a copy of David Stone's Archive piece with a couple of extra facts poked in, and nearly all the man's non-Carte career (decidedly more substantial than the Carte bits) omitted. So, here's the full story. Without the Carte details eumerated in the Archive.
Father Joshua Lewis, furrier, who later took up the bonnet- and straw-hat business of his wife, Elizabeth née Costin, who came from the cradle of straw-bonneting, Hertfordshire. While his sister went into the bonnet business, Rudolph became a wood-engraver, married Miss Frances Dalton, fathered two children, and took singing lessons from Giovanni Febo Alfeo Gilardoni. His first pulbic appearance as a bass singer seems to have been in 1882, in a concert performance of Faust, by the Signor's pupils. He 'made 'the success of the evening' as Mephistopheles. It was apparently in 1884 that he and his rich bass voice joined the Carte company, where he played several little parts and sang in the chorus up until 1893. During that time, he played the occasional Benefit and concert date, singing Mr Molehill in Won By A Trick, with Richard Temple and Josephine Findlay at the Gaiety Theatre for Meyer Lutz's Benefit (1885) and Sparafucile to Temple's Rigoletto alongside Rose Hersee and Durward Lely (1886).
He left the Carte Company to join the Carl Rosa Opera (1893), where the kind of roles he was due came his way. Ramfis in Aida with Ella Russell and Barton McGuckin, one of the Anabaptists in The Prophet, one of the Knights in Tannhäuser et al. But then it was back to the touring theatre -- the Vizier in Morocco Bound (1894-5), Moran in Robbery Under Arms  (1895), John Brown in The Shop Girl (1896), Skipped by the Light of the Moon (1897), John Mayfield in Kitty (1897), Donald in Little Miss Nobody (1899) and a London engagement at the Adelphi Theatre in Two Little Vagabonds (1900). At the end of that engagement, having crammed in enough shows and enough roles to compensate his tardy beginning, he rejoined the Carte company (Executioner in The Rose of Persia, 2nd Footman in The Vicar of Bray, t/o Sergeant Pincher in The Emerald Isle, The tinker in Merrie England, Jem Johnson in A Princess of Kensington with its 'Four Jolly Sailormen') and continued with many of the company into The Earl and the Girl (t/o Rossiter) and Little Hans Andersen (The Witch). He was still to be seen touring in Little Hans Andersen in 1909.

In 1905 he played in London's The Talk of the Town (Juddy Wuddy Ah), joined with the other three original sailors to give 'Four Jolly Sailormen' at the Palace Music Hall, and was seen as 'First Footman' in The Catch of the Season out of town. As late as 1914, knocking seventy, I see him yet on the road in George Edwardes's tour of The Marriage Market.
At some stage, Lewis lost his wife and in 1888 he married a second time. He and Alice Maud née Wharton don't seem to have stayed together ... Daughter Frances Louisa Elizabeth Lewis (b Argyle Street, Clerkenwell 29 July 1881) was registered a homeless pauper in 1911. Rudolph had left her in the care his eldest sister, Amy Eliza, at the age of eight, but Amy had died in 1903, and Frances had gone from one servent's place to anothe, and repeatedly to the workhouse ('father: Rudolph 19 Bath House, Newington Causeway'), before ending up at Ellis and Turner in Aldersgate. Then it shut. I leave her in yet another workhouse infirmary in 1912 'destitute'.  Son Rudolph was working in an iron foundry ...
Rudolf Lewis may have been a fine basso, but he was a lousy father ...

The role of John Mayfield in Kitty (a veritable rip-off of Dorothy), which had included a number of ex-Cartesians in its cast (Albert James, Lindsay Grey, Harry Tebbutt, J J Dallas) as well as Dorothy's Furneaux Cook was latterly taken over by yet another Cartesian 'Hugh SETON'. Now, I'm 99% sure of my nifty identification of this fellow, but he vanishes from censi in the active years of his stagelife, didn't marry, so I've had to pull out all stops to winkle him out. Here's my version of what I believe to be the facts.
Arthur Seaton MORRICE (b Swansea October 10 1858; d Honiton 1943) was the son of Scotsman John Edwars Morrice, secretary to a coal company, and his Welsh wife Eilzabeth Ann née Arthur. He was already on the musical stage by 1878, in Round the Clock, as 'Mr Seaton Morrice', but before he joined the Carte company in 1884 he had become 'Hugh Seaton', pupil of W H Cummings RAM. Of course, give or take a comma, it was Cummings, not Seton who was RAM.  The Archive tells us he stayed from Feb 1884 to June 1885, playing Florian and Sir Marmaduke. He appeared in 1885 in  play The Landlord, sang in a Carte-flavoured concert at Tiverton with Florence Dysart and Richard Purdon, in the Sunderland panto The Invisible Prince (with W O Billington), in 1886 as General Knickerbocker in the Mikado-ish The Little Tycoon and Canterbury's Robinson Crusoe, and in 1887 as a replacement in The Royal Watchman before returning to the Cartemanagement for a second stint of just over a year. 
From 1889-91 he toured in Dorothy comanies (Tuppitt, Bantam), in 1892-3 as Pasto in The Mountebanks, before taking another year in Dorothy. He played the Sultan in a provincial piece named The Saucy Sultana (1895), and took over the part of Colonel Claymore in the endlessly-touring The New Barmaid for nearly two years. The year of 1897 saw him taking on another job: as a writer. Cast as Major Haliwell in the touring piece The Bicycle Girl, he was also credited with additional lyrics, and he turned out two libretti a one-act operetta A Royal Roundhead given a matinee showing at St George's Hall (April 17 1897) with Roland Carse and Templar Saxe in the cast, and a for-the-provinces musical comedy The American Belle produced by Milton Bode with Cissie Saumarez in its title-role. It managed eight weeks. 
Seton next took up the Kitty role, and at Christmas 1897 directed the panto at Portsmouth, with Agnes Molteno satrred and Waldeck Hall in the cast. Then he went back to Kitty. I see him playing in The White Heather in 1899, and back in The New Barmaid in 1900 .. I don't see him again until I come upon A Morrice Seaton 'theatrical profession' born Swansea 1858, single, boarding in Manchester. And then, in 1939, Morrice A Seaton 'actor and author' born 1858 ..  I think I've been quite generous leaving 1% of doubt, but I wish I could find him in 1891 etc. 

Well, I've just got time to add a few more bald facts. Some of which aren't news, but -- unless its an obvious waste of time -- I like to do my checking from primary sources ...

The Sheffield brothers, whom we all know were WILSON brothers from Maltonand Norton in Yorkshire. Sons of James Walker Wilson, house-painter, and his wife Alice née Sheffield 'dressmaker'. Eldest brother Wilson SHEFFIELD [WILSON, Edward Sheffield] (b 1865; d South Africa 20 July 1903) married Emily Warrington. Second brother Thorpe SHEFFIELD [WILSON, Robert Thorpe] (b 20 November 1866; d Malton 1908) married [Ada] Jane Hills. Third brother Leo SHEFFIELD [WILSON, Arthur Leo] (b 15 November 1873; d Kingsbury 3 September 1951) married Claire Bland.

Harry Ernest BELLAMY is a slight puzzle. We know that his later, mangerial work for the Carte organisation was the most important part of his time with the company. But ... well, can someone prove that the H E Bellamy who sang was the same person as the H E Bellamy who managed?  Conventional wisdom says yes. Born b 57 John Street, Oxford 7 February 1861. Died Cheltenham 12 February 1932. Harry (not Henry) of Oxford has been minutely documented up to 1881 'second assistant at Radcliffe observatory'. He is then said to have gone to America and married one Frances M G Machell, of whom I find no later trace, except that our singing Harry says in 1891, in digs with Lawrence Gridley, that he's 28, born Oxford and married. OK Harry of the observatory = Harry the singer. 
The next censorial sighting has Harry E Bellamy, manager, rooming with Ada Seaton at Accrington. More D'Oyly Carte you don't get. But he says he was born in Ross, Herefordshire. That doesn't fit. VSE? (Victorian Scribal Error?). We see him floating home from South Africa in 1906. Let's go to 1911. He insists, Ross, Herefordshire. And a wife named Ellen. Married 1899. Er...  where was he then? So, career apart, Harry annoys me. Yes, it ought to all be the same Harry, but what's this Herefordshire business?

And with that dilemma I leave you for tonight ... with Louise Rowe, Marguerite Breydel, Leon Lawrence, Agnes King, J W Elmore and, dammit another mysterious contralto, 'Annie Bernard'. No, she's not the Annie Bernard wife of Charles ... that's 'Annie Alleyne' (eig Allen) ... and, anyway, his real name was West. Come on guys and gals, a little assistance .. a few pointers ...

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