Tuesday, June 8, 2021

COPSEY-CURVY ... or whatever became of Emilie?

This photo is of Miss Emily Mary Copsey. Known for her brief teenaged time on the stage as Emilie Copsey.


Yes, I fished it from e-bay, because I (and I may be the only one in the world!) actually recognised the name. 

Miss Copsey described herself in the 1881 census as an 'actress'. Hmm. That might be pushing it a bit. On the other hand, she wasn't wholly a chorus girl. Or a show girl. Her name appeared on the advertisements. Usually in last position behind the other girls who had a little more to do than stand around looking sexy in 'thinking parts'.

Emilie joined the company at the Royalty Theatre -- once the home of the Misses Pelham and Ixion -- at the age of sixteen, in 1879, and she appeared in the Teddy Solomon burlesques Venus (Psyche) and Balloonacy, in  the girly Cupid (Chloe), and in an attempt to revive Ixion during the next two and a bit years. She was apparently a sparky wee thing, and got the occasional press mention, as notably as Cupid in Ixion. At Christmas, she appeared in the Covent Garden pantomime Little Bo-Peep. Which was seemingly the last time she appeared on the stage. Did she have .. um .. other sources of income? Did she get married?  Well, the answers are 'yes' and 'yes' ... but let's start at the beginning of the tale.

The Copsey name flourished around Essex, and it was there that Emily's father was born. He was the third son of William Copsey, carpenter, and his wife Elizabeth Collier, and he was christened Joseph Stephen Copsey. He later popped his mother's maiden name in after the 'Stephen'. While elder brothers George Collier (1833-1899) and William Frank (1835-1905) made a living as furniture-makers and upholsterers in Romford, wed, bred, bankrupted periodically, and arrived at three score years and more in their home town, Joseph (b Chelmsford 4 February 1840) clearly wasn't into skills. At the age of 21, he is in London's Devonshire Place, footman to a merchant. Two years later (10 June 1863), he is married to a French girl from Creil, Oise, who signed the register as Emilie Marie Give. Father unknown. Condition: undeniably pregnant. And later in the year was born our Emily Mary COPSEY

Joseph was evidently a bit of a hopeless chap. By the time we catch up with him in the census of 1871 he is a fishmonger in Hammersmith. And two sons, Joseph and Eugene George, have been added to the family. But censi can't summarise a decade in a line. We would later be told that in the 1870s he had operated as a false-teeth-maker, a jewellery salesman, a tobacconist, an omnibus conductor and a fried-fish merchant at Notting Hill (he mongered the fish, his wife fried!) ...

And daughter Emilie, by the ending of the decade, was bringing in a wee wage from the Royalty Theatre.

Now, it seems Joseph was at least trying to keep bodies and souls together. I'm afraid I didn't give him the benefit of the doubt, and when I saw Joseph Copsey of Romford/Chelmsford up for all sorts off petty crimes from false pretences to thieving wool, a sewing machine and 57lbs of lead (how?), I feared it was he. But apparently it wasn't. It was a homonym. But Joseph (and Mrs Joseph) finally wandered from the fishfrying pan into the fire. As Joseph prepared a bankruptcy, they (clearly with the brainpower coming from elsewhere) mijoted a fraud ...

Emilie sr went to Whiteley's, splashed a bit of cash, and ordered a considerable amount of goods (622L 9s 8d) to be delivered. They duly were. But not paid for. In the meanwhile, Joseph was declared bankrupt, so when Mr Whiteley tried to reclaim his furniture ...  So he sued. Fraud, false pretences, conspiracy. And some soiled linen about the Copsey family was displayed. Not least about our teenage 'actress' who declined to answer a key question. Joseph was convicted, but somone behind the bench recognised that he was merely a puppet, and the 12-months prison sentence was held back while he was examined as to the identities of his masters. I suppose he complied, because in the end, after time in Pentonville and Newgate, he was released. 'Tobacconist's assistant'. Mrs C was the tobacconist.

And then, they all disappear. But not entirely.

22 May 1884, Mrs Copsey died, at 114 Millbourne Grove. Her will valued her estate at 46L. The executor named was our Emilie 'the only next of kin'.  Really? I don't think so. There are a husband and sons around. For ...

On 19 February 1885, our Emilie was wed at St Luke's, Chelsea. And the witnesses to the ceremony were John Stephen Copsey sr ('jeweller') and John Stephen Copsey jr. Her husband was one Louis Charles Florentin Masse, aged 34, seemingly from Strasbourg, but 'administrator of native affairs in Cochinchina' living in Paris, 62 rue de l'Arcade. 

And silly Joseph got into more trouble with the law ... 'obtaining credit by fraud' .. another 12 months in the clink from 23 May 1885 ..  after that ... I see him no more 

Eugene George seems to have gone off to America ... Joseph junior  ... no clue .. is he the one who died in Chelmsford in 1946?

But what a surprise! I thought Emilie had gone terminally to Cochinchina with her husband. Maybe she did for a while. But she came back. In 1898, the veuve Masse, née Copsey wed one Ernst Friedrich Meyer  ... wonder what that certificate says ... and where they ended up ...

And who, on earth, paid out a shilling for 16 year-old Emily's photo in 1879 ...

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