Wednesday 27 April 2016

Fat Nell of the Lane

Fat Nell of the Lane

An Original Comic Parody on "Young Ellen Loraine," Written by EDWARD P. LONGLEY, and Sung by Mr. I. WILSON, at the London Concerts

Vhen I bolted from Drury, determined to cut yer,
    Cos I dreamt yer vos false vonce, Fat Nell of the lane;
Thinks I, she's a gal, vot von't pig with a butcher,
   Oh! vy did yer do so, fat Nell of the lane.
I coaxed yer vhen sober, I vopt yer when muzzy,
   And dear charged the doctor for easing yer pain;
Yer spent every mopus, and then turned a hussey,
  Oh! vy did yer do so, fat Nell of the lane?

Ah! you vos the live ghost vot haunted my bed rug,
   The thief in the darkness, fat Nell of the lane;
Stole my togs, e'en my night cap yer did from my head tug,
   Vhilst I vos a snoring, fat Nell of the lane.
You'll think of me yet, vhen that false kid deceives yer,
   And his pals in Clare Market, refuse yer a drain;
Vhen the shine of yer bounce, like a shying norse leaves yer,
   You'll think how yer sarved me, fat Nell of the Lane.

Oh! gammon not me, in them eyes I diskiver,
   Yer knows how you've done me, fat Nell of the lane;
Go doze in the lap of that dealer in liver,
   Go ugly spots face-full, fat Nell of the lane.
The days vithout grub, vithout drinkin, or smokin,
   They tapers my body, and muddles my brain;
Go bad un, and grin at the head you've often broken,
    Go, ugly spots face-full, fat Nell of the Lane.

transcribed from
Pickwick Songster vol.9 no.1, 'edited by Sam Weller' [Harding A 1229] n.d. ?1837?
[with many thanks to Simon Cope @simontcope for his assistance]

Damages for having seduced and debauched

Maidstone, July 26


This was an action to recover damages from the defendant for having seduced and debauched the wife of a plaintiff. ...

Mr. Chambers, in opening the case, said that the plaintiff in this action was a person in a humble condition of life, and , at the time of his marriage with the young woman whose conduct was the subject of inquiry on the present occasion, he carried on the business of a tailor in London. Unhappily for him, in the beginning of the year 1853, he was suffering from a malady which rendered it necessary for him to go to hospital, where he was obliged to remain for 15 months, and during that period he was undergo an operation of a most painful character, and the defendant appeared to have taken advantage of his being placed in this distressing position to seduce the affections of his wife, and when the unfortunate plaintiff came out of the hospital, he found that his wife had taken away the whole of his furniture and that she and the defendant had been living together at different places as man and wife. The defendant, he was instructed, carried on several different occupations. He was an omnibus proprietor, a jeweller, and also, he believed, a money-lender at very high interest; and when the jury had heard the facts he should lay before them, it would be for them to say what amount of damages he ought to pay the plaintiff for the wrong he had inflicted upon him.

James Bendall deposed that he was the plaintiff's nephew, and he produced the certificate of a marriage between his uncle and Rose Botwright on the 1st of July 1848. He was not present at the marriage, but he visited them afterwards, and they appeared to live happily together. His uncle carried on the business of a tailor and his wife worked as a dressmaker. His uncle went into the hospital in 1853, and remained their 15 months.

Cross-examined - Witness keeps a dancing academy in Circus-street, New-road. Persons were admitted to his rooms on payment of 6d. each. Some people might call the establishment a Casino, but he called it a dancing academy and he kept a dancing-master for the purpose of teaching dancing. This person also acted as master of the ceremonies, and he introduced the male and female visitors to each other (a laugh). The plaintiff's wife was in the habit of coming to his dancing-rooms. Sometimes she came with her husband before he went into the hospital. After he went there she used to come to the rooms with a young woman called Jennings. He did not whom who Miss Jennings was, nor where she lived. The plaintiff was about 52, and his wife was 28 years old. He first introduced her to the dancing-rooms. The defendant, he believed, first met the plaintiff's wife there. He was not aware that they danced together, but they might have done so. There was a refreshment-room upstairs, and very likely the plaintiff's wife, Miss Jennings, and the defendant took refreshment there. The plaintiff's wife lived with him for 18 months or two years before they were married.

The Chief Baron asked the witness what he meant by saying that they "lived together?" Did he mean that they cohabited together as man and wife?

The Witness said he did.

Mr. James - And did she not live with another person before she lived with your uncle, and did not that person give you uncle 200l. to marry her.

Witness. - I had heard that she did live with some one before she lived with my uncle; but I do not know anything of his receiving 200l. to marry her.

Cross-examination continued. - Witness was not aware of the wife of the plaintiff having put on widow's weeds directly her husband went into the hospital. She began to come to his room very soon after her husband went there, and he would not swear that she and Miss Jennings had not supped there several times with different men. His uncle first introduced her as Rose Botwright.

By the Court. - It was not any part of the witness's business to inquire into the character of the persons who visited his establishment.

The Chief Baron. - Then it was 6d. to pay, and no questions asked? (a laugh)

Witness. - Exactly, my lord.

John Cozens, of 67, Waverley-road, Harrow-road, proved that in March, 1853, the wife of the plaintiff engaged a lodging in his house, which she occupied for five months. During the whole of that period she was constantly visited by the defendant whom she introduced as her brother John. He frequently stayed all night.

Cross-examined. - Could not say where he slept.

Mrs. Cozens, the wife of the last witness, deposed to the same facts. The plaintiff's wife had occupied two rooms, but there was only one bed.

Cross-examined. - They used at first to consider that the defendant was a very affectionate brother indeed from his constant visits, and they thought that he sat up in the front room where he remained all night.

Mr. James - I believe, at last, however, you began to entertain a little suspicion of their proceedings?

Witness. - I very strong suspicion indeed. (a laugh)

Mrs. Jane Bullock proved that the plaintiff's wife occupied a room in her house for a few days and that the defendant invited her there, and upon one occasion they were in a bed-room together. She complained to Mrs. Bendall of her conduct.

Cross-examined. - She one saw Miss Jennings at her own apartment, and Miss Bendall was nursing her.

Mr. James. - I believe Miss Jennings had had a baby (a laugh). There was a child in the room, was there not?

Witness. - I shan't answer you. (a laugh)

Mr. James. - Come now, you can't object to tell us whether there was not a young child - a very young child, you know what I mean, in the room? (laughter)

Witness. - I shan't tell you. (renewed laughter)

Mr. James. - Well did you ask whose child it was?

Witness. - Oh! certainly not.

The Chief Baron. - How very discreet (a roar of laughter).

This closed the case for the plaintiff.

Mr. James then addressed the jury for the defendant. The plaintiff's wife had been proved to have lived with him in a state of concubinage, for nearly two years before they were married, and that before their connection she had lived with another man, and that she had been proved to have been in the constant habit of frequenting casinos and places of that description, and there was very little doubt that the defendant, who was a young man, had been "picked up" by her at the place referred to. He felt assured that if the jury should feel themselves bound to return a verdict for the plaintiff, they would only give him the smallest possible amount of damanges.

The Chief Baron having summed up,

The Jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict for the plaintiff. Damages, 1s.

Daily News, 28 July 1854

Tuesday 26 April 2016

The Horrors of Living in London

The Horrors of Living in London!

A Famous New Comic Song, now singing by Mr. BULLER, with great applause. Written by Mr. J. BRUTON.

AIR - "The Gypsy Party."

Of country troubles I've heard much, 
Of hedges, ditches, dirt and such, 
But on a different theme I'll touch,
   The horrors of living in London. 
Your cockney travellers often tell 
Of dangers great which them befell. 
While journeying beyond " Bow Bell," 
And fore'd with raw greenhorns to dwell 
Of rural miseries let 'em prate,
But we may have many just as great, 
And so you'll say when I relate
   A few of the horrors of London! 
                                       Tooral looral, &c.

An urgent letter to a friend, 
Into the country you've to send, 
So with it yourself must wend,
    Ere all the mails leave London
In crossing of some street, the way's 
Completely stopp'd by carts and shays, 
Waggons, omnibusses, drays, 
Extending far as you can gaze. 
So 'neath the horses legs you cut, 
And breathing reach the office—but 
That very moment find it shut!
   And such are things in London.

The Opera, or Drury Lane,
You leave at night, with ladies twain, 
When all at once down comes the rain, 
   Another horror of London !
To save the dears from dirt and wet, 
Beneath some gateway you all get; 
Then to the coach-stand off you set, 
But find the vehicles all let!
From street to street you hurry on, 
But all is vain, so back you run
To join the ladies,—but they're gone
   Another horror of London.

Perhaps you're bald or grown quite grey,
And walking on a windy day,
Your hat and wig are blown away,
   And carried half o'er London
Then off you start with all your might, 
To overtake then in this plight, 
While at your bald-head every wight, 
Sets up a shout of rare delight. 
With grief aloud you curse and groan, 
For, after you so far have flown,
Clean o'er the bridge your hat is blown,
   Another horror of London.

In white ducks dress'd a perfect beau
Cravat and waistcoat white as snow, 
For to a party you've to go
   In one of the squares of London!
You cross the road, by sweeper seen
Who asks for alms, and if you're mean,
You're ducks that were so nice and clean, 
He spatters o'er with mud, for spleen; 
You mutter curses long and deep,
But then no good from that you reap, 
He brings his friend to fight—a sweep!
   Another horror of London.

While walking through the Street, you look 
Into a pamphlet, or a book,
And find that you have your way mistook, 
   A common thing in London!
You study on, but not being fenc'd, 
An iron bar you run against;
Its bearer you blow up incensed, 
But with abuse get recompens'd! 
Then on you go to 'scape a brawl.
But venturing on too near the wall, 
You clean into a cellar fall
   Another horror of London.

As through the hail and elect you go, 
The wind a hurricane will blow,
Your pleasure heightened by some snow, 
   And that's a treat in London!
Your umbrella inside out
Is blown—while all the urchins about, 
And, stooping to give one a clout,
Your hat's knocked off and kick'd about! 
But from some house-top soon is blown, 
A tile, while running for your own,
Upon your head, which makes you groan,
   And curse the horrors of London.

Being ill from nervousness, you take 
A room retired, for quiet sake;
As noise would quite your system shake,
    And where's not noise in London? 
You find, e'er you've passed one day o'er, 
A coffin-maker lives next door;
While o'er the way at No. 4,
There's practisinga trumpet blower
And in next roans, by a thin wall screened, 
A noisy child is being weaned,
Who howls all night—the little fiend, 
   And such is living in London

transcribed from
Pickwick Songster vol.3 no.1, 'edited by Sam Weller' [Harding A 1229] n.d. ?1837?
[with many thanks to Simon Cope @simontcope for his assistance]

Monday 25 April 2016

TV REVIEW (yes, I know, not very Victorian)

Trying to stretch and rest my brain from endless Victorian research, I've written this about some programmes on telly ...

Unhappy Families: The A-Word and Undercover

[--This article contains spoilers. Although I would have thought that was predictable.--]

Let me tell you about two families.

Paul and Alison Hughes live in the Lake District. They have a newly-diagnosed autistic son called Joe, who struggles with primary school, the wider world, and the human frailties of his parents – and they struggle a bit with him. There’s also their teenage daughter Rebecca; but they mostly ignore her. This is the simple premise of The A-Word which currently occupies the prime-time slot on BBC1 on Tuesdays.

(Joe, by the way, self-medicates with an MP3 player permanently tuned to his dad’s music collection, downloaded directly from XfM, c.2004. The Arctic Monkeys have probably bought themselves a gold-plated chip-shop, solely on the proceeds of this show’s soundtrack).

The Johnsons, meanwhile, live in the elegantly terraced Victorian hinterland between Hampstead Heath and Alexandra Palace. Their life, in Undercover (prime time on Sundays) is ostensibly more complicated. We know this partly because Nick Johnson, father of three, does lots of troubled pensive jogging  in the parks.

Maya Cobbina (aka Mrs. Johnson), for her part, is a HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENCE LAWYER.  We know this, because we first meet her pluckily trying to stay the grisly (failed) execution of an Louisiana death-row inmate. The innocent and kindly felon tells her to GO BIG and challenge the system that permits such injustice.

(The fact that BBC announcers are obliged to trail the show with phrases like ‘Maya attempts to “Go Big!” and address corruption’ positively thrills me. I wish they could go the whole hog and say ‘SUPERSIZE JUSTICE!’).

The Johnsons also have two teenage girls – one just gone to Anonymous College, Oxford – one who occasionally pouts and demands to be taken to parties in Crouch End. (Does anyone demand to be taken to parties in Crouch End? This seems the most unrealistic aspect of the show.)

The Johnsons also have an 18-year-old son with learning difficulties. He’s easily spooked and repeatedly told to go out and wait in the garden; sometimes with the long-suffering family dog. He then lurks by the patio doors, literally and figuratively window-dressing.

The Johnsons not only have three kids but a secret (agent). Nick is an undercover policeman, who fell in love with and married Maya when she was under highly dubious police observation (as a plucky black rights activist, back in the 1990s). And – you’ll never guess – his secret is going to be ... revealed.

But there’s more. For the government want her – the only black female lawyer in the country –  to be the Director of Public Prosecutions. They are institutionally racist, and, dammit, it will look good. She’s never actually worked as a prosecutor; but governments are not sticklers about this sort of thing. She gives a plucky interview and – ba-boom! – she’s got the job. She then wants to prosecute the police, over the murder-in-custody of her ex-1990s-boyfriend; and there’s a conspiracy of silence; and a conspiracy of husband; and lots of unsavoury middle-aged men in suits (sinister!) who will stop at nothing to prevent her from discovering the truth.


So, we have two programmes about dysfunctional families. One ‘family drama’, one more ‘conspiracy thriller’.

One of them is really good.

So good, in fact, that it teaches us exactly what’s wrong with the other one.

The good show? I am, of course, talking about The A-Word.

Perhaps I am so impressed with this show, because I expected it to be awful. Set in a small cosy community in the Lake District (ey lad! those northerners and their quirky ways!); featuring Christopher Eccleston in a role which calls for comic acting (comedy is to Eccleston what nuance is to Donald Trump); and that title. I battened down the hatches for a sickly-sweet morality tale about ‘coping with an autistic child’.

And yet, it’s great.

The heart of the story is not AUTISM (or even Autism or autism) or even Joe himself, but Alison and Paul, and the fault lines in their marriage. The writing is subtle; and the characterisation of Alison is particularly impressive. She is slowly revealed as bullish and manipulative, like her annoying father (Eccleston); but also desperate to do ‘the right thing’ for her beloved son. She’s a complex character, an imperfect mother, as opposed to a good or bad one – indeed, an imperfect person – that’s a nice thing in a ‘family drama’.

Paul, meanwhile, is cheerful and amiable, but plainly relies too much on his charm and good humour. The differences in their approach to parenting – exposed by the extremes of Joe’s behaviour – drive a wedge into the seemingly healthy relationship.

The most recent episode culminated in a scene where Alison, having secretly taken a morning-after pill, admitted to Paul that she did not want another child. Two things impressed me. First, this argument genuinely felt like a release of simmering tensions, that had been built up –  sometimes exposed and then swiftly covered – in the previous four episodes. Second, the brutal reality of it: the way Paul and Alison, slowly but surely, moved from resignation, and even affection, to trading cruel insights, finding each other’s weak spots. Love soured – briefly or permanently? – by  latent bitterness, finally bubbling to the surface. That’s how emotions work, isn’t it?

Arguably, nothing much happens in The A-Word. But it has such great writing and performances – all very low key and self-effacing – so that you barely notice this is quality drama. Writing this, I look it up and find it’s by Peter Bowker, who wrote the peculiar and engaging Blackpool a dozen years back. I’d like to shake his hand.

Then we come to Undercover. First of all, what is it? Well, I guess it’s essentially a political drama. There are sinister government sorts, covering up the police’s (?historic?) undercover police operations against dissidents; there’s a murder of an ex-undercover policewoman who’s about to reveal all. But there’s also the very personal betrayal of Maya by Nick. There’s lots of stuff in the home; family scenes; but it’s really all designed to heighten the big question – when will Maya learn the truth about Nick? And what will she do? (probably to THE ESTABLISHMENT; but perhaps also to him)

Does it work? Well, ish. But it’s convoluted, glossy and superficial. Some of it is plain daft. Maya, appointed director of public prosecutions, drags her 1990s cop-murdered ex-boyfriend’s mum into the first staff briefing. She tells all the assembled lawyers of the  DPP that they should work on this case.

All of them? 

And, by the way, we haven’t heard anything about that for two episodes.

Maya also has a severe case of dramatic illness – she’s just now – just right now! – developed epilepsy. She can’t get the proper scan and meds because the MRI scanner reminds her of the gurney she saw used on her death-row client. She may die! Well, nice imagery and all, but importing random isolated perils like this is just bad writing. (Sophie Okonedo can do an impressive epileptic fit, mind).

When she returns to death-row in the latest episode, Maya takes her teenage student daughter; who is keeping an eye on her because of the epilepsy. Oookay. US penitentiaries are more easy-going than I realised.

Now, of course, with these sort of things, I’m being picky. Writers can take liberties, when it suits them. People like me can carp.

But there’s one fundamental problem with this programme you can’t really ignore: the family are all fakes. Nick, Maya, and their randomly generated children. This is what struck me this week, thinking about these two shows.

The Johnsons sit and eat food together; they chat; they walk the dog; they wait anxiously, and collectively, for the death-row inmate to die (I’ve had similar weekends with my in-laws). But they feel no more real, as a family unit than a glossy advertisement. Nick, of course, is fundamentally bogus – but you’re meant to believe that he has spent eighteen years parenting this family; that he has raised a son with learning disabilities; got one daughter through the awkward teenage years and through to Anonymous College; and probably spent at least some time with his wife in the process.

I don’t think you get any of that. It’s all rather cursory; waiting for the big reveal and dramatic consequences. We know pretty much nothing about the kids. I had to check that there even were two daughters in the show; more window dressing. Maya, likewise, seems to exist in two dimensions. She’s brave; a good lawyer; loving wife and mother. She’s got it all. She’s bloody perfect, really. Sketchy stuff. Easily-sketched stuff, in fact.

Steven Moffatt is the writer. He of Sherlock fame. He believes, I’m sure, in GOING BIG. Keep things fast-paced; ratchet up the tension. But I’m not convinced he really has any interest in people.

The result is that there’s more genuine gut-wrenching tension in Alison and Paul’s childcare arrangements in Cumbria than whether Maya throttles Nick, and/or brings down the entirety of the British establishment.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

The Lottie Collins Libel




Mrs. COONEY, an actress and variety artist, professionally known as Miss Lottie Collins, brought an action for libel, in the Queen's Bench Division, before Mr. Justice Hawkins and a special jury, against Mr. Edeveain, proprietor of a weekly journal named Society. The defendant pleaded that the words complained of were in their natural and ordinary meaning fair comment and criticism upon a public performance.
     Mr. Henry Kisch was for the plaintiff; and Mr. Jelf, Q.C., Mr. E. U. Bullen, and Mr. Cane for the defendant.
     Mr. Kisch, in opening, said his client had sung " The Little Widow" in public some 2,000 or 3,000 times, and the song upon all occasions met with approbation. She had also sung "A Girl on the Ran-dan-dan." (Laughter.) In December last she was performing at the Palace Theatre, and the two songs were in her repertoire. In reference to this engagement an article appeared in Society, and in it was the following passage:

"At the Palace Theatre, Morton Consule, there is quite the best entertainment in London, a sort of show a man can with impunity take his maiden aunt to. There is nothing coarse about it anywhere and the only touch of vulgarity is supplied by Miss Lottie Collins, who successfully reproduces, in two of her songs at least, methods far from pleasing of the age which to its eternal sorrow used to applaud such monstrosities as that lion comique, now happily very near dead. One of her songs, `The Little Widow'—no connection, I am happy to say, of our very own sweet lady—is written in grossly had taste, which is not redeemed even by the singer's surprising agility and rose-red petticoats. To my mind Miss Collins has never done so well since "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay."
     Mr. Justice Hawkins: What was meant by "Morton Consule." Was it the name of a place? (Loud laughter.)
     Mr. Fisch said he had at first taken it to be some French expression—(laughter)— 'but it seemed that it was intended to intimate that the place was under the management of Mr. Morton. (Laughter.) He regretted that he could not bring the whole performance before the jury; but at least he could bring "that little widow" before them. (Laughter.) Of course when he said "The The Little Widow" he meant the song. (Renewed laughter.) He would ask his lordship to let the jury read that song, so that they might form their own opinion as to "vulgarity," and as to the song having been written "in grossly bad taste."


Mr. Jelf: Had you not better read it yourself?
Mr. Kisch said he would with his lordship's permission, and he did so amidst peals of laughter.

Oh, dear, what I've suffered, there's nobody knows;
I'll endeavour to tell you my troubles and woes,
A lone little widow, two husbands I mourn,
And now I'm forsaken, heartbroken, forlorn.
No one to love me, no one to bless,
No one to tease me, none to caress,
And just twenty-one, 'tis true, on my word,
So I am thinking of taking a third.

I'm a widow, a little widow; I am simple, but I'm witty;
I'm stylish and pretty; yes, a widow, a charming widow.
But I won't remain single very long.

Dear George was my "first," he just doated on me;
And, oh, we were happy as happy could be.
He died, all the doctors said "shortness of breath"
The women, the wretches, said "worried to death!"
What could a poor little lone widow do?
Charlie consoled me, and became Number2 ;
And only last week he said, "Daisy, good- bye,
I'm going to meet George in the sweet bye-and-bye."
And I'm a widow, once more a widow; I am, &c.

I wonder why single girls are such mean things;
They'd like to be angels, of course, without wings;
Make eyes at the men with such a sly glance,
And won't give us dear little widows a chance.
But I'm going to show them of what we are made;
I'm looking around me; oh, don't be afraid.
If there's one here who'll be Number 3,
He find me as loving as loving can be.

Counsel added that he would hand the other song, "A Girl on the Ran-dan-dan" to his learned friend, who could read it if. he liked. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Jelf, amidst renewed laughter, read a few lines of it.
     Mr. Justice Hawkins thought that, with a little more rehearsal, counsel might be able to sing the songs. (Loud laughter.)
     The plaintiff was then called. She said that she was the wife of Mr. Stephen Patrick Cooney, but was professionally known as Miss Lottie Collins. She had so performed at the principal theatres and halls in London and in the provinces, and also in the United States.
     Did you sing "The Little Widow" at the Palace Theatre in "The New Barmaid"? "Possibly," interjected Mr. Kirsch, his lordship had heard of "The New Woman," and The New Barmaid" was probably a development of that idea. (Laughter.)
     Witness said that both songs had always been received very well, and no objection to them was ever made by managers or by anybody else. She did not think that she indicated any vulgarity in singing either of these songs.
     Cross-examined: "The Little Widow" she believed to be as popular as ever.
     And you yourself are as popular as ever?
     I hope so.
     You do not deny that Society has very often praised you?
     I have seen notices there that praised me.
     And you agree that everybody is entitled to have his own opinion upon a public performance?
     Oh, yes! but where the word "vulgarity" was used it was rather far-fetched. Witness added that she did not think that there was any touch of vulgarity in "Ta-ra-ra-boom- de-ay." It must be borne in mind that the audience went to music-halls to be amused; they did not go to church. (Laughter.) When she was singing "The Little Widow" she was, dressed all in black, except the petticoats, which were red. (Loud laughter.)
     Mr. Jelf : Is not that, an important point, that petticoat?
     Witness: I beg your pardon—petticoats. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Jell: Ah, that is my ignorance. (Renewed laughter.)
     The petticoats of red suddenly made their appearance during the song?—Yes.
     And that had a startling effect?—No doubt it had. (Laughter.) Continuing, witness said she still kept her position upon the stage; but this libel had been sent abroad through the world, and she feared that it would do her a good deal of harm in America. She had never had the word "vulgarity" applied to her singing before.
     Mr. G. H. Payne, managing director of the Canterbury Hall, of the South London Theatre of Varieties, and of the Paddington Theatre of Varieties, said he had had twenty years' experience connected with music-halls, and had known the plaintiff from the time when she was a child. He had heard her sing both these songs.
     Have you noticed any procedure or gesture on the part of Miss Lottie Collins that was vulgar?— No.
     Cross-examined: Naturally there were differences of opinion upon such matters.
     Mr. Charles Morton said that he was the manager of the Palace Theatre of Varieties, and had been engaged in connection with music-hall engagements ever since 1848. He was invariably on duty every evening at his theatre, and he looked closely after everything that took place. He had heard Miss Collins sing " The Little Widow" on many occasions, and he had never seen anything on her part that was vulgar.
     Would you allow it to continue if you did see it?—No. He had heard "The Girl on the Ran-dan-dan" sung, and he had never observed any objection to it on the part of the audience.
     Cross-examined: Do you consider that this article has done Miss Collins the slightest injury?—No. She is still receiving the same salary as she received before.
     Mr. Lionel Monckton, a member of the bar, upon the critical staff of the Daily Telegraph, said he had heard the plaintiff sing "The Little Widow" more than once. He did not know Miss Collins at all, and he had not until that day ever seen her off the stage. He had never seen anything on her part that was vulgar.


Mr. Jeff addressed the jury for the defendant, contending that what had been published amounted to nothing more than fair criticism upon a performance. He also submitted that there was no evidence to show that any damage had been inflicted upon the plaintiff.
    The jury, without leaving the box, said their verdict was for the plaintiff, with £25 damanges.
Illustrated Police News, 24 Ju;y 1897

Fun without Frivolity?

The late-Victorians are often caricatured as prudish and anti-entertainment. There was, certainly, a vigorous 'social purity' movement in the 1890s, which attempted to control and reduce the number of music halls in the capital, both on the grounds of them selling drink, and harbouring prostitutes. But the puritans were not the Victorians and many contemporaries opposed them, even amongst the most respectable in society. This article about granting Sadlers Wells Theatre a music hall licence ('music and dancing') paints an interesting picture of the debate in local authority circles.

Messrs. Wilmot and Freeman, lessees of Sadler's Wells Theatre, wrote to the Clerkenwell Vestry on Thursday giving notice their intention to apply to the London County Council for a music and dancing licence for Sadler's Wells Theatre. This led to an angry discussion at the vestry meeting. Mr. Weston moved to oppose the application, on one ground, because they had driven Captain Davis from Deacon's Music Hall with a compensation of £10,000, and now they wanted to give this valuable concession to Messrs. Wilmot and Freeman for nothing. Mr. J. Crowle-Smith objected to the licence because drink was sold on the premises; and Mr. Putterill and Mr. Wildboe and Mr. Brighty thought similarly. Mr. J.F.Kelly said that it would be all right, he supposed, if they filled the parish with "Little Bethels", but with 75,000 inhabitants, who were not all teetotallers or churchgoers, but who nevertheless were good husbands and fathers, he contended they should consider their amusement, as well as their rates. He recommend to the notice of the Puritanical party the words of the good old Bobbie Burns:-

God knows, I'm not the man I should be,
Nor am I even the man I could be;
But fifty times I rather would be,
An Atheist clean,
Than under Gospel I'd be
Just for a screen.

Messrs. Wilmot and Freeman's enterprise should be encouraged. They had shown by their management of the Grand Theatre, with thoroughly respectable surroundings, that they could be relied upon to supply a good class of entertainment when they got the music and dancing licence.
    Mr. Churchwarden MILLWARD said he was happy to tell them that he could go to church and to a music hall, and appreciate both. In fact, he went to the Royal in Holborn, about once a week. It was all humbug these people coming there with their "McDougall nonsense."
    Mr. Churchwarden SANS gave an opinion that the parish would be all the better without the licences.
    Mr. KELLY, amid considerable laughter, pointed to this model churchwarden, who years ao was a music hall proprietor himself; who was, in fact, sponsor for, amongst others, Herbert Campbell, Tom Vine, and Clara Nisbet, and from whose hall Londoners had got some of their greatest pleasure givers.
    Mr. Churchwarden SANS - I was not proprietor of the place.
    Mr. KELLY - Then you were the man in possession.
    Mr. MATTHEW HANLY also vigorously denounced members who denied people such pleasures as Messrs. Wilmot and Freeman would be sure to bring them. One of the Puritans had said he would not go to a music hall or theatre to find a husband for his daughter; but allow him (Mr. Hanly) to tell that member that there were as good and virtuous ladies and gentlemen on the theatrical and music hall stage as there were in his little chapel. In fact, many of the actors were better than the parsons. Looking at the matter from another point of view, let them consider the hundreds of people who wer employed when Mr. Wilmot had as many as five companies travelling at once. And where was there a body of people more ready to lend a hand to charity and philanthropy than the theatrical and music hall profession? He hoped the good sense of the Vestry would prevail and put down these bigots.
    Mr. DIXIE did not wish to be political; but he certainly must mention the bad songs which had been and which were sung at the Radical club dens, to which some of the opposers of the Sadlers Wells licence belonged. The Lord Chamberlain and the County Council exercised strong powers over theatres and music halls, but these club-drinking dens were allowed to go on as they pleased.
    In the result, the following motion was carried by 19 to 17: "That the Vestry adheres to its resolution of Oct. 16th last, in which they decided to oppose any new music and dancing licence in the parish." This was followed by a number of amendments, but the figures were not materially altered, and the final quarrel between the members was as to whether the clerk should send details of the discussion to the London County Council, when opposing the granting of the licence.
    Mr. KELLY said he would see that the County Council committee knew the motion against the licence was only carried by the narrow majority of two, or else the Puritans, with all their truth, and honesty, and morality, would go and say the Vestry was unanimously against the licence.

Era 22 August 1891