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Title: A Society Clown
Author: Grossmith, George
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Society Clown" ***











"You've no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself, and how little
I deserve it."--_Ruddigore_.

It was one dark, dank, dreary, dismal night in February, 1888 (I
believe that is the way to commence a book, no matter what the
subject be), when the present writer might have been seen standing,
with other gentlemen, in a sombre dining-room brilliantly
illuminated with one ceiling-lamp buried in a deep red shade. We
were standing round the dining-room table, each with a dinner-napkin
in the left hand; while the right hand was occupied in moving back
chairs, to permit of the departure of the ladies for the
drawing-room. I could not help thinking that, as they filed off, the
ladies looked like queens; while we (especially with the aid of the
serviettes) looked like waiters. The gentlemen drew their chairs
round the host, and wine was languidly passed round. A tall
gentleman, with a heavy beard, to whom I had not been introduced,
approached me, and sat by my side. He passed me the spirit-lamp, for
which I thanked him while lighting my cigarette. He then commenced a
conversation in earnest.

"Did you see that Mr. ---- is writing his reminiscences?"


"Don't you think it rather a pity that he should do so?"

"Why a pity?" I asked in reply to his question.

"Well, I always think the moment a man begins to write his
reminiscences he is bound, more or less, to make an ass of himself."

"In what way?" I asked.

"In the first place, he is hampered by having to be so egotistical.
He must talk about himself, which is never a nice thing to do. He
cannot very well tell stories in his own favour; and if he tells
them against himself, he affects humility: if he talks about his
distinguished acquaintances, he becomes a snob; in short, I can only
repeat my former observation, that he is bound to make an ass of

For a moment or two I did not know what to say, for my conscience
smote me. At last I said:

"I am very pleased to hear your candid, and certainly unbiassed,
opinion; for I have just accepted an offer from Mr. Arrowsmith to do
a shilling book of my own reminiscences for the Bristol Library

My friend did not know what to say for a moment. His conscience
evidently smote him. At last he remarked:

"I fear I have said one of those things that are best left unsaid."

"I'm glad you said it," I replied. "You have rather opened my eyes.
It will be necessary for me to explain that I cannot very well back
out of my agreement with Mr. Arrowsmith, although, candidly
speaking, I have no desire to do so; and I shall certainly have to
apologise to the reading public for making an ass of myself."

I have thought over the above conversation many a time since, and
have concluded that I could not do better than commence this little
book with it.

I have taken my own professional career, and used it as a peg
whereon to hang my stories. I have chosen the title because I think
it will look well on the bookstalls. It is by no means intended as a
sneer at my calling. To clown properly is a very difficult art, and
I am never so happy as when I am making people laugh. I am
unfeignedly proud of my profession, on and off the stage. I have
clowned amongst all sorts of people, and in all sorts of places. On
the stage I play the fool of others' creation, and at the piano I
play the simple fool of my own.

The late John Parry, whom I took as my model, was marvellous at
amusing. His satire was worthy of Dickens or Thackeray. Though
possessed of a small voice, few people could sing better, and
certainly few could play the piano better than he. His was an
"excellent fooling" that many have envied, many imitated, and none

My first desire in producing the following sketches of my life is to
benefit others, by making an hour pass pleasantly in the library or
in a railway carriage. My second desire, which goes without saying,
is to benefit my publisher and myself.

Like all clowns, I have had my serious side of life--I have
experienced many small troubles and some sorrows; but I shall not
dwell on them, but merely reproduce some short notes--(having been a
reporter, I may say _shorthand notes_)--of incidents which have
amused me, and which I hope will equally entertain my readers. The
majority I have had permission to publish, and the others I do not
expect will be recognised. It would grieve me very much if I thought
I had offended anyone.

Society has been exceedingly kind to its clown, and the clown is
deeply grateful. My only ambition is, that someone in the dim future
may speak half as kindly of me as Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, spoke
of the Society Clown of his period.


Early Recollections.

"A many years ago, when I was young and charming."
_H.M.S. Pinafore_.

As I was born in December, 1847, I was not five years old when I was
taken to a house at the corner of Wellington Street, Strand, to see
the funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington. And I remember it
as distinctly as if it had been yesterday. The crowd, the soldiers,
and the magnificent funeral car, are still strongly engraven on my
memory. That was the most important of my earlier recollections.

The next recollection of great importance was my having fallen
desperately in love with a Miss Field, at a day-school near
Bloomsbury, to which I was taken at five years of age, and which was
kept by a Miss Adams. It was an academy for young (extremely young)
ladies and gentlemen. It was only natural that I should desire to
make my _fiancee_ a suitable gift as a token of our engagement; so I
presented her with a set of large gold shirt-studs, which I annexed
from my father's dressing-table. The mother of my adored one,
without having the courtesy to consult her daughter or myself, took
the gift from the former, and returned it to the father of the
latter. My parent explained to me the etiquette with regard to acts
of alienation in a sweet, simple, and comprehensive manner worthy of
Dr. Watts, and extracted from me a promise that in future I would
discard that humour which had prompted me to generously dispose of
other people's property. That promise I have faithfully kept.

As a reward for my future good intentions, he handed me a sovereign,
with injunctions not to spend it. I must confess I could not see his
object. A few days afterwards I began to be suspicious of his
sovereign. There was some writing on one side, which I was not yet
intelligent enough to decipher; but on the other, instead of the
pretty head of our Most Gracious Majesty, there was an impression of
a hat. I was much worried and concerned about that hat. I perfectly
remember going to my parents and saying, "I would rather have a
sovereign without a hat on." I also remember with what continued
roars of laughter my request was met. I have the sovereign to this
day. It is a brass disc, the exact size of a sovereign, advertising
the Gibus opera hat.

About 1855 I was sent to a preparatory school kept by the Misses
Hay, at Massingham House, Haverstock Hill. I was a boarder, and it
was there I first began to play the fool. I invented several shadow
pantomimes, and acted in them. As no dialogue was required, I can
say nothing of my literary ability. On one occasion, when my mother
visited me, she asked how I was getting on with my lessons. Miss
Eliza Hay (from whom I had a letter last May) said, "He gets on very
well with his music, but I am afraid he will one day be a clown."

I mention this because, about fifteen years afterwards, my father
met her, and informed her that I had made my appearance at the
Polytechnic Institution as a professional entertainer, and she
replied, "Ah! I always said he would be a clown." This is not
repeated with any unkind intention, for the remarks were made by
Miss Hay in a pure spirit of chaff. She was very kind to me, gave me
lessons in elocution, and taught me pieces of poetry to recite. She
used to write poetry herself.

Her sister, Miss Isabelle, taught me the piano; and, of course, I
learned the "Priere d'une Vierge" and "Les Cloches de Monastere,"
and the "Duet in D" by Diabelli, to say nothing of Czerny's 101
exercises, all of which I used to play tolerably well at the age of
nine and ten. Miss Isabelle also sang very nicely; and as I was very
fond of music, I became a favourite pupil, and was taken by her to
local concerts, where she sang for charities. Of course, I fell over
head and ears in love with her.

The school was kept by three sisters, and the elder was a handsome
lady with grey hair. She was an immense favourite with the boys. I
have never forgotten her kindness in occasionally permitting me to
fire off a brass cannon with real gunpowder in the kitchen. That was
the sort of extension of license that a boy appreciated.

In 1856 I witnessed, from the lower part of Primrose Hill, the
fireworks in celebration of peace with Russia. The final sight was
wonderful, and greatly impressed me. At a given period, thousands of
rockets were fired from the Hill and all the parks.

I was sometimes taken to the theatre, and have a faint recollection
of Wright at the Adelphi, and a more distinct one of T. P. Cooke in
_Black-eyed Susan_. I was afterwards introduced to him at Margate,
and surprised to find he looked so old--which he certainly did not
on the stage. It was in this year, I think, that I was taken to see
the ruins of Covent Garden Theatre. It was the day after the fire,
and smoke was still ascending in columns. I described this with
characteristic exaggeration, and became a temporary hero at the
school of the Misses Hay.

In 1857 my father took the little house now known as 36 Haverstock
Hill. It was then known as 9 Powis Place, and was called Manor
Lodge. My school was only a few doors off, and so I became a day
scholar. I remained at this preparatory school until I was nearly
twelve, and I can safely say I was very happy in those days. I do
not mean to infer that I am not happy now. Fortunately, I am of an
extremely happy disposition, and I so thoroughly enjoy the bright
side of life that its shadows sink into insignificance.

Amongst my school-fellows at the Misses Hay's was Dr. Arthur W.
Orwin, of the Throat and Ear Hospital, Gray's Inn Road.

In 1860 there was a Pugilistic Fever in England. Tom Sayers fought
J. C. Heenan, the Benicia Boy. The fever was very virulent. It
attacked Peers, Commons, Bishops, Actors, Soldiers, Sailors, Tinkers
and Tailors. It attacked The Times, and all the daily, evening,
weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly periodicals. Is it to be
wondered at, that it attacked also the school of the Misses Hay? Tom
Sayers, with his big dog, had been pointed out to me; so had Heenan
and Tom King.

I was surreptitiously, and most certainly without the knowledge of
my parents, taken by one of the servants at home to the house of Mr.
Ben Caunt, who shook hands with me and showed me the room where
boxing matches took place. I was then taken across the road, and
this boy of twelve years and a few months was presented to Nat
Langham. I was accordingly seized with the fever very badly. On the
inside of my leather belt I sketched little panels of my imagined
victories, and issued a challenge to fight anyone for the
championship of the school--the victor to hold the leather belt. As
I had shaken hands with Ben Caunt and Langham, the boys were rather
afraid of me. Orwin, however, accepted the challenge, threw his
castor into the ring, and we fought for twenty minutes or half an
hour: it seemed years to me. In the end I was undoubtedly defeated.
One generally hears that corruption is the aim and end of all
fights. I knew nothing of such practices then, and so cannot explain
what induced me to offer Orwin twopence to admit that I was the
conqueror, or what persuaded him to accept the sum and condition.

After leaving the preparatory school, I was sent to the North London
Collegiate School, then under the headmastership of Dr. Williams. I
wore a "mortar-board," and walked to and from the school with E. H.
Dickens, who was a nephew of Charles Dickens, and who, living close
to my home, became (and still is) a great friend of mine. The chief
delight of the little home on Haverstock Hill was the garden at the
back. It was much prettier than the modern suburban garden. There
used to be nine apple trees and two pear trees. As time wore on, a
couple of the trees wore out. My mother used to send the apples away
to friends in basketsful. My brother Weedon and I generally partook
of this fruit when it had grown to the size of a chestnut, and was
particularly hard and green. We much preferred it to the mature
apple. In this respect I think we resembled most boys.

When the bicycle came in vogue, a few years after, we three boys
procured one each. (I include my father as one of the boys. It was
his own desire, as well as his nature, to be one of us, and I often
think many fathers would find it to their advantage if they followed
his example). I possessed, what was considered then, a very high
bicycle, the front wheel being 36 inches high. I got one for my
brother, cheap, at an auction-room near Covent Garden. Being
considered the champion rider of the three, I was sent to bid for
the steed, and ride it home in style. I succeeded in the former, but
not in the latter. Before an admiring crowd of Covent Garden
loungers, loafers, porters, fruiterers, flower-girls and policemen,
I leapt on to the saddle, and immediately broke the back of the
spring, which had evidently been carefully made of cast-iron. My
intention was that the bicycle should carry me home, but we reversed
the order of things.

The steed used by my father stood about two and a half feet from the
ground, and had iron wheels. He himself was only a little over five
feet, and was much--very much--inclined to _embonpoint_. In the
winter, the garden-path at Manor Lodge was a fine field for
practice. I forget how many laps went to the mile; all I remember
is, that three miles about did for Weedon and myself, and half a
mile did for the Guv'nor--that is, if he had not done for himself
before then. I never recollect anything so funny as seeing him
trundling round the garden. It somewhat resembled a diminutive
edition of the modern road engine. We heard him in the house
distinctly--loud as he approached the house, the noise becoming less
as he reached the bottom of the garden. Sometimes the noise would
suddenly cease. Ha! We in the house knew instinctively what had
happened, and rushed to the windows to look out. Yes; there he was,
in the thick of the gooseberry bushes. Not on the bicycle--oh dear,
no! Under it, most decidedly under it. Sometimes on these occasions
we would push up the windows, and, in conjunction with our dear
mother, greet him with a loud guffaw. Sometimes we would preserve a
strict silence and listen. We heard him wheel the vehicle back,
place it against the lattice-work of the verandah, open the door,
and, as usual, call for me.


"Here I am. What is it?"

"Oh, I say, George, have you got a piece of sticking-plaister?"

He always appealed to me for this article, knowing that I was in
possession of a few quires of court plaister; for it was at this
period I had commenced to shave.

In summer my mother would not permit the bicycles in the garden
because of the flowers, in which she took pride. In the earlier days
at Manor Lodge the garden was a mass of roses. As the demon builders
began to surround the locality, so the roses began to die, and
blight began to kill the apple-trees.

Still, the garden always looked pretty, especially in the summer and
autumn. Then we three boys went in for amateur photography. The fad
was started by me, and I was the principal operator. A "dark room"
was erected against the wall near the house, and the front was
manufactured out of the folding doors which had formerly separated
the dining-room from the drawing-room. An amateur photographer was a
scarcity in those days. The clean and easy dry-plate process was not
then in use. We first had to clean the plain glass plate, which, in
my case, was never successfully accomplished; then to coat it with
collodion, which, if it did not run off the plate up the sleeve,
generally "set" in diagonal streaks. Then it had to be placed in the
wet silver bath, an extremely sensitive concoction, which got out of
order without the slightest provocation. After its exposure in the
camera (by-the-by, I generally forgot to pull up the shutter, or, if
I remembered that, discovered when I went to uncover the lens that
its cap was already off), this plate was subjected to a development
which was original in its vagaries.

If the figures on the plate were indistinct, it was more than could
be said of the spots and patches which appeared vividly on the
fingers and clothes. Still, I was devoted to the occupation while in
my teens, and would photograph all day long, anybody or anything.
The family sat or stood to me a dozen times a day. The dogs used to
sneak into the house and hide in the coal cellar the moment they saw
me bring out the camera. The tradesmen and servants were all taken.
All my father's friends, and they were numerous and good-natured,
were seized and carried into the garden to be taken on glass; for I
generally took "positives," which were finished off then and there
and put into little brass frames, like the sixpenny and shilling
portraits (eighteenpence if a bit of jewellery is painted in with
gold) one sees displayed in the Euston Road and elsewhere.

I have taken Toole scores of times, H. J. Byron, J. Billington,
Andrew Halliday, and many more: in fact, the last-named wrote an
article in _All the Year Round_ called "Precocious Boys," in which
he described my brother and myself photographing him in a
back-garden. I hope the reader will not think I am boasting, but I
solemnly declare that I do not believe any photographer,
professional or amateur, ever succeeded in turning out so many
deplorable failures as I did.

I attach rather an interesting programme of a juvenile--followed by
a grown-up--party at Manor Lodge:


        Haverstock Hill, April 1st, 1864.

_With Master George and Walter Grossmith's Compliments._


7 o'clock.--General Gathering of the Company (Limited).
The first arrival will please to make itself as comfortable as

7.30.--Music and Conversation. The latter may be varied by an
occasional allusion to the day of the month--a practical joke being
the "touch of nature" that makes everybody _touchy_.

8 o'clock.--Quadrille and Polka. After which, Mrs. Martha Brown
(from the Egyptian Hall) will describe her "Trip to Brighton and

9 o'clock.--Quadrille and Waltz.

A few young gents in their teens, inspired by the Tercent-_e_-nary
(see Hepworth Dixon or any other dixon-ary), will recite a passage
from--and a very long way from--HAMLET.

9.30.--Quadrille. Polka. Spanish Dance.

10 o'clock.--THE JUVENILE SPREAD. Children under 20 not admitted.

10.30.--The author of "Underground London" will demon-strate his
well-known connection with the arch-enemy. (Beware of your pockets.)

11.--Dancing, Comic Singing, etc.

12 to 1.--Arrival of the Professionals from the Royal Adelphi,
Olympic, St. James's, and Princess's Theatres, retained at an
enormous cost for this night only--or rather morning.


Resumption of the fun. Paul's return a _great_ go. Curious analysis
of the Brothers Webb, to ascertain which is which. Mr. Toole will
oblige, etc.

Any attempt to define the order or duration of the proceedings from
this point being obviously absurd, it will suffice to state that the
Sun rises at 5.30.


The twenty minutes' burlesque on Hamlet was written expressly for us
by my father. It was received so well that we afterwards did it at
the residences of Mr. Toole and John Hollingshead to "grown-up"
parties, of which we were very proud. I played Hamlet, my brother
played Ophelia and the Gravedigger, and the remainder of the
characters were assumed by schoolfellows at the North London
Collegiate School, who were, singularly enough, distantly connected
with the stage. They were Pierre Leclercq, the brother of Carlotta
Leclercq; Claude Addison, brother of the Misses Fanny and Carlotta
Addison; B. Terry, brother of Ellen Terry, who, with her sister Kate
(Mrs. Arthur Lewis), visited Manor Lodge several times. The part of
the Queen was played by T. Bolton, who afterwards went on the stage
and became a prominent member of Mr. Wilson Barrett's provincial
companies. Many actors and literary men and women came in late at
this party.

I knew very little of Society (with a big S) in those days, but had
the honour, under the parental roof, of meeting and making friends,
while a young man, of such people as Henry Irving, Toole, J. Clarke
(Little Clarke, as he was called), H. J. Byron, John Oxenford, Kate
and Ellen Terry, Madame Celeste, Miss Woolgar, Andrew Halliday,
Artemus Ward, Chas. Wyndham, the brothers Brough, Luke Fildes, R.A.,
Joseph Hatton, Dillon Croker, J. Prowse, Fred Barnard, Mrs. Eiloart,
Eliza Winstanley, Emma Stanley (the entertainer), W. S. Woodin,
Arthur Sketchley, Tom Hood the younger, T. W. Robertson, Miss
Furtardo, Paul Bedford.

For eight or nine months in the year we did not see much of the
master of the house, for he was away lecturing; but we always
welcomed his return home, generally on Saturdays. In the summer he
had more leisure; he was brimful of humour, and there were few
people so good at repartee.

When he was "put out," there was no mistaking it. He would then
speak without thinking; but he never _wrote_ without thinking. What
a deal of trouble would be saved in this world if people would only
delay answering an annoying letter for twenty-four hours!

Some of my father's replies were very amusing, I remember. I
happened to come across a copy of one recently. I must first explain
that my mother was passionately fond of animals, and had a strong
tendency to overfeed them. In the next garden to ours a dog was
chained close to the adjoining wall, and I have no doubt whatever
that every remnant of food was dropped over for his special delight.
The next-door neighbour wrote a sharp remonstrance, and complained
that his dog was getting too fat in consequence of its being
overfed. My father wrote the following characteristic reply:

          "9 Powis Place,
               "December 18th, 1870.

"Dear Sir,--I am very sorry my people have annoyed you by giving
food to your dog.

"Mrs. Grossmith happens to be very fond of dogs. I think she prefers
them to human beings, and she has a notion that it is very cruel to
keep one chained up eternally; and possibly this want of exercise
may have more to do with its getting fat than the occasional extra
feeding to which you refer, and which comes of weak womanly sympathy
with misfortune--just as our booby philanthropists, after
contributing nearly half a million for the relief of the sick and
wounded, received nothing but kicks and growls from the ruffianly
savages in return.

"Seriously, however, you have a perfect right to complain, and I
have given orders which I hope will be obeyed. I am very seldom in
London myself, and cannot boast of having much control over my
household when I am; but I think I may rely on your wishes being
implicitly regarded.

"I almost wonder that it has not occurred to you to put the dog on
the other side of the garden, out of their reach; but I trust there
will be no occasion for this now.

          "Yours faithfully,
               "GEO. GROSSMITH.--Esq."

The next-door neighbour was amused with this letter, having taken it
in its proper spirit, and became a visitor to the house. "All's well
that ends well."

In accordance with its usual custom, time rolled on. I began to
exhibit a taste for painting, and my brother Weedon for acting.
These professions we subsequently reversed. Weedon (his full name is
Walter Weedon Grossmith) left the North London Collegiate School to
go to school nearer home; viz., Mr. Simpson's, in Belsize Park.
Eventually I left the N.L.C.S. to go to Bow Street, with the
ultimate intention of entering for the bar; and Weedon, after
leaving school, went to the West London School of Art in Portland
Street, also to the Slade School at the London University, and
eventually he passed the requisite examination that admitted him to
the Royal Academy Schools.

I have endeavoured to make this little sketch of my old home as
brief as possible, and will conclude this chapter with an incident
that ultimately happened to be of considerable importance to me:

At a certain juvenile party, while still in jackets and turned-down
collars, I met and became enamoured of a little maiden in a short
frock and sash.

She flattered me by approving of my comic songs; and I was immensely
struck with her power of conversation, which was unusual for one so
young. I ascertained that her name was Emmeline Rosa Noyce, and that
she was the only daughter of Doctor Noyce, whose practice was in the
neighbourhood. We danced every dance together; but the Fates decreed
that we should not meet again for another three or four years. We
_did_ meet--in a crowd, and again danced _nearly_ every dance
together; for, strange to say, she understood my step.

All this was simply a beginning to a very happy end: and I can say
with truth that the wisest step I ever took in the whole course of
my life was when, on the 14th May, 1873, I made my juvenile
sweetheart my wife--with her consent, of course,--and, thank God, I
have never had reason to regret it for a single second.


At Bow Street Police Court.

"Take down our sentence as we speak it."--_Iolanthe_.

For a period of twenty years I had the distinguished honour of being
decidedly "well known to the police." When I between seventeen and
eighteen years of age, and still at the North London Collegiate
School, I received instructions from my father, who was just
starting for Liverpool, that as Mr. Courtenay was ill I must go and
"do" Bow Street. Mr. John Kelly Courtenay used to do all the
reporting at Bow Street Police Court during my father's absence on
his lecturing tours. I had learned shorthand (the Lewisian system, I
believe it was called) some two or three years previously.

Off I marched to Bow Street with the greatest _sang-froid_ to report
a case, at which in after years I should certainly have shied. It
was a most important bank fraud, and meant enormous complications in
figures. Mr. Burnaby, the chief clerk, was kind enough to let me
correct my figures from the depositions which had been taken by him;
Sir Thomas Henry repeated to me the gist of his remarks on remanding
the case, and the result was I turned out a report on manifold for
all the evening and morning papers, and the usual special report for
_The Times_--in this instance over a column long--with which my
father was delighted.

I received a most encouraging letter from him after a few days'
interval. The interval was merely to give time for the arrival of
any complaint from the papers. Editors are not in the habit of
sending letters of congratulation, only of complaint. No complaint
arrived, however, and my only disappointment was the complete
absence of important and interesting cases.

At last another opportunity arrived which enabled me to distinguish
myself. I wish it had not. A poor woman was charged with purloining
a shirt which was hanging outside a cheap hosier's in Clare Market
somewhere. It was a windy day, and the end of the shirt was
apparently flapping round the corner of the shop; so the prisoner,
unable to resist temptation, filched it after the manner of a clown
in a pantomime. Inspired by the punning humour of Tom Hood, I
parodied one of his poems for the heading of my police report. The
heading was "The Tale of a Shirt." This had a most undesired effect.
The serious papers wrote to complain of the flippancy of the title;
the refined papers of its vulgarity; while the vulgar papers
inserted the title, which they emphasised by printing the word
"tale" in italic.

This caused sarcastic paragraphs to appear in other papers directed
against my father, who, of course, was the responsible reporter, and
who, consequently, wrote me a second letter anent my talents for
reporting which differed widely from the first.

Fortunately for all parties, Mr. Courtenay got well and returned to
his post, and in 1866 it was decided I should thoroughly learn the
business from him, so as to have some remunerative occupation while
studying, and eventually following, the profession of the bar.
Circumstances, however, ultimately prevented me from doing either.
There are several, if not many, barrister-reporters in London; I
know my friend Mr. E. T. Besley was one, and so were Mr. Finlayson
and Mr. Corrie Grant, and I could mention three or four others.

My parent, with an eye to business, pointed out the absolute
advantage that would arise from my being able to support myself by
the press during the years I should, in all probability, be waiting
for the arrival of a brief. His suggestion was adopted, and for the
next three years I stuck entirely to the work, assisting Mr.
Courtenay, who, in his turn, often assisted me in revising little
occasional articles or verses which I wrote for humorous
periodicals, &c., some of which were inserted to my great delight.
He used to write prologues for amateur performances in which I took
part, and at which he was always present. He was very kind to me,
and I became very much attached to him, feeling great grief when he
died in October, 1869.

The whole of the work then fell upon my shoulders during the absence
of Grossmith, senior; and very hard work it was sometimes. When
there was no work to do,--that is, nothing of consequence to
report,--then the life of a reporter resembled that of a superior
loafer--at least, that was my feeling. A reporter is not considered
a sufficiently important person to be allotted a room for his own
use. Sir Thomas Henry promised that the gentlemen of the press
should have a room to themselves in the new Court, but he was unable
to carry his promise out, as he died soon afterwards.

Therefore, when nothing was going on, the reporter became a kind of
Micawber hanging about waiting for something to turn up. I used to
sit in Court and write the opening chapters of three-volume novels
which were never published, or extra verses to comic songs which
were never sung.

When tired of this I used to loiter about the passages, or sit in
the usher's room in company with solicitors, solicitors' clerks,
witnesses with and without babies, detectives, defendants, and
equally interesting people. Sometimes I meandered into the gaoler's
room and gazed at the police and the prisoners. Sometimes I would go
out to lunch and take three or four hours over it, and on returning
find a most important murder case had been disposed of in my

On one occasion I returned and found Mr. John Brown giving evidence
in a charge against a lad for an attempt upon the life of our Most
Gracious Majesty. However, I have managed to write a case just as
well when I have not been present as when I have. The Court was a
miserable one for sound, but the clerk was close to the witnesses
and could hear them; so that his notes, which with courtesy I was
permitted to copy, were, at all events, most reliable.

It must not be inferred from my absence that I was not interested in
the work. On the contrary, there was so much variety in the
important cases that one could not be otherwise than interested: but
one never knew when they were coming on. But people of all classes
would come day after day, and sit out (especially on a Monday
morning) dozens of simple charges of drunk and disorderly, or of
fighting and disturbing. This I could not quite understand. The days
on which Mr. Flowers sat were certainly the most amusing, and
consequently selected by the visitors. Mr. Irving, Mr. Toole, and
the late George Belmore have often in bygone days sat by my side
watching the more important cases.

Sometimes the monotony of the proceedings would be varied by my
seeing one of my own acquaintances in the dock. Then an awkward
question of etiquette arose. The dock joined the reporters' box. Now
ought I to have shaken hands with him? As a matter of fact I never
did, but I do not see why I should not have done so. However, I
thought it best to follow the footsteps of the magistrates--they did
not shake hands with their friends when charged.

I have heard of an instance of a metropolitan police magistrate who,
upon recognising an old friend in dock, ordered him immediately to
be accommodated with a seat on the bench and declined to hear the
charge of embezzlement that was to have been preferred against him.
Soon he was no more a magistrate, and subsequently was "no more" in
the term's other sense.

The most disagreeable case of recognising a friend in the dock that
I ever experienced was some years after, when I was combining the
professions of journalist and entertainer. I accepted an engagement
at Margate to give a couple of sketches nightly at the
Hall-by-the-Sea, which was then under the management of the late E.
P. Hingston, who had been formerly the manager of Artemus Ward's
lecture at the Egyptian Hall in 1866. [By-the-by, the only other
humorist who took part in the concert was J. Hatton, the composer
and author of "To Anthea," who used to take his seat at the piano
and sing his song, "Old Simon the Cellarer" and "The Merry Little
Fat Grey Man," his resemblance to the latter being somewhat
pronounced. He used to reside at Margate, and was an immense

One evening I was introduced to a young gentleman of good manners
and appearance, who begged I would sup with him. I did. We
afterwards became rather intimate and I lunched with him. Like most
small stars, I was surrounded by a lot of satellites. They were all
eventually introduced to my new acquaintance, who seemed to have
plenty of time and money to spare, and who was the essence of
hospitality. As my engagement was terminating he gave us all a
parting banquet at one of the principal hotels. Some old friend of
mine had advised me particularly not to go. What reason he gave I do
not remember, but I fancy it was that the young fellow had not paid
some bill. However, I did not go, but heard there was much to eat,
more to drink, and any amount of conviviality.

It was one of those parties where everybody talked, nobody listened,
nobody cared, and every man's health was proposed by somebody else:
the health of the host, I believe, was proposed about half a dozen

I returned to Bow Street, and a few days after this poor fellow, who
turned out to be a clerk in a warehouse in Southampton Street,
Strand, at about 35s. a week, was placed in the dock on a charge of
robbing his employer. He was committed for trial and ultimately
convicted; but in consequence of his previous good character and the
kindness of his employer in not wishing to press the charge, the
sentence was one of months when it might have been years.

I spent part of the spare time, in my earlier days at Bow Street, in
editing a paper called _Ourselves at Home_. It was published by a
printer for me, and consisted of eight pages, a little larger than
the Bristol Library Series, with very little matter--much spacing
out and very big type. The cost was ten shillings a week, for which
we had fifty or a hundred copies.

Two of my friends contributed each two shillings and sixpence a week
towards the expense, with the privilege of inserting articles. The
contribution of their specie was more valuable than that of their
brains; but as their contributions were not so bad as mine, no
complaint was made. The periodical terminated after thirteen
numbers, because our friends could not be induced to read it, nor
buy it. It died a natural death on March 8th, 1867.

At this time the chief magistrate was Sir Thomas Henry, the other
two being the kind and genial Mr. Flowers, who died only a few years
ago, and Mr. James Vaughan, who still sits in the new Court. The old
Court was adjacent to the Floral Hall, Covent Garden.

Having sat in that Court so many years, it seemed odd to me to pay
it a visit under such different circumstances. Last summer (1887) I
was advised to go to Mr. Stinchcombe, the theatrical costumier, on
some little matter. I entered the front door of the old familiar
Police Court. Instead of the idle, motley crowd one was accustomed
to see blocking up the passages, there were rows of shelves with
carefully-packed costumes.

In the Court, the dock, attorneys' table, barristers' bench, my old
reporters' box, every partition in fact, had been swept away to make
room for shelves of costumes, armour, and tons of theatrical
paraphernalia. Out of curiosity I asked to see the cells and was
politely shown them. There they were as of yore--the iron doors,
with the little window or grating; but the doors were not locked,
barred, and bolted--they were wide open, and the prison cells were
occupied with sock and buskin.

Sir Thomas Henry was the main instrument in getting erected the
spacious new Court opposite, in which he was never destined to sit.
It was his ambition. Frequently had he said on the bench that the
old court was a disgrace. I could not help thinking what Sir
Thomas's opinion of the old Court would have been if he had seen it
as I had just now. I could not help thinking the faithful old Court
had followed my example, and gone in for the stage.

Now it is razed to the ground, and there is not a brick left of the
old place which, in my time, saw the preliminary examinations of the
Flowery Land Pirates; Muller for the murder of Mr. Briggs; Barrett
and others for blowing up Clerkenwell Prison; Burke and Casey; Dr.
Hessell, who was acquitted on the charge known as the Great Coram
Street murder, and on whose behalf Mr. Douglas Straight (now Mr.
Justice Straight, of Allahabad) made the best speech he ever made in
his life, I venture to think; the female impersonation case; and the
charge against the police detectives Druscovich, Palmer, Meiklejohn,
Clarke, and Mr. Froggatt, the solicitor, of assisting Kurr, Benson
and others in committing the De Goncourt turf frauds. With the
exception of the Pirates and Muller, _The Times_' reports were done
chiefly by me.

The record of which I am most proud was in a speech of Mr. Besley's
in one of the above cases. He spoke for about seven hours, with one
short interval, and as it proceeded I reported it in long hand, in
the third person of course. To have done so _verbatim_ would have
been an impossibility. To have reported this speech with a pencil
and paper would have been a tolerably easy matter, but I wrote it on
manifold, producing twelve copies--that is, there were twelve oiled
tissue sheets and six blank tissues between, altogether a thickness
of eighteen papers to press through with the stylus.

To those uninitiated in the method of manifold writing, I can only
explain that the system is the same as that adopted by cashiers in
the stores and shops, who place a piece of black paper in a book, a
little bill on the top, and by writing on the latter the impression
is conveyed through the black to the book. Two copies are therefore
procured. Imagine, therefore, the amount of pressure required for
twelve copies, and the state of your fingers and hands after doing
this with the utmost rapidity for seven hours with only about half
an hour's cessation!

I may as well give a slight sketch of the characters of the three
magistrates. Sir Thomas Henry was the very model of a police-court
beak. He was tall and slim, and had natural dignity--a very
different thing from the assumption of it. He was a good lawyer and
a perfect courtier--not a mere police courtier. He liked approval,
and whene'er he made a palpable hit in a passage of arms with an
important counsel (specially retained), he would glance round the
Court to see if it had been appreciated. After an effective summing
up, the auditors in the body of the Court would sometimes break out
with loud applause. Sir Thomas Henry would sternly observe that if
such unseemly manifestations were again displayed, he should order
the Court to be cleared. For all that, Sir Thomas liked that
applause and was much gratified by it.

Mr. Frederick Flowers was a totally different type of man
altogether. He was short, and had iron-grey hair and whiskers. He
was exceedingly kind--much too kind for a magistrate, and possessed
a dangerous talent for being humorous in Court. He hated to punish
people and had a tendency to let everybody off--and did, if he could
do so legally.

I remember once a woman, an old offender, being sentenced by one of
the other magistrates to a month's imprisonment. On being removed
from the dock by the gaoler she shouted, "Look here, the next time I
am charged here I'll take jolly good care it's before old Flowers."

A little boy of about eight years of age was charged with
snowballing an old gentleman. Mr. Flowers read the boy a kindly
lecture, and told him never to snowball people in the streets again.
As he had been detained in the gaoler's room for four hours and had
been crying his eyes out, Mr. Flowers added that the child was
evidently very sorry for what he had done, and would, therefore, be
discharged. The mother who was advised to keep a better watch over
her boy in future, came forward with profusions of thanks, and
carried off the little prisoner in triumph. The prosecutor, who had
watched the proceedings with amazement, here stepped into the box,
and, addressing Mr. Flowers, said:

"Why, your worship, you've let him off."

_Mr. Flowers:_ Of course I have.

_Prosecutor:_ What for?

_Mr. Flowers:_ You wouldn't have me punish a child like that, would

_Prosecutor:_ Of course I would--what have I had him brought in here

_Mr. Flowers:_ I think he has been sufficiently punished.

_Prosecutor:_ But look here--he has cut my cheek.

_Mr. Flowers:_ Well, he did not do that on purpose.

_Prosecutor:_ He snowballed me on purpose.

_Mr. Flowers:_ Yes, but he didn't mean to cut your face.

_Prosecutor:_ Well, he has done it, at all events.

_Mr. Flowers:_ And he is very sorry, and so am I sorry; but I dare
say when you were a boy you were in the habit of snowballing old
gentlemen. At all events, I know I used to snowball people, and I am
not going to fine any boy for doing what I used to do myself.

One morning a poor woman stepped into the box and expressed a wish
to prosecute some man who had passed a bad sixpence upon her. Mr.
Flowers took the counterfeit coin and after examining it said,
"Well, I dare say the man didn't know it was a bad one: it is a
remarkably good imitation of a genuine one. I'll tell you what I
will do--I will give you a good sixpence in exchange; that will put
an end to all legal proceedings." Mr. Flowers gave the woman a
sixpenny-piece, and requested that the bad one should be broken up.
When the Court was afterwards cleared, the good-natured magistrate,
addressing me, said, "I hope, Mr. Grossmith, you won't think it
necessary to report that case. If you do, I shall be having three or
four hundred people coming to me to-morrow with bad sixpences to

A man was charged with violently assaulting his friend. A policeman
saw the assault committed, and gave his evidence to that effect. The
complainant, however, did not appear for the purpose of pressing the
charge. When the constable had given his evidence, the defendant
shouted out, "I didn't commit the assault. I never hit him."

_Mr. Flowers_ (thinking this was the usual imputation on the
evidence of the police): Then, if you didn't do it, who did I should
like to know?

_Defendant:_ I didn't do it. 'Twas the beer that did it.

_Mr. Flowers:_ Oh, then we had better send the beer to prison.

_Constable:_ Please, your worship, the complainant ain't here. He
didn't wish to press the case.

_Mr. Flowers:_ Oh, very well. _(To the Defendant)_ There being no
prosecutor, you and your friend the beer are discharged; but I
should advise you not to become too closely associated with each
other in the future.

In a series of articles which I contributed to _Punch_, at the
beginning of the year 1884, entitled "Very Trying," I gave a skit of
this magistrate. It was in the fourth article, and was headed "The
Good-humoured Magistrate." He was extremely popular, and nobody,
from his colleagues and counsel down to the prisoners themselves,
was ever heard to say a harsh word against him.

Mr. James Vaughan (who still sits at Bow Street) was a solemn and
severe type of magistrate. Absolutely just, and yet everyone seemed
afraid of him. The just are always to be most feared. Mr. Vaughan
makes a good magistrate, but he would have been a better judge. He
has a power of "summing up" which is almost thrown away in a police
court. He would give a decision (sometimes very elaborate) in every
case that came before him. He was quite the reverse of a well-known
magistrate of Great Marlborough Street, whose object was to get
everything over as quickly as possible. I was once present at the
last-named Court when there were a number of summonses against
cabmen for delaying and obstruction. It was the custom to take all
these summonses on one day. The mode of procedure adopted by this
magistrate was as follows:

_Magistrate:_ All those who plead guilty, step forward.

(Here about fifteen cabbies pushed to the front of the Court.)

_Magistrate:_ Fined two shillings--don't do it again.

          (_Exeunt_ fifteen cabbies.)

Another magistrate, who used to sit at Worship Street, delivered his
decisions in a species of shorthand. Suppose Smith and Brown were
charged together with assaulting the police. At the conclusion of
all the evidence the magistrate would say:

"Smith, five or five; Brown, ten or fourteen;" which, being
interpreted, meant that Smith was to be fined five shillings, or in
default of payment to be imprisoned for five days, and Brown to be
fined ten shillings, or in default, fourteen days.

Now, Mr. Vaughan would certainly have read each man a serious
warning, which (as Mr. Vaughan is a highly educated man) the
prisoners may or may not have understood.

When I first went to the Court, I could not always understand his
remarks, especially when some intricate technicalities were involved
in them. In this predicament, I invariably went to his worship and
asked if he would give me the principal points of his observations,
a request on my part which was always met by Mr. Vaughan with much

Mr. Vaughan was also a subject of my raillery in the _Punch_
articles, from which I will give a short extract. A little boy of
seven years of age is charged with begging, his excuse being he did
not know he was doing any wrong. The magistrate delivers his
decision in the following manner:

"Prisoner, you have been brought before me on the sworn testimony of
a metropolitan constable, charged with begging within the precincts
of the monument erected _in memoriam_ to Nelson. It is, as you must
be aware, a charge under the Vagrant Act, and I am bound to admit it
appears to me there is a _prima facie_ case against you. You have
made no attempt to rebut the evidence of the officer, and I can
only, as an _ultimatum_, give credence to his evidence, which admits
of little doubt in my mind. The defence (if a defence it can be
designated at all) that you have elected to set up is, to my mind,
unworthy of the invention you have thought necessary to bestow upon
it. You may not have perused the sections of the Act of Parliament
bearing upon this particular charge, but every child must be aware,
from maternal or paternal information, that the act of begging in
any form is _contra leges_. Your defence is, therefore, totally
unworthy of consideration. Now I warn you, if _in future_ you will
persist in pursuing this nefarious method of existence, I shall have
to sentence you to a term of incarceration without the option of a
pecuniary penalty. Pray do not treat this caution with indifference.
Upon this occasion, however, your liberty will be afforded you.

"_The Prisoner_ (in tears): Oh! how long have I got? Oh! what have I

"_Gaoler_ (interpreting the learned magistrate): What have you got?
Why, you've got let off, and don't do it again. (_Sotto voce_ to the
boy) Hook it!

"And the little boy left the Court, under the impression that the
magistrate had sentenced him to several years' penal servitude, but
that the gaoler had kindly overlooked the offence and liberated

Of course, this sketch is caricatured in the same way that the
portraits in _Vanity Fair_, are by "Ape" (Mr. Carlo Pelligrini) and
"Spy" (Mr. Leslie Ward).

Sir James Taylor Ingham succeeded to the post of chief magistrate at
Bow Street on the death of Sir Thomas Henry, and was (and still is)
a kind and considerate gentleman. It was the custom of some
magistrates to wear their hats in Court, but I never saw this at Bow
Street. At other Courts I have seen magistrates wear their hats; and
one in particular I have seen walk about the bench with his hat on
and his hands in his pockets, and never even remove it when a
respectably-dressed woman was making an application to, or giving
evidence before, him. If it were compulsory to keep the head
covered, as when the judge assumes the black cap, one could
understand it. But it is not compulsory, and there is no excuse for
it, any more than there is for the young masher swaggering up a
public dining-room where ladies are seated around dining, without
having the common decency to remove his hat.

In 1877, when I appeared at the Opera Comique, I retired from the
work; but resumed it again in 1880, when my father died, having for
my right-hand man Mr. Cleverley, whom my father had engaged to
assist him. I retired eventually in favour of Mr. Cleverley, who is
now _The Times_ reporter; and if I possibly can help it, I will
never give him a chance of "showing me up."


From Amateur to Professional.

"I once was a dab at Penny Readings."--_Ruddygore_.

"What first put it into your head to give entertainments?" is a
question I have been asked hundreds of times, and my reply has
always been, "I'm sure I do not know." Nor do I know to this day. I
used to play the piano very well at the age of twelve. What was
considered "very well" for a boy twenty-eight years ago, no doubt
would be considered execrable in these days of Hoffmanns and
Hegners. I remember, when I played, ladies used to say, "How odd it
seems to see a boy playing." It was thought effeminate to play the

Besides playing from music, I also played a good deal by ear, which
was considered demoralising, and still _is_ by those who know
nothing about it. Playing correctly by ear is a gift that should be
encouraged. I was delighted one afternoon recently, when calling
upon Mrs. Kendal, the well-known actress, to see her little boy, of
about ten or eleven, sit down at the grand piano and play off by
ear, perfectly correctly, "Le revenant de la revue" and one of my
own songs. It is a gift delightful to the one fortunately endowed
with it; and it does not follow that one should not also play
correctly from music.

For my own pleasure (I do not know whether it was for other
people's), I used to sing the comic songs, "Johnny Sands," "The Cork
Leg," and "The Lost Child," to my own pianoforte accompaniment. I
was never taught the tunes or words of these songs, but picked them
up as children do, and reproduced them at the piano in a fashion of
my own.

One delightful consequence of this was, that the number of my
invitations to juvenile parties was considerably increased. I added
to my stock of songs of course, and so found I was kept up to a late
hour--at grown-up parties, too. Though not too young to learn and
sing these songs, I was not old enough to always understand their

There was a song, about this time, which was all the rage in London.
The tune was heard on every organ and band, in every ballroom and
theatre. I bought a penny song-book with the words, which I learned
off by heart, and, as usual, picked out my accompaniment on the
piano. One evening I launched it before the grown-up people who
always turn up at the latter end of a juvenile party, and some of
whom generally requested that I should be kept and made to sing to
them. My friend Frank Burnand, in his incomparable _Happy Thoughts_,
tells how he was singing a comic song before an unsympathetic
audience, and suddenly remembering a verse was not quite proper,
backed out of it. In my own case, I had no notion that the verse was
_risque_. I did not even understand it; so out it came with the full
force of my penny-whistle voice. I never heard so much laughter in a
room before. There was a general request for the song to be encored;
but this was just a little too much for the feelings of my fond and
hitherto proud mother, who made a dash at me, and shut me and the
piano up at the same moment.

There is a period when the voice breaks, but I do not think I ever
had a voice to break; at all events, I never remember the time when
I ceased singing comic songs.

When half-way through my teens I began to write snatches of songs
and illustrations, and received much help and encouragement from my
father. He used to take me to the old Gallery of Illustration, to
hear the inimitable John Parry; and this infused not only a new
life, but a totally different style, into my work. Still in my
teens, I used to be asked to the grown-up parties of Mr. Toole, Mr.
Charles Millward, Mr. Henry Neville, and Mr. John Hollingshead, the
last-named of whom, only the other day, reminded me that I never
could be persuaded to sing before supper, excusing myself on the
ground that the songs always went so much better _after_ supper. So
they did, and so they still do.

At Mr. Hollingshead's I first met Mr. Henry S. Leigh, then a
contributor to _Fun_, and the author of "Carols of Cockayne,"
"Gillott and Goosequill," &c. He was himself a great admirer of John
Parry; and when I became intimate with him, in after years, used to
show me how Parry sang "Wanted, a Governess," "The Old Bachelor,"
"The Dejeuner a la Fourchette," &c., all of which I have myself sung
at times, after a fashion. At Hollingshead's (in Colebrook Row),
Leigh sang "The Twins," which became an enormously successful song,
and he gave me a copy of it. Subsequently, I sang most of Leigh's
songs _en amateur_; and after my appearance as a professional
entertainer, he specially wrote "The Seven Ages of Song" and "The
Parrot and the Cat" for me.

As a boy, I used, at certain evening parties, to accompany Toole in
"A Norrible Tale" and "Bob Simmons," and considered it a high
honour. I used to sing some of the songs of Henry J. Byron, a
constant visitor to my father's house, and received much
encouragement from him; also from John Oxenford, the dramatic critic
of _The Times_; Andrew Halliday; T.W. Robertson, the dramatic
author, and scores of others. It will be seen, therefore, that
though I commenced on my own account, I was destined to be brought
up in an atmosphere of literature and art. But neither my father nor
myself was the first representative of the family on the public

Judge Talfourd, the author of _Ion_, had heard my father recite over
and over again, and strongly advised him to take up lecturing and
reading as a profession. He followed the popular judge's advice, and
gave his first lecture, entitled "Wit and Humour," on the day of my
birth, at Reading, his native town. In a speech on the occasion of
my coming of age he made use of these felicitous words: "I went down
to Reading to make my first appearance in _public_ at _my_ native
place, and, on my return, found my eldest son had made _his_ first
appearance in _private_ at his native place."

That was forty years ago; but I propose presenting my readers with a
copy of a programme, having reference to an uncle, dated twenty-five
years before that. The programme is quaintly illustrated with tiny
blocks of very primitive engravings, illustrating the characters


                NEW THEATRE, BRIDGNORTH.

                 For Two Evenings only.

On TUESDAY, the 26th, and Saturday, the 30th July, 1825.

Mr. GROSSMITH, sen., takes this opportunity of laying before the
public the following high encomium passed on his son, kindly pointed
out to him by a clergyman of Dudley. The numerous and repeated
paragraphs which have appeared in all the London and provincial
papers cannot have escaped the eye of anyone; but this work will, no
doubt, escape the eye of some.

_Abstracted from the_ "New Monthly Magazine," No. 45, July 1st, 1825
(page 299).

"The little Irish boy, Master Burke, betokens a dramatic instinct
which can scarcely be mistaken. We saw in the country the other day
a child, seven years old, named GROSSMITH, who displayed even a
deeper vein of natural humour; actually revelling in the jests he
uttered and acted; singing droll songs with the truth of a musician
and the vivacity of a comedian; and speaking passages of tragedy
with an earnestness and grace as though the dagger and bowl had been
his playthings, and poetry his proper language."

Characters in the introduction which Master Grossmith imitates.
(Here come in nine small illustrations of figures.)

Characters in _Pecks of Troubles_ which Master Grossmith personates.
(Here appear seven larger illustrations.)

                    THE CELEBRATED
                   MASTER GROSSMITH,

                  From Reading, Berks
          (Only seven years and a quarter old),

Intends giving Two Evenings' Amusements, when he feels confident he
will meet with that support he has never failed to experience in all
the towns he has visited. The Infant Roscius will commence his
performance with his


When he will imitate the following characters, namely: a
Frenchman--a Fat Lady--an Affected Lady--a Tipsy Politican--a Stage
Manager--Two Candidates for the Stage--and his own Success.

Master Grossmith will then go through the Humorous and Laughable
Comedy of

                   PECKS OF TROUBLES;
            The Distress of a French Barber.

    (An Old Maid in Love)      MASTER GROSSMITH!

    (A Dandy Fortune-Hunter)   MASTER GROSSMITH!!

    (In a Peck of Troubles
     about cutting old
     Grundy's face--
     with a song)          ... MASTER GROSSMITH!!!

    (In search of the
     Frenchman, to give
     him a receipt in full
     for his carelessness)     MASTER GROSSMITH!!!!

    (In love with Corporal
     Rattle--with a song,
     "Yes, aye, for a
     Soldier's Wife I'll
     go")          ... ... ... MASTER GROSSMITH!!!!!

    (As hot as gunpowder;
     in love with Betty)       MASTER GROSSMITH!!!!!!

    (A servant-of-all-work
     to old Grundy, bewailing
     his unfortunate love
     for Betty, who has run
     off with Corporal
     Rattle--with the
     laughable song of
     "The Washing Tub,"
     which finishes the
     piece         ... ... ... MASTER GROSSMITH!!!!!!!

After which, "Betsy Baker," with other Comic Songs.

Part II. will consist of Scenes from the _Merchant of Venice_,
_Douglas_, _Pizarro_, _Macbeth_, _Richard III._, _Rolla_, and
_Hamlet_. The Infant Roscius will, on the first night, go through
the tent scene of _Richard III._ The scenes will be changed each
night, and he will conclude his performance with a piece (composed
in two parts expressly for him) on

                 THE MUSICAL GLASSES.

The whole of the scenery, wardrobe, and preparations, which are very
extensive, with the Grand Diorama, 360 feet in length, will pass
through the proscenium during the intervals of Master Grossmith's
performance; consisting of views of Italy, &c.

          Boxes, 3s.; Pit, 2s.; Gallery, 1s.

Doors to be opened at half-past Seven, and the performance to
commence at Eight o'clock. Children under twelve and Schools, half
price to Boxes and Pit only. Tickets and Plans for Boxes to be had
of Mr. Gitton, Post Office; and at the Theatre, where Master G., and
preparations, may be seen from Ten to One o'clock on the days of

(Then appear four more blocks of the boy in private dress, and three
Shaksperian characters.)


The above juvenile was Mr. William Grossmith, who, I am pleased to
say, is still alive and well. He was the eldest of the male portion
of the Grossmith family, and the only one remaining. He does not
remember the entertainment with much pride or pleasure, and I do not
wonder at it; for the work must have been a terrible strain upon the
mind of a child.

I am in possession of several programmes similar to the above: and
only the other day some kind stranger sent me a newspaper, dated
Wednesday, June 17th, 1829, and called _The Bury and Norwich Post_,
or _Suffolk and Norfolk Telegraph, Essex, Cambridge, and Ely
Intelligencer_. One may well exclaim, "What's in a name?" On
glancing through its columns, I find the following:



  Sure ne'er did Nature so profusely give,
  Or such a Roscius till this time e'er live!
  Deem it not flatt'ry, those who have _not_ seen
  This little wonder! For full well, I ween,
  Had you but view'd, like me, enchanted quite
  You'd own his genius, and in praise unite.
  Ye who _have_ seen the hero, ye can tell,
  Tho' in his praise my numbers fain would swell,
  Alas! how feebly does my muse essay
  His talents or his merits to portray.

  Scarce ten years old; superior strength of mind
  Speaks in his "SPEAKING EYES" his sense refin'd:
  His manners graceful, unassuming too;
  Such sweet simplicity we never knew:
  So noble, free, and dignified his mien,
  A real Hamlet seems to grace the scene.
  When he with mimic art his skill applies,
  And Shakspeare's heroes to assume he tries,
  So well the child can personate the man,
  That twenty years appear in one short span;
  Aye, not three minutes does the change require,
  To make the maiden young or old, or 'squire.
  But Shakspeare most his talents bring to sight:
  There may experienc'd actors, with affright,
  Think they ne'er more again must tread the stage,
  While Grossmith is the Roscius of the age.
  He weighs each word, and "_suits the action well;_"
  His rising its meaning oft will tell
  Ere yet 'tis utter'd: his expressive face
  Conveys the sense with ever-varying grace.
  In short, no authors difficult appear
  To his superior sense and gifted ear;
  His growing talents so conspicuous shine,
  He gives a charm to Shakspeare's ev'ry line.

  Farewell, sweet child! May virtue guide thy way,
  May bliss without alloy be thine each day,
  And may'st thou e'er enjoy that peace of mind
  Which dwells with virtue and with sense refin'd.

_Dowham Market, June 1st_, 1829.             M. M. C.

And now _revenons a nos moutons_.

At the close of 1864 I blossomed into a Penny Reader, and I can
safely aver that no Penny Reader ever had such an exalted opinion of
his own talents as I had of mine. Penny Readings were fast becoming
the rage, and were springing up everywhere; and my first public
appearance at them was in a schoolroom, in close proximity to Holy
Trinity Church, Hawley Road, turning out of the Chalk Farm Road.
This was the church I had been in the habit of attending, and in the
choir of which I had sometimes sung. There was at Penny Readings no
programme in those days. The chairman (always the vicar or the
curate) used to call upon those in the audience whom he considered

He flattered me with this distinction; so I took my seat at the
piano, and sang a song with a refrain, in which the noisy portion of
the audience commenced to join. This was not quite approved of; so
for a time I contented myself with recitals from Dickens, Hood, &c.,
which I cribbed from my father's _repertoire_.

I soon returned to the comic songs again, but selected those of a
milder form, like "He, She, and the Postman," a story without a
chorus, and some out of Howard Paul's entertainment.

It was once suggested that we should give the short burlesque on
_Hamlet_ to which I have already referred. We arrived with several
bags of costumes, which alarmed the vicar, and the performance did
not take place. The audience, to our intense satisfaction, expressed
its disappointment in an unmistakable manner; so much so, that the
chairman announced that it should be played on a future occasion.
Meanwhile, he stipulated with me that there should be no costumes. I
could not consent to this, and, after a long discussion, we met each
other half-way. I was to be permitted to wear a cloak for
Hamlet--or, rather, an old black shawl thrown over my shoulders.
Horatio and the King were tabooed costumes. The Ghost (T. Bolton)
was permitted to adorn himself with a clean tablecloth. My brother,
who was only ten years of age, was to double the parts of Ophelia
and Gravedigger. In the former, being so young, it was considered no
harm for him to wear a muslin body and skirt; while, as the
Gravedigger, he was allowed to take off his coat, and appear, for
this occasion only, in his shirt-sleeves.

Somehow or other, Leclercq, the original representative of the
Queen, could not appear, and I arranged with one of my schoolfellows
from the North London Collegiate School to play the part. He had
never acted before, and in all probability has never acted since. As
he was about seventeen years of age, and looked a veritable young
man, with a perceptible moustache, the vicar would not on any
account allow him to assume ladies' attire. We eventually decided he
should be allowed to throw a plaid shawl round his shoulders.

The eventful evening approached, and, as the intended performance
had been whispered about, the rooms were crammed. All went well
until the entrance of the Queen, late on in the piece which only
played twenty minutes altogether. Ta the horror of the vicar, and to
my own surprise, he had, behind the screen, slipped on a servant's
cotton frock, and put on what is vulgarly known as a carotty wig.
The vicar, who was, as usual, seated on the platform--a very small
one, by-the-by,--rose and said in an undertone to me:

"I forbade this."

I replied that it was against my knowledge.

The performance went on, however; for the young man who played the
Queen such a stick that he was quite inoffensive, and uttered his
words one after the other in the legitimate schoolboy fashion. But
quiet people are always the most dangerous, and so it transpired
with my young friend. We approached the finale, which, by the way,
appears to me to be worth quoting. The characters are all lying on
the stage, supposed to be dead.

HAMLET (_sitting up_)--
    What? Everybody dead? Why, that won't do;
    For who's to speak the tag? I must--

HORATIO (_rising_)--
                                        Not you.
    You've had your share of talking; so now stow it.
    I'll speak the tag--

KING (_jumping up_)--
                        Not if I know it.
    *They've kept me back until the very last.
    Now _I_'ll speak the tag. Friends--

QUEEN (_getting up_)--
                                       _Not_ so fast.
    Your notion. King defunct, is most absurd;
    The lady always utters the _last word!_

GHOST (_entering_)--
    Except when there's a goblin in the way.

OPHELIA (_entering_)--
    Then I, a female goblin, hold the sway.

    Let's have a chorus then--tune up--here goes:
    Sing to a tune that everybody knows.

* The King does not enter until the play scene, at the end.

Then followed a verse, to the catching air of "The Great Sensation."
This we stood still and sung; but here it was that the
representative of the Queen suddenly became overpowered with
excitement, and could not restrain his feelings. What had hitherto
been "reserved force" now became force without the slightest
reserve. Irrespective of his costume, he danced violently and kicked
wildly in the air. The audience indiscriminatingly laughed and
applauded with delight! The vicar got up and held up his hands to
the audience, to obtain silence, but without effect. He motioned to
us to go off, and we all left the platform, with the exception of
the Queen, who, positively mad with excitement, seized the reverend
gentleman by the arms and swung him round two or three times. That
was my last appearance at those particular Penny Readings.

I do not in the least despise Penny Readings. They are a very good
school for beginners at all events.

At a party given at Manor Lodge, about 1869, John Oxenford, Andrew
Halliday, and several others were all chatting to me about my songs,
and advised me to get my father to write a short sketch, _a la_ John
Parry, to enable me to better introduce these sketches. The next
year he did so. The sketch was entitled "Human Oddities," and lasted
about forty minutes. I supplied the music: and the "Gay
Photographer," since published, was one of the songs introduced; the
words by G. G. _pere_, and the music by G. G. _fils_. Dr. Croft, who
then had great interest in the Polytechnic, and was, I fancy, one of
the directors, introduced me to Professor Pepper, and I started on a
trial trip on Nov. 11th, 1870; and observe, O ye superstitious ones,
that I began on a Friday.

The following month I gave "The Yellow Dwarf," which I wrote myself,
and which, I must admit, was exceedingly puerile. It was accompanied
by dissolving views, and this Christmas entertainment was produced
to oblige Prof. Pepper; but I did not relish being stuck at a piano
in the corner and in complete darkness. If I am _not_ seen, I am no
good at all. I do not infer I am much good when I am seen. The only
thing that went really well in "The Yellow Dwarf" was my setting of
some words which appeared in _Punch_. The refrain, I remember, was:

                 Faithful to Poll,
                  Tol de rol lol;
      Wherever he went he was faithful to Poll.

It transpired that the words were written by F. C. Burnand, who has
since become one of my most esteemed and valued friends, and who
subsequently re-wrote them, and they were immortalised by Mrs. John
Wood, under the title of "His Heart was True to Poll."

"The Yellow Dwarf" I continued for about a month, when, to my
intense delight, "Human Oddities" was again put on, and ran about
six months. In the autumn I produced "The Silver Wedding," and
introduced the song--words by my father--"I am so Volatile."

Since then I have always written and composed my own sketches, which
vary in length from about twenty to forty minutes, and, with very
few exceptions, the words of the incidental songs. I do not sit down
deliberately to write these. Ideas come to me in all sorts of
places, and at most inconvenient times.

I wrote "He was a Careful Man" while travelling to Deal, and
composed the music on the backs of envelopes on my return home. "The
Muddle Puddle Porter" suggested itself to me while waiting for
nearly an hour at Bishopstoke, and hearing an aged porter calling
out the same string of stations. I wondered--supposing he obtained
another "calling," such as a waiter who had to shout down a tube a
string of dishes--whether he would not sometimes become confused by
the recollection of his former situation, and mix up the names of
the stations with the names of the joints. I am indebted very much
to my old friend, Lionel Brough, for contributing so materially to
the success of the song by his excellent singing of it.

I always write the words of the song first of course, and then the
music. I composed over half a dozen tunes for "The Duke of Seven
Dials" before I hit upon one to suit my fancy. I was a fortnight
composing "The Lost Key," and only a couple of hours writing and
composing "The Happy Fatherland." With regard to the "patter"
portion of the sketch, that is the last part I write, and I alter it
from time to time during its delivery--cutting out portions that do
_not_ "go," and extemporising observations and retaining them if
they _do_ "go."

Lots of people come to me and say, "I hope you won't take me off?"
and I have replied that I should never dream of doing such a
personal thing: but I do, all the same; and I have never known an
instance where they have fitted the cap. If a very marked
observation is made by a lady, I put it down to a gentleman, and
_vice versa_, though I often think the precaution quite unnecessary;
in proof of which I relate the following incident. As I was taking
my seat at the piano, a lady, who evidently passed the entire season
in attending about half a dozen afternoon parties daily, approached
me and said: "I hope you are not going to be very long, Mr.
Grossmith." This was said so innocently, and the remark so amused
me, that I introduced it in the course of the sketch: the temptation
was too great not to refer to it. The people roared with laughter,
as they always do at anything personal to oneself. Personality
always goes down better than pure wit. At the conclusion of the
sketch I said to the lady:

"I hope I was not too long?"

She replied, "Oh dear, no; but did any lady really ask you that

I said, "Yes; you did, if you remember."

"Did I?" she replied.

"Most certainly."

"Yes," she continued, "but not with that comic expression."

"Of course not."

To return to the Polytechnic. I was regarded as the mild clown of
the establishment, although I am bound to say that I thought some of
the scientific and serious lectures far more humorous,
unintentionally, than my work. On one occasion a lecturer was
holding some explosive material in his hand, and said that its power
was so great that, under certain conditions, it would blow up the
whole of the Polytechnic Institution and the people in it. This
announcement, delivered with much fervour, was rendered more
alarming by the fact that the material was accidentally brought into
contact with the spirit-lamp which stood on the table. The result
was an insignificant "fizz," like a damp match.

During a discourse on the Franco-German war, the lecturer,
explaining one of the views on the screen in which the French were
defeated, gave vent to his own feelings in somewhat the following

"Behold the cowards hewing down the poor French! That is not
war--that is murder--miserable and uncalled-for murder!"

This strong sentiment called forth a hiss or two from some portions
of the audience who happened to sympathise with the Germans. The
lecturer held up his hands and said:

"Silence, my friends. Please remember that this is only a simple,
unbiassed lecture, with pictorial illustrations of certain events
which happened during this sad war. Do not let us show any personal
feeling one way or the other."

There is little doubt that many of the lectures at the old
Polytechnic were simply vehicles for introducing advertisements,
just in the same way that, in the Pantomime Harlequinade, all the
clown has to do is to bring on a box, which, on a touch from the
wand of the harlequin, is turned into a magnified piece of popular
soap, or a bottle of scent, with the name and address of the
patentees printed in good-sized letters. The following specimen is
only a slight exaggeration of what I mean:

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasant duty this evening to give
you a lecture on the beautiful city of Bombay; and, with the
assistance of the magnificent dissolving views which I have at my
command, the little trip which I propose to take in your company
will prove almost as good as the reality to those who have _not_
been fortunate enough to visit Bombay, and will recall most pleasant
recollections to those who have. We will start by the ten o'clock
express to Leeds. I am aware that this is somewhat out of the way,
but it is worth while deviating a few hundreds of miles in order to
travel by the new first-class carriages now running on the North
South East Western line. This is, doubtless, the best line in the
kingdom. I have no interest in the line whatever, although I quite
appreciate the honour which the directors have conferred upon me by
presenting me with a free pass. To return to the subject of Bombay.
As one cannot leave this tight little island without crossing the
dreadful Channel, I recommend those of my audience who are not good
sailors to procure a tin of 'Bankem's Anti-Seasick Biscuits;' they
are an infallible remedy, and can be procured at Brown's in
Cheapside, Jones's at Charing Cross, and Robinson's in Piccadilly.
My sole reason in mentioning this, is the comfort of the British
public. Well, eventually we reach Bombay, and there is a deal to
see. You should get one of "Jidson's double binocular, concave,
magnifying, four-jointed field glasses.' The next four views are of
'Messrs. Jidson's Warehouses in the City.' The pavements being hot
in Bombay, I should recommend your taking a pair of 'Shoeling's
leather-sandalled, woollen-lined bluchers.' There is no boot
manufacturer's to equal these bluchers for walking abroad. If you
enquire at the door, at the conclusion of the lecture, they will
give you Messrs. Shoeling's card and circular of full particulars. I
have often wondered why, in an enterprising city like Bombay, they
have never laid down 'Johnson's Tar Macadamised Wood Pavements.' The
next view is an instantaneous photograph of Messrs. Johnson's
_employes_ laying down the pavement in Scent Street, Bermondsey.
This pavement is more successful than any other ever tried in the
vast metropolis. Their agent is James Wilkins, 19A Stone Buildings.
On arriving at Bombay, I should suggest your going to the 'Golden
Hawk,' English hotel; proprietor, Mr. Mulgan Jackson, a most civil
landlord. The prices are moderate; and you can have an early bath,
if you wish, although I should advise your taking with you a
'Scalden's folding indiarubber douche bath.' They take up little
room, and only weigh a couple of hundredweight. Do not take candles
with you, for they melt in Bombay immediately. Take a 'Flamer's
duplex paraffin fusel lamp,' a sample of which I produce for your
inspection. As you may not be able to get the right oil in Bombay,
you will be compelled to take a few gallons with you; and, while I
think of it, if you want to write home, get from Mr. Williams, 290
Bridge Street, Marylebone Square, a ninepenny 'Multum in Parvo,'
which contains a writing tablet, bottle of 'undryupable ink,' a
quire of note-paper (four different tints), envelopes to match, four
steel pens, two quill ditto and wiper, wafers, ink-eraser, stick of
sealing-wax, and an almanack. Ladies and gentlemen, the next view, a
photograph of 'Wheeler's double-tyred tricycle,' will conclude the
first of my series of six lectures on Bombay. I thank you for your
kind attention. The diving-bell will now descend in the great hall,
and, on your way there, please don't forget to look at the stall
containing specimens of 'Messrs. Glasse's folding perambulators,' as
they may useful if you desire to take your children with you to

Alas! the lecturer in town and country seems to have had his day.
When I was a boy, there were hundreds of lecturers on thousands of
subjects. During the winter months there were lecturers everywhere.
Elderly people went to be instructed; young men and women to "eye"
each other; while boys went invariably to be "turned out."

Dissolving views were the most patronised of the serious lectures,
and I do not think I ever went to one at which some unfortunate
person was not ejected. The darkness tempts unruly people to
interrupt. It is with much pain and regret that I confess to having
been myself politely requested to leave the Polytechnic (before I
was engaged there) for unseemly conduct. On one occasion the
lecturer was stating, amidst breathless silence, "This particular
bark is infested with ten thousand millions of parasites." I simply
said, in a high falsetto, "Oh, indeed!" The lights were turned up,
and I was turned out!

Professor Pepper always took most kindly to me, and it was his only
disappointment, I believe, that I could not introduce the immortal
ghost-effect in my humorous _scenas_.

In the spring of 1871 I produced "The Puddleton Penny Readings," and
in the autumn "Theatricals at Thespis Lodge." That was my last
engagement there; for Dr. Croft came into power, and wrote most of
the humorous entertainments himself. These were designed entirely
for the magic lantern, and had, therefore, to be given in the dark.
I naturally could not see my way to undertake them, and reluctantly
refused his kind offer to stay on.

One little story, and I bid farewell to the old Polytechnic.

Professor Pepper was a perfect adept at satisfying an audience; if
by chance the experiments went wrong; and sometimes they _did_ go
wrong, and no mistake, in the good old days, at the Polytechnic. I
shall never forget the first-night failure of an entertainment
called "The Arabian Mystery," and the manner in which Professor
Pepper, by good temper and chaff, prevented a crowded audience from
being very disagreeable. "The Arabian Mystery" may be explained as
follows: One girl was blindfolded and placed on the platform, with
her back to the audience. A large screen was then placed so as to
conceal her from the public. Another girl walked down the centre
aisle with a pack of cards, and then waited the Professor's orders.
Professor Pepper then produced a white board, about four feet long
by two and a half wide, on which appeared in black some
hieroglyphics that I have no hesitation whatever in denouncing as
sham. After dwelling on the mysteries of this supposed Arabian
fable, or whatever it was, Professor Pepper threw it on to the stage
in front of the screen. (I may mention that the entertainment took
place in the small theatre which some years afterwards was burned
down.) The audience tittered considerably when the board of
hieroglyphics was pitched upon the stage; and Pepper, with great
solemnity, called to the poor girl, who was standing amongst the
audience in a great state of nervousness, and instructed her to
request some lady or gentleman to "select a card." Someone chose a
card, and handed it back to the girl, who walked at once to a
particular spot in the aisle, and, by means of a series of pressures
of the foot (which were perceptible to everyone in front of the
house), tried to convey the name of the card by electricity to the
girl behind the screen. There was a long pause, and no reply; during
which Professor Pepper said to the girl in front:

"No wonder she does not tell you the name of the card, for you have
not asked her to do so."

There were a few ironical cheers then, which only succeeded in
making the poor more nervous than ever.

Professor Pepper again addressed her, saying:

"You had better give her another card, and let us try again. The
audience must remember that this is the first night of 'The Arabian
Mystery,' and some little allowance should be made."

This observation brought forth the usual applause; which shows that
a British audience is always game for fair play.

Another card was offered, taken, and returned to the girl, who, as
before, walked back to the same spot, and once more tried with her
foot to convey the message to the platform, at the same time asking,
in a tremulous voice, "What card do I hold up?"

The card happened to be the ace of diamonds. After a pause, the girl
behind the screen, in a shrill voice, shouted, "Seven of clubs!"

The audience, being perfectly good-tempered, simply roared with
laughter at the fiasco.

Professor Pepper placed his hands up, to suggest that they should be
silent, but for a considerable period he was unsuccessful in
procuring order. When he could be heard, he said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I dare say you are of opinion that the lady
behind the screen has made a mistake." (Loud laughter.) "As it
happens, she is perfectly correct! This is an Arabian mystery, and I
ought to have explained to you that in Arabia the ace of diamonds
_is_ the seven of clubs."

This preposterous joke was greeted with applause and laughter.

Professor Pepper (continuing) said: "That is right. I am glad to see
that such good feeling exists between us. Now, we'll try again,
please. Offer another card."

Whether the next few attempts were successful I cannot remember. I
was not so interested, I am sorry to say, in the successful attempts
as in the failures. But I am quite certain with regard to the result
of the last card offered. It was (we will say) the three of clubs.
The girl behind the screen shouted, "Queen of hearts." This was a
little too much; and though half the audience still took failure in
good part, the other half showed unmistakable signs of impatience.

Professor Pepper, with perfect good humour, said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I must ask for your consideration again. You
seem to forget that this is an Arabian mystery. Now, if the lady
behind the screen told you correctly the name of the card, there
would be no mystery about the matter, for the trick is a very simple
one. Anybody can do it. But the 'mystery' is, how is it she is _not_
telling the cards correctly? _That's_ the Arabian mystery, and no

Owing to the cheery manner of the popular lecturer, and a promise
that it should be "all right" the next night, the audience departed
to the large theatre, to hear Mr. George Buckland, who was a great
favourite at the Polytechnic Institution.


In the Provinces.

"A wandering minstrel I."--_The Mikado_.

I concluded my first long engagement at the Polytechnic in the
summer of 1871, and Mr. and Mrs. Howard Paul engaged me to join them
for several weeks on a seaside tour. This was to me a delightful way
of combining business with pleasure, and I particularly remember a
delightful week at Scarborough.

I returned to the Polytechnic in the autumn, and produced "The
Silver Wedding," a short easy version of which I have published. It
was in this sketch I introduced "I am so Volatile," which was the
first comic song I published. Applications were continually made to
me from provincial institutions; but I could only accept those at a
short distance from town, as my daily work at Bow Street had to be
done as well. It was hard work; but I am used to hard work, and
enjoy it.

All prospects of entering for the Bar disappeared, and it was my
father's own suggestion that we should try an entertainment
together. He was an enormous favourite in the country as a humorous
reciter; and he thought my piano and songs would prove more
attractive if given with him, as it might otherwise have been
thought that I was starting a rival entertainment--a thought which
neither of us desired to encourage.

We accordingly worked out a trial programme, and in May, 1873, we
gave our joint recitals at the Masonic Hall, Birmingham. The papers
of May 12th spoke most highly of the entertainment; and the result
was, my father decided that in the autumn we should start together
with a tour of the provincial institutions. As I previously stated,
I had only visited institutions which I could conveniently reach
after my daily work at Bow Street; but as I was married on May 14th,
two days after the above trial trip, it became necessary for me to
materially increase my income.

I was fortunate in having the permanent assistance at Bow Street of
Mr. H. R. Hollingshead, son of Mr. John Hollingshead, the popular
manager and author; so there was no longer a bar to a continued
tour. First of all, there was my honeymoon to be spent. To take a
trip abroad was quite beyond my means, and no noble Duke in those
days came forward to place his country demesne at our disposal; so,
amidst a shower of rice, my wife and departed for Leamington. Why
Leamington? Well, I will tell you. I had received a very good offer
from my friend, Mr. Wm. Southern, of that town, who though it would
be a good thing for me to give a single-handed recital at the end of
the fortnight I intended staying, and he would see that the
interesting circumstance of my passing my honeymoon was carefully
paragraphed in the papers. The result was a crowded room, and the
cost of my pleasure trip materially reduced.

We visited other places, and wound up our happy month at the
charming residence of one of my wife's relatives at Aigburth, near
Liverpool. Here was another stroke of business on my part; for I
joined forces with Mrs. Howard Paul in a combined entertainment for
a week, at the Concert Hall, Bold Street, Liverpool. In the autumn,
however, the tour with my father commenced. We started in Devonshire
and Cornwall, the result being that I was away from home a
fortnight. We usually got home on Saturdays, that being no day for
the institutions. I did not at all like leaving the girl I loved
behind me, and I always disliked (and suppose I always shall)

I append a programme of one of the recitals given in conjunction
with my father during the season 1872-3:


                       OF THE
                   TO BE GIVEN BY
        Commencing at Half-past Eight o'clock.

                        PART I.
                MR. GEORGE GROSSMITH.
                    (IN MEMORIAM).
Little Tony Weller and his Grandfather.
Birth of the Junior Partner in the firm of "Dombey and Son"

                        PART II.
                 MR. GEORGE GROSSMITH, JUN.
          A New Descriptive Melody, entitled--
                  "SEVEN AGES OF SONG!"
And (by request) Selections from his Humorous and Mimetical Sketch,

                        PART III.
                  MR. GEORGE GROSSMITH.
                THE HUMOUR OF MARK TWAIN.
             Autobiographical Reminiscences.
             Our first Visitor.
             Journalism down in Tennessee.
                         &c., &c.

                         PART IV.
                 MR. GEORGE GROSSMITH, JUN.
                    New Musical Scena,
                     "IN THE STALLS!"

Annual Invitation--Up to London--Lord Mayor's Show in a Fog--Stalls
at the Pantomime--Science at the Polytechnic--High-class Music
(never performed out of London)--"Our daily work is over."

Admission, 6d. Pit, 1s. Reserved Seats, 2s. Members free.

I also attach one of my single-handed programmes:

                 TRURO ROAD, WOOD GREEN.

        R. D. M. LITTLER, ESQ., Q.C., President.


The next of the above Entertainments will take place on
              WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 1873.
               MR. GEO. GROSSMITH, JUN
     (Of the Royal Polytechnic, London Concerts, &c.)

Original Colloquial and Pianoforte Sketch, entitled--
                  "OUR CHORAL SOCIETY."
Musical Movement in Moreton-super-Mire--Great Excitement, Local and
Vocal--Moreton acquires a Choir--Formation of the Society--The
pleasure of Singing (and the pain of Listening)--The Patroness, Lady
Alum Gargle--Her Harmonic Triumphs, past and present--The Society
gets up a Public Bawl for the benefit of a Private Charity--A Polite
Conductor--Mr. G. Sharp composes a new Cantata, "The Penitent
Pilgrim"--The Pilgrim undergoes a trying Rehearsal--The
Concert!-- Marvellous effect of an indistinct "Reapers'
Chorus"--Breathless effect of the long runs--The Secular
Music--Pianoforte Solo by Miss Spikes--Manufacture of Italian
Songs--Grand Finale, "Lightly Tripping o'er the Hills," by Mr. and
Mrs. Hoggsedd.

And an original, humorous narrative (after ARTHUR SKETCHLEY),
OLD SONG ... ... "My Dejeuner a la Fourchette" ... ... JOHN PARRY
To conclude with a New Musical and Whimsical Fancy, entitled,
               "JOTTINGS FROM THE JETTY."

         To commence at Eight o'clock precisely.
Tickets (Non-members), 6d. Reserved Seats, 1s. 6d.
May be obtained at the POST OFFICE, Wood Green; BARKER'S LIBRARY,
Commercial Road; and at the CLUB ROOM, Truro Road.

                      MEMBERS FREE,
Who may also obtain one Lady's Ticket for Sixpence on application to
the Manager at the Club only.
                             F. WOOD,
                             G. DEMANT,  Hon. Secs.

These years of tearing about all over the United Kingdom were more
or less amusing--"generally _less_," as H. J. Byron observed. The
visits with my father were the most varied. With Mrs. Howard Paul or
Miss Marryat, costumes were introduced, and the entertainment
appealed to a broader section of the public. When with my father,
the entertainment was patronised by the more serious section of the
public. He would be giving recitals from _Pickwick_ and _David
Copperfield_, with my comic songs and sketches alternating, on a
small platform with four or five clergymen seated thereon, they
being perhaps the Committee. I always got on very well with the
clergy; in fact, I have always regarded myself as a species of
religious comic singer. After the recitals the Committee would
follow us into the ante-room; four would engage my attention, while
the fifth--generally a young curate--would surreptitiously slip the
fee into my father's hand. I remember him once upsetting the
solemnity of this "settling-up" proceeding by exclaiming loudly, "I
am not ashamed of being paid. You need not hand me the fee as if it
were an election bribe."

My father had frequently suggested that the moment I arrived in a
town I should look through the local papers, for the purpose of
introducing some special topics that would come home to that
particular place in the course of my sketches, which easily admitted
of _ad libitum_ observations. I always intended doing it, knowing
how well local topics are received; but, somehow or other, I kept
forgetting to carry out my intention.

One night, however, a splendid opportunity presented itself. It was
some place in the Midland Counties, and an Alderman, whom we will
call Juggins, had got into terrible hot water through proposing to
have removed from the middle of the main thoroughfare an old stone
pump. The local papers devoted columns to the controversy. Half the
townspeople held that the pump was sacred to them--it was a
monument, an ancient landmark, it was everything useful and
ornamental. The other half disagreed. The only opinion in which the
townspeople were unanimous was that, whether right or wrong,
Alderman Juggins had nothing to do with it, and that he was simply
advertising himself.

The evening arrived, and the hall was full. My father occupied the
first half-hour, commencing at eight, with a selection from _Adam
Bede_. I arrived at half-past eight, and in five minutes stepped on
the platform, and commenced with my old sketch, "The Silver
Wedding." The sketch concludes with a description of the supper, and
the toasts proposed in honour of Mr. and Mrs. Alphonzo de Brown's
silver wedding, &c., &c., with the responses. In the imitation of an
old friend of the family, I spoke as nearly as I can recollect, as
follows: "We all congratulate our dear host and hostess on having
arrived at this important epoch in their lives, and the occasion has
created even more sensation than that created by Alderman Juggins's
pump." I waited for the tremendous roar of laughter and applause
that would surely follow this remark. To my intense surprise, there
was not the ghost of a laugh. It could only be accounted for in one
way--I had evidently dropped my voice, and the "gag" had
consequently missed its mark. I would try again.

I proceeded with the supposed old gentleman's speech, and concluded
thus: "We will drink the toast upstanding all, with three times
three; we will drink it in bumpers--we will drink it with wine, good
wine, such as only our host can give--wine that has not been diluted
by the product of Alderman Juggins's pump." This time I shouted the
last sentence, so that there should be no mistake about their
hearing it. To my horror, not a smile. Something was wrong! Perhaps
the observation was out of place in the old gentleman's speech.

I would not be beaten; so I determined to give it another chance in
the comic man's speech. I rattled off the following nonsense in the
character of the humorous gentleman: "Well, in returning thanks for
the ladies, I may say I am very fond of them"--(laughter)--"and I
think I may also say that they are very fond of me." (Roars of
laughter.) "My only regret is, that I am not in a position to marry
all the dear ladies who are round this festive board to-night."
(Continued hearty laughter, an elderly lady and a curate in the
front now nearly going into hysterics. Some people, fortunately, are
easily pleased.) "Bless the ladies! If I thought I had ever done a
single act to incur their displeasure, I would immediately go out of
the house and drown myself in Alderman Juggins's pump!"

The effect was electrical. The enthusiastic audience immediately
became depressed, and someone at the back of the hall shouted, "Ha'
done with that pump, lad--we've had enough of it!"

My heart sank into my boots, and I could scarcely sing the song, "I
am so Volatile," which usually concluded the sketch. I retired to
the ante-room, and instantly attacked my father. I said, "Well, I
have taken your advice, and introduced a topic, with the result that
it was a dead failure. I shall take good care never to repeat the

My father said, "Topic? What topic?"

"Why," I responded, "I made several allusions to the Juggins's pump
discussion, with the result that I made a complete ass of myself."

My father burst out laughing, and said, "I don't wonder at it.
Didn't you hear me do it? Why, I worked it up all through the first

"But," I argued, "how could you do that? You were reciting _Adam

"I know I was," he answered. "I kept bringing Alderman Juggins's
pump in Mrs. Poyser's remarks, and it went _enormously_."

I do not know what the feelings of the audience were, but I leave
the reader to imagine mine.

Country audiences are certainly most enthusiastic and delightful to
entertain. Of course there are exceptions, and the following is an
amusing one:

We were at some little hall in the country, and when my father
concluded the first portion of the entertainment he said to the
chairman, who followed him into the ante-room:

"The audience seem most enthusiastic."

The Chairman replied: "Do you think so, Mr. Grossmith? Why, I
thought they were exceptionally apathetic."

My father replied: "Well, I thought they were, if anything, _too_
enthusiastic; for they were knocking their umbrellas and sticks,
without cessation, on the ground all the time."

Chairman replied, languidly: "Oh, that wasn't applause. You see, our
post-office is at other end of the room, and they are simply
stamping the letters for the up mail."

The usual fee at the institutions was five guineas. There were a few
that could afford more; but against this there was a good fifty per
cent. of institutions that begged of the lecturers to knock off a
guinea or two. Some were not quite so exacting, and begged that only
the "shillings" might be deducted.

My father used to relate an amusing adventure he had experienced
concerning the reduction of fees. At some out-of-the-way spot in
Scotland he was met on the railway platform by a deputation of old
gentlemen, who conducted him to his hotel. At twenty minutes to
eight o'clock this Scotch deputation came to hotel and conducted him
to the lecture-hall. After the lecture, the same elderly deputation
conducted him back to the hotel. The next morning, having
ascertained the hour at which he meditated departing, the deputation
turned up again, and conducted him back to station. On the platform
the elder man of the deputation, addressing my father, said:

"You'll be sorry to hear that we find, on making up the accounts, we
are exactly £1 14s. 6d. out of pocket by your lecture. We thought
you would not like to leave the town with that upon your mind; and
so we give you the opportunity of returning the deficit, and
enabling you, with a clear conscience, to say we have not lost by
your visit."

My father, in telling this story, used to add: "I told the
deputation it was most kind of them to afford me the opportunity,
and I certainly would carefully consider the matter. I kept my word;
for, although that occurred ten years ago, I have been carefully
considering it ever since."

When my father and I appeared together, a double fee was demanded;
but this was sometimes alleviated on the
"reduction-on-taking-a-quantity" principle. Some institutions could
not engage us; and assuming always that these could stand the
entertainment, but not the fee, we used to part for a night or two
and go our divers ways, and join forces again at the next town where
both were engaged. The lecture season used to last about seven
months. We had to pay our own railway fares and hotel bills, of
course; but as we travelled third, and lived very moderately, the
expenses were not great.

Then my father, being so popular socially, was nearly always
entertained, and, for his sake, the hospitality was frequently
extended to me; and I take this opportunity to express my gratitude
to the many strangers in the country who have offered me a home,
made me very comfortable, and saved me an hotel bill. After the
lectures we often were taken home to supper, and some of the
audience or friends of the host asked to meet us, and my father used
to keep the whole table in a roar. It was, of course, on account of
his popularity that on arriving in a town there was a little rush to
secure us as guests. Sometimes there was a rush in the opposite
direction; but hospitality generally held the sway. The Secretaries
used to write:

"Dear Sir,--Mr. Blank, our Mayor, desires honour of entertaining
you. Personally I am sorry, for I had hoped to have entertained you

                             "Yours, &c., &c."

Precedence was always given to the Mayor, and very jolly fellows the
provincial Mayors are. In one town I was always "roofed" by the
Mayor--the same Mayor. As far as I can say, he always had been
elected Mayor, and always would be. It appears that there sometimes
is a great difficulty in persuading anybody to be the Mayor.
Certainly there is no eagerness displayed in some towns to secure
that official position. The Librarian of a town, who was selling
tickets for my entertainment, said:

"Our Mayor, Mr. Z----, who entertains you here, Mr. Grossmith, has
made himself so popular by his liberality that we shall elect him
again next year. The last Mayor never spent a single penny of the
allowance made him."

"How much does a Mayor get here?" I asked.

"Ten pounds," said the Librarian, "and Mr. Z---- has spent nearly
the whole of it on banquets, &c."

I have frequently been asked, in reference to the long runs at the
Savoy Theatre, if I have not derived some interest from the change
of audiences. It appears to me that the audiences at the Savoy are
always the same, except in numbers. The house may not be so full,
and the enthusiasm may vary; but in all other respects they are the
same. When I give my entertainments at the Savoy, the same points
tell, and the laughter and applause come in exactly the same places.
In the country I never quite knew what would take. I am speaking of
the general patter.

Things that missed fire in London went enormously in the country;
but I am bound to say that, taken altogether, I have been much
flattered by the gracious way in which my sketches have been
received in all places and by all kinds of people. I have
experienced extraordinary changes in the style of audience. I gave
the same selection in the drawing-room of the Duchess of St. Albans,
before T.R.H. the Prince and Princess of Wales and about two dozen
other distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in March, 1874, that I
gave, a few days after, at Falkirk, to about 1,500 enthusiastic
Scotch people, the greater part of whom had paid the admission
charge of one penny. The selection included my sketches of Amateur
Theatricals, a Christmas Pantomime, the Penny Readings, &c.

I have not often been interrupted in public rooms. In private, I
have by people talking. But whenever I am interrupted, I make a
point of remonstrating. I do not adopt this course for the mere sake
of what is vulgarly called "side," or "swagger," but because my
nerve absolutely fails me if I become distracted. The moment I
become nervous, I am, so to speak, wrecked.

I feel a little diffident in telling the following story, inasmuch
as it shows myself to advantage. I was giving an entertainment at
Greenwich with Mrs. Howard Paul. I was singing a song called
"Awfully Lively," in character, accompanied by Miss Blanche Navarre,
the singer, who remembers the incident well, when I was much put out
by a "funny man" in the back seats, which were very high up, I being
on a platform low down, as if in a well. He commenced with a comic
laugh in the wrong place. The audience tittered audibly. A little
later on he interrupted with a comic cough. The audience laughed
outright, and so they did again with increased vigour when he
subsequently indulged in a comic sneeze. I determined to no notice
of it, thinking he would get tired. Not a bit of it. He next treated
me to a comic remark which completely put me off, and I broke down
in the middle of my song. Quietly addressing the audience, I said:
"Ladies and Gentlemen,--There are two comic gentlemen here to-night,
and you cannot very well hear both at the same time. It would be
extremely selfish on my part were I to entirely monopolise the
platform to the exclusion of the other comic gentleman; therefore,
with your kind permission, I will retire for a short time, and give
him the opportunity of coming down here and giving his
entertainment. When he has finished, I will resume."

I then retired from the platform, but listened at the door to hear
what was going on. I heard cries of "Go down!" "Sing a song!" amid
laughter and applause. But being funny in an audience and being
funny on a platform are two distinct things; and the difference was
evidently appreciated by the other comic gentleman, who absolutely
declined to accept the invitation to "go down" or to "sing a song."
I then heard my own name called repeatedly, so I returned to the
platform and met with a good reception. When silence reigned, and as
I perceived good humour prevailed, I said: "The other comic
gentleman having exhausted his stock of humour, I will proceed with
mine." This was received with cheers, and subsequently all was

I was obliged to resign a proposed prolonged engagement with Mrs.
Howard Paul; for her tours would take her away from London months at
a time, while the entertainment with my father always brought me
home on Saturday night, and sometimes would allow of my being weeks
in London at a time: so from 1873 till 1876 I visited the
institutions with him when possible, and by myself when not.

Sometimes I used to make my single-handed engagements fit in
capitally--sometimes I did not. To fill up five consecutive days in
Yorkshire, including the institutions at Leeds and Bradford, who
always paid the full fee, with a request that I should visit them
again the following season, was most satisfactory.

But such a happy state of things could not always be arranged. The
usual course was this: The first good offers that came in were
"booked" immediately, no matter what part of the United Kingdom they
came from. The next applications had to be fitted in. Sometimes I
managed to fit in, say, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday in Cornwall
and Devonshire. Tuesday would be vacant, and rather than lose the
day I would arrange, at a reduced fee, to give an entertainment at
some very small institution. As a matter of advertisement that is a
very bad thing to do. The larger institutions hear of it, and
naturally expect you to do the same for them.

Occasionally, through mismanagement or ill-luck, the engagements
were arranged in a dreadfully inconvenient manner. Twice in one
season I had to entertain in Edinburgh one night and London the

One of these nights I shall not easily forget. I was singing at the
private residence of a then popular Bailie, in Edinburgh. I hurried
from the house to catch the night mail to London. The snow was
terrible, and I got into a third-class carriage, tipping the guard
to try and keep the compartment for myself, as I wanted to change my
evening clothes for a warmer suit. The guard said, "All right, sir,"
took the tip, locked the door, then immediately unlocked it again
and ushered in a drunken ruffian of the lowest type. There were no
cushions to the seats of the third class carriages in those days, so
I took out my two air-cushions--one to sit upon and the other to put
at the back of my head. I began to blow them out, and as they
expanded, the ridiculous operation evidently tickled the fancy of my
distinguished fellow-passenger, who began to grin and chuckle in an
idiotic fashion Thinking that after all he was a good-tempered
fellow, I asked him if he had any objection to my changing my

He leered at me and asked, "What for?"

I said I had on a thin evening suit, that it was a bitterly cold
night, and that I wanted to attire myself in something warmer.

"You shan't do it if I can help it!" he said sulkily, and at the
same time he shifted along the seat till he was exactly opposite to
me. As there was no chance of the train stopping till we got to
Carlisle, my feelings may be imagined. "Change your clothes,
indeed," he kept muttering; "not while I'm here."

I felt much vexed, and yet saw he was a very ugly customer to cross
in temper. He began to fill his pipe, and I seized the opportunity
to observe:

"I don't object to your smoking, although this is not a smoking

He replied, "I'm not going to ask you whether you object or not."

"Very well, have your own way," I remarked.

"I mean to," he grunted, and for the next quarter of an hour puffed
away in silence. He was evidently thinking. So was I. I was thinking
that if I had been the same size and weight as my delightful
companion, we might have come to better terms. Presently he said,
"What do you want to change your clothes for?"

"I told you," I replied, "I feel cold, and want to put on something

"Well, I'm not going to let you," he said.

"I know! You said that before," I remarked.

"And I'll say it again. Do you hear?" he shouted. "I'll say it
again. I'm not going to let you. There! How do I know who you are?
It's only thieves and murderers who go about changing their clothes.
I don't say you are one: still, how am I to know you are _not_
one--eh? Tell me that."

I ventured no observation whatever, but let him go on. He evidently
was working himself up into a species of fever, and feeling
oppressed let down the window, and in came a hurricane of wind and
snow. Now when a man of this description is drunk and inclined to be
violent, there is only one method of procuring temporary peace. No
matter how drunk he is, hand him a brandy-flask. I therefore took
down my bag and opened it. Whether the man thought I was looking for
a revolver or not I cannot say, but he watched my proceedings with
suspicion and carefully drew from his pocket a large clasp-knife,
which he opened and placed on the seat beside him. This opened my
eyes considerably to the kind of customer I had to deal with. I
found the flask, and poured into the metal cup about a large
wine-glassful of neat brandy.

Addressing him, I said: "You're a disagreeable fellow. You want to
quarrel with me, but I tell you plainly I am not going to quarrel
with you. So drink this."

The beast (one could scarcely call him a man) took the cup and
drained the brandy. In the meanwhile I pulled up the window, a
proceeding to which my friend said he had not the "slightest
objection." Suddenly there was a loud _whirrrr_, and I was jerked
forward on my seat  by the sudden application of the brake to the
train. We slackened pace and eventually pulled up at some little
dark station, the signal evidently being against us. Before I could
get to the door on the left side, the man had crossed and let down
the window.

I shouted to the fellow, "Here! get out quickly; I'll stand you
another drink."

He got out on to the platform and staggered off the length of the
carriage, presuming I was following. The guard rushed up and called
to the man to get back, as "the train was not stopping at that
station." This was scarcely the truth, but I knew what he meant.

I stood on the step and stopped the guard, saying: "You ought to be
ashamed of yourself, after taking a 'tip' from me, to put a drunken
brute like that into the carriage."

The man on the platform began shouting after me, "Come on, mate!"

The guard locked my door and proceeded to get the man into another
carriage. The man would not go.

I heard the guard say, "If you don't get in here, you'll be left

The man pushed the guard away and made for my carriage again. The
guard followed and a short tussle ensued, the man striving to open
the locked door of my carriage, with a few choice expressions that
eclipsed even the worst that I had been accustomed to hear in Bow
Street Police Court. The end of it all was, that the guard lost his
temper and the man lost the train.

Another unfortunate arrangement of dates was, London one night,
Monmouth the next night, and somewhere in the North the third,
involving my return to London first before proceeding there. The
journey to Monmouth was the coldest I ever recollect. I did not
arrive until close upon eight o'clock. The entertainment was given
in conjunction with my father, who happened to be lecturing in that
district. He instructed me, on arrival, to go to the hotel. When I
got there I was instantly served with a chop, fresh from the grill,
and a small bottle of Guinness. My father, ever thoughtful for my
comfort, had arranged for my favourite meal, and left a little note,
in shorthand, for me to this effect: "My dear old boy, take your
time. I will go on till I see you are in the hall.--Your ever
affectionate Guv."

He had to open the proceedings, as usual when we gave the joint
recitals, and he meant by the above note that he would go on
reciting until he knew I was prepared to give one of my musical
sketches. I finished my simple dinner and walked over to the hall.
By-the-by it was not a hall, but the Sessions-house, the audience
being seated in the body of the Court and the entertainers appearing
on the bench. The Court was like an ice-safe, and my fingers were so
cold I could not properly play the piano, and had to apologise for
my extra defective execution. I have frequently made my appearance
at the Sessions under the above circumstances.

At Cardiff I have always appeared in the Court-house, and a splendid
audience I always had. If I remember rightly, the chief seats were
in the prisoners' dock, which, of course, commanded the best view of
the entertainers' bench. I knew there was always a rush for the
dock--I mean on the nights when my father and I were there; not when
the proper judge was there, of course. It seems strange that people
should pay for the privilege of being accommodated with a seat in
the dock. I ought to mention that the granting of the Court-house
for the purpose of entertainments was unusual. It was a favour
extended towards well-known lecturers only.

It would be quite impossible, in a small book like this, to describe
all the extraordinary incidents which I have encountered while
fulfilling my engagements (before I went on the stage, of course) at
the various country institutions. By institutions I refer to the
societies which were formed all over the United Kingdom chiefly for
the benefit of the better-class working men and women, and the
popularity of which is on the wane, owing to the prevalence of free
libraries, penny readings, and amateur concerts.

Some of these institutions, which provide reading and writing rooms,
debating classes, educational classes, and a room or rooms for
concerts and lectures, etc., can boast a really magnificent
building--for an institution. I have most pleasant recollections of
the Leeds Mechanics' Institution, the Bradford, the Edinburgh,
Plymouth, &c.; for they possessed splendid halls for acoustics, a
good platform, a capital grand piano (most welcome to me), always a
crowded audience (most welcome to everybody), and they refrained
from commencing the proceedings--at all events when I gave my
humorous recitals--with prayer. Oh yes, gentle reader, my comic
recitals have frequently been commenced with prayer--nearly always
at the Young Men's Christian Literary Institutions. Sometimes, in
addition, there would be a short sermon.

I have a distinct recollection of an amiable curate, at the
conclusion of one of my country engagements, rising to propose a
vote of thanks to me. He was most flattering and kind in his
observations, and being a little unorthodox (for a country village),
impressed upon the audience that there was "no sin in a genuine
hearty laugh." He meant well, no doubt; but as the audience had not
laughed in the least throughout my recital, I thought the curate's
remark rather superfluous.

Some fifteen or sixteen years ago I was engaged to give a short
entertainment, for a still shorter fee, at some schoolrooms
connected with a church in Camden Town. The rooms were in a small
back street adjacent to the High Street. The festivities consisted
of a spread of tea and what Mr. W. S. Gilbert calls "the rollicking
bun and the gay Sally Lunn," interspersed with conversation, songs
by amateurs, homely advice by the vicar, and a few comic songs--I
beg pardon, I should say "humorous ditties"--by myself.

The rooms were crowded with the poorer parishioners, who ought, each
Sunday, to have attended the church, but did not as a matter of
fact. Most of the husbands could not come to the entertainment, for
reasons best known to themselves, but their wives and babies did. I
never sang to so many women and babies before or since. I like an
audience consisting of ladies: they do not make such a visible sign
of enjoyment as do the sterner sex, but they have a much keener
appreciation of satire, music, and humour. But ladies without babies
and with babies are totally different people. The moment a baby
makes its presence known to an audience it is all up with the
entertainer; competition is useless, and he may as well retire from
the platform.

On this occasion there were fifty babies and general chaos. The
mothers became anxious and the audience demoralised. At last it was
my turn to sing. I was about to step on to platform, when the vicar
said to me, "Mr. Grossmith--one moment, please. I am most desirous
that these poor folk should enjoy themselves, and I do not wish to
inflict upon them anything approaching a sermon. At the same time I
want most particularly to impress upon them the necessity of their
attending church occasionally. Now I thought you might drop them a
little reminder about the non-observance of the Sabbath, which is,
unfortunately, characteristic of them."

"Do you seriously want me to do that?" I asked.

"Certainly," he replied. "It would appear less like a sermon, and
they might take it better from you than from me."

"You had better do it yourself," I said; "for I have no doubt if I
did it they would put it down as part of the comic entertainment,
and it would be received with roars of laughter."

"Ah! that would never do," said the vicar. "Very well, Mr.
Grossmith, I will act upon your suggestion and do it myself."

The vicar proceeded with a rather lengthy serious speech, the
peroration of which was much like the following:

"In conclusion, my friends, no excuse can be accepted for your not
coming occasionally to church. I hear too often from you that you
cannot leave your babies. Mrs. Brown says she cannot leave hers, and
Mrs. Jones tells me cannot leave hers, and so it goes on. But you
can befriend each other. Mrs. Brown can mind her own babies as well
as Mrs. Jones's for one Sunday, and Mrs. Jones can do the same for
Mrs. Brown the following Sunday. You would then be able to come once
a fortnight at all events. It is a duty that devolves upon you, and
a duty you must, at all hazards, perform. Remember this, my
friends--you _must_ try and come to church. Mr. Grossmith will now
sing '_I am so Volatile_.'"

One night there was a break-down on the rail-line, and my father and
myself never arrived in the town until twenty past eight, although
we should have commenced at eight punctually. We dressed in the cab,
which flew along like a fire-engine. Suddenly we espied a building
lighted up, and a large crowd coming out. My father pushed his head
out of the window and shouted frantically to the crowd, "Go back! Go
back! It's all right. Grossmith is here. We have arrived. Go back!"
Unfortunately it was not our audience, but a congregation leaving a
Methodist Chapel.

In 1876 Miss Florence Marryat, the novelist and daughter of the
celebrated Capt. Marryat, talked over a joint entertainment. It was
quite apparent that the literary institutions were "not what they
were." Their fees, like their engagements, were rapidly decreasing.
Miss Marryat and I thought out a programme, and determined to appeal
more generally to the public. I append one of the programmes:

                     "ENTRE NOUS."

        and interrupted by GEO. GROSSMITH, JUN.

HUMOROUS MUSICAL SCENA... "On the Sands" ... _Grossmith_.
                  GEO. GROSSMITH, JUN.

COSTUME RECITAL... "Joan of Arc in Prison" ... _James Albery_.
                   FLORENCE MARRYAT.
          (With the Scena by LINDSAY SLOPER.)

HUMOROUS MUSICAL SCENA... "A Cold Collation" ... _Grossmith_.
                  GEO. GROSSMITH, JUN.

COSTUME RECITAL... "The Grandmother" ... ... _Tennyson_.
                   FLORENCE MARRYAT.

HISTORICAL MEDLEY... "Richard Coeur-de-Leon" ... _E. Draper_.


To conclude with a Satirical Musical Sketch, entitled

                  "CUPS AND SAUCERS."
(Written and Composed expressly by GEO. GROSSMITH, Jun.)

        (A China Maniac)  ... FLORENCE MARRYAT.

        (Another) ... ... ... GEO. GROSSMITH, JUN.

The above is the last joint entertainment I ever gave, except with
my father, and I only fulfilled one or two more with him.

"Cups and Saucers" was afterwards played before _H.M.S. Pinafore_,
at the Opera Comique, for about 500 nights. It is still played a
great deal by amateurs all over the country, both with and without
my permission. This entertainment with Miss Marryat was more of an
artistic success than a financial one. Sometimes we did very well,
and sometimes we did not. In Scotland we always had crowded rooms;
but at the Antient Concert Rooms, Dublin, we played a whole month,
the majority of the time to half-full rooms. I enjoyed the month in
Dublin, for all that. The people were most hospitable; and so
Florence Marryat, her companion (Miss Glover), Mr. George Dolby, and
myself managed to enjoy ourselves. Henry Irving was in Dublin at the
time, and, as I had the privilege of being an old friend of his, I
naturally came in for all his parties; and Irving is a prince of

Florence Marryat, in her excellent book _Tom Tiddler's Ground_, has
regaled her readers with several stories about me; so I am going to
have my revenge. She is a great believer in spiritualism, and on one
occasion, in Dublin, she persuaded me to sit at a table with her.
The table began to tilt, rap, creak, and move; and it is not in my
province to attempt to explain the marvellous phenomena. My
explanation would be too simple to be scientific. The conditions,
however, are, that if the table tilts three times in answer to a
question, it means "Yes," and if only once "No." Florence Marryat
informed me--and I have no reason to doubt her word--that a
gentleman, with a name something like "Sticks," was endeavouring to
communicate with her through the table. It appears that poor
"Sticks" had left this world through an excess of stimulants. Two
questions were asked by Miss Marryat, and replied to by "Sticks." At
last Mr. "Sticks" condescended, with three tilts, to imply that he
would answer my questions. Miss Marryat begged that I would not be
irreverent; and I argued that if I were, I presumed "Sticks" would
treat me with contempt.

I said to the table: "Mr. Sticks, I wish to ask you a few

[By-the-by, I believe he was a "Colonel Sticks." It is of little
consequence now in this story; but it was at the time, for spirits,
like human beings, are most particular about being addressed by
their proper titles.]

In reply to my question, "Sticks" oscillated the table violently,
which, I was informed, meant agitation on his part. Florence Marryat
told me the poor chap was in purgatory.

I said: "Sticks, I believe you died of drink?"

Three decisive tilts of the table.

"Now, Mr. Sticks," I asked, "is it possible to take too much drink
in purgatory?"

The table was seized with convulsions, and wriggled and oscillated
to a corner of the room. When it was quiet, I said:

"Mr. Sticks, do not think I mean to be disrespectful; but are you
drunk now?"

Then came three solemn but distinct tilts.

Florence Marryat considered I was most discourteous to poor
"Sticks," and has never since sat with me at a table, except for
lunch or dinner.

A sudden illness of Miss Marryat was, on one occasion, the cause of
an unrehearsed, but withal very successful, entertainment.

Miss Marryat and I were announced to appear at the Town Hall,
Cardiff, in our entertainment, "Entre Nous." I copy the following
from a Cardiff paper of February 1st, 1877:

and me, gentle reader, or, as the advertisements have had it so
prominently of late, _entre nous_, there was no 'Entre Nous' at the
Assembly Rooms, Cardiff, last night. At the last moment it was
announced that Miss Florence Marryat was incapacitated by a serious
illness from taking her part in the promised performance. A capital
audience had been drawn to the Town Hall, a large number of whom
were, doubtless, attracted by the expectation of seeing this
talented authoress and most gifted _artiste_. It is, however, only
due to them to say that they bore their disappointment kindly, and,
with only one exception, the whole of the audience--although the
promoters of the entertainment offered to return their money at the
doors--remained to witness the single-handed entertainment provided
by Mr. George Grossmith, jun. And it was well for them they did so,
for they enjoyed a treat which must have made even Miss Marryat's
absence almost appear in the light of a blessing. At the last
moment, whilst the audience were grimly reading the announcement of
that lady's sudden illness, at the time when consternation was
reigning in the bosom of those enterprising _entrepreneurs_, Messrs.
Thompson and Shackell, and whilst Mr. George Grossmith, jun., was
shivering in his shoes with timidity at the thought of the cool
reception which, in his bereaved condition, he was likely to obtain,
a sudden and a happy thought flashed across the mind of one of his
friends. 'Why not get Courtenay Clarke* to give you a lift, my boy?'
suggested one of the bystanders. 'I scarcely dare ask him,' replied
the desponding entertainer. 'Oh, but he was one of your father's
warmest friends,' rejoined the speaker; 'and his good nature is only
equalled by his marvellous comic power. Anyhow, you can try it, for
I see that he and Colonel Page have just entered the room.' And so
the attempt upon Mr. Clarke's good nature was made; and,
fortunately, it was successful. There was a mysterious whispering
between Mr. Shackell and the intended victim. Then the pair retired
to the ante-room, and their arguments were addressed to Mr. Clarke's
kindly feeling of friendship, which resulted in the appearance on
the platform, very shortly afterwards, of the clever young
entertainer, escorted by Mr. Clarke, who took the chair. In a speech
of inimitable humour, he explained and apologised for the absence of
Miss Marryat, and introduced, with words of encouragement, the
younger Grossmith. Of this gentleman's performance it is scarcely
necessary to speak in detail. It is the very essence of refined
musical comedy."

* Mr. Courtenay C. Clarke was a resident at Cardiff, who generally
entertained my father and myself on our professional visits. He
became a great friend of mine, and he was a most talented amateur
reciter and raconteur. I last saw him about two years ago, when he
and Colonel C. Page, of Cardiff (also an intimate friend of mine),
supped with me at the Garrick.

Here follow twenty-eight lines of such a flattering description that
my modesty (forgive me, gentle reader) will not permit of my
reproducing them. The notice continues thus:

"Gratified, however, as everybody was with Mr. Grossmith's
performance, the real 'fun of the fair' commenced when Mr. Courtenay
Clarke essayed his wonderful reminiscences of Mr. Grossmith the
elder. With marvellous fidelity, Mr. Clarke has caught the very
trick of voice and manner which constitute the chiefest charm of
that mellow humorist. One could almost imagine one was in Mr.
Grossmith's company whilst listening to Mr. Clarke's side-splitting
imitations. The delicate little side-hits, and exposition of social
and personal foibles, added life to the sketch; so that the audience
were constrained to laugh at George Grossmith himself, as well as at
the delightful comic "bits" which constitute his well-known
entertainment. . . . Altogether, we can honestly say that a better
or more acceptable entertainment than was given at the Town Hall
last night has seldom been witnessed in Cardiff."

Perhaps the most amusing incident that ever occurred to Florence
Marryat and myself was at the time we were giving a Saturday night's
entertainment at a large hall to a popular audience at Glasgow. A
brusque and brawny Scotchman was the caretaker, or hall-porter. I
sought him out and informed him that there was neither towel nor
soap in either of dressing-rooms.

He firmly told me that I must find my own towel and soap, as it did
not answer his purpose to do so.

I asked what he meant.

He said that the entertainers generally stole the soap and towels

There was no attempt to wrap up the accusation. He called a spade a
spade, without doubt. I was very indignant, and said: "Do you dare
to insinuate that a lady like Florence Marryat, a well-known
novelist, would steal your penn'orth of soap and fourpenny towel?"

He replied: "I don't know anything about Miss Marryat, and I don't
care. All I know is, you entertainers always do walk off with my
soap and towels, and I'll ha' no more of it."


Gilbert and Sullivan.

"Then I can hum a fugue, of which I've heard the music's _din
afore_, and whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense,
                                    _The Pirates of Penzance_.

I played in comparatively few amateur theatrical performances--half
a dozen, at the outside. I played John Chodd, jun., in _Society_, at
the old Gallery of Illustration, in 1868; and, singularly enough,
one of my critics was Mr. W. S. Gilbert, who, under the heading of
"The Theatrical Lounger," in _The Illustrated Times_, said: "Mr.
Grossmith has comic powers of no mean order; and his idea of John
Chodd, carefully modelled on Mr. Clarke, had, nevertheless, an
amusing originality of its own." The after-piece was a burlesque on
_No Thoroughfare_, written by my father, in which I danced and sang
more than I acted. This performance was repeated once.

I then essayed the part of Paul Pry, in Poole's comedy of that name,
at the Gallery of Illustration, in 1870, and played in the afternoon
a burlesque of which I was part author. These performances went off
very well, and we were very much complimented (as all amateurs are),
and declared our attempts to have eclipsed our neighbours (as all
amateurs do). But such a thought as going on the stage never entered
my head for a moment; I refused several offers, including a good one
from Mr. E. P. Hingston to appear in the comic opera _La Branche
Cassee_, at the Opera Comique, the very theatre at which I was
destined to make my _debut_.

After entertaining all over the country for seven years, I made a
rather important discovery; viz., that my income was as rapidly
_de_creasing each year as my family and household expenses were
_in_creasing. I disliked being away so long from London; for there
is nothing so valuable to any public singer or actor as the constant
appearance of his name in the entertainments or theatrical columns
of the metropolitan daily papers.

I had begun my autumn and winter tour with my father for 1877-8,
when, in the November of 1877, I received the following letter:

         "Beefsteak Club,
            "King William Street, W.C.
              "Tuesday Night.

"Dear Mr. Grossmith,--Are you inclined to go on the stage for a
time? There is a part in the new piece I am doing with Gilbert which
I think you would play admirably. I can't find a good man for it.
Let me have a line, or come to 9 Albert Mansions to-morrow after 4,
or Thursday before 2.30.

            "Yours sincerely,
              "ARTHUR SULLIVAN."

The great compliment which I considered the letter conveyed filled
me with more delight than I ever could express. I think I read the
letter over twenty times. I was not thinking of the offer of the
engagement, for I was immediately under the impression that I should
decline it. My father never had a good opinion of my amateur acting,
and I valued his judgment so highly that his opinion was in a great
measure shared by me.

Arthur Sullivan had only heard me sing once, after a dinner party,
and it was evident, from his letter, I had created some sound
impression; hence my extreme delight at his offer. I remember, after
the said party, Sir Arthur (he was then Mr.) kindly asked me back to
his rooms, with a few other friends, including Alfred Cellier, the
composer, and Arthur Cecil, to whom I was (and still am) much
indebted for the most valuable hints he had from time to time given
me respecting the style of sketch and song suitable for "smart"
drawing-room work, and who had taken great interest in me. At
Sullivan's, that evening, we all sang, played, and chatted till an
early hour in the morning; and I, as a comparatively "new" man, was
especially "drawn out."

Following Arthur Sullivan's letter, with its complimentary offer,
came a long one from Arthur Cecil (who, it appears, had suggested my
name to Sullivan), pointing out the _pros_ and _cons_, with an
additional "summing up" of both, worthy of a judge--and a good
judge, too.

Cecil told me afterwards that Sullivan both writing letters at the
Beefsteak, when the former said, "I can't find a fellow for this

Arthur Cecil said, "I wonder if Grossmith----"

Before the sentence was completed, Arthur Sullivan said, "The very

I was then communicated with. I am much indebted to these two
Arthurs. I reverence the name of Arthur; and if ever I am blessed
with another son---- But there! as they say in novels, "I am

Then came a week of awful anxiety. Should I cancel the provincial
engagements which I had already made, and which were, of course, a
certainty, in favour of a new venture, which was not? My father
said, "Not." He did not think I had voice enough. Arthur Sullivan,
however, thought I had. I went to consult him, and he struck the D
(fourth line in treble clef, if you please), and said, "Sing it out
as loud as you can." I did. Sullivan looked up, with a most humorous
expression on his face--even his eye-glass seemed to smile--and he
simply said, "Beautiful!" Sullivan then sang, "My name is John
Wellington Wells," and said, "You can do that?"

I replied, "Yes; I think I can do that."

"Very well," said Sir Arthur, "if you can do that, you can do the

Then off I went to W. S. Gilbert, at Bolton Gardens, to see what the
part itself was like. Mr. Gilbert was very kind, and seemed pleased
that I meditated accepting the engagement. [A few months beforehand
I had played the Judge, in _Trial by Jury_, at the Hall in Archer
Street, Bayswater, and the rehearsals were conducted by Mr. Gilbert,
who himself coached me for the first time.] Gilbert read me the
opening speech of J. W. Wells, with reference to the sale, "Penny
curses," &c., with which, of course, I was much amused, and said he
had not completed the second act yet; but the part of Wells had
developed into greater prominence than was at first anticipated. I
saw that the part would suit me excellently, but I said to Mr.
Gilbert, "For the part of a Magician I should have thought you
required a fine man with a fine voice."

I can still see Gilbert's humorous expression as he replied, "No;
that is just what we don't want."

I then went to Mr. R. D'Oyly Carte, who had hit upon the idea of
comic opera, by English author and composer, and interpreted by
English artists, and who formed the Comedy Opera Company Limited,
for the purpose of starting the venture at the Opera Comique. I
asked Carte if he could give me a day or two to think of it. The
request was granted, apparently to oblige me; but I imagined, from
his look, that D'Oyly Carte also required a day or two to think of

I afterwards learned that the directors of Comedy Opera Company, to
a man, were adverse to my engagement. One of them sent the following
telegram to Carte: "Whatever you do, don't engage Grossmith." I
myself personally was being tossed on the terrible billows of
indecision. I had a certain amount of confidence in myself, but
thought that if the piece failed--and the Opera Comique had been an
unlucky theatre--I should practically be thrown out on my beam ends,
having cancelled all my provincial engagements; and they were not

I thought, however, that the advertisement of being associated with
W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan would be invaluable; and, in spite
of the entreaties of all my friends, I decided to write and accept
the engagement. I informed my father of my decision, and he did not
hesitate to express his disappointment, not to say disapproval. To
my great joy and relief, I received the following letter from Mrs.
Howard Paul, whose opinion on all professional matters I esteemed
most highly, and who had always given me so much encouragement:

_Private_.]          "17 The Avenue,
                        "Bedford Park,
                           "Turnham Green.

"My dear Brother George,--May I claim the privilege of an old
friend, and be impertinent enough to make a suggestion and give my
opinion?--which is as follows: First, that, under any circumstances,
and at some sacrifice, you do not fail to accept the part of the
'Magician' in Gilbert and Sullivan's new play. It is a splendid
part--better than you think, I fancy--and the 'patter song' is great
in its way. Make your time suit them, or theirs suit you, if
possible. I have sacrificed a week's business engagements. This is
only a hint to you. I think, if you will arrange, it will be a new
and _magnificent introduction_ for you, and be of very great service
afterwards. I'm sure the part will suit you exactly. Don't think me
impertinent in writing this; but I want to see your name in the
cast. If I have any influence with you, now's the time to prove it.
. . . I suppose you know Mr. Barrington and self play in the
aforesaid piece. Write me per return, with love to you all, believe

                      "Yours affectionately,
                         "ISABELLA HOWARD PAUL."

This was a great comfort to me--in fact, to all of us. I wrote Mrs.
Howard Paul that I had decided to take the engagement; and on the
5th November, 1877, she, Barrington and myself, and a few others,
celebrated the event in the back garden at Bedford Park with a
display of fireworks.

Messrs. Gilbert, Sullivan, and Carte backed up the engagement with
me, and the directors, though in the majority, were, happily for me,

Then came the business part of the matter with D'Oyly Carte, which
was amusing. As I had sacrificed my country engagements, I wished
Carte to guarantee me a month's salary. That request he acceded to,
but not to the amount of salary I required. He was instructed "only
to go to a certain amount," which happened to be three guineas a
week less than I asked for. The discussion, such it was, was quite
pleasant, as, in fact, all my future negotiations with him were
destined to be. I have been associated with Mr. D'Oyly Carte for
over ten years now, and am pleased to say I have never had anything
approaching a disagreeable word with him.

I said to Carte: "Look at the risk I am running. If I fail, I don't
believe the Young Men's Christian Associations will ever engage me
again, because I have appeared on the stage, and my reputation as
comic singer to religious communities will be lost for ever."

Carte said, "Well, I dare say I can make that all right." Then a
sudden idea occurred to him. "Come and have some oysters."

I did!! I shall ever regret it! A lunch off oysters and most
excellent Steinberg Cabinet infused a liberality into my nature for
which I shall never forgive myself. Carte again broached the
subject--_after lunch_--of the salary; and in the end, with a
cheerful smile, I waived the extra three guineas a week.

I calculate that, irrespective of all accumulative interest, that
lunch cost me, up till now, about £1,800.

One dark night in that very November I fulfilled my last provincial
institution engagement (at Dudley), and went back to stay the night,
or what was left of it, at the Guest Hospital, with Dr. Orwin, my
old schoolfellow, with whom I had the pugilistic encounter at the
preparatory school on Haverstock Hill. He called me up at five
o'clock the next morning, which was, if possible, darker than the
night before, and packed me off to London to attend my first
rehearsal, which was held in the refreshment saloon (without
refreshments) at the Opera Comique.

The course adopted with reference to the Gilbert and Sullivan
rehearsals is as follows: The music is always taken first. The
principal singers and the ladies and gentlemen of the chorus are
seated in a semi-circle on the stage. A cottage piano is in the
middle, and we are rehearsed as an ordinary choir would be. Sir
Arthur Sullivan usually first composes the difficult choruses,
especially the finale to the first act--an elaborate score.

The quartettes and trios arrive next, and the duets and songs last.

I have sometimes only received the tunes of my songs the week before
production. The song in the second act of _Princess Ida_ was
re-written, and I only got the music two nights before the
performance. The difficulty then was, not in learning the new tune,
but in _un_learning the old one.

The greatest interest is evinced by us all as the new vocal numbers
arrive. Sir Arthur Sullivan will arrive hurriedly, with a batch of
MSS. under his arm, and announce the fact that there is something
new. He takes his at the piano and plays over the new number. The
vocal parts are written in, but no accompaniment.

Mr. Francois Cellier listens and watches; and how he can remember
for future rehearsal, as he does, the elaborate accompaniments and
symphonies, with the correct harmonies, &c., from simply hearing Sir
Arthur play the pieces over a few times, is to me astonishing.

Mr. Gilbert will attend all these musical rehearsals: he takes
mental notes of the style of composition, time, rhythm, everything,
and goes home and invents his groups and business. For every piece
he has small stages constructed--exact models of the Savoy
Theatre--with set scenes. The characters are represented by little
bricks of various colours, to distinguish chorus from principals,
and ladies from gentlemen. Many a time he has shown me some future
intended grouping, entrance, or general effect; and I must say it
has been most interesting. No expense is spared to get the requisite
accuracy; and I believe the little model of a ship, for the recent
revival of _H.M.S. Pinafore_, cost £60.

It is well known that Mr. Gilbert is an extremely strict man, and on
all matters of stage business his word is law. All the arrangements
of colours and the original groupings, with which the frequenters of
the Savoy are so well acquainted, are by him.

Sir Arthur Sullivan is also very exact with reference to the
rendering of the music; and it is perfectly understood between
author and composer that no business should be introduced by the
former into the chorus so as to interfere with a proper performance
of the music.

For example, in the original rehearsals of _The Mikado_, Mr. Gilbert
arranged a group of the chorus to "bow down" to his Majesty as he
entered, with their backs to the audience. Sir Arthur Sullivan came
down, and, the moment he saw this, said that the voices could not be
well heard from the front, as the faces of the singers were turned
towards the back of the stage. Mr. Gilbert immediately altered the
business; and as his powers of invention are apparently unlimited,
the present effective grouping in a semi-circle on the right-hand
side and back of the stage was substituted.

I have said that Sir Arthur Sullivan is strict with the music. Every
member of the chorus has to sing the exact note set down for him or
her; and often, in the midst of the rehearsal of a full chorus
_double-forte_ we have been pulled up because a careless gentleman
has sung a semi-quaver instead of a demi-semi-quaver, or one of the
cousins, sisters, or aunts has failed to dot a crotchet.

One of the most prominent and popular members of our company was
remarkably quick in picking up the music by ear--a method of
learning music by no means advisable. One day he was singing a solo
allotted to him which he had learned in the way mentioned, and he
occasionally sang (let us say) two even crotchets instead of one
dotted and a quaver, and he made one or two slight deviations from
the melody. Sullivan listened, with a most amused expression, and,
at the conclusion, said: "Bravo! that is really a very good tune of
yours--capital! And now, if you have no objection, I will trouble
you to sing mine."

The music is generally given to us before the piece is read by Mr.
Gilbert; so we are often in complete darkness as to the meaning of
the words we are singing. In the opera of _Princess Ida_ we were
rehearsing the whole of the concerted music of the first act. My
song, "I can't think why," sung by King Gama, was not composed, and
the whole of my share in the rehearsals was the following three bars
and a half of recitative:

"_King Gama_ (recitative): Must we till then in prison cell be

"_Hildebrand_: You must.

"_King Gama_: This seems unnecessarily severe."

At one of the rehearsals, after singing this trifling bit of
recitative, I addressed the composer and said:

"Could you tell me, Sir Arthur, what the words, 'This seems
unnecessarily severe,' have reference to?"

Sir Arthur Sullivan replied:

"Because you are to be detained in prison, of course."

I replied: "Thank you. I thought they had reference to my having
been detained here three hours a day for the past fortnight to sing

The result was, that Sir Arthur liberated me from the remainder of
the first act rehearsals; and as I had not to put in an appearance
in the second act, and had only one unwritten song in the third, I
had, for a wonder, a pretty easy time of it.

The musical rehearsals are child's play in comparison with the stage
rehearsals. Mr. Gilbert is a perfect autocrat, insisting that his
words should be delivered, even to an inflection of the voice, as he
dictates. He will stand on the stage beside the actor or actress,
and repeat the words with appropriate action over and over again,
until they are delivered as he desires them to be. In some
instances, of course, he allows a little license, but very little.

He has great patience at times; and, indeed, he needs it, for
occasionally one or other of the company, through inaccurate ear or
other cause, will not catch the proper action or inflection. From
the beginning it has been the custom, if possible, to allot some
small part to a member of the chorus. The girls have nearly always
benefited by the chance, and some have risen to the foremost ranks.
The men are not so fortunate, I regret to say. They do not seem to
be so quick. Gilbert has nearly been driven frantic (and so have the
onlookers for the matter of that) because a sentence has been
repeated with a false accent.

The following sketch, founded on fact, is an example of what I mean:

Suppose Mr. Snooks has been promoted from the chorus, and allotted a
very small part, on account of his suitable voice, slimness,
stoutness, gigantic proportions, or the reverse. He has one
line--let us say, _The King is in the counting-house_. The first
thing Mr. Snooks does when his cue arrives is to make the most of
his opportunity by entering with a comic slow walk, which he has
evidently been studying for past few days in front of a
looking-glass. The walk is the conventional one indulged in by the
big Mask in a pantomime.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ Please don't enter like that, Mr. Snooks. We don't
want any "comic man" business here.

_Mr. Snooks:_ I beg your pardon, sir; I thought you meant the part
to be funny.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ Yes, so I do; but I don't want you to _tell_ the
audience you're the funny man. They'll find it out, if you are,
quickly enough. Go on, please.

Mr. Snooks enters again with a rapid and sharp
catch-the-six-thirteen-Liverpool-street-local-train kind of walk.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ No, no, no, Mr. Snooks. This is not a "walking
gentleman's" part. As it is only a short one, there is no necessity
to hurry through it like that. Enter like this.

Mr. Gilbert proceeds to exemplify what he requires, and after a
trial or two Mr. Snooks gets it nearly right.

_Mr. Gilbert_ (encouragingly): That'll do capitally. Go on, please.

_Mr. Snooks:_ The King is in the counting-_house_.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ No, no, Mr. Snooks; he is nothing of the sort. He is
in the _counting_-house.

_Mr. Snooks:_ The King is in the counting-_house_.

_Mr. Gilbert_ (very politely): I am afraid I have not made myself
understood. It is not counting-_house_, but _counting_-house. Do you
understand me?

_Mr. Snooks:_ Yes, sir.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ Very well; try again, please.

_Mr. Snooks:_ The King is in the counting-_house_.

_Mr. Gilbert_ (still politely): Mr. Snooks, don't you appreciate the
difference between the accent on "counting" and the accent on
"house"? I want the accent on "counting"--_counting_-house. Surely
you have never heard it pronounced in any other way? Try again, and
_please_ pay attention.

_Mr. Snooks_ (getting rather nervous): The King is in the

Mr. Gilbert twitches his right whisker, and takes a few paces up and
down the front of the stage. Eventually he comes to a standstill,
and calmly addresses Mr. Snooks:

"It is my desire to assist you as far as I possibly can, but I
_must_ have that sentence spoken properly. I would willingly cut it
out altogether; but as it is essential to the story, that course is
impossible. If you cannot speak it with the right accent, I shall be
reluctantly compelled to give the words to someone else who _can_.
Go back, please, and _think_ before you speak."

_Mr. Snooks_ (endeavouring to think he is "thinking"): The King
(pause) is (pause) IN the . . . (very long pause) _counting_ . . .
(with a violent effort) HOUSE!!!

_Mr. Gilbert_ (bottling up his fury): We won't bother about your
scene now, Mr. Snooks. Get on with the next. Grossmith! Grossmith!!
(To Seymour, the stage manager): Where's Mr. Grossmith?

_Mr. Grossmith_ (a very small man, with a still smaller voice): Here
I am.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ Oh! there you are. I'm sorry to have kept you
waiting. We'll go on with your scene. Do you want to try your song?

_Mr. Grossmith:_ Not unless you want to hear it!

_Mr. Gilbert:_ No; I don't want to hear it. (Roars of laughter from
the company.) Do you?

_Mr. Grossmith:_ No!

Good humour prevails, and the rehearsal proceeds. At its termination
Mr. Gilbert approaches Mr. Snooks, who is absolutely wretched in the

_Mr. Gilbert_ (privately to Mr. Snooks): Don't worry yourself about
that. Go home, and think it over. It will be all right to-morrow.

On the morrow, perhaps, it is _not_ all right; but Mr. Gilbert will
pass it over, and by dint of perseverance (which is, of course,
appreciated), and the chaffing he gets from his fellow-choristers at
the theatre, and the bullying from his wife at home, Mr. Snooks, in
the course of a week, gets it actually right; but the word is always
pronounced to the end with a certain amount of doubt.

The performer frequently gets the credit which is due to Mr.
Gilbert, and to him absolutely. As a rule, the little midshipmite in
_H.M.S. Pinafore_ is supposed to be a perfect genius. There have
been scores of midshipmites in town and "on tour," but they are all

Some, of course, are naturally clever, and I should be grieved to
disparage any child; but if admiration, cheers, and applause on the
stage are at all times dangerous to the mind of man, what must be
the effect on children!

A little boy, with a pretty voice, who played in the performance of
the _Pirates of Penzance_ by children, came to me some time back in
despair. His vanity had been touched by the approbation of the
public, and his eyes fascinated by the glare of the footlights and
limelights. They were all he thought of. His voice had gone, or, to
be more accurate, had cracked. He was too old to act as a child, and
too young to act as a man; and he "pooh-poohed" any idea of an
ordinary situation. All the credit of his success his friends
attributed to his own talent, and not to his stage manager.

It is such a case as this, and this only, that induces me to say
that I have seen Mr. Gilbert instruct a little boy in the part of
the midshipmite for an hour or so at a time, simply how to walk
across the stage. The boy has been absolutely stupid even for his
age; but has been selected because he happened to be smaller than
the others who had come up for competition. Through constant
drilling the child developed into a mechanical toy, and received the
approbation of the generous public, as if he merited it instead of
his tutor, when he had no more done so than the little canary who
walks the tight-rope on a barrow, fires a gun, or drives a tandem
drawn by a couple of sparrows.

One of these little lads, besides his wages, received extra presents
of shillings and half-crowns that in the course of a week amounted,
most likely, to the limited salary given to the chorus man who had
devoted the greater part of his life to his vocation, and who had a
wife and large family to support out of it.

_Apropos_ of the chorus, they are picked from hundreds who first
sing before Mr. D'Oyly Carte on approval. They generally have some
daily occupation or situation. Some of them sing and act so well in
the groups that they have been retained from the very commencement
of the operas.

When _Iolanthe_ was produced, Gilbert decided that the peers should
all have the upper lip shaven, and wear "mutton-chop" whiskers, and
a little tuft under the lower lip. They were also to wear wigs bald
at the top of the head. The effect was ultimately most successful;
but there was a semblance of a "strike" beforehand, owing to the
objection of some of the gentlemen to shave off the moustache.

These were called, for the purpose of giving their reasons for
objecting to comply with the order. Some of the excuses were most
amusing. One said he was a town traveller; and if he took off his
moustache, he would look so young that shopowners would not listen
to him. Another said he was a "spirit leveller," and it was most
unusual (I am not sure he did not say unprecedented) for a "spirit
leveller" _not_ to have a moustache. The excuse for another
gentlemen-was, that he was paying his addresses to a young lady who
was not much impressed with his personal appearance; and if he took
off his moustache, his hopes would be completely blighted. In the
end, however, they all consented to obliterate the ornament, with
the exception of one, who absolutely declined. In his case the
moustache stayed on, but he did not.

I never remember, before the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, to have
seen an entire chorus shaved. The peers looked wonderfully
characteristic when they first appeared over the bridge, and their
entrance brought down the house. Again, what could be more effective
than the shaven faces in _The Mikado?_

The most amusing incident with regard to shaving was during the run
of _Ruddygore_. A rather good-looking young fellow, a new comer, was
requested to shave (the others being already shaven) a fortnight
before the production of the piece, in order that his photograph in
costume might be taken by Messrs. Barraud. The portraits that hung
in the picture gallery of Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd were painted from
the photographs previously taken of all the chorus gentlemen. This
new recruit, whom we will call Mr. X., was a concert singer, who,
like many others, finding that "concert singing is not what it was,"
accepted the offer made to him to join the ranks of the Savoyards as
a chorister, and make sure of a certain income. Mr. D'Oyly Carte met
him one day, and said:

"Have you been to Barraud's, Mr. X.?"

"No, sir; I go to-morrow morning. I have shaved."

"So I observe," said Carte.

Two days after, Carte saw him with his moustache on again; but,
taking no particular notice, said:

"Let me see, have you been to Barraud's?"

Mr. X. said: "Yes, sir; I went yesterday."

D'Oyly Carte thought it seemed rather odd, for he made sure he had
seen Mr. X. two days previously without the moustache. Now he had a
full-grown one, with the regular platform singer's waxed ends.

D'Oyly Carte, being a busy man, walked away, and was soon thinking
of other matters.

The first dress rehearsal took place, and Mr. X. had no moustache.
Mr. Carte met him again next day in the street, and, lo and behold!
there was the moustache on again. Actors are frequently in the habit
of "soaping" down their moustaches; but such a one as Mr. X.
supported could not be soaped down. Carte was so puzzled that he
said to Mr. X.:

"I thought you had shaved your moustache?"

Mr. X. replied: "So I have, sir; but when I sing at concerts, or
'do' Bond Street, I stick on one for a little while. Nobody would
notice it was not my own, and I look so much better with a

"Do you make yourself up, Mr. Grossmith?"

As this question is so frequently asked of me, I will satisfy the
curious by saying that I always do. No one has ever touched my face
but myself. I select my own colours, powders, rouges, and try
several effects of complexions, before finally deciding on one. I
have a little dressing-room to myself--the only one who has at the
Savoy. Being short-sighted, I make up with a hand-glass in my left
hand. My dressing-table is very high, and I have several bright
electric lights thrown on my face. I do not think the painted lines
on the face should ever be seen, even from the stalls. I think no
make-up should be detected from the front, and I have no hesitation
in saying that the ghastly white faces, pink cheeks, and scarlet
lips indulged in, even by the ladies of our theatre, are simply

Mr. Barrington has often come into my room just as I am going on the
stage, and chaffingly said, "Why don't you make up?" I regard this
rather as a compliment than otherwise.

I want to look like a First Lord, a fleshly poet, Major-General, or
Japanese, not to _show_ how I look like one.

The walls of my dressing-room are covered with prints, engravings,
and sketches, of no particular value, but of interest to myself and
many who visit me.

A capital pen-and-ink sketch, from memory, by Mr. Heather Bigg, of
Corney Grain and myself playing a duet on the piano, amuses those
who see it. A slight sketch by Frank Holl, R.A. (a great and
esteemed friend of mine), of myself, fishing in the daytime and
doing the Lord Chancellor's dance at night, is, of course,

There is also a water-colour sketch of myself in the costume of King
Gama, _minus_ the heavy cloak and wig, and the tunic preserved by a
lawn-tennis jacket. I used to sit in this comfortable way during a
long wait of one hour and forty minutes; and my appearance so
tickled the fancy of Viscount Hardinge that he painted his
impression of it, and sent it to me.

There is also an admirable sketch, by Alfred Bryan, of John Parry; a
signed photograph of Mrs. Howard Paul; full-page drawings in the
_Graphic_, &c., from my brother's pictures exhibited in the Royal
Academy; some old playbills, in which my uncle figures prominently;
clever sketches of singers, by Harper Pennington; and, what is more
useful than any of the above, a comfortable couch, on which I can
throw myself after having been encored two or three times in some
extravagant dance.

The rules behind the scenes at the Savoy are very strict. No
visitors, thank goodness, are allowed to be hanging about the stage
or standing at the wings. There are separate staircases for the
ladies and gentlemen. We are all a very happy family; jealous
feeling and spirit are conspicuous by their absence; and the
"understudies" experience no difficulty in getting every help and
support, if required, from the principals whose parts are to be
played in case of absence or illness.

There are no mashers waiting at the stage-door. Presents and
love-letters are few and far between; in fact, during the ten years
I have been on the stage I have only received one. I confess I am a
little hurt by the notion; but, perhaps it is just as well. The
letter referred to was not well worded, and the spelling certainly
might have been better. The lady, I am sure, was quite sincere in
her expressed adoration of me, and I appreciated her candid
confession that she had no prejudice against my "calling"; but the
_postscript_ was certainly disappointing. It ran thus:

"P.S.--Next Sunday is my Sunday out."

Before engaging anybody at the theatre, Mr. D'Oyly Carte hears them
sing, or "tries their voice." It is a standing joke between him and
myself that I never kept the appointments made by him to "hear my

At one of our pleasant annual theatre suppers, at which both
gentlemen of the orchestra and chorus are present, in returning
thanks for having my health proposed, I said I attributed the
pleasure of being associated with them to the fact that, in the
first instance, I would _not_ let Mr. Carte have the opportunity of
testing my vocal powers; for, if I had done so, I should never have
effected my present engagement.

During D'Oyly Carte's visits to America, Mr. Michael Gunn, the
lessee of the Dublin Theatre, and a great friend of both Carte and
myself, used to act as our manager.

On one occasion Mr. Gunn had to try the voices of some candidates
for the chorus. One gentleman, who called himself Signor Concertini,
or some such name, sang all right; but he spoke with an affected
broken-English accent, which I have found quite common amongst
English foreign singers.

Mr. R. Barker, a kind but rather brusque stage-manager, addressing
Signor Concertini, said:

"Look here, my boy, that accent won't do for sailors or pirates.
Just give us a little less Mediterranean and a little more

Mr. Gunn turned to the man and said: "What nationality are you? You
don't sound Italian."

Signor Concertini suddenly dropped his accent, and, addressing Mr.
Gunn in a broad Irish brogue, said:

"Sure, Mr. Gunn, I'm from the same country as yourself."

If any of the members of the chorus are absent through illness, they
are supposed to bring a doctor's certificate the next day; but their
word is usually taken.

One of the chorus gentlemen, a tenor, who had not distinguished
himself by any great ability, but deemed his presence of infinite
importance, sent a telegram to the stage manager: "Suffering from
hoarseness; cannot appear to-night." I ascertained that he had
informed several of his colleagues, confidentially, that he was the
future Sims Reeves. I must confess, with the exception of the above
telegram, I had detected no resemblance to the great tenor.

During the revival of _H.M.S. Pinafore_ at the Savoy, I received a
dreadful snub from one of the "Marines." The Marines were what is
theatrically known as "extra-gentlemen." They are not engaged to
sing, and therefore do not hold such a good position as the chorus.
If they have voices and can sing, they look forward naturally to
promotion. One of them asked me if I would hear him sing the "Ruler
of the Queen's Navee." I made an appointment with him to sing at my
house. After he finished the song, I said:

"I presume you desire me to recommend you to Mr. Carte for the

"Oh no, sir," he replied. "Mr. Carte has heard me, and says I'm not
good enough for the chorus; so I thought you could recommend me to
him to play _your_ parts on tour."

Singers, prima donnas especially, are, I believe, renowned for
little airs and graces; but these have little weight with Gilbert
and Sullivan. Conventionality is not recognised by them. One of the
many Josephines, during the first run of _Pinafore_, objected to
standing anywhere but in the centre of the stage, assuring Mr.
Gilbert that she had played in Italian opera, and was accustomed to
occupy that position and no other.

Gilbert said, most persuasively:

"Oh! but this is _not_ Italian opera; this is only a low burlesque
of the worst possible kind."

Gilbert says this sort of thing in such a quiet and serious way that
one scarcely knows whether he is joking or not.

During the revival of _The Mikado_, he was directing the
dress-rehearsal from the middle the stalls, as is his wont, and
suddenly called out:

"There is a gentleman in the left group not holding his fan

The stage manager, with his prompt-book and tall hat, immediately
appeared on the stage at the left side, and, calling to Mr. Gilbert,

"One gentleman is absent through illness, sir."

"Ah!" said Gilbert, perfectly seriously, "that is not the gentleman
I am referring to."

Yet another instance. The second act of _The Pirates of Penzance_
represents the interior of a ruined abbey by moonlight. Near the end
of the play General Stanley's daughters run on to the stage in
_peignoir_ and with lighted candles. This is the cue for turning up
the footlights and boarders.

_Mr. Gilbert_ (from the stalls): Mr. Seymour--Mr. Seymour!

_Seymour_ (the stage manager, appearing at the wings): Yes, sir.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ Don't let them turn the lights on the back cloth!

_Seymour:_ We have turned up all the lights, sir.

_Mr. Gilbert:_ Then don't do so. As much light in the front as you
like. Candles on the stage have a wonderful effect, I know. They
would light up the abbey, no doubt; but even stage candles wouldn't
light up the heavens beyond.

A great objection was taken, both by the press and a large section
of the public, to the title of _Ruddygore_, and the opera itself was
not favourably criticised. About a week after its production,
Gilbert turned up at the Savoy and said:

"I propose altering the title of the piece, and calling it
_Kensington Gore; or, Not so Good as The Mikado_."

Gilbert very properly objects to any business being interpolated
without his sanction, especially if its sole object is merely to
raise a laugh, and thereby stop the action of the piece. In _The
Mikado_, Miss Jessie Bond and I were kneeling side by side, with our
heads on the floor, and she used to give me a push, and I
accordingly rolled completely over. Gilbert asked me if I would mind
omitting that action on my part.

I replied:

"Certainly, if you wish it; but I get an enormous laugh by it."

"So you would if you sat on a pork-pie," replied he.

It is a very easy thing to get a laugh on the stage, and a very
difficult thing to sacrifice it. It has amused me intensely when
some of the gentlemen who play my parts on the country tour inform
me of certain laughs which they get when _they_ play. Some of them
have even kindly advised me of "new business" which they have

I quite agree with Mr. Gilbert in reference to the "pork-pie" method
of obtaining laughter; and I have often stated that my ambition is,
to play in a farce in which there is a bandbox placed carefully on
an arm-chair, and that the curtain should finally fall _without_ my
having sat on the box in question.

I have no intention of dwelling on the incidents attending the
production of each of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, but mine has
been rather an odd career. I have been on the stage over ten years,
and have only played regularly nine parts, including the Judge in
_Trial by Jury_. At a great benefit _matinee_, I have sometimes
taken some small part, but that I count as nothing: but of the above
I have, in one or two of the pieces, played the same part night
after night, and two performances on Saturday, for a year and a
half; while Sir Joseph Porter, in _H.M.S. Pinafore_, I played
incessantly for nearly two years.

I have been asked if long runs affect the nerves. I do not think
they affect the nerves so much as they affect the performance.
Constant repetition begets mechanism, and that is a dreadful enemy
to contend against. I try hard to fight against it personally, and I
believe I succeed. There is one thing I always do--I always play my
best to a bad house; for I think it a monstrous thing that an actor
should slur through his work because the stalls are empty, and
thereby punish those who _have_ come for the fault of those who have

Mrs. Howard Paul impressed so strongly upon me the importance and
the justness of playing one's best to a poor house, that I not only
have never forgotten her injunction, but have endeavoured to abide
by it.

To act without recognition, by applause, laughter, or tears, from an
audience is galling to an actor; but, fortunately, I have had a good
training in this respect in the private-house engagements, and have
got used to it.

In town, my audiences have sometimes displayed a want of enthusiasm,
which has been easily understood by everybody but myself; and in my
earlier days in the country I used to console myself with the fact
that if my entertainments did not _go_, the audience did, which was
a comfort and a relief.

I wonder if my friend Frank Thornton will be offended if I repeat an
oft-told story about him? I had the pleasure of knowing him in my
early entertaining days, and he himself was remarkably clever in
short sketches in character.

When I was first engaged at the Opera Comique to appear in _The
Sorcerer_, F. Thornton was "specially retained" to understudy me. I
believe he was very nearly engaged himself to play the part.
Fortunately for me, he was not.

During the first week he used to come to me each night, and ask how
I was. On my replying that I was "all right--never better," it
appeared to me that he departed with a disappointed look. His kind
enquiries were repeated, as I thought with extra anxiety; but still
I kept well, and showed no signs of fatigue. Then he began to insist
that I was not looking well; and I replied that, looks or no looks,
I felt perfectly well. Finally he came to me with a pill, which he
was certain would do for me. I was also certain that it would "_do_
for me," and declined to take it; I played nearly two hundred
consecutive nights of _The Sorcerer_, and nearly _seven hundred_ of
_H.M.S. Pinafore_, without missing a single performance.

About the third week of the subsequent piece, _The Pirates of
Penzance_, I was called away from the theatre through a domestic
affliction; and Frank Thornton, at literally a moment's notice, had
to don the Major-General's uniform and play my part. It goes without
saying that his was an excellent performance, as those who saw his
excessively funny impersonation of the cramped old aesthete in
_Patience_ will easily understand.

The domestic affliction referred to was the sudden death of my
father on April 24th, 1880. At the beginning of this book I stated
that I should not deal with the shadows of my life. Nor shall I,
beyond stating that the shock to me was so terrible that I often
wonder now whether I have quite recovered it. My poor darling mother
never did, and she followed him in a year and ten months after.

There was scarcely a paper in Great Britain and Ireland that did not
refer to him in the most affectionate terms. If his loss was felt so
much by people who knew him only slightly, what must it have been to
his two sons, who idolised the very ground he walked upon? His last
lecture was on "Dickens and his Works" (Dickens was his favourite
subject), and was delivered at Wrexham on April 22nd, two days
before his decease; and the kind clergyman who entertained him on
the occasion wrote one of the first and sweetest letters of sympathy
that I received.

I should like to say that my father was more than astonished at the
result of my appearances in _The Sorcerer_, _Pinafore_, and
_Pirates_, and was extremely proud of my stage appearances. He was
easily pleased, no doubt; but it was a great source of comfort to me
to know he _was_ pleased.

Soon after the first production of _The Sorcerer_ in 1887, I had
occasion to go one morning to Maidenhead by train. I occupied a
carriage with a lady and three gentlemen, all of one party. The
conversation, which I could not help hearing--and unfortunately
listeners never hear good of themselves--turned on Gilbert and
Sullivan's new and original form of opera. Suddenly, one of the
three gentlemen began to criticise my performance in no
complimentary terms. The lady, to my joy, differed with my critic,
and it appeared for a moment as if all would end happily. Not a bit
of it. The two other gentlemen joined in, and began to find fault
with my personal appearance as well as my voice (or want of it). The
lady still gallantly defended me, but in doing so she only added
fuel to the fire; and judging from the tone and manner in which the
two last-named gentlemen contradicted her, I could only come to the
conclusion that they were her brothers. I suppose I ought to have
stopped them; but for the life of me I could not think of a method
of doing so. The train, however, began to pull up at Slough; so I
determined to change carriages. I took out my card-case, and wrote
in pencil on one of my cards, "Thanks awfully," and placed it on the
seat beside the two gentlemen previously to making my exit from the
compartment. My only regret is, I am not in a position to describe
what followed.

This incident reminds me of another, an occasion on which I
indirectly denied myself. In 1878, when _H.M.S. Pinafore_ was first
produced at the Opera Comique, I always used to give a musical
sketch at the piano at the Saturday afternoon performances after the
opera. I had some appointment at Kensington, and went to the Temple
Station at the conclusion of the performance and got into a
first-class carriage of the Underground Railway. Opposite to me sat
a middle-aged gentleman with a good-looking lad. The gentleman
stared at me hard, and I saw at once that he had recognised me--an
easy matter, considering my sketches were, and still are, always
given _in propria persona_. He whispered to the boy, and the boy's
eyes also became riveted on me. I felt like one of Madame Tussaud's
waxworks; although, from the manner in which the gentleman and the
boy sat and stared, they really resembled the effigies more than I
did. At last the gentleman moved. He took from his pocket the book
of the libretto of _Pinafore_ and peered into it, taking good care
to hold the outside cover with title towards me, so that I might see
what he was reading. Of course, I took not the slightest notice of
his actions; but I had great difficulty in restraining a smile as
the boy began to whistle the air of "The Ruler of the Queen's
Navee." The gentleman was not to be defeated: he handed me the book,
and the following conversation took place between the Gentleman and
the Clown:

_Gent.:_ I beg your pardon; I fancy you must be well acquainted with
that play?

_Clown_ (turning over leaves of book casually): Oh! yes. I know it
very well.

_Gent.:_ Well, if _you_ do not know it well, I should like to know
who does?

_Clown_ (handing back book): I do not quite follow you?

_Gent.:_ I should have thought you knew it backwards.

_Clown:_ That I certainly do not.

_Gent.:_ You've heard it often enough?

_Clown:_ One cannot help that. It is on all the street bands.

_Gent.:_ And seen it too?

_Clown:_ No; I am going to see it next Wednesday.

[There was to be a morning performance of one of Mr. D'Oyly Carte's
country companies.]

_Gent.:_ Well, that's very odd. You'll excuse me, you are exactly
like George Grossmith.

_Clown:_ I knew you were going to say that. Do you know nearly
everybody takes me for Mr. Grossmith?

_Gent.:_ I am very sorry. I meant no offence.

_Clown:_ Pray don't mention it. I regard it as a great compliment.

_Gent.:_ Oh, I 'm very glad!

_Railway Porter_ (in distance): Sloane Square! Sloane Square!!

_Gent.:_ We get out here. Good afternoon.

_Clown:_ Good afternoon.

(_Exeunt_ Gentleman and Juvenile by the carriage-door, prompt side.
Clown, in spite of the printed warning in front of him, proceeded to
place his feet on the opposite cushions.)

A friend of mine, who is (or at all events was) a member of the
Scottish Club, mistook Mr. W. S. Penley, the popular actor, for me
once on the platform of Waterloo Station. My enthusiastic friend
slapped the "Rev. Mr. Spalding" on the back and said:

"Hulloa, Grossmith! How are you? Come and sup after the play next
Saturday at Dover Street?"

Penley replied, in the clerical tone characteristic of him:

"I beg your pardon, I'm not Grossmith; but I shall be very pleased
to have supper with you."

Another railway recognition story. I was coming up with a party of
friends from Ascot, and we were journeying by one of those
delightful trains on the S. W. Railway which not only stop at every
station, but between each station as well. We stayed at one place a
particularly long time; and as a serious-looking station-master
faced the window of the carriage in which we were, one of the ladies
begged of me to "chaff" him about the slowness of the train.
Chaffing is a vulgar habit; but, unfortunately, it is a habit to
which I am occasionally addicted. We all have our amusements; and it
is not my fault that I do not possess the brave spirit which induces
a man to hunt across country and torture a beautiful creature like a
deer until, through sheer fright, it takes a leap through the window
of a railway station. I prefer to torture one of my own
fellow-creatures; for he often stands a fair chance of getting the
best of it. The deer never does!

I saw that the serious and stolid station-master was a good subject
for chaff; but, as a matter of fact, the whim was not on me. But in
deference to the general wish of my friendly travellers, I addressed
the station-master as follows:

"I say, station-master, you ought to be ashamed of this line."

The serious official replied:

"So I am."

This scored the first laugh against me. Some of the ladies
encouraged me, and said, "Go on, go on;" "Get a rise out of him,"
&c. I tried again, and this time observed weakly:

"Why don't you get something better to do?"

My victim, never changing his serious aspect, replied:

"You mean, why don't _you_ get me something better to do."

This was a real knock-down blow. I came up staggering and a little
dazed. My victim, seeing his chance, led the attack:

"Anything more to say?"

I feebly answered:

"No. Have you?"

He said:

"No--except that you act a good deal better here than you do at the

The next day I thought of fifty good things I might have said. Alas!
how easily things go wrong!

In taking leave of my readers on the subject of my theatrical
career, I feel I ought, in justice to myself, to state that all my
first appearances are completely marred by uncontrollable
nervousness. I am more than nervous--I am absolutely ill.

The first night of _The Mikado_ I shall never forget the longest day
I live. It must have appeared to all that I was doing my best to
spoil the piece. But what with my own want of physical strength,
prostration through the numerous and very long rehearsals, my
anxiety to satisfy the author, the rows of critics (oh, please do
not be hard on me!), rendered _blase_ by the modern custom of half a
dozen ridiculous and senseless _matinees_ a week, I lose my voice,
the little of it there is, my confidence and, what, I maintain, is
the most valuable of all to me, my own individuality. In fact, I
plead guilty to what Mr. Richard Barker declared me to be on these
occasions, "a lamentable spectacle."

In concluding this chapter, let me offer my hearty thanks to Sir
Arthur Sullivan for having thought of me, to D'Oyly Carte for having
engaged me, to W. S. Gilbert for having advised me, and last, but
not least, to the generous public for having tolerated me.


A Society Clown.

funny fellows, comic men and clowns of private life,
They'd none of them be missed--they'd none of them be missed."
                              _The Mikado._

One dull day during the end of the year 1873, the Police Court
having adjourned, I went into a ham and beef shop at the corner of
Bow Street to get a sandwich. I generally did this when I had not
sufficient time to get a proper lunch, so presume I must have been
occupied in the very arduous duties of taking notes of an important
case, and jotting down suggestions for a new song or sketch at the
same moment--at all times a difficult task, involving a deal of
confusion. While purchasing my modest meal a little dog entered the
shop. Its very tall and slim owner (for he was very slim in those
days) whistled to the dog to come out. I presume the dog had reasons
for staying in the shop, so the owner had no other option than to
walk in and carry the animal out bodily. The owner and I greeted
each other:

"How do you do, Mr. Grain?"
"How do you do, Mr. Grossmith?"

We did not know each other so well in those days as we do now, and
were naturally a little formal in our method of address.

I enquired, as a matter of course, how his new song was going at the
Gallery of Illustration? He enquired how mine was going at the
Polytechnic? He then told me that he was preparing sketches, for the
purpose of giving professionally at private houses during the
forthcoming season. I had no idea that this sort of thing was done
(I must have been very ignorant, I fear), and in reply to my
questions he enlightened me on many points which were of the utmost
interest, and subsequent importance to me. I remember asking him if
the work was agreeable, and if the people were nice. His answer, I
recollect, was very characteristic of him. "Very," he said; "and,
what is more important, it pays well." He also told me that John
Parry used to sing professionally at private houses. This decided
me; for I knew that what was good enough for John Parry and Corney
Grain, was more than good enough for me.

"Well," I said, "I think I shall try it, Mr. Grain."

"I certainly should if I were you," he replied.

We said the usual "good-bye at the door;" he departed with his dog
into Covent Garden, and I departed with my sandwich into Bow Street.

It so happened that I was going, a few evenings afterwards, to a
large musical party near Harley Street, and I decided, if I sang, to
try the whole of "The Silver Wedding," the sketch I was then giving
at the Polytechnic, instead of the plain comic song which I had
generally "obliged with." The hostess, when the time came for me to
volunteer, expressed herself much delighted at my proposed
innovation. The grand piano was turned as I wanted it, and a little
table (supposed to represent the supper table), with wine decanter
and glass, was placed to my right. All these preparations, instead
of causing the proceedings to flag as one would naturally suppose,
only increased the excitement--such as there was, or could be at a
private party. I was more than pleased at the result--I was
astonished. For instance, I felt sure the imitation after-supper
speeches would lose their entire effect from the want of a platform
and footlights. The sketch lasted quite half an hour, which I feared
would have been thought too long. To my surprise, I was asked if I
would mind giving another. However, I let well alone and did not
give any more that evening, but took the hint I received from Corney
Grain, and began to prepare some sketches specially.

At my next parties I tried "The Puddleton Penny Readings," and
"Theatricals at Thespis Lodge," with the same result.

I then went to Mr. George Dolby, who had been Charles Dickens's
agent and manager in America, and who had at that time offices in
Bond Street, and told him I intended trying the private work. He
said it was a capital idea, and he would, in all probability, be
able to get me several engagements during the following June and
July, which was the busy time for private concerts, &c.

In the meanwhile a clergyman, from Windsor, communicated with me
through one of the musical libraries in Bond Street, and secured my
services for an evening party at his house; and it is with great
satisfaction that I record the circumstance that I was recommended
by Corney Grain, who was first applied to, but unable, for some
reason, to accept for himself. After my recent conversation with him
on the subject, I thought it most kind of him to perform an action
which I should never have dreamed of asking him to do.

The next two seasons I was occupied in forming and increasing a
connection. George Dolby sent me several engagements in London, when
he found the first one I fulfilled for him passed off without
complaint! Then, in time, came the best sign of all that I was
progressing; viz., the people began to write to me personally. At
first I found it terribly uphill work. If the people do not know the
singer they wont listen, on the paradoxical principle that they
sometimes wont listen if they _do_ know him. Some are wonderfully
well-known and have a facility for clearing the room almost as
remarkable as have some reciters. The "chandelier-shaker" is
invariably a "room-clearer." If in my earlier days (or even now for
the matter of fact) people displayed no anxiety to hear me, I felt
thankful if they did quit the room. Such conduct is preferable to
that of the more fashionable people who stop in and talk.

It is a very easy thing for the ordinary drawing-room amateur comic
singer to make a success. He has only to watch his opportunity. He
will wait, perhaps, till his audience and himself have had supper,
and all are in the mood to be amused. But let him go professionally
to a dull after-dinner party, where no one knows him, and he finds
eight or nine elderly ladies yawning and wondering _when_ the
gentlemen will come up and join them. Let him try that audience. If
he can amuse them, he will not only be satisfied at receiving his
cheque, but will be conscious of the fact that he has thoroughly
earned it. I feel a special delight in persevering in waking up an
audience like that. I resort to all sorts of measures by which I can
do so.

Once I was singing at a private house in the country to an odd
assortment of people. I was informed that the party followed a
wedding which had taken place in the morning. If it had followed a
funeral, it would have accounted for the general depression and
gloom which prevailed. I played the piano and the fool for
three-quarters of an hour, and anything more dismal than the result
it would be impossible to imagine. A temptation seized me suddenly,
and I said:

"Ladies and Gentlemen,--I am going to reveal to you a secret. Pray
don't let it go any further. This is supposed to be a comic
entertainment. I don't expect you to laugh at it in the least; but
if, during the next sketch, you would only once oblige me with a
Society smile, it would give me a great deal of encouragement."

The audience for a moment were dumbfounded. They first began to
titter, then to laugh, and actually to roar, and for a time I could
not proceed with the sketch. They were transformed into a capital
and enthusiastic audience; and the hostess told me that both her
guests and herself were most grateful to me.

I am frequently asked if I like giving my entertainments in private
houses, and I answer most emphatically that I do. I never feel so
much in my element as when I have a nice piano on a dais, and a
seated audience of educated and well-dressed people, in a handsome
drawing-room. It is a pleasure to me to sing to them; and although I
occupy an hour and a half--sometimes more--over the three musical
sketches which I usually give, I feel quite sorry when I have

I have never received unkindness from anyone--quite the reverse. So
much hospitality and good-will have been extended towards me by
people who are utter strangers, and whose associations with me have
been purely of a business character, that I often have wondered what
I have done to deserve it all.

There are the usual "four to seven" afternoon parties. I have a
little dread of what is known as the "smart" evening parties in
London. The large suites of rooms will be comparatively empty at
eleven o'clock; but in a quarter of an hour the guests will stream
in in hundreds. Then they block up all the rooms and staircases,
while thirty or forty will crowd round the grand piano and exclude
the rest from any chance of seeing or hearing the unfortunate
singer. In half or three-quarters of an hour the rooms will be empty
again. But I must say a "smart" party is at all times an interesting
sight: the beautiful dresses, the array of diamonds, the stars and
garters, especially if a Royal function is taking place the same
evening, so that people are "going on" or "have come on from." Yet
with all this grandeur it does seem such an anomaly, among so much
greatness, so much wealth, to hear such a babel of idiotic
conversation even from the mouths of the most able representatives
of the Houses of Lords and Commons. The greater the people, the
smaller the talk.

Music on such an occasion is quite out of place, and I never can
understand why the hostess arranges to have any. A grand reception,
I take it, is a reception, and not a concert. It is impossible to
combine the two. I do not blame the people on these occasions for
talking: they cannot even get into the room where the music is.
Sometimes, by adopting the fashionable process of spitefully digging
your way through people, you may get near the piano, and even a
glimpse of the singer. Yes, there he is--a well-known drawing-room
tenor, perhaps, who has received fifty guineas to sing a couple of
songs. You see him simply indulging, apparently, in a dumb-show
performance. The windows are open behind him, and there is a perfect
din of the "clinking" of the harness of hundreds of horses in the
road outside, intermingled with lusty shouts from the linkmen, with
trombone voices, far and near: "Lady Peckham Rye's carriage next;"
"Col. Waterloo Rhodes's carriage stops the way;" "Mrs. Bompleton's
servant," "Coming out," "Coming in," "Baron Bosch's carriage--no

Fortunately I cannot arrive at such parties until about a quarter to
twelve at night (having, of course, my usual engagement at the Savoy
to fulfil), and by that time the rooms have cleared a little, either
through departure of guests for another party or for supper below.
The chairs are suddenly produced in a semi-circle round the piano,
and I am turned on to wind up the evening, having previously wound
up myself. And I do wind up myself sometimes, even to the extent of
getting the livelier and more juvenile members of the aristocracy,
as the end of my entertainment approaches, to join, without
invitation, in the chorus of "The Duke of Seven Dials," "See me
Dance the Polka," or "The Happy Fatherland," according to the
jingling nature of the song.

It was at a reception of this sort at a ducal mansion that I
overheard a rather rude enquiry respecting myself. I arrived after
my performance at the theatre, and I was leaving the drawing-room
with her Grace in order to arrange for a slight alteration of the
position of the piano, which had been placed so that only back of my
head could be seen, and I am willing to confess that I have not much
expression there. The Duke, who is tolerably well-known for his
brusque and autocratic manner, addressing her Grace in my presence,
said, "Has that fellow arrived yet?" The Duchess looked terribly
confused, and glanced at the Duke and myself alternately, but I did
not answer. As the Duke repeated the question with the amount of
severity that a husband is always privileged to use towards his
wife, I replied politely, "Yes, your Grace, that fellow has
arrived." With that I walked away and directed the servants to move
the piano, and out of revenge I determined to exert my utmost to
make my entertainment go well. Although his Grace was rude to his
wife, of course he did not intend to be rude to me; for immediately
the first sketch was over he came and told me how pleased he was
with it.

Although I have never been treated with any rudeness, still I have
been often amused by the peculiarities of people.

A gentleman wrote to me for the purpose of engaging me, and, rightly
or wrongly, asked me if my sketches were quite _comme il faut_, as
he had several young daughters. I was so immensely tickled by this,
that, also rightly or wrongly, I replied that my entertainments
_were_ as they should be; for I was recently married, and hoped
myself to have several young daughters. He wrote thanking me for
this assurance, and I was to consider myself accordingly engaged.

I never like arriving early at these afternoon engagements; and if I
arrive late, my hostess gets naturally anxious. It depresses me to
have to stand in a drawing-room which has been cleared of every
stick of furniture for the occasion, and to watch the arrival of the
solemn-looking ladies and their daughters, who generally attend such
gatherings early. The young men never turn up till about five or
half-past. In order to avoid this, I write to my hostess to tell her
of the time I shall arrive, which I fix at about half or three
quarters of an hour after the hour for which her invitations have
been issued. The consequence is that when I arrive the room is full;
people have warmed themselves into a general conversation, and I
walk straight to the piano and commence my first half-hour without
more ado.

Sometimes--very rarely--a lady will politely request me to arrive a
little before the time: of course I comply with this request, and
make the best of it, but during the latter part of June and the
first few weeks in July it is no joke. I have arrived punctually at
a "four to seven" party, and have not commenced my first sketch till
a quarter to six; the day having been fine and the guests all
driving in the park. During those months people do not arrive until
five, and then they appear to have one eye on me and the other on
the tea. The audience is composed almost entirely of ladies--but I
like them.

Some years ago I was most particularly requested by one anxious and
evidently very nervous lady to arrive punctually on a certain
afternoon. I arrived, and was received most cordially by the
hostess, who, to my delight, had the room arranged with chairs so
that the people could sit down; but on my arrival only one chair was
occupied, and that was by a boy in an Eton jacket, who was seated
himself at the extreme end of the room. I waited a full
three-quarters of an hour before a single person arrived. In the
meanwhile the lady handed me a little pink envelope enclosing what
Sir Digby Grant, in _The Two Roses_, designates "a little cheque." I
placed it hastily in my pocket, and was much amused by the lady
approaching me shortly afterwards and saying, "Have you got it quite

I enquired what?

She replied, "The little envelope."

I said, "Oh yes, thank you."

"Oh, that is all right," she said. "It seemed to me you placed it
rather carelessly in your pocket."

"Oh, it was not carelessness," I assured her; "only bashfulness."

At a quarter to five two ladies arrived, and at five the hostess,
addressing me, said:

"Would you mind commencing now? Some of the audience have been here
nearly an hour."

This, I presume, had reference to the Eton boy at the back of the
room, who came before time.

"With pleasure," I remarked. I opened the grand piano and commenced
the first item. I had not been at it more than ten minutes when the
two ladies got up, and, shaking hands with the hostess, said they
were so sorry they could not stay any longer, but they had to meet
some friends at another party before half-past five. I therefore
continued the next twenty minutes of the sketch to the solitary boy,
whose totally immovable face gave me no idea as to whether he was
enjoying the entertainment or not. The room soon began to fill with
extraordinary rapidity. At the conclusion of the entertainment the
hostess again, in a whisper, asked if I still had the envelope quite
safe. I pulled it half-way out of my breast coat-pocket, and said,
with a smile and a nod, "It's all right, you see."

She laughed and replied:

"Oh, yes; I see it's all right."

At the foot of the stairs I encountered the Eton boy with the
serious face. He had stayed till the very last. I said:

"Well, weren't you bored with all the rot I've been talking?"

He replied:

"No; it was awfully jolly. I wish there had been more of it."

There was no affectation about the boy, and his simple answer gave
me much satisfaction.

If I had not spoken, he would have said nothing. How very different
from the lady who has been talking on the staircase at the top of
her voice, who has never once listened or even glanced towards the
piano, but who, on seeing you pass by, greets you with:

"What a wonderful man you are! How _can_ you think of all these
things? You are quite too delightful!"

I have frequently been amused at the amount of diffidence displayed
by people when handing me the honorarium. Sometimes the hostess will
thank me profusely, and, in shaking hands, squeeze the little
envelope into my palm.

Some ladies will say loudly, "Good-bye, and thank you so much." Then
softly, "I will write you to-morrow."

Some ladies will whisper mysteriously, "You will hear from my
husband to-morrow." This at first sounds rather awful; but the
husband's communication is pleasant and most welcome.

The _Pall Mall Gazette_ published a most amusing sketch of an
elderly gentleman paying me in specie in the middle of the room, and
dropping the sovereigns all over the floor.

A very wealthy gentleman drove up to my father's house, about
fifteen years ago, in a carriage and pair and with gorgeous livery,
for the purpose of securing my services. I was out of town at the
time; so my father mentioned my fee, which was not very exorbitant
in those days. The gentleman was not inclined to give more than
half; so my discriminating parent "closed" with him. I do not mean
in the pugilistic sense of the word, but that he accepted the terms
on my behalf. I fulfilled the engagement; and when I saw the lovely
mansion, with its magnificent drawing-room, I wondered a little at
my host having suggested a reduction in the fee. I do not wonder
now: I have experienced still more wonderful things since then. The
gentleman himself was very kind, as far as I remember. I was only a
beginner, and in all probability he did not even know my name
perfectly. He paid me on the first landing, and a shilling slipped
through his fingers and rolled down the staircase. I was about to
roll down after it, when he stopped me, saying:

"Please don't trouble; here's another."

As I went out of the door I beheld my host and about four liveried
servants hunting for the lost coin.

As far as my own feelings are concerned, I experience no particular
delicacy as to the manner in which I am paid. I prefer the cheque to
be sent on a day or two after; and I least like the medical-man
custom of slipping the fee into the hand as you depart. You cannot,
under such circumstances, shake hands naturally or with comfort; and
there is always the chance of a sovereign falling on the oilcloth,
to say nothing of the risk of banging your heads together as you
both politely dive after it. Why should I be bashful, when I see
members of the aristocracy selling goods over a counter, and taking
the money and giving change in exactly the same manner as the
ordinary tradesman?

A young gentleman once called upon me. He explained that he was
acting as a sort of ambassador for a friend of his, Mrs. ----, of
Mayfair, who wished me to dine at her house. I replied that I had
not the honour of the lady's acquaintance, and, though appreciating
her kind invitation, did not exactly see how I could very well avail
myself of it. He said that Prince Somebody-orother and La Comtesse
de Soandso would be dining there, and Mrs. ---- would be so pleased
if I would join the party, and sing a little song after dinner.

"Oh," I said, "if Mrs. ---- wishes to engage me professionally, that
is another matter, and, if I am at liberty, I will come with much

"Oh," said the ambassador, "I fancy Mrs. ---- is under the
impression that if she includes you in her dinner-party, it is an
understood thing that you sing afterwards."

"I am afraid I do not understand that," I said. "It would not pay me
to do so. I only consume about ten shillings' worth of food and
wine, and my terms are more than that."

Sometimes, at private houses, I am retained to take part in a
concert, and not give the entire entertainment myself; and it is
astonishing to what expense a hostess will sometimes go to entertain
and amuse her guests.

I used to be engaged every year by a lady who lived in quite a small
house, in a street turning out of Lowndes Square. Beyond a choice
collection of old china, there was no outward display of wealth. Her
guests at her afternoon parties I should not imagine exceeded forty
in number, and these were always made to sit down. She declared she
would not have her entertainments spoiled by a crowd, and she was
perfectly right.

One afternoon when I was singing there she had a well-known soprano,
tenor and pianist, a lady and gentleman who gave recitals in
costume, and Senor Sarasate, the violinist. On another occasion she
engaged several well-known singers, also Madame Norman Neruda (who,
I remember, played exquisitely on that occasion), while the comic
element was supplied by Miss Fanny Leslie and myself. On neither of
the above afternoons could the entertainment have cost the hostess
much less than £150.

Sometimes I am engaged with only one singer, who, the host will
explain, will be able to effectually fill up my intervals of rest.
Clifford Harrison (the most talented and most popular of
drawing-room reciters) and I, have been engaged together--a
combination which has been most agreeable to me. I have also been
engaged on two or three occasions with Corney Grain, which was a
case (as he humorously put it) of "one down, the other come on."

Once I received a letter saying, "Besides yourself, I have secured
an _ocarina_."

I do not know if I have spelt it properly, but, for the life of me,
I could not tell what an ocarina was. I found it was an oval-shaped
instrument, of jet black, which emitted sounds the notes of a flute
with a very bad cold. The performer looked, while playing it, as if
he were eating a large potato.

Perhaps the most interesting professional engagement I have ever
fulfilled in private was at the residence of Mr. John Aird, M.P.,
Hyde Park Terrace, on the 17th June, 1887.

It was Jubilee year, and the amiable and generous host was evidently
determined to treat his guests to a novel entertainment. He wanted
something that had not been done before, and instructed his friend,
Rutland Barrington, to look out for an original entertainment. A
suggestion came eventually from Mr. Fred Leslie, the clever actor,
that the screen scene from _The School for Scandal_ should be
performed in a dumb show. Barrington and Leslie discussed the
matter, and it was arranged that there should be no costumes, and
that the silent actions of the performers should be described by a
lecturer. Mr. Aird was delighted with the idea, and determined that
the piece should be well cast. I feel sure the reader will be
interested to know who took part in the performance; so I append the

Sir Peter Teazle ... ... ... Mr. ARTHUR CECIL.
Joseph Surface   ... ... ... Mr. FRED. LESLIE.
Charles Surface  ... ... ... Mr. CORNEY GRAIN.
Servant      ... ... ... ... Mr. DURWARD LELY.
Lady Teazle      ... ... ... Mr. GEORGE GROSSMITH.
Lecturer     ... ... ... ... Mr. RUTLAND BARRINGTON.

At the Piano ... Mr. MUNROE COWARD.

The skit had been carefully rehearsed several times, and Mr. Aird
("our manager," as we called him) attended all the rehearsals in the
most business-like manner, and gave some valuable suggestions. The
performance, which lasted about twenty-five minutes, went with a
roar of laughter from beginning to end.

I thought it stood a chance of being successful, but had no idea it
would succeed so well as it did. Barrington's introduction and
description were very funny. He commenced by explaining that a
dramatic license had at the last moment been refused us, and we were
not, therefore, permitted to speak any dialogue; but he would stand
at the side and explain the plot and performance as they proceeded.
He also added that another disappointment had been experienced by
the non-arrival of the costumes, and apologised for the screen being
a glass one, but it was the only one he could get. Although our
actions were at times extravagant, still we played with great
seriousness. There was no ridiculous "mugging," which always spoils
a burlesque performance. There was no conventional comic walk,
strut, or pantaloon gait. We discarded the usual knowing grin which
always seems to say, "I'm the funny man; prepare to laugh." An
audience never requires to be told in this fashion that a man is
funny; they are quite capable of discovering the fact for
themselves. A carroty wig and a red nose can no more make a comedian
than a coat can make a man. It was the extreme seriousness of the
opening scene between Leslie and Cecil, as Joseph and Sir Peter,
that set the audience off at the very beginning. Fred. Leslie was
simply immense. His natural look of extreme horror when Sir Peter
indicated he suspected Charles Surface simply convulsed the people.
Arthur Cecil was excessively funny in his relation of his quarrels
with her ladyship. He was as melancholy as all the Sir Peters ever
played put together; and the following was the climax:

_The Lecturer_ (Barrington): Sir Peter will now express that in
their last quarrel, Lady Teazle almost hinted that she should not
break her heart if he was dead.

Arthur Cecil did a little dumb-show action, then quietly rose from
his chair and lay at full length on the stage, on his back.

When the servant entered, and Charles Surface was announced,
Barrington said:

"Joseph Surface says, ''Sdeath, blockhead! I'm not within.'"
[Suitable action by Leslie.]

_Lecturer:_ Joseph Surface says he is "out for the day." Observe,
ladies and gentlemen, how Joseph describes being out for the day.

Here Leslie put on his opera-hat, seized an imaginary partner, and
began waltzing round, _a la_ Rosherville Gardens.

Charles Surface was eventually introduced.

_Lecturer:_ Charles Surface now enters. Please observe, ladies and
gentlemen, that Charles Surface is "fast."

The entrance of Corney Grain, with his hat very much on one side,
and his thumbs stuck in his waistcoat, as emblems of fastness, may
be imagined better than described. In fact, it is quite impossible
to describe the performance. All I can say is, that it had to be
repeated; and, whether it was artistic or not, Mr. Luke Fildes,
R.A., and Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A., attended both performances.

It may be asked how we managed to conclude the performance. After
the screen was thrown down--for which, of course, there was no
necessity; for through the glass could distinctly be seen her
ladyship, with a plate of sandwiches and a glass of wine--the
Lecturer said:

"All having been satisfactorily explained--"

At this abrupt announcement, without any action to justify it, there
was continued laughter.

"According to the present fashion which prevails in revivals of old
comedies, a minuet _a la mode_ will be danced."

Munroe Coward arranged "Oh, the Jubilee!" a seasonable and popular
comic song, _a la_ minuet, in a most skilful manner; and to this we
danced and made our bows, with the exception of myself, who, arrayed
in an antimacassar, indulged in my very best _courtesy_.

Our host and hostess, whose reputation for kindness and hospitality
cannot be surpassed, placed everything in our way to help us, and
were so interested themselves that I know I can say, on the part of
the players, that our labour was one of love. Our audience showed
pretty plainly that they enjoyed the performance, and I know we did.

I have given entertainments at the houses of all sorts and
conditions of men, and all sorts of places. Once I sang at a large
christening party. I should think sixty or seventy people sat down
to lunch. The health of the baby was, of course, proposed, and the
baby was produced and handed round to all the guests to kiss. It
stood this trying ordeal with perfect good humour; but the darling
little boy was obliged to draw the line somewhere, and so he drew it
at me. He set up a series of howls which alarmed the whole
party--especially the nurse, who darted at me a look of unmistakable
indignation. If I had surreptitiously pinched the little treasure,
the look of the nurse could not have been more terrible. She
departed with the baby, and soothed it with the following pleasant
remark about myself:

"Was 'im frightened by an ugly man den?"

I am very fond of children, and I flatter myself that children are
fond of me, as a rule. But there are exceptions, of course; and I
will relate another of them.

A great friend of mine, whose country house is not a thousand miles
away from Twyford, has a bonny little boy, who, at the age of about
a year and a half, took a sudden dislike to my _pince nez_, and
began to squall the moment I entered the room. From a humorous
spirit of mischief, the fond mother in future held me up as a bogey
to the boy. If he was fractious, the following threat was held out
to him:

"If you are not good, _I will call Mr. Grossmith;_" or, "If you do
not eat your food, I shall send you into the room where _Mr.
Grossmith is_."

This always had the desired effect. I believe I have been useful in
a variety of ways, but this is the only time I have been required as
a bogey to frighten children. As a sequel to the story, I may say
the boy is a little older now, and we are very good friends; in
fact, the last time I saw him he, of his own accord, selected me as
his companion to spend an entire afternoon in the garden collecting

An amusing series of incidents was the result of an engagement which
I fulfilled at the residence of a gentleman in Kent. On going to the
Opera Comique one evening, I found a gentleman waiting for me at the
stage-door. He introduced himself as the head clerk of Mr. A----, a
distinguished manufacturer, who was desirous of obtaining my
services for an evening party, to be given in honour of the coming
of age of young Mr. A----, at the family mansion in Kent. I invited
the head clerk to my dressing-room; for, as we were about to close
the theatre for a short time, I knew there was a possibility of my
being able to accept the engagement. The clerk at once commenced the
conversation by saying that he did a little acting himself--"only as
an amateur, of course." I had no reason to doubt his statement,
seeing that he had shaved his moustache off and grown his hair to an
inordinate length behind.

"Now," said he, coming to the business point of the transaction,
"Mr. A---- wants to know how much you charge, first."

I enlightened him on that matter.

"Well, I dare say that'll be all right. Mr. A---- means to spare no
expense. But the great thing is--what sort of entertainment do you

I explained that I took my seat at the piano, and chatted, played,
and sang, after the manner of John Parry.

"Is there no change of costumes? Don't you require any scenery or

"No," I replied. "I'm simply like one of the guests, except that I
do something and they don't."

"Oh," said the clerk, a little puzzled, "one of the guests? I must
see Mr. A---- about that. I don't think he understands that."

"Well," I observed, "you had better see that he understands that
before we proceed any further."

The head clerk said, "Good-night," and left the room, with a gait
that seemed to hit the happy medium between the walk of Henry Irving
and the stride of a pantomimic policeman.

The next night he returned, with profuse apologies, stating that Mr.
A---- of course would receive me as a guest, and would feel honoured
at making my acquaintance.

This was rather going to extremes, I thought; but the fault was on
the right side. I booked the date, and eventually "attended the
evening party." I shall never forget it. I was received as a
guest--as _the_ guest, in fact--and no mistake about it. My
reception was enormous. Young Mr. A----, who had come of age, was,
comparatively speaking, nowhere. I was introduced to nearly
everybody--or, more strictly speaking, everybody was _presented_ to
me. My entertainments were never better received. They were given at
intervals during the dancing. I danced with the most attractive
dancers, whom the host compelled to dance with me.

I enjoyed it immensely.

I don't think they did, and am positive their displaced partners did

Shortly after midnight the supper-rooms were thrown open, and I was
requested to take the hostess in to supper. No royal prince could
have been treated better than I was. An elderly clergyman quoted
from my entertainment in proposing the health of young Mr. A----, on
the auspicious occasion of his coming of age. Young Mr.
A---- followed the clergyman's example in returning thanks. Then, to
my utter surprise, Mr. A---- sen., proposed my health, and thanked
me for coming down.

I returned thanks; and as there was a risk of an anti-climax, I
rose--with an amount of consummate impudence which, I am sorry to
say, is a little characteristic of me--and proposed the health of
the host and hostess, on the plea that I was the oldest friend of
the family, and had known them all their lives. This observation was
received with continued roars of laughter. I did not, and do not
even now, think it funny; but please remember, after a good
champagne supper, people will roar at anything.

We returned to the drawing-room. I sang again, and then came the
hour for my departure, for I had to drive all the way to town.

Mr. A---- stood in the middle of the room and shouted:

"Silence for a moment. All those who have been delighted with Mr.
Grossmith, please hold up their hands."

Up went all the hands with the exception of those belonging to the
displaced partners. Mr. A----, with much forethought, for which I
mentally thanked him, refrained from appealing to the "noes."

Continuing his thanks, Mr. A---- said:

"We are all much obliged to you, Mr. Grossmith; and"--here he
fumbled in his right-hand pocket--"and if ever you want a little
rest, we shall give you a hearty welcome if you like to stay here;
and"--here he seized my right hand, and I felt an envelope being
forced into it--"and mind you come. Good-bye. I think you'll find
that right," referring to the cheque, of course.

On eventually examining the cheque, I found it was written for an
amount nearly double my fee.

I daresay many will think the cordiality extended towards me by Mr.
A---- was ostentatious, if not absolutely vulgar. All I can say is,
it was infinitely to be preferred to the reception I once received
from a lady of title who invited me to her party, who had not
engaged me professionally, but who welcomed me at the top of her
staircase with a vacant look and the following observation in her
most aristocratic tone:

"How late you are! Will you sing now?"

I need scarcely say there was no song; but there was a supper, of
which I took full advantage.

Yet another incident, which occurred in my dressing-room at the
Opera Comique, and which is indelible on my memory:

A laird sent his Scotch butler to me one evening to make inquiries
respecting my entertainment. The butler, an elderly, pompous, and
exceedingly stupid man, produced a piece of note-paper containing a
string of questions which he was instructed to ask me.

The first question was: "Can Mr. Grossmith give an entertainment at
Aberdeen on Jan.----?"

I replied that my nightly engagement at the theatre would totally
prevent my accepting an engagement at Aberdeen. I could only sing at
afternoon parties in town, or a short distance from it.

The butler, with a broad Scotch accent, which I need not imitate
here, said:

"Ye'll have the goodness to answer this question, please. 'Can Mr.
Grossmith give an entertainment at Aberdeen on Jan.----?'"

"No; I cannot," I replied.

The butler continued reading:

"'What will be his terms?'"

"But I cannot go," I argued.

"Ye'll save a deal o' time if ye'll answer the questions, please.
What'll be the terms?"

"Well, we will say a hundred guineas, as I can't go," I answered,
endeavouring to restrain myself from bursting out laughing in his

The butler made a note of the terms, and continued:

"'Will the entertainment be consistent?'"

"What?" I ejaculated.

"'Will the entertainment be consistent?'"

"Consistent?" For the life of me, I could not see what he meant.


I thought a little, and then said:

"Would you kindly explain the question? I do not understand it in
the least."

The butler said:

"Well, you must know, the laird is a strict Presbyterian, and all
the guests will be strict
Presbyterians, and he wants to know if your entertainment will be

"Now I understand you," I replied. "Certainly, my entertainment will
be quite consistent. I am always very careful, and shall only sing
_Presbyterian comic songs_."

He made a note of my remark in the most serious way, and left,

"The laird himself will write to say if he can accept the terms."

That occurred nearly ten years ago, and the laird has not written

Giving entertainments in private houses is a constant source of
delight to me, and I feel both pleasure and pride in my work. I take
sometimes enormous pains in writing and composing the sketches, and
have often devoted several hours a day for a week or so in arranging
and composing a musical illustration which will only occupy a few
minutes in performance, and which may pass almost unnoticed by the
majority of the audience. But when the connoisseur picks that
illustration out from all the rest of the entertainment as his
choice, I feel am I more than rewarded for my trouble.

All sorts of stories about me appear from time to time in the cheap
weekly journals of the coloured paper or wrapper type, and I suppose
they are amusing to the readers. The amuse _me_ sometimes. I never
mind chaff.

My entertainments in private are capital scope for the smaller
journalists; and journalists, like other people, can be very small
sometimes. I read accounts of my own indignation at having been told
to go round to the servants' entrance; how a duchess was horrified
at discovering she was dancing with me instead of Lord Adolphus; my
injured feelings because a hostess did not shake hands with me; and
my having called upon the butler at Marlborough House, and spreading
the report that I had visited the Prince of Wales. These paragraphs,
though absolutely untrue, are inoffensive, and do good, inasmuch as
they do not hurt me, but supply the author with a few hard and
honestly-earned shillings.

Spiteful and really offensive paragraphs are regarded by me in a
different light. An offensive paragraph has the same effect upon me
as an anonymous letter. I feel the same sort of pity for the writer
as I do for the poor "Norfolk Howard," who can only do its work in
the dark, and cuts such a terrified figure when the light is
suddenly flashed upon it. The anonymous letter-writer is, perhaps,
the worst of the three; for his action is nearly always dictated by
a feeling of spite; whereas the "Norfolk Howard" and the "offensive
paragraphist" are actuated by a feeling of hunger: and _necessitas
non habet leges_.

There are exceptions to every rule, and I soon ascertained that
hunger was not the _raison d'etre_ of the following exceptional
notice in reference to my _debut_ in a weekly paper:

"* * * * * * * * * And something which was called an 'entertainment'
by a beardless boy, whose tones betokened his Cockney birth, and
whose sole ideas of humour seemed to be derived from an excessive
abuse of vulgar gesture, and the constant employment of such slang
terms as are heard in police-courts and penny gaffs. When Master
Grossmith was not vulgar, he was simply stupid; for which reason his
attempts at amusing an intelligent audience by a wretched imitation
of the Christy Minstrels and a badly-arranged rehash of Albert
Smith's 'Evening Parties' were, as they deserved to be, a dead
failure. The whole exhibition was most painful, and as far beneath
what we should have expected to see at the Polytechnic as a 'Penny
Dreadful' is from one of Thackeray's novels. Our advice to the
_debutant_ is, to tarry at Jericho till his beard be grown."

I was extremely hurt at this, but the direct allusion to the
police-court aroused my suspicions. I became a sort of amateur
detective; and the result was, I "received information" that the
article had been written by a gentle of position, who had just
beforehand been charged at Bow Street with a very serious offence,
and whose friends had not been successful in persuading me to "keep
the case out of the paper," or in "altering his name" beyond

I owe very much to the Press, not merely for the favour extended
towards me, but also for improvements gathered from their adverse
criticism. But whenever I read a notice like the above, I am
consoled by the thought that its author, at some time or other,
without consent or consultation, has put in an appearance at Bow
Street Police Court during my reign as reporter.

In the foregoing chapter, I have dealt entirely with visits into
Society professionally. In the next, and last, I shall speak of the
non-professional invitations: for, strange as it may appear to the
uninitiated, I am _not_ always expected "to oblige with a song;" nor
is it a _sine qua non_ that if I accept an invitation to dinner, it
is on the distinct understanding that I should be funny. I can be a
very rational being when I choose; and any hostess who asked me to
her residence in the expectation that I should gratuitously amuse
her guests, would find me particularly prosaic.

Happily for all professional men and women, such hostesses are very
rare; and, fortunately, their reputations precede them. Still, there
_are_ people who cannot understand why I should appear _in propria
persona_ in a drawing-room; and a wealthy hatter of slight
acquaintance, meeting me at a "Mansion House" ball, said:

"Hulloa! Mr. Grossmith, what are you doing here? Are you going to
give us any of your little funniments--eh?"

"No," I replied. "Are you going to sell any of your hats?"


A Very Snobbish Chapter.

"I've got a little list."--_The Mikado_.

Captain Hawley Smart, at the Garrick one day, at lunch, gave me a
valuable friendly warning.

"In your book," said he, "do not fall into that diary mistake,
characteristic of most autobiographers; and some autobiographers
indulge in it very badly. I mean writing: 'May 14th.--Dined at the
Duke of A----'s: present, Lord and Lady B----, Count C----, Marquis
of D----, &c.' Much better write down a list of all the people you
_have_ met, and say: 'Dined with, or met, this lot some time or

Unfortunately, I do not keep a diary, and have no list of "people I
have known;" but I can truthfully say that during the last twelve or
fourteen years I have had the privilege of meeting what the Society
papers repeatedly call "everybody, who is anybody." What! everybody?
Well, nearly everybody! I have met Royal Princes in their palaces,
and Republicans in their republic houses. I am personally acquainted
with Bishops and Bradlaugh. I have shaken hands with Sarah Bernhardt
and Miss Bessie Bellwood. I have been visited by millionaires who
are nobodies, and by beggars who are somebodies. I have exchanged
courtesies with Gustave Dore, and another celebrated painter has
exchanged umbrellas with me. I know Sims Reeves and "Squash." I
manage to get on with peers and peasants; I talk a little about the
weather to the former, and a little (very little) about the crops to
the latter.

I believe I am a Conservative, but I own to a great admiration for
Gladstone. I am not alone in that respect, except that I "own up" to
my admiration, and other Conservatives do not. I regret exceedingly
that I never met Lord Beaconsfield; but when I commenced to "go
out," he had almost ceased doing so. I met Mr. Gladstone at a garden
party as recently as the autumn of 1887, and was asked to meet him
in June, 1888. It is a pleasure to converse with him, or, rather, to
hear him converse with you. At the former party, a lady said to me,
"If that horrid man comes here, I shall walk through that window on
to the lawn. I would not stay under the same roof with him." She
evidently thought there was no chance of his coming; in point of
fact, she afterwards admitted as much to me. When he _did_ arrive,
she followed him about, curtsied as he passed, as if he were the
Queen, repeatedly offered him her chair, and indulged in that
particular kind of adoration in the _presence_ which is usually
indulged in by people who are ultra-bitter during the _absence_.

But though I have not kept a list of the notable people I have met,
I have kept the letters of those who have written to me as a friend
or acquaintance. I cannot count myself as one of the "pestilential
nuisances who apply for autographs," as Gilbert describes them in
_The Mikado_; still, I must plead guilty to pasting in a book, or
keeping in my desk, every letter addressed to me personally that has
a good name attached. When I say every letter, I do not include
letters addressed to me professionally or purely on business
matters: those are merely of passing value to me. I simply treasure
the letters of those with whom I have become actually acquainted.
This collection is the collection of a Snob, no doubt; and I can
only beg of those of my readers who sensitive to Snobbish actions to
pass this chapter over, for my sake as well as theirs.

I would add that my wife and I do not possess a card-basket, where
the only countess's card will keep shifting to the top, of its own
accord, in the most remarkable fashion; nor do we advertise our
evening parties in the _Morning Post_, nor publicly announce that we
have removed to a hired cottage at Datchet during the fixture of a
telephone pole to the roof of our family mansion in Dorset
(pronounced Dossit) Square.

I will take the letters as they come, simply calling attention to
the contents or the writers as I imagine they may interest or amuse
the readers. The first--the most interesting to me, perhaps, as it
turned the tide of my professional life--is the letter from Arthur
Sullivan, asking me to go on the stage, which has already appeared
in a former chapter. The next is from J. R. Planche, whom I shall
always remember with the greatest pleasure, and whose little parties
were delightful.

The following is characteristic of J. R. Planche's well-known

              6 Royal Avenue,
                 Chelsea, S.W.,
                    _5th August_, 1875.

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--Nothing could give me more pleasure than doing
anything which is agreeable to you. I estimate highly your talent,
and am flattered by your friendship. With kindest regards from all
of us to you and your amiable and gifted wife,

              Believe me,
                 Very sincerely yours,
                    J. R. PLANCHE.

The above is very flattering, and so is the following from Frederic
Clay; and if I were a truly modest man, I should publish neither:

              64 Seymour Street,
                 Portman Square.

Dear Grossmith,--Miss Kate Santley has asked me to write her a light
song for the piece she is now playing. Since Miss Santley
immortalised "Nobody knows as I know" for me, my humble pen has
always been at her disposal--in fact, I have composed a couple of
operas for her--but just now I am night and day at work on this
Brighton Cantata; nor can I dream where to find words without being

As you were good enough to give me more real amusement and enjoyment
at Arthur Blunt's than I have known for many a long day, I could not
help suggesting your name to Miss Santley, telling her that, if you
can find time for the purpose, she could not be in safer or more
accomplished hands than yours. . . .

              Yours very sincerely,
                 FREDERIC CLAY.

I afterwards became very intimate with Frederic Clay; and a great
portion of one of his subsequent works (the _Black Crook_, I think)
composed while he was staying with my wife and myself at a tiny
cottage which we rented during the autumn each year at Datchet. His
last work of all he chiefly did at Datchet. It was called, I think,
_The Golden Ring_, and the book was by G. R. Sims. He hired a
cottage a few doors from mine, and as I passed to and fro of a
morning I used to see him writing hard at his desk in front of the
open window, and invariably greeted him with "Good-morning, Freddy;
do you want any of your harmonies corrected?"--"Shall I score the
drum parts for you?"--or some such nonsense. It will be remembered
that he was seized with a serious illness after the production of
the piece at the Alhambra. I grieve to say I seldom see him now, as
he lives away in the country very quietly. He wrote a charming
letter in pencil some months ago respecting a favourable notice he
had seen of the pianoforte-playing of my little girl Sylvia at a
"pupils'" concert. I have kept many of his letters, and value them.
I wanted to see him about something, and suggested we should meet at
the Beefsteak Club. This was his reply:


At the old Gallery of Illustration, in 1875, Corney Grain was
suddenly indisposed, and I sang for him; and I was very pleased at
the thought of giving a sketch at the very piano on which John Parry
had played. Subsequently I received the following letter from Mrs.
German Reed:

. . . Please accept my best thanks, and with them a handkerchief
which Mr. John Parry used in his song, "Mrs. Roseleaf's Evening
Party." You said you would be pleased to have it. The little piece
of cotton in the middle he always had tied to prevent confusion in
folding while singing.

With kind compliments to your wife,

              Sincerely yours,
                 PRISCILLA REED.

I sang and acted at the Gallery of Illustrations on another
occasion. Corney Grain was required to give his "Sketches at a
Country House," where he was to meet the Prince of Wales; and I
undertook, besides giving my sketch "Theatricals at Thespis Lodge,"
to act the part of the young lover (Grain's part) in _Very
Catching_, an excellent little piece by F. C. Burnand, and music by
Molloy. In this, both Mrs. German Reed and Arthur Cecil played. I
had to sing a sentimental duet with Miss Fanny Holland, "O'er the
stones go tripping," during which she had to rest on my shoulder as
I led her from stone to stone. But there happened to be a great
difference in the height of Grain and myself; and when Miss Holland
found that she could not stoop low enough to reach my shoulders, and
that the strip of artificial water, which was arranged to well cover
Grain's ankles, was up to my knees, she fairly burst out laughing on
the stage.

Next come rather amusing letters from the late Duchess of
Westminster and Lady Diana Huddleston. The former concludes her
letter thus:

If you have any of the Philtre to spare, there is nothing I can
think of I should like much better!

              Believe me, dear Mr. J. W. W.,
                    Yours sincerely,

The initials had reference to John Wellington Wells, the part in
_The Sorcerer_ I was playing at the time.

I had sent Lady Diana the name of a professional spiritualist, and
here is an extract from her reply:

Thank you so much for writing to E----. I am all for a medium who
stands no nonsense with the spirits, but has them up there and then.
I fear W---- lets his ghosties give themselves airs, as both "Petre"
and also "John King" have always thrown me over. Who was John King?
. . .

              Yours very sincerely,
                 DI. HUDDLESTON.

Letters of invitation follow from Frank Holl, R.A., George du
Maurier, Nita Gaetana (Mrs. Moncrieff), Kate Field, and Earls of
Fife and Wharncliffe. Then comes a letter from F. C. Burnand,
respecting my proposer for the Beefsteak Club. He suggested Sir
Arthur Sullivan; but eventually Corney Grain proposed me. I think
Frank Burnand is the most amusing man to meet. He is brimful of good
humour. He will fire off joke after joke, and chaff you out of your
life if he gets a chance. His chaff is always good-tempered. No one
minds being chaffed by Burnand. I will not sing a song when he is in
the room if I can possibly help it. He will sit in front of me at
the piano, and either stare with a pained and puzzled look during my
comic song, or he will laugh in the wrong places, or, what is worse
still, take out his pocket-handkerchief and weep.

A short time ago we were dining at Mrs. Lovett Cameron's, and were
seated on either side of her. Throughout the dinner I had purposely
been making some rude observations respecting the dishes, with which
Mrs. Cameron was immensely amused. Eventually a "sweet" was handed
round, consisting of little hard cakes of something resembling
dark-brown toffee or hardbake, with cream piled on. Mrs. Cameron
said to me, "You must not pass this dish--_do_ have some." I
replied, "Well, I won't have any of the cream--only some of the
_glue_," which the sweet certainly resembled. Burnand promptly
replied, "Oh, are you going to _stick_ here all night?"

Burnand's parties are to be envied, and not forgotten. At one of his
evening entertainments in Russell Square, he suggested we should get
up a "bogus" band. I fell in with his idea at once, and it was left
to me to arrange. I decided upon the overture to _Zampa;_ and, to
give a semblance of reality to the performance, arranged with Mr.
Charles Reddie to preside at the piano; and, chaos or no chaos, he
was to go steadily on. Frederic H. Cowen was the violoncello; the
first violins were played by Mr. Samuel Heilbut, a capital amateur
violinist, and by my brother, who was nearly as good. I played
second violin, and was simply awful. Rutland Barrington played the
piccolo; but as he could only play in one key, which, unfortunately,
was _not_ the one we were playing, the effect can be imagined. Last,
but not least, Corney Grain conducted.

The time arrived for the performance, and the music-stands were
placed in a circle in the crowded drawing-room; and, in order that
there should be no jumble at the commencement, we decided to take
the overture at exactly half its proper time.

I shall never forget the surprised look on the faces of Sir Julius
Benedict and Mr. W. G. Cusins when we began. There was no idea, at
first, it was a joke. We played the next _andante_ movement with
sublime expression and perfectly correctly, with the exception of
Barrington's piccolo, which was here more terribly conspicuous than
before. This was rendered all the more ridiculous by the sweet,
satisfied smile which Grain was assuming, after the fashion of an
affected conductor.

The audience began to suspect something was up; but their suspicions
were soon set at rest when the subsequent quick movement arrived.
Reddie played on, and Heilbut stuck to it. Fred. Cowen, Weedon
Grossmith, and myself put down our instruments and stared up at the
ceiling, as if we had a few bars' rest. Barrington played a tune of
his own; and Grain, in an excited manner and in the German tongue,
demanded him to desist. Barrington, who also speaks German,

This German row was most natural and funny, and created roars of
laughter. J. L. Toole, who was in the audience, and who did not see
why he should not join in, forced his way through the people and
seized hold of Weedon's old Italian violin, and was about to bang it
on the back of a chair. Weedon had a genuine fight to recover his
fiddle, and had to remind Toole that it was not one of his own
"properties." Reddie and Heilbut still seriously stuck to the piano
and violin. Grain then bullied me for not playing. A general
altercation ensued; and as the final chords of the shortened
overture were played, Grain seized me up under his arm, as if I had
been a brown-paper parcel, and marched out of the room with me.

After supper there was an extemporised Christmas Pantomime, in which
Grain, Arthur Cecil, Fred. Leslie, Chas. Colnaghi, William Yardley,
the brothers Grossmith, and Mrs. Cecil Clay (Miss Rosina Vokes) took
part. It was great fun for audience and performers, and Miss Vokes
was excellent. At the final tableau, Fred. Leslie and myself struck
two matches to represent coloured fire. I daresay all this seems
silly; but I have seen many very serious people silly after a jolly
supper with jolly people, so I hope some allowance will be made for
the Society Clown.

A little pencil sketch, by W. S. Gilbert, comes next in my book;
"Bab" is an excellent draughtsman, as everyone knows. Next on the
list are Annie Thomas (Mrs. Pender Cudlip) and Florence Marryat. The
latter often signed herself "The Ship," because one of the
Birmingham papers, speaking of the "Entre Nous" entertainment,
described her as "of pleasant appearance, with bright, frank
features, somewhat massively moulded, unaffected manners, and with a
carriage reminding one of the stately motion of one of those noble
vessels of which the glorious old Captain loved to write." The same
paper, continuing, observes: "In the second costume recital of 'Joan
of Arc in prison,' she appeared in the usual grey tunic and with
massive manacles on her waist; Mr. Grossmith, sitting at the piano
as a sort of mute but comical gaoler, ready to accompany her in a
musical scena at the end."

I have before said that Arthur Cecil took a kind interest in me, and
favoured me with many a valuable hint. I therefore print a letter of
his (dated 1878, when I knew him only slightly) in full, with the
assurance, from experience, that jealousy in the theatrical
profession is the exception and not the rule:

              Beefsteak Club,
                 King William Street,
                    Strand, W.C.

My dear Grossmith,--I am so delighted to hear you "obliged again" on
Wednesday, at Grosvenor House, after I left.

I was most anxious that you should be at your best before the Prince
and Princess, and only regretted I could not stop to suggest the
things that I consider your happiest efforts. I am sure "The Muddle
Puddle Porter" must have been all right.

              Yours ever,
                 ARTHUR C. BLUNT.

It was a charity concert, and I may incidentally remark that I had
to appear early in the programme, and when my turn came their Royal
Highnesses had not arrived. Arthur Cecil, who was announced later
on, said: "The Prince and Princess have heard my song, so you take
my place."

The above voluntary suggestion on his part needs no comment.

This letter is followed by ordinary letters from Irving, Toole, A.
W. Pinero, Countess of Charlemont (the late), Viscountess
Combermere, Herbert Herkomer, A.R.A., Earls of Londesborough and
Dunraven, Mrs. Charlie Mathews, Mrs. Kendal, the Hon. Lewis
Wingfield, Emily Faithful, and Kate Terry (Mrs. Arthur Lewis). Then
comes a letter from Thomas Thorne, which is interesting because it
is an invitation to dine with him to celebrate the thousandth night
of _Our Boys_. Then follow Robert Reece (he persuaded me to set to
music one of his songs, "A Peculiar Man," which he need not have
done, for he is a most excellent musician himself), John Oxenford
(dated 1868--a birthday congratulation), J. Ashby Sterry (who always
addresses me, "dear young Jaarge"), R. Corney Grain, Herman Vezin,
Lord Otho Fitzgerald, and Viscountess Mandeville. The letter from
Lady Mandeville, referring to some of my songs, is amusing--an
extract from which I give:

Thanks a thousand times for the songs, which were delightful. We
tried them all last night and I am sure some of the neighbours
wished us at the North Pole. . . . I have sent to America for a
charming pathetic song for you; the last line is "Let me hit my
little brother before I die."

A letter from J. B. Buckstone, giving me permission to play Paul Pry
(_en amateur_); a most amusing letter from Howard Paul, describing
his futile attempt to learn "The Muddle Puddle Porter" while "going
up and down the Lake of Lucerne, under the shadow of the Rigi, and
within sight of the historical Tell's Platte;" a most flattering
letter from Sir Julius Benedict, which modesty, &c., will not permit
of my reproducing; Jacques Blumenthal (he simply had "a message to
send me" inviting me to dine) and Henry J. Byron. I knew Byron when
I was a boy, and I loved him because he was not above playing
cricket with me on the sands at the seaside, when I was in trousers,
or rather knickerbockers, which they resembled through my having
outgrown them. In 1878 I wanted to purchase some clever words of his
with a refrain, "Yeo, heave ho." He wrote back from the Haymarket

Dear George,--I wrote to you, saying you might have the song gratis,
and posted the letter to J. S. Clarke instead of you.

              Yours ever sincerely,
                 H. J. BYRON.

Everybody knows Byron was about the best punster existing. He was
also the worst. I heard him make this observation at Margate: "I
don't like _cock_roaches because they '_en_croaches."

Then come Arthur a Beckett, Countesses of Wharnecliffe and Bantry,
S. B. Bancroft, Lionel Brough, Viscounts Hardinge and Baring; a
charming letter from Clement Scott, asking me for a contribution to
a collection of theatrical stories; Sir Algernon Borthwick, Duke of
Beaufort, Earl of Hardwicke, and Mrs. Keeley. The letter (dated
1882) from the latter lady, I value most highly, of course:

              10 Pelham Crescent, S.W.

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--I was at the Savoy on Thursday evening with
Miss Swanborough, and delighted we were with the performance.
Trusting yourself and Madame are well, and with kind regards,

              Ever yours sincerely,
                 MARY ANNE KEELEY.


              17 Finchley New Road,

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--I am not going to use any flourishing phrases,
but simply ask you if you would be so extremely good as to appear in
the concert I arrange for the poor exiles at Walmer. It is to be on
the 15th or 18th of this month, in the house of Lord Denbigh. I am
going to play a little French piece with M. Berton, and I asked some
artists to play and sing. I hope you will frankly tell me if you can
do it or not, as I certainly should not like you to put yourself to
any inconvenience for my sake. I know how busy you are, and it is a
great impudence on my part to give you some more work. With many
kind regards,

              I remain, always sincerely yours,
                 HELENA MODJESKA.

"Next, please," as Mr. T. Thorne would say, as Partridge.

H.S.H. the Duke of Teck, Countess of Kenmare, James Albery (author
of _The Two Roses_), Henry Labouchere, Miss E. Braddon, Joseph
Hatton (a very old and esteemed friend of mine) and Professor

The following is interesting to me, coming, as it does, from the
most successful entertainer of his day. His songs, "A Life on the
Ocean Wave," "Cheer, Boys, Cheer," "The Ivy Green," "The Ship on
Fire," etc., will be ever remembered:

              Hanover Square Club,
                 _Nov. 22nd_, 1883.

My dear Grossmith,--Many thanks for your kind letter. I leave for
Boulogne to-morrow (Friday), or I should be only too glad to avail
myself of your generous offer. I have been for years one of the
warmest admirers of the great talent you possess; and all I can say
is, that if you want to confer a favour on me, you will, without
hesitation, jump on board the Boulogne boat, and, after two hours of
"a life on the ocean wave," come direct to the Hotel du Nord, where
I reside, and where you shall have a good dinner, a glorious weed, a
first-class bottle of Chateau Margaux, a shake-down, and a sincere
warm welcome from your old friend,

              HENRY RUSSELL.


              Grand Hotel, Stockholm,
                 _June 13th_, 1882.

Dear Grossmith,--I have just remembered you have received no reply
to your invite for the "small and early." . . . We left London on
the 6th, and since then have visited Hamburg and Copenhagen.
To-night we start for Christiania on our way to the North Cape.
Should any friends ask my address, tell them for the next three
weeks, "Arctic Ocean."

Kind regards from Mrs. and self to Mrs. G. and self.

              Yours sincerely,
                 EDWARD TERRY.

The following is from Nellie Farren:

              Gaiety Theatre, Strand,

Dear George,--Will you repeat yesterday's performance on the 23rd of
this month for your old friend,


Alfred Scott Gatty, Hamilton Aide, Duke of Abercorn, Earl of Onslow,
William J. Florence (the popular American comedian), John Hare, W.
Kuhe, W. Maybrick (his "Nancy Lee" still haunts me), Chas. Wyndham,
W. J. Hill, Oscar Wilde, and J. McNiel Whistler, from whose epistle
I give an extract:

"Je tu savois brave--mais je ne tu savois pas plus brave que moy!"

              Ton roy, HENRI.

Which means, my dear Bunthorne, that "I knew you amazing!--but I did
not know you more amazing than I"!


Then appears the well-known "butterfly" signature.

Madam Dolby, Madam Liebhart, Viscountess Folkestone, Lady Coutts
Lindsay (whose charming collections of people at the Grosvenor
Gallery some years ago will not be easily forgotten), Beatty
Kingston, Frederick Boyle, Manville Fenn, Lady Chas. Beresford,
Marchioness of Ormond, Lady Chesham, G. H. Boughton, A.R.A., Pro.
Ray Lankester, Sir Coutts Lindsay, Earl and Countess of Donoughmore.
Her ladyship writes:

. . I am afraid we cannot go to London this season. There is an idea
that digging turnips at Knocklofty would be a pleasing change. I
should not mind the turnips if kind friends would come and help dig
them. Have you and Mrs. Grossmith any sharp spuds, and would you
like to race me in a drill? (I don't know if turnips are planted in
drills--potatoes are.) Are you afraid of the sea? It's not very
rough, and your chicks could play and fight with mine all day, and
we would have a good time somehow.

Mrs. Alfred Wigan, Carlotta Leclercq, Viscountess Pollington, Harry
Furniss, E. Willard, Sir Morell Mackenzie, Duchess of Abercorn (a
kind letter referring to my severe illness in Jan., 1887), Harry
Payne (certainly the best clown in my time), Rutland Barrington,
Fred. Leslie, Meyer Lutz, Earl of Clarendon.

Pro. Hubert Herkomer, A.R.A., writes, in reply to my enquiry whether
he was busy:

I am now at work on my thirty-first portrait this year--which does
not count water-colour subjects. Can't you spend a Sunday with me?

Milton Wellings, Lord Hay of Kinfauns, Arthur Stirling.

              _July 15th_, 1887.

Dear Grossmith,--We are looking forward with great pleasure to
lunching with you next Monday.

My duty to your wife.

              Yours ever,
                 DOUGLAS STRAIGHT.


              11 Melbury Road, W.
                 _20th April_, 1887.

My dear Grossmith,--No congratulations I have received have given me
more pleasure than those coming from old friends, and among them I
was gratified to have yours; for we have known each other a long
time, and I believe with corresponding regard. Accept my very best
thanks for your nice letter; and with best wishes for yourself and
your wife,

              I am, sincerely yours,
                 LUKE FILDES.

Sir Edward Sieveking, Baroness Burdett Coutts (a kind invitation for
my wife and myself to see the Jubilee procession), Paul Rajon (the
French etcher), E. Gibert (whom the _Daily Telegraph_ flattered me
by designating the French Grossmith).

The following, from Hamilton Clarke, had reference to a small
theatre work of mine which I had to score for an exceedingly limited

Dear George,--Yardley tells me to send you a list of the band
at ---- theatre.

I regret to say that, owing to the fact that the accommodation for
the musicians is about the dimensions of a third-class railway
compartment (I believe the trombone-player has to play lying down),
the "orchestra" is limited to the following list: . . . No chance of
the slightest delicacy or fancy! Only plain, straightforward English

Long live the cornet and side-drum--Briton's boast!

              Yours sincerely,
                 HAMILTON CLARKE.


              33 Longridge Road,
                 Earl's Court,
                    _December 20th_.

Dear George,--£3, if you don't mind; and I am so sorry for the poor
lady. I've just come back from Paris, and your letter had been sent
there and back here after me, or you would have heard from me
before. Hope you are very well. With love to you both,

              Yours ever,
                 ELLEN TERRY.

I'm having a lovely Christmas holiday.

Percy Fitzgerald (I shall naturally look forward to his _Chronicles
of Bow Street_ with special interest), Emily Lovett Cameron, Joseph
Hollman, Duchess of Westminster (the present), H. S. Marks, R.A.,
Arthur Roberts, C. D. Marius, Wilford Morgan, George Giddens, Dr.
Anderson Critchett, Bottesini, H.S.H. Prince Leiningen, Sir
Frederick Leighton, P.R.A.

              White Lodge,
                 Richmond Park,
                    _January 7th_.

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--I thank you for sending me your photos; it was
a very kind thought of you. I trust Ko-Ko and yourself to be in the
best of spirits. I must go to the Savoy again, and I hope you will
from thence proceed with me to the Bachelor's and have some supper.

              Yours sincerely,


              33 Untere Promenade,

Dear Grossmith,--The Prince of Wales hopes that Mrs. Grossmith and
you will dine with him at the Kinsaal on Monday evening, at 7.15.

              Yours truly,
                 H. TYRWHITT-WILSON.

I had promised to write David James a song for _Little Jack
Sheppard_, at the Gaiety,--a promise which I failed to keep. U had a
good "intention," but not an "idea." The reward for my failure was
this amusing letter:

              14 Buckingham Street,
                    _May 2nd_, 1886.

Dear Grossmith,--The _song_ you wrote for me for Blueskin goes
IMMENSELY every night, and everybody is asking who is the _author_
and _composer_. Now, as you cannot come and bow your acknowledgments
at _night_, you might as well come and do so in the _morning_; and
what better morning than Thursday, the 20th of May, at my _matinee_
benefit at the Gaiety? I want all my old pals to be there. . . .
Like a good boy, come and sing and play, and very much oblige

              Your old "partic.,"
                 DAVID JAMES.

A. Goring Thomas, Percy Reeve, Sir Percy Shelley, Fred. Barnard
(with humorous sketch), John T. Bedford (author of "Robert," in

              Lyceum Theatre,
                 _16th February_, 1887.

Dear Grossmith,--Greeting! Right hearty congratulations on your
recovery and reappearance this evening.

              Sincerely yours,
                 H. IRVING.

A letter from Lady Freake reminds me of (to me) a memorable
performance at Cromwell House. The musical triumviretta, _Cox and
Box_, formed part of the programme:

Box ... ... ... ... ... ... Mr. ARTHUR CECIL.
Cox ... ... ... ... ... ... Mr. GEORGE GROSSMITH.
Serjeant Bouncer... ... ... Mr. CORNEY GRAIN.

Piano ... ... ... Mr. ALFRED CELLIER.
Harmonium ... ... Sir ARTHUR SULLIVAN.

I remember seeing at this entertainment the Dowager Countess of
Waldegrave, who was the daughter of John Braham, the celebrated
singer. But what most impressed me was an incident at the first
rehearsal. Cecil, Grain, and I were under the impression that we had
the well-fitted little theatre to ourselves; but suddenly two
elderly and very prim ladies came and sat in the front row and
watched us. There is nothing so disconcerting to actors as to
watched at the preliminary rehearsal. I cannot bear it even at the
dress rehearsal. In the present instance we grumbled to ourselves
and delayed commencing, hoping the two ladies would take the hint
and depart. No such luck. One of them, the mother of an exceedingly
clever amateur who has played _Cox and Box_ all his life (I believe
he was born playing it), suddenly said in a loud voice:

"Why don't they begin? Don't they know what to do? I wish Johnnie
were here; he could show them at once."

              Royal Princess's Theatre,
                 _March 23rd_, 1886.

Dear Grossmith,--I know one "little piece" only, "Gone with a
handsomer man." If that will do, I am ready to help you; unless it
should be the date on which _Clito_ is produced. I expect to play it
earlier than that. Kind regards.

              Faithfully yours,
                 WILSON BARRETT.

Miss Hope Glen, Isidore de Lara, Wilhelm Ganz, Linley Sambourne,
Charles Warner, Fred. H. Cowen, E. W. Royce, Miss Fortescue
(informing me of the breaking off of the engagement between herself
and Lord Garmoyle, now Earl Cairns), John Clayton, Lady Mildred
Denison, Lady William Lennox, Lady Ventry, Lady Ardilaun, M.
Riviere, Sir John Bennett, Madame Lemmens-Sherrington.

I am frequently asked, when singing professionally in private
houses, if I am friendly with Mr. Corney Grain. Here is an extract
from one of his letters. I had been suffering from sore throat, and
could not fulfil a certain engagement, and he kindly sang in my
stead. In return, I sent him a small souvenir in the shape of a

Dear George,--Thank you very much for your very handsome--and,
moreover, very useful--present. It shall be entirely at your service
from March 21st till the 6th April, when I hope, barring accidents,
to be at The Willows, Datchet, where you have, not a general, but a
particular invitation during that period.

Another of his letters terminates thus:

Then farewell my trim-built wherry.

              From that sheer hulk,
                 R. CORNEY GRAIN.

Countess of Bective, Marshall P. Wilder (the American humorist),
Gordon Thomson, Sir John Millais, John Hollingshead, Earl of

At a party at Sir Arthur Sullivan's one evening, I was asked to sing
the Lord Chancellor's enormous patter song. I could not remember it;
so Lord Hopetoun, himself a most excellent humorous singer,
volunteered to prompt me. The effect was most ludicrous; for Lord
Hopetoun had really to sing quickly the whole of the song about one
bar ahead of me. After this, Arthur sat at the piano, and Lord
Hopetoun and myself arrayed ourselves in a few antimacassars and
performed a graceful ballet; that is to say, as graceful as the
circumstances would permit.

A kind letter from my old friend, Alfred Cellier, respecting the
death of my father, reminds me of another evening at Sir Arthur
Sullivan's. We had been previously to a dinner-party and subsequent
reception at Lady Sebright's, where I was introduced to Mrs.
Langtry--it being, I believe, her first introduction to London

Subsequently, Sullivan persuaded Cellier, Arthur Cecil, and myself,
and I fancy a few others, including Archibald Stuart Wortley, to
return to his rooms at 9 Albert Mansions, where the gifted composer
was then residing. We stayed very late--much later than I would dare
stay up now. I left with Alfred Cellier, and he asked me if I could
drop him in Park Lane, as he had another party to go to. There was
every excuse for my being astonished, considering it was half-past
four in the morning and the beautiful daylight had long since
appeared. I acquiesced, and the next day asked Cellier if he did not
find that everybody had gone.

"No, indeed," replied Cellier; "in fact, I was the _first arrival_."

Rather an early card party!

Speaking of Mrs. Langtry, recalls to my mind a curious incident
affecting both of us. I was asked to a musical party in Prince's
Gardens, and proceeded there after my work at the theatre. On
arriving in the locality, and seeing the awning out, and the usual
line of footmen, and the will-o'-the-wisp linkman, I shouted to the
cabman, who was passing the door, to stop. I gave up my coat and
walked into the drawing-room, being announced in the usual way. I
found, however, that a ball was in full swing. I could not discover
my host or hostess, although I met many people I knew. I soon
ascertained that I had come to the wrong house, and, instead of
being at Mrs. G----'s musical party, was at Sir William D----'s
ball. I slipped downstairs--having ex-explained the matter to a
friend of Sir William's--got my coat, and went to Mrs. G----'s,
which was a few doors off. As I was proceeding upstairs I met Mrs.
Langtry coming down, and she said:

"Oh, Mr. Grossmith, I've made _such_ a mistake! I've come to the
wrong house. I ought to be at the ball at Sir William D----'s. I
couldn't understand how it was there was singing and no dancing
upstairs, and have only just discovered my mistake."

I replied, "You maybe comforted; I have been to Sir William D----'s
by mistake, when I ought to have been here.

Lady Greville, Madame de Fonblanque, Brindley Richards, Henry S.
Neville (asking me to play "Paul Pry" at the Crystal Palace), Earl
of Desart, who, in kindly sending me an invitation, described the
whereabouts of his house thus:

"There's a place called Victoria Lodge,
   It lies in Victoria Street;
To find it, I'll tell you the dodge--
   Ask ev'ry policeman you meet."

H. Beerbohm Tree, Countess of Wilton, Miss Millward, Dr. Louis
Engel, H. Bracy, Kate Vaughan.

              Marlborough House,
                 Pall Mall, S.W.,
                    _June 30th_, 1885.

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--By direction of the Prince and Princess of
Wales, I send you the accompanying pin, which their Royal Highnesses
hope you will accept as a small souvenir of your visit to
Marlborough House on the evening of the 14th inst.

              Believe me, yours truly,
                 D. M. PROBYN.


              Court Theatre,
                 Sloane Square, S.W.,
                    _March 30th_.

My dear George,--Many thanks for your kind letter. The play, so far,
promises to exceed _The Magistrate_.

              Yours truly,
                 JOHN CLAYTON.


              145 Harley Street, W.,

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--I have been asked by people right and left; but
put my name down, and if I can recite--I will.

              Yours faithfully,
                 MADGE KENDAL.


              156 Cambridge Street,
                 Warwick Square, S.W.

My dear Grossmith,--One line to say "Thank you;" another from my
mother to repeat the "Thank you." The two joined make the words bear
their fullest measure of truth, and your kindness is very pleasant

              Yours sincerely,
                 CLIFFORD HARRISON.


Dear Mr. Grossmith,--I will (D.V.) be there on the 4th. Many thanks.

              Yours ever truly,
                 M. E. BANCROFT.


              46 Russell Square,
                 _March 19th_, 1884.

Dear Gee Gee ("I've spotted you"),--You'd do much more good if you'd
just leave _Cox and Box_ alone, and stick to writing what I ask you
to. I chuckled over this week's _Very Trying_, No. VIII. _Capital_.
I've written to Committee, and told 'em Weedon is a _much better_
fellow than you are. _Ergo_, if they like _you_, they'll elect
Weedon; if they _don't_ like you, _still_ they'll elect Weedon.

                 Yours ever,
                    F. C. BURNAND.


              6 Hill Street,
                 _24th May_, 1884.

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--I am very much obliged to you for your note and
the photos sent with it. My daughter will write her own thanks for
your note addressed to her.

I take the liberty of sending you one of my photographs in return
for those you have so kindly sent me.

With many thanks,

              I remain,
                 Very truly yours,


              _May 14th_.

My dear Grossmith,--I am desired by the Duke of Albany to invite
Mrs. Grossmith and yourself to lunch at Claremont, on Friday next,
before the concert. A train leaves Waterloo for Esher at 12.15, by
which I hope you will come. Please send a line in reply to the
Comptroller of the Household, Claremont, Esher; and

              Believe me,
                 Yours very sincerely,
                    ALEC YORKE.


              Sainte Croix,
                 Upper East Sheen,
                       _June 13th_, 1887.

My dear George Grossmith,--I hope there is no doubt about you and
your wife giving us the pleasure of sharing our housewarming on the
6th prox.; for, in addition to the gratification of having you both
with us, I want you to volunteer a song on the occasion. . . . You
mustn't ridicule the idea of my giving a housewarming at my time of
life, for on the 27th inst. I shall have achieved my 70th year; but
the meeting of old friends under a new roof will be a cheery event
to look back upon by an aged pilgrim who is starting a new family
home in his 71st year. With kindest regards to Mrs. Grossmith,

              Believe me,
                 My dear George Grossmith,
                    Faithfully yours,
                       T. GERMAN REED.

The following is from the once famous clown, the legitimate
successor to Grimaldi, with whom he played:

              51 Upper Lewes Road,
                    _October 8th_, 1885.

My dear Mr. Grossmith,--Yours to hand. Many thanks for the kind
epistle respecting my birthday and health. I should like to have
seen you. Pray give me a call next time you visit Brighton. God
bless my dear, kind, good old friend, John L. Toole. Excuse my being
brief. Shakespeare says, "Let those who play your clowns, speak no
more than is put down for them."

              So I remain,
                 Very faithfully yours,
                    TOM MATTHEWS.

Eighty years of age October 17th, 1885.

Excuse all mistakes, my sight is bad.

He does not show it in his letter; for he had sketched, in coloured
crayons, a tiny representation of himself in the motley--head and

Sir Rivers Wilson, Eric Lewis, Lord Garmoyle (now Earl Cairns),
Frank Miles, Herman Merivale, Kyrle Bellew, Jules Lasserre, Brandon
Thomas, Alfred German Reed, Lady Fanny Fitzwygram, Mrs. Arthur
Stirling, Alice Barnett (Lady Jane in _Patience_), Leonora Braham,
Jessie Bond, Jenny Lee (Jo), Carlotta Addison, Alfred Scott Gatty,
Countess of Londesborough (asking me to sit with his lordship and
"cheer him up" at the time of his dreadful accident), Lady Dorothy

Everybody knows that Lady Dorothy Nevill gives very charming
luncheon parties, their chief characteristic being the odd
assortment of celebrities. On one of these occasions the
announcement of the guests, who, somehow or other, arrived in
strange couples, was especially amusing. The servant threw open the
drawing-room doors, and announced "Lord Pembroke and Mr. George
Grossmith." As I am only five-feet-five in height and comic in
appearance, and his lordship is six-feet-six and rather serious, it
is not to be wondered at that those already assembled indulged in a
titter. The next announcement by the servant was "The Earl of
Wharnecliffe and Mr. Justin McCarthy." For political reasons alone,
this was amusing. Then came "The Duke of Wellington and Mr. Corney
Grain." I do not know why, but this sounded very funny. It is only
fair to Lady Dorothy to state that these are not "surprise" parties.
Her guests are always informed whom they are to meet.

The following letter is _apropos_ of my _debut_ at the Opera

              The Green Room,
                 10 Adelphi Terrace, W.C.,
                    _December 10th_, 1877.

Dear George,--Let me congratulate you very heartily on your success.
I read with very great pleasure the good notices about you. I shall
hope to _hear_ you soon; because when at "The Globe" I shall cut a
hole in the wall, and hope to listen to the charming music whilst
I'm going through my own performance.

With kind regards to your wife and self, and all good wishes for
your continued success in your new arena,

              I am,
                 Yours sincerely,
                    J. L. TOOLE.

Besides being a very old and privileged friend of the famous and
popular comedian, I have had the pleasure of being associated with
him in business, having composed the music for _Mr. Guffin's
Elopement_ and _The Great Tay-kins_, written by Arthur Law, and
produced at Toole's theatre.

Toole is fond of stories about other people. Here is one about him.
Not being a musician, and not being a quick study, it becomes no
easy task to drum a song, or especially duet, into his head. In _The
Great Tay-kins_ there was a "one-line-each" duet between him and Mr.
E. D. Ward. I could not get Toole to get the rhythm right. He kept
saying it was all right, but it was not. This is what it ought to
have been:


This is how Toole first got it:


After a dozen rehearsals of these few bars, he got it thus:

The company were in roars of laughter; but Toole struggled on
perfectly seriously until he got it. He was then as pleased as
Punch, and insisted on my lunching with him, an invitation I was not
likely to refuse.

The following is from Sir Algernon Borthwick, who was my proposer
for the Garrick Club:

              _Morning Post_,
                 _February 17th_, 1883.

Dear Grossmith,--You were elected this afternoon, not only
unanimously, but with warmest expressions of welcome and goodwill. I
never saw so cordial and sympathetic an election.

              Sincerely yours,
                 ALGERNON BORTHWICK.


              _March 29th_, 1882.

My dear Grossmith,--If you are not too tired, and have no better
engagement, will you come up and see my "show"--all portraits
(Chamber of Horrors)--before they go to the R.A. on Friday evening?
The usual business--not dress.

              Yours sincerely,
                 FRANK HOLL.


              _From_ Mrs. JOHN WOOD.
                 23 Gordon Square, W.C.,
                    _July 10th_, Midnight.

My dear George,--I cannot go to rest to-night without thanking you
really and truly for your invaluable help this afternoon, and for
the very graceful courtesy you have shown through the entire affair.
I can only say if at any time I can do anything for you, you will
confer a favour on me by asking it. Your dear little wife cheered me
by saying she and everybody were very pleased with us, and I don't
think she would have said so if she hadn't meant it. So good-night
to you both, and God bless you.

              Your faithful friend,
                 MATILDA WOOD.

The following, from George M. du Maurier, the incomparable _Punch_
artist, has reference to the death of "Chang," the enormous dog
which he possessed, and which he so often immortalised on the pages
of the above periodical:

              New Grove House,
                 Hampstead Heath.

We are all (especially I) much touched by your kind note about poor
old "Chang," whom we miss very much. Although his death was
expected, it was very painful when it came, more so than I should
have thought possible in the case of an animal. His bones have gone
to the museum of the College of Surgeons, and his skin is coming
back to me. He was so big that, having no groom or manservant to
look after him, I had to be his slave, and nothing is so attaching
as voluntary slavery; so that I cannot yet rejoice in my new-found
liberty. Please thank your wife for me for her kind feeling.


              12 The Terrace,
                 Kennington Park, S.E.,
                    _October 1st_, 1885.

Dear Grossmith,--On the 29th inst. I make my last appeal to the
public, and on that occasion I want all the friendly support I can
obtain. May I ask the favour of your vocal assistance? If agreeable
and convenient, the programme will be complete.

              Yours faithfully,
                 WM. CRESWICK.


              Marlborough House,
                 _May 16th_, 1888.

Dear Mr. Grossmith,--The Princess has desired me to thank you for so
kindly sending her that prettily-bound collection of your songs.
H.R.H. is delighted to have it, and will value and prize the book

              Believe me, yours truly,
                 CHARLOTTE KNOLLYS.

I naturally conclude "my little list" with letters from Gilbert and
Sullivan, to whom I shall ever feel grateful for their many
kindnesses and the opportunities they have offered me of more or
less distinguishing myself:

              19 Harrington Gardens,
                 South Kensington,
                    _24th February_, 1884.

My dear Grossmith,--Carte tells me you had made some engagement for
to-morrow afternoon. If so, pray don't trouble to come down to the
theatre, as I know _your_ business is all right. But some of the
others have become slack, and want bracing up.

              Yours faithfully,
                 W. S. GILBERT.

During my dangerous illness, Mr. Gilbert never failed a day to come
up and enquire after me. He also came down to Brighton with D'Oyly
Carte, and kept me in roars of laughter the whole time. This was one
of the bright days during an anxious time. But to see Gilbert at his
best, is to see him at one of his juvenile parties. Though he has no
children of his own, he loves them, and there is nothing he would
not do to please them. I was never so astonished as when on one
occasion he put off some of his own friends to come with Mrs.
Gilbert to a juvenile party at my own house.

The following had reference to a mock melodrama, written by myself,
which Barrington, my brother, and I were to act at Sir Arthur's on
an occasion when he was entertaining the Prince of Wales, the Duke
of Edinburgh, and other distinguished guests:

              1 Queen's Mansions,
                 Victoria Street, S.W.

Dear Grossmith,--Are you down in this neighbourhood to-morrow any
time? If so, we might run through the "melos" here, or I could meet
you in town (Chappell's) at 3.30. Send me a wire early, please.

I hope Mrs. Grossmith will come; and, furthermore, that she
understands that I shall never send her a separate invitation, as I
shall always be delighted to see her whenever you come. It does not,
of course, follow that I shall be delighted to see _you_ whenever
_she_ comes.

              Yours sincerely,
                 ARTHUR SULLIVAN.


              Hotel de Paris,
                 Monte Carlo,
                    _28th February_, 1887.

Dear G. G.,--The earthquake knocked me about so much mentally, that
I could not write sooner to you to say how glad I am that you are
all right again--for both our sakes. Don't get ill again, but take
care of yourself. We are all calm again here, but we had a nasty
time of it. I think the suspense afterwards was worse than the shock
itself. . . .

              Yours sincerely,
                 ARTHUR SULLIVAN.

The following is an instance of the good feeling that has always
existed between the authors and actors:

              1 Queen's Mansions,
                 Victoria Street, S.W.,
                    _15th January_, 1884.

My dear Grossmith,--Many thanks for your very kind letter. It is
pleasant to be thought of when one is ill; and it is also pleasant
to know that one's works are in the hands, not only of artists, but
of _friends_ like yourself, who bring something more than a mere
professional interest to bear on their work. I have had a very sharp
and severe attack; but, fortunately, a short one. I have been out
three times for a drive, and to-day go into the country till Friday.
My kind remembrances to Mrs. Grossmith.

              Yours sincerely,
                 ARTHUR SULLIVAN.

On second thoughts, I will conclude with a letter from myself to the
purchasers of _A Society Clown_:

Dear Readers,--If I have succeeded in amusing or interesting you, I
shall feel myself more than repaid for my trouble. If I have bored
or disappointed you, I beg to offer my apologies; for it was not my
intention to do so.

              Your grateful and obedient Servant,
                 GEORGE GROSSMITH.

   28 Dorset Square,
      _July_, 1888.


[Transcriber's note: In Chapter VI, the reference to the first
production of _The Sorcerer_ "in 1887" appears to be a misprint.]

[Transcriber's note: The missing first word of the quotation at the
beginning of Chapter VII appears to be a misprint.]

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Society Clown" ***

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