Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Froment-Meurice Coral Brooch, 1854

Brooch of Coral, Gold and Pearls
Froment-Meurice, c. 1855
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Coral has been used in jewelry since antiquity as it was thought to be an amulet which could protect against the evil eye.  As such, it was often worn by children or used in rosaries.
Around the early Nineteenth Century, coral began to be employed in conventional jewelry and quickly became the  height of fashion. According to the 19th century French jeweler Henri Vever “Every day, the coral merchant of H.R.H. Madame, Duchesse d'Angouleme, offers the most elaborate and elegant parures to customers and passers-by: the jewels which are sold there are created with exquisite taste.”

Because of its long history, coral easily worked in the popular archaeological styles which were fashionable during this period.  This piece was inspired by the elaborate pendants of the Renaissance with their intricately sculpted gold.

Carved with a figure of the Greek god, the brooch has a matching pendant. It was probably one of the last sets of jewelry to be sold by the Paris jeweller François-Désiré Froment-Meurice before his death in 1855.  It is hung with pearls.

At the Music Hall: I Lift Up My Finger And Say Tweet Tweet!

I lift up my finger and I say
"Tweet tweet, shush shush, now now, come come!"
I don't need to linger when I say
"Tweet tweet, shush shush, now now, come come!"
When the baby screams and scatters my dreams
Do I start to sing or hum?
No! I lift up my finger and I say
"Tweet tweet, shush shush, now now, come come!"

Around the time that the Music Hall had reached its highest point and just before its decline in the face of moving pictures, Leslie Sarony, the great British performer and song-writer, wrote this popular and enduring song in 1929.  This cheerful tune is still performed to this day.

Unusual Artifacts: Harry Randall's Dressing Case, 1840-60

Dressing Case of Harry Randall
This and all related images from the
Victoria & Albert Museum

This dressing case was used by the leading music hall comic and “pantomime dame” Harry Randall (1860-1932) as a make-up box. The fine quality of the box and its handsome fittings mark of the status that Randall reached as a performer.  Curiously, this was the only personal possession of Harry Randall's that was preserved by his family.

Randall's first professional appearance was in 1884 at Deacon's Music Hall in Islington. He was very close friends with champion dancer Dan Leno and, like Leno, Randall became known for his comedy character songs and his pantomime dames, several of which he performed in pantomimes with Leno.  He became so well known that his name was used in the rhyming slang for 'candles' which became known as “Harry Randalls,” or simply “Harrys.”

The wooden dressing case boats inlaid brass edging to the lid and sides.  The lid of the box is lined with ruched and padded blue velvet, around which there is a dark blue leather border stamped with a gilt foliate pattern.

The box contains a removable wooden tray divided into six compartments, three of the compartments are lined with blue leather; two with pads of blue velvet and one without lining but with a wooden lid with a silver knob.

The tray contains a wooden lidded compartment, two small round glass jars with silver lids, a long glass tray with a pierced and chased silver lid and a compartment with indentations for tweezers, a corkscrew, a button hook, an awl, manicure scissors and a nail file with a mother-of-pearl handle. The main body of the dressing case has four deep compartments, three containing silver-lidded jars, and one empty with a wooden lid with a silver knob, similar to the wooden lid in the tray but not the same size.

The case was made in London between 1840-1860 by J.J. Mechi.  It is marked:

'No.4 LEADENHALL ST. LONDON. J.J.MECHI. To prevent fraudulent imitations signs all his articles thus without which NONE ARE GENIUNE.'

When the case was donated to the V&A, the donor, a relative by marriage to Harry Randall, wrote: "I am the current custodian of his travelling box in which he kept his make-up. It has been passed down through the family originating from his sister in law Mrs Annie (Nancy) Randall who was married to Alf Randall, Harry's brother. She had everything belonging to Harry Randall, his make-up box, his scrap book, his chair and his sheet music.  After my Great Aunt Nancy died everything of Harry's was thrown out, except his make-up box which my father's sister kept. At this time it still had his original make in on the jars but when my father's sister died and I became the new owner of the box, all the make-up had been washed out by my aunt, unfortunately."

The Art of Play: Tommy One Leg, 1870-90

"Tommy One Leg"
Tiller-Clowes Marionette Troupe
The Victoria & Albert Museum

From the Tiller-Clowes troupe--one of the last Victorian marionette troupes in England—we see this marionette who is called “Tommy One Leg.”  Tommy was made by the troupe in Lincolnshire  between 1870 and 1890.  He is a one-eyed, one-legged sailor fiddler who was specially made for the popular comic music hall song “How Cruel Were My Parients” (sic).  The song was sung by a puppet dressed as Tommy’s wife as she related  the fate of her husband who lost his eye and leg when he was press-ganged into the navy, and how, later, he was reduced to busking in the streets with her.

The song went like this:


Oh! cruel were my Parients [sic], as tore my Love from me,
And cruel was the press-gang who took him off to Sea,
And cruel was the little Boat, as row'd him from the Strand,
And cruel was the great big Ship as sail'd him from the Land.
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

Oh! cruel was the Water, as bore her Love from Mary,
And cruel was the fair wind, as would not blow contrary,
And cruel was the Captain, and the Botswain and the Men
As didn't care a fair-din' if we never met again.
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

Oh! cruel was the Splinter as broke my Dreary's Leg,
Now he's oblighed to fiddle for't, and I'm obliged to beg,
A vagabonding Vagrant, and a rantipoling Wife
We fiddle, limp and scrape it thro' the ups and downs of life.
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

Oh! cruel was th'engagement in which my true love fought,
And cruel was the Cannon-Ball, as knock'd his right Eye out,
He used to leer and ogle me, with peepers full of fun,
But now he looks a-skew at me, because he's only one.
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

My Love he plays the Fiddle, and wanders up and down,
And I sings at his Elbow, thro' all the Streets in Town,
We spends our days in harmony and wery [sic]seldom fights
Except when he's his Grog aboard, or I get queer at Nights
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

Oh! cruel are the Bobbies, as makes my Love move on,
That dear old faithful timber-toe he can hardly walk upon,
His voice to me sounds very sweet, although he's rather hoarse,
He's always got a shocking cold as it's always getting worse
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

Oh! cruel was the Bank as broke, in which was all our tin,
And cruel was the Manager as took my true Love in
We've not a blessed Shot now left, the Locker's up the spout,
So my true Love and me will sing, and fiddle our lives right out
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

Then Ladies take all the warning, by my true Love and me,
Tho' cruel fate should cross you remember constabncy,
Like me you'll be rewarded and have all your heart's delight
With fiddling in a Morning and a drop of Gin at Night
Singing too rol loo rol loo rol too rol loo rol loo.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 35

Chapter 35:
Hide and Seek

Speaight quietly slipped back into the drawing room and approached Dr. Halifax who was having a chat with both Ethel and Jenny who both blushed with every word the young doctor spoke.

“Pardon me, Sir.” Speaight said softly.

“Yes, Speaight.  I wondered where you went.” Robert smiled.

“Tom informed me that someone had rung the front bell.  The Countess Hamish and Lady Constance, Sir.”

Robert frowned.  “Pity.”

Jenny and Ethel giggled.

“They requested an interview with you and His Grace.” Speaight continued.

“I suppose we must.” Robert shook his head.  “Pardon me, ladies,” he nodded at Ethel and Jenny.

With the doctor out of earshot, the girls giggled loudly.

“He’s ever-so handsome,” Jenny gushed as the doctor walked off.

“Not as handsome as His Grace.” Ethel shook her head.

"Those blue eyes," Jenny sighed.

"But, His Grace has got that soft auburn hair, looks like them pictures of princes in books."  Ethel replied.  

"Fine," Jenny tittered.  "They're both a treat, they are.  But, they only got eyes for each other."

Dissolving into a wave of giggles again, the girls clinked their champagne glasses.

Robert walked to Mr. Punch/The Duke who stood in the corner with Ellen and Gamilla.  In his arms, Punch held little Colin.  He looked so happy that Robert didn’t wish to bother him.  Still, he knew that refusing the Countess Hamish would be a social mistake with long-lasting ramifications.  After all, the countess was known to be a terrible gossip and, in Robert's eyes, they couldn't afford more rumors.

“Your Grace,” Robert nodded at his companion formally.  He looked to the women.  “Excuse me, Miss Barrett, Gamilla, however I’m going to need to steal the Duke for a moment.  We won’t be long.”

“Aw.” Mr. Punch frowned.  "We was talkin' 'bout babies and puppy dogs and such."

“I promise, dear Punch,” Robert whispered, feeling free enough to speak so intimately in front of Gamilla and Ellen, “we will come right back and you may resume your joyful chat.”

“Sure,” Punch smiled.  “Miss Barrett, will you take Colin?”

“Of course,” Ellen smiled, reaching for the child.  "Come here, Master Colin.  Miss Ellen wants to talk with you."

“We’ll bring him to his room, Sir.”  Gamilla volunteered.  “It’s getting too late for him.  Look at 'em sleepy eyes.”

“Very well,” Punch sighed.  “We’ll come up to say ‘good night’ soon.”  He reached over to tickle the baby's stomach.  "Your papas love ya an awful lot."

Punch walked to the center of the room. He spoke up, using his best “Julian” voice and said, “Pardon me, everyone, Dr. Halifax and I must depart for a few moments.  However, we welcome you to carry on.  Have another glass of champagne—well, except for the younger girls--Jenny and Ethel." He grinned.  "—and each of you should enjoy another piece of Mrs. Pepper's magical cake in our absence.”

The staff applauded as the Duke and the doctor followed Speaight out of the drawing room.

Alone with Speaight and Robert Punch felt he could speak freely.  “Why we leavin’?” Punch sighed.  “We gonna play a game?  Oh!  I know.  We can play hide and seek.  Speaight can, too.  In fact, Speaight’s ‘it.’  Speaight, go stand over there and count to fifty while me chum and me hide.  Come on, men.  Let's play!"

Speaight chuckled.  “As much as I would enjoy that, Your Grace, I’m afraid I interrupted because you’ve visitors.”

“Damn.” Punch scowled.  “Never turns out well, it don’t.  Who is it?”

“Lady Constance and the Countess Hamish.”

“Bugger.” Punch shook his head.  “We was havin’ such a fine time, too.”

“Not to worry.  We’ll be quick about it.” Robert put his arm around Mr. Punch’s shoulders.

“Good.  Don't like that Lady Constance, I don't.  She's got a face what looks like a balled-up foot.”

Robert laughed.  "You may not want to mention that to her."

"Nah, 'spose not.  Where'd you put 'em, Speaight?"

“I’ve put them in the library since the fire was lit in there.” Speaight explained as the Duke and the doctor followed him through the passage.

“Thank you, Speaight.”  Robert nodded.

“Shall I announce you?” Speaight asked.   

“I don’t think that’s necessary.” Robert shook his head.

“Well…” Punch raised his eyebrows hopefully.  “I rather like when he does, I do.  Helps me remember to act like Julian.  Makes me feel…dunno…good, like I'm important.”

“Very well,” Robert winked.  "But, remember, you're important anyway."

They both paused for Speaight to open the door to the library.

The butler stepped inside first. “His Grace, the Duke of Fallbridge and Doctor Robert Henry Halifax.”

The two women inside nodded as Robert and Punch entered. 

Punch studied their uninvited guests.  Lady Constance looked as pinched and unpleasant as the last time he saw her.  This time, however, she was dressed in a bright chartreuse gown trimmed with feathers and yellow sequins which made her look more like a bird than she already did.  The lady’s mother—Countess Hamish—was simply an older version of her daughter.  Equally pinched and disgruntled-looking, the countess was dustier, more wrinkled and considerably greyer.  She wore a dull gown of dove gray which struck Punch immediately as being five years out of fashion.

“May I bring the sherry tray?” Speaight asked.

“No!” the countess spat.  “Leave us.  Perhaps you can pay better attention to your duties from now on!”

Speaight looked at the Duke who shrugged slightly.  “That will be all for now, Speaight.  Thank you.”

“You should have a word with that man, Fallbridge,” Countess Hamish growled with Speaight still in ear-shot.  "He's useless!"

Without another word, Speaight left.

The four of them stood in awkward silence for several seconds.  During this time, Punch thought of the many things that were right there in the library with which he could swat the women across the skull.  The thought pleased and relaxed him and he smiled.  "Countess," he began.

“What sort of household are you running here, Fallbridge?” The countess snarled.

“Pardon me, Countess?”

“We waited almost ten minutes before someone answered the door.”  The countess mooed.  “Your mother never would have stood for that.  It’s good that she’s dead. She’d be ashamed of the way in which you run your household.  Don’t you think that if such a thing ever happened at Fallbridge Hall when your mother was alive that she’d have dismissed that butler?  Honestly, Fallbridge, what’s someone to do—waiting that long?”

“Most people would have given up and left.” The Duke answered—more Punch than he intended.

Neither the countess nor her daughter seemed to notice.  The countess continued her tirade.

“And when the door was answered, it was some grubby page.  Not even a footman!  I could accept a footman if a butler wasn’t available.  But, this?  You know, Fallbridge, I knew your mother when you were young.  She always said you’d amount to nothing.  If this is any evidence of how you run your household, then, I fear she was correct.”

Punch stared at the woman with wide, hurt eyes.  "This is my house."

“Mother, please.” Lady Constance said quickly.

“You must forgive us, Countess,” Robert interrupted.  “We weren’t expecting anyone.  The staff is otherwise occupied.”

“A good household is always prepared to answer the door.”  The countess scowled.  “Who are you, by the way?”

“Mother, this must be Dr. Halifax.”  Lady Constance said sharply.

“Are you unable to introduce yourself?” The countess spat.  "Perhaps not, you look rather common."

Punch had had all he could stomach.  “He is no such thing!  And, why should he have introduced himself?” he asked, still managing to speak in Julian’s voice.  “Speaight announced us both.  You know I’m the Duke of Fallbridge since you addressed me as such, and, so, clearly the other man in the room must be Dr. Halifax.  A very important man, I might add, and one to whom you should not speak so."

“Well…” The countess sniffed.

“What can we do for you?” Robert asked, hoping to soften the situation before it got worse.

“First, you can explain to me why I had to wait ten minutes to be greeted.”

“The staff has been given the evening off in honor of the anniversary of my birth.”  The Duke explained.  “Something my mother, your friend, never celebrated, but something which I—as the Duke of Fallbridge—am free to do.”

“You let all of your servants go out all at once?”  Lady Constance asked, wide-eyed.

“No, they’re all here.  They’re in the drawing room, eating cake.” Punch answered plainly, but still with Julian’s formal tone.

“You…you were socializing with your staff?” The countess stammered.

“Yes.” The Duke smiled.  “For the anniversary of my birth.  As I said, we weren’t expecting anyone.  I am terribly sorry that you had to wait, but I suppose that’s what happens when you come without an invitation or unannounced.”

“How dare you speak to me in such a way?”

“How dare you presume to come into my home and tell me how to run it!” Mr. Punch replied sharply, but still as Julian.  “And furthermore, I thought that when the Duchess of Fallbridge died I’d no longer be subjected to such hateful tirades!  I don’t appreciate your tone—especially in my own home, Countess.  Need I remind you that I am a Duke?”

“You should act like one, then.  You’ve been terribly rude.  And, we’ve come here with a kind invitation to you—the dinner in your honor.  We wanted to speak with you about it.” The countess gasped.

Lady Constance pouted.  “Yes, we did wish to, Mother.  And, we shall.  Let’s not get muddied in petty arguments.  Your Grace, we would like to discuss the dinner which I’d mentioned.”

“Which we so kindly had planned in your honor!” The countess howled.  “Before we were forced to wait in the chill of the night!  I can see how our kindness will be returned!”

“That’s kind of you, yes.” The Duke replied.  “However, you must understand that when you arrive at a man’s home without warning, you may have to wait.  And, you certainly should not barge in with unwelcome opinions about the operation of the households of others nor with insults directed at the staff of that household, nor, the mate of the man of the house, nor, most of all, come in spitting insults at someone who outranks you.”  With that, Punch wildly looked around the room--his eyes darting about--as he wondered with what he could hit the countess.  Again, he had no intention of doing it, but he liked to know his options.

“What are you looking at?  You are as mad as people say!” Countess Hamish snarled.

“That’s enough!”  Robert shouted.  Usually quite mild, Robert never held back when he felt his companion was being treated unjustly.  “I’ll thank you both to leave our home!  And, you can take your dinner invitation with you!” 

With that, Robert stormed over to the bell-push and ran for Speaight who arrived within seconds.

“I…I have never…”  Countess Hamish huffed.

“Mother,” Lady Constance hissed. “Remember why we’ve come…  I told you…Let's start again, please.  Mother, remember!”

“Speaight!” Robert bellowed as the butler entered the room.  “Show these women out.”

“You’ll regret this!” the countess moaned.

“I highly doubt it.”  Robert shook his head.

“Mother, please…let’s not leave like this.” Lady Constance begged.  She whispered something to her mother which neither Robert nor Punch could hear.

The countess swatted her daughter away.  “That is no longer my concern, Constance!”  She turned to Robert.  “I don’t think you know to whom you’re speaking, young man.”

“I’m speaking to the old woman who tried to ruin our evening.  I’m speaking to the dowager beast that came here to insult my companion!  Now, let me tell you to whom you are speaking.  I shall repeat my name, lest you forget it.  I am Dr. Robert Halifax.  I am the companion of the Duke of Fallbridge.  And, may I remind you, Countess Hamish, that while the Duke is very much in the favor of the Crown, your family has been shunned from the court since the time of William IV!  And, that, Countess Hamish, is only because you were a ‘favorite’ of the late King as well as his brothers--a fact that always stuck in the craw of Queen Adelaide.  You wish to speak of gossip?  How about those little morsels I’ve heard about your evenings at Brighton?  I don’t think I need continue!  Your charm is apparently lost on Her Majesty Queen Victoria.  I’m sure she knows how her uncles enjoyed your companionship and I’m sure the thought sickens her.  From what I’ve heard, while you may hold court over the small-minded of Belgravia, you’re not welcome at the palace.   Meanwhile, I will be taking luncheon with the Duke and Prince Albert in two day’s time.  Perhaps it is you who should be careful to whom you speak so unpleasantly.  Furthermore, should I hear any talk of this event or of my companion’s supposed ‘madness,’ I will know from whom that slander came and I will know to whom to address my most serious complaints!  Now, good evening!”

Both the countess and Lady Constance gasped.

“Follow me, please.” Speaight smiled.

As the women walked from the room—in shock—Robert slammed the door behind them as punctuation.

He put his hands over his face.

“Ha!” Mr. Punch laughed, speaking as himself.  “Ha!  Oh, Chum!  What a man, you are!  You tore into them old crones!”

“I know.” Robert groaned.  “I shouldn’t have done that.  I know.  Dear God, I should…”

“Hold on, Chum.” Punch put his arms around Robert.  “Don’t say ‘nother word.”

“But, I…” Robert panted.  “I shouldn’t have spoken to her that way.  She’s a countess.  Here, I was worried about offending her by refusing her visit and I ended up basically calling her King William’s whore.”

“I know!” Punch whopped, nuzzling Robert.  “Weren’t it grand?”  He giggled.  “Not just William IV, but George IV! Oh, did you see her face, chum!  She were as white as a sheet!  Oh, it were grand!”

“She outranks me…” Robert whimpered.

“Not here she don’t.” Punch said firmly.  “Furthermore, if she were such a fine and proper lady, she’d not have been so mean to Speaight nor me.”

“I couldn’t let her speak to you that way.” 

“I’m proud of ya, I am, my Robert.” Punch smiled at his companion.  “You were more Mr. Punch than I!  You beat the Devil!”

“I just hope I didn’t make it worse,” Robert shook his head.

“Nah—who cares?  Now, we don’t gotta worry ‘bout her fool dinner invitation.  Didn’t want to go anyway.”  Punch smiled,fiddling with the buttons on Robert's waistcoat.

“I just hope she doesn’t add to the gossip.” Robert clucked his tongue.

“I don’t think she’d dare.” Punch chuckled.

Speaight returned to the room.  “Sir?  I’ve shown the ladies out.”

“Thank you.” Robert sighed.  “I don’t suppose you heard any of that?”

“Yes, Sir.” Speaight smiled.  “And, may I be so bold as to say that it was a long time coming?”

Finally, Robert chuckled.  He shook his head, "I'm so sorry you had to hear that, but sorrier still that the countess spoke to you in such a manner.  No man should have his dignity stripped away like that."

"Thank you, Sir."

“Come on, chum.” Punch winked.  “We got a party to go to.”

“Of course,” Robert nodded.  “Speaight, please go on ahead.  Tell the others, if you would, that we’ll return in a moment.  And, let's just forget about all of this unpleasantness..”

"Sir, the countess and Lady Constance are not representative of the ladies of Belgravia and Mayfair.  It is easily forgotten." Speaight nodded, leaving the library.

“Dear Punch,” Robert said softly.  “I do want to apologize for one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I know you don’t care for raised voices.  So, I’m terribly sorry about that.”

“Better you raised your voice than I raised bumps on their heads.” Punch teased.  “You was jus’ tryin’ to protect me.  Don’t be sorry for that.  I’m glad you did.”

“Good.” Robert grinned.

“Now, come on…” Punch grabbed Robert’s arm.  “I wanna go eat more cake and look at me presents.  Thank you for what you done for me.  That miniature of Colin and this fine ring…”

“You’ve had a good day, then?”

“Best birthday I ever had.” Punch smiled.  “And, since it’s the first I ever had, I can only expect ‘em to get better and better.”

“I assure you that they will.”

“You’ll help me write to Cecil and Adrienne to thank ‘em for the puppet Dog Toby?”

“Of course.”

Mr. Punch grinned slyly.

“What’s that for?”

“Dunno.” Punch shrugged playfully.  “Couple a things.  First, I rather liked seein’ ya be all tough with them ol’ birds.”

Robert chuckled. 

“Gonna have to reward ya for that later.”

Robert smiled.

“What’s the other thing?”

“Well, we got your birthday comin’ up.”

“Not until October.”

“Well, just you wait, chum.  It’s gonna be a day you won’t forget.”

“There hasn’t been a day spent with you that I’d want to forget.”  Robert replied.  “Now, back to the party?”

“In a minute.”


“First…” Punch tapped Robert on the shoulder.  “We play hide and seek.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-34? If so, you can read them hereCome back on Monday for Chapter 36 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Drawing of the Day: George Cooke's Drawing of Albert Chevalier, 1916

Albert Chevalier
George Cooke
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This caricature of Music Hall star Albert Chevalier is from the fourth album that the celebrated commercial artist and caricaturist George Cooke assembled throughout his career of recording the faces of the most famous Edwardian Music Hall performers.  This album features drawings from 1910 to 1919.

Originally from Yorkshire, George Cooke specialized in designing illustrated publicity material for performers: flyers, letterheads, posters and newspaper advertisements. Cooke was based at the Grand Theatre for several years.

By 1917 Cooke seems to have moved to London, where he established Cooke’s Publicity Agency at 453 The Strand. Records show that Cooke had considered a move to London, since in May 1906, when he was still in Hanley, a note from him was printed in the variety  magazine “The Performer.” It read:

Phil Ray says my work’s too good for Hanley; I ought to be in London. But I want money to start with. Who’ll give me some! Griff can’t afford now he’s two families to keep. But he wishes me luck. Many thanks, old friend. GEORGE COOKE, Caricaturist, Hanley.

Phil Ray and Griff were both performers whose caricatures feature in Cooke’s albums.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Champion Clog Dancer of the World Belt, 1883

Dan Leno
Guy Little Theatrical Photography
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the north of England, in the Nineteenth Century, clog dancing was one of the most popular local activities, particularly in places like Northumberland and Durham. The “clogs” in question were shoes with wooden soles rather than entirely wooden shoes of the Dutch variety.

The style of dancing which was popular at the time was similar to Irish step-dancing in that the dancer’s body remained immobile and the face expressionless while the feet beat out complicated rhythms.  One dancer--Dan Leno—proudly boasted that, with his feeties, he could “put more beats into sixteen bars of music than a drummer can with his drumsticks.”

In 1880, Dan Leno won the competition for “Champion Clog Dancer of the World.”  The contest eas organized by Joe Wood at the Princess's Music Hall in Leeds.  In a curious, but sensible twist, the judges sat under the stage and listened to the beats in order to decide the winner.

The prize given to the winner, Dan Leno, was a gold and silver belt much like this one. Thus began a new life for Dan Leno who had previously only survived with modest performances at local music halls.

According to the V&A, “Geo.Mullon won the title in 1881, followed by Benjamin Ray in 1882 when Leno was on the judging committee.”

Dan Leno would again enter the competition in 1883, but he surprisingly lost.  The audience went wild!  So many people were dissatisfied with the loss that the new champion agreed to a re-match at the People's Music Hall, Oldham. However, the new champion managed to “lose” the valuable belt before the competition took place. Leno was victorious after the six-night contest and was presented with this new belt to mark the occasion.

Dan Leno's 1883 Prize Belt
Silver and Gold
The Victoria & Albert Museum

After this, no person dared to seriously challenge Dan Leno again.

Made to replace the lost belt, this silver prize belt was made, in 1883, in five convex sections which are hinged together. Each section is raised and chased with figures and decorative foliate scrollwork. The central silver gilt section features a shield topped with a lyre, the shield is engraved: “CHAMPION BELT WON BY DAN LENO Champion Clog Dancer of the Worlds AT THE People's Music Hall Oldham AFTER 6 NIGHTS CONTEST May 14th to 19th 1883'.”

Leno would go on to much success on the boards of Music Halls--starring in a variety of shows.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Jane Morris Citrine, 1820-30

Citrine Brooch
Set with emeralds and rubies.
Belonging to Mrs. Jane Morris
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This handsome citrine brooch originally belonged to Jane Morris, the wife of the artist, designer and socialist William Morris.  We’ve looked at several of “Janey’s” jewels before.  Many of them, oddly enough, didn’t come from her famous husband, but, instead came from one of his famous friends.  You see, Janey was often painted by the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti with whom she enjoyed a long “friendship.”  Many of Janey’s  jewels were given to her by Rossetti—including this one.

Oblong with rounded corners, the brooch is set with twelve small rubies and emeralds which are mounted in the filigree frame which surrounds the central stone.  It was made between 1820 and 1830.  It was later adapted to be worn as a pendant.

Her collection was bequeathed to the V&A by her daughter, May, in 1938.

Some other baubles Rossetti gave to "Janey."

Friday Fun: Weymouth's 'Seaside' Punch & Judy Show, 2009

This speaks for itself.  Let’s continue our celebration of Mr. Punch’s 350th with this wonderful clip of a show from Weymouth performed by the  brilliant and talented Professor (Mark) Poulton.

Antique Image of the Day: Four Punchinellos, 1751

Four Punchinellos
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
The Harry Beard Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Earlier today, we looked at a scene of three Punchinellos.  Now, from the same artist, the same engraver and the same year, we look at the next in the series—four Punchinellos.

Perhaps this one precedes, in story, the scene we saw this morning (see the bottom of the page) wherein two Punchs were stealing the lunch of another Punchinello.  Perhaps not, since Punchs like to eat.  Nevertheless, we see here four Punchinellos cooking. Three of them have  gathered around a pot which is boiling on an open fire. The final figure is--facing away from the others—stands next to a metal jug. I wonder what he’s up to.

In the background, we can pick out a ruined building with a shadowy figure inside.   It’s a delightfully odd picture.  

Also from the Harry Beard Collection, this, too, is the work of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  And, since this is his birthday week (350!), Punch is ever-so excited anyway.

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

When you see a man scratching his head, what time is it?

And, the answer is...

"Five after one."

Thanks to all who answered! Your responses are always so much fun.  Look for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles next Friday!

In the meantime, check out our online store to see how you can “Punch” up your everyday life.  And, remember, that’s the way to do it!

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 34

Chapter 34:
Presents for the Duke

Ethel and Jenny walked slowly with their shoulders pressed together (Ethel’s right shoulder pressed against Jenny’s left) through the grand foyer of No. 65 Belgrave Square, up the monumental, winding staircase and to the tall, pedimented door of the drawing room.  The two girls peered over the ornate balustrade and gazed down that the gleaming floor of the hall below them.

“Ain’t nothin’ like nothin’ I ever saw.”  Ethel whispered to Jenny.

“Imagine that this is up here all the time—just above our heads.”  Jenny replied softly.  “It’s a palace.”

“Come on, girls, don’t dawdle.” Speaight warned.
“Here—Vi.” Jenny chirped, grabbing Violet’s shoulder as she passed by.  “You see this every day, do ya?”

“Sure,” Violet said proudly.  “Everyday.”

“Ain’t it sum-fink?” Ethel cooed.

“It’s a right palace.” Jenny murmured again.

“His Grace must be ever-so rich.” Ethel whispered.

“’Course he is!” Jenny nodded firmly.  “Master’s the Duke of Fallbridge.  One of the wealthiest men in England.  Did ya know?”

“Sure, I knew.” Ethel frowned.  “Just didn’t know what it’d look like.”

“Enough chatter girls!” Mrs. Pepper snapped.  “Now, straighten up.  Let me look at ya.”  She inspected her maids.  “I ‘spose that’ll have to do.”

“It’s me best apron, Mrs. Pepper,” Ethel nodded.

“Ain’t the apron I’m worried about.” Mrs. Pepper sighed.

“Now,” Speaight spoke up.  “We don’t want to keep the Duke waiting.  We’re to enter the room in the following order—one after another.  Mind...Heads up, smiles on your faces, hands folded in front of you.”

“How’m I to fold my hands, Mr. Speaight?  I’m carryin’ the present.” Violet asked nervously.

“All but you, Violet.” Mr. Speaight grumbled.  “Now, listen.  Charles first, then Gerard.  Next Gamilla, then Violet, then Jenny and last Ethel.  Mrs. Pepper will go in with me first.”

“What of Miss Barrett?”  Ethel asked.

“She’s already in there.  She’s looking after Master Colin.”  Mrs. Pepper replied.

“Oh.” Ethel nodded.

“Everyone, stiff-backs.  Ready?” Speaight barked.

The staff nodded.

Charles grinned groggily and whispered to Gerard.  “I still feel all out of sorts from that potion of the doctor’s.  Hope I don’t do something foolish.”

Gerard chuckled sloppily.

“You look a bit drowsy yourself, Gerry.” Charles squinted.  “You all right?”

“Fine, fine.” Gerard nodded slowly, trying to shield Charles from the fact that he’d not only taken the one sip of the medicine which Charles had asked him to return to Dr. Halifax, but two, and was feeling quite warm and fuzzy.

“Very good,” Speaight said officially.  “In we go.  Remember the order.”

With that, Speaight opened the door.  He and Mrs. Pepper went in first followed by the others in the order Speaight had instructed.

Ethel and Jenny gasped softly when they saw the drawing room of the mansion.  Ethel’s jaw dropped at the sight of the opulent room with its three large crystal chandeliers—flickering with candles—its ornate plastered walls, important paintings and shining, plush furnishings. 
Seated next to the fire, the Duke and the doctor shared a sumptuous settee.  They rose as they staff entered.  Miss Barrett stood nearby holding the baby.  The Dog Toby sat on the floor at the Duke’s feet.

“Look…” Jenny whispered to Ethel.

“I see,” Ethel replied though she wasn’t quite sure what she was supposed to be looking at.  

Did Jenny want her to look at the masters?  Maybe.  They did look even handsomer than Ethel ever remembered them looking.  Or did Jenny want her to notice the small pile of gifts—sparkling with fine paper and ribbons?  Perhaps Jenny wanted Ethel to notice the wheeled trolley which Speaight had set up earlier with shimmering crystal and an iced bottle of champagne in a silver tub.

Certainly, Jenny had noticed all these things, but she was actually pointing out the cake—the cake which she herself had helped Mrs. Pepper to make.  The cake stood on a dark-colored table at the center of the drawing room.  Iced in pale blue royal icing with crisp white and silver ornaments, the cake rose up to nearly three feet tall—towering at four tiers.  The masterpiece was surmounted by white sugar-roses.  On the front face of the top layer, Mrs. Pepper—with Jenny’s assistance—had piped the Fallbridge arms.

Mrs. Pepper looked proudly at her work and glanced, for a brief second, at Jenny—offering her a rare smile.  Jenny blushed.

The staff watched as the Duke took a deep breath.  He looked, for a moment, as if he was slightly confused and emotional—unsure of what to say.  However, when he opened his mouth, he spoke so eloquently, that the staff—especially Jenny and Ethel—felt as if they were, for the first time in their life, in the presence of someone truly magnificent.

“I am so honored,” The Duke began, “to welcome you into the drawing room, and most thrilled that all of you have taken the time from your busy schedules to join me in the celebration of the anniversary of my birth.  Truly, you are all the very heart of our home.  Without you, neither Dr. Halifax nor I—nor even young Colin—would be able to survive.  And, so, I welcome you humbly, knowing that I am forever in your debt.”

Jenny, Ethel and Vi looked at each other, certain that in their entire lives no one had ever greeted them with such pure sincerity and kindness.

“Have you seen,” the Duke continued, “the glorious cake?”  He pointed to the giant dessert and smiled.  Ethel thought that the Duke’s smile was terribly open and childlike for a man of his stature.  She found it charming.  “I know, of course, that Mrs. Pepper and Jenny have.  It’s a masterpiece.  A true work of art, and I am, in awe of it.  So, thank you.”

“Oh, Your Grace,” Mrs. Pepper curtsied, blushing.

“It’s so lovely,” Dr. Halifax added, “that it seems a shame to ruin it by cutting it. However, for as handsome as it is, I suspect it tastes even better.”

“Oh.” Mrs. Pepper continued blushing.

“And, Speaight—thank you for arranging all of this,” The Duke smiled.

“Certainly, Your Grace.” Speaight cleared his throat.  “On behalf of all of us downstairs, I’d like to wish you many happy returns of the day.”

“Thank you,” The Duke replied.

Ethel studied the man.  He seemed as if he wanted to say much more than he was.  He had a cheerful twinkle in his eye which reminded Ethel of her baby brother.  She had seen the man several times before when he’d come downstairs for one reason or another, and she always found him to be charming, but that night, he seemed more lovely than usual—and certainly not as old as Mr. Speaight had said he was.

“Mr. Speaight…” Violet whispered.  “May I…”

“I suppose, Violet.”

Violet handed the gift to Mr. Speaight.

“Your Grace, if it may please you, the staff has all put in to get you a small token which may remind you of this day and our appreciation of you.”

“Oh, how kind,” the Duke smiled eagerly though his speech was even and mannered.
Speaight retrieved a silver tray from a nearby sideboard and placed the gift atop it so he could present it to the Duke.

“Why’d he do that?” Ethel whispered.

“Ain’t supposed to hand things right to the master.” Jenny whispered in return.

“Oh.” Ethel nodded.

The duke took the gift from the tray and smiled.  He seemed to want to tell everyone to be seated, but knew that he shouldn’t.  “I hope you don’t mind if I sit to open this?”

“Certainly, Sir.” Speaight nodded.

Everyone smiled as the Duke removed the paper from the box and opened it.  His eyes lit up happily when he saw what was inside.

From the box, he removed the small music box which they had purchased for him with a portion of their wages.

“How lovely,” the Duke nodded, examining the box.

“We know, Sir, how much you enjoy going to the Punch and Judy shows in Covent Garden.  And, we have seen the handsome puppet that you have.  We all thought you might like this trinket.  As you can see, the top is painted with a scene of Mr. Punch and Judy with the baby and their dog.”

“Dog Toby,” the Duke said.  Ethel noticed that his voice was different when he said that—brighter, lighter, a little rougher.  She liked it, and was quite pleased with herself for figuring out why the Duke’s dog was called “Dog Toby.”

“This is the finest gift.” The Duke nodded, after clearing his throat.  He sounded more like himself that time.

“Open it, Sir,” Ethel chirped.

Speaight looked at her quickly and, for a second, Ethel was sure that the butler was about to scold her for speaking out of turn.  Instead, he smiled.

The Duke opened the music box and grinned when he heard the tune.  “It plays ‘Quadrille de Punch.’  I thank you very much.”  He paused, “And, look at that.  The inside of the lid is engraved.  He read aloud, ‘To His Grace, the Duke of Fallbridge.  23 Mar. 1853.  With appreciation from the staff of No. 65 Belgrave Square.”  He cleared his throat again.  “I’m terribly  honored.  Thank you all so much.”

Dr. Halifax looked quite pleased.  “Shall we watch His Grace open his other gifts?”

“I already…” The Duke said quickly.  He stopped himself, and took a deep breath.  “I’ve already been given this lovely box and…” He used his right hand to touch a ring on his left hand.  “And, my beautiful present from you, Dr. Halifax.  There couldn’t be more.”

Jenny squinted to get a look at the ring the Duke was wearing.  She’d not seen him wear it before.  It glimmered in several different colors.  Jenny noticed that Ethel was looking at it, too.  They were both quite impressed.

“Did the doctor give him that?” Ethel whispered.

“Who else, then?”  Jenny frowned.

“Dunno.” Ethel shrugged

“Your Grace,” Dr. Halifax said formally.  “Did you not notice the gifts on the table?”
The Duke laughed—loudly and with a sort of joy which Ethel and Jenny would never have thought possible from a titled man.  “I rather thought that those were meant as favors for our guests.”

“They are all for you.”

Speaight retrieved one of the gifts and placed it on the tray to offer to the master.
The Duke took the gift and studied the small card which had been tucked under the ribbon.

“Who’s it from, Sir?”  Ethel called out, feeling quite at home.  She did, however, looked sideways to Mr. Speaight, but he didn’t seem to mind.”

“It is from Their Majesties, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.”

The staff gasped, terribly impressed.

The Duke carefully opened the paper to reveal a leather box.

“Nice,” Ethel whispered.

“That ain’t it.” Jenny mumbled.

“Oh.” Ethel’s eyes widened.

Opening the leather case, the Duke removed a gleaming gold box the likes of which the maids had never seen before.

“How beautiful.” Gamilla said.  “Your Grace, what is it?”

“Well, Gamilla, it’s a snuffbox.  See, the top of the box is…” He paused again.

Ethel wondered if the Duke always did this—starting to speak in one way, and then changing his mind after a few words.

The Duke began to speak again.  “Gamilla, this is called enamel.  You see this lovely blue?”
He held the box up for the staff to see.  The top of the gold box was, indeed, a shining blue.  In the center, a small portrait oval of Queen Victoria was surrounded by fiery diamonds.”

“Think,” Ethel whispered, “that came from Her Majesty herself.”

“I must thank Their Majesties when we visit them the day after tomorrow.” The Duke said to Dr. Halifax who, the maids noticed, looked immensely pleased and proud.

“Shall I get another?” Speaight asked.

“Yes, please,” the Duke nodded, placing the gold box next to him on the settee, alongside the music box.

“A gift we gave the master is right next to a gift from the palace.  From the Queen herself.” Ethel chirped excitedly.

Speaight offered another box to the Duke—this one was larger.

“This is from Dr. Halifax’s brother, Cecil, and his wife in Lousiana.” The Duke smiled.  He looked at Gamilla who nodded with understanding.

From the box, the Duke removed a very large puppet with a wooden head and a cloth body.  The puppet resembled Dog Toby only wearing a yellow and red ruff and pointed hat.
Ethel noticed that tears had begun to form in the Duke’s eyes.

The master tried to speak, but couldn’t seem to find words.

“Of course,” Dr. Halifax spoke up, “Charles, Gerard and Gamilla know this already since they were with us in America, but the puppet that His Grace keeps in his bedchamber was made for him by my brother, Cecil—a sculptor—and his wife.  It seems they’ve made a canine companion for Mr. Punch—the puppet—just as the Duke has the real Dog Toby.”

With that, Dr. Halifax sat next to the Duke, careful not to sit on the music box and snuffbox from the Queen and Prince.  He whispered to the man softly.  “Steady on, dear…  We’ll write a nice letter to them this evening.”

The Duke nodded, still unable to speak.

At that very moment, Ethel realized what Mrs. Pepper and Mr. Speaight were saying earlier when they said the Duke was not likely to find a wife.  Ethel grinned, happy that her two masters had one another.

“Will you…” The Duke began, pausing to press his lips together.  “Will you hold him for me?”
Ethel wondered if the Duke wouldn’t cry.  He seemed as if he might—not sad tears, but happy ones.  He didn’t, however.  Instead he cleared his throat.

“There are three more, Sir.” Speaight said.

“Get the small one, Speaight.” Dr. Halifax pointed.

Speaight did as instructed.

As the Duke took the box, Dr. Halifax smiled.  “This one, Your Grace, is from our Colin.”
“How’d he…” The Duke snorted.  “Pardon me…how…”

“I helped arrange it for him.”  The doctor winked.

“Ah, thought maybe Dog Toby took him shopping.” The Duke muttered cheerfully—again, his voice slightly different.

The Duke opened a leather and mohair case—hinged at each side to open in the center—to reveal a gold and diamond framed portrait miniature. 

Again, the Duke was unable to speak, his eyes moist.  He held the miniature up for all to see.  It was a small painting—of brilliant, vivid color—of Colin—his pink cheeks and dark eyes perfectly captured in enamel color.

“You see, Your Grace,” The doctor said, emotion creeping into his own voice, “It’s Colin.”
“I see.” The Duke responded softly.

“When we first opened the house, do you recall when I asked that painter to finish the murals on the nursery walls?”

The Duke nodded.

“Do you remember the man that I introduced to you as the muralist’s assistant?”

The Duke nodded again.

“I fibbed a little.” The doctor winked.  “He was not the muralist’s assistant.  It was Joseph Lee, the miniaturist who works so often for Their Majesties.  While you were working on the papers for some of your charities, he was making sketches of Colin.”

Gamilla couldn’t hold her tongue any longer.  “I sat with them.  Sir, you should have seen the drawings—they were so pretty.  But, this…this is much prettier, still.”

Dr. Halifax grinned.  “Mr. Lee finished this just in time.  He arranged for the jeweled frame which was made especially for you by Garrard’s.”

The Duke’s head shook for a moment and, then, he nodded slowly to Dr. Halifax.

“Do you like it, Your Grace?”  Gamilla asked.

“Very, very much,” The Duke rasped.  “Forgive me,” he said slowly.  “As I am without words at the moment.”

“Give him ours now,” Gerard barked.

This made the Duke laugh.  “Gerard has the spirit.”

Charles looked at his friend.  “You all right?”

“Sure,” Gerard said brightly.

“Charles, perhaps you would like to present your gift to the Duke?” Speaight asked.

Charles held up his broken wrist.

“Ah, yes.” Speaight chuckled.  “I’ll do it.”

“Sir,” Charles began.  “I know that we all, as a staff, got you that nice music box, but Gerard and I wanted to do something special, too.”  Charles turned to face the rest of the staff.  “I know you’re all aware that Gerard, Gamilla and I were in the employ of His Grace in America.  However, what you don’t know is that, much as he is with all of us here, His Grace showed us such special kindness while we were abroad, that we will forever be in his debt."

“Pardon me sayin’ it,” Gerry spoke up.  “But had it not been for the Duke and Dr. Halifax, neither Charlie, Gamilla nor me might be alive today.”

Opening the small box that he’d been handed.  It was a wee, leather case which he opened slowly to reveal a pair of gold cuff buttons.  On their faces, they’d been chased and carved with a small portrait of the puppet figure, Mr. Punch.  At the top of each of the Punchinello’s hats, a small ruby flickered.

“Oh, they’re terribly handsome.”

“Best we could afford, Sir.” Charles said humbly.

“Thank you so much, Charles.  Thank you Gerard.” The Duke smiled.

“His Grace must really enjoy ol’ Red Nose.” Ethel whispered to Jenny.

“Seems so.” Jenny nodded.

“One remains.” Speaight said.  “Miss Barrett?”

“The last is from me and Gamilla, Your Grace.” Ellen smiled.

“May I?” Gamilla asked.

“Of course,” Gamilla retrieved the gift from the table and, using Speaight’s tray, offered it to the Duke.

After opening the brightly wrapped package, His Grace removed from the box, a porcelain figure.

“It’s a nodder,” Gamilla smiled.

The Duke gently touched the head of the figure which gently rocked in place in a nodding motion.  Modeled after a figure of pierrot, the figure was brightly colored.  In the pierrot’s hand was nestled a painted representation of a Punch puppet.  The figure wore a pointed cap and across the front of his coat were several colorful, fluffy puffs.

The Duke giggled like a little boy.  “It’s very smart.  Thank you so much!  It’ll always agree with me, too.  I can’t say how much it is appreciated, thank you—both of you.”

“Sir,”  Ellen said.  “We must thank you for all you’ve done for us.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Gamilla added.  “The kindness you done showed me is like nothin’ I never knew ‘fore.  Even to bring me all the way here from America, Sir.  You made my life very good.”

The Duke continued to play with the nodder for a few moments, smiling all the time, before realizing that he must speak.  Setting the gift next to him, he rose. 

“I want to thank all of you for your touching kindness.  You’ve all been too, too kind for, honestly, the best gift you can give me is the one you already present each day.  You see, it’s been my dream to enjoy a happy, peaceful home.  Because of all of you, that dream is a reality.  I want you all to know that each day, I am thankful for all of you.”

Jenny and Ethel found that they both had tears in their eyes.

Gerard laughed stupidly, patting Charles on the back.

“You’re not quite yourself, mate.” Charles whispered.

“Jus’ havin’ some fun, Charlie.” Gerard winked.

“Well, then,” Dr. Halifax rose.  “Speaight, champagne is in order, I think.  And, Mrs. Pepper, I think you should be the one to cut that magnificent cake.”

“Oh, certainly, Dr. Halifax.” Mrs. Pepper blushed again.

Everyone began to murmur happily, and soon the joyful sound grew so loud that no one heard the front door bell as it rang insistently.

After a few moments, Tom, the page, stiffly and hesitantly entered the room.  He walked up to Mr. Speaight and whispered.  “Sir, there’s a woman here.”

“What’s that boy?” Speaight asked, turning from the champagne which he was pouring.

“A woman…well, two of em.  One young and…and an old woman, too.  They’re both in the vestibule.”

“Oh.” Speaight’s eyes widened.  He signaled for Gerard to keep pouring, and then, made his way to the vestibule.  As he walked, he had a rather sick feeling that their happy party was over far too soon.

Did you miss Chapters 1-33 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.  If so, you can read them hereCome back on Saturday for Chapter 35.