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" And, Mr. Robinson, what club had the advantage
of your name as that of a member living abroad ? "

" I "^ Oh, I joined the St. James's because my
people thought I might go in for diplomacy. But
then, of course, I became a member of the Conser-

" I say, oughtn't we to have a club } " continues
Brown, putting a second question. And then the
first cercle in Undiscoverdia is founded. Brown (of
the Garrick), Jones (of the Athenaeum), and Robin-
son (of the Conservative and the St. James's) are the


first committeemen. Candidates rush in. Some are
pilled, and the pilling creates a sensation. In a year
or two the club becomes a most flourishing institu-
tion. It has a fine house, a good cellar, an imposing
hall-porter. In fact, it is a colonial version of " home,
sweet home."

But what does the Frenchman, if he finds himself
away from civilisation — that is to say, out of reach of
Paris } He meets his equals at the cafe. He plays
dominoes with much skill, and sips absinthe.

" I belonged to the Pommes de Terre," says Jules.

There is a pause. Alphonse is not particularly
interested, and Gustave yawns.

" It was an amusing cercUl' continues Jules. " I
wonder if we. could have one here. We might get
the papers and the table d'hote and distractions. It
seems to be a happy thought. What do you say t "

" That I prefer the cafel' replies Alphonse.

" That I want another game of dominoes," returns

And so the matter is allowed to drop.

It is said that " Trade follows the flag." I think we
might add as a rider that " clubland keeps step with
the Union Jack."


About thirty years ago (when we were all more or
less children) dining clubs were in great favour.


These were scarcely " seconds " or " pot houses " ;
they were only coteries. The Lambs were renowned
for their pleasant dinners, and soon had " a junior "
in the shape of " The Lambkins." Certain " reverend
seigneurs " who now object (out of season) to listen
to the chimes at midnight, belonged to these festive
gatherings. In the sixties there was a song which
was often heard at Evans's on a boat-race night, sung
by amateurs, with the title, " Come and be a Rollick-
ing Ram." The Lambs and the Lambkins were
both more or less "rollicking." Then there was the
Wig Wam (not for a moment to be confounded with
the Savage), wherein certain mysterious rites were
performed before a candidate could be admitted to
membership. The dinners of those clubs were eaten
in the near neighbourhood of the Haymarket Theatre.
They have vanished, and have left, I think, but few
successors. At the end of the century we have the
Kinsmen, the New Vagabonds, and the Argonauts.
But perhaps the most popular of the newer genera-
tions of coteries were respectively known as the " Two
Pins " and the " Charivari."


A few seasons ago the Two Pins Club was so
frequently referred to in the columns of "London
Day by Day," in The Daily Telegraph, that its



existence no longer remained a mere myth but
appeared as an established fact. As I cannot claim
to be a member myself, I betray no confidences when
I reveal what I have heard about it. I fancy it con-
sisted of about fourteen members — all of them good
fellows, and many of them distinguished men. I
believe it was necessary to ride and possess a horse.
It was against the rule to follow the hunt for lunch
on a bicycle or even a four wheeler.

" But why the Two Pins ? " I asked, in the days of
my ignorance.

" From the surnames of a couple of British horse-
men representing respectability and daring — the final
syllables of Qi'A-pin and ^-wx-fin. See?"

I did " see,"^and greatly appreciated the cleverness.
I believe the title was chosen by the life and soul of
the Club — a gentleman who has long figured as a
humorist of the first water.

" And what is the object of the Two Pins Club } ''
I asked.

" A good ride before luncheon," was the answer ;
" the gallant horsemen prefer menus to foxes, and
chasse cafes to hares. And as they are all good fel-
lows, laughter attends upon appetite."


But perhaps one of the most promising of the
auxiliaries of London clubland is a rather mysterious


circle known as " The Charivari." It certainly has a
President and a Vice-President, and I have seen
mentioned (in the columns of the Press) a " foreign
section." From the sources of information open to
the public I have learned that the members of the
Charivari are great people for lunching. About a
year ago the Charivaris met at Calais and broke their
fast at the buffet. From what I am told I believe the
club to be unique. The other day I interviewed a
very prominent member.

" Who are eligible for election ? " I asked, with a
fine scorn for Lindley Murray.

" Only good fellows ; but we do not consider
nationality. Still, if a Chinaman were to put up, he
might perhaps find that the line was drawn at a resi-
dent of Yokohama."

" Are ladies admitted ? "

" Only as visitors, and then they must be cousins,
sisters, or aunts, added, of course, to daughters and

" Have the ladies any privileges ? "

" Only of being entertained. But it is an unwritten
law that their titular lords and masters may do what
they please. They may light up without permission,
and order another bottle without reproach."

" And will the Charivari live and prosper ? "

Then came the sharp and decisive answer, " It has
lived and does prosper."




I have not touched upon the Zodiac, with its com-
pany of " Brother Signs," or " the A B C," wherein
every member represents a letter of the alphabet, or
the " Olde Set of Odde Volumes," renowned for its
good fare both mental and culinary, or the Casuals,
where talk is in greater favour than food. Enough
to say that " one and all " are very pleasant. If a
man belongs to any of them he may be taken as
*' not a bad fellow " without further investigation. A
Londoner can always be summed up by his clubs,
and " seconds " spot him quite as readily as " firsts."




Boxing Day at the end of the century is still
associated with Christmas boxes. As a rule, those
boxes are rather a tax upon those whose duty
(a duty, however, sometimes combined with a
pleasure) it is to supply them. But there is
to everyone, whether it be the host who has pur-
chased it or the guest who has accepted the host's
valued hospitality. I need scarcely add after these
observations that I refer to a box at the Drury Lane
pantomime. Every year the annual has become
more difficult to compose, for the simple reason that
its originator has made it a point to beat his own
record. Year after year, from 1879 to 1893, the late
lessee of the National Theatre determined to make
his present pantomime better than the one of the
year past, and by universal consent accomplished the
seemingly impossible feat. And since the death of


Sir Augustus his successor has satisfactorily attempted
the task of his predecessor. I had the privilege of
witnessing the preparation for what is now known as
Harris's last pantomime. As a spectacle it was the
ultimate word of the century.


I must frankly confess I had no knowledge of how
many things had to be done to produce a pantomime
until I had made the inspection to which I have just
referred. I rather pride myself upon an intimate
acquaintance with things theatrical, and from a very
early age have been accustomed to visit that place of
disillusions, " the land behind the scenes." In years
gone by I have been present " on the other side of
the footlights " when Jack the Giant Killer was
being performed at the Princess's Theatre. The
father of Sir Augustus Harris was the lessee of the
theatre, and M. Zola might point to the fact in sup-
port of his theory of heredity. Jack the Giant
Killer was one of the most successful of pantomimes
ever produced outside the walls of Drury Lane, but
it was not to be compared with the modern annual.
As the ironclad of the present is to the wooden three-
decker of the past, so is the Panto of to-day to the
Panto of ftve-and-twenty years ago. Everything
nowadays is on an infinitely grander scale. Where


there was but one ballet scene, there are now three
or four; where there was a solitary procession, there
are now half-a-dozen ; where there was a company
of fifty or sixty, there is now an army numbering the
greater part of a thousand. Those who were suffi-
ciently fortunate to be present in Drury Lane during
the run of the pantomime watched the evolutions of
no less than seven hundred persons. Fancy,
seven hundred persons dressed and drilled and
taught to dance and sing to amuse the children!
That those children are of all ages is true enough,
for grandfather and grandson are equally delighted.
It is a sign of the times that nowadays no one
thinks of apologising for visiting the pantomime.
In the pretty-long-ago "we went to please the
little ones ; " now we go to please ourselves. It
may be justly said that no Christmas holidays are
complete without a visit to the pantomime. And I
write " the pantomime " advisedly. In the case of
Yule-Tide entertainments there has been a distinct
survival of the fittest.


I have mentioned Jack the Giant Killer, at the
Princess's, and it may be interesting to old playgoers
to jot down a few particulars. Miss Louise Keeley,
daughter of Mrs. Keeley, and wife of Montagu


Williams, was " the principal boy." Saker, Widdi-
comb, J. G. Shore, and Espinosa were also in the
cast. The giant was the finest then on record. He
could open and close his eyes, walk, talk, sing, and
dance. Poor Henry Byron was the author, and I
remember one line that Mr. J. G. Shore (who was as
good in pantomime as in romantic drama) used to
give with much unction and infinite effect : —

" I go to Bath ! With rage my hair doth Bristol^

That was a pun of the period ! I am afraid it would
scarcely be favourably criticised by the exponents of
the " new humour." Espinosa was a graceful dancer,
who subsequently made his mark as Friday in the
pantomime of Robinson Crusoe. Another feature of
Jack the Giant Killer was " the Rifle Dance." The
volunteers were just coming to the front, and this
was the first time that drill was suggested in the steps
of the coryphees.


And now, having talked quite long enough about
the past, I turn to a time of far more immediate
moment, the last of Harris's pantomimes. I was per-
mitted to wander about Drury Lane at my own sweet
will, and follow the bent of my fancy. 1 shall never


forget the scene. The theatre was turned into a very
hive of industry. Business is invariably very brisk
in the front of the house, but just before the
production of the pantomime the work of behind
the scenes finds its way into the auditorium.
Work was going on everywhere. The very
passages were filled with busy assistants in the
pantomime production. Here was a chorus practis-
ing a glee, there a part of a ballet practising a new
step under the direction of my excellent friend Mr.
D'Auban, and yonder a number of seamstresses hard
at work putting the finishing touches to some cos-
tumes. I made for the property room. I ascended
a number of stairs, and found myself near the sky.
All the work was done. The hundreds and thou-
sands of " properties " required for the pantomime
were completed, and all that had to be done was to
take them to the stage and have them in readiness
for those who had to use them. There were plaster
moulds weighing hundred-weights, in which had been
cast the enormous oyster shells that were to figure in
some of the fairy scenes. There were all sorts and
conditions of — well, everything. Fairies' wings for
the transformation scene ; animated gunpowder bar-
rels for Guido's plot ; heads of savages for Crusoe's
Island. If I were to attempt an inventory, I would
have to fill hundreds of pages of this volume.



I passed through a door, and then found myself in
the old painting room — there is another that has been
recently constructed. We were close upon Boxing
Night, so the distempering of the acres of canvas had
been nearly completed. The " talented assistants,'*
as they used to be called in the old play-bills, were,
however, hard at work putting finishing touches to a
wnnderful cloth representing London in the time of
the Georges.

" Very busy, sir ? " I asked one of these clever
young gentlemen.

" Very, indeed, sir," was the reply ; " but we are all
right. Sir Augustus never leaves anything to
chance. There is nothing behindhand with him.
We are generally prepared to produce a day or two
before our time, and that is the reason that (barring
accidents) there is never a hitch on a first night."

I passed a " Merry Christmas " to my friend the
" talented assistant," and we separated.


And now as I came down the stairs that led to the
stage, I had an opportunity of learning some of the
reasons that probably were the cause of the mana-


ger's great popularity. I peeped into one of the
dressing rooms now tenanted only by fine clothes
waiting to be worn at the dress rehearsal. These
neat apartments were a vast improvement upon the
rooms of the past — order, cleanliness and comfort
ruled supreme. And wherever I went I found the
same consideration on the part of " the direction "
for the happiness of "the company." It is not
unnatural, consequently, that everyone should be
satisfied — County Council, Renters, and last, but
not least, the great British Public. And now I
found myself among the dresses. Scores of seam-
stresses were at work completing the costumes to be
worn in the great procession, giving the " History of
England in twenty minutes." The display reminded
me of Planche's admirable work on things sartorial.
Here were the dresses of some half-a-dozen centuries,
correct to the minutest details. Besides these
elaborate adornments there were the most exquisite
fancies for a couple of the most elaborate ballets, to
say nothing of the " outer man " equipment for a
company numbering the greater part of a thousand
individuals! I was reminded of the interior of the
cave of AH Baba, wherein the rather-too-free-traders
housed their merchandise. One room was crammed
full of the most expensive silks, satins, and brocades,
worth many guineas a yard. They were there
because they had been bought on the chance of


" their coming in useful some day." And as a matter
of fact that " some day " invariably arrived. Sir
Augustus seemed to know intuitively the things that
would be wanted, and purchased them when and
where they could be got.

" You are very busy ? " I suggested to a bright-
looking lady, who had kindly accompanied me at the
request of her superior officer, the queen of the
department. " You seem to have a number at
work } "

" You have not seen them all," was the reply.
" Every room is full, and you will find dressmakers
cutting, contriving, and sewing in the auditorium.
You will find them in the passages, behind the circles,
and in every room that is not required for rehearsal.
But our work is nearly at an end — at least for the
pantomime. But when it is over we shall begin upon
something else."

And I saw that my kind and courteous informant
was quite right. The passages and rooms had been
invaded. During December every inch of the
National Theatre, both before and behind the foot-
lights has to be devoted exclusively to the needs of
the pantomime.

" And the ballets will be fine ? " I asked.

" About the finest we have ever done," was the
answer. " The dances of the fishes under the sea will
be the talk of London. The hues are so delicate,


the designs so clever. I have never seen anything to
touch it."

And again repeating my Yule-Tide greeting
(which made me feel in my fur-lined coat rather like
a premature Father Christmas), I walked into the
saloon. In one corner were a number of ladies trying
over a chorus ; in another my friend Mr. D'Auban (to
whom I shall ever be grateful for putting into action
the quaint old tunes I discovered in the British
Museum proper to the time of the " Maske of
Flowers ") was giving a lesson to a lady who was to
dance a ^pas de deux. I greeted my talented friend
with great cordiality, and found that, like everyone
else, he had been hard at work. Only that morning
he had devised a dance appropriate — of all things in
the world ! — to animated newspapers ! He had just
seen the dresses of his ballet of seventy ladies, and
was satisfied, too, that the combinations of colours
would be perfect.

" I have it all in my mind," said Mr. D'Auban ;
" and I expect to see a marvellous effect."

And, having once more qualified for Santa Claus,
I took myself to the stage. Here, again, hard work
ruled supreme.


I have seen a large number of stage managers at
one time and another. I have been present at a re-


hearsal of which Charles Kean has taken the direc-
tion, another which has been commanded by Mr.
Fechter, a third " bossed " by Mr. Sothern, a fourth
by Mr. F. C. Burnand, a fifth by Mrs. Kendal, a
sixth by Miss Mary Anderson, a seventh by Mr.
Coe, and an eighth by Sir Henry Irving ; but I can
honestly declare that the late Sir Augustus Harris,
in my humble opinion, was, as a stage manager,
better than them all. He not only knew what he
wanted done, but knew how to do it. Moreover, he
had the power of making others see his points, and
causing them to adopt them. He could show at a
moment's notice " how everything should be done."
If put to it he could give examples of all the passions
from amiability to an expression of the bitterest
revenge. And all his employes knew this, and conse-
quently believed in him implicitly. The late lessee
of Drury Lane would have made an excellent
general. Of that I am sure. I have seen him play
the part of " Commander-in-Chief " as it had never
been played before. And he had, in the person of
Mr. Arthur P. Collins, an excellent " Chief of the
Stage Staff," who, on the death of his friend, worthily
replaced him in the supreme control.




A FEW years ago, amidst much rejoicing, the Im-
perial Institute was opened to the pubUc. There
seemed to be some doubt about its exact object, and
perhaps it is not quite right to call it a common (or
garden) exhibition. That there was a magnificent
inaugural ceremony is patent to everyone who read
the descriptions in the daily papers. A vast num-
ber of seats were occupied by Fellows of the Im-
perial Institute, and I fancy that the qualifications for
Fellowship were what may be termed elastic. Still
it must be remembered that the Institute is not con-
fined to India, Canada, and the Colonies, but extends
to Great Britain. " It seems to be the nearest ap-
proach to Federation at which we have arrived at
present, and H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (to whom
the idea, I believe, with justice is credited) is to be
congratulated upon having obtained the first move


towards what we all desire and all hope some day to
possess. If the Institute proves to be the foundation-
stone of a noble edifice that will become the admira-
tion of the world, it will be far more valuable than
all the exhibitions the world has ever seen. There
is no reason why this should not occur. Forty years
ago who would have thought of such an institution?
The late Prince Consort imagined a congress of na-
tions in South Kensington, and it has been left to his
eldest son to originate a scheme on the same site that
is calculated to bind together all the subjects of the
Queen, be they at home or living * beyond the seas.'
Such an idea is full of the most glorious possibilities.
May they be realised." So I wrote when the Insti-
tute was inaugurated, but recent events have proved
that my view of the future, to say the least, was
rose coloured. For all that, the Imperial Institute
assisted to create that cordial feeling of good fellow-
ship that we find in existence between the Colonies
and the Mother Country at the end of the century.


I have rather an indistinct recollection of the first
Exhibition. It was opened when I was a ver)^ small
boy indeed, and I am under the impression that my
father (who was favoured with an invitation to be
present, and whose season ticket I still possess) was


called upon to appear in Court dress. In those dis-
tant days the levee costume consisted of a snuff-
coloured coat (with steel buttons, ruffles, and arrange-
ment for a bag wig), an elaborately embroidered white
satin waistcoat, white satin breeches and stockings,
old-fashioned shoes, and steel-hilted sword, with pen-
dant chain and a cocked hat. Nowadays, a man, if
he cannot boast a uniform as a Cabinet (or other)
Minister, soldier, sailor, militiaman, yeoman, or volun-
teer, wears a neat arrangement in black velvet — a dis-
tinct improvement upon the old costume. I rather
think there was a miniature frigate on the Serpentine,
from which was fired a royal salute. And I recollect,
as Colonel Sibthorp strongly opposed the erection of
the building on the ground in the Park immediately
opposite Knightsbridge Barracks on the score that it
would injure the trees, the Palace of Crystal was raised
to a height sufficiently lofty to include within its walls
a cluster of growing oaks. The architect was Mr.
(afterwards Sir) Joseph Paxton, the chief of the gar-
den staff of the late Duke of Devonshire. No doubt
the coming knight took his idea of the conservatory-
like aspect of his design from the glass at Chatsworth.
Sir Joseph was a great friend of Mark Lemon, the first
editor of the London Charivari, and was, I think, the
only " outsider " who was ever entertained at that
weekly banquet of wit and other excellent things, the
Tunch dinner. Then I remember that the streets in



the neighbourhood of the World's Show (which was
to secure peace for ever, and, as a matter of fact,
served as an overture to those stirring mihtary dramas
the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny) were im-
passable. I recollect my mother giving a cabman
half-a-crown to drive her from one side of the Knights-
bridge Road to the other, which was at the rate of
about a penny a foot. Then I call to mind a Chinese
junk which came up the Thames, and was ultimately
exhibited at a show called the Chinese Exhibition.
I am under the impression that the captain of this
junk was treated with great honour, and given a place
amongst the Ambassadors at the opening ceremony.
And I fancy that amongst the exhibits from some out-
landish country was a hideous idol. The Government
of this outlandish country, upon receiving an official
invitation to send specimens of the produce of the
land, despatched all they had — a pair of native slip-
pers and their god.


All the world knows that, after a struggle to retain
the Crystal Palace of 1851 on the site it originally
occupied, the structure was removed to Sydenham
and set up afresh. If my memory does not play me
false, the smaller transept at Upper Norwood is the
" old original " that used to face the barracks at Hyde


Park. Amongst other exhibits at Sydenham removed
from Hyde Park were two fountains, one of glass and
the other showing figures representing the four quar-
ters of the earth. And was not the Wurtemberg col-
lection also at Knightsbridge, and "the screen of
kings and queens ? " And of all the exhibitions that
have been held during the past half-century the dear
old Crystal Palace as it now exists has been the best.
We are so accustomed to its glories that we forget
their value. Think of the various courts, the Alham-
bra, the villa from Pompeii, the Egyptian and the
Greek. When fire destroyed one of the transepts,
the two huge figures of Memnon were lost in the

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Online LibraryArthur William À BeckettLondon at the end of the century : a book of gossip → online text (page 6 of 19)