one day at a time…
Tuesday, 27 July 2004

Marie Lloyd Meet Banjo Paterson
CREDIT: © The Theatre Museum/PeoplePlayUK.org.uk
WHERE: Victorian London. WHAT: music hall entertainer Marie Lloyd.
Thumbnail click and text [1][2][3][4][5] links pop-up source pages.

Marie Lloyd © PeoplePlayUKToday's item has its roots in a question posed by a correspondent: "Did Marie Lloyd ever perform for Queen Victoria?". Our best answer so far is: "Unlikely!" What we do have evidence for is a shipboard meeting between Marie and Banjo Paterson; indeed Marie suggested Banjo might write a song for her (offering the catch line "They've all got their little bit o' muslin") for which the top going rate was thirty bob.

Perhaps a little background information will help you to make sense of all this, though we will skip the monetary details because the 1971 decimalization of British currency made the shilling, or 'bob', obsolete.

Marie Lloyd (1870-1922) started life as Matilda Alice Victoria Wood, appeared for six weeks in 1885 as Bella Delmare, then adopted the name by which she became famous throughout her career. Her life, both personal and professional, was not without controversy, but she had a huge following in her day as 'Our Marie'. She died only days after becoming ill on stage while singing 'Oh, Mr. Porter', and her grave is in Hampstead Cemetery. Her epitaph read:
Tired was she and she wouldn't show it.
Suffering was she and hoped we didn't know it.
But he who loved her knew, and understanding all
Prescribed long rest and gave the final call.
The PeoplePlayUK web site offers guided tours to various aspects of the Music Halls, including a feature on Marie Lloyd that expands to six [1][2][3][4][5][6] detailed sections. Today's thumbnail picture of Marie in tartan stage costume (bicycles and bloomers were autoerotic icons of the time) comes from [5] section. The song in the background for the opening will probably be familiar to persons of a certain age and cultural background. Those who have "never had their ticket punched before" may struggle to identify, let alone appreciate, the innuendo.

As for Marie and Queen Victoria, you can read about that in section [6] above. That event was in 1912, and Victoria had died in 1901, so we think it improbable there was an earlier performance. Marie played Collins's Music Hall, and Victoria is said to have visited those premises during her lifetime, but we were unable to find direct evidence of the two things being synchronous. On balance we stick with "Unlikely!".

Tomorrow we will introduce you to Banjo Paterson, and give details of that shipboard meeting. We think most readers will recognize Banjo's best known song, even if they are less familiar with the remainder of his output.

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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)