Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The mice

This morning the helpful man at Montesi VW in North Haven, Conn., administered a little first aid to my car, and, while craning under the hood, pointed to a small aggregation of husk-like manavalums scattered around the rim of a small circular depression right on top of the motor. “Mice,” he said. My eyebrows shot up, because I was not quite sure what he was suggesting—could my snappy vehicle be infested with rodents, indeed plagued by disease-carrying vermin? “Do you keep it in the garage?” he asked. “Sometimes,” I said, “when it’s snowing, or when I’m out of town.” “The mice like to climb up through the engine and hang out there, cos it’s warm,” he explained.

I was not aware until now that there must be mice in my basement, which is where the garage is. I have never seen or heard a mouse. I have not seen any droppings either. Yet there it was, and there it still is: incontrovertible evidence of mice, viz. droppings right under the hood of my late-model 2011 Volkswagen Eos. Part of me is disgusted by this, and not merely because it might now be prudent to bring in the pest controller. Yet I suppose another part of me is rather intrigued. Upon reflection, as I drove back to the office, these mice are generating a kind of Beatrix Potter-ish vibration. They must be rather bold mice, and comparatively intelligent. Presumably they know better than to clamber up through the innards of my car too soon after I switch the engine off, lest they be fried. And presumably they scram when I get in and start her up, though, again, I have never been aware of any small creature or creatures scuttling away from the front half of my car. I suppose I do not begrudge the mice this form of free hospitality, but the least they could do is to refrain from shitting all over my engine. I felt strangely embarrassed, even shamefaced, when the nice man from Montesi VW pointed this out, although I suppose by now enough other people have had the same problem for it to be quite familiar to him.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Edwardian Opulence

Last Wednesday morning a hefty, air-freighted object of astonishing beauty plopped onto my desk. Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century is now a glorious reality. Our heartfelt thanks must go to everyone for their supremely generous efforts on our behalf. Every exquisitely typeset line, every page, every opening, every illustration is a work of art, and all other aspects of the book a positive joy to us, the co-editors and co-curators, up to and including the snappy gold stitching, and the wonderful ending (this last illustration before the endpapers—just superb). So, three cheers to wonderful Ellie Hughes and her team in exhibitions and publications here at the Yale Center for British Art; the meticulous Elisa Urbanelli, our copy editor; the patient Daphne Geismar, designer extraordinaire, and to our publisher Sally Salvesen and to all her sterling colleagues at Yale University Press in London. Our thanks must also go to Julie Allred of BW&A Books, wizards of the fine art of typesetting, and, above all, gli eccellentissimi Signori Conti Tipocolor SpA, master printers of Florence. Noi ringraziamo loro! All of them deserve a flashy gold medal in the Queen’s Birthday honours list (where else?). And now, full steam ahead with the installation of the exhibition itself, no small undertaking—there are fifty-five lenders from ten countries spread across four continents that straddle the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian Ocean, one of the largest and most complicated projects the Center has ever undertaken.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More bonds

Last night I dreamed I was having a lively discussion with someone about the merits of the graphic work of Saul Steinberg. Dad was much intrigued by Steinberg’s fine covers for The New Yorker and I rather think his own line drawings were at times influenced by him, though not quite as much as they followed the prompts of Daumier’s gens de justice series, with a dash of Doré and even Goya thrown in for good measure. Certainly there were large-format, lavishly-illustrated books about Steinberg at 18 Denham Place, and I remember as a child poring over them with real fascination, and trying my best to imitate his style. Only now do I realize that Steinberg must have played an important part in steering me towards art in the first place, thanks above all to our wonderful father, and maybe also latterly towards old bond certificates. For in the frigid light of this morning it struck me with sudden force that Steinberg must have studied them closely. Throughout The Passport (1954) for example, he paraphrased portions of their stylistic vocabulary with rare wit, capturing that overinflated Neronian pomposity and plutocratic flamboyance in controlled fits of high Modernist, steel-nibbed satire. There is the neurotically minuscule “small print,” the showy signatures, the cartouches, sunburst striations, the trophies, the armorial bearings, the banner-swoop arabesques, and the flutter of all those intricate marginalia. The bonds were not his only source, however, for Steinberg threw in the posturing habits of more recent forms of official documentation. This portion of his restless mindscape embraced the certified public accountant, the university registrar, the consular section, and rubber-stamp customs and excise officials with every bit of the enthusiasm with which he took aim at the banks and brokers responsible for pumping up the Gilded Age bond market. Still, this is a source and, now, an essentially Edwardian residue, that I never recognized before this morning, thanks to that strange dream. Visual memory is evanescent, but apparently jogged powerfully by sleep. Come to think of it, there is something tangibly Edwardian about that too.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The bonds

For some time I have been interested in the sub-branch of numismatics known as scripophily, the art of Gilded Age stock and bond certificates. In most cases these were listed in the conventional way and publicly traded in many jurisdictions. Owners of such financial instruments fell into two main groups—registered holders and “bearers.” Bearer status meant that the bond in question could change hands in transactions that were not necessarily known to the issuer, but could be redeemed later by whoever legally held the scrip. Obviously the methods of engraving the designs on steel plates and then printing them on high-quality paper ran exactly parallel with the production of bank notes. Their complexity was primarily driven by considerations of security, i.e. protection against forgers. The art form certainly reached its apogee in the Edwardian age, but unlike many bank notes the art of stock and bond certificates has since then declined. Those of us fortunate enough to own a modest number of such investments today hold them, relatively speaking, in the ether, and breathe silent prayers that such an arrangement is sufficiently secure. We have seen in recent years that there are no absolute guarantees, and the current price of gold reflects a correspondingly hot desire for intrinsic value. A precious certificate or bill is, of course, only intrinsically valuable in the sense that it stands for what we like to think is a legally binding promise to pay the bearer. I suppose it is better than nothing.

The scarcity of these splendid old bond certificates is simple to explain. Bond markets flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century when impecunious governments raised capital by selling promises to pay back more at fixed interest rates maturing in ten, twenty, thirty, or however many years. Incidentally, this is how the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., is currently keeping the United States afloat, but 100 years ago there was a massive public infrastructure rationale. Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina wanted railways. So did China and Japan. Bankers such as N. M. Rothschild and Sons in New Court, St. Swithin’s Lane, in the City of London, negotiated the terms of the bond issue. They also engaged one of a handful of respectable firms of bank-note manufacturers to create the bond certificates, and then sold them to investors. The bank charged a commission (at both ends) but generally bought a stack of bonds also, so they profited in several mutually sustaining ways. With luck Peru and the rest got their railways, and many other multinational mining companies, property developers, and railway builders prospered. Rothschilds invested in all such concerns. It was a whirring financial steam engine. When redeemed by the investor, the bond certificate was afterwards cancelled or destroyed. However, in a number of celebrated instances when the issuer of the bond defaulted, and defaulted spectacularly, as did the Imperial Chinese government in its death throes, bond holders were left holding the certificates. There was nothing to stop the continuing, highly speculative trade in these, and for many years they were bought and sold, drifting poisonously around the markets until history proved their worthlessness, except, of course, as mementoes mori, and, these days, as oftentimes quite astonishing works of the art of master printing and engraving. 

The finest examples exploited the skills of a handful of skilled artisans specializing in attenuated and at times barely legible letter-forms, a froth of curly-cues or, for various dignified headings, the blocky silhouetted typographical equivalents of Stonehenge or the Parthenon. Others worked solely on decorative figures, ghostly bas relief arabesques, medallions, rosettes, garlands, cornucopias, stamps, quatrefoils, and Rococo cartouches containing scenes and motifs directly relevant to the investment for which the certificate stood in loco. There was simply no limit to the decorative vocabulary. Most exempla were conceived as precious hand-illuminated addresses, couched within a wide border strongly reminiscent of the most opulent carved and gilded Louis Napoleon picture frames. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century an ingenious method was invented for producing these mechanically with a sharp chasing wheel controlled by a smooth gear system. This produced the dizzying spirals and intricate guilloche swirls that, it was presumed, no forger could possibly hope to replicate. Thenceforth the border exchanged the pomposity of the picture frame for an equally pompous abstract ornament, proudly technological. There were, in addition, distinct layers or registers of detail produced by the application of up to five or six subtly different colors laid down on separate plates in exact conformation, and, crucially, watermarks also, meaning that the design of the certificate penetrated into the fabric of the paper itself, exactly like bank notes. Black, pea green, plum, rose, eau de nil, chartreuse, and Naples yellow. These were extremely sophisticated techniques of manufacture, and, in the case of Chinese and Japanese bonds, calligraphy and even seals were reproduced even to the point of taking account of the imperfection with which the issuing signatories applied their brushes to the original documents, or the sticky red ink from their jade or hardstone seals.

Scripophily has grown into a vigorous branch of connoisseurship practiced by retired stockbrokers, bankers, and other people interested in the history of finance. Yet I think these ostentatious relics of Gilded Age commerce offer historians of art something more profound. Bond certificates aspired to the dignity of a royal charter, a high warrant, letters patent, even a papal bull. They seem determined to endow the mechanisms of international credit with the awesomeness one might expect from the design of a baroque basilica, and even something of the mystique. Instead of the great seal of the prince, the chancellor, or the pontiff, we find their fin-de-siecle equivalent: the signs manual of now-forgotten ministers of finance, the haughty imprimatur of bankers and brokers who carried almost equal authority but had at their disposal far more money and credit than had ever existed. The bonds are imposingly large. They represent a shift in emphasis from a form of capitalism in tune with Rossini to something more akin to Wagner. Their imagery trumpets a vast expansion in synthesized credit, and, at times, a pig-iron weight of seriousness. The bearer of a one-hundred-pound bond for the 5% Hukuang Railways Sinking Fund Gold Loan of 1911, for example, was possessed of rather more than £100 (plus 5% in due course). It was as if he, she, or it (in the case of institutional investors) were granted a coat of arms, a personal impresa of knighthood in the chivalrous pursuit of that Holy Grail of potentially unlimited profit, as yet unimpeded by the hideous impostures of tax.

In the equivalent, bleak pursuit of pure profit today, all we have to pass back and forth are pitiful shards of plastic, cash, and data.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mum again

The day before my mother’s funeral in early December 2009, I bought a new pair of socks. I am not quite sure why I did this, except that it seemed wise to look my best, and these socks were snappy. I am wearing them now. They have broad horizontal black and purple stripes, which seemed somehow appropriate, with the added touch of bright fuchsia heels and toes, which, of course, are invisible when wearing shoes, but a rather liminal hint towards the kind of cheerfulness that I am sure Mum would have bravely urged upon her grieving sons, but without necessarily displaying it. The socks are wearing out, alas, for the heels and toes are fraying, and I am no darner—Mum was. This gives me a little pang for three reasons, because (a) I suppose it is yet another indication of the widening distance in time that continues to open up between us and her; (b) I still miss her very much indeed, and (c) I am ashamed to say that when Mum darned my socks, a labor of love that held, I am sure, absolutely no appeal to her—and, to be fair, I never once requested the intervention—I was rather inclined not to wear the sock in question quite so much as before. Still, I have kept one such pair, which I never wear but cannot now bring myself to discard. How strangely these little emotional tics reveal themselves post hoc, and how I wish I had said, you know, do please, please save yourself the bother. This, I am sure, would have vexed her. Helen was a firm believer in mending. No garment, implement, or appliance was thrown out if it could be repaired, and the extension of the usefulness of anything at all Mum regarded as a minor victory in the dogged battle for domestic economy, and a point therefore of mostly secret satisfaction. The dishwasher, however, defeated her. At some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s the dishwasher gave up the ghost. She was, in any case, disinclined to use it, preferring instead a scarifying procedure involving boiling water from an ageing electric kettle, a soap-saver, a rather grimy dish-mop, and an ancient chipped enamel grey mixing bowl (to save water, because the kitchen sink was larger than she felt necessary for doing the washing up). Detergent was anathema; she used just soap and scalding water. Nothing too terrible seems to have happened as a result. The oily grey lukewarm washing-up water afterwards went onto the garden. For larger gatherings she did permit herself the luxury of the dishwasher, but when it died she went back to the old method and she never bothered to go through the upheaval of replacing it. I am sure she thought that would be an unnecessary extravagance. Most other labor-saving devices were regarded with similar skepticism. However, there was one exception. After Dad died, and after much consideration, Mum spied at one of the motor shows in the Royal Exhibition Building a gleaming white Citroën C4 (or a model very similar) rotating on a podium. Somewhat unexpectedly she liked the look of it, and, with Simon’s enthusiastic encouragement, at length decided to buy one. It took many months of patient waiting before this new-model vehicle was eventually delivered, and she loved it until the very end of her life. I am sure those distinctive chevrons on the bonnet reminded her of Dad in his heyday, for he was for decades a committed Citroën-ista. Through those last ten years Nick, the nice young man at her local Citroën dealershipCars of Francebecame something of a rock and a stay, and Mum trusted him completely with every aspect of the maintenance of her buoyant little car, which, like the prototype, was snowy white. In many respects, I think, she probably trusted his advice rather more willingly than she ever sought it from us, her younger sons, not for any particular reason other than that her attitude towards us as adults was never entirely untethered from her overriding concern for the slightly vulnerable child. I am now in a cold sweat wondering, hoping, that one of the others got in touch with the dependable Nick of Cars of France after Mum died. I expect he would have appreciated the gesture.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Wedding at Cana

Today’s Gospel never disappoints, for to this bumbling layman it is crammed with suggestive detail. The Wedding at Cana appears only in John, and immediately follows the Calling of the Disciples, and immediately precedes the Cleansing of the Temple, both of which appear in some form or another in all four. This alone ought to focus the mind upon a degree of narrative intensity arising from the position of this miracle story in John (2:112)—quite apart from its several other sources of interest:
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.
Cana of Galilee was the place where the nobleman of Capernaum secured the healing of his son (Jn 4:46), and apparently also the birth-place of the disciple Nathanael (Jn 21:2). Only these and the wedding are mentioned in scripture, and none of the three outside John. The site in Galilee is almost impossible to identify, apart from the fact that Jesus “went down” from there to Capernaum (12), and the nobleman besought him to “go down” also. Josephus mentions Cana, a village of Galilee (Vita, 16), and simply adds that it was “in the plain of Asochis,” which does not carry us much farther. However, Kana el-Jelil is the exact modern Arabic equivalent of Cana of Galilee, and that name has long been applied to a considerable ruin on the slope north of el-Battauf, the ancient Asochis. This was, in turn, on ground above Capernaum, which could be reached by road north of the Toran range, towards the valley of the Jordan, without any need to swing south. Many rock-hewn tombs and several water cisterns were found there in the nineteenth century, but no spring. This is probably as close as we are ever likely to get to the real Cana of Galilee, and all primitive attempts correctly to identify the place were either wrong or wildly wrong, beginning with Eusebius.  

The largest context for the story would appear to be the development of basic symbolism about Jesus, and an allusion to the coming of his “hour,” and what that might or might not mean. This trickles all the way down to the temporal marker at the beginning, viz. “the third day.” Yet the story also functions as an elementary, almost defining demonstration of his power, in fact the first such sign; its unequivocally divine source, and its independence of human agency.

The passage, as Raymond Brown observes, is mostly free of uniquely Johannine language; indeed the snow of detail (all of which squares with Greek witnesses and the Vulgate) runs more closely parallel with synoptic narrative style. It parses as follows: This is a marriage feast at a particular place, on a particular day (1). The mother of Jesus, Jesus himself, and his disciples are all there (2). The need for the miracle is made clear; the wine has run out. The mother of Jesus notices this, and remarks upon it (3). The highly ambiguous exchange then takes place between mother and son, Mary’s first and last appearance in John before she reappears at the foot of the cross (4). Resistance on Jesus’ part is strongly implied; and corresponding persistence on Mary’s (5). The miracle is then set up; the number and capacity of the empty vessels carefully itemized (and therefore their size and shape; the ancients were well accustomed to reaching these conclusions by mental arithmetic on the basis of very limited information), as well as their ritual use (6), which is a rather important point because it sets up a link with O.T. wine and abundance imagery in relation to the messianic wedding feast, e.g. Isaiah 54:4–8 and 62:4–5. Jesus gives instructions about water, and these are followed without question (7); Jesus gives further instructions about drawing some of it out and taking it to the steward; these are likewise followed (8). The exact character of the water-into-wine transformation miracle is revealed almost in passing; but crucially it is not made public. The steward of the feast does not know where the good wine came from; the servants, however, do know, and the authors of John are explicit in their determination to let us know that they know the servants knew (9). Some confusion in the mind of the steward arises from the sudden arrival of fresh wine at this point in the wedding feast, which reinforces the private, even clandestine nature of the miracle (10), but the exact location and divine significance of the sign are immediately emphasized for the second time, together with the fact that the disciples also know what has happened and how, and that they believe (11). The story ends with further specifics about where Jesus went afterwards, with whom, and for approximately how long (12). Twice Mary is quite emphatically not named, though her identity is nevertheless made perfectly clear. Jesus’ manner of address to her (4) is at the very least surprising—“Quid mihi et tibi, mulier?” “O woman, what have you to do with me?” (note the sparkling clarity of the Latin, and the clunkiness of the RSV English, although I suppose it’s marginally less bad than King James (absorbed without change from Tyndale): “[O] Woman, what have I to do with thee?”—though this would seem to prompt by way of good old Hellenistic (and Johannine) antithesis profound reflections upon the available answers to that quite extraordinary question. Meanwhile, the old preamble in the Book of Common Prayer underlines the sacramental significance of Jesus’ action specifically in relation to matrimony “which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee.”

Finally, it is amusing to note the coyness with which all English translators since 1526 have navigated the rather sticky point of verse 10, when the steward remarks to the poor bridegroom—I suppose high-handed wedding-planners are by no means an exclusively modern phenomenon—“Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” When men have drunk freely is, in other words, a plucky attempt to draw a veil over what the Vulgate renders with total explicitness as cum inebriati fuerint, in other words “when men are drunk.” No two ways about it, ancient or at least Hellenistic social drinking was about getting thoroughly, totally, and acceptably drunk, and the only reason you kept the bad wine until last was that by that time nobody would or could tell the difference. In this sense, you could even argue that there is actually no need for the miracle, other than to generate a supply of poor wine. That Jesus produced a quality vintage went beyond the immediate requirements of the situation and into the realm of extravagance. It seems possible that further, now completely forgotten, inferences on the part of the steward are: “Go ahead and serve even more good wine to your drunk guests, but don’t blame me for the consequences,” or, possibly, “If I were you, at this point I’d keep the good stuff; don’t for Heaven’s sake waste it on the guests. They’re already drunk,” in which cases there is, here, some congruence with the flamboyant Mary-versus-Martha value system we encounter at 12:1–8. In the Johannine context I do wonder if verse 10 may stem, probably unwittingly, from more than a little contact with the applied practices of first-century Greek or even Roman sommeliers, but that is another matter entirely. 

A further and unanswerable question is, who were the bride and groom, and what was their link to the holy family? In the light of subsequent events did they and/or the servants eventually form part of the earliest Christian communities, perhaps knowing or ultimately comprehending what part that wedding feast played as a prologue to Jesus’ public ministry? Did they exist at all? Does this really matter? Not such trivial considerations, these, but such is the pleasure of exercising your imagination over impossibly ancient texts derived from even more obscure sources that frequently reveal more to us than ever their transmitters can possibly have hoped.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Edwardian or Edwardian?

Last year our distinguished colleague Professor Sir Christopher Ricks suggested to me that the correct pronunciation—or perhaps the most socially ambitious (not necessarily the same thing)—of the term Edwardian is not, in fact, like “accordion” but like “guardian” instead. Deeply skeptical, I hastened to check the first edition of the OED, itself a glorious monument to the Edwardian age, and found that they unequivocally gave the pronunciation of Edwardian like accordion. However, in the second edition and the current online entry (because they have a slightly worrying habit of revising and altering these from time to time) they are wavering, and now give Edwardian like accordion, but “also” like guardian. This seems to me irritatingly non-committal. I am not quite sure what it means, except that Edwardian like guardian was apparently unknown to the OED in its heyday, so I wonder where, when, or with whom the slightly affected later pronunciation originated. It has a vaguely Bertie Wooster-ish, Elsa Maxwell-ish, Wallis Simpson-ish, Duke-of-Windsor-ish quality, but who would know for certain? And what would The Queen say?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yorke and Norton

The Melbourne firm of Messrs. Yorke and Norton at “87 Collins-street east” was evidently far more than a manufacturer of picture frames. According to various advertisements in the Argus newspaper, commencing in January 1855, “Ladies needlework [was] carefully and elegantly mounted”; “Furniture repaired, carpets, curtains, rollers, [and] blinds made to order.” They were also “House-decorators, Upholsterers, Cabinet-makers, Undertakers [presumably of work, not funerals―although it is certainly a strange coincidence that Paxton and Allan, undertakers, the conventional sort, were located at 86 Collins-street east], Painters, &c.” And alongside the trade in picture frames “of every description manufactured to order,” Yorke and Norton dealt in pictures too, many thousands of them: “Pictures.―Five Thousand Sporting, Hunting, Steeplechasing, &c., framed or otherwise,” almost certainly cheap reproductive prints and engravings. The partnership appears to have lasted for about a year. In January 1856, Mr. Norton moved into new premises at 88 Collins-street, and Mr. Yorke to 227 Elizabeth Street. Thenceforth, they advertised separately with slight but nevertheless telling shifts in emphasis. On May 1, 1858, for example, we find the following notices in the same column on page 7 of that day’s Argus:

Picture-frame manufactory…Norton, gilder, decorator, printseller, &c. Paintings restored. Frames regilt.

Picture frames, Maple, Rosewood, Gold &c. manufactured by Charles Yorke…Trade supplied.

A little earlier Mr. Yorke posted separate advertisements for “a lad for a market gardener” and “an Agricultural labourer,” though by the end of the year he was seeking “a paperhanger” and “a smart lad.” Perhaps Mr. Yorke had one foot in home décor and the other in fresh vegetables; certainly Mr. Norton’s focus was more squarely upon the traditional spread of the mixed picture-dealing and frame-making business, with the nowadays rather sinister autre corde à son arc of “restoration.” Perhaps this contrast lay behind the dissolution of their shortlived partnership towards the end of 1855.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Show business

Whilst searching for more particulars about Yorke and Norton, the framers and picture dealers of 87 Collins-street east, who were certainly active by 1855, earlier today I chanced upon the following advertisement for an ambitious midsummer show at Astley’s, the large theater in Spring Street that was tucked behind the old National Hotel in Bourke Street, in other words roughly where the Princess Theatre is today (Argus, Wednesday, February 14, 1855, page 8). I suppose this is a valuable reminder that while picture frames are one thing, show business was an altogether more ambitious affair in colonial Melbourne, with a far longer and arguably more interesting history.

Sole Lessee and Manager, Mr. G. Lewis.
Treasurer, Mr. H. Birch.
Conductor of the Circle and Ring Master,
Mr. T. Nunn.
 Astounding Success of the magnificent Legendary
 Spectacle of
St. George and the Dragon.
Never was success more decided, encouragement more deserved, or the Manager of a Circus more cause [sic] to be grateful.
Crowded houses night after night
Are the best criterion of all popular entertainments; and it is with the greatest pride, the Proprietor asserts, that he has been singularly fortunate in the production of such entertainments as are adapted to the public taste. For the great support he is nightly receiving, he begs leave most respectfully to thank his kind patrons, and to assure them that every novelty that capital and taste can command, shall, during the season, be brought forward for their amusement.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, February 14th,
15th, and 16th [1855].
Previous to the Performance, a Grand Overture
will be performed by the Band.
Synopsis of the performances:
Terrific encounter of
St. George and the Monster Dragon!
The entertainments will conclude with, first time
this season, the grand legendary spectacle of
St. George and the dragon,
The Seven [sic] Champions of Christendom.
Kalaba, the Enchantress, Mrs. T. Lee.
Sycorax, a Fiend, doomed to perpetual torments
for conspiring with other fiends to free St. George,
Master J. Christoff.
The movements of the dragon performed by
Mr. H. Walker.
St. George, Mr. Barlow; Tom of Coventry, a Tinker, afterwards Squire to St. George, Mr. Yeamans; Kate, Mrs. Yeamans; Dame, Mrs. T. Lee.
The Six Champions:
St. Denis of France, Mr. G. Nunn; St. Patrick of Hibernia, Mr. Klaer; St. James of Spain, Mr. H. Walker; St. Anthony of Italy, Mr. Pablo Fanque; St. David of Wales, Mr. Lee; St. Andrew of Scotland, Mr. Smith;
Cavaliers of Coventry, &c., by the company.
Ptolemy, King of Egypt, Mr. H. Birch; Almandar, King of Morocco, Mr. T. Nunn; Lampthos, a herdsman, Mr. Adams; Princess Sobra of Egypt, Mrs. T. Lee.
Mr. Pablo Fanque, the Eminent Artistic
Rope Dancer!
Florist’s Daughter, Mrs. Yeamans.
French Vaulting by the whole Company.
That Constellation of the Hippo-dramatic Hemi-
sphere, Mr. W. Barlow, will execute on a
Flying Charger his Scenic Act, called
Rinaldo Rinaldini, the Bandit Chief;
Or, The Scourge of Italy.
The Renowned Slack Rope Vaulter, Mr. H. Walker,
will appear as
The Star spangled Sprite of Flying Mercury.
Mr. Klaer as the Bottle Imp.
Comic act of equestrianism by Mr. T. Lee, entitled
The Clown and his Granny!
Mademoiselle Antoinette.
Messrs. Dhering and Stebbing’s Gymnic Feats as
The French Dromios.
Mr. J. L. Smith, the great Trick Act Rider, in his
surprising Equestrian Feats on a Single Horse
at full speed, as
The Bounder of the Rialto…
Persons of improper character will be strictly excluded from the Dress Circle and Side Boxes.
Though this kind of variety program was not especially unusual, on the whole theatrical copy running sometimes on consecutive days in the columns of the Argus was usually a little tighter. Astley’s notice, for example, was immediately followed by the following:
Cattle show this day.
Madame dalle Case’s
Extraordinary and Terrific Ascent, on the illumi-
nated rope, 400 feet in length, across the
Cremorne Lake,
Every Evening.
Entire change of performance every evening.
Vocal and Instrumental Concert.
Equestrian Circus.
Major John Downey, jun.,
And his auxiliary troupe of talented Apes.
Pony Races with Monkey Jockies.
Music and Dancing as in the Old Cremorne;
A new Hungarian Band.
All the World’s Curriculum
Will run, as usual, every quarter of an hour.
Shooting gallery, Chinese skittles, &c.
I am not quite sure what “All the World’s Curriculum” was, but it was clearly a favorite with Cremorne-goers. Perhaps it was some sort of panorama. It had been running since early January when, in addition, “the sagacious Elephant” performed as usual.