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"A" ('Princess Ida' No. 2) Company in Lichfield

PROVINCIAL THEATRICALS

LICHFIELD

The Era (London, England), Saturday, June 14, 1884; Issue 2386.

ST. JAMES'S HALL. — Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 2 Princess Ida company was announced to open here on Thursday for three nights. Excellent business was on the cards, as the Staffordshire Yeomanry are assembled at Lichfield for a week's training.

The Era (London, England), Saturday, June 21, 1884; Issue 2387.

ST. JAMES'S HALL. — We stated in our last issue that Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 2 Princess Ida company was announced for the three last nights of last week. The rare excellence of the company was demonstrated in every department, and the opera was received with an amount of enthusiasm we have rarely seen exceeded here.

Unfortunately the company and a section of Yeomanry were brought somewhat into collision. The fact is that during Yeomanry week here three-fourths of the the audiences are supplied by the yeomen, and they have, as it were, established a practice, which in the case of variety companies does not much matter, but which when applied to a Gilbert and Sullivan opera is entirely out of place. The custom of accompanying a chorus is what we refer to. On the first night a few of the gayer and more youthful spirits insisted on talking, and occasionally joined in the chorus singing. This brought a protest from the manager. The offence was repeated next night, and the party, ostensibly seeking an explanation of a characterisation indulged in by the manager, hustled him, with the property man and two or three lads, into the box-office. The key was outside, and they locked him in. The door was subsequently forced, and the prisoners liberated. On Saturday night there was a further display of angry spirit, but fortunately nothing more. The death of Colonel Bromley-Davenport has brought the events of the week into undue prominence.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, June 22, 1884; Issue 2170.

STRANGE DEATH OF AN M.P.

The annual assembly of the Queen's Own Royal Staffordshire Yeomanry, held at Lichfield from the 12th to the l6th, was marked by the most extraordinary proceedings on the part of the men and officers. The regiment was commanded by Colonel W. Bromley-Devonport. On Friday evening the officers and some of the men went to St. James's Hall, to witness the performance of Princess Ida by Mr. D'Oyly Carte's company. They stormed the stage, and the members of the company had to retreat. The disturbance culminated in their locking Mr. D'Oyly Carte's manager in a private room and going off with the key. On Saturday night they paraded the town to the market place, where the monument erected to the memory of Dr. Johnson is situated. They daubed the face of the monument with blacking, and placed the empty blacking-bottle on the head.

On leaving the monument, the men were met by the police, who seized their ladder. The police were then, in turn, charged by the yeomanry, who recovered the ladder. The police secured one of the rioters and handcuffed him. The prisoner was, however, eventually rescued, and the handcuffs were literally sawn from his hands. Later on, the Adjutant-Major Graves and some of the principal officers appeared on the scene, and the men after repeated requests dispersed. This conduct on the part of the yeomanry aroused considerable feeling among the civilians, and on Sunday night, when the public-houses closed, there were large assemblies in the main streets in anticipation of a renewal of the disturbances. The officers' mess was on Sunday evening held at the Swan hotel, and Mr. W. Bromley Davenport, M.P., the colonel commandant of the regiment, was present. The mess broke up soon after 10 o'clock, and Colonel Davenport proceeded to walk up to Yeomanry House. On the way he encountered the crowds in the streets, and at the corner of Market-street briefly addressed the people, urging the yeomanry to go home to their billets quietly. The crowd then went in a body into the market-place, accompanied by Colonel Levett, M.P. for the city, who once more appealed to the men, out of respect for him as their representative, to quietly disperse and let there be no further disorder. The colonel in the meantime walked on to Yeomanry House, but had not proceeded more than a few hundred yards when he suddenly fell to the ground. This occurred opposite the Robin Hood inn, and for a minute or two he was unnoticed. A tradesman and his wife, who were passing, saw the colonel lying in an insensible condition, and it was then found he was dead.

An inquest on the body of Mr. Bromley Davenport was held on Monday, at Lichfield. — Major Francis Graves said several times during the week he had complained to witness of pain, and used to touch himself on the chest. On the parade last Friday night at the cricket field he said to him,"If this pain goes on much longer I must ask Lord Anglesey to take command." — Mr. Henry Palmer Welchman surgeon to the Queen's Own Royal Staffordshire Yeomanry, said he found the deceased quite dead at the Robin Hood inn. There was not the slightest mark of external injury of any kind. There was very little dust on his trowsers to show that he had fallen heavily. He should say that the cause of his death was angina pectoris. There was disease also evidently affecting the heart, and from this he was liable to sudden death. — The jury returned a verdict, "Death from natural causes."

By order of the War office, a court of inquiry was held at the Yeomanry house, Lichfield, on Tuesday. Evidence was given by the mayor, Major Levett, M.P., Superintendent Haraman, chief of the police; and the adjutant of the Queen's Own Royal Yeomanry Cavalry. The court at the close gave the decision that there was no riot as alleged, and that the whole of the disturbance was confined to the arrest and rescue of Trooper Smith, Queen's Own Royal Yeomanry Cavalry.

The week's annual "training " of the Queen's Own Royal Staffordshire Yeomanry concluded with a review on Whittington-heath on Wednesday; Lieut-Colonel the Marquis of Anglesey, owing to the death of Colonel Bromley Davenport, taking the command. At the conclusion of the review Lord Kerr, Inspector of Auxiliary Cavalry for the Northern district, addressed the officers and men in the following terms:–

"I regret very much the sad blow which has fallen upon the regiment, which has . cast a gloom over your meeting this year. Colonel Davenport was long the father of the regiment. However, I am not here to speak so much about him as to take this opportunity, before going away, to convey to you my heartfelt condolence upon the gross manner in which this fine regiment has been treated by the Public Press. I have only to say that I feel indignation that the officers and men of this old regiment, which has always maintained so fine and so soldierlike a reputation, should have filth cast upon them by the public Press without grounds, and certainly without sufficient cause."

Lord Ralph concluded by saying he was ready to bear witness that they had obeyed orders, and that he considered that instead of being a discredit to the service, they were a credit to the town, county, and country.

The Marquis of Anglesey on Thursday apologised to a representative of the press whom he publicly insulted at the review on Whittington Heath on the previous day. Other representatives of the press were on Wednesday night and Thursday morning grossly insulted and threatened by members of the yeomanry.

Miss Ada Doree, writing from Banbury on Thursday, says :–

"The reports in the papers are not at all exaggerated. I am playing Lady Blanche in the Princess Ida company, which was at Lichfield last week. On Friday night the disturbances were so great, the remarks of the officers respecting the persons on the stage so offensive, that it was almost impossible to go on with the performance. After the performance the officers locked the manager in the pay office, and took away the key. On Saturday night, between the second and third acts, they took up the carpet in front of the stalls and threw it into the orchestra. After the performance they took possession of the hall, and one of the officers sitting down at the piano, the others joined in a disgustingly vulgar comic song. I was going to London by the midnight train, and the only way I was able to leave the hall was by a house adjoining. When my cab was drawn up at the door it was immediately set upon, the cabman's hat was knocked off, and he was pulled off the box. They then rushed with the cab up the street, and I was obliged to procure another, and go by a circuitous way to the station in order to get clear of the riots."

The Era (London, England), Saturday, June 21, 1884; Issue 2387.

"OFFICERS AND GENTLEMEN."

After reading the accounts of the occurrences at Lichfield on Friday week, we may well pause to re-assure ourselves that we are really living in the year of grace 1884, and not in those "worst times of the Regency" so often quoted as being the "palmy days" of aristocratic rowdyism. For utter idiotic stupidity, combined with an entire absence of real humour, we have scarcely ever heard of anything to equal the exploits of "the officers and some of the men" of the Royal Staffordshire Yeomanry. With the outrages on the town of Lichfield we have nothing to do. But we cannot too strongly express our disgust and indignation at the blackguardly conduct of the individuals, who, both by position and education, must have known better, towards the artists of Mr. D'Oyly Carte's clever Princess Ida company at the St. James's Hall. We can understand tipsy young bloods of the "Tom and Jerry" type pouring Nubian blacking over the statue of Dr. Johnson, or bestriding a horse in a cab after carefully cutting the reins. There is a certain fitness in the desecration by persons of a certain calibre of brain, and by those who (in spite of a public school education) frequently are "shaky in their spelling," of the great lexicographer's monument; and the reinless cab-horse may well typify the ideal of existence which they may be endeavouring to realise. But, from time immemorial, a certain conventional gallantry has supposed to be a mark of "an officer and a gentleman."

Of this, however, there is no trace in the conduct of the "officers" of the Staffordshire Yeomanry. The newspaper reports of their behaviour were not perfectly accurate in every particular; but we are in a position to assure our readers that what we state now is exact in every particular. On the Thursday evening, about ten o'clock, a party of officers arrived at the St. James's Hall, where an audience of ladies and gentlemen was assembled, and behaved in a most disorderly manner, joining in the choruses of the songs, deriding the performers, and acting in a most ill-bred and childish manner. It is said that music has charms capable of soothing the breasts of savages; but on this occasion even the sweet strains of Sir Arthur Sullivan's numbers failed to exercise any calming influence on the aggressive instincts of this disorderly soldiery. They made remarks upon the performance in audible tones, and ridiculed the artists till some of the poor girls were ready to shed tears from sheer mortification. Mr Carte's acting-manager remonstrated with them, but his good-natured appeal had no effect, for on the Friday twenty-one officers visited the hall and recommenced the disturbances of the preceding evening.

The daily journals were incorrectly informed as to the actual occurrences of this night. The officers did not "storm the stage," as was reported, but persons are ready to swear that the officers secured a lady's hat which was hanging within their reach and kicked it about the place. In fact on both evenings those among the audience who had come to see the opera and not to behave like a pack of unruly schoolboys were more injured and insulted than the artists themselves. Perhaps we should hear more complaints from them, but that (as must be remembered) they are in the immediate neighbourhood of these well-conducted gentlemen, and that there is some danger of any complainant being pointed out as was a gentleman connected with a Staffordshire paper by the Marquis of Anglesey as "one of those blackguards" who dared to give information of these precious performances. We can, however, vouch for the fact that they endeavoured to gain admission to the dressing-rooms by a trap-door in the floor of the hall, and that several of the non-commissioned officers and men, who behaved throughout the whole affair like gentlemen, though not like their officers, actually left the hall with serious faces, unable longer to endure the spectacle of the degradation of their superiors. After the performance they mobbed the acting-manager, who after good-naturedly requesting them to come on "one at a time," was struck by one of the officers, and finally was locked in the pay-box.

Next morning the acting manager went to the Marquis of Anglesey, and threatened, if he would not exert himself to prevent a repetition of such behaviour on the Saturday night, to telegraph to the Duke of Cambridge, and the Marquis promised to speak to the officers at mess. His admonition, however, could not have had much effect, for on that evening, after the performance, the officers forced their way back into the hall, and a noble Marquis got into the orchestra, where he performed on the piano, while other officers mobbed the stage door, whence each lady of the company was escorted by two male protectors.

The facts which we have just stated we can vouch for as being perfectly accurate. We have purposely understated the amount of ill-behaviour on the part of the officers of the Staffordshire Yeomanry, because every eye-witness of the affair joins in attesting the good behaviour of the non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment, and we are sorry that a regiment whose rank and file conducted themselves properly on this occasion should suffer in reputation for the sins of their superiors. But, as we have our information in every case from eye-witnesses of respectability who are ready to swear to the facts we give, there is no possibility of their being shaken except by direct evidence of a contrary nature.

We should not have devoted so much consideration to what, after all, was only a stupid after-dinner row but for the inaccuracies which have crept into the speech of Lord Dorchester in the House of Lords on Tuesday night. It seems a pity that Lord Dorchester, instead of consulting "three of the officers," who may, for all we know, have been amongst the offenders, and certainly would not be likely (to say the least of it) to say more than they could help against comrades with whom they were united by esprit de corps, had not applied to some of the respectable part of the audience on that exciting evening. These, perhaps, could have informed his Lordship that the local theatre of a respectable town is not what is usually meant by a "music hall" that there was no ballet connected with Mr D'Oyly Carte's Princess Ida company; that the ladies of that company are, in many cases, most respectably connected, and certainly quite as likely to be "frightened" by conduct to which they were unaccustomed as the ladies who, by personal acquaintance, were likely to be familiar with the manners and customs of the officers in question; that many, not "one," of the officers joined in the choruses; and that the acting manager did not on any occasion apply the expression "snobs" to these "gentlemen."

But from Lord Dorchester's expression of individual opinion at the end of his collection of facts we must be allowed to dissent. If a manager who endeavours to suppress a disgraceful disturbance is to be "properly served" by incarceration in his own pay-box, a rather curious state of things will commence to exist. Gangs of officers out for a spree after dinner will practically have entire licence to behave as they please in London as well as in the provinces. It will be dangerous to visit the theatres; and ladies will, from experience of the results of a contrary habit, hail with joy the regulation of "Bonnets not allowed," for surely it is better for those head-dresses to be in the safe care of some attendant than to be used as a football by the military? And if Mr D'Oyly Carte should present himself before the curtain at the Savoy to remonstrate with the rioters, he will have to persuade himself that he has "got off very cheaply" if he finds himself confined, till released by some good Samaritan, in the "deepest dungeon" of the theatre. To create a disturbance in a place of amusement, and to insult and mortify a number of helpless girls who are working hard for their gratification and amusement, and, vainly perhaps, endeavouring to improve their mental and musical culture, may be, in the opinion of some persons, "behaving very well." We trust, however, that public opinion will not share this benevolent view of the case. We can quite agree with Lord Dorchester in his estimate of the prowess of the officers of the Staffordshire Yeomanry; we regret, however, that it should not have found some other way of exhibiting itself than by insults to women and brutal rowdyism.


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