This post was originally published here
Recently the VV was invited to take part in a spectacular event when, as one of 32 Londoners, she gave a talk on the London Eye. Her event was based on Marie Lloyd, a superstar of the London halls and theatrical entertainments, whose career spanned the later nineteenth, and early twentieth century.
Perhaps she had been singing these lyrics from The Tale of the Skirt – which went:
“By correct manipulation, she her figure can display,
And the ankles, and the, er, well, it’s hard to turn the eyes away…
And she murmurs ‘Saucy Monkey’ when a rude boy shouts, What ho!…”
“The boy I love is up in the gallery,
The boy I love is looking now at me,
There he is, can’t you see, waving his handkerchief,
She must have suffered terribly, but she never wanted pity. Right up until the very end, she preferred to put a brave face on things, saying: “Let them think I died of good living – don’t leave them crying.” This sentiment was echoed by the words inscribed on her gravestone:
Tired she was, although she didn’t show it,
So many wept that autumn day for a woman they said could not be replaced – and whether or not she ever was, the music hall era had entered its twilight: all the crowds who once laughed and drank in halls no longer so keen on saucy songs, preferring to dance to jazz instead, or else flocking in droves to cinemas to enjoy the cult of silent film. And after the horrors of World War 2, many more stayed at home with their TV sets – upon which they might have been content to watch programmes like The Good Old Days – that title to echo the very first song that their Queen once sang in the Grecian Hall.
The BBC’s 2007 dramatisation of the life of Marie Lloyd which stars Jessie Wallace is available to buy here, or various clips can be searched for and viewed on Youtube.
Finally, if you would like to read more about the life of Marie Llloyd there is much to be found online, and the VV also recommends these sources –
Essie Fox was born in Herefordshire, but now lives in Windsor, and Bow in East London with her husband and Jack Russell Terrier. She has worked on the editorial side of magazine and book publishing, and also as a commercial designer. These days she is a full time writer, creating dark Victorian novels with a distinct feminist perspective, all of which are published by Orion Books.
The Somnambulist, her debut, which features the London music halls, was shortlisted for the 2012 National Book Awards. Also featured on Channel 4’s TV Book Club, the novel has now been optioned for TV/film by Hat Trick Productions.
Elijah’s Mermaid (which is set in the Victorian demi-monde, with artists, whores and freak show tents) achieved excellent critical reviews. And now The Goddess and the Thief explores the exoticism of India – and also the cult of spiritualism – with deposed Maharajahs and Hindu gods, sacred diamonds, and candlelit seances.
You can also find Essie on Twitter as @essiefox, and on Facebook as Essie Fox Books.