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Secrets of a Savoyard
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Editorial Notes:

  • The book's text is complete with the trivial exception of the original publication and reprint dates at the beginning, (referred to in the introductory notes), and the printer's credits at the end. Beyond correcting a minor transcription error relating to the production dates given for "H.M.S. Pinafore" in the table at the end, the rest of the text is verbatim.
  • The photographic plates were originally distributed individually throughout the book, mainly in the middle of chapters, but I thought it more 'aesthetically pleasing' to place them in appropriate groupings at the beginning or end of the transcribed chapters. The 'character shots' were mainly included next to the relevant opera synopses at the end of the book, but I have repositioned them in the text adjacent to chapters in which Lytton relates anecdotes that specifically refer to that particular character. The photo captions are copied directly from the book with the exception of the 'character shots' - which were all labelled with "Henry A. Lytton as [character] in [opera]" - which I thought was a little repetitive and superfluous; (perhaps the publishers thought that readers would not recognise that it was Lytton in all the photos unless they were annotated thus!)
  • The text transcription of Lord Fisher's letter (reproduced at the end of Chapter VI) is my own addition, as I wasn't sure whether the handwriting would be legible when the photographic image was reduced to a size appropriate to the HTML format.
  • Memory can play tricks with us all, nor are any of us immune from making minor mistakes or having an incomplete knowledge of certain people or events in our lives. Needless to say Henry Lytton was just as fallible as the rest of us and there are, consequently, a number of 'factual' errors in his autobiography e.g. when Lytton's states in Chapter IV that "The Grand Duke" was the thirteenth piece that Gilbert and Sullivan had written together - he evidently meant their thirteenth stage work specifically written for D'Oyly Carte, and thus, excluded "Thespis" from the total. Also, contrary to Lytton's thoughts in Chapter VI that Gilbert's sole stage appearance in public was at the Nellie Farren benefit in 1898, he actually trod the boards in a number of other productions throughout his lifetime - including a reprise of his rôle as the Associate in the celebrity re-staging of "Trial by Jury" for Ellen Terry's Jubilee matinee at Drury Lane in 1906, in which Lytton himself as he recalled played the Counsel! Gilbert also substituted for an ailing actor in his stage play "Broken Hearts", and played various rôles in amateur theatricals (including Harlequin in the traditional Harlequinade of British pantomime in Victorian days) and charity matinees of his one-act plays, such as King Claudius in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern", etc.
  • In Chapter III "Climbing the Ladder", Lytton refers to "another popular artiste, who was out with one of the other provincial companies" playing Jack Point who also concluded the Act II finale of "The Yeomen of the Guard" with the jester's death from a broken heart - this was George Thorne.
  • At the end of Chapter III - "Climbing the Ladder", Henry Lytton gives his birth-date as 3rd January, 1867. However, in his book "The Savoyards on Record", [Chichester, West Sussex : Packard, 1985] and his various "The Art of the Savoyard" record and CD compilations, theatre historian John Wolfson notes the year of Lytton's birth as 1860. Meanwhile, no less an historian than Kurt Gänzl lists Lytton's natal day as 3rd January, 1865 under his entry in "The Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre", [Oxford : Blackwell Reference, 1994]. Mr. Gänzl also offers the additional information that Lytton was actually born Henry Arthur Jones. (However, since there was already a famous late-Victorian British playwright of that name working in the theatre, it's not surprising that Lytton chose an alternate stage name in order to avoid confusion.)

    So, of the three given alternatives, which is the correct year of Lytton's birth? I shall leave that for the reader to decide for themselves, beyond adding that ultimately it doesn't really matter!
  • In Chapter VI "Parts I Have Played", Lytton mentions his guest appearance with "The Follies" - this was a popular concert-party troupe of comedians, singers and dancers who performed in a successful series of musical revues, principally at London's Apollo Theatre, between 1907 and 1913. Dressed in pierrot costumes, their performances consisted of comic skits, burlesques, songs, musical and dance scenes under the direction of compere H. G. Pellisier, (a talented actor, singer, composer, manager and producer, who also wrote songs for Jessie Bond.) Pelliseir's early death at age 39 led to the troupe's eventual disbandonment.

    Also in Chapter VI - Lytton admitted that he lacked a good memory for dates and could not vouch whether the list of (non-G&S) comedies in which he played was in the correct order. It therefore comes as no surprise that, not only are the shows listed out of chronological sequence, but a number of them actually pre-date the stated time period of between 1901 and 1909. The correct chronological production dates and details are as follows:-

    "The Vicar of Bray" - (The Vicar) - 28th January, 1892.....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte); role originally played by Rutland Barrington in this revival. The comic opera was first staged in 1882.

    "Mirette" - (Bobinet) - 3rd July, 1894 .....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte)

    "The Chieftain" - (Peter Grigg) - 12th December, 1894.....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte); role originally played by Walter Passmore.

    "His Majesty" - (The King) - 20th February, 1897.....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte); Lytton replaced George Grossmith in the role.

    "The Grand Duchess" - (Prince Paul) - 4th December, 1897.....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte)

    "The Beauty Stone" - (Simon) - 28th May, 1898.....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte)

    "The Lucky Star" - (Tobasco) - 7th January, 1899.....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte)

    "The Rose of Persia" - (The Sultan) - 29th November, 1899.....Savoy Theatre - (D'Oyly Carte)

    "The Emerald Isle" - (Pat Murphy) - 27th April, 1901.....Savoy Theatre - (production initially staged by Mrs D'Oyly Carte, following the death of her husband, but management of the theatre and the company was taken over by William Greet during the show's run.)

    "Merrie England" - (Earl of Essex) - 2nd April, 1902.....Savoy Theatre - (William Greet)

    "The Princess of Kensington" - (Jelf) - 2nd January, 1903.....Savoy Theatre - (William Greet)

    "The Earl and the Girl" - (The Earl) - 10th December, 1903.....Adelphi Theatre - (William Greet)

    "The Talk of the Town" - (Lieut. Reggie Drummond) - 5th January, 1905....Lyric Theatre - (Seymour Hicks)

    "The Little Michus" - (Aristide) - 29th April, 1905....Daly's Theatre - (George Edwardes); Lytton succeeded Louis Bradfield, who had originated the role.

    "The Spring Chicken" - (Boniface) - 30th May, 1905 .....Gaiety Theatre - (George Edwardes); ; Lytton succeeded Lionel Mackinder, who had originated the role.

    "The White Chrysanthemum"- (Lieut. Reginald Armitage) - 31st August, 1905....Criterion Theatre - (Frank Curzon)

    "My Darling" - (Hon. Jack Hylton) - 2nd March, 1907....Hicks Theatre - (Seymour Hicks); the Hicks Theatre was renamed the Globe in 1909 and is now the Gielgud.

    "The Amateur Raffles" - (Raffles) - c. 1907......Music Halls. (Gerald Du Maurier played the title role in Raffles, a full-length play which opened at the Comedy Theatre, London in May of 1906 and ran for a year. E.W. Hornung's original novel Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman was first published in 1899.)

    "Billie Taylor" - (Captain Flapper) - (revival date and theatre unknown at this time - D'Oyly Carte originally staged this production at the Standard Theatre, N.Y. where it opened on 19th February, 1881.)

  • Finally in Chapter VIII - "Hobbies of a Savoyard", Lytton refers to Dan Leno, (the well-known British Music Hall comedian), giving him a bottle of Tatcho for his featherless chickens – this was a proprietary brand of "hair restorer" popular at the time.

Robert Morrison.

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Page created 19 July 2004