V. Monty

From Prosper or Perish in the Attempt: A Gentleman’s Journey to Music Hall Stardom, the collected letters of F. Montgomery Skaldon, Hardaker Press


Jack Dandies dancing to ‘Make It Rain’ by FM Skaldon


My Dearest Effie,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that those inclined to hatred wont to hate.

How else can I explain the slander to have reached your ears? I have seen the reports, and understand your misapportioned shame. Tales that I chase the dragon? That I take company with (and indeed extend my protection to) fallen women? That I posed for a portrait of decidedly French persuasion? Outrageous, and my solicitor has already issued writ.

Perhaps it shall help if I clarify the truth of this latest ‘scandal’. It began on my return from Saturday’s trip to Brighton, where I had taken the waters. I was travelling the Southern Turnpike with my usual cohort of friends, accompanied by some ladies of most respectable virtue, on a privately contracted omnibus.

Despite reports that I was ill-attired, I assure you that I appeared in a morning jacket, accessorised rather finely by my top hat, monocle and swordstick. Yes, my dear Effie, I know you wish I would not carry such a tool, but a gentleman is permitted a personal defence, and we at the height of the rivalry between the operatic schools of East and West London; one never knows when such a device shall be required.

Regardless, we were in high spirits, and decided to sing a rousing chorus of my latest operatic:

Make it rain, make it rain
Make it rain, make it rain
No one in our nation denies minted precipitation!
Make it rain, make it rain
Make it rain, make it rain
Do not detest the player, one must vilify the game!
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain!

This very lyric proved my undoing. I was, at this late stage in the day, tired and emotional, and felt a pressing need to demonstrate my wealth from the top of the omnibus. We had approximately two hundred shillings which I began to throw with liberal abandon to passers-by, much to the delight of my fellow passengers.

Most pedestrians we passed accepted this offering gladly, and cheered me on in my endeavours. This noise attracted others, and soon men and women began to line our passage while urchins scurried along the pavement, scooping up any coins that fell in the gutters. My friends hooted and cooed, while I, resplendent in a fine purple velvet longcoat, pleated silk shirt and measured top hat, cast my wealth into the crowds.

Unfortunately at least three ladies, and perhaps one man (I suspect the thorough scamp to be of malingering and deceitful persuasion) were caught by my benefaction. I doubt their accounts of lacerations and severe bleeding, for being struck by a coin is hardly the most grievous of wounds, but it appears there were some minor injuries and at least one case of hysteria and syncope.

This news was invariably wired to Fleet Street, for I was met as I arrived home by a collection of journalists and photographers for the morning’s broadsheets and kinetoscopes, all questioning my display of altruism.

As you are no doubt aware, my dear sister, the hacks brought out the cleavers for me, and questions have been asked in Parliament about conduct, and indeed the tone portrayed in my body of work. They say I am a scalliwag, and that I should have remained a Killing Gentleman for the East India Company, rather than a humble musical hall composer.

I say balderdash! No establishment understands the music of its time, and I write operatics for the masses. Let the débutantes and Jack Dandies of London decide if my music has merit, not the Privy Council! I shall continue to write witty ditties, and the good fellows and ladies of London shall continue to embrace my beat!

They shall not silence me, dearest sister! Of this I am most certain!
I trust that you will believe the account I have provided, and this letter exonerates me from any defamation I have suffered in your eyes.

Sincerely yours,

ps/ Please offer a salutation to mother



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