Category Archives: Monty Skaldon

IX. 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

1868 fashion.4

F. Montgomery Skaldon, demonstrating his trousers

Dear Bunnie,

What holds, good fellow? I trust you’re capital? I sold the family some gammon about the coin incident, but I’m up for a little more lark if you get my meaning, and would appreciate your advice. Funds are flowing, the music is free, and my muse is ignited by the most wonderful companion I’ve encountered. I feel like Orpheus in the grip of Eurydice! Romance has worked its way under my skin, and the splinter of love is burrowing to my heart!

I have met the most remarkable girl. Found her on my sojourn to Limehouse (Fat Chen’s for a spot of the dragon, then on to Mayfair for a totty-chase). Shapes in all the right places, with blessed puddings that makes a chap wish to bury his head and go ‘burrrrr’! Red of hair but won’t hold it against her, for there’s nothing so spirited as a ginger minx when you return to chambers, what? Cherubic face, with high cheekbones and Roman nose, and the most impudent pillowed lips you could imagine. I suspect she’s a slave to the dragon too, for she was in a tizzy when we met, and (after we decided to venture to a gin palace instead) matched me drink for drink as I tried to get her to slip into something a little more comfortable. No luck so far, but the finest game is always worth the hunt!

She’s got a mouth on her, and that’s part of the attraction. Told me her name was Charlotte, and giggled when I took to calling her Charlie. But just when you think you’re charming her toward the Turkish Two-step, she pulls off like a teasing minx. It was in minutes I found myself spouting the most sentimental thoughts in the hopes she’d keep me company. Why, I’ve even demonstrated the fine pattern of my trousers to her, and she still acts oblivious to my intentions!

I think I’ve caught a fine bit of scrumpet, and know just the activity to encourage her surrender in this game of love. Do you remember the Bishop’s Arms off Holborn? Gaff right in the heart of London, but untouchable from law because of a quirk of ownership? She’s hinted she’d like to go there, as she hears the poppy’s sweet. Well, who am I to refuse a lady? We’ll be visiting next Wednesday.

Which brings me to my line of enquiry. I know you visited there, and said it wasn’t just a poppy den; that something queer was taking place in the back rooms? Some religious rot about jewelry, and so forth? Let me know if I should keep my wits while there, or at least take some form of armament. The creatures of the Establishment are circling for my blood, and I’d much prefer to keep my nose out of affairs of state.

Please give my felicitations to all other acquaintances in the vicinity of your homestead,

Monty


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

The_Happy_Land_-_Illustrated_London_News,_March_22,_1873

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,
Monty

ps/ Please offer a salutation to mother