Comedian Arthur Roberts
Arthur Roberts (21 September 1852
- 27 February 1933) was an English comedian, music hall
entertainer and actor. He was famous for portraying the
pantomime dames and later for his comic characters and
"gagging" in farces, burlesques and musical comedies. He is
credited with coining the word "spoof".
Luckily he is alive today, but
unfortunately we do not see enough of him. He began his
professional life in a little sixpenny "ding-dong" called
Poppy Lords in Marylebone, where he got eightpence a night
and a cup of coffee ! I wonder what our dandified golfing
stars would say to such an offer today! Arthur did five or
six songs a night for this munificent sum, and carried his
"props" and make-up in a carpet bag.
Poppy Lords was one of the real
old-fashioned places where they had a "chairman".
He was a lordly and imposing
personage, with an enormous buttonhole in his coat, an
enormous cigar in his mouth, and a still more enormous
whisky and soda in front of him. He sat at a table in front
of the stage, and announced the various turns in a voice of
If a turn did not turn up, the
chairman got up and sang songs until the turn arrived.
Harry Fox, Billy Bint, and Bob
Courtnay were the giants among chairmen. It was the height
of fame and honour for a young man to be allowed to sit at
table with any of them and "find the drinks".
About a dozen could be
accommodated at one of these tables, and each was packed
every night. It was an expensive honour - at least five
shillings, or a "cartwheel", as we called it----but it was
The shafts of "wit" and lurid
repartee which the chairman discharged at disorderly or
critical members of the audience were an education----not
exactly Etonian in character but marvellously inspiring.
Chuckers-out, great, hairy
ex-soldiers and ex-policemen, ex-burglars, too, I should
imagine from their faces, were employed at all these places.
They would throw out anyone with or without the slightest
encouragement. The bigger the man the better the deed.
The Pavilion, the Palace, the
Oxford, all the big music-halls, in fact, employed them. We
artists had to pay them five shillings a week to ensure a
quiet hearing during our turns. "from Memory by DATAS"
(William John Maurice Bottle (1875-1956) otherwise known as
'Datas, the Memory Man', star of the music halls from 1901
with his amazing memory feats. )
One Victorian publication was the
illustrated broadside, The Music Hall Songster, advertised
as containing the lyrics to 17 songs, printed by WS Fortey,
Monmouth Court, London. The two songs on the reverse of the
sheet are 'The Tricks of the Trade' and 'There's another
Jolly Row Downstairs', both published by Francis Bros & Day,
351 Oxford Street, London, sung by Herbert Cambell and W