"Oh, don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt; Sweet Alice, with her hair so brown?"
21 September 1895
15.3 cm high by 10.2 cm wide
"Source: The Illustrated London News (21 September 1895): 357.
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Passage Realised from the 1894 NovelAt her London debut, Trilby's concert goes terribly wrong as Svengali, afflicted with a heart problem and able to conduct only from a distant balcony, loses his mesmeritic control over his puppet. Trilby struggles with the song "Ben Bolt," singing in her her own tuneless voice as she used to do when modelling for her artist friends in the Latin Quarter. The audience reacts with hostility, Trilby becomes combative, and Svengali collapses when he sees his enemies Little Billee, Taffy, and the Laird present in the audience. This debacle marks the end of Trilby's career as a concert singer — and the end of Svengali's life.
Thunders of applause filled the house, and turning round and seating themselves, Taffy and Little Billee and the Laird saw Trilby being led by J— down the platform, between the players, to the front, her face smiling rather vacantly, her eyes anxiously intent on Svengali in his box.
She made her bows to right and left just as she had done in Paris.
The band struck up the opening bars of "Ben Bolt," with which she was announced to make her début. . . .
She looked all round, and down at herself, and fingered her dress. Then she looked up to the chandelier with a tender, sentimental smile and began —
"Oh, don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt? Sweet Alice with hair so brown. Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile —"
She had not got further than this when the whole house was in an uproar — shouts from the gallery — shouts of laughter, hoots, hisses, cat-calls, cock-crows.
She stopped and glared like a brave lioness, and called out —
"Qu'est-ce que vous avez done, tous! tas de vieilles pommes cuites que vous etes! Est-ce qu'on a peur de vous?" and then, suddenly —
"Why, you're all English, aren't you? — what's all the row about? — you brought me here for? — what have Idone, I should like to know?"
And in asking these questions the depth and splendour of her voice were so extraordinary — its tone so pathetically feminine, yet so full of hurt and indignant command, that the tumult was stilled for a moment.
It was the voice of some being from another world — some insulted daughter of a race more puissant and nobler than ours; a voice that seemed as if it could never utter a false note. . . .Indeed she had tried to sing 'Ben Bolt,'but had sung it in her old way — as she used to sing it in the Quartier Latin — the most lamentably grotesque performance ever heard out of a human throat! ["Part Seven," July 1894, vol. 89, p. 273-74]
Although in this scene in the book Svengali is in one of the balconies, looking down on the stage, and Monsiieur J— is conducting the orchestra and Trilby, in this promoptional photograph of Paul Potter's 1895 adaptation at the Haymarket, Svengali (as enacted in an "over-the-top" manner by actor-manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree) mugs for the camera to manifest his obvious discomfort with Trilby's singing in her own voice rather than in the one he has commanded for the past two years.
From 1893 English theatre entered a new period of respectability, with its attendant demise of the pit, the early curtain, and unreserved seats, and the popularity among the leisured classed of matinée performance and reserved seating, all of which led to much longer runs and greater profit. Other plays running in tandem with Paul Potter's Trilby reflect this new-found respectability, and hence the desire to sanitize the Bohemian lifestyle of Paris embodied in the novel, which itself Du Maurier seems to have Bowdlerised for English and American readers: Sir Arthur Wing Pinero's The Benefit of Doubt, Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband and The Imprtance of Being Earnest, Sydney Grundy's The New Woman, and Henry Arthur Jones's The Triumph of the Philistines. Tree certainly knew a good thing when he saw Potter's adaptation on the stage in Buffalo, New York, and snapped up the English rights to the century's best-selling novel, reserving for himself the much-expanded role of the villainous and exploitative Svengali. Whether the play further stimulated sales of the novel, the popularity of the novel certainly contributed to the popularity of the play.
Related Illustrations in Harper's New Monthly (1894)
George Du Maurier's "Hast thou found me, o mine enemy?" and "Oh, don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?" [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Du Maurier, George. Trilby. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 89 (July 1894): 272-273.
Du Maurier, George. Trilby, A Novel. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1895; London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1894.
Ellis, Alfred. "Trilby on the English Stage." [Four black-and-white photographs]. The Illustrated London News. 21 September 1895, p. 357.
Rowell, George. "The Victorian Theatre, 1792-1914. Second eidition. London, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge U. P., 1978.
Last modified 15 July 2013