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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Thursday, 8 May 2014


Friday, May 8th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

Tonight I heard Yvette Guilbert sing five songs - including "La Soularde", Beranger's "Grand'mere", "Her Golden Hair was hanging down her back", and "I want you, ma Honey" (alternate verses in French and English). The performance took about 23 minutes, and she receives £70 per night (ten nights). My father, who had seen her on the previous evening, said to me at dinner at Gatti's, "I can't see £70 in what she does". "No", I said "perhaps you can't; but you can see it in the audience which pays to listen to her."

Yvette Guilbert, original name Emma Laure Esther Guilbert (1867 — 1944), French singer, reciter, and stage and film actress, who had an immense vogue as a singer of songs drawn from Parisian lower-class life. Her ingenuous delivery of songs charged with risqué meaning made her famous. As a child Guilbert attended recitation school and was unsuccessful in small comic parts; however, she succeeded as a cabaret singer from 1896 (the Moulin Rouge and the Ambassadeurs, seven years; the Folies-Bergère, nine years). She was a popular recording artist from the mid-1920s as well. Notable among her films are Les Misérables (1934) and Pêcheurs d’Islande (1934). She was also successful on tour (from 1895) in Italy, the United States, and England. Fascinating to French audiences, she scandalized the English with her gaunt decadent appearance and risqué lyrics. Guilbert owed much of her success to Xanrof (Léon Fourneau) and to Aristide Bruant, who wrote songs for her. She is also remembered for a famous poster of her, showing her in her characteristic yellow dress and long black gloves, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. She wrote How to Sing a Song (1928; L’Art de chanter une chanson), two novels, La Vedette and Les Demi-Vieilles (both 1920), and an autobiography, La Chanson de ma vie (1929; Song of My Life: My Memories).

I think I never saw the Empire so full. Yvette wore a gown of bluish-green flowered silk, and the unchangeable black gloves. To the back of the pit, where I stood, her voice came as if from an immense distance, but clear and crisp.

The Empire Theatre opened on 17 April 1884 as a West End variety theatre on Leicester Square, as well as a ballet venue. In 1887, the theatre reopened as a popular music hall named the Empire Theatre of Varieties. From 1887 to 1915, the designer C. Wilhelm created both scenery and costumes for (and sometimes produced) numerous ballets at the theatre, which established a fashion for stage design and were much imitated.

Additionally for May 8th., see 'War work'

A period of extreme vigilance now on. It is a pity here that at new moon high water is at midnight. If high water was at 6 a.m. at new moon the periods of vigilance would be fewer if there were any at all. One night out of three our Lieutenants have to spend at the telephone in the orderly room - 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. The military are all on fire preparing for an invasion. The first serious defences against an invasion are now being made. I have no belief in it myself, but the civilian part of the organisation falls on me as War Office representative for over 30 parishes, including about 15 miles of coast. I feel sure that if the Germans did manage to land events for a few days would be in a high degree disconcerting. Among other trifles for which I have the chief responsibility is a War-Fair at Islington Market - with 1,500 stalls, 6,000 helpers; the biggest thing of the kind ever organised.

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