Saturday, June 27, 2009

Smythe's Second Son

Smythe had an affair, at least I think he did. Mary Elizabeth Christian was a contralto; very pretty, bright blue eyes, fair hair and a sweet disposition. The son, Robert Christian Holmes Smyth(e) was born 3rd November 1874 and resembles both his mother and father. Where does the Holmes come in? Was Mr. Holmes, M.E. Chrisitian's singing partner at one concert, a god-father or something else? The ill-fated boy would died in the Boer War later at be wounded and buried at Thaba Nchu, near Bloemfontein and is interred there. Smythe's first son Bryan Bailey Smythe who was five years old when he died some where in India. I noted with a frisson of unease when a"Christian Smyth" was travelling with Frederic Villiers and R.S.Smythe on a coastal steamer to Queensland one year. Did Smythe's peddling of War stories via Villiers inspire his son to pursue the light-horse? I hope not, but I suspect it was so, along with an urge to prove himself against his more golden, taller and more accomplished half brother Carlyle. Christian Smyth looks very likable in his photos. How sad.

He must have been conceived when Smythe returned from India when he had been travelling with Arabella Goddard, Amelia and his family of two daughters and son. Was there a fight? Was Amelia having another affair? Did Goddard and Bailey gang up on old Smyth-y Boy? Was the marriage so dead in the water? Smythe formed a new company with Miss Christian, Solange and Andrée Novaro, Mister Farley and Charlie Huenerbein as accompanist and instrumentalist.

And today I found out that Amelia was teaching in 1872 at Motcombe Cottage in Chambers Street, South Yarra. No doubt Heidi knows that street as well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Boulanger, deux

I have been knee deep in French googling. The Argus online has just in the last day put 1861 on which enabled me to find an death notice for an Auguste Gréterin, Director-General of Customs of France who had just died. He was "first Cousin to Mr. Boulanger of this city" (Melbourne. He was living in Williams Rd. at that stage). Calloo-callay! The man in question wasn't registered as Auguste but Théodore Gréterin (1792-1861 and a Senator with a bit of bling) who had three brothers (Phillipe, Pierre-Dieudonné and another unidentified) all of whom were in customs. The important bit was the revelation of his parents: Evrard Gréterin and Jeanne Nicole Hanus (1765-1833). All of which means that Edouard Boualnger's father Antonio had married either a Géterin or a Hanus. Well, there's a maiden name. Evrard is a variant of Edward, used in Nordic countries and Belgium (Walloon). I'd bet a guinea to a goose that Edoaurd was named after his mother's brother Evrard (or the father if Evrard was a Jnr.)

Now, I have to find Antonio Boulanger's link to the Duc de Montebello.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Don't expect baguettes and croques-messieurs in this emblogation. This one is about the French pianist Edouard Desirée Boulanger (ca.1820, France-1863, Imperial Hotel, French Concession, Shanghai) whose father Antoino Boulanger was reputed to have been private secretary to Talleyrand that imposing Crystal Chandelier of Gallic History. Thanks to the strange gymnastics of Google-books I thought I'd try and find out who was Talleyrand's secretary. Their were not very many. To whit: Le Clement, Louis Paul d'Autremont, Charles Edouard Colmache (husband of Alice Lee, friend of Helen Faucit), Gallois, Charles Antoine Osmaond, Msr. de Montrond, Rouen, Le Chevalier, Roux-Labourie, Mathieu, Maubreuil (?), Baron D'Ideville, P.A. Heiberg and a Msr Perrey. No Boulanger though. But it looks like ol' Talleyrand went through more secretaries like a Hedge-fund Baron would go through a jumbo box of tissues. 

There was a French money lender named Boulanger who sued Talleyrand's brother in London in 1797. Boulanger had borrowed a VERY LARGE sum of money from that Boulanger. Talleyrand vs. Boulanger is famous it seems in English and American Law, setting some kind of precedent about suing in domestic courts over matters of the breaking of foreign law.

There was an Antonio Boulanger in Paris in the 1770s and he was the one from whom we get the word "restaurant." Wouldn't that be a hoot, if Edouard the pianist, accompanist of Catherine Hayes, pupil of Chopin, teacher, traveller and composer was the grandson/son of the original inventor of a comestible house of restoration? I'd like that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Whilst trawling the seabed of the great internet ocean down a deep sea trench named google books looking for information on Horace Poussard or any Poussard connected with him, I found a published history of the Paris Conservatoire of Music. It had a list in 1849 of the prize winners and there was Horace's name, as I expected in tie for First Place for le Prix du Violon with Victor Cheri. But my eye caught the left column of the page  to see Gougenheim, Sophie receiving an accesit (certificate of merit for singing). I searched Musicsack to see if she ever became a person of interest and she was listed in the Conservatoires Lauréates and having been born in London. She did move to New York and married a minor singing teacher named Mariano Manzocchi of Naples whose claim to fame in these times was to have taught Adelina Patti for all of five minutes when she was a girl. I think it was three lessons, but whose quibbling? Mme. Manzocchi quibbled of course. She sued Patti in 1883 for the money that her parents owned her deceased husband (he died in 1860 and had kept scrupulous books). Poor Sophie must have been desperate for the cash to run her finger down Mariano's musty old ledgers.

It explains too, why Augustus and Theresa, the parents of the three Gougenheim girls did not leave New York. And all this was revealed by accident just a few days after I had lost an auction on the Gougs to a faceless nemesis who must know a little of them but not as much as is squirrelled away in my dossiers. See my earlier emblogation (enblogation must be now spelled emblogation. The n has to change to an m before  b or p word-pioneering is a messy business).

Karmic compensation or just the karmic credit limit on the matter of my interest in the Gougs. The cosmic abacus has pistoned it's beads thus and has calculated my allotment. I do have good information and learning karma. What one studies in one life becomes instinct in the next.

A small complaint about google books and the institutions that apportion small snippets accessible to certain zones: What the **** is the point of a snippet? Do you want to be deluged by annoying e-mails pleading to have copies of the rest of the thing made that may not even contain anything important? Do you hope to make a small fortune from the rivers of money pouring like molten gold into the coffers of your Document Delivery Service? Why the tease? Is the great God of Copyright such a vengeful deity that you grip to items containing all of humanity's intellectual family silver that is way out of date for the long dead authors whose work you did not publish, pay for or sponsor, but merely own? What happened to the uni in University and the latin root to read in library? When things no longer universal you cannot call yourself a University, but an Emporium, store or shop, and when we are unable to read them you are no longer a library but a frozen brick bonfire. The snippets on google books quite appropriately remind me of floating portions of burning books.

Google books recognize the importance of unifying through accessibility but public edifices do not. Top praise to Google Books and their triumphant vision and boo to the neuro-parochial neo-luddites.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Adieu Mes Gougues

That slightly smoky scent you can smell is the quiet ashen byproduct of fuming resentment for this morning I awoke to the EBAY alert that I had been outbid on a Carte De Visite of the Sisters Gougenheim. I made several feeble attempts at clawing back to the top but failed in the face of the invisible magic pocket who had entered a counter bid akin to the numeral madness of the orgy of Zero's employed in the Obama bank bailouts. Bugger.

Josephine and Adelaide Gougeneheim were of French Jewish and Irish extraction whose father was a kind of amicus curiae (not quite but you get the idea) with the translation of languages for courts, named Augustus Manuel Gougenheim, born in France (Bas-Rhin), employed in Dublin (where he married Theresa Murray), then in London and finally dying I think in the United States. The girls performed from an early age and toured America then Australia where Josephine married Marmaduke Constable and had several little Constables (does that not conjure up a Keystone-Cops image?) before separating and running a theater in country New South Wales. Adelaide was bit more saucy, she married in Melbourne, to a Thomas Priaulx Carey (which the descendants of that prominent Guernsey family deny despite a Government issued marriage certificate). Obviously annulled, or just plain ignored, she went back to London and married a Henry Richard Frisbie who was a stockbroker and as far as I know left no children. She did have one poor darling, Adelaide Josephine Frisbie who died aged five. Still, Adelaide and her husband had four domestic staff so all was toffee and toast for the remaining days I assume.

Still, the image I lost today was not an actual 'photo' but a photo of a realistic illustration which made the Goug's prettier than they actually were (cf. the NYPL Digital version) The harsh life of travel and stage aged them quickly and the photos I have in my collection (copies from my local State Library) don't show the evidence of any temporal indulgence. I consoled myself with a slice of cake over this nano-tragedy. Ah cake! You baked Bodicea and soother of all disappointments long may your frosting reign.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

China Chuckles at little Timmy

Little Timmy Geither, the left hand of Lord God Obama visited China and in the course of his desperate travels told a Beijing University audience the US dollar was safe and recovery was a sure thing. The audience laughed. That's right, laughed at the presumptuous little tyke. 

China, quite rightly, wonders why they are accumulating US dollars, treasury bonds and other holdings rather than spending it on domestic development. Geithner, that very morning had walked straight smack into another Great Wall of China, The Global Times which published a list of pre-eminent economists who, in chorus, called US holdings, risky. China hold's officially about 768 billion in US assets. The figure is nearly twice that, well over a Trillion. 

The Chinese aren't stupid. Geithner seems to think they have the same dulled down, ignorant mind set he's used to dealing with. They don't and he is in big trouble.

Calzado Who?

In 1863 in Australia there appeared out of nowhere a singer who advertised herself as 'Florence Beverley" late of the London Daily Mail. So, she has supposedly come FROM London where one assumes she had been singing in some way to be bequested a mention in the London Daily Mail.  She was acting as her own agent. Now, this is a dangerous thing to do at the best of times and failing to secure any engagement she was then touted under the management of a Kate Howard as "Floraette Blanche Beverley" a name which appeared once in the Argus and was never seen again. She then next appears in New Zealand with a small troupe under the management of T.R. Jones, which included a sword dancer. Horace Poussard, the touring French dose of culture on four strings and his Steiner violin poached her into his company and then she reappears packaged as "Florence Calzado" She then tours with him (under my past managerial tour of India and South Africa) with Amelia Bailey and the children. Then she comes back to Australia, having borne him child (we think), lists herself as widowed and marries a miner named "Samuel Paynter Thomas Cornish" in Hill End NSW and disappears.

Now she is a puzzle and a half of full-cream bamboozlement for she never appeared the slightest bit savvy about the business of chasing gingerbread (making money in stage-work) nor showed any gusto more that the required swig necessary to board a clipper and sail to Australia. Indeed, Heidi (see previous post) had dreamed a dream that starred in a supporting role the said Florence Calzado. It was a walk on role. Literally, for Heidi dreamt she was walking up the gangway onto a boat conscious of the woman behind her whose lack of stride was the cause of much vexation. It was a case of the "Oh Lord's sake do hurry Florence"s without needing to speak it. Curiously Heidi knew it to be in South Africa and wondered why the husbands (R.S.Smythe and H. Poussard) were not in the dream. Heidi's dream did prove to be most accurate as I found out LATER that both Smythe and Horace had left for England nearly six month earlier. The ladies stayed at the Cape alone without the children.

We have three photos of Florence but no name, no dates (though she looks to be about having been born in the 1840s) and no clue as to her beginnings nor her end. Her vocal talents were almost unanimously thought to be average except in the Natal in South Africa where her 'comic vocalist' stylings made her a hit. I am sure she hadn't expected that. But she could sing. She was nervous, timid, not urgent in nature so why come out to the Antipodes? The last image of her is on a cracked glass plate negative in the State Library of New South Wales under Mr Painter and Son. The sons face is missing, flaked off and poor Florence whose face is present is not even mentioned or named. Her face too, is haggard and defeated. Sad.

The London Daily Mail is, as it's title cleverly makes you suspect,  a daily paper and trawling through it from 1862-1863 is beyond even my capacity to suffer the sea sickness of rolling through barrels of microfilms. Anyway, we don't even have the microfilms of that publication here.

There was a famous theatrical family named the Beverley's (William Roxby Beverley and family) and an infamous Havana born Italian opera manager named Torribio Calzado (in London in the 1850s) who got caught cheating at cards but apart from this quo vadis? Was she progeny of either? Miss Calzado has torn out my hair for years, leaving no trail nor clue other that just a slow steady tale of fatigue and dwindling career. One Florentina Carro Calzado was born in 1842 in Valladoid, Spain to father Patrick Calzado (since when is Patrick a Spanish name? I received no memo on the subject) Was she Spanish? English? A Yorkshire lass? God help me. Calzado! Show yourself!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Heidi makes a point.

In a email received but not one hour prior to the writing of this post I was reminded by the Lady to whom I was married in 1863 (a fact about which there is much debate. She claimed it was in Shanghai, I seemed to have made a play for Nagasaki, but more of that anon) that, I had not yet explained how I came to be acquainted with my last incarnation and her enjoyment of this blog and my emails (as well a long standing friendship that has been road tested) has given her the liberty of admonishing my person over this disgraceful omission. 

So, here goes. In the 1990's at some year whose exact date I am too lazy to extract from the Himalayan Range of paper files, folders and 'phemera directly behind me, I met this lady at a party, let's call her 'Heidi'. We shared a delightful hunger in metaphysics or rather she was hungry for it and I loved cooking it. Chef and patron. A perfect combination. One night she had a dream in which she was in a house, seated at a desk writing thanks notes for condolences on the death of her husband. She was conscious within the dream of the house layout, her dress color, the cuffs and as if by addition of an internal soundtrack she knew it to be 1917 and that this same internal off-stage (but in mind) voice bid her to remember the date as it was important. Being 1917 she naturally assumed that her husband had died in World War One, as one does.

Sometime later a gay-friend and also ex-boyfriend (pre-armoire) told of his attendance at a house which he knew Heidi would have loved as Heidi does possess good taste but not the pockets to demonstrate it. In the course of the relating of this house Heidi started to finish off his sentences and descriptions. It was the same house as in the dream. Having now had the address delivered straight to her (she's a Libran and they don't do private detecting) she went and examined the National Trust file.

When she opened the file she read that the house belonged to R.S.Smythe, impresario and that his wife was Amelia Bailey, old time opera singer of Melbourne. (Old time indeed). As soon as she read that she started to cry (in a very dignified and aesthetic Libran manner) and continued to do so as she had also trained for sometime in her childhood as a singer with Allan's music, the self same company which had discovered and trained Amelia. Furthermore, she knew that I was Robert Sparrow Smythe, her husband who had indeed died in 1917 at his home.

Of course, I would have none of this. The reincarnation business, yes. I could eat that up like gallon drums of gnocchi livornese (delicious) but having been Mr. Heidi? No. I was then in mid struggle (I tend to like my struggles long and protracted like some night at some hideous theatrical agony disguised as an entertainment) with homosexuality and the fact that Heidi did not know. 

The gay part of the story aside, Heidi did then  manage to do quite a substantial bit of research and found a photo of R.S.Smythe almost immediately and found his grave without recourse to a map of any kind (upon which we have already, quite literally, danced. A small jig I recall. Anything more gymnastic would have been disrespectful to the neighboring bones). All during this time she kept up the insistence that I was R.S.Smythe which made me generate a useable amount of red emotional hectopascals. I took to my bed and put myself into meditation to obtain some clue as to who I actually was so that I might use it as evidence in a refutation. After twenty minutes of relaxation nothing came so I began the stretching and breathing changes to bring me back to normal state and as I did so a loud voice said "You were Robert Sparrow Smythe". Now this voice was not imaginary. It was loud and it was so audible that I jumped off the bed, opened the door thinking it was a trick. No-one was there. My parents were out shopping, and unless Tuppence, the family poodle (now deceased and doing leavening duty in the canine life-stream) had recently discovered by some faustian bargain the power of speech, then there was no vocal chords with earshot that could have produced that sentence.

So, I admitted defeat. When a loud disembodied voice pops into your bedroom and delivers in perfect diction (and with a fair whack of authority) it's hard to argue...assuming you could find the entity belonging to the statement. So I took over the research from Heidi and have been at it ever since. Thereafter followed waterfall upon waterfall of fact, recollection, reaction and revelation which have all acted as engine to this tale.

It's a tale hard to believe but never the less, the reality of both Heidi and myself. Sorry "Heidi" but I just had to give you a Bavarian pseudonym. If you would a different name I am open to suggestions. Just don't send the disembodied voice around. A phone call or email would be fine.

Oh, and the marriage? There is an official certificate in the 1880's but that was four children and several affairs later (both of us strayed). Was I even married to Amelia when I was a Robert? Who knows? I can't find any certificate in Nagasaki or Shanghai. Then again, I have never tried. I think it was Nagasaki. Well, I'm as gay as a Dozen Dancing Dumbledores this time around so there's no marriage in Shanghai, Nagasaki or any other place. Except in my imagination.