Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hugo Fischer, part the Third

I awoke this morning with my solar plexus irritating me in a fashion that always suggests that I have overlooked something upon which it had bents it's mechanics, and that I had better attend to it, or nausea will result. So, I had my breakfast, did some shopping, and having acknowledged my intuition's complaint I went and did some shopping and to spend a birthday gift voucher I received last year from Heidi and Co. (Thanks Heidi!)

When I arrived back home after my spree (though that is too energetic a word) I settled down to lunch of pumpkin soup, toasted atlantic special rye croutons (giant) and sour cream. Delicious.

After midday I trundled down to the studio and mounted myself in front of the Hurdy-Gurdy (this is what the Irish lady at the rear property of our house call's the computer-cum-internet) and found my mind drifting toward Hugo Fischer, again. I started to enter data for a family free on Reunion (genealogical software) and my mind became stuck on Otto, so I looked him up on the NLA until I found a curious reference of his early days of notoriety in which he is named as Otto-Fischer-Sobell, claiming he was of Dutch-Flemish extraction, and whose grandparents were immigrants from Urk, an Island that changed hands twixt Holland and Belgium. This appears to be untrue. This was in 1915 and he was distancing himself from the German's. He never mentioned his germanic roots. His brother in law Robert Homburg was already getting flack for being an M.P. and German. Then it came to me.

He was doing what many prima-donna's and indeed male stage creatures had done, taking on his mother's maiden name which in this case eventually supplanted Fischer which was definitely German (although I doubt he ever knew going back two hundred years the Fischer's were originally Swiss). Otto's son James Otto St-Clair Sobell jettisoned the Fischer part of his name by deed poll in 1945 (a cousin and two uncles had been killed by both World Wars). Now, I don't know if Otto's mother Emma was a Sobell but I'd bet you a corrugated cup-cake that she was. And, a family winery started by Carl August Sobell in the mid 1800's is still in the family (he had seven daughters and four sons) and has been so now for 5 generations, so I hurriedly composed and email and shot it across to South Australia where the family still makes wine and hopefully have some extant material that might add to the research of Hugo Fischer. Maybe even a photo.

So there it is; Hugo had not only his own family pressure but his in-laws sprawling grapeness to compete with. The more I dig, the more I feel Hugo deserves to be properly represented if not in my book then at least in a booklet of some kind which I will knock off quickly. Being remembered or dislocated from family lore from his last rash act isn't fair.

My intuition was assuaged and I have done a good day's ferreting. Lord I hope for some joy on old Hugo.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hugo Fischer, again

Today I dug a little deeper into the Fischers. That's right, I went fisching. I knew there was something interesting further back in his past and there was. His sister Minna Pauline Fischer was a singer of some repute. The "Pauline" also happened to be the name of a boat that brought many Germans, especially Fishcer's to South Australia. I wonder if Georg Fischer named her after his teach Wilhelmina and the boat that brought them safely to a new life. It turns out that it is likely (more research needs to be done) that Georg, or George was the son of a Pfarrer, or Parson in Germany, himself the son of an even more famous Pastor going back into the 1700s.

George Fischer owned the Tanunda Hotel with Robert Weiner (whose son I think married Hugo's sister Johanna) and also a Cafe in Rundle Street were there was yet more musicking and general bemoustached singing. Otto Fischer-Sobell the famous singing teacher and brother of Hugo took the name Sobell from somewhere and guess what? One of George's kin was married to a man who employed one Friederich Julius Sobels, whom history never mentions but whom I will bet was either Otto's god-father (Sobels had been at the wharf to greet the "Pauline") or early singing influence. The Fischer's were everywhere, each armed with three middle names and going about Teuting their brass. I yet to verify this but I am on my way there and am constructing a family tree and connaissance map both of which are among my personal researching habits.

Having found out that the Rev. Hugh Reginald Haweis had a famous son whose ephemera is now in the University of British Columbia I have fired off an email in hope that among the many pictures there is an image of Mr. Hugo Fischer or Mr. Robert Smythe. My dearest wish is to have one of R.S.Smythe with Haweis and their families and although this maybe too much to hope for, I so hope.

We will see where this all goes. I hope it leads somewhere. There is a trail of dead ends behind me like those ones that you see when cartoon garbage trucks are driven by slapstick characters.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

R.S.Smythe and Hugo Fischer

Sunday was today and this morning I didn't know what I was going to do, which is a good thing for a Sunday. But I had an email from a researcher in California, a Twainiste, looking for the Robert Sparrow Smythe fonds if there should be such a thing extant, which of course there was not. I had to break to her, the frustrating news that, what was not sold at auction by Amelia and Carlyle, thrown down a well by Florence or eaten by the family dog, was burned in the great bushfire that consumed the property of R.S.Smythe's daughter in law's grand niece, where gathered dust all of Carlyle's papers, goods and chattels after his wife Elsa's death. But the Californian institution did have a very nice photo of Carlyle, the golden child with Twain and two other gents taken in Canterbury in November of 1895. Carlyle is apparently very short, either that or the other two gents were built by the same shipping firm that manufactured the smaller corvettes of the then Kaisers navy. Fischer was there in November of 1895 and returned to Australia first at Launceston to take care of arrangements for the Rev. Haskett Smith with whom Smythe was touring, hence his absence from the photograph.

The other gent, suggested the researcher, might be Hugo Fischer. This was a very good suggestion and one I should have thought for myself. So I spent the day consolidating my notes on Hugo Fischer and forgot just how much I had assembled. Hugo Fischer (c.1850-1901) killed himself after years of failure and just not 'getting the knack' of making money out of theatrical management. He had come into life via a treaty twixt the loins of a German emigrée named George Fischer and his wife Emma, who settled in South Australia as all good Germans did. I know, I lived there for a while. They started off at Tanunda in the Barossa where they formed a large community as Germans do and established the kind of singing societies Germans did like Turn Veriens, Leidertafels...and grapes, which of course have nothing to do with singing except encouraging vocality when imbibed.

George himself was a singer of very good quality and taught all his children to sing. The whole community sang and oompa-pahed. I am not kidding. In the 1850s the community had a brass band. Four of George's children became success of a kind, some more than others but all achieved, grandchildren and great grandchildren married and left noteworthy careers from a fighter-pilot to a Professor of Slavic languages in Canada. Poor Hugo never quite caught the train but not for want of talent. I think it was the pressure to achieve. After all his father had been a student of the Hamburg born Soprano Wilhelmina Schröder-Devrient, a little known but wildly interesting singer and teacher who had famous singers for parents herself, one of them in turn being an equally celebrated teacher. Hugo's sister Minna Pauline Fischer went on to success (marrying twice, first to that silly actor Herbert Flemming then to composer George H. Clutsam) as did brother Otto Fischer-Sobell (where Sobell comes from I've no idea) and little sister Emma (Mrs. Weiner) who was well-loved, married well but died in Colblentz at age 33. Sister Johnana married a Sen. Robert Homburg MP of South Australia. No pressure there for poor Hugo was there?

If only he'd tried not so hard to build by gamble-and-venture the cigar tooting trappings of success he might have been happy. I feel a little sad for Hugo; he was a most valuable agent to Smythe (R.S.Smythe's words) and did his job well enough for Smythe ask him to act as go between twixt the Dacre's and their theatrical management. The Dacre's committed double suicide. Poor Hugo.

It was also mentioned in a New Zealand paper that Hug had been a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War before coming to Australia. If this was true I wonder if his experience in war added to the sombre psychic gloom that leads a man down that cold and dark exit. I hope in my book he gets more than a footnote...which he will of course.

He was Smythe's advance-man for a short but intense period but never learned the ropes. Even a cursory glance at the clients and manner that he adopted after his association with Smythe reveals that he too often engaged "too little talent in too large venues and of seasons too long to turn any profit". In one case he took on a lady platform speaker who had lived among the Hindu's and had 40 people in tow and in costume to get her point across. Had he no idea how much money he would have to make to just break even, so he didn't. There is even a suggestion that he had inappropriate financial circumstances when he took his own life.

Two grand-sons became war heros and survived and married, their sister was the famous Elsa Stralia who had a great voice but the silliest of names (the Victorian propensity for making up grandiose stage names ended with her). The papers say little about famous people's self-terminating relatives as is their practice, so the truth might rest only with the family but that, although there are probably many descendants, is not within my purview.

I do hope the Canterbury Museum in NZ prove to have a picture of Hugo Fischer and that it is him in the photo belonging to the Californian Institution. Sir J. J. Kinsey was a mad photographer and it is he upon the lawn taking tea with Mark Twain and suite amongst which I believe is Amelia and Adelaide though I cannot prove it. Yet.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mystery tune solved

Just before I was about to launch a you tube plea to find a unidentified song I found it viz usage of 'tunatic' an application for identifying music. It had not worked in the past because my speakers were not loud enough.

The tune was by a Swedish group (I guessed the language aright! Legend, I!) called "Raymond and Maria" and the song was " Ingen vill veta var du köpt din tröja" which translates as "Nobody wants to know where you bought your sweater." Don't ask but it's a poppy little tine, for which I am a sucker.