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Tigers - Penny Scantlebury
It strikes me that The Tigers may well have been based on topical themes which were so much of their time that they are somewhat obscure for us today. On reading Adrian Ures investigation of The Tigers, part two, I was struck by his reference to Albert Chevalier, author of Oh Ampstead. I think Adrian is quite mistaken in suggesting that the taste for coster songs had passed its peak by 1900. Albert Chevalier appeared frequently at the London Coliseum during the early years of this century. He topped the bill when the Coliseum reopened on 16 December 1907, and that theatre continued to give variety bills well into the 1920s, attracting the famous music hall artists of the day.
In the souvenir booklet about the London Coliseum (available from the Coliseum shop) there is a section on Music hall 1909-1931, and on p 21 a picture of Albert Chevalier in his famous coster outfit. The caption reads: Albert Chevalier, hugely popular for his coster songs, including Knocked em in the Old Kent Road and My old dutch. I know my father saw this artist when he was a boy I am sure Brian would have seen him (possibly at the Coliseum because Oswald Stoll, who owned it, had a policy of playing interval music by young British composers and I believe Brian was one who had an airing there).
The other thing in Adrians article which made me sit up was the reference to the armistice of dog and donkey. It reminded me that I had seen an illustrated map of Europe dated about 1914 in which each country was represented by some kind of animal. It had been displayed at the British Museum so I took a trip to their map library and, within a very short time, was able to locate two maps, Hark! the dogs do bark (shelf mark 1078(42)), which was produced in 1914 for CW Bacon & Co in London, by Johnson, Riddle & Co (printers?), and Kill that eagle, a cartoon map of the European War Zone by JH Amschewitz from Geographia, London, 1914 (shelf mark IO7S(43)).
A piece of information I gleaned was that these cartoon maps were very popular from the time of the Napoleonic Wars to 1914 when they ceased to be produced. I suspect that they were well known to the public through publications of the day (it might be worth checking the Illustrated London News).
The Dogs map shows the British bulldog hanging on to the nose of the German dachshund (we know that Brians dog in the opera is called Jerry!). Belgium is a griffon in bandages. France a snarling poodle. Austria is a mongrel tied to the dachshund with its paw being stung by a hornet (?) representing Serbia and Montenegro. The note on the map, by Walter Emanuel, starts: The Dogs of War are loose in Europe. a nice noise they are making! It goes on to attack most countries in Europe in satirical fashion, ending Peace has gone to the dogs at present until a satisfactory muzzle has been found for that dachshund. Meanwhile the dachshunds heart bleeds for Germany and his nose for Great Britain.
The Eagle map has the possible reference to the donkey. Germany here is a huge eagle, partly enveloping the donkey (Belgium), and threatening France (a cockerel). Austria is a pantaloon clinging to the eagles back, whilst a hornet (?) stings its hand. Italy, out of interest, is a tenor singing You made me love you, I didnt want to do it.
I am not suggesting that these maps solve the many enigmas in Brians text, but they may provide some clues. One would need to be able to follow the analogies through, to the elephant, for instance. I am not able to offer any parallels for that. On reading the text, I do get the strong impression that Brian is satirising events of the day probably in an extremely witty fashion; if only we could peel back the layers of time to grasp their true significance!
NL65 © Penny Scantlebury 1986
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