Sunday, 3 February 2013

Henry Savile Clarke (1841-93)

Henry Savile Clarke was the eldest child of the Rev Henry Clarke of Guisborough (1813-61) and his wife Catherine Dawson (c1819-52).  Baptised by his father on the day of his birth, 14 February 1841, he spent the first months of his life at the house then called Long Hull.  At that time there was no parsonage house for the vicar of Guisborough, and Henry Clarke must have rented Long Hull from the Chaloner family.  We know it now as Gisborough Hall.

By 1842, the Clarkes had moved to Sunnyfield House on Westgate, with ample room for the five children who followed – four sons and a daughter – before the untimely death of their mother in 1852 at the age of 33.

Henry’s brother “Jock” Clarke [1] (baptised John William), was a year his junior.  He became agent for the Guisborough estate and was well known for his rather malicious wit.  Arthur Dawson Clarke was born a year later.  He became a clergyman, lecturer and tutor, writing books on geography and mathematics for candidates for Army, Woolwich and Civil Service examinations.  Francis Savile Clarke was the next child; he studied music in London and returned to Guisborough to teach.  Cecil James Clarke was born in 1846; he became an estate agent and lived in the South of England.  Lastly, there was the only daughter, Kathleen Ann Augusta Clarke.  She left the North East and married Arthur Edward Prescott, a land agent.  She was left a widow with four children at the age of 40.

Henry Savile Clarke was blessed with good looks, energy, ability and a private income from his late mother.  He went to Edinburgh to study medicine and there became caught up in the world of journalism. 

His time in Edinburgh coincided with the period in which James Hannay, author and journalist, was editor of the Edinburgh Courant.  Hannay (1827-73) had returned to Scotland in 1860 to take up the post with the aim of turning a previously neutral newspaper into a Conservative organ [2].  He must have been a charismatic figure – he certainly stirred up strong feeling [3].  His friend Espinasse thought that he chose for his associates
"boon companions who looked up to him, flattered him and encouraged his imprudences, laughing approvingly when in doubt as to the choice of a victim of his next leading article, he would ask, “Who is to be hoisted today?" 
Henry Savile Clarke
Henry Savile Clarke became, in the words of his friend George Augustus Sala, one of the  “enthusiastic young men around James Hannay” [4] and subsequently left medicine for literature.  He did not follow Hannay’s controversial path however, and although he remained a Tory journalist all his life, he was mainly known for  his work in light literature and popular entertainment.

James Hannay was for four years editor of the Courant.  He returned to London in 1864 after his support had been weakened by the death of one of the Courant’s backers and he was coincidentally offered a post at the new Pall Mall Gazette [5].

On 27 April 1865 Henry Savile Clarke married Helen Weatherill in Guisborough.  They were both aged 24 and had known each other all their lives. 

Helen Weatherill was born in the late summer of 1840, the third daughter of William Weatherill and his wife Ann Jackson.  William was a solicitor and a significant figure in Guisborough life. 

The Clarke and Weatherill families had been friends and neighbours in Westgate for many years – indeed, Henry’s late father had taken Helen’s elder sister Ann Louise as a second wife.

Helen Savile Clarke
Photographs indicate that Helen was the beauty of her family, elegant and artistic.

In 1866, this handsome young couple set up home in London.

They lived at first at 7 Leamington Road Villas, Paddington, moving after a few years half a mile away to 26 Alexander Street, Westbourne Park.  They named the house ‘Cleveland Lodge’ and there Henry lived for the rest of his life.

They seem steadily to have increased in middle-class comfort over the years.  In 1871, they employed a general servant and a nursemaid for the babies.  In 1881 and 1891, there were three female servants in the household – in 1891, the occupations were specified as parlourmaid, ladies’ maid and cook.

Three daughters were born to them:  Clara Savile in 1869, Margaret Helen (“Maggie”) in 1870, and Catherine Dawson (“Kitty”) in 1872.  (Henry appears to have been baptised simply Henry himself, although his younger brother was baptised Francis Savile; it is not clear when the name ‘Savile’ was added, but it seems always to have been part of his name as a writer.)
Henry with one of his daughters

The move to London was made so that Henry could devote himself to writing.  He was clearly a man with a talent for friendship and he made and kept connections with others in journalism throughout his life – at his death, for example, he is described as a close friend by George Harper, the proprietor of the Huddersfield Chronicle and one of the original promoters of the Press Association.  He probably already had useful contacts in London – not least, James Hannay himself – and he soon began to make his way.  Within a couple of years, his name appeared in an advertisement for Cassell’s Magazine as one of the “well-known” contributors.

Henry was to become an increasingly well-known figure in the world of popular and political journalism, light literature and the musical stage – well-known in his own day, but largely forgotten afterwards.

He was for some 25 years a working journalist. 

This was the time of the great political titans, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.  According to an article in The Theatre in 1889, Henry wrote “many hundreds of leaders and other articles for London, country, and American papers”.  He was the London drama critic for the Scotsman.  He was a frequent contributor of verse, stories and articles to magazines and periodicals (under his full name and also under his initials “H.S.C.”).  In the 1891 census, he described himself as “editor, author, newspaper proprietor”, but I have not been able to find out which newspaper he owned.  He wrote and adapted works for the stage, wrote song lyrics, and was editor of the Court Circular from 1872 until his death.

He wrote for the Belgravia under the editorship of Mrs Braddon [6].  He wrote for the Fun [7], Gaiety Journal, the Latest News (in 1870 he became its editor) [8], Punch [9],  the London Standard, Globe, the Graphic, the Theatre, the St James's Gazette, the World, the Illustrated London News [10], and the Examiner.

He wrote verse in many genres:  light verse, comic verse, tender verse, “manly, hearty” [11] verse, verse on scientific subjects, topical, political and satirical verse, and parodies and pastiches.  His verses were set to music [12] and he was commissioned to write lyrics for songs. 

In 1878 he supplied the English text for the collection of choral work written by Abraham Saqui, the choirmaster at the synagogue in Princes Road, Liverpool, which was published as Songs of Israel by Boosey, Patey & Co [13].  

He wrote librettos for the musical theatre.  He made translations from German and French drama.  On his own and in collaboration with others, he wrote for the stage in a wide range of genres: comedies, “sensational” drama, farce, romantic drama, skits & sketches, burlesques and comediettas. 

He wrote to commission.  For Miss Lila Clay and her all-woman company, he wrote the lyrics for the operetta An Adamless Eden in 1882.  In 1890 he wrote for Miss Amy Roselle a “soul-stirring” set of verses on the subject of the Siege of Lucknow.  He supplied the verses for the wildly successful series of tableaux on the Jubilee theme at the Painters’ Masque in 1887, and he managed the Hans Christian Andersen tableaux vivants at the Anglo-Danish Exhibition in 1888.

In 1885, when his political verse – directed mainly at Gladstone – was published in book form as The Modern Macbeth [14] (it is currently in print), he spent some weeks in Ipswich electioneering, appearing on the platform at meetings on behalf of the Tory candidate, Colonel Bagot-Chester [15].

He was a member of the Arts Club, founded in 1863 by Dickens and others “for the purpose of facilitating the social intercourse of those connected, either professionally or as amateurs, with Art, Literature, or Science” [16], members included writers and artists such as Swinburne,  Whistler, Tenniel, Du Maurier and Rossetti.

He was a close friend of George Augustus Henry Sala [17], the flamboyant and exuberant bohemian journalist and illustrator.

Henry and his wife Helen evidently both had friends in the theatre.

In 1878 they accompanied Ellen Terry when she visited the Banstead Asylum to gain insight into insanity in preparation for playing Ophelia in Henry Irving’s production of Hamlet.  In 1891 Irving thanked
thanked Helen for her care of Miss Amy Roselle in her “terrible suffering”.  In 1887, after Irving’s performance in Olivia, an adaptation of Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield, Irving presented Savile Clarke with the churchwarden pipe that he had smoked on stage [18]

taken by Henry Savile Clarke

Henry Savile Clarke had a keen eye for novelty and innovation.

He was an early and enthusiastic amateur photographer, as snaps taken on a visit to relatives in Guisborough show.

Helen Savile Clarke is here seen with one of her sisters and her cousin Kate Buchannan.  I think Henry took the photograph at the back of Sunnyfield House.  He has captioned it, 'When shall we three meet again?'

Another photograph shows Kate Buchannan with one of her children, over the caption 'Squoze in two.'

taken by Henry Savile Clarke

In 1879, three years after the first successful telephone conversation, Henry made use of the new invention as the main plot device in a farce A Tale of a Telephone.

In August 1886 he approached Lewis Carroll for permission to adapt Alice in Wonderland for the stage. 

Carroll – whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – was a dozen years older than Savile Clarke and, like him, the son of a North Yorkshire clergyman.  He had been famous since the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, which had been followed by Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there in 1872. 

By 1886, Savile Clarke had 13 years of experience with drama behind him, in a variety of forms.

Almost every year since 1873 he had something produced on the London stage: comedy, sensational drama, farce, satire, burlesque, adaptation or translations, sketches and operetta.  Most of this work had met with success, and some of his plays continued to tour for a good many years, but none of it was significant, which is presumably why, according to Lewis Carroll and the Victorian Stage: Theatricals in a Quiet Life, by Richard Foulkes (2005), Carroll enquired enquired, “Kindly tell me what plays, etc., you are author of.”   However, Carroll agreed to Savile Clarke's request – indeed, Savile Clarke’s was the first adaptation that he permitted, and he took a close and active interest in the process and the casting. 

The extensive correspondence that resulted is held in the Berol Collection at New York University Library, and includes charming letters written between 1886 and 1889 by Carroll to the younger Savile Clarke girls, Maggie and Kitty (aged 16 and 14 years old when their father first approached Carroll) [19].

Their elder sister Clara’s presentation copy of Carroll’s poetry collection Rhyme? and Reason?  (bound in white cloth gilt with his autograph inscription on the half title), which Carroll gave Clara on 5 November 1886, is listed in one of the catalogues of the antiquarian booksellers, Maggs' Bros.

The result was A Musical Dream Play for children in two acts, with music written by Walter Slaughter, who had provided the score for Savile Clarke’s An Adamless Eden in 1882. 

In the first act, characters from Alice in Wonderland appear – the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, etc – while the second act features characters from Through the Looking-Glass – Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Red Queen, and so on.  The musical opened for the Christmas holidays in 1886, was a great success and was frequently revived – the last revival being in 1927.

In 1890 Henry approached William Thackeray’s daughter, Anne Thackeray Ritchie, for permission to adapt her late father’s “fireside pantomime” The Rose and the Ring [20]

Permission granted, he and Walter Slaughter produced another two act comic opera, again acted mainly by children.  Some reviewers found it to be rather uneven, but others were appreciative.  Anne Ritchie, her husband and young children certainly enjoyed it, and she afterwards wrote to Helen Savile Clarke, “I am still laughing, and clapping in spirit, and enjoying the remembrance of our happy expedition.” 

But by the time The Rose and the Ring appeared Henry was already ill with tuberculosis [21].

During 1891 and 1892, while his journalism must have continued – he was still editor of the Court Circular – there were no new works for the stage.  He published A Little Flutter: stage, story and stanza, a collection of earlier work, and according to an announcement in the press in early 1893, he was working on the libretto for a new opera for the Shaftesbury Theatre.  But his health was failing fast.

On 5 October 1893 he died at home at Cleveland Lodge, 26 Alexander Street.  The Glasgow Herald announced
‘After a long illness, during the latter part of which he suffered severe pain, the well-known dramatic critic and author Mr H Savile Clarke died on Thursday evening.’
 George Augustus Sala wrote in his Echoes [22]
"With grief I note the death of my old and dear friend, Henry Savile Clarke, scholar, critic, journalist, poet, dramatist, and kindliest and most affectionate of good fellows.  He was only 52."
 He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery on Monday 9 October 1893.  The newspaper reports comment on the presence at the graveside of his brother the Rev Arthur Dawson Clarke, but possibly others were there – he was survived by all his siblings, and Jock, Arthur and Kathleen indeed lived into the 1920s.

The London Standard noted that “Around the grave were many fellow-workers in literature and the drama.”  His old colleague, the composer Mr Walter Slaughter was amongst them.

Henry’s wife Helen was then aged 53, and their daughters were 24, 23 and 21.  

Henry Savile Clarke in 1889

The story of Henry's widow and daughters continues in the next post ...


[1]  The details of Jock Clarke's Will can be found here.  They evidently caused a little extra work to the solicitors winding up his estate, Jacksons & Monk (precursors of Jacksons, Monk & Rowe – now Jacksons Solicitors)

[2]  For James Hannay’s aims on taking up the post of editor of the Edinburgh Courant, see p311 of his friend Francis Espinasses’s Literary Recollections and Sketches

[3]  James Hannay had been dismissed from the Navy at the age of 19 for insubordination.
Mrs Oliphant, in her biography of the eminent Scottish Presbyterian leader, Principal Tulloch, hints that Hannay’s attacks in the Courant exacerbated Tulloch’s final illness, cf. p313 Espinasse and p244 The Democratic Intellect: Scotland and her universities in the 19th Century by George Elder Davie, 2000.
Hannay was one of those who criticised Charles Dickens in print for his bizarre public announcement regarding his separation from his wife.

[4]  George Augustus Sala mentions Henry Savile Clarke’s time in Edinburgh when writing of his friend’s death.  The piece, which appeared in Sala’s weekly Echoes was picked up by the Huddersfield Chronicle on Tuesday 17 October 1893.  Henry Savile Clarke was a close friend of George Harper, the proprietor of the Huddersfield Chronicle.

[5]  James Hannay’s departure from Edinburgh is described on p315 Espinasse [qv]

[6]  Mrs Braddon’s novel  Aurora Floyd  had been described by Helen Weatherill’s cousin Anne as  “A horrid book though not without a little redeeming talent in it” in her diary entry of Feb 17 1863.  Anne evidently did not have a taste for ‘sensation literature’

[7]  For the Fun, cf p 237 of the Dictionary of 19th century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland, by Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor 2009 here

[8]  Manchester Evening News, Monday 30 May 1870:
The Latest News, hitherto a weekly paper, appears today as a daily morning journal, price one half-penny.  Mr Savile Clarke is to be the editor, and Mr George Maddick continues the principal proprietor.  Its aim is to give a fuller epitome of news than any other daily, and the proprietors are said to be sanguine enough to talk of its attaining a circulation of from half a million to seven hundred thousand
[9]  Henry Savile Clarke wrote regularly for Punch from 1880 under the editorship of Burnand, but like many writers he deplored the policy of unsigned contributions.  Punch’s artists were very famous, but the writers remained anonymous.  In his History of Punch (1895), M H Spielmann mentions “Songs of the Sciences, Lyrics in a Library (verse on books), verse on the minor picture exhibitions, clever trifles like the Carmen Culinarium (December, 1891), and the important and strikingly able and successful parody, Modern Life in London, or Tom and Jerry Back Again, illustrated by Mr. Priestman Atkinson” as the staple of Henry Savile Clarke’s work for Punch.

[10]  The Illustrated London News archives are available online to students and researchers through institutions and libraries here but pages can be enjoyably browsed here here

[11] Henry Savile Clarke's "manly, hearty verses":  

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, London, Sunday 5 January 1868:
In the Broadway, H Savile Clarke has written some manly, hearty verses.  We have only space for the first verse:-

A greeting! ‘tis the feast of yule,
With kindly thoughts in every breast,
From where Victoria hath rule,
To thee, republic of the west.
The great Atlantic rolls between
And frets a thousand harbour bars;
The flag that shelters England’s queen,
We hoist beside the stripes and stars!
[12]  This is one of the earliest advertisements for a song with lyrics by Henry Savile Clarke:

Pall Mall Gazette, Tuesday 24 September 1867
FAIRY BELLS, words by H Savile Clarke:
Music by W C Levey. Price 3s
“’Fairy Bells’ ought to ring out from thousands of pianos” – Sunday Times
“It may be safely recommended” – Era
“In B flat common time, compass from D to F, - a very pleasing and symmetrical melody with a piquant accompaniment, which is very effective without being difficult” – Orchestra
Cramer & Co (Ltd), 201 Regent Street, W
[13]  Henry Savile Clarke and Boosey & Co:-

Liverpool Mercury, Wednesday 27 March 1878
An article on the publication of Songs of Israel, by Mr A Saqui.  He had been choirmaster at the Old Hebrew Congregation of Liverpool for about 20 years, “and is well known in local musical circles as a musician of a high order”.  Collection of hymns, psalms and chants with Hebrew words and an English paraphrase, composed and arranged for four voices and piano or organ.
“In order to render the work acceptable to other than Hebrew congregations, English words have been furnished for the English-printed Hebrew text … In this direction he has been fortunate in securing the aid of Mr Savile Clarke, whose specially written hymns and paraphrasing of the Hebrew text have much of the dignity and impressiveness of the original …”
Henry Savile Clarke had evidently been employed by Boosey & Co previously – in 1870, for example, they published a sixpenny Budget of the War Songs of Germany, for which he had contributed the English translations.  According to the Graphic on 27 August 1870,
“His versions, especially of the “Watch on the Rhine,” are closely rendered from the original, and are at the same time very spirited and singable.”
Boosey & Co apparently thought there would be a market for German war songs during the Franco-Prussian War (19 July 1870-10 May 1871)

[14]  Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 20 May 1885:
The Modern Macbeth (Court Circular office, 2 Southampton-street, Strand). – This collection of poetic comments upon public affairs, by H Savile Clarke, will be found very useful in laying before the public the misdeeds of the present Government.  The principal acts of the Government are criticised trenchantly and powerfully, and poems written at various times during the past four or five years, are some of them very plain and pointed in their diction, for instance:-
“Guilty!” Aye, the nation’s verdict, given with universal groan,
Tells them that they murdered Gordon since they left him there alone;
Aid would once have been all potent, but they let the months roll on,
Till the task was superhuman and all power for succour gone.
On their heads his blood lies certes, since they left him to his doom,
On our Cabinet of Cowards, all the slaughter of Khartoum.
[15]  Heneage Charles Bagot Chester (1836-1912).  Buried in Ashtead, Surrey.

[16]  Henry Savile Clarke was a member of the Arts Club from at least 6 January 1872, when he wrote a letter to The Times on the subject of Working Men’s Clubs from the club’s address

[17]  For sketches and photographs of Sala, see here.
It is interesting to note that while Henry Savile Clarke’s first mentor James Hannay was a critic of Dickens, his good friend Sala was one of Dickens’ most devoted admirers.  For more details of Sala’s career, see p554 Dictionary of 19th Century Journalism

[18] Morning Post, Monday 29 August 1887:
Mr Savile Clarke having expressed a wish for the “churchwarden” pipe smoked by the Vicar in Olivia, Mr Irving has presented it to him in a handsome case, with the following quotation from the play:- “My dear friend, you never come over to smoke your pipe now.”  This is written by Mr Irving on the pipe, with his autograph and the date, July 16, 1887 – a characteristic memento of a delightful production.
[19]  The Savile Clarke daughters: in Richard Foulkes’ Lewis Carroll and the Victorian Stage: Theatricals in a Quiet Life, Kitty is erroneously stated to be the eldest daughter.  Tony Nicholson’s research into the letters shows that Carroll corresponded with both Maggie and Kitty.

[20]  Used copies of the Puffin edition of The Rose and the Ring with Thackeray’s own comic illustrations can be had very cheaply on Amazon.  It hardly seems worth buying a copy of the book without Thackeray’s illustrations.

[21]  Henry Savile Clarke’s death certificate showed that his death was due to “Laryngeal Disease 3 years – Pulmonary Phthisis [tuberculosis] 3 years”.  

[22]  Sala's piece in Echoes on Henry's death was picked up by the Huddersfield Chronicle, Tuesday 17 October 1893.  George Harper, the proprietor of the Chronicle, also counted Henry as a close friend.

No comments:

Post a Comment