Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Did You Know…? • MARIE LLOYD – from the writer to the costermonger

British actress Marie Lloyd, on a postcard c.1890s

Marie Lloyd c.1890s

Did you know that the death of music hall performer Marie Lloyd in 1922 struck T S Eliot as “the most important event which I have had to chronicle [in The Dial magazine]”?

What made her unique? Writing his monthly ‘letter’ in The Dial, Eliot said, “It requires some effort of analysis to understand why one person, among many who do a thing with accomplished skill, should be greater than the others; nor is it always easy to distinguish superiority from great popularity, when the two go together […] Although I have always admired her genius I do not think that I always appreciated its uniqueness….” He goes as far as describing her as “perhaps the most perfect, in her own line, of British actresses”.

Even people who know little about music hall – its history or its performers – have usually heard of Marie Lloyd, though they may only be aware of an apocryphal story which goes that one of her numbers was ‘I Sits Among the Cabbages and Peas’. This version of events has it that it was ‘Cabbages and Peas’ that caused an outcry from Mrs Ormiston Chant of the Purity Party and led to Marie having to appear before the Vigilance Committee.

Oft-quoted as fact, not least on the internet, there is no supporting evidence that such a song existed. Archivist and historian Max Tyler, a member of the British Music Hall Society, is quoted on as saying: “I’ll give you £100 if you can show me the words and music of a Marie Lloyd song called ‘She Sits Among The Cabbages and Peas or Leeks’ It may be a good story but it just ain’t true.”

The Mary Whitehouse of her day, Mrs Chant was so outraged by the nature of Marie’s act – Marie was the sublime mistress of the double entendre – that she protested from her seat in the stalls at the old Empire Music Hall in Edmonton during Marie’s act. Mrs Chant was fighting a campaign to stop music hall licences being renewed.

Marie herself was not about to tone down the naughty nature of her act. When she was performing in the States, she told the New York Telegraph that her audiences “don’t pay their sixpences and shillings at a music hall to hear the Salvation Army. If I was to try to sing highly moral songs, they would fire ginger beer bottles and beer mugs at me. I can’t help it if people want to turn and twist my meanings”.

This “most perfect” of actresses was not only supremely talented and popular but she played her part when it came to supporting fellow performers who could not command the sort of wages she could. In 1907 she gave her full support to the Music Hall strike – indeed, the first meeting was held at the home she shared with her second husband, Alec Hurley. “We (the stars) can dictate our own terms. We are fighting not for ourselves , but for the poorer members of the profession, earning thirty shillings to £3 a week. For this they have to do double turns, and now matinées have been added as well. These poor things have been compelled to submit to unfair terms of employment, and I mean to back up the federation in whatever steps are taken.”

Our Marie: Marie Lloyd (New Portway Reprints)

Marie Lloyd died on 7 October, 1922, only a few days after appearing at the Empire. The funeral in Hampstead was a sight to be seen, described by The Era, as a “Royal Progress”, with thousands lining the route of the funeral procession. Atop the hearse lay her ebony cane and top hat. TS Eliot described it as “a ceremony which surprised even warmest admirers”. He quotes a contemporary newspaper: ‘Wreaths had poured into the house in Woodstock Road from all parts of the country. There were hundreds of them from people whose names are almost household words on the variety stage, and from such people as ‘a flower boy’ in Piccadilly Circus: the taxi-drivers of Punter’s Garage: and the Costermongers’ Union of Farringdon Road…’

Eliot ended his piece in The Dial by saying that he was “quite incapable of taking any interest in any literary events in England in the last two months, if any have taken place”.

Originally published on 6 August 2008 © Sarah Vernon



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Polly's Paper Studio

Vintage Inspired Paper Crafts & Digital Design

Robin King

I make faces.

Life on La Lune

A journey through life in Southwest France

Vanessa Couchman

Historical Fiction with a French Flavour

Disability & Determination

It isn't being John Malkovich, but it is being me

Nicholas Andriani

Musings of a Wandering Scholar | Writer - Educator

Joe Ruggiero at Home

Daily Reflections from My Home and Garden

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Genealogy Jude

Unlocking the Door to Your Past

Jack Monroe

The #1 budget recipe website

Stevie Turner

Realist, writer, reader, reviewer and rocker.

The Stuff They Won't Include in Any Tourist Guide: The Real England

The Real England is a concise, direct, and not-so-gentle window into the depths of the leftovers of the world’s once greatest empire. It is told from the perspective of one lone (or not so lone) long term visitor. It informs one of the dregs of the country and helps to explain quaint British oddities such as the crack addicted chav.

Postcards from

home and away...

S.O.U.L. S-P-A-C-E

Artists, Writers and Visionaries Blog on the Unique and Ordinary

The Lady Sews

Collected works and other excuses from a textile obssessive


Defending Scientism


has random thoughts

Criminal Historian

Working with dead people


Writing - Loving What I Do and Doing What I Love!


the darker side to sedge808

Off Center & Not Even

Photographs, music and writing about daily life. Contact:

Reina Cottier Art

Creative Intuitive from New Zealand

Tenafly Road

Family Saga Fiction by Adrienne Morris


Burgers, Books, Music, Movies, Offbeat Adventures & Pop Culture!

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Assemblage Art

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Candia Comes Clean

Candid cultural comments from the Isles of Wonder


Horror, Science Fiction, Comic Books and More

The Wandering Empath

Traveling the World Through Others

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.


Art, Literature, Poetry, Politics and a little History

Jet Eliot

Travel and Wildlife Adventures

Judith Barrow

Writer & Author

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...


Adventures in Watercolor Painting and Sketching, Watercolour Magazine, with Charlie O'Shields

Luanne Castle's Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory

Life in Russia

The Bridge between two countries

London Life With Liz

A lifestyle blog with a little bit of everything.

Brotherly Love

A personal exploration of autism from a brother’s perspective, including family relationships, philosophy, neuroscience, mental health history and ethics

Alex Raphael

Entertainment, travel and lifestyle blog

Teagan's Books

Founder of the Three Things Method of Storytelling

%d bloggers like this: