J1.06 Modern Times

Annotations for Jerusalem by Alan Moore

Book 1 – The Boroughs
Modern Times

Charlie Chaplin in 1909 (www.en-noir-et-blanc.com)
Charlie Chaplin in 1909 (www.en-noir-et-blanc.com)

General: A young Charlie Chaplin lounges around Northampton before a show. The time is September 1909. Moore seems to have heavily referenced Chaplin’s My Autobiography, so I’ll be citing that a lot below as MA.

Page 149 – titled Modern Times

  • Named after one of Charlie Chaplin’s most famous films, which in addition to being hilarious, is a biting critique of capitalism.
  • Our viewpoint character is Charlie Chaplin, later to be a famous movie star, currently a struggling vaudevillian. Moore coyly avoids using that name anywhere in this chapter, but it is suggested in various ways, from the title onwards.
    • Moore may have avoided the name in order to keep a new reader’s focus on “Oatsie” as a working-class struggling actor, not the world-famous star that the name CHARLIE CHAPLIN now bring to mind.
  • The phrase “modern times” also signals our transition from Peter the monk’s 9th century in the previous chapter to the at least relatively modern time of 1909.

paragraph 1

  • “Sir Francis Drake” – A nickname, as becomes clear in paragraph 2. This is not the historical ship captain. Nor is he a “sir” at this time, though he did receive a knighthood in 1975, not quite 86 years old.
  • “printed bills” – “Bills” here is a now out-of-fashion word for “poster”, “ad”.
  • Article about the building of the Palace of Varieties, 1901 (http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/)
    Article about the building of the Palace of Varieties, 1901 (www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/)

     

    Palace of Varieties” – Built in 1901, so still fairly new at the time of this chapter.

  • bonce” – English slang for “head”.
  • “draw his face on with burnt cork” – Using burnt cork as a cheap form of makeup, see P173p2ff below.
  • “the Inebriate” – A role Chaplin played in Fred Karno’s sketch Mumming Birds, see P152p2ff.
  • Woodbine” – A brand of cigarette, the company founded the year before Chaplin was born.

paragraph 2

  • This story of hand-me-down clothes and nicknames is based on an account from Chaplin’s My Autobiography.
  • “He’d been a six-year-old ” – So, circa 1895.
  • Lambeth” – A part of London known for its poverty. It was the setting for the beginning and end of the chapter A Host of Angles. That chapter also introduced the idea that “Lambeth was adjacent to far-off Northampton” (P62p1). Chaplin was born in Lambeth.
  • Hannah Chaplin c.1885 (Scanned from Chaplin: A Life by Stephen Weissman)
    Hannah Chaplin c.1885 (Scanned from Chaplin: A Life by Stephen Weissman)

     

    “his mother’s slide to poverty” – Hannah Chaplin (stage name Lily Harley) had been a stage performer from the age of 16. Her health began to decline in the late 1880s, and she seems to have stopped performing circa 1894, when Charlie was 5. After that, she supported her family (poorly) via dressmaking.

  • Sydney, his big brother” – Technically his half-brother (same mother), and almost exactly four years older than Charlie.
  • “his ‘young ’un’” – Per MA: “A younger brother referred to his older brother as ‘my young ’un’”.
  • “Hanwell School for Destitutes” – MA gives the name as “Hanwell Schools for Orphans and Destitute Children”. it was located about 12 miles outside London. It was also colloquially known as Cuckoo Schools. Although the text here would seem to suggest otherwise, the school incident with the nicknames appears to have happened before the two Chaplin boys were sent to Hanwell.
  • Sydney Chaplin 1903 (http://www.charliechaplinarchive.org/)
    Sydney Chaplin 1903 (http://www.charliechaplinarchive.org/)

     

    “Joseph and his coat of many colours” – Referring to a well-known story from the Bible, Genesis 37ff.

paragraph 3

  • “at the junction of the high-street” – As will become clear, this is the corner of Gold and Horseshoe Streets.
  • “Joseph had been dropped down a deep hole” – Genesis 37:24.
  • “Oatsie” – This name appears to be Moore’s invention.
  • rhyming slang” – A kind of slang formation popular in working-class London.
  • “oats and barley” – Rhymes with “Charlie”.
  • “that wasn’t quite the picture of himself that he was trying to present to people.” – A running theme of this chapter is how Chaplin is gradually forming the character that he will ultimately present to the world in dozens of movies, The Tramp. A “yokel” is a rural character, whereas the Tramp is far more urban.

paragraph 4

Page 150

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “his real age, which was twenty” – Setting this chapter in 1909.

paragraph 3

  • Charles Chaplin Sr., c.1885 (Scanned from Chaplin: A Life by Stephen Weissman)
    Charles Chaplin Sr., c.1885 (Scanned from Chaplin: A Life by Stephen Weissman)

     

    “the drunks were all his father, Charles” – Charles Chaplin, Sr. was an alcoholic.

  • “dropsy” – More generally called Edema now. An unhealthy build-up of fluids.
  • “in 1899” – Apparently an error on Moore’s part. Wikipedia claims Charles Sr. died in 1901, aged 38. MA, in talking of his final hospitalization, describes him as “only thirty-seven”; this may have been an error on Chaplin’s part, or his father may have turned 38 during his stay at hospital.
  • “Four gallons […] drained out of his father’s knee” – MA: “They tapped sixteen quarts of liquid from his knee.”
  • Pownall Terrace and the Three Stags (Google Maps 2021)
    Pownall Terrace and the Three Stags (Google Maps 2021)

     

    “The Three Stags, hadn’t it been, down Kennington Road?” – Per MA, yes. The Three Stags seems to have opened circa 1800, and still exists. It is almost exactly a mile north of Pownall terrace, see map.

  • “the Horns” – While horns are associated with stags, they are also associated with cuckolds, an idea of relevance to Charles Sr. In 1892, Hannah Chaplin gave birth to a son by another man.
  • “Pownall Terrace” – During at least some of his youth, Chaplin’s family lived at 3 Pownall Terrace (today named Pownell Terrace), see map. MA is a little unclear about whether they lived there at the time of this anecdote, but it’s a reasonable guess.
  • ThreeStags3
    The Three Stags (https://pubwiki.co.uk)

     

    “he’d had the strangest impulse” – MA: “The Three Stags in the Kennington Road was not a place my father frequented, yet as I passed it one evening an urge prompted me to peek inside to see if he was there.”

paragraph 4

  • “through the two-inch crack” – MA: “I opened the saloon door just a few inches, and there he was, sitting in the corner!”

Page 151

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “he’d still looked like Napoleon” – “He rested one hand, Napoleon-like, in his waistcoat as if to ease his difficult breathing.”
  • “as mother always said” – Earlier in MA: “Mother said he looked like Napoleon.”
  • “bloated” – MA: “He looked very ill; his eyes were sunken, and his body had swollen to an enormous size.”
  • “Sydney’s father had been […] some displaced Lord out in Africa” – This claim is in MA.
  • “his brother still looked like Charles Senior much more than Charles Junior ever had” – Moore may be suggesting here that Sydney is Charles Senior’s son. Hannah and Charles Sr. were romantically involved before Hannah eloped with the “African lord”, and Sydney was born within a year of that elopement, so it’s possible. And Hannah’s relationship with the African ended not long after Sydney’s birth, so questions about Sydney’s parentage may have been a factor in the break-up.
  • “His father’s eyes […] lit up with […] joy” – MA: “I was about to leave, but his face lit up and he beckoned me to him.”

paragraph 2

  • “at the bottom end of […] Gold Street” – See map below.
    Palace of Varieties on Gold Street (Google Maps 2021)
    Palace of Varieties on Gold Street (Google Maps 2021)
  • “Karno’s Mumming Birds” – Fred Karno was a theatre promoter of the period. Mumming Birds was a comedy piece in his troupe’s repertoire that Chaplin appeared in, at least sometimes playing The Inebriate.
    The Inebriate (https://chaplinfortheages.tumblr.com/)
    The Inebriate (https://chaplinfortheages.tumblr.com/)
  • “Charles Junior had been four years old already when he’d realised for the first time that he had a father.” – MA: “I was hardly aware of a father, and do not remember him having lived with us.”
  • “asking about Sydney and their mother” – MA: “That evening he was most solicitous, inquiring after Mother and Sydney”.
  • “taking […] in his arms and, for the first and last time, kissing him.” – MA: “before I left took me in his arms and for the first time kissed me. That was the last time I saw him alive.”
  • “Within a few weeks his old man was dying in the hospital, St. Thomas’s” – MA: “Three weeks later, he was taken to St Thomas’s Hospital.” St Thomas’s is a hospital in Lambeth.
  • “that bloody Evangelist McNeil […]” – MA:

    One day [mother] came home from the hospital indignant over what the Reverend John McNeil, Evangelist, had said when he paid Father a visit: ‘Well, Charlie, when I look at you, I can only think of the old proverb: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”.’

    The name “John McNeil” is fairly common, and while I have found Evangelists of that name, none seem to be a good match for the one mentioned here.

  • “His father had been thirty-seven” – See note at P150p3.
  • “Tooting Cemetery” – Formally named Lambeth Cemetery.
  • “that white satin box […]” – MA:

    The coffin was enshrouded in white satin and around the edge of it, framing Father’s face, were little white daisies. Mother thought they looked so simple and touching and asked who had placed them there. The attendant told her that a lady had called early that morning with a little boy. It was Louise.

    Charles Sr. lived with Louise after becoming estranged from Hannah Chaplin. For a period, Charlie and Sydney lived with Charles Sr. and Louise. A “fancy woman” is a woman of loose morals; MA does not use the term to describe Louise.

paragraph 3

  • fug” – Literally a stuffy, oppressive atmosphere. Figuratively, a dazed or lethargic state.

Page 152

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “every time he’d come home with a whiff of drink upon his breath” – In MA, Chaplin never mentions his own drinking until well after he stopped living with his mother. Of course, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any…
  • “You’ll end up […]” – MA: “whenever angry with me she would ruefully say: ‘You’ll finish up in the gutter like your father.’”

paragraph 2

  • “vicious, agonizing games of knuckles” – Possibly the game Knucklebones, but given the adjectives, more likely Bloody Knuckles, a “game” where players punch each other’s fists until somebody bleeds.
  • “conker” – A horse chestnut, used in the game Conkers.
  • Northampton electric tram on opening day, 1904 (with Adnitt's ad!) (http://www.trinityhigh.co.uk/transport/municipal_transport.htm)
    Northampton electric tram on opening day, 1904 (with Adnitt’s ad!) (http://www.trinityhigh.co.uk/transport/municipal_transport.htm)

     

    “tram” – This would be an electric tram operated by Northampton Corporation Tramways, only about 5 years old as of the time of this chapter. The very first electric tram in Britain only dated back 26 years, and thus the tram serves as a symbol of modernity.

  • “Adnitt’s” – A department store located in the Drapery, later replaced by Debenhams.
  • “Edwardians” – Edward VII reigned from 1901 to 1910 (though of course no one in 1909 knew he would soon die). Many sources refer to optimism being associated with the Edwardian era, though I have regrettably been unable to find any contemporary sources.
  • “the Queen was dead eight years” – Queen Victoria died in 1901.

paragraph 3

  • “the People’s Budget” – Broadly as described. It did pass in 1910, but Charlie of course doesn’t know that.
  • “how much ammonia they’d managed to produce” – Possibly referring to developments that would soon lead to the Haber Process for creating ammonia on an industrial scale.
  • “now they bragged about how many bombs” – I have been unable to identify a source for this. Certainly Germany was producing bombs, later used in WWI, some dropped by Zeppelins.
  • British Empire (in pink) 1909
    British Empire (in pink) 1909

     

    “India […] wanting their reforms” – The Indian Councils Act 1909 had “brought about a limited increase in the involvement of Indians in the governance of British India”.

  • pink bits” – Traditionally, possessions of the British Empire were colored pink.

Page 153

paragraph 1

  • An old pack of British Woodbine cigarettes, photographed at the Musée Somme 1916 of Albert (Somme), France (credit: Alf van Beem, CC0)
    An old pack of British Woodbine cigarettes, photographed at the Musée Somme 1916 of Albert (Somme), France (credit: Alf van Beem, CC0)

     

    Wills’s Woodbines” – A brand of cheap cigarettes, “popular in the early 20th century with the working-class”.

  • “the first time that he’d come here to Northampton.” – While Chaplin toured extensively with the Eight Lancashire Lads (see below), I have not found specific evidence that they came to Northampton. It’s possible that it happened in between documented appearances between spring and autumn of 1899. (Tour info courtesy of David Robinson’s Chaplin, His Life and Art, Appendix II.)
  • “He’d been nine, so it had been, what, 1898?” – Chaplin was 9 in 1898. The uncertainty may come in because MA doesn’t often date events at all clearly, and this episode only says “I was past eight years old”.
  • 8 Lancashire Lads in 1895 (pre-Chaplin) (http://www.charliechaplinarchive.org/)
    8 Lancashire Lads in 1895 (pre-Chaplin) (http://www.charliechaplinarchive.org/)

     

    “Mr. Jackson’s troupe of child clog dancers, the Eight Lancashire Lads” – The name was (as is often the case) chosen for alliteration, not because all the boys were from Lancashire, see p2 below.

  • “Boysie Bristol” – The name “Boysie” appears to have been Moore’s invention.
  • “the double act […]” – MA:

    My ideal was a double act, two boys dressed as comedy tramps. I told it to one of the other boys and we decided to become partners. It became our cherished dream. We would call ourselves ‘Bristol and Chaplin, the Millionaire Tramps’, and would wear tramp whiskers and big diamond rings. It embraced every aspect of what we thought would be funny and profitable, but, alas, it never materialized.

  • “Grand Variety Hall” – I have only found one reference to a Grand Variety Hall in Northampton  (in 1888) — On a Jack the Ripper forum of all places! See P166p6 for more about the Grand Variety.
  • “Gus Levaine” – I have found a few scattered references to a Gus Levaine active in the entertainment industry during the period. He seems to have managed some theatres, though I have no documentation that he did so in Northampton in 1898.
  • “Bristol, who he’d not seen in five years” – Roughly 1904. By 1904, Chaplin had left the Lancashire Boys and was touring as a minor part in a production of Sherlock Holmes; perhaps Bristol also got a part in that show?
  • “he was fairly certain that whatever roles the future held in store for him, Millionaire Tramp would not be one of them.” – Of course Chaplin, by playing The Tramp, will become a millionaire.

paragraph 2

  • “He was looking at a little patch of wasteland halfway down the hill across the road from him” – Possibly the former site of St. Gregory’s, the destination of the previous chapter X Marks the Spot.
  • “the black man” – Henry George, aka “Black Charley”, point of view character for the chapters Blind, But Now I See and The Rafters and the Beams.

paragraph 3

  • “The chap’s skin was black as coal” – In Living Memory: “he was jet black and absolutely white his hair. And I should imagine in those days he must have been about 60.”
  • “getting on for fifty” – Per In Living Memory, Black Charley was born circa 1848, so in this memory of 1898, he would indeed have been about 50.
  • “a peculiar contraption […]” – In Living Memory: “he went round with a trolley which was all tied up with ropes and the wheels – instead of tyres, they’d got ropes tied on.”

Page 154

paragraph 1 (continued) – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “down on Scarlut Well” – ILM: “He lived in one of the courts in Scarletwell Street”.
  • Gas-holder on St. Peter's Way (Google Street View Apr 2009)
    Gas-holder on St. Peter’s Way (Google Street View Apr 2009)

     

    “away downhill, towards […] a gas-holder” – Down Horseshoe Street. The gas holder, now demolished, was not very visible from Charlie’s location in 2009 (the earliest Google Street View we have), but presumably the intervening buildings would have been shorter in 1898.

  • “knocking Boysie’s into a cocked hat” – To knock into a cocked hat is to defeat utterly.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

Page 155

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “skull-faced Mrs. Jackson” – MA: “she had a gaunt, skull-like, pale face”.
  • “suckling her baby son while overseeing […] rehearsals.” – MA: “although still nursing her son at the breast, worked hard at helping with the management of the troupe.”
    Cigarette card of Little Nell in 'The Old Curiosity Shop' - illustration by Joseph Clayton Clark (1920)
    Cigarette card of Little Nell in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ – illustration by Joseph Clayton Clark (1920)

paragraph 2

  • “He had an eye to how he wanted things to be reported” – Chaplin did write multiple autobiographies.
  • Little Nell” – A character in Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop. Her death “is often considered the apotheosis of Victorian sentimentality.” Many contemporaries reported crying, though Oscar Wilde said: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing”. Nell’s cause of death is never precisely established, though it seems to be a consequence of exhaustion.

paragraph 3

  • Mumming Birds” – See note at P151p2.
  • The Football Match” – Chaplin’s first major role. MA:

    [Karno] was dissatisfied with one of the comedians playing opposite Mr Harry Weldon in The Football Match, one of Karno’s most successful sketches. […]
    ‘Sydney’s been telling me how good you are,’ he said. ‘Do you think you could play opposite Harry Weldon in The Football Match?’ […]

    ‘All I need is the opportunity,’ I said confidently.
    He smiled. ‘Seventeen’s very young, and you look even younger.’
    I shrugged off-handedly. ‘That’s a question of make-up.’
    Karno laughed. That shrug, he told Sydney later, got me the job.

  • “Eight Lancashire Lads” – See note at P153p1.
  • “Elephant Boys” – Discussed below. Apparently this whole episode is Moore’s invention, but seems plausible.
  • dicky bird” – Cockney rhyming slang for “word”.

paragraph 4

  • “the west arm of the crossroad” – Mare Fair.

paragraph 5

  • The Elephant and Castle 1896
    The Elephant and Castle 1896

     

    Elephant and Castle” – An area of London near Lambeth, named after an ancient inn.

Page 156

paragraph 1

  • “Bricklayer’s Boys from Walworth” – The area of London directly north of Elephant and Castle. There was an ancient pub in Walworth (now demolished) named Bricklayer’s Arms.

paragraph 2

  • spoons or comb and paper” – Makeshift musical instruments.
  • “what, seven, eight years old?” – Circa 1896-7.

paragraph 3

  • “If, unlikely as it seemed, he ever wrote a memoir” – Irony, as Chaplin wrote at least three.

Page 157

paragraph 1

  • “things were looking bad between England and Germany […] there might be a war.” – World War I is less than 5 years away.
  • I'm Twnty-One Today sheet music (https://www.sheetmusicwarehouse.co.uk/)
    I’m Twenty-One Today sheet music (https://www.sheetmusicwarehouse.co.uk/)

     

    “then he’d have the key of the door […]” – Alluding to lyrics from a popular song in the UK, “I’m Twenty-One Today!” I’ve got the key of the door, Never been twenty one before. The mention is slightly anachronistic, as the song wasn’t published until 1911.

  • “he’d still be of army age if anything should start.” – Britain didn’t have conscription until 1916. On the other hand, social pressure for young men to enlist would have been significant.
  • “he could be safe in another country” – In fact, Chaplin was in Los Angeles when the war broke out.
  • Folies Bergere c.1900 (http://paris1900.lartnouveau.com/)
    Folies Bergere c.1900 (http://paris1900.lartnouveau.com/)

     

    “He’d been booked in for a month to play at the Folies Bergère for Karno earlier that year” – The Folies Bergère is a famous Paris theatre. Chaplin did perform there for a month in “late autumn” of 1909. Given that this chapter is explicitly set in September (P150p3), this would appear to be a slight anachronism.

  • “he’d enjoyed it so much that he hadn’t wanted to come home.” – MA: “With sadness I returned to England and began a tour of the provinces. What a contrast to Paris!”
  • “more lovely women than he’d ever dreamed of” – MA does recount Chaplin meeting with actresses, prostitutes, and other lovely Parisians.
  • “He’d met Mr. Debussy” – Claude Debussy was a famous French composer. One night at the theatre, he asked to be introduced to Chaplin, having “enjoyed my performance”. The premiere of a ballet based on Debussy’s l’après-midi d’un faune is an important scene in Moore & Gebbies’ Lost Girls.
  • “the only real brawl of his life […]” – Detailed at some length in MA,  concluding “I have never fought anyone since”. Moore’s summary matches Chaplin’s account.
  • “Returning to the old routines of Mumming Birds” – It’s not clear from MA whether Chaplin was immediately back in Mumming Birds. Chaplin definitely was back in that skit after he came down with laryngitis and temporarily lost his voice.
  • “before he got to go abroad again” – Chaplin travels to America almost exactly one year from now, in Autumn 1910.

paragraph 2

Passing Clouds packet (https://www.gracesguide.co.uk)
Passing Clouds packet (https://www.gracesguide.co.uk)
  • “Woodbines” – See note at P153p1.
  • “Passing Clouds” – Another brand of cigarette from the same company that made Woodbines.
  • “the Crow and Horseshoe” – Also known as the Shakespeare. Per the map in ILM, it was located on Mare Fair, near the corner with Horseshoe Street.
  • “if those further trees […] were standing in a graveyard” – St. Peter’s Church is in the direction Charlie is looking, but they don’t seem to have a graveyard, at least in the early 21st century.

paragraph 3

  • “Boer War” – AKA the Second Boer War, 1899-1902. MA briefly mentions young Charlie’s hearing about the war.

Page 158

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “that night in Oakley Street […]” – MA:

    I remember an evening in our one room in the basement at Oakley Street. I lay in bed recovering from a fever. Sydney had gone out to night school and Mother and I were alone. It was late afternoon, and she sat with her back to the window reading, acting and explaining in her inimitable way the New Testament and Christ’s love and pity for the poor and for little children. Perhaps her emotion was due to my illness, but she gave the most luminous and appealing interpretation of Christ that I have ever heard or seen.
    […]

    Mother had so carried me away that I wanted to die that very night and meet Jesus. But Mother was not so enthusiastic. ‘Jesus wants you to live first and fulfil your destiny here,’ she said. In that dark room in the basement at Oakley Street, Mother illuminated to me the kindliest light this world has ever known, which has endowed literature and the theatre with their greatest and richest themes: love, pity and humanity.

  • “a stage career she’d only recently abandoned” – Her voice had cracked, and never recovered, putting an end to her career.
  • “dragged through the workhouse” – The family entered a frankly Dickensian workhouse in July 1898, when Charlie was nine years old.
  • “she had been put in the asylum” – In the autumn of 1898.

paragraph 2

Fred Karno photographed c.1918
Fred Karno photographed c.1918
  • “the way that someone like Fred Karno would be” – The irony being that Fred Karno is almost entirely forgotten today by those who aren’t students of comedy history.
  • “the Music Hall would be much bigger and much more important” – Yet more irony; the Music Hall tradition is soon to be utterly overtaken by the popularity of movies.

paragraph 3 – 4

  • No notes.

Page 159

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “missed out on Harry Weldon’s […]” – Per MA, six months after returning from Paris, Charlie was offered this quite significant promotion, which would give him top billing for the first time. Sadly, a bout of laryngitis prevented any success, and Charlie found himself back performing in Mumming Birds.
  • “a long time hopefully” – Charles Chaplin lived to be 88, 68 years after this chapter.

paragraph 2

Chaplin caught in the gears of Modern Times
Chaplin caught in the gears of Modern Times
  • “regular as clockwork […]” – The gradually developing mechanical metaphor here will be used to famous effect in Chaplin’s 1936 film Modern Times.
  • Commenter Archie Keller points out “the word “dictated” is used twice in one sentence, and The Great Dictator is one of Chaplin’s most famous films”.

paragraph 3

  • “chasing women” – Chaplin was a notorious womanizer.

paragraph 4

  • “like shuttles on a loom” – Given the concerns of the last few paragraphs, one cannot help but think of the loom of the Fates, who pre-determine the course of men’s lives.
  • “the road that had the Crow and Horseshoe in” – Mare Fair.

Page 160

Pear drops (https://heysweetieshop.co.uk/)
Pear drops (https://heysweetieshop.co.uk/)

paragraph 1 (continued)

paragraph 2

  • “She’d never be mistaken for a classic beauty” – This is May Warren, Alma’s paternal grandmother, and POV character of the chapter The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron. Based on Minnie May Moore, see photo below.
  • Champs-Élysées” – A famous and fashionable Paris street.

paragraph 3

Minnie May Moore c.1912
Minnie May Moore c.1912
  • “an antique rival theatre, down there at the foot of Horseshoe Street” – I have been unable to find any information on a different theatre on Horseshoe Street.

paragraph 4-5

  • No notes.

Page 161

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “not much more than a year old” – May was born in 1909, so is actually less than a year old.
  • cygnet” – Baby swan.
  • Helen” – Helen of Troy, proverbially the most beautiful woman in the world.
  • “Nothing would prevent” – And yet more dramatic irony; see the chapter The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron.
  • “If he knew anything” – Which this chapter seems to be going to some pains to show us that he doesn’t, as practically every thought he has is ironically mistaken.

paragraph 2

  • “Gretna” – Gretna Green, Scotland. Per Wikipedia:

    Gretna Green is most famous for weddings, following the 1754 Marriage Act, which prevented couples under the age of 21 marrying in England or Wales without their parents’ consent. As it was still legal in Scotland to marry without such consent, couples began crossing the border in to Scotland.

paragraph 3

Photo of Buddleja davidii 'Dartmoor' taken at Portchester, UK (Ptelea, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Photo of Buddleja davidii ‘Dartmoor’ taken at Portchester, UK (Ptelea, CC BY-SA 3.0)
  • “the patch of wasteland” – Probably the former site of St. Gregory’s Church. see note at P153p2.
  • “buddleia” – AKA Butterfly Bush.

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

Page 162

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “dandelion clocks” – In this context “clock” is the seed head of a dandelion.
  • catkins” – A type of long flower.

paragraph 2 – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “he’d have sworn that she was from South London” – See P164p8 below.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

paragraph 7

  • No notes.

Page 163

paragraph 1 (continued) – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

paragraph 5 – 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • “his name up on the poster” – By this point, Chaplin’s name was indeed starting to appear on posters. See the example at P153p2 above.
  • “parade her boys along Kennington Road […]” – MA:

    She took pride in dressing us up for Sunday excursions, Sydney in an Eton suit with long trousers and me in a blue velvet one with blue gloves to match. Such occasions were orgies of smugness, as we ambled along the Kennington Road.

  • “pleated crimson tights” – See P149p2.

Page 164

paragraph 1 – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “West Square, off St. George’s Road” – Per MA, the Chaplins moved there shortly after Charlie’s birth in 1889. They seem to have lived there until they had to go to the workhouse, see next paragraph. See also map, below.

paragraph 5

  • “at the age of six […] a workhouse pillow” – Per MA, Chaplin’s family first went to a workhouse when he “was a little over six years old “, so 1895.

paragraph 6-7

  • No notes.

paragraph 8

  • “just off Lambeth Walk in Regent Street” – See map below.
  • “a pub […] up the London Road” – Probably the Elephant and Castle, located at the southeast end of London Road.
    Oatsie & May's childhood homes (Google Maps 2021)
    Oatsie & May’s childhood homes (Google Maps 2021)

Page 165

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “within a two-mile radius” – Oatsie & May’s houses were only about half a mile apart.

paragraph 3 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “Old as me tongue but older than me teeth.” – A proverbial way of not answering the question, with an added connotation of “Mind your own business!” While uninformative, it is essentially true, as everyone is born with a tongue, but their teeth come in later. The saying dates back at least to Jonathan Swift’s Polite Conversation (1738).
  • “tenth of March in 1889” – Minnie May Moore (May Warren’s counterpart) was baptized March 4 of 1889, so her fictional counterpart seems to be a few days younger.

paragraph 6

  • “lived perhaps two hundred yards from him” – Either Oatsie or Moore has estimated poorly; the homes are over 800 yards apart.
  • “sixty miles” – Closer to 70.

paragraph 7

  • No notes.

Page 166

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “Vint Palace as she seemingly insisted upon calling it.” – See paragraph 6, below.

paragraph 2

  • “our kid, our Johnny” – “Kid” here is in the sense “younger brother”. He will indeed end up in the entertainment business. For more on Johnny Vernall, see the chapters Hark! The Glad Sound! and The Steps of All Saints.

paragraph 3

  • “a milk cart headed back towards its depot at the bottom of the street” – It sounds like he’s talking about the east side of the south end of Horseshoe Street. Possibly this was the original function of the building that later became the Jolly Wanker? (See notes to chapter ASBOs of Desire, P79p2.)

paragraph 4

  • “he could still make money as a manager” – That he will.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “Our dad’s ’ad family in Northampton ever since I can remember” – As best I can determine, this was not true of the historical Vernon family.
  • “always going back and forth from here to Lambeth” – Detailed in the chapter Eating Flowers.
  • The theatre actually had even more names than May lists here.
    • The Crow & Horseshow Inn Music Hall 1855-c.1859
    • Thomas’s Music Hall c.1859-c.1869
    • Alhambra Music Hall 1869-?
    • Temperance Hall of Varieties 1878-?
    • Star Hall of Varieties ?-1880
    • Theatre of Varieties 1880-?
    • Palace Theatre of Varieties 1901-1910
    • Palace Vaudeville Theatre 1910-1912
    • The Picture House 1912 -?
    • Vint’s Palace 1913 -?
    • Vint’s Picture Palace 1914? – 1919
    • The Majestic Cinema 1919-1937
  • “they changed it to the Grand Variety around the time what I was born.” – So, circa 1889. The name is not documented in the history I found, but is certainly possible.
  • “ten years back” – c. 1899.
  • “right ’Erberts” – “Herbert” is slang in SE England for “an ineffectual person; a bit of a fool”. The origin is obscure, but seems to go back at least to 1953.
  • “the year the Queen died” – Queen Victoria died in 1901.
  • “Vint, he bought the place a year ago” – That is, in 1908. According to the history cited before, Vint didn’t “take over” until 1913, but Moore may not have known this (or that history may be inaccurate).
  • “still ain’t ’ad the sign changed.” – By the chronology above, there will be two intervening name changes before Vint’s name goes up.

paragraph 7

  • “all those years ago” – If the visit did happen, it would have been in 1899, half his lifetime ago.

Page 167

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “If he were to come back here in, say, forty years time and found it was a place that sold, he didn’t know, electric guns or something ” – Forty years puts us at 1949. I am unaware what the building was doing that year, but it was torn down in 1950. In recent years, the location has been occupied by a mobile phone store, an idea even more foreign to a 1909 Chaplin than an “electric gun”.
  • “Perhaps by then there wouldn’t even be variety halls? Well, that was an exaggeration, obviously” – While not utterly extinct by 1949 (or even today), music halls had already become largely supplanted by movies, radio, and television.

paragraph 2 – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “Ninety-five, I think it was” – The Vernon family (on whom the Vernalls are based) seem to have moved to Northampton some time between 1886 and 1891, considerably earlier than May’s account.
  • “’alf-cut” – “Half cut” is British slang for “rather drunk”.
  • “This bit round ’ere’s a lot like Lambeth, ’ow the people are. Sometimes I ’ardly feel as if we’ve moved.” – Another establishing of the identity between Lambeth and the Boroughs.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • “I think I’m ’ere for good” – Minnie May (Vernon) Moore (May Warren’s counterpart) died in Northampton in 1970.
  • “we got wed up at the Guildhall” – The marriage of Ernest Moore to Minnie May Vernon was registered in the second quarter of 1909.
  • “there’s some lovely parks, Victoria, Abington, and Beckett’s” – Notably, none of these parks are within the boundaries of the Boroughs, with Abington Park being quite a walk west, see map.
    Some parks near Northampton (Google Maps 2021)
    Some parks near Northampton (Google Maps 2021)
  • “That’s where I’ve just took this one” – See the chapter The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron, Pxxx.

Page 168

paragraph 1

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “Gotcher Johnson’s” – Presumably a candy store. The name “Gotcher” is extremely unusual, especially as a first name. Suggest??
  • “rainbow drops” – A type of candy. See the chapter The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron, Pxxx for notes.
    Per Wikipedia: “Rainbow Drops are a brand of sugar-coated cereal-type puffed maize and rice confectionery sold in both Ireland and the United Kingdom, and produced by Swizzels Matlow.” They may be an anachronism – The Swizzels website claims rainbow drops “came in the 1930s”. Possibly they were a local delicacy before that, though?
  • “Fort Street” – This street was just southwest of Bath Street, see map below. It no longer exists, but there is a “Fort Place” that partially overlaps the former Street. The 1911 census lists the Moore family living at 43 Fort Street.
    Fort Street area c.1950
    Fort Street area c.1950
  • “potted meat” – A type of preserved meat product. Unclear from context whether this is commercial or homemade.

paragraph 3

  • “as if suggesting that she wouldn’t look after a child like that” – See The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron, Pxxx.
  • “the plot of scrubland halfway down the hill” – See note above at P153p2.

paragraph 4

  • “Woody” – Woodbines cigarette, see above.
  • “not half a dozen streets away” – An underestimate, though not a large one. See notes and map at P164p8, above.

paragraph 5

  • “scrabbling like ferrets for it through a maze of burrows” – Ferrets are a type of mustelid that often hunts for rabbits by entering their burrows. As a visitor to Northampton, Oatsie may not know that the neighborhood he’s in is “The Boroughs”.

Page 169

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “Sir Francis Drake hoped to be in his hammock and a thousand miles away” – Commenter Patrick Sean Flynn points out that this is an allusion to the poem “Drake’s Drum” by Sir Henry Newbolt, 1862 -1938.

    Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away

  • “safe in lavender” – An obscure phrase. Probably derived from “laid out in lavender” referring to the practice of storing clothes with lavender to keep them free of insects. Possibly related to the Victorian criminal slang “in lavender” meaning “hidden from the police”.

paragraph 3 – 5

  • No notes.

Page 170

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “Even if she lost her mind” – Chaplin’s mother, Hannah, was committed to an asylum briefly in 1898, briefly again in 1903, and for a long stretch between 1905-1921.

paragraph 2

  • “He wasn’t […] in Lambeth Workhouse and it wasn’t 1895” – Chaplin was actually first in a workhouse in 1896, aged seven. (Older brother Sydney had spent some time in the workhouse in 1895.)

paragraph 3

  • No notes.

Page 171

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “another hundred years” – Which would bring us to 2009, a few years after the “present day” of most of Jerusalem.

paragraph 2

  • “an old black man, on a bicycle” – Henry George, aka “Black Charley”. He appeared previously on P153p2ff. We will see this scene from Black Charley’s point of view in the next chapter, Blind, But Now I See, P200p1-2.

paragraph 3 – 6

  • No notes.

Page 172

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “into the Gods” – “The gods” is UK theatrical slang for the cheapest seats in the upper balconies.

paragraph 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • skew-whiff” – British colloquial “awry”.

Page 173

paragraph 1 (continued)

The Inebriate (https://chaplinfortheages.tumblr.com/)
The Inebriate (https://chaplinfortheages.tumblr.com/)
  • The use of burnt cork as black makeup goes back a long way (allegedly to Classical Rome!). It is most famous for being used in the regrettable custom of blackface.
  • The description of the Inebriate’s appearance is accurate, see picture.

paragraph 2 – 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “Gore rinsed from hooks in horse-troughs.” – Is this alluding to anything specific? Suggest??

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

Page 174

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “green glass ‘San Diego’ bottle” – Green glass bottles used to be common for beverages. ‘San Diego’ is a mystery, though bottle manufacturers did exist there since the 19th century.
  • “The gas mantle hissed a dismal premonition.” – Possibly meant to foreshadow the use of poison gas in the World Wars. In WWI on the battlefield, in WWII in the death camps.

3 thoughts on “J1.06 Modern Times”

  1. People on Reddit have theorized that Sir Francis Drake is Charlie Chaplin, and I couldn’t agree more. Here’s further evidence:

    Ch6 puts Drake at twenty years old in September 1909 (when this chapter takes place), which means he was born in 1889 or 1890 – Chaplin was born on April 16, 1889, making him twenty years old in September 1909. Ch6 also notes that Drake was born in April, as was Chaplin. Wiki says Chaplin was born in London (but notes that this is unverified).

    “Modern Times” as the chapter title has to be no coincidence either, since Chaplin’s film by that name features a scene that heavily parallels this line from Ch6 (p159, par 2):

    “…regular as clockwork. It was if life were some great big impersonal piece of machinery, like all the things they had in factories that would keep rolling on whatever happened. Getting born was just the same as getting your coat lining caught up in its wheels. Life pulled you in and that was that, you were enmeshed in all its circumstances, all it’s gears, until you reached the other end and got spat out, into a fancy box if you were lucky.”

    Here’s the (short) scene from Chaplin’s Modern Times (wonderful scene!):

    On top of that, later in that paragraph the word “dictated” is used twice in one sentence, and The Great Dictator is one of Chaplin’s most famous films (although I admit this connection could be a stretch).

    OBSERVATIONS & QUESTIONS:

    • The guy on the bike has (what I’m guessing as) an accent from the southern United States? “’Ah hope you two youngsters ain’t bin getting’ up tuh any trouble, now.’ (p154, par 3).

    • p160, par 1: “..finally decided that Northampton’s many tanneries, most probably, were where the odor came from.” I believe Moore worked in a tannery for a bit as one of his jobs after being kicked out of school.

    • p166, par 6: May Warren provides a lot of history to Drake regarding the Palace of Varieties, which is roughly this:

    Originally it was Alhambra Music Hall, then Grand Variety around 1889, then five years or so of random stores, then a greengrocer, then a bike store, then a pub called The Crow, then a coffee house, then the Palace of Varieties, and then Mr. Vint bought it in 1908 (but hasn’t changed the name yet in 1909).

    • Drake dreams of getting fame and fortune so he can get out of the slums, and (pretty condescendingly) pegs May-Warren-the-adult as someone who doesn’t have the talent to do so, and will therefore be stuck here. However, he seems to earlier convince himself that her baby, May-Warren-the-baby, is the most amazing human he’s ever met (paraphrased). I don’t know if that’s a contradiction or just weird? Not sure of my point there.

    Anyway, assuming Drake is Charlie Chaplin, then his is a story of someone who eventually gets enormous fame and fortune and goes on to live and embrace the Hollywood celebrity lifestyle, achieving his dream of rising from the slums through wealth and fame.

    In this sense, Chaplin’s career contrast’s Moore’s career quite a bit (despite both being artists at the top of their craft). Moore had the “celebrity” life dropped on him in the 1980s at the few international comic book conventions he attended, decided that wasn’t for him, and hasn’t done it since. And although he is not as stinking rich as he could have been had he cashed in on the corporate-friendly opportunities he has been offered (or had he been able to own the properties he created decades ago that were swindled from him), he is a very successful author in spite of all that, and could most likely afford to leave Northampton.

    Yet there in Northampton Moore remains. In fact, he loves the place. (I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he recently wrote a really long book all about a small area in Northampton!)

    “EINSTEINIAN BLOCK UNIVERSE” MOMENTS:

    • p158, the entire last paragraph. Especially this: “It was how life seemed sometimes like a skit that had been written out beforehand, with a punch line that was set up in advance.”

    • p168, par 4: “There was always the suggestion of a pattern in the way things worked out you could almost understand, but when you tried to pin down what the meaning or significance might be it all just fizzled out and you were left no clearer than you were before.”

    THESE LINES MADE ME LAUGH:

    • p153, par 3: “…and thinking vaguely of the Eight Lancashire Lads – four of them were from outside Lancashire and one of them had been a short-haired girl, but it was true that there were eight of them…”

    • p165, par 5: “This made him laugh longer and harder, with the woman chuckling deliciously along and finally her tiny daughter joining in as well, not wishing to appear as if she didn’t understand.”

    Like

  2. I’ll put my dramatis personae and index lists here.
    NOTES:
    Page referrers are for 3 volume paperback edition by Knockabout.
    Dramatis personae-characters in brackets are only mentioned but not in scene.

    Dramatis Personae
    • Charles, ›Oatsie‹, ›Sir Francis Drake‹ = Charles Spencer ›Charlie‹ Chaplin, Jr.: POV half hour before beginning of performance in Palace of Varieties, geboren 1889
    • Sydney, ›Stakey‹ = Sydney John Chaplin: older halfbrother of Charles, born 1885
    • ({Fred} Karno: see Index)
    • young lad on a bike
    • brewery cart driver
    (Charles Senior = Charles Spencer Chaplin, Sr.: Vaudevillian, died 1901, not 1899; born 1863)
    • (Charlies Mother = Hannah Harriet Pedlingham Hill)
    • (McNeil the Evangelist)
    • (Louise, woman Charles Senior fancied)
    • Junkman on cart
    • Grocers lad on bike
    • (Mr Jackson: see Index)
    • (Boysie Bristol: see Index)
    • (Gus Levaine: owner of Grand Variety Hall)
    • Black man on bike, from Amerika (= POV chapter Blind, But Now I See, Henry ›Black Charlie‹ George = ball on snooker table at the end of chapter Rough Sleepers)
    • (Mrs. Jackson, skullfaced wife of Mr. Jackson, with baby son)
    • (Harry Weldon: see Index)
    • (Fourteen year old injured by hook in bottom at streetboys battle on London)
    • May Warren (Vernall), born 10.03.1889 in London, see date of Do As You Darn Well Pleasey
    • May Warren, daughter of May Warren (Vernall) and Tom Warren, born approx. 1908
    • (Father and mother of May = Ernest und ???)
    • (JohnnyVernall: Mays brother)
    • (Mr. Vint: owner of Palace of Vairiety = Vint Palace)

    Index
    Modern Times, movie (1936) by Charlie Chaplin: 151 (Chapter title)
    • Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver and politician in Elizabethean era: 151
    • ›Joseph and his coat of many colours‹ = play on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, musical (1970) by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice: 151
    • Joseph, prophetic son of Jacob in Old Testament, Bible: 151
    • Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821): French military genius, political leader, Emperor of France: 152
    • Fred Karno (1866-1941), English theatre impressario, Head of comedian stage company, in which young Chaplin performed 1908-1913: 153
    Mumming Birds, famous scetch of Fred Karno Company: ab 153 durch ganzes Kapitel http://photo.charliechaplin.com/images/9792-karno-73-jpg
    • Queen Victoria: 154
    • Mr. Jackson = J. William Jackson, former teacher, With Bill Cawley founder of Eight Lancashire Lads: 154
    • Boysie Bristol, friend of Charlie at Eight Lancashire Lads: 154
    • Eight Lancashire Lads, clock dance group with which Charlie had stage debut as 10 year old: 154 http://photo.charliechaplin.com/images/9728-karno-5-jpg
    • Little Nell, character in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) by Charles Dickens: 156
    The Football Match, sketch of Fred Karno Company: 156
    • Harry Weldon, member of Fred Karno Company, music hall singer: 156, 160
    • ›Mr. Debussy‹ = Claude Debussy (1862-1918), French composer: 158, 163
    • Ernest ›Ernie‹ Stone, prize fighter and member of Fred Karno Company; Chaplin describes fight in autobiography: 158
    • {2nd} Boer War (1899-1902), : 159
    • New Testament: 159
    • Jesus: 159
    • Helen {of Troy}, Godess in Sparta, character in The Iliad by Homer: 161

    Like

  3. P. 169 para.2
    Line : „Sir Francis Drake hoped to be in his hammock and a thousand miles away“ refers to the poem „Drakes Drum“by Sir Henry Newbolt, 1862 -1938.

    Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away,
    (Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
    Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
    An’ dreamin’ arl the time O’ Plymouth Hoe.

    Not much read today, Newbolt wrote rousing patriotic verse for an Imperial nation that embodied the late Victorian values of fortitude, pluck, steadfastness and sportsmanship
    His most famous poems are „Vitai Lampada“, with its‘ chorus of „Play up! Play up! and play the game!“ and „Drakes Drum“.
    The latter refers to the legend that on his deathbed in 1596 Sir Francis Drake ordered that one his snare drums should be returned to his home at Buckland Abbey in Devon and if it was sounded when England was in peril his spirit would return for its defence.
    Now kept at the The Box museum in Plymouth, it has been heard at times of national crisis, most recently in the First and Second World Wars.

    Liked by 1 person

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