Gabrielle Ray

'Gabrielle Ray said, 'I am always dancing; I love it! When I don't dance, I sing. What else is there to do?'

Indictment of Mr George Edwardes – The Modern Man – Saturday 9th December 1911




Mr. George Edwardes has been celebrating his twenty-fifth anniversary in theatrical management.

So far as any personal feeling is concerned, I join most cordially in the widespread congratulations that have been showered upon Mr. Edwardes as a private individual, but I think the time has come to consider what he has done as a public man, whether we are to regard him as a benefactor of his race, or something very much the reverse. For twenty-five years Mr. Edwardes has been a big power in theatre-land, and as such he has had a great influence on public taste; it might not be an exaggeration to say on national character. Has his influence been for good or ill?


 I charge Mr. Edwardes, in the first instance, with having extinguished the sacred lamp of burlesque, with having replaced comic opera and Gilbert and Sullivan by musical comedy.

The prisoner may plead that he but followed the changing order of public taste, and gave the public what they wanted. He may also say that in his later years he has shown a tendency to repent, and to give us musical plays which are occasionally threatened with intelligence and some shadowy substance of coherence which might almost be mistaken for a plot – by a person of powerful imagination.

The latter plea may be urged at the proper time, in mitigation of punishment, but I am not going to allow any red herrings to be drawn across the trail.

George Edwardes is charged with being the inventor of musical comedy, and to that indictment there can be but one answer, “Guilty.”

This being so, we have now to consider the extent, results, and effects of his offence.


Lunatic asylums, rest cure and other homes are still crowded with the victims of musical comedy.

In many of these cases the unfortunate patient’s brain gave way under the strain of attempting to follow the plot; but the worst sufferers are the victims of the hero-worship engendered by musical comedy.

Here is atypical case: X.Y. was a respectable, sensible young man until one night he went to the Gaiety pit.

He went again, and again, and again. No; it is not the usual sordid story of embezzlement; he could afford his half a crowns. But Mr. Teddy Payne became an obsession with him. He took to dressing like the famous comedian, to speaking like him, and he accumulated 2,342 picture postcards of Mr. Payne. To-day X.Y. is in an asylum, quite harmless save for the fixed delusion that he is Teddy Payne, and that the fellow on the stage is a base impostor.

Similarly, I have met many poor ladies in asylums (only as a visitor; only as a visitor) who were convinced that they Were Miss Ellaline Terriss, Miss Gertie Millar, or Miss Lily Elsie.


I remember one brawny female, who advanced towards me singing, “Just a little bit of string; Such a simple little thing.” And she certainly would have had me on a bit of string, had I not hurriedly clambered over the wall.

Then think of the incense poured out at the shrines of musical comedy favourites by the youths and maidens of the nation.

I knew one poor chap who often went without his lunch in order to buy picture postcards of Miss Gabrielle Ray, while a Girton girl, who would probably have been bracketed equal with the Senior Wrangler, failed to get even a pass because she took to collecting and worshipping photographs of Mr. Hayden Coffin.

I have mentioned picture postcards. Most of us have suffered from them. Of course, Mr. Edwardes did not invent the picture postcard, but he and musical comedy were responsible for the growth of the plague.

Diving a recent holiday, I received from feminine relatives and acquaintances 33 Picture postcards of Miss Elsie, 29 of Miss Millar, 28 of Miss Jean Aylwin, 25 of Miss Gabrielle Ray.

Thousands of men expecting an important letter, on hearing the postman’s knock have hurried to the door only to be handed jewelled picture postcard of Mr. George Grossmith, junior, or Miss Isabel Jay.

This sort of thing has broken up many a once happy home. The modern married man  – experto crede – has to put up with a lot, but he is apt to kick when he finds that there is no dinner for him because his wife has been busy completing her Huntley Wright gallery.

Millions of hard-working men have to eat a lonely and unsatisfactory Saturday dinner because their women folk have gone to a musical comedy matinee.

Nowadays when a man has a tiff with his wife, she threatens to go on the musical comedy stage, if she is anything under seventy, or remarks that Blank Dash, the famous low comedian, gets £500 a week, and if you were half a man you would be doing the same.

The women of the middle-classes have ceased to take any rational interest in life. They think, so far as their mental apparatus will allow’ them, and dream of nothing but musical comedy.

They are not quite sure whether Mr. Bonar Law is a Conservative or a Liberal, but they can give you full and complete biographies of almost any musical comedy favourite.


The other evening I took a damsel into dinner. She snubbed me severely until I happened to mention something about Mr. Joseph Coyne. “O, do you know him?” she  cried, and when I admitted that I had that honour, she looked at me as if I had suddenly announced myself as – well, the King or Mr. George Edwardes.

Mr. George Edwardes has emptied middle-class homes of girls. They are all on the stage as “show girls,” by no means blushing exhibits for the delectation of elderly roués and feeble-minded youths.

And now the ladies of the aristocracy, in self-defence, and as their best chance of catching a husband, are going into musical comedy.

George, I was very nearly forgetting your worst crime of all. If you ever have nightmare I hope it takes the form of being pricked to death with matinee hatpins. But for you there would have been no matinee hats. Man, I hope for your own sake you have not a sensitive conscience.

The tale of your crimes is almost complete, but not quite. You were the originator of the musical comedy tenor, beside whom he of grand opera is a shrinkingly modest person.


 Who is responsible for the fact that I cannot open a magazine or weekly illustrated without being presented with an undesired view of Miss Footlight’s teeth?

Who invented the hydra-headed author, and put an otherwise blameless University don to writing musical comedy lyrics?

Who has ‘given us the finest and most artistic stage management and stage-mounting in the world?

Who has given us an entertainment that is usually merry and bright and clean, and thus brought some glint of brightness into millions of colourless lives?

You, you, you!



The Modern Man – Saturday 9th December 1911



November 23, 2021 - Posted by | Actress, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

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