Press Clippings for the week ending
Saturday, 29 November 2008

A random selection of clippings
from newspapers and magazines

Finette condemned by The Pall Mall Gazette,
London, 1868:
'no woman should witness and no man applaud'


Finette (Joséphine Durwend, fl. late 1850s-early 1870s),
French cancan dancer and celebrity of the Parisian public bals

(photo: Disdéri, London, probably 1868)

'A controversy which crops up periodically as to the progress of morals has lately been revived. The kindred question of the progress of taste and refinement is painfully forced upon one by the predominant character of modern amusements. That even the grotesque silliness of the burlesques should fail to satisfy the appetite for vulgar fun, and should be apparently giving place to the drivelling ribaldry of the comic song, suggests melancholy conclusions as to the intellectual degradation of the multitude. But still worse is the favour openly accorded to exhibitions which lay claim to no other attraction that their immodesty. One notorious person, whom it would be an insult to the profession to which she affects to belong to call an actress, was lately advertised as appearing in certain parts which, ''in variety of character, action, and costume,'' afforded great scope for the display of her ''remarkable personal beauty and statuesque grace.'' ''The Faultless contour'' of a young girl, as exhibited in the dangerous evolutions of the trapeze, is the enticement to another theatre. The entertainment which, under the title of poses plastiques, the more shameless order of fast men used to seek in obscure corners of the town are now flaunted on the stage of the public theatres. And, to crown all, a lewd dance, which the by no means prudish moral sense of the French has put under the ban of the police, is adopted as the great feature of a brilliant ballet at one of the most popular places of amusement in London. In the low dancing saloons of Paris the police wink at the vivacious obscenity of the Cancan, and those who wish to study it must follow it to its frowzy haunts; any theatre would be instantly closed which dared to put it on the stage. In London, however, where the public morals are under the enlightened an vigilant protection of the Lord Chamberlain and the justices of the peace, it is openly paraded in the bills of the Alhambra's performance there is not the faintest redeeming feature of elegance or artistic skill. Among the common frequenters of the Closerie, or the Valentino, or any other of the Parisian casinos, better dancers might be discovered at any time. The characteristic immodesty of the Cancan is certainly toned down in Mdlle. Finette's version, but her capers are nevertheless such as no woman should witness and no man applaud. A correspondent lately suggested that the low character of music-hall entertainments was due to the restraints imposed on them by the present law, which interdicts dramatic performances. If so, we can hardly imagine a stronger argument in favour of more liberal legislation in regard to this establishment from the Cancan ballet at the Alhambra.'
(The Pall Mall Gazette, London, Friday, 27 March 1868, p. 11b)

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Catherine Lewis divorces
her Swedish husband,
Oscar Arfwedson, New York, 1886

Catherine Lewis

Catherine Lewis (1853?-1942),
British-born American comic opera actress and singer

(photo: Sarony, New York, early 1880s)

'The High-born Swede who Loved Catherine Lewis - Has He Gone Back Repentant to His Family?
'NEW YORK, July 25 [1886] -. The recent divorce granted to Catherine Lewis, who has kicked and sung in comic opera all over the country, from her husband, Oscar L. Arfwedson, ends a romantic story, as disclosed in the court proceedings, the central feature of which is the wrecking of the life of an unsophisticated Swede. Arfwedson is the son of a wealthy and aristocratic Swedish family. He was as young and ardent as he was tall and stalwart when he met the fair singer in 1876 in Manchester, England. Her sweet voice and bright ways captured his heart, and his good family, manly graces and fine education won what she told him was her love. They were quickly married, and Arfwedson was as quickly cast off by his family for making what was deemed an improper match. Together the singer and her disinherited husband came to this country, where she was already popular, and for a while the honeymoon seemed destined to be perpetual. A little girl was born to the couple two years after the marriage. She was called Constance, and became her father's idol. Arfwedson ability as a lover, however, did not help him in business, and in the course of time, miss Lewis began to complain of having to furnish all the support of the family. He tried to be her business manager, and was in other enterprises, but met with poor success. His family continued to disown him. One day he began to suspect his wife.
'He became curious as to her relations with one of the employees in her company, named Nixon, and a quarrel and separation followed. The family skeleton of this couple had its first airing last summer, when miss Lewis was nightly kicking the roof off a summer garden comic opera tent at Atlantic City and losing money on the venture every day. Arfwedson appeared on the scene, and meeting Nixon, a public row ensued. Arfwedson threatened to send word of Nixon's whereabouts to New York detectives, who wanted him for forgery. ''If I did commit forgery, it was to save your wife and child from starvation,'' retorted Nixon. This touched the young Swede's heart; the two men made up, and together went on the war-path against an actor named Robertson [i.e. Donald Robertson, whom Miss Lewis married at St. Louis on 22 March 1887], who was boarding at the same house with Miss Lewis.
'An assault and battery case in the local police court followed, with Robertson as the injured individual. He left town the next morning, however. Arfwedson then gave out that he had made up with his family on the strength of his separation from Miss Lewis, and had been sent money to take him back to Sweden, and had come to Atlantic City to get a last look at his child before leaving the country on the steamer on which he had already engaged passage. Miss Lewis declared that he wanted to steal the little one and carry it off. Arfwedson remained in the city from day to day, a melancholy figure. His love for the woman had never left him, and a passionate longing to meet his little girl added to his grief. He would sit on the beach for hours waiting for a chance to see his wife and child pass along the walk, and would follow them as closely as he dared. A few friends whom he picked up in a bohemian fashion about the city interested themselves in his cause, and an arrangement was made by which he met his little girl for a short time at the house of one of them. Forced to be content with this, on the day before he was to sail for Europe, he went to the beach to see his wife and child for the last time. The little one, closely guarded by an attendant, passed along at a distance, but Miss Lewis, coming from her bath, went within a few feet of him. She was fat, freckled, dripping, wore an unbecoming white flannel bathing suit, and gave no sign of recognition as she looked square at him, but his eyes, filled with longing, never left her until she disappeared among the bath-houses. Then exclaiming ''I shall never see her again, my sweet angel,'' he plunged into the breakers and swam straight out, until the life guardsman became alarmed and made preparations to go after him. He returned safely, however, and while in the crown on shore was accosted by a stranger, who said; ''Meet me on the board walk near the iron pier at 1 o'clock.'' He had received anonymous notes making similar appointments and signed ''The Avenger.'' Always a reckless man, and usually drunk, he laughed at his friends' warning against dangers that might lie in the dens of the great summer city, and, telling an acquaintance of this first encounter, he said that he should be at the place named at the appointed time, and would meet the friend at 3 o'clock at his hotel to tell him what had happened. At 4 o'clock he was to take the train for New York to board the steamer, which sailed next morning. Just before 1 o'clock he was seen going toward one of the sports for the meeting. Then he disappeared completely. He did not return to his hotel, and, as far as could be leaned, did not take his train for New York. His baggage remained at the hotel, and his small bill there was unpaid, although he had some $800 with him when last seen. For a month he dropped out of existence as completely as though the sea had swallowed him up. Then he was heard from in New York, and said that at Atlantic City he had been met by a man, who took him to a place where he was drugged, and when he recovered, found himself in New York, robbed of his money and of documents which were essential to him in a divorce suit which he wife had instituted against him. His strange story went uninvestigated, and he himself is supposed to have returned to his family in Sweden. His statements agreed exactly with the facts as to the disappearance from Atlantic City, and his habits and associations while there were not such as suggest any other reasonable explanation of his sudden dropping out of sight. Those who were with him during his Atlantic City experience have always believed the story of his being drugged and robbed, and they will fancy that the divorce now granted is the consummation of a plot which was executed by some one anxious to please the singer wife. The legal ground on which Miss Lewis got her divorce granted was habitual drunkenness on the part of Arfwedson.'
(Galveston Daily News, Galveston, Texas, Monday, 26 July 1886, p. 3a)

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The death of Marie Grivot,
Paris, 1890

Marie Grivot

Marie Grivot (1843-1890),
French actress

(photo: unknown, probably Paris, 1874)

'The death is announced, in her forty-seventh year, of Madame Lawrence [sic] Grivot, a most useful, conscientious artist, who, during her honourable career on the Paris stage, played many parts, alternating between comedy-drama and operetta at several of the theatres. her last appearance was at the Gymnase in old women's rôles. The deceased was the wife of the amusing actor now at the Opéra-Comique, whom she married in 1866, when they were comrades at the Vaudeville. Madame Grivot, whose maiden name was Marie Laurent, which she changed to Laurence [sic], was highly esteemed in the profession and in private life. She died of cancer in the stomach after a long and painful illness.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 14 June 1890, p. 8a)

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