Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 5 September 2009

Harry Fragson (1869-1913),
English variety comedian and entertainer at the piano,
meets Paulus

Harry Fragson
(photo: W. Davey, Islington, London, circa 1905/06)

'I met Harry Fragson the other day. He told me he had had a bad breakdown during the summer; but, after a holiday at Deauville, he is now as right as rain and hard at work again.
'We talked of the old days, when he had to fight hard for a bare living, and he told me the story of what he regards as his first big step upwards.
'Despairing of achieving success in London, he went over to Paris; but the Fates were scarcely more kind there, and he had a very rough time of it. After a short tour with the Chat Noir Company, during which he received about one-and-eight pence a night for singing forty songs, he returned to Paris with the future looking as black as ever.
'he was passing the offices of the Paris Figaro one day when a sudden whim made him decide to lay his unfortunate case before M. Blavet, the editor. He had no appointment, of course, and, even if M. Blavet consented to receive him, he scarcely knew what he should say. But Fragson's lucky star must have been in the ascendant that day, for when he walked boldly in and asked to see M. Blavet, he was shown into the great editor's room.
'A Lucky Chance. '''I don't known when I said to him.,'' Fragson told me, smiling at the memory of it, ''but I threw modesty to the winds and impressed upon him that I was a very remarkable young man. I didn't stick at a trifle, and told him all sorts of surprising things about my own cleverness.
'''M. Blavet was evidently rather taken by my impudence. 'What can you do?' he asked.
'''I thought a minute, wondering what would impress him. I had sometimes given an imitation of Paulus, the great French comedian. I would try that.
'''I can give an imitation of Paulus,'' I said.
'It was a wonderful stoke of luck, for it happened that M. Blauvet was giving a party that evening at which Paulus was to be present, and he immediately thought it would be a huge joke to provide his guest with an imitation of himself.
'So it was settled, and Fragson gave his imitation of Paulus before Paulus himself. The upshot was that the great comedian was so tickled that he and M. Blauvet between them gave Fragson just the right help he required to get a start on the French stage.'
(Home Notes, London, Saturday, 19 October 1912, p. 135)

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© John Culme, 2009