History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
The Phoenix Park murders—We secure the jaunting-car and pony—Charles Bradlaugh—General Boulanger—Lord Roberts inspects the model of himself.
THE requirements of the business have often necessitated our sending fairly far afield in quest of exhibits, and this has seldom been done without success, as people with desirable relics to dispose of appear to have recognised the claims of Madame Tussaud's.
Between seven and eight o'clock on Saturday evening, the 6th of May, 1882, Lord Frederick Cavendish, the newly appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, and Mr. Thomas Burke, the Permanent Irish Under-Secretary, were stabbed to death in Phoenix Park, Dublin, and twenty "Invincibles" were subsequently tried for the murder, five being hanged, three sentenced to penal servitude for life, and nine to various terms of imprisonment.
James Carey, who turned Queen's evidence and was acquitted, paid for the betrayal of his associates with his life, for he was shot by Patrick O'Donnell on board the Melrose Castle, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on the 24th of July, 1883. The Government, in their efforts to get Carey safely into another part of the world under an assumed name, were thus outwitted by the "Invincible" avengers.
It had been intimated to the management of the Exhibition that there was a chance of Madame Tussaud's obtaining from Michael Kavanagh the jaunting-car in which the assassins drove to and from the scene of the crime. Kavanagh was a typical Dublin jarvey, with an almost unintelligible brogue, from whom the car was hired. The assassins drove several miles circuitously about the scene of the tragedy with the object of escaping detection.
Our representative was forthwith sent to Dublin, and soon found himself in possession of Kavanagh's car. The good-humoured jarvey seemed glad to be rid of the vehicle; anyhow, the price he asked was not a prohibitive one.
One thing was particularly noticeable, namely, that the number on the car differed from the number quoted in the newspaper accounts describing it when taken by the police. It was discovered, however, that the "Invincibles" had changed the number before the fateful journey. A condition was made by Kavanagh that the pony which drew the car should also be purchased, as he wished to have done with them both.
It took only a few hours to complete the transaction, and thereafter Kavanagh drove the purchaser over the ground traversed by the assassins in their endeavours to throw the police off the scent. This was a voluntary act on the part of Kavanagh, and our representative was curiously exercised at the time to understand why he imagined the trip should interest him.
To facilitate transit the car was taken to pieces by a coach-builder at Kingstown and wrapped in sacking, in the hope that it would not be observed. It was then put on the night boat for Holyhead.
The pony found a home in stables belonging to the Exhibition, and soon afterwards came to an untimely end from too little exercise and a too liberal allowance of provender. Why we did not sell the pony for what it might fetch is more than can be told to-day; it may be surmised that such an expedient did not occur to our minds.
On the voyage across passengers whispered to each other that the Phoenix Park car was on board, and on its arrival in London there appeared among the latest telegrams in an evening paper : "Kavanagh's car goes to Madame Tussaud's." Evidently the Irish correspondents had wired the news of which we ourselves had hoped to make a special announcement.
The car was soon put together, and placed on view at the Exhibition in one of the rooms adjacent to the Chamber of Horrors, and in another part of the Exhibition were shown the portraits of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke.
After being exhibited many years the car was given to a gentleman who manifested an interest in it. Its new owner had it renovated for his own use as a private conveyance, and he might often have been seen driving it in the streets of London, no one suspecting its na torious history.
Charles Bradlaugh sat many times to my father, and proved an entertaining and patient subject, sincerely desirous that his portrait should be a true presentation of himself. He discussed the trouble' i as then passing through in the political arena over the oath, for which, after much contention, he was permitted to substitute an affirmation.
I remember him in his comings and goings, wearing a frock-coat and silk hat, tall and of commanding appearance, always affable and chatty.
A humorous writer of the day made fun of Mr. Bradlaugh's advent at Madame Tussaud's as follows:
Tremendous excitement on the admission of Mr. Bradlaugh in wax into Madame Tussaud's establishment. Cobbett's figure gave an extra kick of delight, and as he offered his snuff-box to the unwelcome guest' he assured him that he was a friend at a pinch. Oliver Cromwell, Cranmer, and Charles I were indignant. The Russian giant is annoyed, and Tom Thumb threat-ens to make the place too hot for him. Figures waxing wrath!
Latest telegram from Baker Street: "Bradlaugh cool; great heat. Cromwell showing signs of melting; all melting. Sleeping Beauty undisturbed."
The latest latest: "Threatened with the guillotine in the Chamber of Horrors if they are not quiet. Tranquillity restored."
On many occasions it has been my office to accompany around the Exhibition visitors whose likenesses were at the time on view—always a trying ordeal.
I call to mind the visit paid by General Boulanger shortly after that Meteoric ex-Minister of 'War quitted Paris for London to avoid arrest. It will be remembered that Boulanger was wounded in a duel with Floquet, his political antagonist, and that he dramatically ended his chequered life by shooting himself on the grave, in Brussels, of the woman to whom he was fondly attached.
As we stood before his facsimile, which had been only recently modelled, and, as it happened, represented him as considerably younger than his years, the General smiled and said, when I invited him to grant me a special sitting, "It is very, very good; do not touch it." I fancied that, like most people, Boulanger had no objection to a flattering youthful reproduction of himself.
Boulanger's inclusion at Madame Tussaud's was the subject of a full-page cartoon by Tenniel in Punch, showing the be-medalled General standing in his stirrups on horseback and waving his hand as though in the act of delivering an important command. The cartoon was entitled "Chez Madame Tussaud's." An Exhibition employé was represented as saying to the little black-bonneted Madame—with a covert allusion to the General's political reverses—"Where is he to be put now, ma'am?"
It was with a certain amount of surprise that I realised a short time ago, when the question was put to me by a prominent member of the Press, that during the thirty years I have been exclusively responsible for the modelling here, together with the fifteen or sixteen years in which I was working under my father, I must have produced, with studies, close upon a thou-sand models.
It is, of course, quite natural that many celebrities who pay a visit to the Exhibition, well knowing that their likenesses, have a place within it, are not escorted round the galleries. For the most part, coyly and shyly they seek out their own models, and, more often than not, approach them with a concern born of a too-studied indifference that is sometimes extremely amusing.
"Bobs" was not of that order; he was a notable exception to the general rule.
"Where's my figure?" he asked plump and plain, and around it he stepped, quizzically examining it from various points of view. When he had satisfied himself that it was a fairly true representation, he ejaculated, "Not at all bad ! Not at all bad !" and walked off to inspect the relics of the great Napoleon.
Lord Roberts's figure had been installed soon after his famous march from Kabul to Khandahar in the Afghan War.