History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
A miscellany of humour—Our policeman—The mysterious lantern—The danger of old Catalogues—Stories of children—Sir Ernest Shackleton's model.
MANY of our visitors will remember the model of the policeman which stands at the entrance to the main gallery in the Exhibition. Hundreds—I might say thousands—of visitors have been "taken in" by this lifelike officer, who is the embodiment of a genial bobby prepared at any moment to show the way or tell the time.
The fame of this nameless policeman has extended to practically all the grown-ups who bring their children to see the figures, and many times in the day we see laughing parents watching the nonplussed _expression on the faces of their offspring whom they have prevailed upon to go and ask where a certain model is to be found.
Immediately opposite is the figure of the programme-seller in somnolent mood, who is frequently offered six-pence for a Catalogue she cannot sell. It is the would-be customer that is sold.
It is most amusing to observe how many adults are deceived who seem to pride themselves on their discernment. For example, on Bank Holidays it is customary to have a number of real live constables on duty to regulate the crowd and give directions.
Bobby has a keen sense of humour, and some of them, entering into the spirit of the situation, now and again stand stock-still in the most natural attitude they can command. Not once, but frequently, a visitor, in passing with his friends, has, with an air of superior knowledge, pushed the ferrule of his stick or umbrella into the supposed figure's side, to be startled by the model's ejaculating, "Now then, young man, enough of that."
There is a mystery which has never been cleared up, and that is whether it was a policeman or a burglar who left a bull's-eye lantern in the Exhibition studio; but it is quite clear that the intruder, whoever he was, fled from the place in fright.
A portrait of the Marquis of Hartington had just been finished, and left fully clothed and ready to be transferred to the Exhibition. By an oversight the door of the studio was left unfastened, and on. our return in the morning it was found to have been opened.
On the floor, at the feet of the model of the Mar-quis, lay a bull's-eye lantern that evidently had been dropped by its owner as he rushed from the place. The probability is that the policeman, or the burglar, had flashed his lamp on the figure and had been scared to find, as he thought, a man—or a spectre---confronting him. No claim was ever made for the lamp.
It is not an unusual thing that visitors who wish to save expense should bring with them an old Catalogue which they have treasured up at home for a future visit. This is not a safe plan, for with the addition of new figures the older ones have to be renumbered. As a result the visitors in question are sometimes misled, as was the lady in the following story told by a Londoner.
He related that he had occasion to take a country cousin to the Exhibition, and she took with her an old Catalogue.
He paid little attention to her describing King Ed-ward IV as King Henry VIII, and exclaiming that she did not know Queen Mary of Scots dressed like a man. But when she said, "Well, I never ! I always thought Gladstone was a man, though my brothers call him an old woman," then he felt interested, and proceeded to investigate. There it was, sure enough; the model No. 63 was the figure of an old lady, but in the out-of-date Catalogue No. 63 was "William Ewart Gladstone.
Sometimes we get a rough old country farmer who has got it into his head that everyone in our Exhibition has committed some crime or other.
Visitors, when audibly perusing their Catalogue, are sometimes a source of entertainment to others who overhear them, owing to the curious mistakes they make. One day a jolly-looking countryman came to a standstill before the figure of Henry IV of France, described in our Catalogue as "Henri Quatre." "'Enry Carter," said he; "'oo did 'e kill?" and, finding the gentleman in question innocent of murder, he turned away with a disappointed _expression, but evidently with a fixed determination to discover a genuine criminal somewhere else.
Not only children, but also their elders, constantly mistake the policeman, the programme-seller, and the sleeping attendant for living people; but few children are so simple as the little maiden who, glancing awe-struck down the long array of very lifelike effigies of good, bad, and indifferent individuals, asked her mother in a whisper how they were killed before being stuffed.
One day a lady was explaining the different groups to her young nephew. Pointing to one, she said, "Freddy, this is the Transvaal crisis. Here are President Kruger, Mr. Cecil Rhodes, and Dr. Jameson; all those people are alive."
Indicating the next group, she said, "This is the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots; all these people are dead."
"I do not see any difference between the live ones and the dead ones," replied the young hopeful to his auntie, assuming a puzzled _expression.
There is no accounting for the actions of children. Several youngsters, for instance, have been observed slyly pinching the figures to see if any were alive.
The story is also told of a small girl who, when asked what she had done with her sweets, replied that she had given them to the baby in the cradle—Prince Edward of Wales.
A child was lost, and found concealed behind the figure of the Sleeping Beauty, trying to discover the mechanism that makes Madame St. Amaranthe's bosom rise and fall.
Of children's stories there is no end at Madame Tussaud's.
Sir Ernest Shackleton once told some amusing stories at a dinner of the Alpine Ski Club.
He said his own small boy was terribly bored with expedition talk. He told his mother that he wanted to hear of something really exciting. "I don't want to know anything more about papa," he declared; "tell me about the baby who was drowned in his bath." Was the boy thinking of Marat, the evil genius of the French Revolution, whom Charlotte Corday stabbed at his ablutions?
Sir Ernest said that his wife and son had recently been to see his model at Madame Tussaud's, but the child took more interest in General Tom Thumb sitting on the palm of the Russian giant's hand than he did in the portrait of his father.
"Two ladies," the explorer said, "were standing by my figure, and the younger one observed, `That's Latham, the airman.'
" `No,' replied the other, `that is not Latham; it is the man, you know, who went to the North Pole.'
"It is experiences such as these that keep a man modest," said Sir Ernest. The ladies had forgotten his name and the object of his expedition, which was in the Antarctic and not the Arctic region—a distinction of minor importance to the general public perhaps.
In the days of the Boer War the children of an illustrious couple who were touring the world fell, childlike, to discussing the presents their parents would bring home for them.
"I know what I want," said the youngest of them. "I want old Kruger's hat and whiskers, and I believe papa will bring them to me, because I want to send them to Madame Tussaud's."
Mr. Cyril Maude, the actor, was taken to the Exhibition when a small boy, and it is recorded of him that the visit inspired him with the determination to become an actor. If that were so, then we may congratulate ourselves.
Some years ago a lady wrote to say that when scolding her child for being naughty, and impressing upon her that bad little girls would not go to heaven, the child naïvely replied, "Well, mother, I can't expect to go everywhere, but I've been to Madame Tussaud's.