History Of Madame Tussaud's
( Originally Published 1920 )
Anecdotal—"Which is Peace?"—Mark Twain at Tussaud's—Dr. Grace's story—Mr. Kipling's model—Filial pride-Bishop Jack-son's sally—German inaccuracy.
As I proceed with my narrative, having already travelled through the memories of many years, there seem to crowd at my heels, so to speak, a great collection of humorous and curious incidents which, although unrelated to each other, are yet worthy of a place in this chronicle.
They come of their own free will readily enough when I want to engage in serious work, but no amount of persuasion will lure them from their lurking-places when I want to recount them. As I fancy my friends like my short stories as well as any, I propose to introduce a few trivialities that are sufficiently obliging to present themselves as I write.
In the Berlin Treaty days a staunchly Conservative borough was celebrating the event, and among other decorations was a large transparency showing Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury standing together, with the motto "Peace with Honour" beneath them.
An old woman went up to the borough M.P. and asked :
"If you please, sir, will you tell me which is Peace'?"
Charles Peace was the man of the moment just then.
Mark Twain, according to his cousin, Katherine Clemens, once visited Madame Tussaud's. He stood a long while, says his cousin, in contemplation of an especially clever piece of work, and was aroused by a sudden stab of pain in his side. Turning quickly, he found himself face to face with a dumb-founded British matron with her parasol still pointed at him.
"O lor', it's alive !" she exclaimed, and beat a hasty retreat.
The best known of all cricketers, Dr. W. G. Grace, has long enjoyed a well-earned place of prominence in the Exhibition, and even to-day, when the great master of the bat and the ball is no longer with us, his portrait continues to attract more than an average share of attention.
Dr. Grace was very fond of telling the following story about a trusted old servant of his whom he treated on one occasion to a trip to London. On her return he asked her what it was that pleased her most among the sights of the Metropolis.
"Oh, sir, Madame Tussaud's was beautiful," replied Susan.
"Then you must have seen me there?" said her master.
"No, that I did not, sir."
"What! How did you miss me? I am there as large as life."
"Well, sir, to tell you the truth, it cost sixpence extra to go into the Chamber of Horrors."
A young girl arriving at an institution at Torquay, from London, was asked whether she had ever visited Westminster Abbey. She hesitated, and was then reminded that that historic edifice contained monuments of the Kings and Queens of England. She immediately brightened up, and replied, "Oh, yes, I have been there, but they call it Madame Tussaud's now."
A short time after the seated figure of Mr. Rudyard Kipling, which is still to be seen in the Exhibition, had been modelled, the following conversation is re-ported to have occurred between a young lady and her maid, who had visited Madame Tussaud's :
Relating her experiences there, the girl remarked : "They've got Mr. Kipling and another murderer there, miss."
"But Mr. Kipling isn't a murderer," said her young mistress.
"No, miss," was the reply, "but they've got him there, miss."
During those days when the_ Exhibition was being removed from one town to another the figures of criminals originally stood together in the same room with all the other models; but as it was suggested that it was indecorous to have the effigies of criminals in such close proximity with those of illustrious personages, Madame Tussaud had the former removed to a separate room, and the Chamber of Horrors was formed as it now exists.
The relatives and friends of criminals frequently visit the Chamber.
At a drawing-room meeting held at the residence of Lady Esther Smith, in Grosvenor Place, in aid of the Social Institutes' Union, which exists to provide facilities for establishing clubs on temperance lines, Mrs. (now Lady) Bland-Sutton told the story of a little girl who was asked where she would like to go for a treat.
"To Madame Tussaud's," was the prompt reply. "But you went there last year," it was objected. "Oh, yes, I know," said the child, "but father wasn't in the Chamber of Horrors then."
Somewhat similar is the following:
A parlourmaid, interviewed by her mistress just after a Bank Holiday, was asked:
"And how did you spend your day off, Polly?"
"Oh, we went to Madame Tussaud's," was the reply. "We always go there, mum. You see, having uncle in the Chamber of Horrors gives the place a family interest, so to speak."
When Dr. Jackson was Bishop of London he gave a breakfast to several curates before they left to take up missionary work abroad, and one of them, in the course of conversation at the repast, observed that he had just visited Madame Tussaud's, where he had heard a figure of his Grace had been on view for many years.
He said he much regretted that he could not find the figure anywhere in the Exhibition, although he had searched for it high and low.
"Oh," said the Bishop, "haven't you heard, my dear boy, that they've melted me down for Peace'?" —a sally that was greeted with roars of laughter.
Many complaints have been made by foreigners visiting London regarding the inefficiency of guides with little or no knowledge of the places with which they are supposed to be thoroughly acquainted.
For instance, a certain Teuton of great pretensions brought to Madame Tussaud's a party of travellers from a Prussian provincial town, and informed them, among other things, that Mrs. Maybrick, whose model was then in the Napoleon Rooms, was a lady connected with the life of the great Bonaparte.