W.H. Lingard’s celebrated song, ‘Sal and Methuselam,’ London, 1866

January 26, 2013

William Horace Lingard (1838-1927)
English comic vocalist, actor manager and dramatic author,
featured in character on the song sheet cover of F.C. Sansom’s ‘Sal and Methuselam,’
which he sang in London music halls during 1866/67.
(published by The British and American Music Publishing Co Ltd,
London, 1866, artwork by Alfred Concanen, probably after a photograph, 1866)

William Horace Lingard first came to notice in the mid 1860s as a talented comic singer on the English music hall stage, particularly in London, where he made appearances at the Alhambra, Leicester Square; the Metropolitan, Edgware Road; Gatti’s, Westminster Bridge Road; the Philharmonic, Islington; Weston’s, Holborn; the Marylebone and others. Noted for his impersonations and quick change work, audiences especially enjoyed his performances in songs such as ‘Statues’ for which he presented a ‘living gallery’ of celebrities, including Napoleon III and the late Lord Palmerston.

Although Lingard also enjoyed success as a female impersonator, an aspect of his performances which has been made much of in recent years, his repertoire and talents were a good deal wider. He and his wife, Alice Dunning Lingard, a former music hall dancer, first visited the United States in 1868, appearing in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere, where they remained for some time. They and their company also travelled further afield, notably to Australia and New Zealand where in the late 1870s they gave unauthorized performances of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, and to the Far East. Eventually the couple returned to England, where Alice died in 1897, to become firm favourites on tour. W.H. Lingard continued to work into his old age, dying at the age of 89 in 1927.

For further information, see Kurt Gänzl, The Encyclopedia of The Musical Theatre, Blackwell, Oxford, vol. II, p. 865.

* * * * * * * *

At first reading F.C. Sansom’s ‘Sal and Methuselam’ would appear to be a touching account of a lovelorn young couple whose chance of happiness together is wrecked by the girl, Sal’s mother who believes her daughter is too good for Methuselam. The old lady forbids the relationship whereupon Methuselam runs away to become a soldier and is killed; Sal, on the other hand, remaining alone at home, commits suicide by swallowing an oyster, shell and all. A touching story it may be but one has the distinct impression that in Lingard’s comic delivery it would have appealed to his mid Victorian audiences’ sense of dark humour and fair play. Although one cannot help feeling sorry for Sal, Methuselam and his prospective mother-in-law are less deserving of sympathy. He, a ‘nice’ young man, described as ‘a Cat distroyer on a Saussage Machine’ (presumably meaning that he was in the shady business of duping the honest public into buying sausages made from dead cats) no less than Sal’s interfering mother, richly deserve their fates, the latter ultimately haunted to her wits’ end when Sal and Methuselam are translated into ghosts.

For an interesting sidelight on the contemporaneous market in sausages, see ‘Veiled Mysteries’ on Lee Jackson’s Victorian London web site.


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