The music so haunted me, I made up stories, humming it as background music.
When I was a child, my parents bought an antique music box that played sixteen-inch brass disks. My favorite was:
This tune so haunted me, I made up stories, humming it as background music. Years later, I learned it was Edward German’s incidental music, composed for Lyceum Theatre’s production of Henry VIII, in 1892. A few years later, that music was used at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
When I first wrote a story about a Victorian schoolgirl escaping a forced marriage to become an actress, I did not want to upset readers with historical mistakes. I chose a late year, 1903, and a fictional London theatre, HIS Majesty’s. I was told no one taught acting in 1903, still, I imagined a top floor rehearsal hall and an actor-manager who taught acting classes. I was told no one taught acting in 1903. I also chose a play for the theatre to produce in early 1904, The Tempest.
Soon after finishing my first draft, I was on holiday in London. I buried myself in the London Theatre Museum Library and the Westminster Reference Library. I read a 1903 play list for a real HIS Majesty’s Theatre, and nearly hyperventilated. A delightful librarian explained that the theatre’s name changes with the gender of the monarch, and Edward VI became king in 1901. Many of my inventions turned out to be historically correct.
- The theatre’s founder, actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, taught acting classes which developed into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
- His one new production in 1904 was The Tempest.
- I telephoned Her Majesty’s Theatre, and a kind stage-manager gave me a backstage tour, including the beautiful top floor rehearsal hall.
- I read that Herbert Beerbohm Tree was very generous leasing, and even lending his theatre to charities and other theatre companies. My novel is set while his company was actually away, touring America.