More about Louise

Louise's career as 'An Infant Prodigy,' to quote Charles Dickens when writing about a travelling acting troupe in Nicholas Nickleby, lasted into 1830 when the Bullen company went to St.Ives in April. Once again the Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette was taking an interest in the Bullens and reported the following,

(From a correspondent, 'The inhabitants of St. Ives have lately been amused by Mr. Bullen's respectable company of comedians who have been performing there for the last fortnight with considerable success. Indeed, we have never known any performers succeed so well and in our opinion deservedly so. the theatre is well fitted up, with an efficient company combined with the highest respectability. The entertainments of Tuesday night were, by desire of Col. White, the new comedy of 'Spring and Autumn' with 'The Hunter of The Alps' nd 'The Merry Monarch.' The house was, as anticipated, an overflow and the performers gave great satisfaction. Miss Bullen sang the song of 'Buy a Broom' and 'Now Isn't it a Pity,' in a manner that elicited much applause. Mrs Bullen sang the songs of 'Rise Gentle Moon,' and 'Oh merry row the gentle bark' in very pretty style. Charles II was very well played. Mr. Bullen as Captain Capp gave an excellent specimen of comic acting; and we were much gratified by Mr. Reed's comic songs. We hope they will meet with the continued success they so well deserve; indeed every praise is due to the manager for his exertions to gratify the patrons of the theatre.'

The lyrics of 'Buy a Broom' which is listed in 'Folk Songs of Old England,' are these:

 

As I was a-travellin' in the north count-e-ry,
Down by Kirkby Stephen fair I hap for to be;
As I was a-walkin' up and down the street,
I met a little dancer with her tiny hands and feet.

 

She was right, I was tight, everybody has their way,
It was the lish young buy-a-broom that led me astray.

 

She kindly then asked me to go along the way,
Yes was the answer to her that I did say;
We each had a bottle filled up to the top,
Whenever we were feeling dry we took a little drop.

 

She was right, I was tight, everybody has their way,
It was the lish young buy-a-broom that led me astray.

 

Night comin' on, the good lodgings we did find,
Plenty of good food and tankards of good wine;
Good sheets and blankets just for we two,
So I rolled her in me arms, and b'ys, wouldn't you do too?

 

She was right, I was tight, everybody has their way,
It was the lish young buy-a-broom that led me astray.

 

Early the next morning we rose to go our way,
Called for the landlord to see what was to pay;
Fourteen and sixpence just for ye two,
And a fiver on the table there me darling then she threw.

 

She was right, I was tight, everybody has their way,
It was the lish young buy-a-broom that led me astray.

 

The reason that we parted I now will let you hear,
She started off for Germany right at the next year;
Me not being willing to cross the raging sea,
Here's a health to be a buy-a-broom wherever you may be.

 

She was right, I was tight, everybody has their way,
It was the lish young buy-a-broom that led me astray.

 

She was right, I was tight, everybody has their way,

 To me, it's incredible that a five year old could learn, let alone perform such a song. No wonder the patrons of St. Ives gave her an ovation! Louise does seem to have been a remarkable child with an incredible amount of talent.

It's difficult for me to imagine her life, travelling from town to town, performing in inns, halls and public houses for a few weeks at a time. The Bullen troupe were bringing theatre to the small towns and villages outside London. Apparently after the stressful time of  years spent fighting  Napoleon, ordinary people turned to more frivolous pastimes and playgoing and musical entertainments fitted the bill perfectly. During the 1830s there were just two licensed theatres in London, Drury Lane and Covent Garden. These were the only houses allowed to perform legitimate drama under the Licensing Act of 1737. therefore actors and managers strove to find ways around the restrictions. They began performing drama interspersed with music as this fell outside the rules of licensed drama.

Gradually more royal patents were granted to cities outside London and Theatres Royal were built outside the capital; Louise eventually performed in one as did her brother Frederick, but more of him later. During the early part of the 19th Century, a travelling troupe such as that of the Bullens became part of a network of stock companies that travelled established circuits between market towns. The ad hoc venues they perforned in at first, gradually became more permanent structures which were then called playhouses. Once the engagement in one playhouse was over, the stock scenery could be easily transported, along with the costumes to the next one. This was evidently the backdrop and pattern of Louise's early life.    

 

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03.09 | 12:47

Hello,
I wandered into your site at the mention of Grove End Road. I am researching the Hon Pauline Cranstoun. Your description of the area is enlightening.

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18.01 | 08:17

I've cited you as a source in my own blog post on Cassie Bruce at https://studiedmonuments.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/e-a-and-cassie-maskelyne-magic-couple/

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16.11 | 12:50

Margaret Cecil Vardy was the great grand-daughter of James Cecil, 6th Earl of Salisbury (of Hatfield House) and his mistress Mary Grave.

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13.02 | 17:35

Hi Jean,
How lovely to see your comment. He was obviously a man of immense talent, Best, Susanne

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