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Marcella

Marcella, the Midget Queen

 


U 16.849-50: Giants, though that is a far cry, you see once in a way, Marcella, the Midget Queen. In those waxworks in Henry street myself saw some Aztecs.

 

FW 112.28 She may be a mere marcella, this midget madgetcy.


 

Aztecs were popular in waxworks, but there was only one Marcella, the Midget Queen. She appeared at the ‘World’s Fair Waxwork Exhibition’, run by Charles Augustus James, at 30 Henry Street, from 1893.

 

        James was an Englishman, born in Redditch near Birmingham. At the time of the 1881 census in England he and his wife, son, and daughter were living in the ‘Auction Van’ on the Market Ground at Claylane in Derbyshire, where he is described as an ‘auctioneer’.

 

 

A hardware shop and waxworks in Henry Street

 

        By 1891 James and his family left England, and in the early 1890s they appear in Dublin. James established a hardware and fancy business in Henry Street – and, using his market-trader’s expertise, named it after the upcoming World’s Fair in Chicago and advertised everything for 6½d.

 

Bargains; call at World’s Fair Stores; largest stock in Ireland to select from; note every article sold at the one price, 6½d each. 30 Henry street.

Freeman’s Journal (1892) 13 July

 

Chicago; Book containing 16 views of World’s Fair now on, may be had for 6½d, at World’s Fair Stores, 30 Henry st; thousands other articles at 6½d.

Freeman’s Journal (1893) 8 May

 

 

The introduction of Marcella to her public

 

        By the end of June 1892 Charles James was planning to utilize the rest of the premises at No 30, which was on four floors and included a small theatre under the roof. It was in these rooms that he established his waxworks (‘mostly illustrating Irish history or sentiment’, according to the Era of 18 September 1897), and it was here that he encouraged the population of Dublin to catch a glimpse of Marcella, the Midget Queen.

 

        On 29 June 1893 the Freeman’s Journal shows how James introduced Marcella to Dubliners:

 

Animal Balloon will escape from the World’s Fair Waxworks 6 o’clock this evening, weather permitting; anyone returning same to Marcella, the Midget Queen, will receive 5s reward. 30 Henry st.

 

        Was Marcella a waxwork statue or a real person? The mystery was revealed (or was it?) in the next Freeman’s advertisement:

 

World’s Fair Waxwork Exhibition, 30 Henry Street, Dublin.

On view for a Few Days Only.

Duke of York and Princess May, most elaborately dressed. All should see them.

'Marcella', the Midget Queen. The Rage of Dublin.

Vide Press Opinions – She is not wax but alive.

Twopence Admits to all. Children One Penny.

 

        James’s entertainment was popular. It was regularly noticed over the next few years in the Era, one of the main entertainment newspapers in Britain and Ireland. As late as 1899 the uncertainty remained in some quarters over whether Marcella was a real person or not. In June of that year James’s premises were broken into. James found myself explaining the nature of his business to the judge:

 

      Mr. Justice Madden – What sort of an exhibition is this?

            Mr. Wright – It is a waxworks.

            Mr. Justice Madden – Is the Midget Queen wax?

            Mr. James – No, she is alive. (Laughter.)

Irish Times (1899) 4 August

 

Mr James’s philanthropy: treats and an adoption

 

Marcella, the Midget Queen was indeed a real person. Charles James was not only a trader but a philanthropist. As his business thrived he became famous in Dublin for the annual New Year treats which he gave to some of the City’s poor:

 

Mr James’s New Year Treat. Mr and Mrs Charles James, of the World’s Fair, Henry street, will again generously give their annual treat to a number of the poor of Dublin. They have issued a considerable number of tickets to responsible parties for distribution, and each holder is entitled to receive on New Year’s day a 4lb loaf, 1/4lb of tea, and 1lb of sugar. This act of Mr and Mrs James is most praiseworthy.’

Freeman’s Journal (1899) 30 December

 

        This was a practice which continued under the terms of his will for years after his death.

 

        As well as contributing charitably to the life of the City, James and his wife also adopted a small girl, Elizabeth Ellen Paddock. Elizabeth, or ‘Lizzie’, was also English – she had been born in Liverpool in 1877, to George and Elizabeth Paddock, a boot closer and his wife. In the 1881 census the family were living at No 4 Bolton Street in Liverpool. But seven years later George Paddock died. The 1891 England census saw the family living at 10 Edward Street, Liverpool, looked after by their mother Elizabeth (now 40). But within two years, in 1893, Elizabeth too was dead and the five children must have been in despair.

 

        Several months later, in 1893, we first find Marcella the Midget Queen in Dublin. The Irish Times of 6 December 1941 describes Marcella at the time:

           

She was, as her title implies, of dwarfish stature, and she had a really delightful light mezzo-soprano voice. She sang popular lyrics of the day, and always swept her audience along with her.

 

        She sang in the little theatre at the top of 30 Henry Street, over the waxworks, and sometimes she helped out in the shop below, assisting with the selling, ‘seated high up behind a counter’ (Irish Independent (1959) 7 November).

 

 

Marcella and Phoebe James/Zorn

 

Elizabeth Ellen Paddock was ‘Marcella’. The 1901 Ireland census shows her living with the Jameses at 36 Strand road, East Pembroke, in Dublin, with Charles, his wife Minnie, their son Ernest and daughter Phoebe Elizabeth. Phoebe and Elizabeth/Marcella were inseparable. By 1911 Phoebe has married Victor Zorn, and they had moved back to England. On census night Elizabeth Paddock was a visitor at their home at 6 Oak Avenue, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Lancashire. An acquaintance wrote to the Irish Times thirty years later (4 October 1941):       

 

I happen to know Marcella, 'the Midget Queen', and Mrs. Zorn, daughter of the late Mr. James, personally. Both these ladies are still interested in philanthropic work... Marcella is also much in demand for work party and Mothers’ Union socials, when she repeats many of her successes from the Waxworks concerts, singing with as sweet a voice and the same sense of humour as ever... Mrs. Zorn and Miss Marcella lived there until a few years ago on the Strand road in Sandymount.

 

        It seems that Elizabeth Paddock died in South Dublin in early 1955, at the age of 77, remembered by some, jotted down in the Cyclops notesheets (episode technique ‘gigantism’) and commemorated in passing in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

 

Images: ‘The Midget Queen’ in Irish Times (1941) 6 December, p. 10


John Simpson



For further information on Marcella see also Tim Conley's note "Marcella the Midget Queen", in James Joyce Quarterly Volume 48, Number 1, Fall 2010, pp. 149-53 (published 15 May, 2012).
 

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