Freddy Mayer of Joseph Poole’s Myriorama
U 18.1292-4: He was always on for flirtyfying too when I sang Maritana with him at Freddy Mayers private opera.
Molly Bloom does not bother with apostrophes. Don Gifford (Ulysses Annotated) is correct in identifying “Mayers” as “Mayer”, but the Mayer he chooses is too far-fetched:
The Mayer to whom Joyce refers is undoubtedly Frederick Mayer, the manager of Joseph Poole’s Myriorama, who visited Dublin regularly at the end of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth with Poole’s company. It seems that there was no other Frederick Mayer on the Dublin opera scene.
Freddy Mayer was born in Rushton Spencer, north-west of Leek in Staffordshire, on 11 January 1863, the son of Henry James Mayer and his wife Sarah Ann née Slack. Henry was recorded as a schoolmaster and victualler in Leek according to the English census of 1851, a schoolmaster and parish clerk in 1861, and a “Town Hall Keeper” in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in 1871. The couple had at least three children: Susannah, Robert, and Frederick.
Freddy was an “Agent” for Joseph Poole, “Diorama Proprietor”, in the 1881 England census, when he and Joseph Poole’s family were in digs in Cheltenham, with their show. Several years earlier Joseph Poole had married Freddy’s elder sister Susannah (herself a “professional vocalist”), so this was truly a family company.
By 1883 Freddy was managing Poole’s
The Poole family ran several entertainment
businesses, each of which had several performing companies. The Poole brothers
were notionally in competition (as maintained by the newspapers), but actually
seem (for much of the time) to have been components of a large family
enterprise based in London but performing throughout the length and breadth of
Britain and Ireland, as well as venturing on foreign tours:
The scope of the business can be seen from
the venues at which they performed:
In 1885 Fred was rewarded for his work:
The businesses adopted the name “Myriorama” (roughly “multiple diorama”) in the late 1880s, and we find Charles Poole taking it to Dublin in 1887:
The OED defines “myriorama” (sense 2) as “a form of public entertainment in which a large number of different panoramic scenes or images are shown in succession, supported by lighting and other special effects, often including a commentary”, finding its earliest reference in this sense before the time of the Pooles in 1856.
In the following year (1888) George Poole takes his Myriorama company to Dublin as part of his summer season:
Neither of these components of the Poole
ensemble is likely to have included Freddy, who was in summer 1888 managing
Joseph Poole’s company in St Peter Port, Guernsey, where the Star offered a detailed description of
the show in its advertising columns:
The companies regularly changed their shows, presenting popular “tours” of exotic countries and historic events in their myrioramas. Joseph Poole’s company was in Dublin in July and early August 1890 (Irish Times 7 July, etc.), and this may well have been Freddy Mayer’s first trip to the country. In 1891 Joseph Poole’s company played the Round Room at the Rotunda in Dublin, by which time Freddy was married and soon expecting his first child.
Poole's Myriorama at the Rotunda (Round Room) in Dublin in the early 20th century
Postcard courtesy of Aida Yared
There was plenty of opportunity around this time for James and his father John Joyce to enjoy the much-talked-about Myrioramas. Freddy was by now taking a more central role in the production, a guide or “cicerone”, talking the audience through the various scenes which were presented to their eyes. It was clearly a role in which he revelled:
The relentless seasons continued, in Sheffield,
Wolverhampton, Bristol, Worcester, Llandudno, Aberdare, Coventry, Southampton,
Hastings, Consett, for example, throughout the 1890s. One of the various Poole
companies would, as liked as not, appear in Dublin, each brother bringing their
own fresh form of entertainment in turn to the Irish audience. Gradually the entertainment introduced more
features: an orchestral section and songs – with Freddy sometimes appearing as
a vocalist. By 1897 the myriorama incorporated a wide selection of variety
Freddy was in Dublin with the show as late
After this the various Pooles presented their entertainments regularly in Dublin, but Freddy seems not to be mentioned in the newspapers (which as ever appear to print whatever publicity material the entertainment managers gave them).
But the nature of the entertainment
industry was about to change. Maybe Freddy moved with the times as photographic
devices and eventually moving pictures took the place of the tried and tested
Myriorama. He no longer seems to be with the Myriorama, for example, in 1907,
when Joseph Poole’s company were entertaining Dublin audiences:
though he was apparently general manager, with his old Myriorama colleague Felix Somers, once a ventriloquist or “facial king”, of “Poole’s Picture Palace, otherwise known as Poole’s Electric Pictures”, of which his son Bernard was the first projectionist.1
The 1911 England census still finds Fred as an “Entertainment Manager”, on the south coast in Chichester, with his wife of twenty-five years, his daughter Elsie (“Variety Artist”), and his son Bernard, espousing the new technology as “Cinematograph Operator”. Fred died on 29 January 1919, in Chichester, at the young age of 56. At his death his occupation is given as “Picture Palace Proprietor”.
There can be little doubt that “Freddy Mayer” was capable of organizing a “private opera” of the kind Joyce describes at which “flirtyfying” goes on, though this sort of private entertainment is unlikely to have left any documentary trace. In fact Joyce seems to associate “flirtyfying” with Poole and his company, as earlier in her monologue Molly refers to:
1 Hudson John Powell Poole’s Myriorama! A story of Travelling Panorama Showmen (ELSP, Bradford on Avon: 2002), p. 140. Powell is a descendant of the Pooles, and his book presents a wealth of information on the family business.
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