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:

Freddy Mayers – Identity and significance unknown unless Joyce is encoding Teodoro Mayer, a Hungarian Jew and newspaper publisher in Trieste who was one of the prototypes for Bloom.

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 enterprise:

Portland Hall, Southsea... Messrs. Poole’s Grand World Diorama... Poole’s Excelsior Convert Company and Splendid Bands (brass and string)... Sole proprietor: Mr. Joseph Poole. Manager: Mr. Fred Mayer.

Hampshire Telegraph (1883) 13 October

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:

Poole’s Dioramas (Five in Number), Great Britain’s most Popular Entertainments, Established 1840... Great Britain’s most famous Scenic Artists have been employed in these stupendous productions at Messrs Pooles’ Studios, Queen’s-road, Chelsea, and Cavendish Studio, 86, High-street, Marylebone. Sole Proprietor, Mr Joseph Poole, Mr George Poole, Mr Harry Poole, and Mr Charles W. Poole. Assistant Managers, Messrs Fred. Poole, Fred. Mayer, and J. J. Taylor. Permanent address, 86, High-street, Marylebone, W.

Era (1884) 12 April

The scope of the business can be seen from the venues at which they performed:

Poole’s Trips Abroad. Wanted, First-class Flute and Piccolo Player to combine Brass Instrument; can join at once. Also Two Young Men as Machinists. Address, Mr Fred Mayer, Manager, Corn Exchange, Bedford.

Era (1884) 6 September

In 1885 Fred was rewarded for his work:

Hanley... Mechanics’ Hall. – Poole’s diorama company, under the management of Mr Fred Mayer, conclude a very successful five weeks’ visit on the 22d. Mr Fred. Mayer was the recipient of a beautiful diamond pin from the members of the company as a mark of their esteem.

Era (1885) 31 January

The businesses adopted the name “Myriorama” (roughly “multiple diorama”) in the late 1880s, and we find Charles Poole taking it to Dublin in 1887:

Poole’s Myriorama... The idea of presenting a series of pictures of places of interest in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America was one which commended itself to Mr Charles W. Poole, who at great expense accomplished his purpose.

Irish Times (1887) 11 July

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:

Poole’s Myriorama. This evening Mr George Poole’s Myriorama will be presented at the Leinster Hall. The entertainment, we are informed, is entirely distinct from Mr C. W. Poole’s myriorama, which was shown in Dublin last year.

Irish Times (1888) 2 July

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:

Poole’s Myriorama. The popularity of this entertainment seems to be rather on the increase than on the decline, and indeed there can be no wonder expressed, for the show, taken as a whole, is undoubtedly of a high order. The latest novelty introduced being the Falls of Niagara, first by daylight and afterwards as a moonlight scene. In effect, we think, it would be difficult to surpass it. Another attraction is the engagement of M. Zamo, the lightning juggler, who executes his portion of the entertainment with the ease which at once stamps him as an experienced artiste. The remainder of the company vie with each other in keeping up the reputation of Mr. Poole as a public entertainer. Mr. Fred. Mayer, the courteous business manager, is indefatigable in looking after the comfort of the patrons to this justly celebrated myriorama.

Star (St Peter Port, Guernsey) (1888) 16 August

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:

Amusements in Dublin [...] Round Room, Rotunda. – Mr Joseph Poole’s myriorama opened here on Monday last. Mr Fred. Mayer is an able guide, and the entertainment is enlivened by the charming vocalism of Miss Jessie Arnelli and Miss May Finch.

Era (1892) 9 July

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 artists:

Amusements in Dublin... Round Room, Rotunda. – Mr Joseph Poole’s Myriorama and variety combination conclude their successful season here to-night. The artists are Engist and Orsa, musical grotesques; West and Selby, sketch artists; Miss May Finch, song and dance artist; Herr Vogeler, wire walker; Mdlle. Bena Aladina, and her performing cockatoos; Mr Fred Somers, the facial king; the Saletos, gymnasts; Mr Fred Mayer, guide, humourist, &c.; and Mr V. Jean De Henau, quick painting artist.

Era (1897) 14 August

Freddy was in Dublin with the show as late as 1901:

Rotunda (Round Room). Joseph Poole’s New Myriorama... [Also] Joseph Poole’s Perfect Vaudeville Organization. Aggregation of Performers, Startling Novelties and Specialities. Joseph Poole’s Admired Orchestral Band. Musical Director, Mr. John Hilton. General Manager, Mr. Fred Mayer; Secretary and Treasurer, Mr. Felix Somers; Agent in Advance, Mr. H. Grey; Proprietor and Originator, Mr. Joseph Poole.

Irish Times (1901) 31 July

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:

Poole’s Myriorama. The instructive series of pictures which Mr. Poole presented years ago under the name of 'Poole’s Myriorama', has been largely added to in recent years, and the aid of photography in different parts of the world has been called into requisition to give added attraction to the interesting entertainment, which has for the present established itself in the Round Room, Rotunda.

Irish Times (1907) 16 October

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:

[…] that big babbyface I saw him and he not long married flirting with a young girl at Pooles Myriorama […] (U 18.39-40)

John Simpson


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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