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HARRY ST. MAUR, COMEDY ACTOR & PRODUCER, AUTHOR & LITERATEUR

This cover is difficult to interpret on several counts, from the name of the ship in which it sailed ‘via Brindisi’ to London, the crossing out of the New York City address, the readdressing, as well as the unusual postmarking of the Victorian stamps. All four were cancelled by a possible large figure ‘1' as a barred numeral of Melbourne, but this is largely eliminated as they do not resemble any large ‘1' numeral seen in the’bible’ of Hugh Freeman & Geoff White’s The Numeral cancellations of Victoria, 2001). The more likely possibility is that it is a very worn large ‘R’ which confirms that it was sent registered to the USA via London. The best example of this possible ‘R’ cancellation is seen on the right hand stamp of the ‘ONE PENNY’ orange pair of ‘Reading’ stamps. The 2 additional stamps were the pink ‘HALF-PENNY’ and the bistre ‘THREE PENCE’, a total of 5½d postage. It was addressed to Harry St. Maur Esqr.,Lambs Club, 34 W. 26 th St., New York City and there was a ‘(FOR)warded’ handstamp, as well as a red ms, ‘Troy’. There is a purple oval handstamp with REGISTERED/(-)/19 DE 9(-) /LONDON. In addition there is also a handstruck purple datestamp JAN 25 1892 (Figure 1)

The reverse has a purple handstamped REGISTERED/ JAN 30 1892/ TROY, N.Y., as well as two different double oval black NEW YORK/ REG’Y DIV. handstamps (Figure 2).

In addition to the difficulty with the cover, and in spite of the large number of the ‘hits’ on Google, as well as in numerous advertisements which were found in the TROVE Australian newspaper sites, the yield of biographical information on Harry Saint Maur was very poor. He may have been of English birth and his ancestors were probably from the Saint Maur area of Paris. What was found at multiple sites was a colourful handbill for a comedic production named ‘A Divorce Cure’ which was adapted and produced by Harry Saint Maur and was shown in Melbourne, Australia in 1888. It seems likely that the fleeing top-hatted man was Harry Saint Maur, which was fortuitous as the comedian was involved in a well publicised divorce case with his co-star at a later date (Figure 3).

My presumption that I have identified Harry Saint Maur is based on the finding of a drawing of Harry St. Maur which was labelled in an obscure Victorian paper, The Camperdown Chronicle and which was not found elsewhere, dated 25 December1886, on page 5S of the paper’s supplement (Figure 4).

 

I was surprised that soon after this find I came across a ‘Guy Little Theatrical group Photograph which was designed as a Carte-de-Visite card, the photo having been taken in London in 1874. The members of the Theatre Cast were listed as E.J. Odell, C.D. Marius, Sallie Turner, Nelly Bromley, Edward Terry, Harry Cox, Maria Jones and Harry St. Maur, in Eldorado at the Strand. None of the individuals were specifically identified, but my money was on the man seated at the left. (Figure 5).

Harry St. Maur had a good advertising budget for his comedic plays which were shown in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, but I am not sure if his company played in Western Australia. The Colonial State Capitals were the most frequent venues, but the larger country centres were also involved. The next advert was totally atypical and it appeared in the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (New South Wales) on Thursday 19 September 1889, page 1. To-date, I am not sure whether the Nellie St. Maur, mentioned in this advertisement, was Harry’s sister or daughter.

The small print reads as follows: "The acknowledged Champion Scientific and Character Roller Skaters of England. MISS NELLIE and HARRY ST. MAUR will give their most refined Double Exhibition of Scientific and Burlesque Skating for one night only. TO-NIGHT, TO-NIGHT.

HARRY ST. MAUR in his great act representing Mephistopheles on wheels.

MISS NELLIE ST. MAUR in her wonderful Scientific and Artistic Skating.

MR. HARRY ST. MAUR in his most comical and laughable act as Ye Imported Dude or Dandy Masher.

MISS NELLIE and HARRY ST. MAUR in Double Scientific Skating.

MR, HARRY ST. MAUR in his representation as a Phantom on Wheels, and lots of other feats too numerous to mention.

MISS NELLIE and HARRY ST. MAUR for THIS NIGHT ONLY." (Figure 6).

A COMPLIMENTARY ADMIT TWO Ticket for the Imperial Theatre showing of ‘The Waterman and Guilty Shadows’, starring Miss Emilie de Witt and Mr. Harry Saint Maur, and full Company was purple stamped ‘MORNING PERFORMANCE’ on 17 FEB 1885, the programme cost Threepence, was found at the British Library website (Figure 7).

Harry St. Maur was the author of at least one book "A Railway Mystery" which had the imprint of George Robertson, London and Melbourne in 1891, with 116 pages. Perhaps more impressive (because of the company he kept) was that he was invited to contribute to a remarkable volume ‘The Centenary Magazine. An Australian Monthly, Volume 1' in which he ‘chattered’ about subjects that interested him. His contribution can be found on pages 195-199. This issue was more than 900 pages in length and it cost an amazing one shilling. There were many hundreds of noted authors, not only Australians, but also from overseas. I have shown one of Maur’s paragraphs from his 5 page article which he entitled "Chattermagery’, as Figure 8.

I have already mentioned the paucity of biographical information on Maur and what follows is a melange of information derived from additional Trove newspapers, presented in no particular order. The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide), By Submarine Cable, on 4 March 1889, (as well as other Colonial newspapers), wrote about Harry being involved in a divorce in London (Figure 9).

The second para described the great successes that Harry had with his plays in Australia and that Mrs. Willoughby joined Harry’s company a few months later in Brisbane. It goes on to state that Harry, "besides being an actor of no mean ability, has, since his sojourn in the colonies, acted as correspondent of various English and American papers, and in a recent issue of a well known journal published in the United States he represented the attractions which Australia presented to Transatlantic theatrical artists."

The Argus (Melbourne), 29 September 1886 described several actors from England who were playing in Sydney: The Royal Comedy Company was playing under the management of Messrs. Williamson, Garner and Musgrove at the Bijou theatre and Harry St. Maur from the Criterion Theatre, London, had come out to produce his plays including "The Candidate", which will be the initial performance, "Jim the Penman", "Two Too Many" and "Brighton", etc.

The Sydney Morning Herald 24th July 1886 stated that His Excellency the Governor Baron Carrington and Lady Carrington and Suite have intimated their intention of being present to witness the performance on Saturday July 21 by Mr. Harry St. Maur who has just arrived from London and will make his first appearance in Australia as Lord Oldacre in the Great Criterion Theatre.

The South Australian Register (Adelaide), 24 November 1886 published an interview with Mr.Saint Maur on ‘Actors and Acting’, and he was remarkably cooperative, saying that he could not refuse such a valuable and gratuitous advertisement. " I will put myself into your hands to be pumped as you will. I’ve been eighteen years a humble mummer...I have toiled hard to acquire any sort of position however humble, general utility, singing, walking gentleman, leading man, old man, stage manager, acting manager, front of the house as well as the back. I am naturally a desperately stupid cuss. At the dear old English school of Westminster where I was educated I never got a ‘remove’, except on the grounds of age. I have to slave to arrive at anything, but then fortunately I know it, so commence my tortoise-like procession into the interior of anything". I have not done justice to this section for the quality of the typescript was very faint. Another column in the same paper a few days later states "We learn that Mr. Harry St. Maur has secured the lease of the Academy of Music for 2 years from January 1st next year.

A website which was the official source for Broadway information in the USA has listed the plays in which Harry St. Maur was an actor or writer in the following plays, performed from 1897-1904 "Two Little Sailor Boys" as a performer, "An African Millionaire" as a performer, "The Cipher Code" as a performer, "Cashel Byron" as a performer, "The Countess Chiffon" adapted by Harry S. Maur "In Paradise" as performer, "A Divorce Cure" written by Harry St.Maur, and "Dr. Claudius" written by Harry St. Maur.

Addendum (March 2001):  I have received an email from Kerri Hall of the Australian History and Literature Team, State Library of Victoria who has had similar problems in her research as I had.  However she has found 2 additional pieces of information which could be leads to more findings.  The Adelaide Advertiser

In addition to Harry St. Maur’s acting career in England, the U.S.A.,and the Australian Colonies, he also acted in Auckland, New Zealand . The Hawkes Bay Herald (N.Z.) , 21 Paengawhawha 1890 reported that he had a most successful season in Wellington, N.Z and he is said to be one of the most popular comedians of the late Charles Matthews’ school who have ever visited Australia.

Addendum (March 2011):  I have received an email from Kerri Hall of the Australian History and Literature Team, State Library of Victoria who has had similar problems in her research as I had.  However she has found 2 additional pieces of information which could be leads to more findings.  The Adelaide Advertiser (5 June 1906, page 6) mentions that Harry St. Maur had settled down on a ranch in South Africa and she asked me to contact the National Library of South Africa re the checking for any available South African newspapers or biographical indexes, and I have done so,

A brief entry in "The Evening Post" of 10 August 1907 states 'From America comes the news  that the capable actor and author, Harry St. Maur, has joined the great majority'  which I interpret that Harry has died, but when, where?  Kerri has not closed her file on the research so maybe we will learn more. 

What continues to surprise me is the relative ease to find pictures, illustrated adverts and drawings of Harry St. Maur, by comparison with the finding of biographical text.  This item is the only clue I have seen that he was involved in William Shakespeare's Mercutio in  Romeo and Juliet, produced in August 1876, the site of the play not shown.  The artist who produced the drawing was an M. Stretch (Figure 10).

I would appreciate any help that readers might supply about biographical data on Harry Saint Maur.

 
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