The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 5 (August 1, 1939)
Edgar Wallace and Wellington — Four Generations — James Henry Marriott of Wellington
Edgar Wallace and Wellington
James Henry Marriott of Wellington
One of the earliest settlers in the province of Wellington, arriving in the ship Thomas Sparks in 1842, was James Henry Marriott, a man already in his forties and full of worldly experience. Marriott was by profession a maker of scientific and optical instruments; but he had also artistic tastes, and moved for many years in theatrical circles in London. He was a fine Shakespearian scholar and appeared, with some success, in a number of Shakespearian plays. He dabbled in art also, with pen and ink and brush, and he could turn his pen to verse, with a flair for topical doggerel which came in handy during the noisy politics of early Wellington.
Before he had been here long Marriott, with his friend Rowland Davis, took the lead in providing entertainment for the colonists. They erected the Britannia saloon and the Aurora tavern (which afterwards became the Lyceum Theatre), and in 1844 Marriott helped to design and build the Olympic Theatre. He carried out the decorations and scenery, and even manufactured from whale oil the gas for lighting the theatre. Later he was one of the founders of the Oddfellows' lodge and hall, also in company with Davis.
When provincial politics dominated the Colony, and every man was a villain or a paragon according to his political party, Marriott played his part well enough by writing verse on behalf of the Settlers' Constitutional Association. His “Constitutional Budget,” published in 1858, contained a good deal of this doggerel, some of it of quite high quality in its own field. Against the ruthless battle which Edward Jerningham Wakefield waged, with any weapon to his hand, against the high-minded Featherston, Marriott deserved well of the party he supported. So well that a few months later he was appointed by the Superintendent (Featherston) to be sergeant-at-arms to the Wellington Provincial Council.
Marriott continued to be a leader in the theatrical and social life of the province. At most public dinners he was employed in arranging the entertainment and decorating the hall. He even made sketches of such events. The Illustrated London News contains a number of his pictures, notably of the public dinners in Wellington, and the laying of the foundation stone of the provincial hall. I often wondered whether the public halls of Wellington really looked so substantial and seemly page 29 as they appear in Marriott's engravings in the Illustrated London News. It is said also that he made some of the blocks himself. That would, of course, be in his line as an instrument maker. In later life he was an inspector of weights and measures. Marriott died in 1886.
Alice Marriott, of Sadler's Wells Theatre.
In gathering for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, these few facts about the life of this interesting early settler, I several times came across a statement that he was the father of the famous English actress, Alice Marriott. When he had been ten years in New Zealand he paid a visit to the Old Country, and amongst those whom he met on that occasion was his daughter Mrs. Robert Edgar, then proprietor of the Sadler's Wells Theatre. A few years later Robert Edgar died, and his death notice in the Wellington papers fully identified him as the son-in-law of James Henry Marriott. He was a useless creature whom Alice dignified with the title of manager. In fact she did everything about the theatre, even to counting out the salaries on Saturdays.
Alice Marriott was quite an institution on the English stage in the middle of the nineteenth century. A rather masculine woman, with a fine presence and considerable talent, a beautiful voice and a phenomenal memory, she was playing for over forty years, and she had an enormous repertoire of long and difficult parts. She had dramatic intensity to a degree, and as an emotional actress had a high reputation. Alice had a fondness for masculine doublet and hose, and for playing masculine parts, which not infrequently were entrusted to women in those inexplicable Victorian days. Her Hamlet was famous. She could do as she liked, since she had her own company, and was even for some years lessee of several theatres, including the Sadler's Wells and the Standard at Shoreditch. She played also in the provinces, and even took her own Hamlet to America in the ‘seventies.
There is no need to labour the talent of this daughter of James Henry Marriott, except to add that she made a great deal of money and would have been wealthy had she not married Robert Edgar, who was convinced that he knew the best way to invest it. He had a mania for buying up shop property at high prices and selling, generally, at a loss.
Richard Marriott and Polly Richards.
(From ‘Early Wellington.’)
Entertainment to Maori Chiefs at the Pipitea Street Hospital, Wellington, in 1849, to celebrate the receipt from Earl Grey of a framed portrait of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
(Reproduced from the original copper plate engraved by Mr. J. H. Marriott and used by the “Illustrated London News” in 1849.
And so life went on. Polly Richards page 30 page 31 was almost a member of the Edgar household and always of the Edgar troupe.
(From a drawing by W. Le Couteur.)
One of the new “J” class (4–8–2) locomotives being built for service on the New Zealand Railways. The overall length of these locomotives is 66ft. 9 in.; total weight in working order, 108 1/4 tons; tractive effort, 24,960 lbs.; water capacity of tender, 4,000 gallons; fuel capacity, 6 tons.
He was taken to a Catholic priest for baptism, and the name that Polly Richards gave to him was Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace. She gave the fictitious name of “Wallace Wallace, comedian,” as that of the father, and thus saved Richard Edgar and his mother any embarrassment.
When I read Margaret Lane's biography of the great novelist Edgar Wallace, I found myself putting two and two together from fragments of biographical information which had come to me in the compilation of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Here was the first confirmation of the statement which had appeared in some of our old Wellington newspapers that James Henry Marriott was the father of Alice Marriott, the Sadler's Wells actress.
The whole story appears in Miss Lane's fine biography. To which I might add that no doubt Edgar Wallace, the colourful author of our own time, drew some of his inspiration in letters and artistry from his great grandfather, just as he did some of his speculative tendencies from his unknown grand-father Robert Edgar.
Contests for smokers are all the go in Belgium just now. Pipe Clubs, as they are called, have been established in connection with many of the Cafes, and a prize is awarded to the man who keeps his pipe going the longest. In one such contest sixteen of the contestants smoked steadily for upwards of an hour, without “striking a light” a second time, this being one of the rules of the game. But the champion kept his clay in full blast for an hour thirty-seven minutes! He deserved his win! —and if he had smoked “toasted” he'd have doubtless done better still, because this beautiful tobacco being virtually free from nicotine (eliminated by toasting) can be smoked for almost any length of time without a break. There's no “bite” in toasted; And the quality is simply unequalled! There's nothing quite so good! Flavour and bouquet are glorious!—hence the popularity of the five genuine toasted brands: Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead), Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Cavendish, Riverhead Gold and Desert Gold.*page break page break