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The Absent Minded Beggar

  • Object:

    Sheet Music

  • Place of origin:

    London (published)

  • Date:

    1899 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sullivan, Arthur (Sir), born 1842 - died 1900 (composer)
    Woodville, Richard Caton Junior RI ROI, born 1856 - died 1927
    Ridgways Limited (publisher)
    Warrington & Co. (printed)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Chromolithograph. Intermediate pages composed of printed text.

  • Credit Line:

    Gabrielle Enthoven Collection

  • Museum number:

    S.408-2013

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The second Boer War broke out on 7th October 1899 and the majority of soldiers mobilised for the front were Army Reservists - ex-soldiers whose loss of their civilian income had serious results for their dependents. The infantryman's daily shilling could not compare with a workman's weekly wage of twenty shillings. There was no guarantee that men could return to their civilian jobs, if they avoided serious injury or even death. A number of charitable funds were set up, amongst them one publicised by The Daily Mail proprietor Albert Harmsworth. Kipling wrote this poem on 16th October and sent it to Harmsworth on the 22nd, with a note telling him that he could use it for any of the relief funds: 'It's catchpenny verse and I want it to catch just as many pennies as it can... It isn't a thing I shall care to reprint so there is no need of copyrighting it in America. If anyone wants to sing it take care that the proceeds go to our men.' Arthur Sullivan was persuaded to set it to music and it was first performed by John Coates at the Alhambra Theatre under Sullivan's baton on 13th November 1899. The established war artist Richard Caton Woodville Jnr. provided an illustration of a brave British Reservist entitled 'A Gentleman in Kharki', and the published poem and sheet music sold in vast numbers, along with merchandise emblazoned with the illustration. The Absent-Minded Beggar Fund became an unprecedented success, raising a total of over two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.

The chairman of the publishing firm Ridgways Ltd. bought the manuscript for five hundred guineas and with the permission of The Mail Mail made it available to Ridgways for the publication of a limited edition of a thousand copies in aid of the fund.

Physical description

Music sheet cover and music for The Absent-Minded Beggar.
The inside cover features an illustration by Richard Caton Woodville.

Place of Origin

London (published)

Date

1899 (published)

Artist/maker

Sullivan, Arthur (Sir), born 1842 - died 1900 (composer)
Woodville, Richard Caton Junior RI ROI, born 1856 - died 1927
Ridgways Limited (publisher)
Warrington & Co. (printed)

Materials and Techniques

Chromolithograph. Intermediate pages composed of printed text.

Dimensions

Height: 25 cm front cover approx, Width: 35.5 cm front cover

Descriptive line

Music sheet for The Absent Minded Beggar by Rudyard Kipling, composed by Arthur S. Sullivan, published by Ridgways Ltd., 1899

Materials

Paper; Ink

Techniques

Printing; Lithography

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Music; War

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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