LOTTIE COLLINS AND HER SONGS.
SHE BRINGS AN ACTION FOR LIBEL
AGAINST A NEWSPAPER.
Mrs. COONEY, an actress and variety artist,
professionally known as Miss Lottie Collins,
brought an action for libel, in the Queen's
Bench Division, before Mr. Justice
Hawkins and a special jury, against Mr.
Edeveain, proprietor of a weekly journal
named Society. The defendant pleaded
that the words complained of were in their
natural and ordinary meaning fair comment
and criticism upon a public performance.
Mr. Henry Kisch was for the plaintiff;
and Mr. Jelf, Q.C., Mr. E. U. Bullen, and
Mr. Cane for the defendant.
Mr. Kisch, in opening, said his client
had sung " The Little Widow" in public some 2,000 or 3,000 times, and
the song upon all occasions met with
approbation. She had also sung "A Girl
on the Ran-dan-dan." (Laughter.) In
December last she was performing at the
Palace Theatre, and the two songs were in
her repertoire. In reference to this engagement an article appeared in Society, and in
it was the following passage:
"At the Palace Theatre, Morton Consule,
there is quite the best entertainment in
London, a sort of show a man can with impunity take his maiden aunt to. There is
nothing coarse about it anywhere and the
only touch of vulgarity is supplied by Miss
Lottie Collins, who successfully reproduces,
in two of her songs at least, methods far
from pleasing of the age which to its
eternal sorrow used to applaud such
monstrosities as that lion comique, now
happily very near dead. One of her songs,
`The Little Widow'—no connection, I am
happy to say, of our very own sweet lady—is written in grossly had taste, which is not
redeemed even by the singer's surprising
agility and rose-red petticoats. To my
mind Miss Collins has never done so well
Mr. Justice Hawkins: What was meant
by "Morton Consule." Was it the name of
a place? (Loud laughter.)
Mr. Fisch said he had at first taken it to
be some French expression—(laughter)— 'but it seemed that it was intended to
intimate that the place was under the
management of Mr. Morton. (Laughter.) He regretted that he could not bring the
whole performance before the jury; but at
least he could bring "that little widow"
before them. (Laughter.) Of course when he said "The The Little Widow" he meant the
song. (Renewed laughter.) He would ask
his lordship to let the jury read that song,
so that they might form their own opinion
as to "vulgarity," and as to the song having
been written "in grossly bad taste."
Mr. Jelf: Had you not better read it
Mr. Kisch said he would with his lordship's permission, and he did so amidst
peals of laughter.
Oh, dear, what I've suffered, there's nobody
I'll endeavour to tell you my troubles and
A lone little widow, two husbands I mourn,
And now I'm forsaken, heartbroken, forlorn.
No one to love me, no one to bless,
No one to tease me, none to caress,
And just twenty-one, 'tis true, on my word,
So I am thinking of taking a third.
I'm a widow, a little widow; I am simple,
but I'm witty;
I'm stylish and pretty; yes, a widow, a
But I won't remain single very long.
Dear George was my "first," he just
doated on me;
And, oh, we were happy as happy could be.
He died, all the doctors said "shortness of
The women, the wretches, said "worried
What could a poor little lone widow do?
Charlie consoled me, and became Number2 ;
And only last week he said, "Daisy, good-
I'm going to meet George in the sweet
And I'm a widow, once more a widow;
I am, &c.
I wonder why single girls are such mean
They'd like to be angels, of course, without
Make eyes at the men with such a sly
And won't give us dear little widows a
But I'm going to show them of what we are
I'm looking around me; oh, don't be afraid.
If there's one here who'll be Number 3,
He find me as loving as loving can be.
Counsel added that he would hand the other song, "A Girl on the Ran-dan-dan"
to his learned friend, who could read it if.
he liked. (Laughter.)
Mr. Jelf, amidst renewed laughter, read a
few lines of it.
Mr. Justice Hawkins thought that, with
a little more rehearsal, counsel might be
able to sing the songs. (Loud laughter.)
The plaintiff was then called. She said
that she was the wife of Mr. Stephen
Patrick Cooney, but was professionally
known as Miss Lottie Collins. She had so
performed at the principal theatres and
halls in London and in the provinces, and
also in the United States.
Did you sing "The Little Widow" at the
Palace Theatre in "The New Barmaid"?
"Possibly," interjected Mr. Kirsch, his lordship had heard of "The New Woman," and
The New Barmaid" was probably a
development of that idea. (Laughter.)
Witness said that both songs had always
been received very well, and no objection
to them was ever made by managers or by
anybody else. She did not think that she
indicated any vulgarity in singing either of
Cross-examined: "The Little Widow"
she believed to be as popular as ever.
And you yourself are as popular as ever?
I hope so.
You do not deny that Society has very
often praised you?
I have seen notices there that praised
And you agree that everybody is entitled
to have his own opinion upon a public performance?
Oh, yes! but where the word "vulgarity"
was used it was rather far-fetched. Witness
added that she did not think that there was
any touch of vulgarity in "Ta-ra-ra-boom-
de-ay." It must be borne in mind that the
audience went to music-halls to be amused;
they did not go to church. (Laughter.)
When she was singing "The Little
Widow" she was, dressed all in black,
except the petticoats, which were red.
Mr. Jelf : Is not that, an important point,
Witness: I beg your pardon—petticoats.
Mr. Jell: Ah, that is my ignorance. (Renewed laughter.)
The petticoats of red suddenly made
their appearance during the song?—Yes.
And that had a startling effect?—No
doubt it had. (Laughter.) Continuing,
witness said she still kept her position upon the stage; but this libel had been sent
abroad through the world, and she feared
that it would do her a good deal of harm in
America. She had never had the word
"vulgarity" applied to her singing before.
Mr. G. H. Payne, managing director of
the Canterbury Hall, of the South London
Theatre of Varieties, and of the Paddington
Theatre of Varieties, said he had had
twenty years' experience connected with
music-halls, and had known the plaintiff
from the time when she was a child. He
had heard her sing both these songs.
Have you noticed any procedure or gesture on the part of Miss Lottie Collins that
was vulgar?— No.
Cross-examined: Naturally there were
differences of opinion upon such matters.
Mr. Charles Morton said that he was the
manager of the Palace Theatre of Varieties,
and had been engaged in connection with
music-hall engagements ever since 1848. He
was invariably on duty every evening at his
theatre, and he looked closely after everything that took place. He had heard Miss
Collins sing " The Little Widow" on many
occasions, and he had never seen anything
on her part that was vulgar.
Would you allow it to continue if you did see it?—No. He had heard "The Girl on
the Ran-dan-dan" sung, and he had never
observed any objection to it on the part of
Cross-examined: Do you consider that
this article has done Miss Collins the
slightest injury?—No. She is still receiving
the same salary as she received before.
Mr. Lionel Monckton, a member of the
bar, upon the critical staff of the Daily Telegraph, said he had heard the plaintiff sing
"The Little Widow" more than once. He
did not know Miss Collins at all, and he
had not until that day ever seen her off
the stage. He had never seen anything on
her part that was vulgar.
Mr. Jeff addressed the jury for the defendant, contending that what had been published amounted to nothing more than fair criticism upon a performance. He also submitted that there was no evidence to show that any damage had been inflicted upon the plaintiff.
The jury, without leaving the box, said their verdict was for the plaintiff, with £25 damanges.
Illustrated Police News, 24 Ju;y 1897