'A bird in a gilded cage' is a song composed by Harry Von Tilzer, with lyrics by Arthur J Lamb. Although it was released in America in 1899, it did not become popular until 1900, either putting Fevvers' act either in the very vanguard of fashion or suggesting that Carter's dates are slightly awry. The lyrics of the song lament the fate of a woman who married for money rather than love; the chorus reads:
She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see,
You may think she's happy and free from care,
She's not, though she seems to be,
'Tis sad when you think of her wasted life,
For youth cannot mate with age,
And her beauty was sold,
For an old man's gold,
She's a bird in a gilded cage.
The song has an obvious visual connection to Fevvers' first appearance onstage, but also to the danger which faces her later in the novel, of sacrificing her true self for the sake of worldly wealth.
The embedded version of the song is sung by music hall star Florrie Forde (1875-1940).