Page 57. " it was as much with paint and hot-black and blanc-de-perle, as with vinegar "
'The Powder Puff' by Croegaert
Public Domain'The Powder Puff' by Croegaert - Credit: Georges Croegart (1848-1923)

Presumably, Nan is referring here to her hands being stained with the make-up she uses on her face.

On the whole, the use of make-up was frowned upon in the Victorian period, being mainly associated with certain categories of women, such as actresses and prostitutes. However, it did became more popular during Edwardian times; Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward Vll, is said to have used it rather lavishly during her later years.

Paint is an old-fashioned term for make-up used on the face; during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, it included various kinds of lip colourings made from carmine, which is produced by crushing insects known as cochineals.

Hot-black is possibly another name for graphite, plumbago or black lead, a soft black/grey greasy substance which could be used in eye make-up (as well as in substances used for blackening grates!). There are also several references in Tipping the Velvet to using spit-black on the eyes; maybe this is the same as hot-black.

Blanc-de-perle was a face powder made originally from crushed pearls but later from other, more poisonous substances; it was sometimes also known as pearl powder, pearl white, bismuthine cream or fard blanc de bismuth.


Page 59. " danced a jig around the parlour "

Here, a jig probably just means some lively leaping around.

Strictly speaking, a jig is a dance that originated in England in the 16th Century but which is now mainly associated with Irish dance and Scottish country dance.

It is also the name given to the music for this kind of dance.

Page 60. " who said, quite absurdly, that I was too little to go to London, and would be run down by a tram "
Horse-drawn tram (c.1890)
Public DomainHorse-drawn tram (c.1890) - Credit: unknown

A tram or tramcar is a public transport vehicle which runs on tracks built into the road.

The first trams in London, which were horse-drawn, came into operation in 1860; the first electrically-driven trams were introduced in 1901.

Another form of horse-drawn public transport in London was the omnibus, introduced in 1829 by George Shilliber. The vehicles were initially known as Shillibers or omnibuses (later shortened to buses).

The era of the horse-drawn omnibus finally came to an end in 1911.

Horse-drawn omnibus (1902)
Public DomainHorse-drawn omnibus (1902) - Credit: Henry Charles Moore



Page 60. " in Trafalgar Square "

Trafalgar Square (mid 19th Century) by Pollard
Public DomainTrafalgar Square (mid 19th Century) by Pollard - Credit: James Pollard (died 1867)
 Trafalgar Square in Central London is the site of Nelson's Column and a popular venue for community celebrations and political demonstrations.

Follow this link for a glimpse of Trafalgar Square in 1890; it is difficult to tell whether the horse-drawn vehicles are trams or omnibuses.*

*Note that on p.64 of  Tipping the Velvet it says: There are no trams  in Trafalgar Square - only buses and hansoms.


Google Map
Page 61. " in a place called Brixton "
Electric Avenue, Brixton
Public DomainElectric Avenue, Brixton - Credit: Felix-felix, Wikimedia Commons

Brixton is situated in the Borough of Lambeth, in south London.

Today, it is a multi-ethnic community, many of whose members are of African and Caribbean descent. In the late 19th Century, however, it was a white, middle class suburb, although it became increasingly working class as the century drew to an end.


Google Map
Page 61. " a place so full, he says, of music-hall people and actors that they call it "Grease-Paint Avenue" "
Public DomainGreasepaint - Credit: Pianist, Wikimedia Commons


Dan Leno playing Widow Twankey in 1896
Public DomainDan Leno playing Widow Twankey in 1896 - Credit: unknown
Brixton was, indeed, the home of many theatre and music hall performers at the end of the 19th Century: Dan Leno, the comedian, lived in Akerman Road; Fred Karno, the theatrical impressario, had his 'Fun Factory' off Coldharbour Lane; and the comic actor, Charlie Chaplin, lived in Ferndale Road.

Greasepaint is theatrical make-up, literally grease mixed with various colourings.


Google Map
Page 61. " And I'm due to start the very next day at the Star Music Hall, in Bermondsey "

Bermondsey is an area of south London, situated in the London Borough of Southwark.


Google Map


The Star was an actual music hall, situated at 189 Abbey Street, Bermondsey. It later became the Star Cinema.

Follow this link to see the Star Music Hall  c. 1925;

Follow this link to see the Star Cinema c. 1937;

Follow this link to see the Star Cinema, when no longer in use.

Page 61. " at the distant fields and hedges of Sheppey "

Isle of Sheppey
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeIsle of Sheppey - Credit: Terryjoyce, Wikimedia Commons
 The Isle of Sheppey is a stretch of land in the Thames Estuary, just off the north coast of Kent. It consists of three separate islands: Sheppey, the Isle of Harty and the Isle of Elmley. It lies to the northwest of Whitstable.

The strip of sea which separates the Isle of Sheppey from the mainland is known as The Swale.


Google Map
Page 61. " at the low, pitch-painted houses of the town "

Clapboard mill and houses in Whitstable
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeClapboard mill and houses in Whitstable - Credit: Penny Mayes, Wikimedia Commons
Pitch is a thick, dark, sticky substance which may be obtained from natural sources or by a chemical process; in its modified form, which is known as Tar, it has traditionally been used to seal the hulls of boats and ships, to waterproof shingle roofs, and to paint walls built of logs or clapboard.

Page 62. " hired a gig from the ostler at the Duke of Cumberland Hotel "
The Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable
Creative Commons AttributionThe Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable - Credit: stavros1, Wikimedia Commons

A gig, sometimes known as a chaise, a chair or a trap, is a light two-wheeled carriage drawn by one horse. Click here to see a picture.

An ostler looked after the horses and stables at an inn.

The Duke of Cumberland is a hotel and public house on Whitstable High Street. At one time it was a popular drinking venue for the local oyster dredgers. It dates back to the late 16th Century and was originally known as The Noah's Ark, but the name was changed to commemorate Prince William, Duke of Cumberland putting down the Jacobite Rising at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Page 63. " It held coins - sovereigns "
Back and front views of a Queen Victoria sovereign (1887)
Public DomainBack and front views of a Queen Victoria sovereign (1887) - Credit: Anakin 101, Wikimedia Commons

A sovereign is a British gold coin, first issued in 1489. It was worth £1 sterling.

Sovereigns have not been produced in any numbers since the First World War, although they are theoretically still legal tender in Britain.

Page 63. " in an hour we had arrived at Charing Cross "
Charing Cross station from a 19th Century print
Public DomainCharing Cross station from a 19th Century print - Credit: unknown

Charing Cross is a railway station in central London. It opened in 1864.


Google Map
Page 64. " it might have been the race-track at the Derby to me "
Epsom Derby 2010
Creative Commons AttributionEpsom Derby 2010 - Credit: monkeywing, Wikimedia Commons
Epsom Derby 1821 by Géricault
Public DomainEpsom Derby 1821 by Géricault - Credit: Jean Louis Théodore Géricault

The Derby (also known as the Derby Stakes) is a flat horserace open to 3-year-old throughbred colts and fillies.

It was established in 1780 by the 12th Earl of Derby, and is run annually in early June at the Epsom Downs racecourse in Surrey.

Page 64. " the lovely, bone-coloured front of the National Gallery "

The National Gallery is an art gallery overlooking Trafalgar Square. It opened in 1838, and its facade has remained almost unchanged architecturally since that time.


The National Gallery, London
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe National Gallery, London - Credit: Benkid77, Wikimedia Commons
Page 64. " the view down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament "

Whitehall is a street that runs south from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. It is the location of numerous government departments and ministeries.


Google Map


Parliament Square is situated northwest of the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament.


View down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament
GNU Free Documentation LicenseView down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament - Credit: Shakespr98
Page 65. " we had reached Pall Mall and turned into the Haymarket, where the theatres and music halls begin "
The Haymarket as it is today
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Haymarket as it is today - Credit: Benkid77, Wikimedia Commons

Theatre in London has flourished since the 16th Century; it is particularly associated with the area known as the West End, which is sometimes called London's Theatreland. 

Follow this link to see maps of London's Theatreland between 1860 and 2002.


Google Map
Page 65. " 'Her Majesty's,' he said, nodding to a handsome building on his left "
Her Majesty's Theatre, as it is today
Public DomainHer Majesty's Theatre, as it is today - Credit: Arpingstone, Wikimedia Commons

The present-day Her Majesty's Theatre was opened in 1896 (for part of its history, it was known as His Majesty's Theatre).

It is the fourth theatre to have existed on the site, previous incarnations being known (at different times in their history) as The Queen's Theatre, The Italian Opera House and The King's Theatre. 

The third theatre to be built on the site was also known as Her Majesty's Theatre; it was opened in 1869 and demolished in 1892. This is the theatre which Nan and Kitty would have seen on arrival in London.

Follow this link for more information, and to see pictures of the various theatres which have existed on the site.

Page 65. " Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale "
Portrait of Jenny Lind by Magnus (1862)
Public Domain Jenny Lind (1862) - Credit: Eduard Magnus

Jenny Lind, or Johanna Maria Lind (1820-1887), was a Swedish opera singer whose nickname was the Swedish Nightingale.

She gave her first performance in London in May 1847 at Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket; appropriately, Queen Victoria was in the audience.

A 1930 film entitled A Lady's Morals offered a highly-fictionalised version of Jenny Lind's life. The part of Jenny Lind was played by the American opera singer Grace Moore, whose nickname was the Tennessee Nightingale.



Page 65. " The Haymarket: managed by Mr Beerbohm Tree. "
The Theatre Royal, Haymarket
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Theatre Royal, Haymarket - Credit: Drow male, Wikimedia Commons

The Haymarket Theatre (also known as the Theatre Royal Haymarket and the Little Theatre) has been in existence since 1720, and at its current location on the Haymarket since 1821.

Follow this link for more information and for pictures of the theatre at various stages in its history.


Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917) was a British actor, theatre manager, and founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA); he was the brother of the caricaturist and novelist Max Beerbohm.


Caricature of Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1890)
Public DomainCaricature of Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1890) - Credit: Leslie Ward




Page 65. " The Criterion, or Cri: a marvel of a theatre, built entirely underground "

The Criterion Theatre, as it is today
Public DomainThe Criterion Theatre, as it is today - Credit: Arpingstone, Wikimedia Commons
 The Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus opened in 1874.

As noted in the text, the theatre was almost entirely underground, there being a restaurant on the ground floor of the building, and a ballroom on its first floor.

Both the theatre and the restaurant are still in existence, although the building in which they are housed underwent substantial modifications during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Follow this link for more information and for pictures of the theatre at various stages in its history.

Page 65. " Ahead of us, the London Pavilion "
Facade of the London Pavilion in 2002
GNU Free Documentation LicenseFacade of the London Pavilion in 2002 - Credit: Michael Reeve, Wikimedia Commons

The music hall known as the London Pavilion, established in 1859, was situated initially on Tichbourne Street (now Great Windmill Street). A new London Pavilion was then built in 1885 on the corner of Coventry Street and the newly created Shaftesbury Avenue.

Today, the building is part of a complex known as the Trocadero, which also incorporates the original Trocadero Music Hall.

Follow this link for more information about the London Pavilion. 


Google Map
Page 65. " Down there - we squinted along Great Windmill Street - 'the Trocadero Palace' "
The London Trocadero in 2008
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe London Trocadero in 2008 - Credit: Drow male, Wikimedia Commons

The Trocadero Palace of Varieties was opened in 1882, and renamed the Royal Trocadero Music Hall in the late 1880s.

The site on Coventry Street had previously had many different uses; follow this link to find out more.

Its life as a music hall came to an end in 1896 when it became the Trocadero Restaurant, run by J. Lyons & Co..

Later, the building became part of the Trocadero shopping and entertainment complex, which is currently in the process of being redeveloped as a hotel.

Page 65. " On our right, the Prince's Theatre "

The Prince of Wales Theatre as it is today
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Prince of Wales Theatre as it is today - Credit: Ewan Munro, Wikimedia Commons
The Prince's Theatre on Coventry Street opened in 1884, and was renamed the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1886.

It was demolished in 1937, and a new theatre with the same name was built on the site; this second theatre was extensively refurbished in 2004.

Follow this link to read more about the history of the two theatres.

Page 65. " We passed into Leicester Square "
Leicester Square (c.1880)
Public DomainLeicester Square (c.1880) - Credit: unknown

Pedestrianised Leicester Square holds a small park containing a statue of William Shakespeare; the statue bears the inscription, There is no darkness but ignorance.

It has been a centre of popular entertainment since the 19th Century, and remains so today; it is particularly well known now for its leading cinemas.


Page 65. " finally, the Empire "
The Empire Theatre, c.1905
Public DomainThe Empire Theatre, c.1905 - Credit: E.F.A. Theatre Series
The Empire Theatre in Leicester Square opened in 1884. In 1887, it became a music hall called The Empire Theatre of Varieties before reverting to a theatre in 1898.

The building was demolished in 1927, but a second Empire Theatre, which operated mainly as a cinema, was built on the site. The cinema was refurbished in 1962 and is still in operation today as the Empire Cinema.

Follow this link for more of its history.


The Empire Cinema, Leicester Square
Creative Commons AttributionThe Empire Cinema, Leicester Square - Credit: Tedd Santana, Flickr


Page 65. " and the Alhambra "

The Royal Panoptican of Sciene and Art (1853) - prior to its conversion into the 'Alhambra Palace'
Public DomainThe Royal Panoptican of Sciene and Art (1853) - prior to its conversion into the 'Alhambra Palace' - Credit: unknown
The Alhambra Palace Music Hall in Leicester Square opened in 1860 and underwent several changes of name during its history. Rebuilt after a fire, it re-opened in 1884 under the name The Alhambra Theatre of Varieties.

The theatre closed in 1936 and was subsequently demolished. The site now holds the Odeon Cinema.

Follow this link for more of its history.

Page 65. " even the gay girls in the gallery "
Gay girls in the gallery? ('Balcony at the Alhambra' by Gore)
Public DomainGay girls in the gallery? ('Balcony at the Alhambra' by Gore) - Credit: Spencer Gore (1878-1914)

Gay girls is a euphemism for prostitutes (although, as is often the case in Tipping the Velvet, we may read other meanings into the word gay).

Page 65. " William Shakespeare on his marble pedestal "

Statue of William Shakespeare in Leicester Square
GNU Free Documentation LicenseStatue of William Shakespeare in Leicester Square - Credit: NeutrophilGranulocyte, Wikimedia Commons

Page 66. " Variety, Miss Astley, which age cannot wither, nor custom stale. "
'Anthony and Cleopatra' by Alma-Tadema (1885)
Public Domain'Anthony and Cleopatra' by Alma-Tadema (1885) - Credit: Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912)
Variety is another term for Music Hall.


Mr Bliss is playing with a quote from Act II Scene 2 of Shakespeare's tragedy Anthony and Cleopatra.

The original lines, spoken by Enobarbus, are an attempt to explain why his master Mark Anthony will never be able to relinquish Cleopatra:


Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety: other women cloy

The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry

Where most she satisfies.

Full text

Page 67. " and gave him a shilling to fetch us three foaming glasses from the sherbet-seller "
A Victorian shilling
Creative Commons AttributionA Victorian shilling - Credit: Smabs Sputzer, Flickr

The shilling was a British coin in circulation between the reign of Henry VII and the decimalisation of the currency in 1971.

There were twenty shillings to a pound, meaning a shilling was worth 5 pence in modern currency.

Informally, a shilling was known as a bob, as in, 'Can you lend us ten bob?'






Jars of sherbet
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJars of sherbet - Credit: Andy Dingley, Wikimedia Commons

Sherbet is a cold drink made with fruit juice and sugar that originated in Asia. However, in Victorian Britain it was made by mixing a sweetened, fruit-flavoured powder with water; the powder contained a substance such as bicarbonate of soda or tartaric acid which would make the drink effervesce.

Later, sherbet became a form of confectionary, eaten either on its own, with licorice (as in the famous sherbet fountain) or in a sweet (as in the equally famous sherbet lemon). In Scotland sherbet is known as keli, and in the north of England as kali.

Sherbet fountain
Creative Commons AttributionSherbet fountain - Credit: mrpbps, Flickr
Page 68. " Welcome to Ginevra Road "

Ginevra is the Italian name for Geneva.

There is no road of that name in London at the present time.

Page 69. " she reached for a packet of Woodbines "
Multi-packs of Woodbine cigarettes (mid 20th Century)
Creative Commons AttributionMulti-packs of Woodbine cigarettes (mid 20th Century) - Credit: Chris Sampson, Flickr
Woodbine is the brand name of a strong, unfiltered cigarette made by  W.D. and H.O. Wills (now Imperial tobacco) since 1888.

It has always been seen as a no-nonsense, no-frills, working-class kind of cigarette.

Page 69. " the Great Vance "
Tobacco label (1869) depicting 'The Young Swell'
Public DomainTobacco label (1869) depicting 'The Young Swell' - Credit: Hatch & Co., N.Y.

Alfred Peek Stevens (1839-1888) was a music hall singer and comedian; he was also known as Alfred Vance, the Great Vance and Alfred Grenville.

Vance was a great rival of George Leybourne, another star of the music halls, who was the author of the song Champagne Charlie (1867).

Both men are seen as representatives of the Lion Comique style, whereby performers played the part of 'swells' – fashionable, swaggering young men who enjoyed the high life. To a large extent, the Lion Comique concept was modelled on the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). 

The rivalry betweeen the two performers was the subject of the 1944 film Champagne Charlie, in which George Leybourne is played by Tommy Trinder and the Great Vance by Stanley Holloway.

Listen on Spotify to Tommy Trinder singing Champagne Charlie

Page 69. " Jolly John Nash, posed as 'Rackity Jack' "
The Prince of Wales (later, Edward VII)
Public DomainThe Prince of Wales (later, Edward VII) - Credit: Arthur J. Melhuish

 Jolly John Nash (1830-1901) was a well-known music hall performer, renowned for his laughing songs, such as The Nice Old Maids and The Little Brown Jug. (see also: bookmark, p.49)

Rackety Jack was a song sung by both Jolly John Nash and Arthur Lloyd, another star of the Victorian music hall.

Apparently, when Arthur Lloyd and Jolly John Nash performed for the Prince of Wales and his friends in 1868 (in what was known as a command performance), Jolly John's rendering of  Rackety Jack went down a storm.


Extract from Rackety Jack:

Hey! Hi! Here stop! Waiter, wait. Fizz, pop!

I'm Rackety Jack, no money I lack,

And I'm the boy for a spree.

Page 69. " Bessie Bellwood "

Bessie Bellwood (1856-1896), whose real name was Catherine Mahoney, was a music hall performer, particularly well known for her rendition of the song What Cheer Ria. (see also: bookmark, p.49)

Follow this link to see a portrait of Bessie Bellwood

Page 70. " as two peg-dolls "
Dressed Val Gardena Dutch doll
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDressed Val Gardena Dutch doll - Credit: Wolfgang Moroder, Wikimedia Commons
Undressed Val Gardena Dutch doll
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeUndressed Val Gardena Dutch doll - Credit: Wolfgang Moroder, Wikimedia Commons

Dutch peg-dolls were one of the earliest forms of doll. During the 17th and 18th Centuries, when dolls were known as 'toy babies', they were sometimes called Flanders babies.

They were simple wooden, jointed dolls, sold unclothed so that they could be dressed according to the taste of their young owners.

The term peg-doll is particularly associated with the lathe-turned dolls made in Val Gardena, a valley in the Dolomites in northern Italy.


A peg-doll is also the term for a doll made out of an old-fashioned clothes peg


Old-fashioned clothes peg
Public DomainOld-fashioned clothes peg - Credit: Phyzome, Wikimedia Commons
Page 70. " in a dolls' house "
Interior of a Dolls' house
GNU Free Documentation LicenseInterior of a Dolls' house - Credit: Flominator (talk), Wikimedia Commons
Page 74. " and if you've read Ally Sloper's I'll leave you to work out why "
Ally Sloper's Half Holiday
Public DomainAlly Sloper's Half Holiday
Alexander Sloper, or Ally Sloper*, was a comic strip character who first appeared in the British magazine Judy (a rival of Punch) in 1867.

From 1884 to 1916 a whole comic, known as Ally Sloper's Half Holiday, was devoted to the character. While the comic ran, Ally Sloper merchandise such as ashtrays and pocket watches could be purchased. In 1886 he also became the subject of a popular song, Ally Sloper's Christmas Holiday.

Ally Sloper (who was depicted as a drunken, lecherous layabout) also had a fictional family, which included his showgirl daughter, Tootsie Sloper.

Tootsie also became the subject of a song entitled I'm mashed on Tootsie Sloper, written by Joseph. S. Long (1848-1904).

* alley sloper was slang for somone who would slip out the back door into an alley when the landlord called, in order to avoid paying the rent.

Page 75. " You could play Wagner on it "
Richard Wagner (1871)
Public DomainRichard Wagner (1871) - Credit: Franz Hanfstaengl

Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was a German composer best known for his operatic works.

His operas include Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Tannhäuser, The Flying Dutchman, and the cycle of four operas known as The Ring of the Nibelung (or just The Ring Cycle).

His music is highly dramatic and complex (some might say overwrought and over serious), characterised by musical innovations such as chromaticism and leitmotifs (recurring musical themes).


Listen on Spotify to Wagner's music being played on the piano:

Tristan and Isolde (Isolde's death);

Tannhäuser (The Venusberg).

Page 75. " it would come out sounding like a sea-shanty or a jig! "
Sailors in Polish street art
GNU Free Documentation LicenseSailors in Polish street art - Credit: Rovdyr, Wikimedia Commons

Traditionally, a sea shanty was a song sung by sailors as they worked on board ships. Their purpose was partly to maintain the rhythm of certain tasks, and partly to alleviate boredom. Often the shanties were call and response songs, where one sailor (known as the shantyman) would sing a line and the other sailors would then respond in unison. 

Two well-known sea shanties are What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor and Blow the Man Down.

Listen on Spotify to the Drunken Sailor and Blow the Man Down.




3 fiddlers
GNU Free Documentation License3 fiddlers - Credit: FriedC, Wikimedia Commons

A  jig is the name given both to a kind of dance and to the music for that dance. (see also: bookmark, p.59)

Originally in 2/4 time, jigs are now composed in a variety of time signatures.

Two well-known jigs are The Irish Washerwoman and Saddle the Pony.

Listen on Spotify to The Irish Washerwoman and Saddle the Pony