by Fred Walker, a wood-engraving, January 1865. Framed: height 45.72 cm by width 60.96 cm. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Using as metonymies a fish-basket and a lute, the poster advertising Arthur James Lewis's Saturday night entertainments promises oysters at 11:00 P. M. and music at 8:30 P. M., rather than a buffet or a formal dinner, and amateur vocalists in concert rather than mere amateur theatricals. These music parties of the local arts community ("The Moray Minstrels") enabled London's male notables to gather informally over the winter months. Each of the (chiefly male) guests would present an invitation card at the entrance to Moray Lodge. Evidently Walker had a firm image in mind as to how the evening's music would proceed, as his friend and client, Arthur J. Lewis, offered evening entertainments that focussed on the presentation of choral music by socially connected, and professionally prominent "painters, actors and writers (all male), who were mostly amateur musicians. They would meet for musical evenings at Moray Lodge, in Kensington, the home of Arthur James Lewis (1824–1901), a haberdasher and silk merchant (of the firm Lewis & Allenby), who married the actress Kate Terry in 1867" ("Box and Cox").
Lewis and his artistic friends would gather to discuss the latest innovations in the visual and performing arts. As the graphic invitations suggest, the Minstrels (some 150 strong on some evenings) would smoke and sing part-songs and other popular music. They had as their usual musical conductor John Foster, who,, like dramatist F. C. Burnand, was a friend of young Arthur Sullivan, who joined the group. Early in 1865, some of the Minstrels heard a performance of Offenbach's short two-man operetta Les deux aveugles (The Two Blind Men). After seeing another operetta performed at Moray Lodge in the winter of 1866, Burnand suggested that he and Sullivan collaborate on a new piece to be performed by the Minstrels — Box and Cox.
Arthur James Lewis (1826-1901) had already demonstrated that he was an artist of considerable ability in producing such original engravings as A Spring Morning, Spring in the Meadows, The Mountain Stream, and The Cornfield for a poem by Mary Howitt appropriately entitled "The Cornfield" in an 1862 publication of the Junior Etching Club, Passages from Modern English Poets (London: Day and Son). Despite the fact that the wealthy haberdasher was hardly a professional artist, Lewis regularly exhibited both landscapes and portraits at such London venues as the Royal Academy, the British Institution, the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery, from the age of twenty-two until his sixty-eighth year. Although he had established a reputation as a painter in oils and watercolours, Lewis was also very active as an etcher during the early 1860's, and therefore would have been both a critical and appreciative consumer of Walker's engravings on behalf of his Moray Minstrels.
- Invitation Card for the Moray Minstrels (Winter 1866)
- Invitation Card for Mr. Arthur Lewis (January 1867)
- Invitation Card for the Moray Minstrels (Winter 1871)
"Box and Cox." Moray Minstrels, 1865. Online version available from Wikipedia. Web. 13 July 2018.
Lewis, Arthur James. "The Cornfield." Art of the Print. Online version available from Greg & Connie Peters, artoftheprint.com. Web. 13 July 2018.
Marks, John George. Life and Letters of Frederick Walker, A. R. A.. London and New York: Macmillan, 1896.
Phillips, Claude. Invitation Card by Walker. Frederick Walker and His Works. London: Seeley & Co., 1905 [re-issue of the 1894 edition], facing page 38.
Walker, Frederick. "The Moray Minstrels." Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1865 . Online version available from Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. 18 June 2018.
Last modified 28 July 2018