“Fortune has treated me very kindly.” That is the cheery tone in which Mr Albert Chevalier summarises his life experiences up to date. He does so in one of the most readable volumes of autobiography which it has been one’s good fortune to handle lately. Before I Forget it is called, and, taking a lead from the title, let it not be forgotten at the outset that the price is sixteen shillings and the publisher Mr. T. Fisher Unwin. The work has come as somewhat of a surprise, for albeit Mr. Chevalier has had a very full life, he seems to all of us who are familiar with his admirable entertainments, still a man in the full sunshine of youth. And so one counts a man still in his forty-first year, as is here the enviable case.
Mr Chevalier counts himself kindly treated, but it would have been strange had he not won fortune’s favours. Indomitable pluck and untiring energy have been added to indisputable genius to enable him to make success his own. It has not been all smooth sailing. He tells of two biter blows he sustained in the course of his career which might have staggered a less resolute man. It was fairly early in his career that he dropped ten thousands pounds – was it in the attempt to run the Trocadero as a music hall?
A cheap way out of the difficulty might has been for him to go bankrupt, as he says he could have done. But Mr. Chevalier is not made of such frail material. “I worked for and paid off every farthing.” He says. Afterwards he had wretched fortune with a play he wrote and produced. He had had the highest hopes as to its success, but under circumstances peculiarly unfortunate it turned out the biggest disappointment of his life.
Still after all Mr. Chevalier says with Hazlitt, :It is a bright story he tells, from the days when as a tony boy he stored suburbia with his recitations and songs, to the days when he became a star turn on the Halls. Mr Chevalier is frankly grateful for his experience of music-hall life, and makes acknowledgement of the pecuniary profit he derived. But he does not like the style of entertainment there. Syndicate and music hall managers will not find this chapter very palatable, however strong may be their answer. But all will recognise the force of the assertion that an artistes is largely at the mercy of the curiously constituted audience of a music hall.
M. Chevalier’s American experiences are not the least diverting part of the book. Of course he was “lionised” and of course his life was made miserable by the persecutions of pushful Yankee journalists of both sexes. One does not know which to wonder at the more, the impudence of the man who knocked him up in the middle of the night and insisted upon then and there writing a song for a New York paper, or Mr. Chevalier’s complaisancy in complying.
From THE BLACK AND WHITE December 7th 1901.