»  Marriott Edgar's "The Lion and Albert"

 

The Lion and Albert

by Marriott Edgar, 1880-1951

 

•  Background

This is the best-known of many monologues Marriott Edgar wrote for stage actor Stanley Holloway (Eliza Doolittle's father in the 1964 movie of My Fair Lady). It seems to have been written in 1932, when Edgar was 52 years old.

Stanley Holloway's reading of the poem was a great favorite in mid-20th century England. It turned up regularly on radio request programs like Family Favorites. We early-boomer kids loved it for its matter-of-fact grisliness. Its appeal to adults probably lay in its evocation of traditional English sang-froid and misopedia.

Marriott Edgar's interesting connection to thriller writer Edgar Wallace is explained in his Wikipedia page. Everybody, including the author of that page, assumes that the connection inspired the name of the lion.

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•  Play the reading

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•  Text of the poem

There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
    That's noted for fresh-air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
    Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was young Albert,
    All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle,
    The finest that Woolworth's could sell.

They didn't think much to the Ocean:
    The waves, they was fiddlin' and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
    Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.

So, seeking for further amusement,
    They paid and went into the Zoo,
Where they'd lions and tigers and camels,
    And old ale and sandwiches too.

There was one great big Lion called Wallace;
    His nose were all covered with scars —
He lay in a somnolent posture
    With the side of his face on the bars.

Now Albert had heard about Lions,
    How they was ferocious and wild —
To see Wallace lying so peaceful,
    Well, it didn't seem right to the child.

So straightway the brave little feller,
    Not showing a morsel of fear,
Took his stick with its 'orse's 'ead 'andle
    And pushed it in Wallace's ear.

You could see that the Lion didn't like it,
    For giving a kind of a roll,
He pulled Albert inside the cage with 'im,
    And swallowed the little lad 'ole.

Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence,
    And didn't know what to do next,
Said, "Mother! Yon Lion's 'et Albert,"
    And Mother said "Well, I am vexed!"

Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom —
    Quite rightly, when all's said and done —
Complained to the Animal Keeper
    That the Lion had eaten their son.

The keeper was quite nice about it;
    He said "What a nasty mishap.
Are you sure that it's your boy he's eaten?"
    Pa said "Am I sure? There's his cap!"

The manager had to be sent for.
    He came and he said "What's to do?"
Pa said "Yon Lion's 'et Albert,
    And 'im in his Sunday clothes, too."

Then Mother said, "Right's right, young feller;
    I think it's a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert,
    And after we've paid to come in!"

The manager wanted no trouble,
    He took out his purse right away,
Saying "How much to settle the matter?"
    And Pa said "What do you usually pay?"

But Mother had turned a bit awkward
    When she thought where her Albert had gone.
She said "No! someone's got to be summonsed" —
    So that was decided upon.

Then off they went to the P'lice Station,
    In front of the Magistrate chap;
They told 'im what happened to Albert,
    And proved it by showing his cap.

The Magistrate gave his opinion
    That no one was really to blame
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
    Would have further sons to their name.

At that Mother got proper blazing,
    "And thank you, sir, kindly," said she.
"What, waste all our lives raising children
    To feed ruddy Lions? Not me!"