Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite’s Dad, 1809
More British Newspaper Archive investigations today. I was thinking of the Victorian playbill bought by John Lennon from an antiques shop, and which famously turned into the lyrics of The Beatles’ “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” from Sergeant Pepper. I’ve always liked the song, but I do like circus-style music anyway (especially if it sounds slightly evil). I’ve even got a circus tunes soundtrack album. Anyway, I was wondering if I could find a newspaper advert for the show.
I did find an advert “For the Benefit of Mr Kite”, from The Manchester Mercury in 1809. It was a show involving trampolines and jumping through a balloon of real fire, and so I thought this must be it:
But on checking Wikipedia, John Lennon’s Mr Kite was from a show in 1843. Yet here was my find, still “for the benefit of Mr Kite”, dating from a whole 34 years earlier. Hmmm.
Here’s the poster John had:
I was befuddled until I found out that the 1843 Mr (William) Kite was the son of the 1809 Mr (James) Kite. James Kite was a circus proprietor, born around 1780, and apparently also produced benefits in his favour. Whatever that means. I always idly thought that “Being for the Benefit of…” meant it was helping Mr Kite out, which obviously doesn’t make much sense seeing as he was one of the mainstays of the show. But it turns out it was a standard 19th century phrase used to advertise performances.
At the bottom of the 1809 advert is a bit saying that for that night only, the clown Mr B. Kite will be appearing too. Another member of the family evidently.
It’s interesting how both the Mr Kites were performing through the decades, and putting on very similar shows too. And both in what was Lancashire, at the time. The 1809 show was held in “Bradbury’s New Amphitheatre” which was previously Manchester’s first Theatre Royal until it lost its royal patent in 1807 and had to be renamed. The 1843 show was held in a field in Rochdale, rather than Bishopsgate as mentioned in the song.
Here’s the lyrics, rejigged only slightly from the poster:
“Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!”
For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques Fair, what a scene!
Over men and horses hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
In this way Mr. Kite will challenge the world!
The celebrated Mr. Kite
Performs his feat on Saturday at Bishopsgate
The Hendersons will dance and sing
As Mr. Kite flys through the ring, don’t be late!
Messrs. K and H assure the public
Their production will be second to none
And of course Henry The Horse dances the waltz!
The band begins at ten to six
When Mr. Kite performs his tricks without a sound
And Mr. H will demonstrate
Ten summersets he’ll undertake on solid ground
Having been some days in preparation
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill!
And the song: