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Changing the Tune: Popular Music in the 1890s

Part of the series Fin de Siècle: the 1890s
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Ian Bradley looks at what qualified as family favourites in the last decade of the nineteenth century.

In the Easter Vacation of 1898 E.M. Forster, down from his second term at Cambridge, treated his mother and aunts to a trip to the music hall in London. He wrote an account of the experience in schoolboy Latin for his old school magazine, The Tonbridgian, recording his mother's anxious comment before the climax of the show – Albert Chevalier's rendering of 'Knocked 'em in the Old Kent Road' – 'Spero hoc non erit vulgare'. In the event, there was nothing in the Cockney songs of the Coster Laureate to shock the sensibilities of his predominantly middle-class audience. The Forster party returned to their villas in the Home Counties with a sense of relief mingled with a tinge of excitement at having ventured into the still slightly risque world of popular entertainment.

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