There was a time when the very name Music Hall was associated, by even the liberal-minded, with something disreputable; and there was good reason for it.
Forty years ago, the bill of fare provided at these places was such as to exclude respectable women, and consisted chiefly of songs, dialogues, etc, of a character to which the broadest sallies of the present day would be as water to wine; while in the Cider-cellars, Coal-holes, Shades, and other Caves of Harmony, such as Thackeray describes in the Newcomes, ribald and blackguard songs which would not now be tolerated in the lowest beer-shop, were received with roars of laughter and approval.
All this has long ago been changed.
Instead of going downstairs into a dark and squalid basement somewhere off the Strand, people in search of music hall amusement go upstairs into light and brightness, and all that modern art can give.
Many of the music halls well merit the appellation of Variety Theatres, by which they are coming to be universally known; the finest examples being the Alhambra, the Empire, and the Palace, renowned as much for the splendour of their decorations as for their spectacles.
No wonder they pay large dividends!
Popular taste lies in their direction, for the great bulk of Londoners prefer places where they can come in and out as they like, losing nothing but the particular “turn” they happen not to care about, where they can bring their wives or sweethearts and can sit comfortably smoking, or indulging moderately in potables, while a “Grand Programme ” of amusing varieties is reeled off for their benefit, and all at a moderate cost.
Manifestly, it is impossible to give a description of all the Variety Theatres and Music Halls in London – their number is legion – many of the latter being merely concert rooms attached to public houses.