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George Leybourne, one of the first lions comiques, on a sheet music cover by Alfred Concanen
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The lion comique was a type of popular entertainer in the Victorian music halls, a parody of upper-class toffs or “swells” made popular by Alfred Vance and G. H. MacDermott, among others. They were artistes whose stage appearance, resplendent in evening dress (generally white tie), contrasted with the cloth-cap image of most of their music-hall contemporaries.

The songs the lions comiques sang were “hymns of praise to the virtues of idleness, womanising and drinking”,[1] perhaps the most well known of which is George Leybourne’s “Champagne Charlie”. The lion comique deliberately distorted social reality for amusement and escapism.[2]

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Bibliography


Kift, D., & Kift, R. (1996). The Victorian Music Hall: Culture, Class and Conflict. Cambridge University Press.
Vicinus, M. (1975). Industrial Muse: Study of Nineteenth Century British Working-class Literature (1st ed.). Croom Helm.