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date: 18 September 2020

Flexmore, Richardfree

(1824–1860)
  • G. C. Boase
  • , revised by Brenda Assael

Flexmore, Richard (1824–1860), clown, whose real name was Richard Flexmore Geatter, was born on 15 September 1824, at Kennington, London, the son of Richard Flexmore Geatter (d. in or before 1849), a comic dancer, and his wife, Ann (1781–1869). He commenced his theatrical career in 1832 when he danced at the Victoria Theatre, and later became a grotesque clown. Between 1844 and 1845 he appeared at such venues as the Grecian Saloon and the Olympic Theatre. He was then engaged by the Princess's Theatre, where he remained for several seasons. On 28 July 1849, at St Mary's Church, Lambeth, he married Francisca Christophosa, the daughter of Jean Baptiste Auriol, the famous French clown. He acted with his wife in several European cities before appearing at the Strand and the Adelphi, and by 1860 had graduated to Covent Garden and Drury Lane. As a clown, he made his mark by introducing the costume with tights and short frilled trunks that became the standard outfit used by his successors. He was also noted for his imitations of leading dancers of the day, such as Perrot, Carlotta, Grisi, Taglioni, Cerito, and others. Although chiefly renowned as a dancing clown, he could, when required, take the part of clown à la Grimaldi, signifying his versatility within the profession. One observer described him, among other things, as 'agile, humorous and quick at the innovation' (Adams, 525).

Flexmore died on 20 August 1860 at his home, 66 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth, at the age of thirty-four of consumption 'brought on by the violent exertion he underwent in his professional duties' (The Era, 26 Aug 1860, 10). Accordingly, 'his physical strength and activity were remarkable and he so severely taxed his powers to obtain the plaudits of the public that he may be truly said to have purchased his popularity at the cost of his life'. He was buried at Kensal Green cemetery on 27 August. Since Flexmore had left 'little or nothing behind', a fund for his family was proposed among members of the profession. However, his wife 'beg[ged] to say that no such thing was sanctioned … Happily I have no need of any assistance at present. As regards, my mother-in-law, I have settled an allowance that will keep her comfortably' (The Era, 2 Sept 1860, 10). She married a cousin, and died in Paris in 1862. After Flexmore's death, Harry Payne took over the role of principal clown at Covent Garden.

Sources

Likenesses

  • C. Baugniet, double portrait, lithograph, 1848 (with Mlle Auriol), BM
  • C. N. G., lithograph, Harvard TC
W. D. Adams, , 1: (1904); 2: (1956) [vol. 2 microfilm only]
British Museum, London
Harvard theatre collection, Harvard University, Nathan Marsh Pusey Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts
F. Boase, , 6 vols. (privately printed, Truro, 1892–1921); repr. (1965)