The Miller and His Men

On February 2nd, 1842, the Officers of the London Garrison, Canada West, performed a Melo-Drama—Sir Isaac Pocock’s Miller and His Men:

Advertisement for "The Miller and His Men" at the Theatre Royal in London, Canada West, to be performed on 2 February 1842We chose the Garrison’s Miller for our theatrical re-enactment because we were tickled by the idea of “repeating” a show had already been brought back “by particular request”. We have no record of the first production of Miller in London, but we must presume from this advertisement that there was another, earlier London performance of Miller in 1840 or 1841.

We know from Daniel Lysons’ autobiography that when he was stationed in London he “had charge of the theatre and painted the scenes.” Our re-production of Miller and His Men includes one of Lysons’ paintings as a scene backdrop, as well as paintings by other officers stationed in the London Garrison in the 1840s, including John Herbert Caddy and Sir James Alexander.

Daniel Lysons

Lieutenant Daniel Lysons, detail from Grand Military Steeple-Chase of May 9, 1843

Alexander described Lysons as “an officer of great talent and taste.” By his own account, Lysons was “a smooth faced boy” then, and regularly took on the ladies roles. At the time, all of the female roles were played by men. Lysons apparently excelled at these. A review of one of his performances from the London Herald of February 18th, 1843, reports:

Emma Leslie (Mr. Lysons, Royals.) wore the petticoats with an ease and grace well becoming the character. Every emotion, every gesture and movement, indicated a familiarity with the peculiarities of womankind, that does not fall to the lot of most men. Had we not known that he was a man, it would have been almost impossible to have convinced us to the contrary. (p. 2, c. 6)

We know that Lysons played Ravina in Miller and His Men when his regiment (the 1st Royal Scots) performed the play in Québec, and since he was still playing female roles in 1843, there is every chance that he also played Ravina when Miller and His Men was performed in London, Canada West. As a nod to this tradition, in our production of Miller and His Men, three of roles that men played are now being played by women!


Alexander, James E. S. L’Acadie; Or, Seven Years’ Explorations in British America. London, EN: H. Colborn. 1849, p.237.

Lysons, Daniel. Early Reminiscences. London, EN: John Murray, 1896. p. 161.


9 Responses to The Miller and His Men

  1. Peter J. says:

    Just curious, the poster says the year is 1843, although February 2 was a Thursday that year (and a Wednesday in 1842). The last digit of the year and the “2” to the right are clearly different, so I take it that was a misprint?

    • Mark Tovey says:

      Hello Peter,

      The original advertisement appeared in the London Gazette, January 21, 1842, on page 2.

      In the scan above, “1842” certainly looks like “1843”. Rather than a misprint, this seems to be an issue of the contrast being too high in the photocopy.

      Your close reading is very much appreciated!


  2. Mark, can you match names to any of the other riders in this particular print? I realized recently from a caption on the full picture that David Anderson was also pictured. I’d love to know which one he was if possible!

    • Mark Tovey says:

      Hi Roxanne,

      See my comments below. Lt. Anderson, 83rd, is the one with a black and blue top directly below the full-leafed tree.

      Do you have any additional information on David Anderson?

      See also Stephen Otto’s comment below: Early Reminiscences is an excellent source if you haven’t already read it. You can find a copy in the Regional Collection at UWO.


  3. Stephen Otto says:

    See Sir Daniel Lysons, Early Reminiscences (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1896, pp. 161-63). Lysons’ good friend Joe Wyndham is on the horse climbing out of the water hazard, but no others can be identified.

    Do you know how many riders were in this race. Info needed for a caption to the picture being prepared for exhibit at Fort York, Toronto.

  4. Mark Tovey says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I don’t know how many riders were in this race in total, but the poster I have of it (reprinted for the Cuddy International Grand Prix, May 23, 1994, London, Canada, Forest City Show Jumping Tournament) has the names of a number of riders listed across the bottom. I believe I obtained this poster, or information on it, from Glen Curnoe, formerly of the London Room, since there was a sticky with his name attached to it. My notes are in square brackets. From left to right, we have:

    * LIEUT’T BURNABY, R.E. on Fanny, Pink & White. [on far left, wearing a top hat]
    * LT ROMER, 14th Reg’t on Moose, Blue & White [behind flag]
    * LT ANDERSON, 83rd Reg’t on Murat, Black & blue. [under tree]
    * LT PATTON, R.A., on Francis, Lt blue. [jumping fence]
    * LT WINDHAM, Royals, on Wildboy, Purple & black. [in water]
    * LT LYSONS, Royals, on Red Indian, Crimson & blue. [successfully jumping water]

    What’s the exhibit? Can you give us any advance information? I’d love to come and see it.


    Mark Tovey

  5. Stephen Otto says:

    Dear Mark Tovey,
    Thank you for this information. It adds to what Lysons says in his reminiscences, but conflicts with the name he gives for Wyndham’s [nb-sp.] horse: “Ugly Francis.” In any event the caption is for part of an exhibit up on a semi permanent basis in the Great Room in the Blue Barracks, FY, entitled “Off Duty: The Army Officer at Leisure in Early Canada.” I had a note this morning from Jim Burant, a friend who used to head the Pictures Section at the Library and Archives Canada, who said: “LAC owns the original pencil sketch on which this print is based, in the Alexander sketchbook, but I am not sure of the location of the presumed watercolour.”

    If you would not mind receiving gratis the quarterly newsletter of The Friends of Fort York please send me your e-mail address at the [screened] e-mail address below. I co-chair the organization.
    Stephen Otto

  6. Roxanne Lutz says:

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for the comment about Anderson in the picture. Yes I have a good amount of background information on him as he was in the 83rd regiment. I can share this info with you when I see you next.

    Stephen, this exhibit sounds great. Please let us know when it will be open so we can be sure to come and visit!

    Roxanne Lutz

    • Stephen Budge says:

      Hi Roxanne,
      I am researching the 83rd regiment during their stay in London & wondered what information you might have. I have a copy of the New Army Annual List for 1841, which has the names of some of the Officers who were there, but unfortunately is not very specific. I have also read Daniel Lyson’s Early Reminiscences. I am also interested in the masonic connections you mentioned in an interview.

      Thank you!

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