While researching the photographer Louis Saul Langfier (see previous post) I came across his wife, theatre artiste Pearl Lichtheim. They married in London, 1903. Pearl’s own story is so fascinating that I decided to write this post, and bought the postcard shown above. I had already encountered the same portrait in a 1905 publication (ref 1):
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Born 1882, she was known on stage as Pearl Lyndon. An earlier publication shows Miss Lyndon as “San Toy” in a theatre production of the same name (ref 2):
Image © Illustrated London News Group
Given her successful career and angelic images, it was surprising then to find a later entry in the Fife Criminal Records, dated 1924:
Fife Criminal Register Photographs; Reference: A/AAX 7/3/4 (Ancestry)
It seems Pearl had lived by a variety of names (Pauline Marjory Lydon or Stevens, Madame Rosell(e), Mrs Chester, Mrs Langfier), some of which were related to a theatre school she ran for young children. She advertised frequently in the newspapers of the time as a teacher of music and dance. Another of her pseudonyms, not mentioned in the crime records, was Madame Rosario:
Image © The Stage Media Company Limited
The above advertisement (dated 1914; ref 3) gives her point of contact as husband Louis Saul Langfier, trading under the name ‘S.Langfier’ from his business address in Oxford Street, London. Intriguingly, Pearl describes herself as ‘Professor’. Really? She certainly was creative in the pursuit of her goals!
So what happened to bring about Pearl’s change in circumstances?
We begin to see evidence of a downturn in her fortunes in 1920 when according to the Illustrated Police News (ref 4), Pearl and a man by the name of Henry Charles Wall (living together) claimed to have been assaulted by their housekeeper and her son:
Image © Successor rightsholder unknown
Pearl alleged to have been thumped by Mrs Tate (the housekeeper), who attempted to strangle Pearl and ‘bit her fingers until the blood came’. Mrs Tate and her son denied everything, saying it was a ‘fabrication of lies’, calling Pearl ‘an adventuress’ and ‘a wicked woman’ who had wanted them to join her in her crooked ways ‘and keep a night club’.
Another report (ref 5) describes further accusations of assault on Henry Charles Wall and Pearl Lyndon, this time at a dance club on Maddox Street, London, by three of the club’s visitors. Pearl was apparently struck in the face, suffering broken teeth, and one of the accused was said to have ‘produced a revolver saying, “I will put an ounce of lead into you”.’
At the very least, Pearl Lyndon was mixing in dubious company, and her attachment to Henry Charles Wall suggests her husband was no longer around.
By 1922, Pearl and Henry were running a dance club in Little Denmark Street, London. Known as Merry’s, it appears to have been a target for the police, who fined Pearl for selling intoxicants without a licence (ref 6):
Image © Trinity Mirror
The extent of Pearl’s involvement in the nightlife of London’s West End becomes clearer in the newspaper reports surrounding her arrest and subsequent trial (refs 7, 8, 9, 10). No less than three of her clubs were raided by the police, with Pearl escaping most of the raids. The reports even mention that opium was being sold, although not directly by Pearl herself (ref 10). The police net was tightening, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why Pearl moved back to Scotland, since at the time of her arrest she was living in Leith (near Edinburgh).
Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd (10)
In April 1924, a trial took place in Dunfermline. Pearl’s relationship with Henry Charles Wall had soured to the extent that Wall accused her of conspiring to harm him. In her defence, Pearl claimed to have financially supported Henry for ‘about seven years’ during which time he had demanded money and ‘knocked her about’. She always forgave him because she loved him.
Henry Wall on the other hand, claimed that Pearl had harassed him after he had ‘taken up with another woman’, that she ‘followed him about the country’ and that she had hired a man (who was also convicted) to threaten him with a razor. Wall lived in fear of her since she had assaulted him on more than one occasion: ‘While he was asleep, he said, he was struck on the head with a hammer, and when he came to himself there was a gas ring close to his head with the gas turned on.‘ (ref 9)
It came down to one person’s word against another. Although the evidence was scant and confusing, it was enough to convict Pearl Lyndon to two months imprisonment. Her alleged co-conspirators (two men), who were also given short prison sentences.
Image © Successor rights holder unknown (1916; ref 11)
Following her release from prison Pearl disappeared, at least as far as the newspapers were concerned. There are hints that she remarried but I cannot confirm this. Plus, I respect her for finally shunning the limelight and wish to leave her in peace. After all, she’d had quite enough excitement for one lifetime!
Newspaper clippings/quotes/information courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry.
(1) The Tatler, 11 Jan 1905
(2) The Sketch , 22 May 1901
(3) The Stage, 14 May 1914
(4) Illustrated Police News, 5 Feb 1920
(5) Globe, 30 Jan 1920
(6) Daily Herald, 28 Feb 1922
(7) Dundee Evening Telegraph, 3 Apr 1924
(8) Dundee Evening Telegraph, 17 Apr 1924
(9) Edinburgh Evening News, 18 Apr 1924
(10) Sunday Post, 20 Apr 1924
(11) The Era, 19 Jan 1916