Lionel Monckton (1862-1924)
One of the most successful popular melody writers of the Victorian era.
Lionel Monckton began his career as a lawyer, while working part-time as a songwriter and music critic. After placing his first song in a professional production in 1891, he concentrated on composing and went on to achieve great success.
Lionel was the son of Sir John Braddick Monckton, the Town Clerk of London, and Lady Maria Monckton, an ‘enthusiastic amateur actress’. He studied law at Oxford University, while acting with and writing music for the university’s Dramatic Society. He was 29 before he could make his living at composing.
He soon became the regular songwriter for the musical comedies performed at London’s Gaiety Theatre, and for romantic musicals at Daly’s Theatre. In 1902, Lionel married Yorkshire-born actress and singer Gertie Millar. She was to become one of the best known, and most photographed, actresses of the era. Lionel wrote many songs for her, and she performed in many of his shows.
Lionel’s greatest success was his score for The Arcadians in 1909, which is considered the classic musical of the Edwardian period. He also wrote the music for The Quaker Girl the following year, starring Gertie Millar, which was also a very popular. However, when American dance music became fashionable in the wake of the First World War, Lionel resisted adapting his writing style and gave up composing. However, his songs and music remained popular for decades after his death in 1924.