Monday, March 25, 2019

Sivori Levey And His Masks

Going through The English Catalogue of Books 1919 from Z towards A, I was looking out for obscure and interesting-sounding books, when I discovered several listed for Sivori Levey, a songwriter, playwright, entertainer, poet, Shakespeare enthusiast and prolific self-publisher.

From his address at 6, Roehampton Lane, Putney Heath, London SW15, he issued around 80 titles under various personal imprints. A few were also published by commercial publishers, such as series of songs from Chappell & Co in 1913. Most of his work is light verse written with jaunty verve, or comic songs on popular themes.

There are notes about him on two war memorial websites, and brief allusions elsewhere. He was born in Steyning, Sussex in 1879 to Richard and Emma Levey (nee Raymond). His full name was Sivori Antonio Joachim Levey.

In the First World War, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and served on the Western Front. A big jolly man who composed comic and cheery songs for his men at the front, he lost a leg at Passchendaele, and undaunted later wrote, as “A Wounded Warrior”, The Story of a Wooden Leg, December 1918.

His work ranged from the frivolous and fey to serious interpretations of Shakespeare. For example, in 1918 he published The Fairie Boat, and Other Verses Written in the Pixie Parlour. On 23 April 1919 he gave what was described as “his 20th Poetry Music Recital” at the Steinway Hall, “A Special Reading, with music, of the DRAMA reconstructed by Gerald Massey of SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS.”

In July 1919, he published Jazzers’ Joy! Song Souvenirs. In 1921 he toured a striking solo performance of Shakespeare characters using only masks, together with songs from the plays with his own piano music. The masks were made by a friend, Maie Hoey.

Sivori Levey died following the amputation of his remaining leg as a result of complications from his wartime injuries, in 1924.

The checklist below, which may be the first compiled of his works (and is certain to be incomplete) is a tribute to the dauntless creativity of a man who clearly enjoyed writing, singing and performing, and was determined to offer his work to others. The many publications cover both topical themes and timeless classics. Very few seem to have survived and they may have only been issued in fairly small numbers. But that does not seem to have discouraged Sivori Levey’s prolific and varied output.

A Checklist of Sivori Levey’s Publications

Jane Shore written by Siv Levey and F.V. St. Clair ; composed by F.V. St. Clair (Francis, Day & Hunter c1899)
Immortality: The Creation of Woman; and Other Legendary Lines in Vivacious Verse (1908)
Parted: Dramatic Poem with Music, for reciter and singer (1908)
Popular Recitations with Musical Accompaniment [for Pianoforte]. 1. The Brook. - Tennyson. - 2. All the World's a Stage. - Shakespeare. - 3. Sweet Music. - Shakespeare. - 4. Le Corbeau et le Renard. - La Fontaine. (Metzler & Co, 1908)
Alcyone, Fate, Death or Life, and The Silver Flute: Rhymes (1909)
The Angels of the Heavens (1909)
The Conquest of the Air (E T Heron, 1909)
Plays (E T Heron & Co, 1909)
The Drummer Boy, A Tragedy, Founded on An Old Scottish Legend (1910)
The Empires of the Earth: A History of the World in Summary (1910)
Love in the Forest, A Fancy (1910)
The Student: A Masque (1910)
The Wedding Party: A Scene (1910)
'The Little Blue Flower', and Other Simple Thoughts in Rhyme (1911)
Sacred Poems: Legends of The Childhood of Christ (1911)
‘A Smile’, ‘Don’t Worry’ & Other Verses (1911)
Daddy and Babsy. Song, words and music by . . . (Chappell & Co, 1913)
He Met Her On the Stairs; Song, words and music by . . . . (Chappell & Co, 1913)
His Little Teddy Bear, Song, words and music by . . . . (Chappell & Co, 1913)
The Salvation of Satan & Other Impressions (1913)
Britishers! And Other Songs of the War (1914)
Cornish Pasty: Lines in Verse Written at Fowey (1917)
Flanders to Fowey: "Ypres" and "Après"; Verses of Active Service, Hospital, and Convalescence. By ‘A Wounded Warrior’. (1917)
The Air-Raiders, Twelve German Gothas (1918)
The Bird's Nest in the Church Clock (between minutes 48 and 49) (1918)
The Black Hunter : a Dramatic Ballad. The Old Cornish tale of "Treg'ayg'l the Wicked" by John Penwarne, edited by Sivori Levey (1918)
The Boy and His Angel by Robert Browning, Arranged for Stage Representation in Costume (1918)
Cornwall in general and Fowey in particular : selections in verse from my Cornish note book (1918)
Egg Days (1918)
The Faerie Boat & Other Verses Written in the Pixie Parlour (1918)
The Fairy Prince: ‘Tis Love that I Love (1918)
Forty-Seven Thousand! The Black Book (1918)
The Fourth of July (Inter-dependence day, London, 1918) (1918)
H.M.S. "Vindictive" (The Raid on the Mole) : a Story of the Old Nelson Touch (1918)
Ils ne Passeront Pas (They Shall Not Pass) (1918)
Lost Love: The Boyhood of The Pied Piper (1918)
"My son" and "The Old Saw Mill" (Priceless old thing): the Words of Two New Songs (1918)
Nana, The Fruit Girl, The Love Story of My Life, Song (1918)
Nennette and Rintintin (Paris, 1918): dedicated to the American Red Cross (1918)
Penny Postage, The Post We Always Leaned On (1918)
Radadou, The Baby (1918)
Ready Money Cove, & Way Back o' Beyond: Verses (1918)
Roehampton Rhymes: Selections from a Dover House Revue, etc.(1918)
The Rose of France (July 14th, 1918) (1918)
The Second Thousand Million! National War Bonds. An up-to-date patriotic recitation (1918)
Six Songs; Words and Music (1918)
Songlin’ Series: Words and Music (1918)
The Storie of Foye, or, Rather Some of It, in verse.(1918)
Story of a Wooden Leg (1918)
When the Sammies Marched Through London (May 11th, 1918) (1918)
The Words of Two Beautiful Ballads, written and composed by . . . (1918)
Bible Children: Word-Pictures in Song-Verse. (Pilgrimage poems) (1919)
Comfort (1919)
The Fountain Reciter: Pleasant and Playful Selections in Verse. (1919)
A "Foyen" picture book. By ‘A Wounded Warrior’ (1919)
Guinivere and Arthur, Adapted from Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' (1919)
Jazzers’ Joy! Song Souvenirs (1919)
Mahmud the Sultan, Adapted from Shelley's ‘Hellas’(1919)
The 'Mummie' Reciter. Cheer-o! And Other Selections [written by S.A.J. Levey] from the Repertoire of A.A. Levey (1919)
Peter! ... Peter Pan! (the Boy Who Won't Grow Up): A Song for the Family Circle (1919)
The Pilgrimage Reciter, Legendary Lines in Rhyme for Recitations (1919)
Shakespeare in London, 1919 : an incomplete but helpful record to Shakespearean activities-literary, dramatic and musical, etc. With On the Threshold, 1919. Companion volume to “Shakespeare in London, 1919.”). (Both 1919)
Sunshine and Shadow (1919)
The Two Knights, Adapted from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: Dramatised as a Pageant Play for Costume Representation (1919)
Virginel, An Ancient Historical Drama, Reconstructed (1919)
"Feramorz", Adapted from Tom Moore's "Lalla Rookh" (1920)
Longfellow's ‘Hiawatha’, Dramatised for Costume Presentation (1920)
A Merry Masque of the Months: a Calendar of Ancient Rome (1920)
A 'Minerva' comment: an indication of how to produce Shakespeare's 'comedy' Twelfe night, or, What you will and why (1920)
A "Minerva" comment as a "Mayflower" Tercentenary Celebration Contribution on Shake-speares Anglo-American Mystery-Morality play The Tempest: what led up to it, and what followed. 1623-1923 First folio tercentenary (1920)
A Play entitled "Ozymandias king of kings". Portrayed for Costume Representation (1920)
The Roehampton Reciter: Dramatic and Humorous selections (1920)
The Ruby in the Wine: A Persian Allegory of old Omar Khayyam and his friends, being Fitzgerald's 'Omar Khayyam' Dramatised for Costume Presentation (1920)
The Tempest : What Led Up to it, and What Followed (1920)
The New Study of Shakespeare (1921)
Sir Gareth's Quest, Adapted from Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' and Arranged for Costume Representation (1921)
Three short plays. I. Dagobert the jester ... II. Radezka ... III. The Enchanted Garden, Adapted and Arranged (1921)
The Bell-ario, a Series of Shakespeare’s Most Beautiful Songs, Arranged by . . . (The Ludo Press, 1922)
Dream Flowers, Being the Version of Aarak: Verses (1922)
Ivory Leaves: a Medium of Expression for the New Intensive Study of Shakespeare (1922)
Melody-Harmony, A Re-Study of the Shakespeare Play Songs, No 1, It Was a Lover and His Lass (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
The Merchant of Venice: A Mystery Play (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
Old Pierrot: written and composed by . . . (Reynolds & Co, 1922)
Shakespeare's Morality Play, The Comedy of Errors (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
Shakespeare's Wonderful Women : a 1923 Translation-Dictionary (The Pilgrimage, 1922)
After 300 Years (1623-1923) (Ludo Press, 1923)
King Macbeth (1623-1923) : a Shakespearean morality play, founded and modelled on Greek tragedy and Roman comedy generally, and medieval mystery and morality plays particularly: a study (Ludo Press, 1923)
The Elemental Drama: A Re-Study of the Shakespeare Plays (1924)


All issued by the author unless stated. His private press at Putney Heath is variously called Fountain Publishing, The Roehampton Press or Sivori Levy Publications, or sometimes catalogued as ‘privately printed’. The Ludo Press and The Pilgrimage are probably also the author’s imprints. The author is given as ‘S Levey’ or ‘Sivori Levey’ unless stated. The date of many of those attributed to 1918 has been assumed by library cataloguers: 1919 is also possible.


100 First World War Stories. Cornish Collections Illuminating the First World War (blog). ‘Sivori Levy (1879-1924)—Songwriter and Amputee’. Short biographical note.
Lewis-Stempel, John. Six Weeks: The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War. Quotes from SL’s poem ‘The Road That Brought Me to Roehampton’.
London, Lucy. ‘Sivori Levey (1879 – 1924) – British Author, Composer, Actor, Pianist, Poet, Lyricist, Teacher and Soldier’ on Forgotten Poets of the First World War blog. Posted 16 January 2016. Biographical note. Notes that “in the early 1900s the family lived in Oxford and Cambridge Mansions in Marylebone, London and Sivori was apparently a Civil Servant. Sivori’s elder sister Adeline was a singer.”
MacDonald, Lyn. They Called it Passchendaele: The Story of the Battle of Ypres [etc] With a portrait of SL.
Spitalfields Life (blog).‘East End Entertainers of 1922'. Posted January 23, 2015. Illustrates poster for ‘Sivori Levey And his Masks’

Mark Valentine

1 comment:

  1. I don't know whether to marvel or weep--what an astonishing amount of work, now all but forgotten, and how sad Levey's end in 1924. At least now, for as long as Wormwoodiana floats around the digital universe, he will have some attention and remembrance paid to him.--md