Vance, Alfred Glenville (DNB00)

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VANCE, ALFRED GLENVILLE (1838?–1888), actor, pantomimist, and comic singer, was born in London about 1838, and was placed in the office of a solicitor in Lincoln's Inn Fields. His name was Alfred Peck Stevens. After some efforts in the country as an actor, he accepted an engagement of fifty shillings a week at the Preston theatre, under Edmund Falconer [q. v.], to play secondary parts, including harlequin. He then went on the Northampton circuit and elsewhere, and engaged under Copeland at Liverpool, where he opened a dancing academy. He is said also to have kept a dancing and fencing school in Carlisle. Vance then took on tour an entertainment after the manner of Samuel Houghton Cowell [q. v.], visiting most country towns. A monologue entertainment, entitled ‘Touches of the Times,’ in which he presented many different characters, obtained much popularity. On the suggestion of J. J. Poole, at one time manager of the South London Music-hall, Vance adopted the ‘variety’ stage, appearing at the Metropolitan and South London music-halls. He was a poor singer but a clever dancer, and his sketches of character took a firm hold upon the public. All London rang with the words and tune of his ‘Chickaleery Cove,’ and other Cockney songs were only less popular. In 1864 he was at the London Pavilion Music-hall, and he was at various periods associated with the Strand Music-hall, on the spot now occupied by the Gaiety Theatre, and with the Canterbury Music-hall. For many years he travelled round the country with what was called Vance's Concert Company. He also played the clown at the St. James's Theatre, and under Chatterton's management appeared at other houses. Among the songs which obtained much public favour and secured him royal recognition were ‘Jolly Dogs’ and ‘Walking in the Zoo.’ He was known latterly as the ‘Great Vance.’ On Wednesday, 26 Dec. 1888, at the Sun Music-hall, Knightsbridge, when he had given two songs and had sung in the wig and robes of a judge three verses of a third, called ‘Are you Guilty?’ Vance, who suffered from heart disease, fell down at the wing, and was found to be dead, the cause being rupture of the aorta. Vance was buried at Nunhead cemetery.

[Era newspaper, 29 Dec. 1888; Times, 28 Dec. 1888; Stuart and Park's Variety Stage (1895), pp. 104–5; Scott and Howard's Life of E. L. Blanchard, 1891; Era Almanack, various years.]

J. K.