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29 February 2008

Men in kilts 2: Madeleine Sinclair, performer

Arthur Munby reports in his diary for 23 July 1862:
'Coming thence along Oxford Street, I saw before me, striding along in company with an Italian organ-grinder, a tall young man in full Highland costume; wearing a Glengarry bonnet, a scarlet jacket, a sporran and a tartan kilt and stockings, his legs bare from the knee to the calf.'
Having met this person previously, Munby recognized that it was Madeleine Sinclair. The crowd that gathered to watch the highland dance were a bit confused:
'For no one could make out whether she was a man or a woman. Her hair and the set of her hips indeed were feminine; but her hard weather-stained face, her large bony hands, and her tall strong figure, became her male dress so well that opinions about equally divided as to her sex. "It's a man!" said one, confidently: "I believe that it's a woman", another doubtfully replied. One man boldly exclaimed "Of course it's a man; anybody can see that!" I gave her a sixpence when she came round with her tambourine; and she told me she had been in Paris for five months for pleasure, and was now living on Saffron Hill, and dancing in the streets every day, always wearing her male clothes.'

  • Derek Hudson. Munby, Man of Two Worlds: the Life and Diaries of Arthur J. Munby, 1828-1910. Abacus 1974: 131.

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