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Old 05-09-2019, 02:39 AM
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"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"


This is, of course, a Beatles song, published on the Sergeant Pepper album. It was famously inspired by a circus advertisement from the 19th century that John saw in an antique store (a jpeg of the ad can be found here). The lyrics of the song are closely based on the advertising praise for the circus from that poster.

I wonder, though, what the "for the benefit of Mr. Kite" phrase in both song and poster is supposed to mean. It sounds like the advertised event is a charity performance, with proceeds going to the named Mr. Kite. But the general tone is that Mr. Kite is a skilled performer, not somebody dependent on others' charity. Anyone with an idea? It's been bugging me since I first heard the song.
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Old 05-09-2019, 02:54 AM
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I always thought it meant Mr. Kite was the star performer.

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 05-09-2019 at 02:55 AM.
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Old 05-09-2019, 03:17 AM
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I always thought it meant Mr. Kite was the star performer.
He probably was, but was it ever common usage to announce the star performer of an event as the one "having the benefit" from it? I genuineley don't know, asking as a non-native speaker.
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Old 05-09-2019, 03:58 AM
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He probably was, but was it ever common usage to announce the star performer of an event as the one "having the benefit" from it? I genuineley don't know, asking as a non-native speaker.
No, that's not English usage, then or now.

As noted above, Pablo Fanque regularly promoted benefits, which were literally for the financial benefit of the person named.

Here's an article about the song and its background.
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Old 05-09-2019, 03:03 AM
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I got the impression that Mr. Kite was either retiring, or had some sort of financial setback due to ill health or personal disaster.

Interesting bit of history: Pablo Fanque was Black, and one of the most successful circus impresarios of his time. He often did fundraisers the raise money for circus performers who suffered hard times.
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Old 05-09-2019, 09:42 AM
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Thank you! I never knew this.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:02 AM
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Thank you! I never knew this.
Same here!
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:04 AM
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The poster does say "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (late of the Wells circus)" so my vote is that he WAS a performer, but now either retired or passed on and the proceeds will be for his family.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:50 AM
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The poster does say "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (late of the Wells circus)" so my vote is that he WAS a performer, but now either retired or passed on and the proceeds will be for his family.
Since the song is based almost entirely on this poster, why in the song is Mr Kite "Late of Pablo Fanque's fair", when the poster clearly says he is "late of Wells circus"?
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:52 AM
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Because John liked the sound of 'Pablo Fanque' better than 'Wells'?
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:54 AM
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Also, in the song, it's the Hendersons who are late of Fanque's Fair, not Mr Kite...so who Kite used to perform for is still open.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:53 AM
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Since the song is based almost entirely on this poster, why in the song is Mr Kite "Late of Pablo Fanque's fair", when the poster clearly says he is "late of Wells circus"?
John was on a lot of drugs at the time.
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Old 05-09-2019, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
Since the song is based almost entirely on this poster, why in the song is Mr Kite "Late of Pablo Fanque's fair", when the poster clearly says he is "late of Wells circus"?
Poetic license. Though Fanque did benefits for performers in other circuses.
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Old 05-09-2019, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by xizor View Post
The poster does say "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (late of the Wells circus)" so my vote is that he WAS a performer, but now either retired or passed on and the proceeds will be for his family.
From the poster:

Quote:
Mr. Kite will, for this night only, introduce the celebrated horse, Zanthus.
So Mr. Kite is alive (perhaps retired or in a full body cast), but it's still not clear why he is being singled out as the beneficiary. Are the Hendersons performing for free?
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:16 AM
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I was at a Dickens Fair a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised to see a playbill for Mr. Kite posted in one of the alleyways. Right next to it was an advert for a performance by Professor Pepper, which I thought was a neat bit of synchronicity .
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:47 AM
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Here is more info

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Fanque

He and some of his family are buried at St Georges Fields Cemetery, which in the grounds of Leeds University

https://www.on-magazine.co.uk/yorksh...pioneer-leeds/
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:57 AM
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I was at a Dickens Fair a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised to see a playbill for Mr. Kite posted in one of the alleyways. Right next to it was an advert for a performance by Professor Pepper, which I thought was a neat bit of synchronicity .
Obviously someone did that intentionally. But it is cool.
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Old 05-09-2019, 11:06 AM
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I wanna see Harry the Horse dance the waltz.
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Old 05-09-2019, 12:50 PM
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I wanna see Harry the Horse dance the waltz.
Henry.

Harry is over there in the thread about the royal baby being compared to a monkey. If you want to call him a horse, that's the place to do so.


Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 05-09-2019 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 05-09-2019, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Schnitte View Post
I wonder, though, what the "for the benefit of Mr. Kite" phrase in both song and poster is supposed to mean. It sounds like the advertised event is a charity performance, with proceeds going to the named Mr. Kite. But the general tone is that Mr. Kite is a skilled performer, not somebody dependent on others' charity. Anyone with an idea? It's been bugging me since I first heard the song.
In England at least, in the sport of cricket, it used to be that, instead of getting any sort of pension when you retire, when a player had played for 10 years, his team would designate one match as a "benefit match" where pretty much all of the proceeds would to go him as his retirement fund. I assume that circus performers didn't make that much money "back in the day," and they did something similar for them.
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Old 05-09-2019, 01:44 PM
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I couldn't read the bottom part of the poster, but a clearer version reveals that Mr. Kite will be performing on the tight rope, so not retired or disabled.

This has been an education. Somerset is an archaic spelling of somersault, which in turn is derived from the obsolete French word sombresault.
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Old 05-09-2019, 01:56 PM
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I couldn't read the bottom part of the poster, but a clearer version reveals that Mr. Kite will be performing on the tight rope, so not retired or disabled.
It could be a final performance: Kite is healthy enough to perform, but doesn't want to do a daily grind.
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Old 05-09-2019, 04:44 PM
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It could be a final performance: Kite is healthy enough to perform, but doesn't want to do a daily grind.
According to his Wikipedia article, Kite had just transferred from Wells's Circus to Fanque's. He performed for Wells in 1842 and 1843, and the date in the playbill is February 14th, 1843. He went on to perform for Fanque until 1845, so this is more likely his premiere than his finale.

That said, reading the playbill without the parentheticals and puffery, it says, "Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite and Mr. J. Henderson." I would suggest that this means Kite and Henderson are co-beneficiaries, with Kite getting the top billing because he's the new talent. (Although it's Henderson facing that hogshead of REAL FIRE.)

Now, to Schnitte's main question, about specifically what the "being for the benefit of" entails:

Ferreting through a thicket of links to antique playbills led to me another Wikipedia article explaining the practice of benefit performances during that era. It was a contractual matter; when performers signed on with an impresario, part of the deal was sometimes a stipulation that the performer would receive a set percentage of the proceeds from at least one performance per year as a bonus on top of their regular wages.

So, what we have here is an instance in which two performers had contracts with Fanque stipulating that they would receive half the proceeds of a performance as a bonus. The three came to an arrangement whereby they would have a single benefit performance with Kite and Henderson splitting the take, after which the Circus would return to its regular playbill. It no doubt simplified things for the manager while allowing Messrs. K and H an opportunity to promote the performance as a special event together in an effort to increase their bonus earnings.

Last edited by Balance; 05-09-2019 at 04:46 PM. Reason: Misplaced quotation marks.
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Old 05-09-2019, 07:15 PM
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You guys have put way more thought into this than John ever did.
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Old 05-10-2019, 12:35 PM
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You guys have put way more thought into this than John ever did.
Still, I'd rather listen to the song than a recitation of this thread.
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Old 05-09-2019, 09:46 PM
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I love the Dope.

That is all.
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Old 05-10-2019, 12:07 AM
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Benefit meaning "the profits from this event go to a person or cause" is normal UK & Commonwealth English usage.

I play in bands and have played benefits, most recently for refugees. A Benefit for Refugees is what the gig was called, and no one needs that explained to them here in Australia, it's standard vocabulary. If I say "we played a benefit" everyone knows what I mean.

I'm guessing this usage didn't make it to the USA, hence Americans and other non-English speakers not getting it.
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Old 05-10-2019, 02:37 AM
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I'm guessing this usage didn't make it to the USA, hence Americans and other non-English speakers not getting it.
It did, but it's generally used specifically for charity benefit events, not just to say that a particular performer is getting an extra cut of the box for a normal event. That's probably why some posters suggested that Mr. Kite was in some form of distress at the time. I think everyone understood that Mr. Kite was getting extra cash out of it; they were just questioning the reason.

In any event, as I posted above, the phrase carried a very specific subset of that meaning in connection with performers at the time the playbill was posted. (In fact, the practice was in use from the late 1600s to the late 1800s.)
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