"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.

I always thought it meant Mr. Kite was the star performer.

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.

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.

Thank you! I never knew this.

Same here!

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.

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 .

Here is more info


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

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”?

Because John liked the sound of ‘Pablo Fanque’ better than ‘Wells’?

John was on a lot of drugs at the time.

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.

Obviously someone did that intentionally. But it is cool.

Ah! That makes sense.

I always imagined Mr Kite is actually a (sentient?) kite, which is how he performs his tricks “without a sound”. Hey, if Plasticine porters can have looking glass ties, and girls have kaleidoscope eyes, why not?

I wanna see Harry the Horse dance the waltz.

Poetic license. Though Fanque did benefits for performers in other circuses.


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.


From the poster:

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?