louis louis louis

Louis Jullien was a French conductor and impresario who popularised promenade concerts in England through the 1840s and 1850s.

Louis Jullien

On entering the theatre, he would mount a red dais and swivel round so that his audience, especially the female members, could see how magnificent he looked. His glossy black moustache was described as ‘a startling novelty’ and he was renowned for waiting until he was on stage to don his conductor’s gloves which a servant presented to him on a velvet cushion.


When conducting Beethoven, he used a jewelled baton and when the funeral march movement of the Eroica Symphony was played, he changed his white kid gloves for black ones.

Near him on stage was a throne of gilt and red velvet. At the end of a piece (which he would conduct facing the audience instead of the orchestra), he would collapse dramatically upon it to demonstrate the emotional and physical effort he went to.

Russian State Throne

Altogether Louis had 36 Christian names including two Thomases and one Thomas-Thomas, as his godparents consisted of an entire orchestra, the members of which all claimed the privilege of passing on their names at the christening.


This excerpt published in a British magazine in 1880 paints a vivid picture of his personality

“In the year 1847, the management of the Drury Lane theater of London was assumed by a very eccentric and grotesque creature. It would be unfair to dismiss him as a mere charlatan;however empirical his proceedings, he was his own chief dupe. He was crazily vain, disorderly,tawdry and vulgar but he was humane; he was ingenious after a fashion; he was enterprising beyond all reasonable bounds; he possessed much natural wit; and he was animated by an enthusiasm unquestionably genuine, for all its comical and crackbrained modes of expression.

He possessed a certain instinct for new combinations of sound and delighted in orchestral uproar of a prodigious sort. He had a garden-roller dragged over sheets of iron to simulate the roar of artillery; pans of red fire were lighted at intervals so that while the sense of hearing was assailed by the strangest clangor and hubbub, the eyes and nose might be no less amazed by the flash and glare and pungent fumes of nitrate of strontium”

Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 7:04 am  Comments (36)  
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  1. So basically, he was the spiritual precursor to Lady Gaga?

    • Is her moustache as impressive as his?

      • If I could have a moustache as impressive as that, I might consider growing one.

      • I’m so impressed with Lady Gaga. Go the sassy gals!

  2. The colour of one’s gloves is very important when conducting and orchestra and collapsing theatrically before audiences.

  3. These 36 Christian names….was someone in the orchestra not sure who the father was? Good job he wasn’t borne at the headquarters of the 5th Light Infantry!

    • My father had 8 christian names – and I thought THAT was excessive…..

  4. You find the most delightful eccentrics, Nursemyra!

    • Eccentrics are my favourite people 😉

  5. he was the Liberace, or Elton John, of his time…

    [off to make strontium nitrate to mess with the dog]

    • did you watch the video to the end daisyfae? It has a funny little “fail”

      • “If it moves it’s biology, if it smells it’s chemistry, if it doesn’t work it’s physics”. So that fail illustrates the unity of 2/3 of science.

        Nice work nurse, nerds everywhere salute you.

  6. He sounds like he was slightly off his rocker but extremely entertaining.
    The two often go hand in hand, don’t they?

  7. To think he would be considered wildly avant garde now. He could be part of STOMP! with his artillery impression 😉 I love eccentrics too. When do you come over?
    I Loved Split Enz (in reply to your comment) and would have killed to have them over at my party!! In the end it was Elton John’s band members who came and drank tea after the concert in Brisbane around 2am… Amazing the coincidences!!

    • Elton John’s band? That’s a coup. I once went to a party at the same time that Rod Stewart was doing his “Blondes Have More Fun” tour. Rod walked in with Belinda Green on his arm and the dj started playing “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”.

      I don’t think Rod was drinking tea that night, though he should have been. He seemed to have quite a problem with a runny nose 😉

  8. Now if only I could my eccentricities to pay me as well as Louie’s… perhaps it is because I can’t grow outrageous facial hair or afford a throne.

  9. …he would collapse dramatically upon it to demonstrate the emotional and physical effort he went to.

    That’s the same act that made James Brown famous! Is NOTHING original?! Shocking.

  10. good for louis! Sounds like a slightly, only slightly, overstated Liberace

  11. Ach the combination of a monstrous talent with a monstrous ego… How often do we see those going kid glove in kid glove

  12. Nursemyra, I marvel at the research you must do to uncover these eccentrics. Nice writing.

    • Thanks Tammy. The research takes me forever so it’s nice to have it acknowledged.

  13. ‘Louis the fly, I’m Louis the fly, straight from rubbish tips to you. / Spreading disease with the greatest of ease. Straight from rubbish tips to you, / I’m bad and mean and mighty unclean! / Afraid of no one! . . but the man with the can of evil aerosol poison!/ Hate that evil aerosol poison!/One spray and Louis the fly, apple of his old mother’s eye, was Louis, poor dead Louis, Louis the fly, a victim of that evil aerosol poison. / That evil aerosol poison /’

  14. Science Rules!

  15. Outstanding post, Nurse. Rock and roll showmanship has very deep roots, eh.

  16. I’ve loved the eccentricities of conductors ever since Elaine dated one in Seinfeld. It was during that time that I knew I needed to rock a lambs wool overcoat and white, cashmere scarf at some point in my life. I don’t care if it’s in style or not.

    • Cashmere never goes out of style

  17. My favourite conductor was Sir Thomas Beecham. He once said to a cellist “Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands – and all you can do is scratch it.”

    I’m off to play with some strontium in the shed.

    • I’ve heard that attributed to Pablo Casals, but Beecham definitely described the sound of the harpsichord as “two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.”

  18. Mad dogs and Englishmen, yet more proof that they are hand in glove with insanity itself.

    Love the staches!

  19. “On entering the theatre, he would mount a red dais and swivel round so that his audience, especially the female members, could see how magnificent he looked.”

    When I do this, everyone laughs. Or tells me to sit down.

    “He was crazily vain, disorderly,tawdry and vulgar”

    Sounds like a software developer.

  20. Loving the madness of those mussies but can’t imagine being intimate with one… but there again?? 😉

  21. i guess everyone likes a good show.
    a moustache? perhaps less so.

  22. I’d love to do the experiment on the video but would likely burn myself.

    I want a throne to collapse onto like he did.

  23. re the video: i’ll likely be needing my triple beam for this!

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