chapter  1
40 Pages

Chaplin’s England

ByRichard Carr

Hanwell was the institution through which Charlie Chaplin most directly felt the oppressive reach of government. The younger Chaplin's geographic hinterland would be South London, and much of this would indeed appear, as in Winston Churchill's account, rather Dickensian. The most obvious instance of the societal division came on 30 May 1896, when Chaplin and Sydney were admitted to Newington Workhouse. Frederick Horner had been elected during the Khaki election of 1900 – when the Conservatives won a strong parliamentary majority on the back of the type of Boer War jingoism that Chaplin himself had seen after the relief of Mafeking. In any case, politics could wait for now because his performing career was about to take off. Saintsbury established Chaplin as a professional actor, but he did not make him a star. As such, even in a book concerning Chaplin's politics it would be remiss to leave out two decisive personal connections: Fred Karno and Hetty Kelly.