Music sheet cover
'I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark'
Printed by Francis, Day and Hunter, composed by Egbert Van Alstyne
Early 20th century
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Hetty King was a male impersonator who worked in music hall in the early 20th century. Male impersonators like King and principal boys' in pantomime who looked entirely feminine. This music sheet, dedicated to Hetty King and featuring a photograph of her, is for a piano solo of a two-step, a ballroom dance. It is based on the music hall song 'I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark' that played on the discrepancy between appearance and reality. The young man tells his new wife that he doesn't come home till dawn because he is afraid of the dark (which we don't believe), but there is an extra edge to the joke because the young man on the stage is really a woman. Hetty was best known for her songs 'All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor' and 'Piccadilly'. She continued working as a singer until she was in her 80s.