Dame Hilda Tablet is a fictitious "twelve-tone composeress" created by Henry Reed in a series of radio comedy plays for the British Broadcasting Corporation's Third Programme. Dame Hilda is the inventor of musique concrète renforcée (literally, "reinforced, concrete music"), and the composer of the all-female opera Emily Butter set in a department store.

She first appeared in the play A Very Great Man Indeed where the central character and narrator is the scholar, Herbert Reeve, played by Hugh Burden. Reeve plans to write a biography of the novelist Richard Shewin, and interviews various friends and relatives of the deceased author.

Reed became intrigued by the character of Dame Hilda and subsequently wrote a sequel The Private Life of Hilda Tablet in which Reeve is bullied into undertaking the biography in "not more than twelve volumes" of Dame Hilda. Five further episodes followed. Hilda Tablet was played by Mary O'Farrell.

The principal models for Dame Hilda were Dame Ethel Smyth (from whom Hilda took her lesbianism and rural heartiness together with the endlessness of her proposed memoirs), and Elisabeth Lutyens, with whom Reed was acquainted, from whom Hilda took her interest in the macabre and obsession with architecture.

The plays Edit

Cast Edit

And included (among others): Denis Quilley, Leonard Sachs, Michael Flanders, Norman Shelley and Rose Hill.

Hilda's music, and the pop-songs of Owen Shewin, were created for the series by Donald Swann.

All seven plays were produced by Douglas Cleverdon.

Books Edit

Hilda Tablet and Others, BBC Books, London, 1971 (Contains the scripts of A Very Great Man Indeed; The Private Life Of Hilda Tablet; A Hedge Backwards; The Primal Scene As It Were...)

Quotes Edit

  • "By all means throw your voice at the note, but whatever you do, for God's sake miss it!" - Hilda to a singer of one of her compositions.

External links Edit


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