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Full text of "W. S. Gilbert His Life And Letters"

^ C345tXl 66- 10071 

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W* S^ Gilbert , his life and 

letters 



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W S* Gilbert his life and 

letters 









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,,PHPLIC LIBRARY 




W. S. GILBERT 







SIR WlU I AM SCHWKHK GUBKKT 
(This photograph was signed nineteen da>s Ixtforc the chanwttist'h tkutih.) 



W. S. GILBERT 

HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



BY 

SIDNEY DARK 

AND 

ROWLAND GREY 



WITH EIGHT 1'IJJ1>!AGK I'LATKS AND 
SOME ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT 



LONDON: METHUEN & GO. LTD. 

NEW YORK 
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY 



JffttNTED IK GREAT 



FOREWORD 

MY friend, the late Henry Rowland-Brown, an inti- 
mate friend of Sir W. S. Gilbert in the later years 
of his life, had intended to write the biography 
of the author of the Bab Ballads and the Savoy libretti. The 
war and the long serious illness that finally occasioned his 
death prevented him from carrying out his intention. 
He left behind him certain memoranda, and before his 
death, he had related to his sister, Miss Rowland Grey, a 
vast amount of Gilbertiana, without which this book 
could hardly have been written. Miss Rowland Grey's 
knowledge and enthusiasm have made it possible to attempt 
the task. 

We have had most kindly and gracious help from Lady 
Gilbert, and to her and to Miss Nancy Mclntosh we are under 
a great debt of obligation, as we are to Mr. Rupert Carte 
and to the numerous ladies and gentlemen, mentioned in 
the course of the biography, who have lent us letters and have 
given us their recollections of Sir William Gilbert at various 
times of his life. We are also indebted to the Editors of the 
Cornhill Magazine and the Strand Magazine for permission to 
use certain letters that have been printed in their columns. 

S. D. 



Qlf HUJ 

6610071 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGE 

I GILBERT'S BEGINNING i 

II GILBERT AND " FUN " 9 

III GILBERT'S PROSE . 36 

IV THE FIRST PLAYS 41 

V GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 62 

VI LATER PLAYS 137 

VII GILBERT IN THE THEATRE 152 

VIII GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 166 

IX THE CROWNING YEARS .193 

X GILBERT AS A LAWYER 200 

XI GILBERT AT HOME 207 

XII GILBERT THE MAN 214 

XIII THE LAST DAY AND AFTERWARDS , . . .220 

XIV GILBERT THE ARTIST 228 

APPENDIX 241 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 261 

THE GILBERT AND SULLIVAN OPERAS * 265 

INDEX 267 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PLATES 

FACING 
PAGE 

Sir William Schwenk Gilbert . . . Frontispiece 

(From a photograph by ELLIS & WALLERY) 

Gilbert as an Officer in the Gordon Highlanders ... 42 

(From a photograph by WINDOW & GROVE) 

Gilbert in the Early Sullivan Days 62 

(From a photograph by WINDOW & GROVE) 

Gilbert's Original Design for the Prince of Monte Carlo's Dress 

for " The Grand Duke ".;.... 128 

Another of the Dramatist's Costume Drawings for " The Grand 

Duke " 134 

Gilbert as Harlequin ........ 194 

(From a photograph by ELLIOTT & FRY) 

Gilbert at Grim's Dyke ....... 208 

Sir George Frampton's Medallion on the Victoria Embankment 228 

(From a photograph by HUMPHREY JOEL) 

IN THE TEXT 

PAGES 

Gilbert's Illustrations to Fun and the Bab Ballads . . .11-23 

A Gilbert Letter 182 

Sketches in Court ........ 205 

Gilbert's Illustrations to Fun and the Bab Ballads . 241-260 



ix 



W. S. GILBERT 

HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

CHAPTER I 
GILBERT'S BEGINNING 

WILLIAM SCHWENK GILBERT was born at 
17, Southampton Street, Strand, in the house of 
his mother's doctor, on November 18, 1836. His 
second name, Schwenk, was the surname of his godmother. 
He was the only son and one of the four children of William 
Gilbert, a naval surgeon, who retired from his profession at 
the age of twenty-five on inheriting a moderate fortune. 

The Gilberts claimed descent from Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 
the Elizabethan navigator who landed at Newfoundland 
in 1583 and established the first English colony in North 
America. There are certain striking resemblances between 
the navigator and the Savoy poet. Their physical pro- 
portions were much the same. Both possessed hot tempers 
and could " shoot out their arrows with bitter words/' Both 
were capable of almost quixotic chivalry; both made mis- 
takes leading to cruel mis judgment by exasperated con- 
temporaries. It is remarkable, too, that William Schwenk 
Gilbert had the sea passion. Both Lord Charles Beresford 
and Lord Jellicoe assured him there was not a rope wrong 
aboard His Majesty's Ship Pinafore. The Bab Ballads 
are salt with sea-brine. Another and a tragic resemblance 
Sir Humphrey Gilbert's ship was wrecked off the Azores 
and he was drowned. " The general, sitting abaft with a 
1 i 



2 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

book in his hand, cried out to us in the Hind : ' We are as 
near to Heaven by sea as by land/ " The poet dramatist 
died in the water too, gallantly attempting, old man as he 
was, to rescue his friends in distress. Whether the pretty 
conceit of Elizabethan descent is genuine, or, as cavillers 
insist, mere fancy, there is certainly an odd similarity between 
the two careers. 

W. S. Gilbert's father, William Gilbert the elder, was 
born in 1804, and though the books he wrote fill nearly two 
columns of the British Museum Index, he published nothing 
until he was fifty-nine. When his father began to write, 
his son was then twenty-seven, and already known as a 
promising young author. It is suggested that it was the 
son's success that spurred his father to literary activity. " I 
think the little success which has attended my humble efforts 
certainly influenced my father/' Gilbert told Miss Edith 
Brown. " You see, my father never had an exaggerated idea 
of my abilities ; he thought that if I could write, anybody 
could, and forthwith he began to do so." William Gilbert 
the elder suffered from an unfortunate stilted literary style. 
He was a man of many prejudices, having a particular aver- 
sion to the Roman Church and to the Catholic party in the 
Church of England. 

The younger Gilbert had a deep and sincere regard for 
religion, and for good men and women of all faiths. 

In one of his books, Facia Non Verba, William Gilbert the 
elder insists that Protestant ladies are far more philan- 
thropic than Catholic nuns, for, while the religious habit has 
secured recognition, the inconspicuous Protestant has never 
been valued at her true worth. In this book there is an 
account of an Elizabeth Gilbert, a rich blind woman, who, 
moved by compassion for her poorer sisters in misfortune, 
dedicated her life to their service in a manner distinctly fore- 
shadowing the methods of the late Sir Arthur Pearson, 

William Gilbert wrote three-volume novels, which had 
quite a good circulation in their day, and which axe full of 



GILBERT'S BEGINNING 3 

fulminations against intemperance and injustice to rate- 
payers. His Memoirs of a Cynic contains one passage that 
the author's brilliant son might have written : 

" From my earliest childhood the ridiculous has thrust itself into 
every action of my life. I have been haunted through my whole 
existence by the absurd." 

The Memoirs of a Cynic is rather a tiresome book, full of 
prejudices and antagonism against things in general. It 
contains a notably brusque and very Gilbertian attack on 
the fashionable ladies' doctor " who never cures." Two of 
William Gilbert's books, The Magic Mirror and King George's 
Middy, have special interest from the fact that they were 
illustrated by his son. The illustrations have the character- 
istics of the drawings made afterwards for the Bab Ballads, 
and, with the exception of Rudyard Kipling and his father, 
we can think of no other such collaboration between father 
and son. Of the two, King George's Middy is the more in- 
teresting. 

William Gilbert, senior, had the true Gilbertian temper. 
The late Mr. William Faux, one of W. H. Smith's managers, 
used to relate that when he was a youth he was once left in 
charge of one of his firm's country branches. Gilbert stalked 
into the shop and asked for all the copies of Clara Levesque, 
one of his novels, and, to the horror of the boy, proceeded to 
tear them to pieces in a violent rage. Mr. Faux afterwards 
learned that the author had discovered that his final proofs 
had not been properly corrected. 

After their marriage, the elder Gilbert frequently called 
on his son and daughter-in-law on Sunday, when the maids 
were out. He was asked not to knock at the door, but to 
ring the bell, as the knocker could not be heard. But he 
persisted ip, knocking, and refused to ring. He would wait 
for some time, knocking and knocking, and finally go away, 
angry and offended, to be seen no more for weeks. 

While he was a small child, W. S. Gilbert travelled with 
his parents in Germany and Italy, and when he was two he 



4 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

was stolen by brigands at Naples and ransomed for twenty- 
five pounds. Two pleasant Italians stopped Gilbert's nurse 
and said that the English gentleman had sent them for the 
baby, and she handed him over. This incident was obviously 
in Gilbert's mind when he wrote The Pirates of Penzance. It 
will be remembered that Ruth, the simple-minded nurse- 
maid, was told to apprentice Frederick to a pilot, and in 
mistake she apprenticed him to a pirate : 

"Mistaking my instructions that within my brain did gyrate, 
I took and bound this promising boy apprenticed to a pirate. 
A sad mistake it was to make and doom him to a vile lot, 
I bound him to a pirate you instead of to a pilot/' 

Gilbert's pet-name as a child was Bab, and this, of course, 
is the origin of the Bab Ballads. He is said to have been a 
child of considerable beauty, and Sir David Wilkie asked to 
paint his portrait. At seven he was sent to school at Bou- 
logne, and at thirteen he was sent to the Great Baling school, 
a remarkable scholastic establishment, which numbered 
among its pupils at one time or another Charles Knight, 
Lord Lawrence and his no less famous brother Sir Henry 
Lawrence, Sir Robert Sale, Bishop Selwyn, George Alexander 
Macfarren, Thackeray, John Henry Newman, Thomas Huxley 
and his brothers, Captain Marryat, Lord Truro, Bishop West- 
macott, and Hicks Pasha. Huxley's father and Macfarren's 
father were both for a while members of the teaching staff. 
It has been impossible to discover any details of Gilbert's 
childhood. He was not one of those men who talk much 
about their early days, and, as his sole surviving sister has 
told us, it was never a family habit to keep any correspon- 
dence. He used sometimes to refer to his child affection for 
those highly coloured cardboard theatrical characters which 
Stevenson also adored, and which are still manufactured by 
Mr. Pollock, of Hackney. While he was at Baling he wrote 
plays for his schoolfellows to act, but, alas 1 the manuscripts 
have either been lost or destroyed. At school, Gilbert was 
regarded as a clever but rather lazy boy, and he once told 



GILBERTS BEGINNING 5 

Rowland-Brown : "I was not a popular boy, I believe." 
But he hated being left behind, and by the time he was six- 
teen he was head boy of the school, winning various prizes 
for verse translation of the classics. 

After leaving school he went to King's College, where 
Canon Ainger and Walter Besant were among his fellow- 
students, and his first published literary work were verses 
that appeared in the college magazine. In a fragment of 
autobiography published in the Theatre Gilbert says : 

" I was educated privately at Great Ealing and at King's College, 
intending to finish up at Oxford. But in 1855, when I was nineteen 
years old, the Crimean War was at its height, and commissions in the 
Royal Artillery were thrown open to competitive examination. So I 
gave up all idea of Oxford, took my B.A. degree at the University of 
London, and read for the examination for direct commissions, which 
was to be held at Christmas, 1856. The limit of age was twenty, and 
as at the date of examination I should have been six weeks over that 
age, I applied for and obtained from Lord Pamure, the then Secretary 
of State for War, a dispensation for this excess, and worked away with 
a will. But the war came to a rather abrupt and unexpected end, 
and no more officers being required, the examination was indefinitely 
postponed. Among the blessings of peace may be reckoned certain 
comedies, operas, farces, and extravaganzas which, if the war had lasted 
another six weeks, would in all probability never have been written. 
I had no taste for a line regiment, so I obtained, by competitive 
examination, an assistant clerkship in the Education Department of 
the Privy Council Office, in which ill-organized and ill-governed office I 
spent four uncomfortable years. Coming unexpectedly into possession 
of a capital sum of ^300, I resolved to emancipate myself from the 
detestable thraldom of this baleful office ; and on the happiest day of 
my life I sent in my resignation. With 100 I paid my call to the 
Bar (I had previously entered myself as a student at the Inner Temple), 
with another ^100 I obtained access to a conveyancer's chambers, and 
with the third 100 I furnished a set of chambers of my own, and began 
life afresh as a barrister-at-law." 

He joined the Northern Circuit in 1866, and attended the 
Old Bailey as well as various assizes and sessions on his 
circuit. The law, for which Gilbert had an intense love all 
through his life, a love obvious in so much of his writing, did 
not offer him an income, and in his first two years at the 
Bar he only earned seventy-five pounds. He practised for 



6 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

four years, averaging five clients a year. One of these clients 
was a Frenchman, and Miss Edith Brown tells an amusing 
story of his showing his appreciation of his counsel's powers 
by throwing his arms round Gilbert's neck and kissing him 
in open court. Gilbert wrote a story round his maiden brief. 
It appeared in the Cornhill of December, 1863. It began : 

" Late on a certain May morning, as I was sitting at a modest break- 
fast in my * residence chambers/ Pump Court, Temple, my attention 
was claimed "by a single knock at an outer door, common to the cham- 
bers of Felix Polter, and of myself, Horace Penditton, both barristers- 
at-law of the Inner Temple. 

" The outer door was not the only article common to Polter and 
myself. We also shared what Polter (who wrote farces) was pleased 
to term a ' property * clerk, who did nothing at all, and a ' practicable ' 
laundress, who did everything. There existed also a communion of 
interest in teacups, razors, gridirons, candlesticks, etc. ; for although 
neither of us was particularly well supplied with the necessaries of 
domestic life, each happened to possess the very articles in which the 
other was deficient. So we got on uncommonly well together, each 
regarding his friend in the light of an indispensable other self. We 
had both embraced the f higher walk ' of the legal profession, and were 
patiently waiting for the legal profession to embrace us." 

The first brief was to defend a woman prisoner- and the 
defence was not a success. 

" No sooner had the learned judge pronounced this sentence than 
the poor soul stooped down, and, taking of! a heavy boot, flung it at 
my head, as a reward for my eloquence on her behalf ; accompanying 
the assault with a torrent of invective against my abilities as a counsel, 
and my line of defence. The language in which her oration was couched 
was perfectly shocking. The boot missed me, but hit a reporter on the 
head, and to this fact I am disposed to attribute the unfavourable 
light in which my search for the defence was placed in two or three of 
the leading daily papers next morning." 

Gilbert explained his failure at the Bar by the fact that he 
was " a clumsy and inefficient speaker/' suffering from " an 
unconquerable nervousness/' which prevented him from 
doing justice to his clients. As a matter of fact, in the latter 
years of his life he was a singularly felicitous speaker* During 
part of these years of struggle Gilbert lived in a boarding- 
house at Pimlico. Among his fellow-boarders was the father 



GILBERT'S BEGINNING 7 

of C. B. Fry, the famous cricketer, who remembered Gilbert 
mainly for his propensity to practical joking. Mr. Percy 
White, the novelist, tells us : 

" Sometime in the late ' sixties/ before Lewis Fry (then engaged to 
my sister) married her, he told me of an extraordinarily amusing fellow 
named Gilbert, who was living in the same boarding-house somewhere 
in South Belgravia, then known as Pimlico. Gilbert, I remember Fry 
said, was in a Highland military regiment. He was also, like Fry, a 
clerk in the Civil Service. I cannot remember the nature of the jokes 
which Gilbert was reported to play at the expense of the denizens of 
the now never to be localized boarding-house. But dramatically to 
appear (after dinner) from the folds of the drawing-room curtains and 
surprise the ladies, then stalking Hamlet-like across the room dis- 
appearing in a tragic silence ' teeming with mystery/ was one of his 
pranks. The whole thing is a dim memory. Still, I remember that 
Fry was much impressed by his fellow-boarder's powers of really amus- 
ing ' ragging/ as it would be called in these degenerate times. Fry 
(who had a Civil Service pension) died on the Riviera at the age of 
nearly eighty." 

The Highland uniform is explained by the fact that after 
his determination not to be a professional soldier, Gilbert 
served for some years as an officer in the Militia Battalion 
of the Gordon Highlanders, and wore the kilt. Dancing the 
Highland reel was, by the way, one of his many accomplish- 
ments. 

Like many other briefless barristers, he turned to his pen 
as a means of livelihood. Gilbert himself told the story of 
his first literary effort : 

" My very first plunge took place in 1857, I think, in connection 
with the late Alfred Mellon' s Promenade Concerts. Madame Parepa- 
Rosa (at that time Mddle. Parepa), whom I had known from babyhood, 
had made a singular success at those concerts with the laughing 
song from Manon Lescaut, and she asked me to do a translation of 
the song for Alfred Mellon' s play-bill. I did it ; it was duly printed 
in the bill. I remember that I went night after night to those con- 
certs to enjoy the intense gratification of standing at the elbow of any 
promenader who might be reading rny translation, and wondering to 
myself what the promenader would say if he knew that the gifted 
creature who had written the very words he was reading was at that 
moment standing within, a yard of him. The secret satisfaction of 



8 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

knowing that I possessed the power to thrill Mm with this information 
was enough, and I preserved my incognito. 

" The thing was a laughing song, and went like this : 

"'An entertaining story, 
A fiction amatory, 

About a legal star, 

Ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! 
A legal dignitary 
Particularly wary, 

A member of the bar, 

Ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ' 

"And so on. The French original ran thus : 

"'Cest 1'histoire amour euse, 
Autant que fabuleuse, 

D'un aiicien fier-a-bras, 

Ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! 
D'un tendre commissaire, 
Que Ton disait severe, 

Et qui ne 1'etait pas, 

Ha ! ha ! ha ! ha 1 ha ! ha ! ' 

" You see the English is hi strict metrical form, yet exactly repro- 
duces the rhythm of the French. I afterwards used the same words 
in my * respectful perversion ' of Tennyson's Princess." 

Three years afterwards he was a member of the staff of 
Fun, and his first play was produced at Christmas, 1866. 
On August 6, 1867, Gilbert married Miss Lucy Blois Turner, 
the daughter of an Indian officer, at St. Mary Abbot's, Kensing- 
ton. Gilbert and his wife had known each other for some 
three years before they married. They first lived in a house 
in Eldon Road, Kensington, and a little more than a year 
afterwards Gilbert bought the lease of 8, Essex Villas, Kensing- 
ton, where they remained for about eight years. 



CHAPTER II 
GILBERT AND FUN 

IN the Theatre autobiography Gilbert says : 
" In 1861 Fun was started under the editorship of Mr. H. J. 
Byron. With much labour I turned out an article three-quarters 
of a column long, and sent it to the editor, together with a half-page 
drawing on wood. A day or two later the printer of the paper called 
upon me with Mr. Byron's compliments, and staggered me with a 
request to contribute a column of copy and a half-page drawing every 
week for the term of my natural life. I hardly knew how to treat that 
offer, for it seemed to me that into that short article I had poured all 
I knew. I was empty. I had exhausted myself. I didn't know any 
more. However, the printer encouraged me (with Mr. Byron* s com- 
pliments) and I said I would try. I did try, and I found to my surprise 
that there was a little left, and enough indeed to enable me to con- 
tribute some hundreds of columns to the periodical throughout his 
editorship, and that of his successor, poor Tom Hood ! " 

Fun at its heyday may well have been the formidable 
rival of Punch. Of its first editor, H. J. Byron, Gilbert spoke 
warmly to his friend of later days, Rowland-Brown, main- 
taining that he had been " paid, and paid well for every verse 
he ever wrote." He preserved an accountable but uncritical 
admiration for the Byron burlesques. Sometimes when he 
and Rowland-Brown were alone together at night, he would 
recite lengthy extracts to his friend from the reams of this 
jingle. It may be that gratitude invested them with sparkle 
to the disciple soon so far to surpass his master. Among the 
group of writers working for Fun were Hood, Jeff Prouse, 
Harry Leigh Brunton, Paul Gray, W, R. Rands, Tom Robert- 
son, and Clement Scott. Gilbert's passing note of regret for 
" poor Tom Hood " may be rightly held an inadequate index 

9 



io W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

to their connection. The following advertisement appeared 
in Fun of July 26, 1867 : 

" Now ready at the FUN Office, ' Robinson Crusoe or the Injun Bride 
and the Injured Wife. A burlesque by H. J. Byron, W. S. Gilbert, 
T. Hood, H. S. Leigh, Arthur Sketchley, and ' Nicholas/ performed at 
the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, on Saturday, July 5th. N.B. The 
proceeds of the sale will be added to the fund for the benefit of the 
widowed mother of the late Paul Gray." 

There is no evidence that Gilbert was ever taught drawing, 
but he was as frequent a contributor to Fun with his pencil 
as with his pen. The question as to the exact date of the 
first contribution is difficult to answer, for more reasons than 
that he frequently wrote them anonymously without even 
the "W.S.G." which for years preceded the more famous signa- 
ture of " Bab." Gilbert certainly writes in the Theatre of 
the founding of Fun in 1861 as if he had almost immediate 
association with it. Yet the tl W.G." occasionally signing 
pictures in the first volume was so different a draughtsman 
to the "W.S.G." of 1863, to make it improbable they were 
identical. Moreover, Gilbert was always tenacious of his 
second initial. In the 1863 volume there are several con- 
ventionally comic large woodcuts by Gilbert entirely unlike 
the jaunty Bab Ballads thumb-nail illustrations. In one of 
them there is the familiar gibe at faded or charmless woman- 
hood, which reappeared in the operas and for which he was 
so often attacked. A " gushing spinster " in a huge crinoline 
inquires of a heavy swell at the Crystal Palace, " Oh, Mr. 
Jones, don't you adore the antique ? " to be answered, " Oh 
ah yes in marble/ 1 In " You were sober, of course ? " 
the questioner is a typical common-law barrister of the days 
when Gilbert fell in love with law and incongruously hailed 
her away from her own dusty purlieus to fairyland. The 
drawing, " And you ask me to convict upon such evidence 
as this ? " is not lacking in cleverness. In another drawing 
two girls are looking at a new bonnet. " Well, I don't think 



GILBERT AND FUN n 

much of it," says Clara. " They wear nothing else in Paris/' 
retorts Edith. The headline is, " Then they ought to be 
ashamed of themselves." "The Day after the Ball" and 
the drawing in which "little Popper " shows Mrs. P. how Miss 
Rose Leclerq played Manfred are neither very distinguished. 
This purely imitative work vanished with the advent of the 
Perverse Fairy. Judged by artistic tests, the " Bab " folk 
may be all wrong. Judged by popular acclaim, they are, in 
Gilbert's own words, " as right as right can be." A glance 
at any of the countless efforts to copy them proves them 
inimitable. The characters in the multitudinous tiny figures, 
in those hundreds of heads drawn for the prose or verse of 
Fun, not to speak of larger sketches in line, always have a 
quaint fascination. 

The low rate at which Gilbert appraised his early work is 
obvious, for with the exception of the " Babs " and not 
all of them nothing has been republished except a mere 
handful of the short stories that he wrote in considerable 
numbers. Yet to the true Gilbertian, nothing is quite negli- 
gible. Fun is indeed the cradle of the operas, and by no 
means through the " Babs " alone. The prose sketches are 
sown with embryo ideas, often developed later with trium- 
phant effect. The Gilbertian spirit tricksey, elusive, magical 
speedily begins to haunt these columns. The Puck-like 
imp of Topsy-Turvydom plays pranks foreshadowing those 
of the libretti. Gilbert did all sorts of work for Fun. 
Occasionally he wrote the parliamentary sketches, and once 
he attempted political satire in would-be Byronic vein. Scorn 
for Napoleon III was an obsession of Fun, and Gilbert was 
apparently in hearty agreement with the editorial policy. 
He read and loved Victor Hugo, and this literary enthusiasm 
doubtless inspired his hatred for " Napoleon the Little." 
Gilbert was manifestly in dead earnest when he wrote 
The Lie of a Lifetime ; or, The Modern Augustus, and because 
it was his only essay in politics, we reproduce part of it 
here. 



12 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

THE LIE OF A LIFETIME; 
or, 

Random Readings of Traitorous Traits, Past Passages And Present 

Prospects 

of 
THE MODERN AUGUSTUS. 

A Serious Serial in Several Sections. 




SECTION THE FIRST, 
His inauguration as President on the 2Oth December, 1848, 

Silence ! silence everywhere ! a silence vast and deep, 
Like the solemn, silent stillness of death's all-subduing sleep, 
And the troops with anxious faces stood motionless and dumb ; 
Hush'd briefly then (for ever soon) the French Assembly's hum* 
*Twas in chill and dull December, and the swift on-coming gloom 
Was an omen, then unheeded, of French freedom's hapless doom, 



GILBERT AND FUN 13 

Were there none among that body, like the Augur Priests of old, 
Who could read the coming future and its murderous page unfold ? 
None ! or if there were, they spoke not ! all were silent in that room, 
And the lamps all feebly struggled with the swift on-coming gloom. 

The President rises ; he speaks, words flow 

From his lips in sentences solemn and slow ; 

Sentences I aye, but no hearers could know 

Their result would be terror, and bloodshed, and woe ! 



He announced the selection, 

By ballot election, 

Of Louis NAPOLEON, to be then and there 

Installed, with due pomp, in the President's chair. 

There was anxious confusion ; a passage was clear' d ; 

The HOUR had arrived ! and the MAN soon appeared ! 
With Jewish nose, and narrow brow, 
Small snaky eyes whose flashings show 
(As molten lava gleams below 
The dread abyss with lurid glow, 
Before an Etna's mighty throe 
Rains death around) the lengths he'd go 

To gain an end : he reach' d the tribune, made his bow, 

And though by nature subtle, slow, 

His energy o'ercame his sloth 

As solemnly, and nothing loath, 

With LIPS ALONE he took THE OATH, 

An oath to serve the nation : keep intact 
The French Republic, as a glorious fact ; 
The people's rights to reverence and defend, 
Alike from foreign foe and traitor friend ! 
An oath, scarce made 'ere broken ; his next breath 
To keep that oath had doom'd himself to death 
(To have, 'ere axe his felon neck had press 7 d, 
The Badge of Honour torn from off his breast). 

A doom more sternly just, more richly earn'd, 

Had never been, since ADAM'S sons have learn' d 

To be ambitious false to rob and lie 

To honour rogues and worship perjury. 

He took the oath 1 nor yet with that content, 

The innate vileness of the man found vent 

In words uncalTd for words so smooth and pure 

That e'en his foes fell victims to the lure, 

And all believed (save one who had resign* d, 

With the calm grandeur of a noble mind 



I 4 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

And honest self-control, that mission high) 

His bearing was too grand To CLOAK A LIE. 
Deluded fools 1 he did but act a part, 
Lied with his lips, and scom'd you in his heart. 

But hear him i let him speak ! " The tribune's right 

Is yours," MARRAST exclaim' d with air polite. 
Then from those lips, so recently profaned, 
Pour'd forth the protestations of unfeign'd 
Attachment to the laws that then obtain 5 d ; 
Respect for him, who previously in power 
Had kept France glorious to that present hour. 

He said his oath should ever guide his will ; 

That, as a man of honour, he'd fulfil 

His sacred duty would regard as foes 

To France, himself, and Liberty, all those 

Who strove to change, by lawless word or deed, 

That which the great French People had decreed. 

He paus'd ; he ceas'd, and then a vast grand shout, 

" Long live the great Republic," loud rang out 

A roar as when the wind-toss' d waters reach, 

And spend their fury vainly on the beach. 

So loud, so long the shout, none heard the cry 

That burst from thy rent heart, oh Liberty ! 

(Yet three years thence, the echo shrill and clear 

Of that wild wail chill' d ev'ry mortal ear, 

'Mid anguish' d groans that marked " the night of fear ! ") 

Guiltless of mortal passion's ebb and flow ; 
Conscious of wounds, that laid their honour low, 
The sullied lilies hung their heads of snow ; 
While Gallia's guardian spirit saw with woe 
Her once proud Eagle now a carrion crow I 

The illustrations, also Gilbert's work, are rather savage cari- 
catures. In one of them (see p. 15), referring to the Emperor's 
marriage, a preposterous manikin in a toga blesses Napoleon 
and Eugenie, an almost unrecognizable pair. 

" Beauty and the Beast I jine 
In this agreeable Valentine," 

That a second series of The Lie of a Lifetime was demanded 
and supplied was assuredly due more to prevailing political 
rancour than to literary merit. Never again did Gilbert repeat 
the experiment of political satire, and to the end of his days 



GILBERT AND FUN 15 

he maintained an utter indifference to politics, which he 
scarcely ever mentioned in conversation. 

His pencil-marks in his own set of Fun show that he was 
occasionally dramatic and art critic, before the few illustrated 
notices signed " Bab " appeared. There is little acrimony, 
and no venom in his criticisms. Praise for the plays of the 
Robertson he loved is lavish. His notes of admiration for 




many who, like Lady Bancroft and Sir John Hare, were destined 
to fame, are full of discernment. Other players are treated 
with considerable candour. In view of his later resentment 
of what was often unfair and unappreciative criticism, his 
own work as a critic has a double interest. Writing in May 
1865, under the heading " From Our Stall/' Gilbert says : 

" Miss Bateman has made her appearance in a third character, 
Bianca, in DEAN MILMAN'S sparkling tragedy, Fazio. With every dis- 



16 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

position to deal gently with a very charming young lady, it is impossible 
to say that Miss Bateman's appearance in this lively little piece is at 
all calculated to advance her professional reputation. It is really time 
that the truth were spoken about this young lady ; she is not, and, as 
far as we can form an opinion, never will be a great actress. She has 
beauty, grace, and dignity and when you have said that you have 
said aH Her calmer scenes are cold and unimpassioned, and her 
ebullitions of jealousy or anger are simply, the demoniacal ravings of 
a female fiend. Even the audience on Monday last began to see this, 
for there was no symptom of a ' call ' before the end of the third 

act, 

" It is only fair to Miss Bateman to state that that dismal actor 
Mr. Jordan was playing in the same piece, and it is impossible to say 
how much his depressing presence may have told upon the animal 
spirits of the audience. The excessively disagreeable part of Aldebella 
was played with great care and judgment by Mrs. Billington. When 
we say that the piece was put upon the stage as all Adelphi pieces are, 
it will be understood that the audience saw more ' flies,' ' grooves,' dead 
wall, dirty scenery, and unsatisfactory ' supers ' than they would at 
any 'theatre in Whitechapel. We will qualify our condemnation. 
Let the playgoer wait outside until the third act approaches its close, 
and then let him enter the theatre and witness the scene between 
Bianca and that unfortunate silent senator whom she collars, cries 
over, and abuses. This gentleman's demeanour under those trying 
circumstances is a thing to be remembered. Having seen this, the play- 
goer cannot do better than turn into Evans's without delay, or the 
curtain win rise on the fourth act. 

" A pleasant little drama, by Mr. PALGRAVE SIMPSON, was produced 
at the Prince of Wales's Theatre on Wednesday. A Pair Pretender 
is based upon the story of the loves of Will Seymour and Lady Arabella 
Stuart, and explains how one Susanna Spritt (Miss Marie Wilton) 
connived at their escape from the fortress in which the unfortunate 
lady was imprisoned. The jealousy excited in the bosom of a certain 
soldier, one Gideon Gubbins, by Susanna's constant meetings with 
Will Seymour, who, in the disguise of a pedlar and subsequently of a 
soldier, is present in the fortress to assist his wife in effecting her escape, 
is the exciting cause of the greater portion of the laughter which decided 
the success of the piece. 

" It is utterly impossible to speak too highly of Miss Marie Wilton's 
performance in the part of Susanna. In every class of character under- 
taken by this young lady, from Juliet to Pippo, and that a tolerably 
extensive range, she is equally charming. 

" By the bye, Mr. Leigh Murray is about to take a complimentary 
benefit at Drury Lane, This admirable actor has for months past 
been confined to his room, and we are sure that it is only necessary 
to mention this fact to send crowds of sympathizers into the theatre 
on that occasion," 



GILBERT AND FUN 17 

Miss Marie Wilton was, of course, afterwards Lady Bancroft. 
In 1879, Gilbert wrote a blank-verse version of the Faust 
legend, which he evidently regarded as too grave a story for 
burlesque, for, fifteen years before, he dealt trenchantly with 
a travesty produced at the St. James's Theatre. 

" Fancy tlie exquisite story of Faust and Marguerite, in which the 
most profound thoughts that can engage the mind of men have been 
so grandly interpreted by GOETHE, turned into a travesty for the St. 
James's. The public will be quite prepared after this to see underlined 
for immediate production, at the same theatre, a burlesque founded 
on Paradise Lost. The old legend of Dr. FAUSTUS, who, when he 
was quite old enough to know better, sold himself to a nameless 
personage that he might have back his youth and go in for reckless 
enjoyment of everything, is anybody's property, and has been often 
cleverly presented in grotesque fashion before, but MARGUERITE is 
too pure and delicate a creation to be reduced to a lodging-house 
wench, and only thought good enough to suck sherry cobblers at 
Cremorne. 

" What had Mrs. CHARLES MATHEWS done that she should be dragged 
down to the lowest level of burlesque after having gained deserved 
honours in the highest range of comedy ? Why should Mr. CHARLES 
MATHEWS be called upon to do penance for any possible transgression 
by standing in flaming tights and crimson c fly ' before a respectable 
audience as a travestied MEPHISTOPHELES ? Is a hideous skeleton 
shaking its bony joints in mid-air a comic view of the end of mortal- 
ity ? Is a grim embodiment of death in a crinoline hopping about the 
boards in a bal masqut a funny realization of the German legend setting 
forth the horrors of a Walpurgis night on the Hartz mountains ? There 
is no occasion to pause for a reply. 

" If audiences can be found to tolerate these representations out 
of respect to those compelled to take part in them, the indignation 
of society will find strong expression in other ways. The good taste 
which should govern the extravagances of burlesque is here alto- 
gether wanting, and the piece should be removed from the bills with 
what haste the manager can make.'* 

Here already there is a revolt against the fashionable bur- 
lesques, which were eventually to be killed by the Savoy operas 
to come to life again, alas, rechristened as " musical 
comedies " and " revues," generally with no greater humour 
or taste. Gilbert could not abide music-hall humour. In 
1865, Fun published the following verses from his pen : 
2 



i8 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

MUSINGS IN A MUSIC-HALL. 
BY A YOUNG MAN FROM THE COUNTRY. 

When a man sticks his hat at the back of his head, 

Tell me, Oh, Editor, why do they roar ? 
And then, when he pushes it forward instead, 

Why do they scream twice as loud as before ? 
When an elderly gentleman rumples his hair, 

Why do they all go delirious as well ? 
When he uses a handkerchief out of repair, 

Why do they, why do they, why do they yell ? 

When a vulgar virago is singing her song, 

Why must she offer herself as a wife ? 
Why give applause about ten minutes long 

When a baby of seven imperils its life ? 
What does a singer intend to imply 
- By "Whack fol the larity, larity, lay" ? 
What can he hope to convey to me by 

Singing " Rum tiddity, iddity 1 " eh ? 

These Fun comments on the drama may be concluded 
with an amusing letter on pantomimes published on Feb- 
ruary 20, 1864. 

ON PANTOMIMIC UNITIES. 
To the Editor of Fun. 

" From week to week I have entertained a hope that you would 
scarify with your powerful pen (can a man scarify with a ppwerful 
pen ? I am sure I don't know) a feature of pantomimic business, 
which, to a man of my delicate theatrical susceptibilities, seems to 
shriek aloud for reform. I allude to the preposterous disregard of 
the unities of time and place which appears to obtain in every panto- 
mime anybody ever saw. But the pantomime season is drawing to 
a close ; circumstances, over which harlequin has no control, have 
dimmed the lustre of his spangles ; columbine dances as if she were 
paid for it ; clown and pantaloon are beginning to hate the sight of 
each other ; and yet the scarifying article has not appeared. So I 
have set myself the task of penning this letter to you in order that 
editorial attention may be directed to the matters of which I complain. 
I say ' editorial attention ' because, in point of fact, you editors are the 
people who educate the public taste. The members of the public are 
possessed of no critical power whatever. They take what is given 
them, but suspend their judgment until they have read that of the 
morning papers, and then they speak. As for the managers, they are 



GILBERT AND FUN 19 

but a medium of introducing the author to the public a species of 
theatrical conduit-pipe, too often, alas ! stopped up. 

"Sir I am a conscientious theatre-goer, and one who respects a 
pantomime rather on account of its indissoluble connection with the 
names of RICH, GRIMALDI, and EDMUND KEAN, than because I derive 
any pleasure whatever from the performance itself. And the reason 
of this is, because the whole comic business, from the transformation 
scene (which becomes every year more like a five-shilling valentine) 
to ' ALBERT and ALEXANDRA, and May They be Happy ! ' in a red-fire 
vapour bath, requires reform. 





/ s 



1 ' The abuse begins at the beginning. Without the slightest reference 
to the time or venue of the introduction, the four pantomime characters 
are in all pantomimes respectively dressed in the selfsame costume. 
Now this is not as it should be. To preserve some little unity between 
the ' introduction ' and the comic business, the costume of the panto- 
mime characters, while it sufficiently resembled that they now wear 
for purposes of identification, should be modified to suit the require- 
ments of the age in which the ' introduction ' is supposed to have 
taken place. 

" Thus : If the pantomime is founded on the affecting story of 
' CORIOLANUS,' CORIOLANUS (who would, of course, be changed into 
harlequin) should, in the comic scenes, wear a kind of patchwork toga, 
which would sufficiently show that he was a noble Roman, and that 
he is a harlequin. In the same way the costume of VIRGILIA (Ms 
wife) as columbine, and that of TULLUS AUFIDUS as clown, might be 
so modified as to suggest the Roman bride, as well as the columbine, 
in the one case, and the Volscian monarch, as well as the clown, in the 
other. Of course, the scenes of the comic business should be Roman, 
if the introduction is Roman. Great fun might be got out of such 



20 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

a scene as the Gulf in the Forum with clown (as MARCUS CURTIUS) 
on a hobby-horse, about to leap into the chasm, but contriving, at the 
last moment, to pitch pantaloon (who, I am afraid, would, of neces- 
sity, be VOLUMNIA, COKIOLANUS'S mother) into it instead. 

" Is clown mortal or immortal ? He appears to possess the privilege 
of doing whatever he likes to the constituted authorities without fear 
of any unpleasant consequences. This is the way in which he usually 
treats policemen prior to knocking their heads off, which is murder ; 
but nobody ever heard of a clown being hung or even condemned to 
death. Also, he possesses (in conjunction with CORIOLANXJS) the 
privilege of leaping through brick walls. These attributes would seem 
to argue immortality, yet if he puts the hot end of a poker into his 
pocket, it burns him. How can you reconcile these discrepancies ? 




" Again Is transformation to harlequin a punishment or a reward ? 
Of course, I know it is nominally a reward of constancy, but, in point 
of fact, a more fearful punishment it would be hard to conceive. From 
a # a y young prince, the popular 'sad dog ' of the introduction, he is 
changed into a dumb, spangled, fishy thing, calculated to excite no feeling 
other than the profoundest contempt. Is he mortal or not ? He may be 
cut into pieces and yet be re-united, and apparently be none the worse 
for the operation. He may be rammed into a cannon and blown 
from it with impunity. But, on the other hand, he is compelled to 
seek the ordinary domestic couch at night ; he is in the habit of taking 
furnished apartments ; and it is but too evident that he perspires 
freely. On the whole, I am disposed to think he must be the Wan- 
dering Jew. 

" Again What relation does pantaloon bear to clown ? Of course, 
I know that, in the original Italian comedy, pantaloon was clown's 
master, but in modern pantomime these relations appear to be reversed* 
He is now the humble imitator of his more ingenious friend's eccentrici- 
ties. He suffers fearful indignities at the hands of clown. When he 



GILBERT AND FUN 21 

falls he is picked up by clown in the manner shown in the margin. It 
is difficult to imagine anything more utterly humiliating than the 
being picked up in this manner. He is buffeted, insulted, and bullied 
in an insupportable manner, and yet pantaloon and clown are always 
together. Are these two bound together by any mysterious tie, 
and if by any, by what ? and if not, why not, and how otherwise ? 

" Why is the confiding shopman's business invariably transacted 
on the pavement ? We don't find Mr. GRAVES, of Pall Mall, striking 
bargains with customers outside his shop-door, or engaging party- 
coloured shopmen on the mere strength of their own uncorroborated 
recommendations . 

" One word from you might set this all right." 

For some years Gilbert contributed to Fun a number of 
paragraphs with large initial letters. Not only because his 
first contributions to Fun are likely to be among them do 
they arrest the attention, but because they reveal Gilbert 
in the guise of Don Quixote. The then less stringent law 
of libel made all things possible to one naturally audacious. 
When a girl employed by a fashionable milliner died of 
starvation and over- work, Gilbert attacked her " murderer " 
with burning words of indignation. Case after case did he 
castigate. He would describe a scene in court, flagellate 
legal delinquents byname, and conclude : " For our own part, 
we give the rowdy portion of the Bar warning. Whenever a 
case of this kind occurs, we shall present the public with a 
full-length portrait of the offending barrister." Nor was 
this a vain threat ; at least one merciless instance is extant. 
If Gilbert used his tongue as a sword when upon the Bench 
in the zenith of his success, he wielded his pen with equal 
fearlessness from the first. 

The " Comic Physiognomist " began his long, merry course 
in Fun on November 7, 1863. The following extracts give 
an indication of its character. 

" The nose is (or should be) the most prominent feature of the face. 
Its local relation to the other facial organs is so generally known that 
it is only necessary to state that it springs from the valley below the 
brow of the ' man-mountain,' that it pursues an undulating and irregu- 
lar course for some two or three inches, and that it finally discharges 



22 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

itself into the pocket-handkerchief. As many rivers owe their exist- 
ence to the dissolved snow with which their native hills are covered, 
it may be as well to state that the human nose is in no way indebted 
for its origin to the melting eyes from between which it often rises. 
It is furnished with two nostrils and a bridge. The latter is much used 
by the eyes when they run over to pay each other a friendly visit. 
It is easily amused ' tickled with a straw ' and is sometimes called 
the neighs-all organ for obvious reasons. It is an effective wind instru- 
ment, its most popular performance being ' Suoni la tvomba intrepida 1 ' 
preceded by a running arrangement of the ' Light Catarrh.' '' 



OF THE VARIOUS ORDERS OF NOSES. 

" Goodness knows ! "- Popular Ejaculation. 

"Innumerable orders of architecture are employed in the con- 
formation of the human nose. The Grecian is, of course, the order 
to which most attention is paid, although it is an order which is very 
rarely given. Among those most frequently occurring we find ; 

"No. i. THE NOSE ARROGANT. This is ac- 
curately depicted in the accompanying sketch. 
It is the property of the peer of the fashion- 
able novel and the wealthy cotton -broker of real 
life. It is often found in Parliament: is accus- 
tomed to receive deputations and to express 
itself, on those occasions, in general terms with- 
out committing itself to anything. Although 
distantly affable to bodies aggregate, it is 
haughtily insolent to individuals. 

"No. 2. THE NOSE TANTALIZING. Com- 
monly found under demure, round hats at the 
seaside, and dancing with the best set of men at 
evening parties. It can be saucy without being 
fast, epigrammatic without being personal. It 
possesses a keen sense of the ridiculous, and is 
usually found between a pair of big brown 
eyes. 

"No. 3, -THE NOSE CONTRADICTORY. This 
is a variety which is extremely common among 
people of the churchwarden stamp. It is also 
found (in a subdued form) at bar messes, and 
under the wigs at the C.C.C, It is a subject 
which most of us have often been tempted to 
touch, as it presents plenty to catch hold of. 
Want of space, however, and a relentless editor, 
compel us to pass on. 




GILBERT AND FUN 




" No. 4. THE NOSE DEFIANT. This is a nose 
from life. It is the property of our landlady, 
and we are sorry to say that she always brings 
it in with her when she comes for the weekly 
rent. It is too horrible a subject to dwell upon, 
so we will not apologize for quitting it rather 
abruptly. We told her last week, that if she 
didn't take care we would put her in Fun, and 
now we've done it, and we don't care. 

"No. 5. THE NOSE DISCONTENTED, Common 
among middle-aged bachelors of a punctilious 
turn of mind. Has rows with club-waiters, 
box-keepers at theatres, and all railway porters. 
Gets into a cab and orders the driver to take 
him as far towards Charing Cross as he can for 
a shilling. Is devotedly attached to little 
children, and never thinks of swearing at them." 

The "C.P." obviously became an im- 
mediate favourite, for when a second series 
succeeded in May, 1864, it was heralded by a large illus- 
tration in the best " Bab " manner. " The Men we Meet " 
of 1867, though the sketches are signed " Bab/' are still 
announced as by the " C.P." These are nearly all most 
amusing, with witty text and humorous drawings. In "The 
C.P. in Love," Gilbert came nearest to drawing a pretty girl, 
and his justification " HoinononVir " is essentially Gilbertian. 

In " The C.P. at a Levee/' a solitary quotation from Dickens 
should be noted for rarity, for Gilbert scarcely ever cited the 
work of others either in his own or in his letters. 

' ' To quote Mr. Dick Swiveller, ' Under such a combination of 
staggerers, no man can be considered a free agent.' 

" The C.P. did not go to court to kotoo to Princes, although the 
kotooing to Princes happened to be one of the incidents of his pro- 
gress through St. James's Palace. He went to court in order to set 
at rhest rest, that is confound those ' h's ' a question which for 
many years had sore perplexed him that is to say, ' Why do people 
go to Levees ? ' They cannot all go to see why people go, as the 
philosopher did. Of course, he is well aware that there are some 
people whose position in society demands that they should show them- 
selves at these singular gatherings once a year, or so, but these form but 
a small portion of those who attend. They go as a duty, and as a very 
tiresome duty, and very bored they all look. What the C.P. wanted 



24 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

to know is what Ensign Parker, of the Barbadoes Militia, Cornet Tomp- 
kins, of the Afghanistan Irregulars, Brown, the big brewer, Green, the 
great grocer, can possibly want over and over again at St. James's ? 
The C.P. is bound to admit that his doubts upon these points were 
not satisfactorily set at rest. Neither did two collateral questions, 
not bearing directly upon Levees, but growing out of them, meet with 
satisfactory solutions. What do people want in Yeomanry Regiments ? 
And why join the Hon. Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms ? The C.P. does 
not refer to the Gentlemen-at-Arms under the new organization, but 
to the corps as it was three or four years since. ' Wilkins determining 
to be a Gentleman-at-Arms ' is a sketch which the C.P. regrets he has 
not space for in this chapter. 

" The C.P. has invariably noticed that, with all their faults, Scotch 
gentlemen are more accessible to strangers than any other inhabitants 
of the British Isles ; so he took the gallant Highlander on his left 
into his confidence, and requested him to pilot the philosopher through 
the gilded salon that leads to the Throne Room a duty which the 
Highland gentleman discharged with so much twangy urbanity, that 
the C.P. will say nothing ill-natured about him except that he can- 
not possibly imagine what that gentleman could see in a Levee to 
induce him to come up all the way from Edinburgh to attend it." 

The Bab Battads were not indexed in Fun under the name 
they immortalized until 1869, long after the majority had 
sparkled in its columns. Not only did Gilbert include a 
large number of lyrics from the operas in the collection he 
selected personally in 1897, but also a sprinkling of the more 
serious verses often published anonymously ia Fun, It 
seems, therefore, as if he at least thought the odd familiar 
name appropriate to all he wrote in rhyme. In the green- 
covered first edition issued by Hotten, Gilbert excuses publica- 
tion in book-form with his invariable modesty, on the ground 
that " the verses sub-titled ' much sound and little sense ' 
seem to have won a sort of whimsical popularity/' They are 
not, as a rule, he confesses, founded on fact. " I have ventured 
to publish the little pictures with them, because while they 
are certainly quite as bad as the ballads, I suppose they are 
not much worse." The pictures are beyond criticism. They 
defy it. Gilbert perpetrated an artistic crime in condemning 
probably twenty innocent Bobs to be buried alive, pictures 
and all* 



GILBERT AND FUN 25 

He once told Rowland-Brown how he arrived as his marvel- 
lous names, insisting that " they came naturally to the rhythm 
of the verse, and that the pictures were never begun before 
the ballad was in form." For more than one reason it is 
interesting to quote in full the short preface, dated from 24, 
The Boltons, Kensington, in 1876: 

" The Bab Ballads appeared originally in the columns of Fun when 
that periodical was under the editorship of the late Tom Hood. . . . 
The period during which they were written extended over some three 
or four years ; many, however, were composed hastily, and under the 
discomforting necessity of having to turn out a quantity of lively 
verse on a certain day in each week. As it seemed to me (and to 
others) that the volumes were disfigured by these hastily written im- 
postors, I thought it better to withdraw from both volumes such 
ballads as seemed to show evidence of carelessness or undue haste. . . . 

" It may interest some to know that the first of the series, ' The 
Yarn of the Nancy Bell/ was originally offered to Punch, to which I 
was at that time an occasional contributor. It was, however, declined 
by the then Editor on the ground that it was ' too cannibalistic for 
his readers' taste.' " 

The Fifty Bab Ballads of 1876 possibly include the best 
of them. They came, were seen, and conquered. Of Gilbert 
in this his own province it can be said : " There is no one beside 
him and no one above him/' The Babs bore fruit the 
radiant operas as compact of the art which conceals art. 
They are impervious to literary freaks of fashions, safe- 
guarded by " the fairy shield " of genius. The marvel they 
could be written to order regularly, it might be said mechani- 
cally, leaves critics in blank wonder. 1867 may be called 
the apogee of the ballads, for a sequence of the best quoted 
succeed each other with freshness and vitality, an absolute 
originality making them unique. Gilbert's love of the sea 
is evident in a number of the best ballads, and Captain Reece 
and the other sea ballads have always been favourites with 
sailors. In this connection a correspondent of the Strand 
Magazine has drawn attention to a " lost " ballad which we 
have been unable to trace. He says : 



26 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" It was published, I think, about the same time, or shortly after, 
Captain Reece, and, much to the regret of many sailors, it did not 
appear again in any of the later editions of the ballads. I do not 
remember the title of it. It was a sailor's ballad, and began thus : 

" ' To sail the seas is my delight, 
To bend a bowline on a bight, 
To fish the Crojic yard and haul 
On topsail lifts true bliss I call.' 

" It ends with : 

" ' Hurrah ! till cruel fate forbids, 
I'll live midst marlinspikes and fids, 
And dissipate all thoughts of gloom 
With bobstays and a stuns' 1 boom. 
If life with sorrow crowns my cup, 
I'll send the mizzen topsail up, 
And with a cheer the chafing gear 
I'll calmly bid to disappear.' 

" This was quite as much a favourite with sailors in my young days 
as the Mystic Selvagee, which has survived," writes this correspondent. 
" And any verses of the old one which I have been able to repeat to 
sailors have always given them much pleasure and amusement/ 1 

If the Nancy Bell was the first Bab to be written, Captain 
Reece takes pride of place in the first edition. 

Gilbert was, as has been said, married in 1867, and one of 
his few lapses of memory would seem to have been made 
when he told Rowland-Brown that " Prince II Baleine was 
done on my way to Folkestone on my honeymoon/' The 
" Prince/' however, figures in Fun in 1869, an( l is scarcely 
likely to have been held over for two years. It embodies a 
favourite Gilbertian theme, and is not included in either of 
the volumes. It is printed with others of the lost Babs 
in the Appendix. 

In May, 1864, Gilbert published a Derby poem, which is 
interesting because the chorus is an anticipation of the rhyming 
of the " Greenery Yallery, Grosvenor Gallery " song of Patience : 

"Trudging along, two dozen strong, 

Wearily, drearily, riff-raff, 
Swells at them stare, singing the air 
Of Saturday's opera, ' Piff-paff ' 



GILBERT AND FUN 

Handful of coin all of them join 

Rambling, scrambling, pick up ; 
Rowing for more, won't have ' encore,' 

Frightening, tightening, stick up' 
Posturers two come into view, 

Rummer set, summerset throwing ; 
Over they turn (don't try and learn), 

All that they get for it owing. 

f Palery alery, smokery, jokery, rambling, 
Scrambling, crash along, dash along 
Down to the Derby," etc. 




The Three Bohemian Ones is the best of the lost Babs. 
IE an embarrassment of riches we may dispense with Sir 
Galahad the Goluptious, which came dangerously near to being 
a complete failure. But how could Gilbert have had the 
cruelty to reject The Three Bohemian Ones ? They are essen- 
tially men whom to know is to love, and they are drawn 
just as we know they are. We appreciate them as we appre- 
ciate Belial Blake or Ferdinando, or " the strange young sorter 



28 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

with expressive purple eyes/' Later editions should restore 
them to their admirers, and make a thousand new ones. 

To quote the sub-title of Utopia and sub-titles are a 
Gilbertian weakness the Bab Ballads are " Flowers of Pro- 
gress." They heralded the approach of Gilbert the genius 
with a flourish of their jolly trumpets. The man in the street 
and the man in the study both listened and rejoiced. 

In 1898 the Bab Ballads were published in a volume with 
a large number of lyrics taken from the Savoy operas, which 
had before been issued as " Songs of a Savoyard." The 1898 
volume contains a hundred and seventy-five different poems. 
Gilbert says in his preface : 

" I have always felt that many of the original illustrations to the 
Bab Ballads err gravely in the direction of unnecessary extravagance. 
This defect I have endeavoured to correct through the medium of the 
two hundred new drawings which I have designed for this volume. 
I am afraid I cannot claim for them any other recommendation." 

The new illustrations were all drawn on a table that still stands 
in the window of the billiard-room at Grim/s Dyke. Excel- 
lently humorous as most of thetn are, they are on the whole 
inferior in quaintness to the original " Bab " illustrations of Fun. 
The Bab Ballads have an established position in English 
literature. They stand by themselves. There is nothing to 
which they can be compared. They are ingenious, musical, 
humorous. They show amazing aptitude for finding the right 
word. They are Gilbert, and when Gilbert was himself, he was 
like no other writer who ever put pen to paper. The Bab 
Ballads evidence an apparently inexhaustible invention. To 
every subject Gilbert brings some amazing topsy-turvy idea : 

" It also was a Jew 
Who drove a Putney bus, 
For flesh of swine, however fine, 
He did not care a cuss." 

" The common sin of babyhood objecting to be dressed 
If you leave it to accumulate at compound interest, 
For anything you know, may represent, if you're alive, 
A burglary or murder at the age of thirty-five." 



GILBERT AND FUN 



29 



An interesting question is why the Bab Ballads maintain 
a perennial freshness, while humorous poems of the same 
period, some of them written by able hands, have become 
neglected and almost forgotten. The answer is that the Bab 
Ballads are original. Gilbert could, and often did, write 
extremely good parodies. To quote one example, when the 
chivalrous Ferdinando is dispatched by his lady-love Elvira to 
discover the author of " those lovely cracker mottoes," before 
she would accept his hand and heart, he naturally approached 
the most popular poets of his day before he undertook arduous 
journeys to " Patagonia, China, and Norway/' Of his treat- 
ment by eminent poets Ferdinando reports : 

" Henry Wadsworth only smiled and said he had not had the honour, 
And Alfred too disclaimed the words which told so much upon her." 

Ferdinando flourished in the days of Martin Tupper, whose 
Proverbial Philosophy, it may be remembered, was highly 
praised by Queen Victoria and her Consort. When Ferdinando 
called on his Elvira, they " talked of love and Tupper/' Natur- 
ally, therefore, inquiry was made of Martin Tupper as to 
whether he was the author of the cracker mottoes. 

" Mr. Martin Tupper sent the following reply to me : 
" ' A fool is bent upon a twig, but wise men dread a bandit.' 
Which I think must have been clever, for I didn't understand it." 

This parody is really delicious and apposite. There is 
another reference to Tupper in Sir Barnaby Bampton Boo : 

" Now Nelly's the prettier, p'raps, of my gals, 

But, oh ! she's a wayward chit ; 
She dresses herself in her showy fal-lals, 
And doesn't read Tupper a bit ! 
O Tupper, philosopher true, 
How do you happen to do ? 
A publisher looks with respect on your books, 
For they do sell, philosopher true ! " 

Generally, however, Gilbert preferred using his creative 
faculty for origination rather than for humorous imitation a 
wise course, when one remembers that all the world knows 
the Bab Ballads, while such a book as Bon Gaultier Ballads, 



30 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

written by Aytoun, the author of Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers, 
and Theodore Martin, which rapidly went through fourteen 
editions and was illustrated by Leech and Doyle, is now 
entirely forgotten. The parodists parodied writers who are 
themselves no longer read, and died with them. The author 
of the Bab Ballads exploited his own personality, and is among 
the immortals. Another best seller of the seventies was 
Cholmondeley Pennell's Puck on Pegasus, which contained a 
series of illustrations by Millais, Leech, Tenniel, Doyle, Phiz, 
and Noel Paton. The parodies are stilted and ineffective, 
not to be compared with the work of more modern writers, 
and are now properly forgotten. But even the sound intrinsic 
literary merit of Calverley has not saved him from partial 
eclipse, and, with all his merits, many of the Fly-leaves are 
withered. The mellifluous parodies of Jean Ingelow are 
damp squibs in a generation that reads Jean no longer. The 
sheer cleverness of The Cock and the Bull seems rather sense- 
less caricature in an age that has learned to appreciate Brown- 
ing without exaggerated enthusiasm. The fact is that parody 
is necessarily ephemeral. At its best it reflects the critical 
mood of a day. It is interesting in this connection to recall 
that Gilbert disliked both Browning and Meredith, and that 
he parodied neither. Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll are in 
Gilbert's jocund company, but the writings of neither has the 
claim of the Bab Ballads to literary immortality. The Old 
Lady of Smyrna and the incomparable Jabberwock himself 
do not possess the qualities of Captain Reece and the Bumboat 
Woman, and the lover of Annie Protheroe, for Gilbert's crea- 
tions were the first figures outlined for future genre pictures 
the Savoy operas full of movement and warm with 
colour. It would be difficult to exaggerate one's gratitude 
to Lear and Lewis Carroll, but their achievements are minia- 
ture compared with those of the English Aristophanes, 

It would be absurd to endeavour to decide which is the 
best of the Bab Ballads. If the test be the greatest number 
of well-worn quotations, the laurel would probably fall to 



GILBERT AND FUN 31 

Etiquette, which, was first published in the Graphic. Who 
does not know the lines : 

" Down went the owners greedy men whom hope of gain allured. 
O, dry the starting tear, for they were heavily insured 1 

" The oysters at Ms feet impatiently he shoved, 
For turtle and his mother were the only things he loved. 

" He longed to lay him down upon the shelly bed and stuff : 
He had often eaten oysters, but had never had enough." 

Ellen M' Jones Aberdeen is an example of Gilbert's extra- 
ordinary aptitude in nomenclature. His explanation that 
irresistibly comic names always came with the metre, does 
not explain the variety. Balzac, it will be remembered, 
tramped miles before he saw the name Z. Marcas over a mean 
shop, and was transfixed by its suitability for his special 
purpose. Dickens's inspiration in nomenclature often failed 
him, as witness his Hawkes and Verisophts and Mutanheds, 
and Forster tells how laborious a business was the baptism of 
Martin Chuzzlewit and David Copperfield. Gilbert had no 
such difficulty. The names " just came/' and when they 
had come, he used them with masterly skill. Few versifiers 
would find Macpherson Clonglocketty Angus M'Clan, the 
patronymic of the bagpipe-player who produced an air from 
his instrument, a convenient opening for a quatrain ; but 
Gilbert contrived it. Patterson Corbay Torbay is the very 
ideal name for the kilted Sassenach who " could not assume 
an affection for pipes." 

" One morning the fidgetty Sassenach swore 
He'd stand it no longer he drew his claymore, 
And (this was, I think, extremely bad taste), 
Divided Clonglocketty close to the waist." 

If the best Bab Ballad is the best illustrated, many will be 
inclined to quote Gentle Alice Brown, as seen in the Fifty 
before her coiffure was modernized. Her lover, a " young 
sorter/' in his Elizabethan garb, is in all respects worthy of 



32 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

her. She dons an even larger chignon when making her 
terrible confession to a rather Protestant-looking Father Paul : 

" A pleasant-looking gentleman, with pretty purple eyes, 
I've noticed at my window, as I've sat a-catching flies ; 
He passes by it every day as certain as can be 
I blush to say I've winked at him, and he has winked at me ! " 

Lest the reader should be shocked, the last avowal was origin- 
ally printed in tiny type. If sheer originality be accepted 
as the hall-mark of supremacy, then Prince Agib is possibly 
the foremost achievement of the Bab Ballads. Its metre is 
captivating, and its particular charm is the unsolved mystery 
of the plot. In this poem the unmusical Gilbert makes happy 
use of a musical term, jokingly mixed up with medical jargon : 

" They played him a sonata let me see I 
' Medulla oblowgata ' key of G. 

Then they began to sing 

That extremely lovely thing, 
' Sch&vzando 1 ma non troppo> ppp" " 

The deft use of the most unexpected words is carried to its 
apogee in the third verse : 

" Strike the concertina's melancholy string ! 
Blow the spirit-stirring harp like anything I 

Let the piano's martial blast 

Rouse the echoes of the past, 
For of Agib, Prince of Tartary, I sing ! 

" Of Agib, who, amid Tartaric scenes, 
Wrote a lot of ballet music in his teens : 

His gentle spirit rolls 

In the melody of souls 
Which is pretty, but I don't know what it means. 

" Of Agib, who could readily, at sight, 
Strum a march upon the loud Theodolite. 
He would diligently play 
On the Zoetrope all day, 
And blow the gay Pantechnicon all night." 

Eleven of the fifty Bab Ballads are concerned with Church- 
men or Church matters that is, if Father Paul, the confessor 
of Gentle Alice Brown, be included. 



GILBERT AND FUN 33 

The others are : The Rival Curates, Sir Maoklin, The Phan- 
tom Curate, The Fairy Curate, The Bishop of Rum-Ti-Foo, 
The Bishop of Rum-Ti-Foo Again, The Reverend Simon Magus, 
Lost Mr. Blake, The Bishop and the 'Busman, and The Reverend 
Micah Sowls. We have suggested that Gilbert showed that 
he shared his father's dislike of what used to be called " ritual- 
ism " in Lost Mr. Blake, who, it may be remembered, " mocked 
at dalmatics/' But lest it should be thought that he was 
numbered with the persecutors of the Anglo-Catholics, it 
should be remembered that he added : 

" He used to say that he would no more think of interfering with 
his priest's robes than with his church or Ms steeple," 

The rejected Bobs include more than one dealing with the 
question of Sunday observance, and it need hardly be said 
that Gilbert had no sort of sympathy with the harsh dictates 
of Victorian Sabbatarianism. Nine of the fifty Bab Ballads 
deal with the Navy. All without exception rank high. They 
are : Captain Reece, The Yarn of the Nancy Bell, The Bum- 
boat Woman's Story, The Captain and the Mermaid, The Mar- 
tinet, The King of Canoodle-Dum, The Sailor Boy to his Lass, 
Etiquette, and The Mystic Selvagee. In this last Gilbert used 
his considerable nautical knowledge with amusing ingenuity : 

" Upon your spars I see you've clapped 
Peak-halliard blocks, all iron-capped ; 
I would not christen that a crime, 
But 'twas not done in Rodney's time. 

It looks half-witted ! 
Upon your maintop-stay, I see, 
You always clap a selvagee ; 
Your stays, I see, are equalized 
No vessel, such as Rodney prized, 

Would be thus fitted. 

" And Rodney, honoured sir, would grin 
To see you turning deadeyes in, 
Not up, as in the ancient way, 
But downwards, like a cutter's stay** 
You didn't oughter | 



34 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Besides, in seizing shrouds on board, 
Breast backstays you have quite ignored ; 
Great Rodney kept unto the last 
Breast backstays on topgallant mast 
They make it taughter." 

Despite Gilbert's military ambition and service, the mili- 
tary Bobs are fewer than the naval. The two best are Thomas 
Winterbottom Hance, with whom " no swordsman ever could 
compare/' and the irresistible Hongree and Mahry, a humorous 
travesty of transpontine melodrama, which begins : 

" The sun was setting in its wonted west, 
When Hongree, Sub-Lieutenant of Chassoores, 
Met Mahry Daubigny, the Village Rose, 
Under the Wizard's Oak old trysting-place 
Of those who loved in rosy Aquitaine. 

" They thought themselves unwatched, but they were not, 
For Hongree, Sub-Lieutenant of Chassoores, 
Found in Lieutenant-Colonel Jooles Dubosc 
A rival, envious and unscrupulous, 
Who thought it not foul scorn to dog his steps, 
And listen, unperceived, to all that passed 
Between the simple little Village Rose 
And Hongree, Sub-Lieutenant of Chassoores." 

The best of the legal Babs is unquestionably Baines Carew, 
Gentleman, the genial attorney : 

" Whene'er he heard a tale of woe 

From client A or client B, 
His grief would overcome him so, 
He'd scarce have strength to take his fee." 

To a Little Maid and The Troubadour are concerned with 
female prisoners, and in the second there is an inimitable 
comic warder. Emily, John, James, and I tells a tale of 
condign punishment for crossing the course on Derby Day. It 
is a most musical Bab. 

The stage Babs are Only a Dancing Girl, with its pretty 
touch of genuine feeling, At the Pantomime, and The Pantomime 
Super to His Mask, a rather grim poem. The Haughty Actor 
is perhaps more legal than theatrical, but in it Gilbert expresses 



GILBERT AND FUN 35 

his contempt for the egregious vanity that is often the cha- 
racteristic of lesser players. 

Anything like a detailed analysis of the Bab Ballads would 
be merely ridiculous, and they may be left with the conclu- 
sion that, with all their other qualities, they are English in 
idea and construction, untranslated into any other tongue, 
and absolutely untranslatable. 



CHAPTER III 
GILBERT'S PROSE 

IN addition to his contributions to Fun, Gilbert, at the 
beginning of his literary career, contributed articles and 
stories to the Cornhill, London Society, Tinsley's Magazine, 
and Temple Bar. He also acted for some time as the London 
correspondent of a Russian newspaper called the Invalide 
Russe, and wrote dramatic criticisms for the Illustrated Times. 

The collection of what he himself regarded as his best 
short stories was published in volume form in 1869, an d reissued 
a few months before his death. It contains nineteen stories 
and sketches, and the volume is called Foggerty's Fairy, from 
the first story in the collection. In the preface Gilbert says 
that none of the tales except Comedy and Tragedy was written 
with the idea of subsequent dramatization ; but three others, 
Foggerty's Fairy itself, Creatures of Impulse, and The Wicked 
World, were afterwards turned into plays, and the Elixir of 
Love is the basis of the plot of The Sorcerer. 

There is a very evident Dickens influence in Gilbert's short 
stories, and Gilbert, as a short story writer, has the same 
affection for fairies and humorous supernaturalism as he has 
in his verse and his libretti. Foggerty's Fairy is an excellent 
story, which possibly may have supplied Mr. Hackettwith the 
germ of the idea which he developed so cleverly in Ms farce, 
Ambrose Afiplejohn's Adventure. Foggerty was a confectioner 
in the Borough Road, and a fairy off the top of a twelfth 
cake told him that he had only to eat one of the cake's orna- 
ments to obliterate any deed from his. past life and to become 



GILBERT'S PROSE 37 

somebody entirely different. He took the fairy at her word, 
and at once found himself the captain of a pirate ship, to 
change again, in circumstances of great peril, into a wealthy 
and unscrupulous financier. When the financier was in the 
dock (the familiar end of so many financial careers), again 
the twelfth-cake ornament came to Foggerty's assistance, and 
he returned to the place from whence he came and was once 
more Foggerty of the Borough Road. 

An Elixir of Love is another fantastic and amusing story. 
Johnnie Pounce is sentimental, and might well have been 
written by Dickens himself. In it there is something of the 
Dickens faculty for vivid description in a phrase. For example : 

" Then there was Joe Round, Mrs. Joe Round, and Miss Joe Round, 
and Miss Joe Round's young man, in a pink fluffy face and blue stock 
with gold flies. Joe Round was deputy usher in the Central Criminal 
Court. He was a big full- voiced man with a red face, black curly hair, 
and a self-assertive manner. He had a way with him which seemed 
to say : * I am Joe Round. Take me as you find me or let me go, but 
don't find fault.' Mrs. Joe Round was a beautiful specimen of faded 
gentility. She was an Old Bailey attorney's daughter, and a taste for 
exciting trials had led her in early youth to the C.C.C., where she saw 
Joe Round, fell in love with his big voice, and married him." 

The volume of stories contains a sketch which Gilbert calls 
Actors, Authors, and Audiences, in which he supposes that 
the author of an unsuccessful play is tried by a jury of the 
audience. He is charged with "having written and caused 
to be produced an original stage play which has not come 
up to the expectations of the audience/' and in the evidence 
Gilbert, with rather bitter wit, summarizes the points of 
view of managers and actors points of view that probably 
remain much the same to-day as they were sixty years ago. 
Cross-examined by tfie author, the manager says : 

" I did not read your play before accepting it, because I do not 
profess to be a judge of a play in manuscript. I accepted it because 
a French play on which I had counted proved a failure. I ha4 nothing 
ready to put in its place. I was at my wits* end. I have been there 
before. I soon get there. I have had no special training for the posi- 
tion of manager. I am not aware that any special training is requisite. 



38 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

It is a very easy profession to master. If you make a success, you 
pocket the profits ; if you fail, you close your theatre abruptly, and a 
benefit performance is organized on your behalf. Then you begin 
again." 

Here is an extract from the evidence of the leading lady : 

" I regard your play as highly creditable to you in a literary sense, 
but it is wholly undramatic. It is undoubtedly a thoughtful composi- 
tion. In point of fact, it is too thoughtful. It is a fact that the stage- 
manager suppressed several small characters. It is true that two 
minor parts were fused with mine to make it worthy of my reputation. 
I did not charge extra for rolling the three parts into one. I did it 
entirely in the author's interest. I do not remember your objecting 
to the mutilation of your play. It is not a circumstance that would 
be likely to dwell in my mind. I have never been hissed in my life. 
The parts I have played have frequently been hissed. No one has ever 
hissed me." 

The low comedian says : 

" I did my best with the part. I bought a remarkably clever 
mechanical wig (laughter) for it (laughter) but it was useless. 
(Roars of laughter.) In my zeal in behalf of the Prisoner I introduced 
much practical ' business ' into the part that was not set down for 
me. (Laughter.) I did not charge extra for introducing practical 
business ; I introduced it solely in the Prisoner's interest. No doubt 
the Prisoner remonstrated, but I knew what an audience likes much 
better than he does. (Laughter.) The part was soundly hissed 
even the introduced scene with the guinea-pig and the hair-oil." (Roars 
of laughter.) 

The singing chambermaid is also called : 

" The part I played was that of a simple-minded young governess 
in a country rectory, who is secretly in love with the Home Secretary. 
I did not see why such a character should not sing and dance in the 
intervals between her pathetic scenes. She might be supposed to 
do so in order to cheer her spirits. I do not consider ' Father's pants 
will soon fit brother ' an inappropriate song for such a character. 
There is nothing immoral in it. I see no reason why a broken-hearted 
governess should not endeavour to raise her spirits by dancing an 
occasional ' breakdown.' I would not dance one in every scene, because 
that would not be true to nature. I see no objection to her dancing 
one now and then. A governess would probably have to teach her 
pupils to dance, and she would naturally practise occasionally to keep 
her hand in. No, I do not mean her foot I mean what I say, her hand, 
I wore short petticoats because the audience expected it of me. I see 



GILBERT'S PROSE 39 

no reason why a governess in a country vicarage should not wear short 
petticoats if she has good legs." 

There is evidently a world of bitter experience behind the 
writing of Actors, Authors, and Audiences. 

In a paper also included in the volume, called Unappreciated 
Shakespeare, Gilbert develops a favourite thesis of his, that 
the English people do not read Shakespeare, and that if they 
go to performances of Shakespearean plays, it is because they 
feel at a disadvantage in knowing nothing whatever about 
the plots. He says : 

" The truth is that Shakespeare is not light reading. But an abso- 
lute ignorance of the works of Shakespeare is most properly held to be 
disgraceful, and so when it conies to pass that a play of Shakespeare 
is adequately presented, people rush to see it in order to familiarize 
themselves, in the readiest and easiest and most agreeable way, with 
works with which it is considered and most rightly that all English- 
men should be familiar." 

Knowing so little, they do not realize the common mutilation 
of the play as it is performed : 

" But who cares ? Who resents these atrocious liberties ? / do 
and the reader does, but who else ? A few, perhaps, but how many ? 
Who calls out from the pit to the ' star ' who deliberately cuts out the 
last two acts of Henry VIII because he has no part in it ' You 
insufferably vain and sacrilegious impostor, how dare you lay your 
mutilating hand upon the immortal works of a genius whom we revere 
as we revere our religion ? Restore the fourth and fifth acts of this 
great play ! Perform them at once, or up go your benches ! ' / am 
in the habit of publicly addressing the star-tragedian in these words, 
and so is the reader ; but who else does so ? No one else probably 
because it is not generally known that the two acts have been sup- 
pressed. As for the c star/ in all probability he has never read those 
acts. Why should he ? There is no Wolsey in them. 

" In truth and it is a lamentable truth the popular knowledge 
of Shakespeare is almost entirely derived from performances of muti- 
lated versions of Ms plays. Of those plays in their entirety, and of 
the plays that are seldom or never performed, the mass of Englishmen 
know little or nothing." 

Gilbert permitted no actor to add or to take away from his 
own plays, and he demanded for Shakespeare what he secured 
for himself. 

The dramatized version of The Wicked World was produced 



40 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

at the Haymarket, with the Kendals in the cast, and afterwards 
supplied Gilbert with the idea of the libretto of Fallen Fairies, 
the opera for which Mr. Edward German composed the music. 
Among the stories not included in the volume is one of a 
series of six tales arranged on the Dickens plan and published 
in 1866. The tales are called The Five 'Alls. Tom Hood 
wrote the introduction, W. J. Prowse wrote The King's Story, 
Clement Scott The Parson's Story, T. W. Robertson The Soldier's 
Story, T. Archer The Farmer's Story, and Gilbert The Lawyer's 
Story. It is rather a stilted essay in sentimentalism, with the 
Crimean War as a background no better and no worse than 
the other contributions to the series. Like most writers for 
the stage, Gilbert had an obvious tendency to be rhetorical 
when writing narrative fiction, and his rhetoric, anyhow in 
this one instance, is definitely theatrical. Here is a charac- 
teristic extract : 

" Captain Brereton, you are an uncompromising liar. You have 
taken advantage of my presence here to undermine Miss Bessemer' s 
affection for me. You left the Crimea in possession of my fullest 
confidence. You were intimately acquainted with my engagement 
to Miss Bessemer, and in my blind confidence I was happy in the belief 
that your presence in her society would keep the recollection of me 
more fully before her. And you have availed yourself of your intimacy 
with my mother, with her, and with me, to substitute yourself in my 
place. You may possibly think this behaviour consistent with your 
character as a gentleman. In my opinion it is that of an unmitigated 
scoundrel." 

The fact, of course, was and this will become more evident 
as Gilbert's later work is considered that no literary artist 
was ever less a realist than he. Fairyland was his home, and 
in his short stories, as in his 'plays, he is happiest and most 
successful in the fantastic land of make-believe. It is obvious 
that it is infinitely more difficult to make the fantastic con- 
vincing in a play than in a story. Gilbert was triumphant 
in the more difficult task, and in the easier he was sufficiently 
successful in Foggerty's Fairy to make one believe that, had 
the theatre not called him as its own, he would have won 
a considerable reputation as a story-writer. 



i 



CHAPTER IV 
THE FIRST PLAYS 

N the fragment of autobiography printed in the Theatre 
-Gilbert has himself told the story of his beginning as a 
dramatist : 



" Of the many good and staunch, friends I made on my introduc- 
tion into journalism, one of the best and staunchest was poor Tom 
Robertson, and it is entirely to him that I owe my introduction to 
stage-work. He had been asked by Miss Herbert, the then lessee of 
St. James's Theatre, if he knew anyone who could write a Christmas 
piece in a fortnight. Robertson, who had often expressed to me his 
belief that I should succeed as a writer for the stage, advised Miss 
Herbert to entrust me with the work, and the introduction resulted 
in my first piece, a burlesque on UElisir $ Amove, called Dulcamara ; 
or, The Little Duck and the Great Quack. The piece, written in ten 
days and rehearsed in a week, met with more success than it deserved, 
owing, mainly, to the late Mr. Frank Matthews' excellent impersona- 
tion of the title-role. In the hurry of production there had been no 
time to discuss terms, but after it had been successfully launched, Mr. 
Emden (Miss Herbert's acting manager) asked me how much I wanted 
for the piece. I modestly hoped that, as the piece was a success, 
30 would not be considered an excessive price for the London right. 
Mr. Emden looked rather surprised, and, as I thought, disappointed. 
However, he wrote a cheque, asked for a receipt, and, when he had got 
it, said : ' Now take a bit of advice from an old stager who knows 
what he is talking about : never sell so good a piece as this for ^30 
again.' And I never have. 

" My first piece gave me no sort of anxiety. I had nothing in the 
matter of dramatic reputation to lose, and I entered my box on the 
first night of Dulcamara with a cceur leger. It never entered my head 
that the piece would fail, and I even had the audacity to pre-invite 
a dozen friends to supper after the performance. The piece succeeded 
(as it happened), and the supper-party finished the evening appro- 

41 



42 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

priately enough, but I have since learnt something about the risks in- 
separable from every ' first night/ and I would as soon invite friends 
to supper after a forthcoming amputation at the hip-joint. 

" Once fairly afloat on the dramatic stream, I managed to keep 
my head above-water. Dulcamara was followed by a burlesque on 
La Figlia del Reggimento, called La Vivandidre, which was produced 
at what was then the Queen's Theatre, in Long Acre, and excellently 
played by Mr. J. L. Toole, Mr. Lionel Brough, Miss Hodson, Miss M. 
Simpson, Miss Everard (the original Little Buttercup of H.M.S. Pina- 
fore), and Miss Fanny Addison. The Vivandiere ran for 120 nights, 
and was followed at the Royalty Theatre by the Merry Zingara, a 
burlesque on the Bohemian Girl, in which Miss M. Oliver, Miss 
Charlotte Saunders, and Mr. F. Dewar appeared. This also ran 
120 nights, but it suffered from comparison with Mr. F. C. Burnand's 
Black-Eyed Susan, which it immediately followed, and which had 
achieved the most remarkable success recorded in the annals of 
burlesque. 

" Then came the opening of the Gaiety Theatre, for which occasion 
I wrote Robert the Devil, a burlesque on the opera of that name, and 
in which Miss Farren appeared. This was followed by my first comedy, 
An Old Score, which, however, made no great mark. But there was a 
circumstance connected with its production which may serve as a 
hint to unacted authors. As soon as I had written the piece, I had it 
set up in type a proceeding that cost me exactly five guineas. I 
sent a copy of it to Mr. Hollingshead, and within one hour of receiving 
it he had read and accepted it. He subsequently informed me that 
he read it at once Because it was printed. Verb, sap" 

The two first pages of the published version of Dulcamara 
are sufficient indication of its character. 

A NEW AND ORIGINAL EXTRAVAGANZA 

entitled 
DULCAMARA ; 

or, the 
LITTLE DUCK AND THE GREAT QUACK. 

First Produced at the 

THEATRE ROYAL, ST. JAMES'S, 

December 29, 1866. 

By 
W. S. GILBERT, ESQ. 




GILBERT AS AN OFFICER IN THE GORDON HIGHLANDERS 



THE FIRST PLAYS 43 

DULCAMARA ; 

or, 
THE LITTLE DUCK AND THE GREAT QUACK. 

DRAMATIS PERSONS. 

NEMORINO (a Neapolitan peasant, of whom 

you will hear more presently) . . . Miss Ellen McDonnell 
BELCORE (a Sergeant of Infantry, who is " cut 

out " for a good soldier by nature and 

by Nemorino) Mr. F. Charles 

DR. DULCAMARA Mr. Frank Matthews 

BEPPO (his Jack-pudding a mystery, whose 

real nature is concealed by a mysterious 

Pike-crust) Mr. Stoyle 

TOMASO (a Notary, keeping company with 

Gianetta ; '* Tomaso and Tomaso, and 

Tomaso, creeps with his pretty pay- 

sanne " Shakespeare) Mr. Gaston Murray 

ADINE (the little Duck, who, it is hoped, will 

nevertheless be found to be very long in 

the bill). . Miss Carlotta Addison 

GIANETTA (the pretty paysanne, to whom 

Tomaso pays an overwhelming amount 

of attention) Miss Eleanor Bufton 

C^TERINA (an exquisite villager). . . . Miss Marion 
MARIA (another) Miss Guiness 

Soldiers, Male and Female Peasants, Fisher Girls, etc. 



SCENE i. EXTERIOR OF ADINA'S FARM. 
Arrival of Belcore and his warriors. 

SCENE 2. INTERIOR OF NEMORINO' s HOUSE, 

SCENE 3. A VILLAGE MARKET PLACE. 

Dance of Soldiers and Peasants, and arrival of Dr. Dulcamara. 
The Mystery ! The Love Philtre i 

SCENE 4. INTERIOR OF AD IN A' s FARM, 
Preparations for the marriage of ALL the village girls. 

SCENE 5, THE VILLAGE GREEN. 

The Potion Works Discomfiture of Belcore Astounding Solution 
of a Remarkable Mystery, and Triumph of Agricultural Innocence, 

typified by 
A GRAND ALLEGORICAL TABLEAU OF LOVE'S DEVICES 1 



THE MUSIC ARRANGED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF 

MR. VAN HAMME. 



44 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

H. J. Byron, who was responsible for Gilbert's introduction 
to the columns of Fun, was the author of many successful 
farces, including Our Boys, and of innumerable burlesques, 
the principal characteristics of which were a long series of 
appalling puns. It was inevitable that, in writing burlesque, 
Gilbert should in some measure have followed the Byron 
model, though, as has been shown in one of his dramatic criti- 
cisms that we have quoted, his sense of fitness was jarred 
by its extravagant tastelessness. Dulcamara and Robert the 
Devil, with which the Gaiety Theatre was opened by John 
Hollingshead in 1868, are much like the ordinary burlesques 
of the time. The 1866 number of Wane's Christmas Annual, 
edited by Tom Hood, contains a burlesque by Gilbert of 
Ruy Bias. He described it as a preposterous piece of - non- 
sense for private reproduction, and as it has never been printed, 
except in this long-forgotten annual, we quote from it as an 
example of Gilbert's early burlesques. It is written in rhymed 
couplets, with a pun almost in every line. 

In the List of dramatis persona, the major-domo, Don Sallust, 
the master of Ruy Bias, is described as " a man with a good 
deal to look after, and who made yer at home, oh, when you 
came to stay with his master." 

Don Sallust has been banished on account of an intrigue 
with one of the Queen's maids, and in revenge he disguises 
Ruy Bias as his cousin, Don Cesar de Bazan, and helps him 
to make love to the Queen herself. The Queen is lonely and 
unhappy : 



QUEEN. Unhappy Queen unhappy maiden, I ! 
In vain to get a wink of sleep I try ; 
But wander, dressing-gowny and night-cappy, 
I seldom get a nap I'm so un-nappy 1 
Oh, gentle sleep apostrophized as sich 
By some late monarch I forget by which 
Oh, how I nightly long for that blest time 
When, bathed in sleep, I need not talk in rhyme, 
Or be prepared to sing about my cares 
In parodies of all the well-known airs 1 



THE FIRST PLAYS 45 

SONG. Q0EEN. 

Air *' A~hunting we will go." 

The king announces every morn, 

In summer or in snow, 
To me, his faithful wife forlorn, 

That a -hunting he will go ! 
What kind of pleasure can he find 

In tearing through his parks, 
In search of game of various kind, 

Confining his remarks 

To " Hey ! ho ! Chevy 1 

Hark forward ! Hark forward I Tantivy," etc. 
If this goes on much longer, why 
I'm sure that I shall die. 

If he'd confine his hunting to 

The usual time of year, 
I'd not complain but all in vain, 

The season's over here. 
How can he care to spend the day 

With huntsmen and with hounds, 
Expressing all he wants to say, 

In such unmeaning sounds 

As " Hey 1 ho ! Chevy ! 

Hark forward ! Hark forward ! Tantivy," etc. 
If this goes on much longer, why 
I'm sure that I shall die. 

In the third scene of the burlesque, Don Diego, one of the 
court noblemen, proposes to his fellows a plan for filling their 
pockets : 

" In Queen Maria's kitchen, pounds, I find, 
Are lost in perquisites of every kind ; 
The servants' kitchen stuff, alone, I'm told 
Is worth a hundred thousand pounds in gold. 
The fees that tradesmen to the butler pay 
Amount to several hundred pounds a day. 
The Christmas boxes, too ! They give, I hear, 
A box upon the opening of each year ! 
The butler vanishes so does the tea 
Best seconds disappear, and, like the bee, 
They get them money aH the day from flours, 
These seconds, gentle sirs, may be weE 'ours. 



46 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

(During these lines, Ruy has been expressing, in panto- 
mime, the profoundest disgust of Don Diego's proposal.) 

Stop all the servants' perquisites, the pests ! 
Cram all their wastes into our private chests ! 
Reduce their rations and cut down their wages, 
Butlers and footmen, chambermaids and pages ! 
This is what I propose with all submission." 

In the end, Ruy Bias and Don Sallust fight a duel. Sallust 
is killed and Ruy Bias is left happily with the Queen. The 
finale has something of Gilbert's characteristic deftness of 
rhyming, and might, indeed, have been used in one of the 
later libretti : 

QUEEN. Oh ! all is settled, and is just as jolly as can be. 
Ruy. An easy independence I perceptibly foresee ; 

I killed the fellow, dearest girl, and we shall soon be one, 

QUEEN. I thought you would, 'cause in a play it's usually done ! 
(Air changes to " Diamants de la Couronne") 

RUY (to audience). 

List, I implore, one moment more 

To me, before you seek the door : 

You'd best ignore deceitful lore 

But that, I'm sure, you knew before ! 
QUEEN. But as for me, I'm going to be 

Restored to he, as you may see : 

Why should I be melancholee 

Or pipe my 'ee, I do not see I 

(Don Sallust springs up and joins the chorus.) 

SALLUST. And let me say a word, I pray, 
Before the play is o'er to-day. 
All men, they say, become the prey 
Of habits they in youth obey. 
The moral's trite, when I was quite 
A little wight I learnt to bite, 
And in the fight you saw to-night 
He killed me quite >and serve rne right ! 

Chorus : 

But as for she, she's going to be 
Restored to he, as you may see 1 
Why she should be melancholee, 
Or pipe her 'ee, we do not see. 



THE FIRST PLAYS 47 

In writing burlesque, as in writing sentimental comedy, 
Gilbert was doing work that other men could do. It was only 
when his work was something that no one else dared attempt 
that his genius was evident. In everything else he was dis- 
tinguished above his fellows, but it must be remembered 
that the English theatre in the sixties and seventies of last 
century was for the most part the home of sheer banality. 
Then Gilbert was a giant among pigmies. When he wrote 
the Savoy libretti, he was a giant among giants. 

But Gilbert did succeed in giving humour and distinction 
to Victorian burlesque. In La Vivandi&re, produced in 1868 
at the old Queen's Theatre in Long Acre, with Toole, Lionel 
Brough, and Henrietta Hodson in the cast, he began to find 
himself in the theatre as he had already found himself in 
Fun, and to exploit the distinctive whimsical humour of the 
Bab Ballads and the Savoy operas. In one scene he pillories 
the bad manners of English tourists. Lord Margate is talking 
to his companions at the Grands Mulets on Mont Blanc : 

LORD MARGATE. " You all remember when we left the shore 
Of Rule Britannia, we in concert swore 
We'd do our best on reaching these localities 
To show our undisputed nationalities, 
To show contempt in everything that we did : 
Tell me, my comrades, how we have succeeded ? " 

MARQUIS OF CRANBOURNE ALLEY. I've sworn at all who've hindered 
my researches. 

LORD PENTONVILLE. I've worn my hat in all the foreign churches. 

LORD PECKHAM. On all their buildings I've passed verbal strictures 
And poked my walking-stick through all their pictures. 
I only carry it about for that use. 

MARQUIS OF CRANBOURNE ALLEY. I've decorated all their public 
statues. 

LORD PENTONVILLE. When Frenchmen have conversed with me or 

you, 
We've always turned the talk to Waterloo. 



48 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

LORD MARGATE, I've half a dozen Frenchmen tried to teach 
That I'm twelve times as brave and strong as each, 
And showed that this corollary must follow, 
One Englishman can thrash twelve Frenchmen hollow, 
In fact, my friends, wherever we have placed ourselves, 
I may say we have thoroughly disgraced ourselves. 

Both as man and artist, Gilbert was typically and absolutely 
English, but he never tired of laughing at the jingo patriotism 
which is based on folly and bad manners. The gibe in La 
VivandUre is repeated in H.M.S. Pinafore in the well-known 
lines : 

" He is an Englishman ! 
For he himself has said it, 
And it's greatly to his credit, 
That he is an Englishman ! 
That he is an Englishman 1 

" For he might have been a Roosian, 
A French, or Turk, or Proosian, 
Or perhaps Itali-an ; 
Or perhaps Itali-an ! 

" But in spite of all temptations 
To belong to other nations, 
He remains an Englishman ! J> 

It is repeated again in The Darned Mounseer* 

" I shipped, d'ye see, in a Revenue sloop, 
And of! Cape Finisterre, 

A merchantman we see, 

A Frenchman, going free, 
So we made for the bold Mounseer, 

D'ye see ? 
We made for the bold Mounseer 1 

"But she proved to be a Frigate and she up with her ports, 
And fires with a thirty-two I 

It come uncommon near, 

But we answered with a cheer, 
Which paralysed the Parley-voo, 

D'ye see ? 
Which paralysed ,tbe Parley-voo I 



THE FIRST PLAYS 49 

" Then our Captain he up and he says, says he, 
' That chap we need not fear 

We can take her, if we like, 

She is sartin for to strike, 
For she's only a darned Mounseer, 

D'ye see ? 
She's only a darned Mounseer ! ' 

" But to fight a French fal-lal it's like hittin' of a gal- 
It's a lubberly thing for to do, 

For we, with all our faults, 

Why, we're sturdy British salts, 
While she's but a Parley-voo, 

Dy'e see ? 
A miserable Parley-voo ! 

"So we up with our helm, and we scuds before the breeze, 
As we gives a compassionating cheer ; 

Froggee answers with a shout 

As he sees us go about, 
Which was grateful of the poor Mounseer, 

D'ye see ? 
Which was grateful of the poor Mounseer ! 

" And I'll wager in their joy they kissed each other's cheek, 
(Which is what them furriners do,) 

And then they blessed their lucky stars 

We were hardy British tars 
Who had pity on a poor Parley-voo, 

D'ye see ? 
Who had pity on a poor Parley-voo 1 " 

Gilbert was often the victim as well as the inventor of para- 
dox, and there is something delightfully comic in the fact 
that this song, obviously intended as a gibe at the futile " one 
jolly Englishman can lick all three " boastings, was regarded 
by certain French critics as a gross insult to their nation, 
and years after it was written the supposed insult prevented 
a Gilbert and Sullivan production in Paris. In this connection 
one may note the jokes at expansive patriotism in Utopia 
Limited, where the idea of La Vivandibre reappears again. 

Between 1869 and 1872 Gilbert wrote a great many sketches 
for the famous German Reed entertainments at the Gallery 
4 



50 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

of Illustration in Regent Street. The music of these sketches 
was composed by Frederick Clay, who in 1871 introduced 
Gilbert to SuUivan. As an example of Gilbert's constant 
habit of re-using plots and ideas, it may be mentioned that 
one of these comediettas, which was first played in 1869, was 
expanded into Ruddigore years afterwards. Arthur Cecil, 
Corney Grain, Leonora Braham, and Fanny Holland all made 
their stage debuts in the plays that Gilbert wrote for the 
German Reed entertainments. 
To return to the autobiography, Gilbert says : 

ff I had for some time determined to try the experiment of a blank- 
verse burlesque in which a picturesque story should be told in a strain 
of mock-heroic seriousness ; and through the enterprise of the late 
Mrs. Listen (then manageress of the Olympic) I was afforded an oppor- 
tunity of doing so. The story of Mr. Tennyson's Princess supplied the 
subject-matter of the parody, and I endeavoured so to treat it as to 
absolve myself from a charge of wilful irreverence. The piece was 
produced with signal success, owing in no small degree to the admir- 
able earnestness with which Miss M. Reinhardt invested the character 
of the heroine. Her address to the ' girl graduates ' remains in my 
mind as a rare example of faultless declamation. It was unfortunately 
necessary to cast three ladies for the parts of the three principal youths, 
and the fact that three ladies were dressed as gentlemen disguised as 
ladies, imparted an epicene character to their proceedings which 
rather interfered with the interest of the story. The success of the 
piece, however, was unquestionable, and it led to a somewhat more 
ambitious flight in the same direction. 

" Immediately after the production of The Princess, I was corn- 
missioned by the late Mr. Buckstone to write a blank- verse fairy 
comedy on the story of Le Palais de la Verite, a subject which had been 
suggested to me by Mr. Palgrave Simpson. The piece was produced 
at the Haymarket Theatre with an admirable cast, which included 
Mr. Buckstone, Mr. Everill, Mrs. Kendal, Miss Caroline Hill, and Miss 
Fanny Gwynne, and it ran about 150 nights. A day or two before the 
production of the piece, I was surprised to receive a packet containing 
twenty-four dress-circle seats, twenty-four upper-box seats, twenty-four 
pit seats, and twenty-four gallery seats, for the first night. On inquiry, 
I discovered that by immemorial Haymarket pustom these ninety- 
six seats were the author's nightly perquisites during the entire run 
of a three-act play. I assured Mr. Buckstone that I had no desire to 
press my right to this privilege, which seems to be a survival of the 
old days when authors were paid in part by tickets of admission. I 
believe that the Haymarket was the only theatre in which the custom 



THE FIRST PLAYS 51 

existed. Under Mr. Buckstone's conservative management, very old 
fashions lingered on long after they had been abolished at other theatres. 
I can remember the time (about thirty-eight years since, I think) 
when it was still lighted by wax candles. The manager of the Hay- 
market, in Court dress, and carrying two wax candles, ushered Royalty 
into its box long after other managers had left this function to their 
deputy, and the old practice of announcing that a new play * would 
be repeated every night until further notice ' survived until the very 
close of Mr. Buckstone's management. 

" Pygmalion and Galatea followed The Palace of Truth, and achieved 
a remarkable success, owing mainly to Mrs. Kendal's admirable im- 
personation of Galatea. Mr. Buckstone, Mr. Howe, Miss Caroline 
Hill, and Mrs. Chippendale were the other noteworthy members of 
the cast. This was followed by The Wicked World, a fairy comedy in 
three acts, and Chanty, a modern comedy in four acts, which achieved 
but an indifferent success in London, although it was played with much 
credit in the country, under Mr. Wilson Barrett's management." 

The Princess was produced on January 8, 1870 ; The Palace 
of Truth on November 19, 1870 ; Pygmalion and Galatea on 
December 9, 1871 ; The Wicked World on January 4, 1873. 
Pygmalion and Galatea has, of course, often been revived, 
notably by Miss Mary Anderson in 1884 and in 1888, and as 
a contrast to the 30 which he received for his first play, it 
is interesting to note that Gilbert received some 40,000 in 
fees for Pygmalion and Galatea. 

The quality of the dialogue in The Princess may be esti- 
mated by the following lines : 

" For, adder-like, his sting lay in his tongue ! 
His bitter insolence still rankles here, 
Although a score of years have come and gone ! 
His outer man, gnarled, knotted as it was, 
Seemed to his cruel and cynical within, 
Hyperion to a Saturday Review ! " 

There is a definite suggestion of the Gilbert of the Savoy 
operas in one of the incidental songs : 

" Load her with frippery, 
Glovery, slippery, 

Cleverly planned, not going too far ! 
Marabout feather, 

Gossamer airy, 
Fastened together, 

Give to your fairy." 



52 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

The plot of The Palace of Truth is familiar. It finishes 
with a series of rhymed couplets : 

PALMIS. You've learnt to doubt the love that those profess, 
Who by such love gain temporal success. 

(Looking angrily at CHRYSAL.) 

ZORAM. That surly misanthropes, with venom tainted, 
ARISTA us. Are often not as black as they are painted ! 
AZEMA, To doubt all maids who of their virtue boast : 
That they're the worst who moralize the most ! 

(Looking at MIRZA.) 

MIRZA. That blushes, though they're most becoming, yet 
Proclaim, too oft, the commonplace coquette ! 

(Looking at AZEMA.) 

I can declare, with pardonable pride, 

I never blush ! 

AZEMA. You couldn't ii you tried ! 
PHILAMIR. Under the influence that lately reigned 

Within these walls I breathed my love unfeigned ; 

Now that the power no longer reigns above, 

I ratify the accents of my love. 

Forgive me, Zeloide, my life, my bride ! 
ZELOIDE (very demurely). I love you, Philamir be satisfied I 

Pygmalion and Galatea is a romantic comedy in blank 
verse. Its stage-craft is admirable, and it is easy to under- 
stand the attraction that the part of Galatea has had for 
beautiful actresses. 

Perhaps the most felicitous lines are those in which Galatea 
describes her gradual awakening to life : 

" I was a cold dull stone ! I recollect 
That by some means I knew that I was stone : 
That was the first dull gleam of consciousness ; 
I became conscious of a chilly self, 
A cold immovable identity, 
I knew that I was stone, and knew no more ! 
Then, by an imperceptible advance, 
Came the dim evidence of outer things, 
Seen darkly and imperfectly yet seen 
The walls surrounding me, and I, alone, 
That pedestal that curtain then a voice 
That called on Galatea ! At that word, 



THE FIRST PLAYS 53 

Which seemed to shake my marble to the core, 
That which was dim before, came evident, 
Sounds, that had hummed around me, indistinct, 
Vague, meaningless seemed to resolve themselves 
Into a language I could understand ; 
I felt my frame pervaded by a glow 
That seemed to thaw my marble into flesh : 
Its cold hard substance throbbed with active life, 
My limbs grew supple, and I moved I lived I 
Lived in the ecstasy of new-born life ! 
Lived in the love of him that fashioned me ! 
Lived in a thousand tangled thoughts of hope." 

On January 25, 1871, the Court Theatre in Sloane Square 
was opened by Miss Marie Lytton with a comedy by Gilbert 
called Randall's Thumb. This was followed by his Creatures 
of Impulse on April 15, 1871 ; by a dramatization of Great 
Expectations on May 28, 1871 ; by On Guard on October 28, 
1871 ; and by The Wedding March on November 15, 1873. 
Writing of his version of Great Expectations, Gilbert said : 

" It afforded, however, a curious example of the manner in which 
the Censorship of those days dealt with plays submitted to it for licence. 
It seems that it was the custom of the then Licencer of Plays to look 
through the MS, of a new piece, and strike out all irreverent words, 
substituting for them words of an inoffensive character. In Great 
Expectations, Magwitch, the returned convict, had to say to Pip : ' Here 
you are, in chambers fit for a Lord. 5 The MS. was returned to the 
theatre with the word ' Lord J struck out, and ' Heaven ' substituted, 
in pencil ! " 

In the spring of 1873, Miss Lytton produced The Happy 
Land, a burlesque version of Gilbert's Wicked World, which 
Gilbert himself sketched out and Gilbert a Beckett completed. 
On January 3, 1874, Charity was produced at the Haymarket 
Theatre, the cast including Mr. and Mrs. Kendal. Gilbert 
took immense pains with this comedy. The one notebook 
that he left behind him contains scenes of the play written, 
rewritten, and transposed with evident determination to attack 
a social problem impressively and, in a manner, to compel 
respectful attention. Charity is a problem play, the story 
of a woman who redeemed the mistake of her life by a career 



54 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

of self-sacrifice. It says something for Gilbert's courage that 
he should have attacked the hard judgments of conventional 
Victorian morality, even though his play finishes with a con- 
ventional sentimental ending. Times have changed, but it 
was certainly true in the respectable England of the seventies 
that there was one sin, and one sin only, " for which on earth 
there is no atonement/' Gilbert preaches in Charity, deliber- 
ately preaches, for the jester, with whom all the world still 
laughs, was moved to the depth of his soul by cruelty either 
in individuals or institutions, and yearned, almost pathetically, 
to use his art to destroy the thing that he hated. 

Sweethearts, a sentimental comedy in two acts, was produced 
at the Prince of Wales's Theatre in 1874, the principal cha- 
racter being played by Mrs. Bancroft. It was followed at 
the same theatre by Tom Cobb. Broken Hearts was produced 
at the Court Theatre on December 17, 1875, the cast including 
Mr. and Mrs. Kendal. Years after, Gilbert told Miss Anderson 
there was " more of me " in Broken Hearts than anywhere 
else, a confession that the humorist, whose wit was often so 
brilliantly hard, was at heart a sentimentalist. Broken Hearts 
is a fanciful fairy-story, set on an island where four broken- 
hearted maidens live together guarded by a deformed dwarf : 

" We maidens all (save one) have dearly loved 
And those we loved have died. We, broken hearts, 
Knit by the sympathy of kindred woe, 
Have sought this isle far from the ken of man ; 
And having loved, and having lost our loves, 
Stand pledged to love no living thing again." 

The man, young and handsome, arrives on the island and 
two of the maidens, two sisters, fall in love with him. The 
elder is strong and resolute, the younger weak and ailing, 
and after a rivalry in unselfishness, the younger sister dies. 

Broken Hearts was very near to Gilbert's heart, and he 
resented the failure to appreciate it. F. C. Burnand, who was 
undoubtedly jealous of Gilbert, wrote to Clement Scott : 
" Pm off to see Gilbert's ' Broken Parts/ " Scott foolishly 



THE FIRST PLAYS 55 

repeated the remark, and Gilbert wrote Mm the following letter : 
" Burnand's attempt at wit is silly and coarse, and your 
attempt to bring it into prominence is in the worst possible 
taste. I am not by any means a thin-skinned man, but in 
this case I feel bound to take exception to your treatment 
of me and of my serious work/' 

Dan'l Druce was produced at the Haymarket Theatre on 
September n, 1876 ; and Engaged at the same theatre on 
October 3, 1877, Miss Marion Terry playing the leading part. 
Engaged is a humorous farce with a definite suggestion of 
the " topsy-turvydom " of the Gilbert of the Bab Ballads and 
the operas, and it has a proper place in the story of Gilbert's 
considerable achievements. It was produced in the same year 
as The Sorcerer. The first act takes place in a Scottish cottage, 
near Gretna, and it opens with the courting of Maggie Mac- 
farlane by Angus Macalister. Angus explains to his future 
mother-in-law : 

" I'm a fairly prosperous man. What wi* farmin' a bit land and 
giUieing odd times, and a bit o' poachin' now and again ; and what 
wi* my illicit whusky still and throwin' trains off the line, that the 
poor distracted passengers may come to my cot, I've mair ways than 
one of making an honest living and I'll work them a' nicht and day 
for my bonnie Meg 1 " 

A train is wrecked, the distracted passengers arrive, and the 
fun begins, the dramatist burlesquing romantic drama with 
a gusto that Mr. Shaw might well envy. The dialogue is 
excellent. For example : 

MINNIE. Mr. Belvawny, I don't know what we should have done 
without you. What with your sweet songs, your amusing riddles, 
and your clever conjuring tricks, the weary days of waiting have 
passed like a delightful dream. 

Miss TREHERENE. It is impossible to be dull in the society of one 
who can charm the soul with plaintive ballads one moment and 
the next roll a rabbit and a guinea-pig into one. 

The conclusion is pure Gilbertian, The heroine speaks: 

" Belvawny, I love you with an intensity of devotion that I firmly 
believe will last while I live. But dear Cheviot is my husband now ; 



56 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

he lias a claim upon me which it would be impossible nay, criminal 
to resist. Farewell, Belvawny ; Minnie may yet be yours. Cheviot 
my husband my own love if the devotion of a lifetime can atone 
for the misery of the last few days, it is yours, with every wifely 
sentiment of pride, gratitude, admiration, and love." 

Gretchen, a blank-verse version of the Faust story with 
MepMstopheles left out, was produced at the Olympic Theatre 
on March 24, 1879. It was not a success, and Gilbert once 
said: "I called it Gretchen, the public called it rot" The 
play is not without dignity. The following lines are part of 
Gretchen j s last speech : 

" Ah me I but it is meet that I should die, 
For I can turn my head but not my heart 
And I can close my eyes, but not my heart 
And still my foolish tongue, but not my heart 
So, Faustus, it is meet that I should die." 

Gilbert's other earlier dramatic work included various 
adaptations from the French which no Victorian dramatist 
ever succeeded in avoiding Foggerty's Fairy, a fairy comedy 
founded on a story written many years before, which was 
produced at the Criterion in December, 1881 ; Comedy and 
Tragedy, which Mary Anderson produced at the Lyceum in 
1884 ; Brantinghame Hall, produced at the St. James's Theatre 
in 1888, with a cast that included Louis Waller, Rutland 
Barrington, Norman Forbes, Mrs. Gaston Murray, Miss Julia 
NeUson, and Miss Rose Norreys ; and Rosencrantz and Guildern- 
stern, a burlesque of Hamlet, produced at the Vaudeville Theatre 
in June, 1891. 

When he was knighted, Gilbert confessed that he was the 
author of over seventy plays. He was an industrious and 
prolific writer, and he is almost unique among writers of 
genius from the fact that his fame rests on a comparatively 
small number of masterpieces, while a great part of his work 
is almost forgotten. 

In Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, Gilbert returns to the 
blank verse into which, like another Silas Wegg, he had a 



THE FIRST PLAYS 57 

constant desire to drop. It is an amusing piece of fooling, 
and in one of Ophelia's speeches there is an admirable burlesque 
summary of the never-ending discussions concerning the 
sanity of Hamlet: 

" Opinion is divided. Some men liold 
That lie's the sanest far of all sane men 
Some that he's really sane, but shamming mad 
Some that he's really mad, but shamming sane 
Some that he will be mad, some that he was - 
Some that he couldn't be. But on the whole 
(As far as I can make out what they mean) 
The favourite theory's somewhat like this : 
Hamlet is idiotically sane 
With lucid intervals of lunacy," 

Bmntinghame Hall, produced by Rutland Barrington at the 
St. James's Theatre on November 27, 1888, is a melodrama 
that begins in the Australian bush and finishes in England, 
but it is melodrama with many Gilbertian touches. The 
speech of the clergyman in the first act is an echo of the 
vicar's song in The Sorcerer: 

" I'm desperately impressionable, and with half the women of my 
parish setting their caps at me, I wasn't safe. They never left me. 
Presents showered down upon me. It literally rained carriage-rugs, 
altar-cloths, birthday-books, paper-knives, letter-weights, pocket- 
diaries, knitted waistcoats, and presentation inkstands. I was the 
repository of all their confidences. I had to devote two hours every 
day to deciding cases of female conscience of the most complicated 
and delicate description. My photographs were bought up as fast 
as they could be printed ! Half-a-dozen ladies of exalted station were 
carried out in convulsions whenever I preached. The situation became 
serious ; it was more than a highly susceptible clergyman ought to be 
called upon to bear. To make a long story short, there was nothing 
for it but flight. So, one night, one dark November night, I fled ! 
I sailed at once for Sydney, and here I am, a hard-working bush mission- 
ary with thirty or forty miles to ride every day a fine field of useful- 
ness before me and except for your wife, whom I am much obliged 
to you for having married nothing in the shape of a handsome woman 
within a week's march. I weathered 'em, sir ; I weathered 'em. It 
was a hard fight, but, by Jove, I won it, sir. By Jove, I won it." 

The last act is sometimes very human, as when " an infernal 
rascal " does " an uncommonly fine thing/' Infernal rascals 



58 W. S. GILBERT : HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

are always doing uncommonly fine things in the real world, 
which is one of the phenomena that make life thrilling and 
bewildering. But they are rarely permitted to do fine things 
on the stage. And in this last act, too, Gilbert is sometimes 
the real Gilbert, as when the country gentleman says : 

" Anticipating this interview, I have taken the precaution, as a 
magistrate, to bind myself over to keep the peace towards all Her 
Majesty's subjects for the space of three calendar months." 

Comedy and Tragedy is an effective one-act play. It is 
curious to note that Gilbert wrote best when he did not write 
at any length. The libretti of the operas are all very short. 
The short Comedy and Tragedy is superior to many of his 
comedies, and The Hooligan, the best of his dramas, is in 
one act. 

Gilbert once declared that no man creates anything worthy 
of himself until the age of forty. History, certainly, does 
not justify this statement, but it is, to a large extent, true 
of his own career. Trial by Jury, the first of the Gilbert 
and Sullivan operas, was produced when Gilbert was thirty- 
nine, and The Sorcerer when he was forty-one. It should, 
however, be remembered that several of the plays with which 
we are concerned in this chapter were written after the drama- 
tist had begun to explore we quote one of his early American 
critics " a mine rare, indeed, in quality/' 

To the end of his days Gilbert rebelled against confinement 
to one form of dramatic work, even though that work was 
supremely his own. With his libretti, as Mr. William Archer 
has said, " he restored the literary self-respect of the English 
stage. " But he was not content with that ; he was ever anxious 
to attempt other forms of dramatic writing. We have already 
suggested the essential quality of Gilbert's genius. The 
Gilbert of the early Bab Ballads is, almost without change 
in idea or development in craftsmanship, the Gilbert of the last 
libretti. Similarly his interests,, notably the law, remained 
the same all through his life, and his early enthusiasms never 
left him. 



THE FIRST PLAYS 59 

Robertson was in some respects his master. From him, 
he himself said, he had learned the art of stage-management. 
Gilbert told Mr. William Archer : 

" Robertson was an exceedingly skilful dramatic tailor. He knew 
the stage perfectly, and tie knew perfectly the company he had to 
write for the then Prince of Wales' s stock company, which varied 
very little. He fitted each character with the utmost nicety to the 
man or woman who was to play in it ; and he was there to instruct 
them in every movement, every emphasis. But when these parts 
are transferred to other actors who knew not Robertson, the very 
nicety of their adjustment to their original performers is apt to render 
them misfits. I think that accounts in great measure for the compara- 
tive ineffectiveness of his plays in revival their charm was so largely 
dependent on Robertson's personal inspiration. . . . 

" He invented stage-management. It was an unknown art before 
his time. Formerly, in a conversation scene, for instance, you simply 
brought down two or three chairs from the flat and placed them in 
a row in the middle of the stage, and the people sat down and talked, 
and when the conversation was ended the chairs were replaced. Robert- 
son showed how to give life and variety and nature to the scene by 
breaking it up with all sorts of little incidents and delicate by-play. 
I have been at many of his rehearsals and learnt a great deal from 
them." 

Like master, like pupil. The American writer whom we 
have already quoted said of Gilbert in the early eighties : 

" Always his own stage manager, he never permits his plays to be 
brought out in London without prolonged rehearsals, at which he 
goes through every part and arranges every bit of ' business/ He also 
frequently sketches the scenery and models the ' properties,' and if 
it is necessary to instruct the ballet, he is still in his element, being 
an adept even in the harlequin art." 

But it was not only in his stagecraft that Gilbert resembled 
Robertson. Both men were sentimentalists, and of the 
two Gilbert was probably the more whole-hearted. He 
wanted to beat Robertson at his own game. He yearned to 
give sentimental comedy greater distinction and a fuller 
artistic life. 

Success often brings tragedy with it. Gilbert was the master 
of literary paradox, and he himself was a paradox. He was 
the most successful writer of comic opera libretti and of 



60 W. S. GILBERT : HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

humorous verse that English literature has ever known. His 
work brought him wealth and immense popularity. He was 
quoted fifty times more frequently than half the poets dead 
and all the poets living. He found libretti vulgar doggerel, 
and left it a fine art, and it might have been supposed that 
consciousness of artistic achievement as well as material 
returns would have made him a happy man. But he was 
never quite happy, never really content. Success was his 
in no half-measure, but it was not all the success for which he 
yearned. He wore the cap and bells of the jester with the 
fine air of an artist, but he never loved the cap and the bells. 
Gilbert is an example of the truth of Jane Austen's words : 
" We all love to instruct." The Gilbert of the airy lyric and 
magical irresistible foolery was obsessed by the importance of 
being earnest. He wanted to preach. 

In the writing of genuine biography, in the endeavour to 
present a great man as he really was, splendid qualities are 
made the more evident by the recognition of limitations. 
No one with the smallest critical faculty can read the Gilbert 
comedies and find in them more than a suggestion of the 
genius that riots in the Bab Ballads and in the Gilbert and 
Sullivan libretti. The strangest and most ironic of Gilbertian 
paradoxes is that he never could realize that his serious 
plays were not equal to his magnificent excursions into the 
Land of Topsy-Turvydom, the Country of the Happy Impos- 
sible, 

Successful men always resent failures. They naturally 
seem to them unnatural. Similarly, men whose work has 
been universally praised naturally regard anything like severe 
criticism as impertinence. Gilbert was frankly unable to 
understand the want of appreciation that his serious work 
received, at any rate after the eighties, and his lack of the 
power of self-criticism, a quality that only very few artists 
have ever possessed, led Mm to suppose that critics were 
leagued against Mm, and that there was a conspiracy to pre- 
vent him from leaving the world wMch he had made all his 



THE FIRST PLAYS 61 

own for a world which he would always have to share with 
others. 

Gilbert created his own world. When he had made it, he 
sometimes tired of it and longed for other worlds. But his 
own world held him fast. To quote Mr. Archer ; 

" Gilbert could never quite escape from that Palace of Truth which 
was the scene of his first serious play a domain of magical psycho- 
analysis where some occult influence forced every one to utter his 
secret thoughts and reveal his inmost motives." 

Mr. H. M. Walbrook says that there is a " remoteness 
from life " in all Gilbert's work. His characters, Mr. Walbrook 
says, are detached from humanity, " creations of his own, 
whimsical, preposterous, remote. To prove his point, Mr. 
Walbrook emphasizes the fact that in the operas Gilbert will 
often begin a verse with apparent sincerity and end it with 
a Gilbertian absurdity. The fact was that he realized that 
he was a sentimentalist, and for purposes of the operas he was 
obliged to keep himself in hand. It was this self-discipline, 
this shackling of the sentimentalist by the humorist, that 
made Gilbert a great artist, but he hated the discipline. The 
same thing is true of Dickens. When the sentimentalist riots 
in the Dickens novels, we get preposterous characters like 
Madeleine Bray, Little Emly, Little Nell, and Agnes. It is 
only when Dickens creates characters of his own, " whimsical, 
preposterous, remote," that his genius is triumphant. 

The sentimentalist in Gilbert did not submit to the humorist 
without a struggle. He said, and he believed, that the real 
Gilbert was the Gilbert of Broken Hearts, and not the Gilbert 
of The Mikado. Similarly, Dickens probably was prouder of 
Little Nell than of Mrs. Gamp. 



CHAPTER V 
GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 

GILBERT first met Sullivan in the autumn of 1870, 
at the old Gallery of Illustration in Lower Regent 
Street, where the German Reeds then gave their 
entertainments. They were introduced by Frederick Clay, 
who had composed the music for several operettas that Gilbert 
had written for the German Reeds. The first time the two 
names appeared together was on the published score of one 
of the German Reed operettas, of which Gilbert had written 
the " book/* which Clay dedicated to Sullivan. Gilbert 
was thirty-five when he met Sullivan, and Sullivan twenty- 
nine. They were both already well-known men. Gilbert was 
one of the most popular of contemporary dramatists, and 
Sullivan had already arrived as a composer, notably with his 
incidental music for The Tempest. He had also composed 
musical settings for two operettas. The first result of the 
meeting was the production at the Gaiety Theatre, on Decem- 
ber 23, 1871, of Thesfiis, or, The Gods Grown Old, an " entirely 
original, grotesque opera in two acts." Thesfiis was produced 
as an after-piece to H. G. Byron's Dearer than Love, and it 
lasted for an hour and a half. The following was the cast : 



GODS 



JUPITER \ 

APOLLO 

MARS I Aged Deities 

DIANA 

MERCURY/ 



My. John Maclean 
Mr. F. Sullivan 
Mr. Wood 
Mrs. H. Leigh 
Miss JET. Farren 




GILBERT IN THE EARLY SULLIVAN DAYS 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 63 

THESPIANS 

THESPIS MY. J. L. Toole 

SILLIMON Mr. J. G. Taylor 

TIMIDON Mr. Marshall 

TIPSICON Mr. Robert Soutar 

PREPOSTEROUS Mr. H. Payne 

STUPIDAS Mr. F. Payne 

SPARKEION Mdlle. Clary 

NICEMIS Miss Constance Loseby 

PRETTEIA Miss Berend 

DAPHNE Miss Annie Tremaine 

CYMON Miss L. Wilson 

The Gaiety Theatre was then under the management of 
John Hollingshead, who boasted that he kept alight " the 
sacred lamp of burlesque/' There can be no question that 
Gilbert's fine taste had already revolted against the formless 
amusements which burlesqued nothing, and the success of 
which depended on the ability of such clever actors as Nellie 
Farren, J. L. Toole, and Edward Terry, and the presence on 
the stage of large numbers of shapely ladies in tights. Thespis 
was not a success. He was eager to evolve a more attractive 
form of musical entertainment. The public that asked for 
the gritty bread of burlesque regarded Gilbert's humour as a 
stone. In his Gaiety Chronicles, John Hollingshead declares 
that the piece had defects, the defects, of course, being its 
unlikeness to the ordinary Gaiety productions. But the " book " 
of Thespis is genuine Gilbert, the Gilbert whom nowadays all 
the world loves. A party of actors appear on the summit of 
Mount Olympus for a picnic. There they meet the gods, all 
of whom except Mercury are old and out-of-date. Thespis, 
the leader of the troupe, suggests that the gods shall go down 
to earth, leaving the direction of affairs to the players. Both 
gods and players fare badly, and the piece finishes with their 
return to their proper roles. Thespis once more emphasizes 
the fact that Gilbert's artistry was hardly affected with the 
passing of the years. Many of its songs might well have 
appeared in the later operas. For example, Mercury sings : 



64 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" Oh, I'm the celestial drudge, 

From morning to night I must stop at it, 
On errands all day I must trudge, 

And I stick to my work till I drop at it ! 
In summer I get up at one 

(As a good-natured donkey I'm ranked for it), 
Then I go and I light up the Sun, 

And Phoebus Apollo gets thanked for it ! 
Well, well, it's the way of the world, 

And will be through all its futurity, 
Though noodles are baroned and earled, 

There's nothing for clever obscurity I 

"I'm the slave of the gods, neck and heels, 

And I'm bound to obey, though I rate at 'em, 
And I not only order their meals, 

But I cook 'em, and serve 'em and wait at 'em. 
Then I make all their nectar I do 

(Which a terrible liquor to rack us is) 
And whenever I mix them a brew, 

Why all the thanksgivings are Bacchus' s 1 
Well, well, it's the way of the world, etc. 

*' Then reading and writing I teach, 

And spelling-books, many I've edited ! 
And for bringing those arts within reach, 

That donkey Minerva gets credited. 
Then I scrape at the stars with a knife 

And plate-powder the moon (on the days for it), 
And I hear all the world and his wife 

Awarding Diana the praise for it ! 
Well, well, it's the way of the world, etc." 

The counterpart of this song is in The Gondoliers. There 
is genuine charm in the chorus sung by the actors when they 
arrive at the mountain top : 

"Climbing over rocky mountain, 
Skipping rivulet and fountain, 
Passing where the willows quiver, 
By the ever-rolling river, 

Swollen with the summer rain. 

" Threading long and leafy mazes, 
Dotted with unnumbered daisies, 
Scaling rough and ragged passes, 
Climb the hardy lads and lasses, 

Till the mountain top they gain. 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 65 

" Fill the cup and tread the measure, 
Make the most of fleeting leisure, 
Hail it as a true ally, 
Though it perish bye and bye ! 
Every moment brings a treasure 
Of its own especial pleasure, 
Though the moments quickly die, 
Greet them gaily as they fly I" 

And there is the real brand of Gilbertian topsy-turvydom 
in the description of the chairman of a railway company : 

" I once knew a chap who discharged a function, 
On the North South East West Diddlesex Junction. 
He was conspicuous exceeding, 
For his affable ways and his easy breeding. 
Although a Chairman of Directors, 
He was hand in glove with the ticket inspectors. 
He tipped the guards with brand-new fivers, 
And sang little songs to the engine-drivers. 
'Twas told to me with great compunction, 
By one who had discharged with unction 
A Chairman of Directors' function, 
On the North South East West Diddlesex Junction, 
Fol diddle, lol diddle, lol lol lay, 

" Each Christmas Day he gave each stoker, 
A silver shovel and a golden poker. 
He'd buttonhole flowers for the ticket sorters, 
And rich Bath-buns for the outside porters, 
He'd mount the clerks on his first-class hunters, 
And he built little villas for the road-side shunters. 
And if any were fond of pigeon shooting, 
He'd ask them down to his place at Tooting." 

Thespis also includes a typically dainty Gilbertian love- 
song worthy to be compared to the best that he ever wrote. 
Over three years passed before the second Gilbert and Sullivan 
production. On March 23, 1875, Trial by Jury was produced 
at the Royalty Theatre, then under the management of Miss 
Selina Dolaro. It was described as a " Dramatic Cantata/' 
and it was acted as an after-piece to Offenbach's La Pericholo. 
The original scene was copied from the Clerkenwell Sessions 
House, where Gilbert had himself practised, The following 
was the cast : 
5 



66 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

THE LEARNED JUDGE Mr. F. Sullivan 

THE PLAINTIFF Miss Nellie Bromley 

THE DEFENDANT Mr. Walter Fisher 

THE COUNSEL FOR THE PLAINTIFF .... Mr. Holhngsworth 

USHER Mr. Pepper 

FOREMAN OF THE JURY ....... Mr. W. S. Penley 

Mr. W. S. Penley made his first appearance on the stage 
In this production. The germ of the idea of Trial by Jury 
may be found in Gilbert's story, An Elixir of Love, in which, 
at the end, the Bishop marries the young lady as the Judge 
marries the plaintiff in the play. 



" Put your briefs upon the shelf, 
I will marry her myself." 



The story of Trial by Jury is too familiar for repetition, 
and it contains " When I went to the Bar as a very young 
man/' perhaps the best-known comic song in the English 
language. It has been suggested that Gilbert had " Bardell 
v. Pickwick " in mind when he wrote Trial by Jury, and there 
is certainly a suggestion of Serjeant Buzfuz in the plaintiff's 
counsel's opening : 

" With a sense of deep emotion, 
I approached this painful case ; 
For I never had a notion 
That a man could be so base, 
Or deceive a girl confiding, 
Vows etcetera deriding. 

" See my interesting client, 
Victim of a heartless wile ! 
See the traitor, all defiant, 
Wears a supercilious smile ! " 

The Gilbert gem in Trial by Jury, a song in its form and 
its idea again to be matched in many of the later operas, is 
the defendant's address to the jury : 

" Oh, gentlemen, listen, I pray, 

Though I own that my heart has been ranging, 
Of nature the laws I obey; 
For nature is constantly changing. 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 67 

The moon in tier phases is found, 

The time and the wind and the weather, 
The months in succession go round, 

And you don't find two Mondays together. 
Consider the moral, I pray, 

Nor bring a young fellow to sorrow 
Who loves this young lady to-day 

And loves that young lady to-morrow. 

" You cannot eat breakfast all day, 

Nor is- it the act of a sinner. 
When breakfast is taken away, 

To turn your attention to dinner. 
And it's not in the range of belief 

That you could hold him as a glutton 
Who, when he is tired of beef, 

Determines to tackle the mutton. 

" But this I am ready to say, 

If it will appease their sorrow, 
I'll marry one lady to-day, 

And I'll marry the other to-morrow." 

Fred. Sullivan, who played the Judge, was a brother of 
Arthur Sullivan, and Gilbert said : " The surprising success of 
Trial by Jury was due in no slight degree to poor Fred. Sulli- 
van's admirable performance." Trial by Jury is the only 
Gilbert and Sullivan opera in which there is no spoken dialogue. 
In this famous musical cantata, the Gilbert chorus made its 
first appearance. The chorus in the old-time burlesques and 
in the adaptations of French opera bouffe had nothing to 
do with the case, but Gilbert's chorus was always an integral 
part of the cast. 

In Trial by Jury the chorus consists of the bridesmaids 
and the jurymen. In Pinafore they are the sisters, cousins, 
and aunts of the First Lords, in lolanihe they are the members 
of the House of Lords, and in Ruddigore the hero's ancestors. 
This dramatic use of a chorus that had hitherto been employed 
merely for noise or ornament, had no small part in making 
the Gilbert and Sullivan operas genuine artistic creations. 
Ralph Rackstraw says in Pinafore, " I know the value of a 



68 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

kindly chorus/' and in nothing does Gilbert more resemble 
Aristophanes than in the use he makes of his choruses. 

Selina Dolaro's manager at the Royalty Theatre was Mr. 
D'Oyly Carte, and it was obviously to his conviction that 
Gilbert and Sullivan could be used to greater advantage than 
to provide after-pieces that the great Savoy series came to be 
written and produced. Gilbert says in the fragment of auto- 
biography : 

" The success of Trial by ]my induced Mr. D'Oyly Carte, at that 
time managing director of the newly formed Comedy Opera Company, 
to^ commission us to write a two-act opera for the Opera Company." 

In fact, the Comedy Opera Company was formed and the 
Opera-Comique taken in order to exploit Gilbert and Sullivan. 
Mrs. D'Oyly Carte says in a letter : 

" The Comedy Opera Company was entirely Mr. Carte's idea and 
his own creation. He was manager of the Royalty Theatre at the 
time of the original production of Trial by Jury, and after that piece 
he always had the idea of getting Mr. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan 
to write a larger work together ; but it was a long time before he could 
get this arranged and before they were both ready and able to under- 
take it. And then the theatre had to be found and the money got 
together to start." 

The Comedy Opera Company came to an end after the 
production of Pinafore. There is not a little historic interest 
in the genesis of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, the one 
English contribution of any value to dramatic literature for 
many generations. All history is peppered with errors, and 
theatrical history more than any other. In most records, for 
example, Trial by Jury is said to be the first of the Gilbert 
and SulKvan works, and Thespis is ignored. There seems, 
however, to us no sort of doubt that the idea of producing a 
Gilbert and Sullivan opera which should fill the whole evening 
bill was D'Oyly Carte's, and we see no reason to doubt that 
Mr. Rupert Carte is absolutely accurate in his statement : 

" In 1876 my father took a lease of the Opera-Comique Theatre, 
and on his sole initiative formed the Comedy Opera Company, of which 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 69 

he was himself the manager, for the purpose of producing operas by 
Gilbert and Sullivan.'' 

In 1876, however, Mr. Carte was not in a position to produce 
plays at his own expense. He had to find what are known 
in theatrical jargon as "backers/' and he, naturally, went 
first to the firm of music publishers who had published Trial 
by Jury. The Comedy Opera Company, in addition to Mr. 
Carte, consisted of four men Frank Chappell, George Metzler, 
both members of families connected with music publishing ; 
John Collard (one of the pianoforte Collards), and Mr. Bailey- 
Generalli, generally known as " Water-cart " Bailey, from the 
fact that he owned nearly all the water-carts then sprinkling 
the London streets. 

After the production of Pinafore, trouble arose between the 
syndicate and Mr. Carte, and there were law proceedings, 
which ended in the break-up of the partnership. Miss Marian 
Chappell, Frank ChappelTs sister, tells us : 

" It was absolutely against my brother's wish that law proceedings 
were taken, and though I think his partner was rather against them 
too, the other members of the syndicate, who were merely business 
men with no artistic leanings, insisted on going to law, and my brother's 
opinion was overborne." 

Mr. Chappell and his friends reaped little of the abundant 
financial harvest that resulted from the partnership they had 
helped to start, but their names axe certainly worthy of honour- 
able mention in the record of Gilbert's achievements. It was 
a real service to humanity to help to launch the Gilbert and 
Sullivan ship. 

The Sorcerer, the first Gilbert and Sullivan opera to be 
produced in connection with Mr. D'Oyly Carte, was first 
played at the Opera-Comique Theatre on November 17, 1877, 
two and a half years after the production of Trial by Jury 
at the Royalty, with the following cast : 



70 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

SIR MARMADUKE POINTDEXTRE (an elderly 

baronet) Mr. Richard Temple 

ALEXIS (of the Grenadier Guards his son) Mr. George Bentham 

DR. DALY (Vicar of Ploverleigh) . . . Mr. Rutland Barrington 

NOTARY Mr. F. Clifton 

JOHN WELLINGTON WELLS (of J. W. Wells 

and Co., Family Sorcerers) . . . . Mr. George Grossmith 
LADY SANGAZURE (a lady of ancient line- 
age) Mrs. Howard Paul 

ALINE (her daughter betrothed to Alexis) Miss Alice May 

MRS. PARTLET (a pew-opener) .... Miss Everard 

CONSTANCE (her daughter) Miss Giuha Warwick 

The Sorcerer introduced George Grossmith and Rutland 
Barrington to the professional stage. Mr. Grossmith was the 
father of the present well-known actor. Before his appear- 
ance in Gilbert and Sullivan operas he was a police-court 
reporter in the daytime and an entertainer in the evenings, 
thus following the example of his father, generally known as 
George Grossmith the First. He began his stage career with 
considerable trepidation. When he was going over the part 
of John Wellington Wells with Gilbert, he said : " For the 
part of a magician, surely you require a fine man with a large 
voice ? " " That/' replied Gilbert, " is exactly what we don't 
want/' 

To a large extent, The Sorcerer is a dramatic adaptation of 
Gilbert's story, The Ehxir of Love, in which, as we have sug- 
gested, can also be found the germ of Trial by Jury. The idea 
of the story is the idea of the play, and some of the dialogue 
is taken almost word for word from the earlier work. In The 
Sorcerer we are introduced to " the firm of J. W. Wells and Co., 
the old-established sorcerers in S. Mary Axe/' In The Elixir 
of Love we are told : "In S. Martin's Lane lived Baylis and 
Culpepper, magicians, astrologers, and professors of the Black 
Art. Baylis had sold himself to the Devil at a very early age, 
and had become remarkably proficient in all kinds of enchant- 
ment. Culpepper had been his apprentice, and having also 
acquired considerable skill as a necromancer, was taken into 
partnership by the genial old magician, who from the first 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 71 

had taken a liking to the frank and fair-haired boy. Ten 
years ago the firm of Baylis and Culpepper stood at the very 
head of the London family magicians." In The Elixir of Love 
the Rev. Stanley Gay bought a nine-gallon cask of love-philtre 
from Messrs. Baylis and Culpepper. In The Sorcerer, Mr. 
Wells tells Alexis that he sells his patent Oxy-Hydrogen Love- 
at-first-sight Philtre " in four-and-a-half and nine gallon casks/' 
And there are many other resemblances between the play 
and the story. Gilbert had also used the love-philtre idea in 
one of the Bab Ballads The Cunning Woman, in which the 
virtuous Jane, in order to protect herself from the wicked 
Lord de Jacob Pillaloo, went to " a sorceressing dame " to 
buy a mystic liquor which would make her hideous in the 
eye of her would-be seducer, with the most gratifying result : 

" The Lord he gazed at Jenny's eyes, 
He looked her through and through ; 
The cunning woman's prophecies 
Were clearly coming true. 
Lord Pillaloo, the Rustic's Bane, 
(Bad person he and proud) 
He laughed ha, ha ! at pretty Jane 
And sneered at her aloud. 
He bade her get behind him then, 
And seek her mother's stye 
Yet to her native countrymen 
She was as fair as aye." 

The Sorcerer has rather a thin plot and is really nothing more 
than a hotch-potch of humorous ideas strung around John 
Wellington Wells and his love-philtres. It contains many 
admirable Gilbertian lyrics, the best known of which, perhaps, 
is the vicar's song, which Gilbert afterwards christened Eheu 
fugaces ! : 

" Time was when maidens of the noblest station, 
Forsaking even military men, 
Would gaze upon me, wrapped in adoration, 
Ah me ! I was a pale young curate then/ 1 

Though, as we have insisted, one of Gilbert's unusual 
qualities, as a humorous writer, was that he began to write 



72 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

as a finished artist, and in the course of a long career retained 
his mood and hardly bettered his skill, there are naturally 
some exceptions to a general truth. The patter song in The 
Sorcerer, which begins tf Oh ! my name is John Wellington 
Wells/' is ingenious in its rhyming, but a little thin and 
scrappy : 

" Oh ! he can prophesy 
With a wink of his eye, 
Peep with security 
Into futurity, 
Sum up your history, 
Clear up a mystery, 
Humour proclivity 
For a nativity for a nativity. 

" Mirrors so magical, 
Tetrapods tragical, 
Bogies spectacular, 
Answers oracular, 
Facts astronomical, 
Solemn or comical, 
And, if you want it, he 
Makes a reduction on taking a quantity ! " 

Compare this with the extraordinary sure-handed ingenuity 
of the patter song in Patience, written four years afterwards : 

" If you want a receipt for that popular mystery, 
Known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon, 

Take all the remarkable people in history, 
Rattle them off to a popular tune. 

The pluck of Lord Nelson on board of the Victory 
Genius of Bismarck devising a plan ; 

The humour of Fielding (which sounds contradictory) 
Coolness of Paget about to trepan 

The science of Jullien, the eminent musico 
Wit of Macaulay, who wrote of Queen Anne 

The pathos of Paddy, as rendered by Boucicault 

Style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man 

The dash of a D'Orsay, divested of quackery 

Narrative powers of Dickens and Thackeray 

Victor Emmanuel peak-hunting Peverill 

Thomas Aquinas, and Doctor Sacheverell 
Tupper and Tennyson Daniel Defoe- 
Anthony Trollope and Mr. Guizot I 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 73 

Take of these elements all that is fusible, 
Melt them all down in a pipkin or crucible, 
Set them to simmer and take off the scum, 
And a Heavy Dragoon is the residuum ! " 

Here there is very evident progression. 

The Sorcerer ran for six months, and was followed by H.M.S. 
Pinafore] or f The Lass that Loved a Sailor, produced at the 
Opera-Comique on Saturday, May 28, 1878, which ran for 
two years, and completely established Gilbert and Sullivan 
opera as a popular form of entertainment. 

Gilbert frequently complained that he had been consistently 
unfairly treated by the professional critics, and it is rather 
amusing nowadays to read the many futile criticisms written 
of H.MS. Pinafore forty-five years ago. It was said that 
" in the story itself there is not much of humour to balance 
its studied absurdity/' and it was described as ff a frothy 
production, destined soon to subside into nothingness." The 
following is the original cast : 

THE Rx. HON. SIR JOSEPH PORTER, K.C.B. 

(First Lord of the Admiralty) . . . MY. George Grossmith 
CAPT. CORCORAN (commanding HM. S. Pina- 
fore) Mr. Rutland Barrington 

RALPH RACKSTRAW (Able Seaman) . . . Mr . George Power 

DICK DEADEYE (Able Seaman) .... Mr. Richard Temple 

BILL BOBSTAY (Boatswain's Mate) . . . Mr. Clifton 

JOSEPHINE (the Captain's daughter) . . Miss Emma How son 

HEBE Miss Jessie Bond 

LITTLE BUTTERCUP (a Portsmouth bum- 
boat woman) Miss Everard 

The opera is a satire of the popular nautical shiver-my- 
timbers drama, of the type of the Black-Eyed Susan, with 
incidental gibes at the system which makes a civilian the 
head of the Navy, and at a patriotism that rejoices in plati- 
tudes and cliches. For the plot, Gilbert drew on at least six 
of the Bab Ballads. Ralph Rackstraw, the hero of H.M.S. 
Pinafore, loved his captain's daughter ; 

"A sailor, lowly born, 
With hopeless passion torn, 



74 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

And poor beyond conceiving, 
He has dared for her to pine 
At whose exalted shrine 
A world of wealth is kneeling." 

In the Bab Ballads, Joe Go-Lightly fell in love with the 
daughter of the First Lord, and continually sang love-ditties 
to her accompanied on his guitar, for which he was severely 
punished by his skipper : 

" Twelve months black-hole, I say, 
Where daylight never flashes, 
And always twice a day 
A good six dozen lashes/' 

Captain Corcoran, of H.MS. Pinafore, who declared : 

" Bad language or abuse 
I never never use, 
Whatever the emergency ; 
Though ' bother it ' I may 
Occasionally say, 
I never use a big big D," 

is, of course, Captain Reece of the Ballads : 

" Kind-hearted Captain Reece, R.N., 
Was quite devoted to his men ; 
In point of fact good Captain Reece 
Beatified ' The Mantelpiece.' " 

Little Buttercup, the Portsmouth bumboat woman of 
Pinafore, was used before by Gilbert in The Bumboat Woman's 
Story in the Ballads : 

" It's strange to think I should ever have loved young men, 
But I'm speaking of ten years past I was barely sixty then." 

To arrange the scene of Pinafore, Gilbert drew on his con- 
siderable knowledge of ships and the sea, to which he added 
information acquired by several special visits to Portsmouth. 
Both Lord Charles Beresford and Lord Jellicoe, as has been 
already said, have testified to the accuracy of detail In a 
letter written to Sir Arthur Sullivan from the Admiralty in 
December, 1887, Lord Charles Beresford said : 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 75 

MY DEAR ARTHUR, 

I was perfectly delighted with Pinafore last night quite excellent. 
You told me to tell you anything I saw which offended the eye of 
an expert. Don't be X. They are minor details, but make the differ- 
ence in perfection and not absolute perfection. (Then follow sugges- 
tions on improved rigging, manning the yards, etc.) These are a few 
details, the rest is quite excellent. 

Yours ever, 

CHARLES BERESFORD 

The immediate success of Pinafore was to some extent due 
to an admirable topical joke. Just before it was produced, 
Disraeli had appointed W. H, Smith, head of the well-known 
firm of publishers, First Lord of the Admiralty. Mr. Smith 
was an admirable man of business and a high-minded politician, 
and he proved an excellent administrator, but there was 
something humorous in the British Navy being ruled by a 
man with absolutely no sea experience, and Gilbert worked the 
joke for all it was worth in his picture of the Right Honourable 
Sir Joseph Porter, whose song, " And now I am the ruler of 
the Queen's Navee/' remains the most popular number in 
the Pinafore score. In a letter written soon after the produc- 
tion, Disraeli describes a house-party at Hatfield, when the 
guests sang the chorus of H.MS. Pinafore, and he specifically 
refers to Mr. Smith as "Pinafore Smith." 

Years after, Gilbert rewrote the story specially for children, 
and in it he said: 

" One of the most important personages in the Government of that 
day was Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty. You would 
naturaEy think that a person who commanded the entire Navy would 
be the most accomplished sailor who could be found, but that is not 
the way in which such things are managed in England. Sir Joseph 
Porter . . . knew nothing whatever about ships. Now as England 
is a great maritime country, it is very important that all Englishmen 
should understand something about men-of-war. So soon as it was 
discovered that his ignorance of a ship was so complete that he did 
not know one end of it from the other, some important person said : 
* Let us set this poor ignorant gentleman to command the British 
Fleet, and by that means give him an opportunity of ascertaining 
what a ship really is.' TMs was considered to be a most wise and 
sensible suggestion, and so Sir Joseph Porter was at once appointed 



76 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

' First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain and Ireland.* I dare 
say you think I am joking, but indeed I am quite serious. This is the 
way in which things are managed in this great and happy country." 

In a letter written to Sullivan on December 27, 1877, Gilbert 
suggests that the public would not suppose that W. H. Smith 
was the model for Sir Joseph Porter. He says : 

DEAR SULLIVAN, 

I send you herewith a sketch plot of the proposed opera. I 
hope and think you will like it. I called on you two days ago (not 
knowing you had gone away) to consult you about it before drawing 
it up in full. I have very little doubt, however, but that you will 
be pleased with it. I should like to talk it over with you, as there 
is a good deal of fan in it which I haven't set down on paper. Among 
other things, a song (kind of " Judge's song") for the First Lord 
tracing his career as office-boy in a cotton-broker's office, clerk, traveller, 
junior partner, and First Lord of Britain's Navy. I think a splendid 
song could be made of this. Of course, there will be no personality 
in this the fact that the First Lord in the opera is a radical of the 
most pronounced type will do away with any suspicion that W. H. 
Smith is intended. . . . 

The uniforms of the officers and crew will be effective. The chorus 
will look like sailors, and I will ask to have their uniforms made for 
them in Portsmouth. 

I shall be very anxious to know what you think of the plot. It 
seems to me there is plenty of story in it (The Sorcerer lacks story), 
with good musical situations. Josephine can have two good ballads, 
and so can Ralph. 

I hope you will have fine weather and that the change will do you 
a lot of good. As soon as I hear from you that the plot will do, I will 
set to work, sending you the first act as soon as it is finished. 

Very truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

This letter is interesting and important because it shows 
that, certain as Gilbert always was of himself, from the begin- 
ning of the collaboration he deferred to the opinions of his 
collaborator and was anxious for his opinion and commenda- 
tion. 

In many of the Pinafore lyrics Gilbert is at his very best. 
There is the pleasantly familiar charm in Josephine's 
song : 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 77 

" Sorry her lot who loves too well, 

Heavy the heart that hopes but vainly, 
Sad are the sighs that own the spell 

"Uttered by eyes that speak too plainly ; 
Heavy the sorrow that bows the head 
When love is alive and hope is dead ! 

" Sad is the hour when sets the sun 

Dark is the night to earth's poor daughters, 
When to the ark the wearied one 

Flies from the empty waste of waters ! 
Heavy the sorrow that bows the head 
When love is alive and hope is dead ! " 

Gilbert gave Sullivan the opportunity for an inimitable 
burlesque of Italian opera when he wrote the words of the 
scene which begins : 

" The hours creep on apace, 

My guilty heart is quaking ! 
Oh, that I might retract 

The step that I am taking. 
Its folly it were easy to be showing, 
What I am giving up and whither going. 55 

A year after its performance in London, an edition of H.MS. 
Pinafore was published in New York, and on the title-page 
the opera was described as " the reigning sensation through- 
out all the theatre circles all over the world." That may 
have been an American picturesque overstatement, but the 
words and the music of Pinafore have to-day a world-wide 
popularity, and, as one knows the great comic characters of 
fiction, so one knows the gentleman of whom his crew 
sang: 

" He is the captain of the Pinafore, 
And a right good captain too," 

The Pirates of Penzance was produced at the Opera-Comique 
Theatre on April 3, 1880. The cast was almost the same as 
that of HM.S. Pinafore : 



78 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

MAJOR-GENERAL STANLEY Mr. George Grossmith 

THE PIRATE KING Mr. Richard Temple 

SAMUEL (Ms Lieutenant) Mr. George Temple 

FREDERICK (the Pirate Apprentice) . . Mr. George Power 

SERGEANT OF POLICE Mr. Rutland Harrington 

MABEL (General Stanley's daughter) . . Miss Marion Hood 

EDITH Miss Jessie Bond 

KATE Miss Julia Gwynne 

ISABEL Miss M. Barlow 

RUTH (a pirate maid-of -all- work) . . . Miss Alice Barn eft 

George Grossmith and Rutland Barrington had made their 
first appearance on the stage in The Sorcerer, and Miss Marion 
Hood made hers in the Pirates. Miss Julia Gwynne afterwards 
became Mrs. George Edwards. The Comedy Opera Company 
came to an end with Patience, and The Pirates of Penzance 
was produced by Mr. D'Oyly Carte alone. It thus marks the 
beginning of the partnership between author, composer, and 
manager. It has been suggested that the germ of the idea 
of the opera was the kidnapping of Gilbert in Naples when 
he was a small child, but the intention is obvious a burlesque 
of melodrama with pirates as heroes, as Gay made highway- 
men heroes in The Beggar's Opera. The burlesque may appear 
exaggerated, but, as Mr. William Archer has said : " Gilbert's 
pirate king seems to us an almost inconceivable caricature, 
but he does not exaggerate the poses and gestures, which had 
been accepted as serious art until well on in the nineteenth 
century." The conclusion of The Pirates of Penzance is pure 
topsy-turvydom. The pirates are overcome by the police : 

GENERAL. Away with them and place them at the Bar ! 

RUTH. One moment, let me tell you who they are. 

They are no member of the common throng ; 
They are all noblemen who have gone wrong 1 

GENERAL. No Englishman unmoved that statement hears, 

Because with all our faults we love our House of Peers. 

In the second act, Gilbert gibes at the pretentiousness of 
the nouveaux riches. General Stanley is discovered seated 
pensively in a ruined chapel. He is unhappy because, in 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 79 

order to escape from the pirates, he has described himself 
falsely as an orphan, and he has come to humble himself 
before the tombs of his ancestors. He is reminded that he 
only bought the property a year before : 

GENERAL. Frederic, in this chapel are ancestors ; you cannot deny 
that. With the estate I bought the chapel and its contents. I 
don't know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors 
they are, and I shudder to think that their descendant by pur- 
chase (if I may so describe myself) should have brought disgrace 
upon what, I have no doubt, was an unstained escutcheon. 

The best-known song in The Pirates of Penzance is the 
policeman's song, " When a felon's not engaged in his employ- 
ment." Gilbert was very fond of good-naturedly laughing 
at the police. For example, the song of the policeman in 
the Bab Ballads : 

" Come with me, little maid, 
Come to the rocky shade, 

I love to sing ; 
Live with us, maiden rare - 
Come, for we c want ' thee there, 

You elfin thing, 
To work thy spell 
In some cool cell 

In stately Pentonville." 

It may be interesting to print the following Latin trans- 
lation of the policeman's song. The first verse is by Arthur 
Chilton. The second was sent to Dr. Chilton by the Bishop 
of Southampton when he was Bishop of Tokyo. 

" Ubi fraudibus fraudator abrogatis 

Abrogatis 
Secum mediatur nil nefarii 

'arii 
Innocentis erit capax voluptatis 

voluptatis 
Sicut ego, sicut tu et ceteri 

ceteri. 

Aequam mentem non est cuilibet servare 

'bet servare 

Quando transigendum est negotiura 

'otiura 



8o W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Visne hoc et illud bene compensare 

compensare 

Haud grata vita Capitalium 

O. 
Quando transigendum est negotium 

'otium 
Hand grata vita Capitalium 

'talium. 

" Quando desinit dolosus fur furari 

fur furari 
Et a caedibus sicarius vacat 

'us vacat 
Ecce rivuli susurros auscultari 

auscultari 
Et agrestis aedis hymnos adamat 

adamat. 
Ut in matrem caupo satis insultavit 

insultavit 
In aprico sole quaerit otium 

otium 
Si quis hoc et illud bene compensavit 

compensavit 

Haud grata vita Capitalium 

O. 
Quando, etc." 

Ruth, the pirates* maid-of-all-work, is one of the long 
series of faded amorists whom Gilbert pilloried with somewhat 
bitter humour : 

" Take a maiden tender her affection, raw and green, 

At very highest rating, 

Has been accumulating 
Summers seventeen summers seventeen. 

Don't, beloved master, 

Crush me with disaster. 
What is such a dower to the dower I have here ? 

My love, unabating, 

Has been accumulating 
Forty-seven year forty-seven year ! " 

The "Modern Major-General," already quoted, is one of 
the best of the Gilbert patter songs, and the libretto contains 
at least one lyric that justifies the comparison Gilbert to 
Herrick : 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 81 

" Poor wandering one, 
Though thou hast surely strayed, 
Take heart of grace, 
Thy steps retrace, 
Be not afraid. 
Poor wandering one, 
If such poor love as mine 
Can help thee find 
True peace of mind 
Why, take it, it is thine ! 
Take heart, fair days will shine. 
Take any heart take mine. 
Take heart ; no danger lowers. 
Take any heart but ours." 

During the writing of The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert wrote 
to Sullivan in a letter dated August 7, 1879 : 

" I have broken the neck of Act II, and see my way clearly to the 
end. I think it comes out very well. 

" By the way, I've made great use of the ' Tarantara ' business 
in Act II. The police always sing * Tarantara ' when they desire to 
work their courage to stiddng-point. They are naturally timid, but 
through the agency of this talisman they are enabled to acquit them- 
selves well when concealed. In Act II, when the robbers approach, 
their courage begins to fail them, but recourse to * Tarantara ' (pianis- 
simo) has the desired effect. I mention this that you may bear it in 
mind in setting the General's f Tarantara " song. I mean that it may 
be treated as an important feature and not as a mere incidental effect. 
I need not say that this is mere suggestion. If you. don't like it, it 
won't be done." 

The chorus sung by General Stanley's daughters on their 
first entrance is taken almost word for word from Thespis, 
and the only weak point in an opera which Mr. Walbrook 
has well described as "of almost flawless elegance/' is the 
too frequent reiteration of the joke hung on the two words 
" orphan and often." The Pirates of Penzance remains one 
of the most popular of the Gilbert and Sullivan series. 

1880 was the year of what is known as the " aesthetic craze/' 

The revolution in taste, the revolt against the ugliness of 

Victorian materialism, due to a large extent to the influence 

of the Pre-Raphaelites 4 had its inevitable exaggerations. While 

6 



82 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

William Morris was making beautiful curtains and the man 
in the suburbs was scrapping his wax flowers and antimacas- 
sars, Oscar WEde was posing and there was a flood of artistic 
cant. Patience, produced at the Opera-Comique on April 3, 
1888, satirized this aesthetic craze, which had already been 
gaily mocked by George du Maurier in the pages of Punch. 
Indeed, when Patience was produced, the craze had almost 
run its course, and it was no longer the artistic thing 

" To walk down Piccadilly, 
With a poppy or a lily 
In your mediaeval hand." 

It may have been supposed that a comic opera intended 
to burlesque a topical extravagance could have had nothing 
more than ephemeral interest, but none of the operas has 
a greater popularity to-day than Patience. The fact is, of 
course, that there are artistic poseurs in every age, and one 
wild extravagance follows another. ^Esthetes are followed 
by Futurists, and Futurists have now given way to poets 
whose verses have neither rhyme nor reason ; and a burlesque 
of the aesthetes is a burlesque of their successors. The military 
interest in Patience has unquestionably had much to do with 
its success. 

The original libretto was based on the Bab Ballad, The 
Rival Curates. It may be remembered that the poet says 
of the Reverend Hopley Porter of Assesmilk-cum-Worter : 

" He plays the airy flute, 
And looks depressed and blighted. 
Doves around him toot, 
And lambkins dance delighted." 

But bad advice caused Mr. Hopley Porter to shed his mild- 
ness, smoke large cigars, and wink at every passing girl. Gil- 
bert's idea was to describe how dashing cavalry officers were 
cut out by mild curates, and in order to win their ladies* favour, 
surrendered their commissions and took orders, a develop- 
ment of the vicar's song in The Sorcerer. However, he came 
to the conclusion that a chorus of comic clergymen might 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 83 

give offence, and he twisted his libretto to the aesthetic move- 
ment. He wrote to Sullivan on November i, 1880 : 

" I want to see you particularly about the new piece. Although 
it is about two-thirds finished, I don't feel comfortable about it. I 
mistrust the clerical element. I feel hampered by the restrictions 
which the nature of the subject places upon my freedom of action, 
and I want to revert to my old idea of rivalry between two aesthetic 
fanatics, worshipped by a chorus of female aesthetes, instead of a couple 
of clergymen worshipped by a chorus of female devotees. I can get 
much more fun out of the subject, as I propose to alter it, and the 
general scheme of the piece will remain as at present. The Hussars 
will become aesthetic young men (abandoning their profession for the 
purpose) . In this latter capacity they will all carry lilies in their hands, 
wear long hair, and stand in stained-glass attitudes. I entertained 
this idea at first, as you may remember, but abandoned it because 
I foresaw great difficulty in getting the chorus to dress and make up 
aesthetically. But if we can get Du Maurier to design the costumes, 
I don't know that the difficulty will be insuperable." 

Sullivan wrote a particularly happy score for Patience, and 
Gilbert himself maintained that its popularity was " mainly 
referable to the delightful music/' The following was the 
original cast : 

REGINALD BUNTHORNE (a Fleshy Poet) . My. George Grossmith 
ARCHIBALD GROSVENOR (an Idyllic Poet) . Mr. Rutland Barringfon 
COLONEL CALVERLEYN /Mr. Walter Browne 

MAJOR MURGATROYD I Officers of I Mr. Frank Thornton 

LIEUT. THE DUKE OF f Dragoon Guards 1 Mr. Durward Lely 

DUNSTABLE / I 

THE LADY ANGELA N / Miss Jessie Bond 

THE LADY SAPHIR ^ , ,_ ., Miss Julia Gwynne 

THE LADY ELLA Apterous Maidens . j ^ J Foftgsa J 

THE LADY JANE ) \ Miss Alice Barnett 

The name of Mr. George Edwardes, who was Mr. D'Oyly 
Carte's manager, appears on the first programme of Patience. 

Patience contains many of the more familiar Gilbert and 
Sullivan songs The Heavy Dragoon ; When I first put this 
uniform on] Prithee, pretty maiden, prithee tell me true; A 
magnet hung in a hardware shop ; the f ' Most intense young man " 
duet. The Governor's song is a new version of Gentle-Archi- 
bald of the Bab Ballads, which we have already quoted. 



84 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

The middle-aged amorist again appears as " Lady Jane/' 
and Gilbert was bitterly, and, as it seems to us, unfairly, 
criticized for her song : 

*' Fading is the taper waist, 

Shapeless grows the shapely limb, 
And although securely laced, 

Spreading is the figure trim ! 
Stouter than I used to be, 

Still more corpulent grow I 
There will be too much of me 

In the coming by-and-by." 

The fun is surely as good-humoured as it is ingenious, and 
it again must be insisted that it is not middle-age at which 
Gilbert laughs, but middle-age striving frantically to clutch 
at departing youth. 

Musically, the gem of the opera is the unaccompanied sextet : 

" I hear the soft note of the echoing voice 

Of an old, old love long dead, 
It whispers my sorrowing heart ' rejoice,' 

For the last sad tear is shed 
The pain that is all but a pleasure we'll change 

For the pleasure that's all but pain, 
And never, oh never, this heart will range 

From that old, old love again ! " 

The dialogue is characteristic in its extravagance. The 
Rapturous Maidens decline to marry the Heavy Dragoon : 

SAPHIR. It can never be. You are not Empyrean. You are not 
Delia Cruscan. You are not even Early English. Oh, be Early 
English ere it is too late ! (Officers look at each other in astonish- 
ment.} 

JANE (looking at uniform). Red and yellow ! Primary colours. Oh, 
South Kensington 1 

DUKE. We didn't design our uniforms, but we don't see how they 
could be improved. 

JANE. No, you wouldn't. Still, there is a cobwebby grey velvet, with 
a tender bloom like cold gravy, which, made Florentine fourteenth 
century, trimmed with Venetian leather and Spanish altar lace, 
and surmounted with something Japanese it matters not what 
would at least be Early English 1 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 85 

The unprecedented success of Pinafore, The Pirates of Pen- 
zance, and Patience, and the establishment of Gilbert and 
Sullivan opera as a popular form of public entertainment, 
induced Mr. D'Oyly Carte to build a larger and more commo- 
dious theatre, particularly for its exploitation. He bought a 
site between the Strand and the Embankment, and the Savoy 
Theatre was opened on October 10, 1881, with Patience trans- 
ferred from the Opera-Comique. The Savoy was the first 
theatre to be lighted, both stage and auditorium, by electricity. 
In a published address to the public, Mr. D'Oyly Carte said ; 

" This is the first time that it has been attempted to light any public 
building entirely by electricity. What is being done is an experiment, 
and may succeed, or fail. It is not possible, until the application of 
the accumulator or secondary battery the reserve store of electric 
power becomes practical, to guarantee absolutely against any break- 
down of the electric light. To provide such a contingency, gas is laid 
on throughout the building, and the ' pilot ' light of the central sun- 
burner will always be kept alight, so that in case of accidents the theatre 
can be flooded with gas-light in a few seconds." 

This makes strange reading in these days. The Savoy 
Theatre originally held about 270 when quite full, and it is 
interesting, in view of the inflated expense of running a theatre, 
which is nowadays strangling theatrical art in England, to 
note that at the beginning the current expenses of the Savoy 
Theatre were about half the possible takings. It is possible 
that other plays were greater individual successes than any 
of the Gilbert and Sullivan series, but from this point of view 
the unique fact about the operas is that not one of them 
was a failure. At the Savoy, author and composer were the 
partners of the manager, and they had absolute control of 
the stage. Scenery, dresses, acting, and singing were all 
Gilbert and Sullivan. As we have said in an earlier chapter, 
Gilbert was a masterly stage-manager. He always went to 
the theatre knowing exactly what he wanted. He himself 
said: 

" Of course, I planned out the whole stage-management beforehand, 
on my model stage, with blocks three inches high to represent men, 



86 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

and two and a lialf inches to represent women. I knew exactly what 
groupings I wanted how many people I could have on this bank, 
how many on that rostrum, and so forth. I had it all clear in my 
head "before going down to the theatre ; and there the actors and actresses 
were good enough to believe in me and to lend themselves heartily 
to all I required of them. You see, I had the exact measure of their 
capabilities, and took good care that the work I gave them should 
be well within their grasp." 

Mr. Percy Fitzgerald says in his book, The Savoy Opera : 

" Grossmith has related the regular course and incidents at the 
rehearsals at the Savoy. The music is always learned first the 
choruses, finales, etc., are composed first in order, then the quartettes 
and trios, the songs last. Sometimes, owing to changes and rewriting, 
these are given out to the singers very late. The song in the second 
act of Princess Ida was given to Grossmith only a night or two before 
the performance, and he found his chief difficulty not in learning the 
new tune, but in unlearning the old one. ' The greatest interest is 
evinced by us all as the new vocal numbers arrive. Sir A, Sullivan 
will come suddenly, a batch of manuscript under his arm, and announce 
that there is something new. He plays over the new number the 
vocal parts only are written. The conductor listens and watches, and 
after hearing them played over a few times, contrives to pick up all 
the harmonies, casual accompaniments, etc.' Sir Arthur is always 
strict in wishing that his music shall be sung exactly as he has written 
it. One of the leading performers was singing an air at rehearsal, not 
exactly dividing the notes as they were written, and giving the general 
form, as it were. ' Bravo,' said Sir Arthur, ' that is really a very good 
air of yours. Now, if you have no objection, I will ask you to sing 
mine.' This is pleasant. 

" Gilbert always listens carefully during these recitals, making mental 
notes for possible effects. At his home, as I have said, he has his 
little model stage, where the characters are represented by little bricks 
of various colours, the chorus being distinguished from the leading 
singers. . . . The music rehearsals, Grossmith tells us, are ' child's 
play in comparison with the stage rehearsals. Mr. Gilbert is a perfect 
autocrat, insisting that his words shall be delivered, even to an inflexion 
of the voice, as he dictates. He will stand on the stage beside the 
actor or actress, and repeat the words, with appropriate action, over 
and over again until they are delivered as he desires. In some instances, 
of course, he allows a little licence, but a very little.' 

" Grossmith then describes a typical scene. Say Mr. Snooks has to 
utter some such sentence as this : * The king is in the counting-house.' 
This is his whole part, and he naturally wishes to make it go as far 
as possible. He accordingly enters with a grotesque, slow walk which 
he has carefully practised. He is instantly checked by the author. 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 87 

" Please don't enter like that, Mr. Snooks. We don't want any comic- 
man business here. 1 I beg pardon, sir,' poor Snooks replies, ' I thought 
you meant the part to be funny.' * Yes, so I do, but I don't want 
you to tell the audience you're the funny man. They'll find it out, 
if you are, quickly enough.* Snooks tries again, entering with smart 
rapidity. ' No, no ; don't hurry in that way. Enter like this,' and 
Gilbert showing him the way, the thing is got right at last. He then 
repeats his line, * The king is in the counting-house,' laying the accent 
on house. This has to be gone over and over again, but without result. 

" The luckless player will make it house. At last, the author gives 
it up in despair, and announces that as it is impossible to cut out the 
line altogether, which he would gladly do, he would be obliged reluc- 
tantly to allot the character to some one else. ' Do think a moment,' 
he says, ' before you speak now.* The wretched man endeavours to 
think, and then, quite desperate, almost shouts : ' The king is in the 
counting-HousE.' ' We won't bother about it any more,' says Gilbert ; 
' get on with the next Grossmith where's Grossmith ? * However, 
at the end of the rehearsal our author good-naturedly accosts the 
despairing Snooks, and comforts him. ' Don't worry yourself about 
that. Go home and think it over. It will be all right to-morrow/ 
On the morrow, however, it is much the same, but by dint of incessant 
repeating, like Smike, ' Who calls so loud ? ' the proper emphasis is 
at last secured. 

" So conscientious are our authors in preparing their effects that 
on the rehearsals of the last piece a sort of stage or scaffold was raised 
in the stalls to enable them to have the correct ' audience view * of 
all that was doing. At the final full-dress rehearsal the night before 
the performance, though the theatre was filled, the first three rows of 
the stalls were railed off, so as to allow composer and writer a free range, 
to study the effects." 

On November 25, 1882, Patience was succeeded by lolanthe 
with the following cast : 

THE LORD CHANCELLOR Mr. George Grossmith 

EARL OF MOUNTARARAT Mr. Rutland Harrington 

EARL TOLLOLLER Mr. Durward Lely 

PRIVATE WILLIS (of the Grenadier Guards) . Mr. Charles Manners 
STREPHON (an Arcadian Shepherd) . . . Mr. R. Temple 
QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES ...... Miss A lice Barnett 

IOLANTHE (a Fairy, Strephon's mother) . Miss Jessie Bond 
CELIA \ ( Miss Fortescue 

LEILA > Fairies ..,..,.. j Miss Julia Gwynne 
FLETA J ( Miss Sybil Grey 

PHYLLIS (an Arcadian Shepherdess and Ward 

in Chancery) Miss Leonora Braham 



88 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

The plot of lolanthe is taken from the Bab Ballad, George 
and the Fairies, the Idea, of course, being a fairy wedded 
to a mortal and the offspring partaking of the natures of both 
his parents. In the Bab Ballad the father is an attorney. 
In the opera he is the " highly susceptible Chancellor/' Gil- 
bert frequently complained that the Press had constantly 
treated him unfairly, and this is true, at least of Punch, which 
was always Gilbert's most severe critic. After the most 
enthusiastic first night of lolanthe, Punch declared that " as 
a musical or dramatic work lolanthe is not within a mile of 
Pinafore or a patch on Patience.' 1 It went on to say that the 
fantastic idea of beings half-mortal and half-fairy is " some- 
thing not quite pleasant " a delicious example of Podsnap- 
pery. It is amazing to find that offence could be found in 
poor Strephon, of whom his mother said : " He is a fairy 
down to his waist, but his legs are mortal/' 

In creating the Lord Chancellor in lolanthe, Gilbert used 
all his legal knowledge, and of his gibes at Bench and Bar it 
may be safely said : 

* c The joke is good extremely, 
And justifies the mirth." 

The Lord Chancellor's songs : 

" The Law's the true embodiment 
Of everything that's excellent," 

and When I went to the Bar as a very young man, are probably 
more widely known than any other songs in the English 
language. The " Nightmare " song is Gilbert's supreme 
achievement as a patter song quite amazing in its ingenuity. 
Fifteen years before, he had written in Fun some verses of 
iie same metre, called Sixty-Three and Sixty-Four : 

' Oh, you who complain that the drawing's insane, or too much for 

your noddles have found it, 

But listen a minute, I'll tell you what's in itcompletely explain 
and expound it, 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 89 

With intellect weaselly, artist has easily earned all Ms bacon and 

greens by it, 
And now that it's done and all ready for FUN, it's my duty to say 

what he means by it. 
First Beef-eaters, twain, who are hide-ously plain, with a very great 

deal too much flesh on, 
Are placed, I dare say, to keep clear all the way, like the * pleece ' 

in a civic procession. 
Two pantomime actors disgraceful characters, for each is a thief 

and a chartist 
(The clown little charms, for he's weak in the arms, but of course 

that's the fault of the artist), 

Stealing and shouting, and bad-doggerel spouting, completely regard- 
less of rhyme or ear 
Melody metrical, authors theatrical little regard at this time o* 

year ; 
Each of the pair you distinguish down there, a barbarous Pan or a 

Sat'r I caH 
(But stop, surely ' rhyme or ear ' scarce rhymes with ' time o' year 5 

' metrical ' don't with ' theatrical *). 



"Two gentlemen, then, stout hale-looking men, and they carry the 

season's necessities, 
What's that in the bowl ? How it flames ! on my soul, I've not 

the least notion unless it is 
Something to drink it must be that I think ; there is pudding and 

beef and a turkey, 
Savoury sausages offspring of coarse ages, round the fat gobbler 

lurk ye ! 
Ha 1 ha 1 Christmas boxes ! purveyors of oxes, greengrocer and baker 

whom Hodge I call. 
(Fox plural is * foxes,' so why not ox * oxes ' ? The language is 

strangely illogical !) 
A well-bred young man, meeting Julia and Anne, puts a smile that 

he fancies will please on, 
And offers, on meeting, the usual greeting the compliments viz. of 

the season. 
(Whatever they are, it's a phrase popular in the various elegant ' sets/ 

I know, 
I pay them away, and I wish I could say, that with them I could 

pay all my debts, I know 1) 
The waits, wet and chilly, so long have missed WILLIE, the tie is 

quite broken asunder ; 
Now utterly crazy, they envy the saisy, and long to be one, and 

no wonder I 



90 W, S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

One more unfortunate, mutely importunate, huddled, a mass in a 

corner : 
Miseries harden her pardon her, pardon her think of the cold 

when you scorn her ; 
Just to the left of her, utterly deaf to ver-acity, idle men two 

are, 
Begging a far den, as frozen as frozen-out gardeners just as much 

gard'ners as you are 1 
Letters from editors, dunning from creditors, vile red and white 

intimations, 
That rates not a few (made October) are due, and that these are the 

LAST APPLICATIONS. 
The cursed collector he bullies like HECTOR, and duns in a manner 

which funny ain't ; 
How on earth I'm to pay, I'm unable to say, for the rates may be 

made, but the money ain't. 
The thinking these things on, insanity brings on, my brain thoughts 

of suicide enter, 
I almost think I'll run myself on a file, like the man up above in 

the centre I 
The poor wretched prisoner (right corner) is in a sad state his 

thoughts melancholy ones ; 
His wicked mind wends to his open-air friends they are thieves, 

but uncommonly jolly ones I 
Time, the physician (sure no one could wish an adviser with aspect 

more knowing), 
Is earning a fee of old year Sixty-Three, who's beginning to think 

about going ; 
The noisy church-bell is a-ringing his knell it's a delicate favour 

to do one ; 
Its jANUs-like tone kills two birds with one stone, for it heralds the 

birth of a new one ! 



He sleeps the long trance not a ghost of a chance of renewal of 

lease by his lessor; 
// est mort, ce pauvre roi ! Shall we sorrow, Pourquoi ? let us rather 

cry ' Vive his successor ! ' 
Anxious, uncommon I, great Anno Domini, am to know what you've 

in store for me, 
What will you pour for me none can explore for me, which you'll 

admit is a bore for me, 
The kid (if you pliz, I don't know who he is) takes ' steps ' Sixty-Three 

for to score out, 
And I hope that all we whoVe seen old Sixty-Three will be here to 

bow young Sixty-Four out I " 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 91 

Topsy-turvydom finds a perfect expression in the well- 
known lines : 

" Spurn not the nobly born 

With love affected, 
Nor treat with virtuous scorn 

The well-connected. 
High rank involves no shame 
We boast an equal claim 
With "him of humble name 

To be respected 
Blue blood ! Blue blood ! 

When virtuous love is sought, 

Thy power is naught, 
Though dating from the Flood, 

Blue blood 1 

" Spare us the bitter pain 

Of stern denials, 
Nor with low-born disdain 

Augment our trials* 
Hearts just as pure and fair 
May beat in Belgrave Square 
As in the lowly air 

Of Seven Dials ! 
Blue blood ! Blue blood I " 

The same idea is expressed in Lord Mountararat's song : 

" The House of Peers throughout the war 
Did nothing in particular, 

And did it very well." 

Gilbert the humorist is found in lolanthe with his : 

" I wouldn't say a word that could be construed as injurious, 
But to find a mother younger than her son is curious, 
And that's the kind of mother that is usually spurious." 

Gilbert the gay, laughing jester is in the Fairies' song : 

*' If you ask us how we live, 
Lovers all essentials give 

We can ride on lovers* sighs, 
Warm ourselves in lovers' eyes, 
Bathe ourselves in lovers' tears, 
Clothe ourselves in lovers* fears, 



9 2 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Arm ourselves with lovers' darts, 
Hide ourselves in lovers' hearts. 

" When you know us, you'll discover 
That we almost live on lover ! " 

And Gilbert with Ms power of genuine pathos is discovered 
when he writes : 

" He loves ! If in the bygone years 

Thine eyes have ever shed 
Tears bitter, unavailing tears, 

For one untimely dead 
If in the eventide of life 

Sad thoughts of her arise, 
Then let the memory of thy wife 

Plead for my boy he dies 1 

" He dies ! If fondly laid aside 

In some old cabinet, 
Memorials of thy long-dead bride 

Lie, dearly treasured yet, 
Then let her hallowed bridal dress 

Her little dainty gloves 
Her withered flowers her faded tress 

Plead for my boy he loves 1 " 

And good as they all are fairies and peers and Lord 
Chancellor there is no Gilbertian character more attractive 
than the sentry, with his admirable song and his suddenly 
sprouting wings. 

At the dress rehearsal of lolanthe, Gilbert said to the chorus, 
who represented the House of Lords : " For Heaven's sake 
wear your coronets as if you were used to them ! " 

In 1870, The Princess, which Gilbert described as " a whim- 
sical allegory, being a respectful perversion of Mr. Tennyson's 
poem/' was produced at the Olympic Theatre. This was 
the basis of the libretto of Princess Ida, which was produced 
by Mr. D'Oyly Carte at the Savoy Theatre on January 5, 
1884. It may be interesting to compare the two casts : 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 93 

1870 

KING HILDEBRAND Mr. David Fisher 

PRINCE HILARION (his Son) Miss Maria Simpson 

(Mrs. W. H. Listen) 

CYRIL IHis Friends, Noblemen of King (Miss Augusta Thomson 

FLORIAN/ Hildebrand's Court (Miss Montgomery 

KING GAMA Mr. Elliott 

PRINCE ARAC "\ (Miss Jessie Earle 

PRINCE GURON I His Sons . \Miss Harrington 

PRINCE SCYNTHIUS; {Miss Ewell 

ATHO (King Hildebrand's Chamberlain) . Mr. Franks 

FIRST OFFICER Mr. Arthur Brown 

SECOND OFFICER Mr. Davis 

GOBBO (a Porter) Mr. St. Maur 

PRINCESS IDA (Daughter of King Gama and 

Principal of the Ladies* University) . Miss Mattie Reinhardt 
LADY PSYCHE (Professor of Experimental 

Science) Miss Fanny Addison 

LADY BLANCHE (Professor of Abstract Philo- 
sophy) Mrs. Poynter 

MELISSA (her Daughter) Miss Patti Josephs 

BERTHA \ (Miss Joy 



ADA 

CHLOE 

SACHARISSA 

SYLVIA 

PHCEBE 

PHYLLIS 

AMARANTHE 

LAURA I 



Undergraduates . 



I Miss Clyfoard 
\Miss Moore 
I Miss Alma 
Miss Everard 
Miss Fitzjames 
Miss Corinne 
Miss Graham 



\Miss Clara 
1884 

KING HILDEBRAND Mr. Rutland Harrington 

HILARION (his Son) Mr. H. Bracy 

CYRIL ) TT ., , , _ . , (Mr. Durward Lely 

T-, f Hilarion s Friends } -** ^T. ^ 7 

FLORIAN J (Mr. Chas. Ryley 

KING GAMA Mr. George Grossmith 

ARAC \ (Mr. Richard Temple 

GURON I His Sons \Mr. Warwick Gray 

ScYNTHiusJ \Mr. Lugg 
PRINCESS IDA (Gama's Daughter) . . . Miss Leonora Braham 
LADY BLANCHE (Professor of Abstract Philo- 
sophy) Miss Brandram 

LADY PSYCHE (Professor of Humanities) . Miss Kate Chard 
MELISSA (Lady Blanche's Daughter) . . Miss Jessie Bond 
SACHARISSA^ (Miss Sybil Grey 

CHLOE I Girl Graduates ..... < Miss Heathcote 

ADA j \Miss Lilian Can 



94 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

It will be seen that certain male parts were played by 
actresses in the earlier version, but were taken by men in 
the Savoy opera. Gilbert never allowed women to wear 
men's clothes in the Savoy operas. The dialogue of Princess 
Ida is written in blank verse, and much of it is taken bodily 
from the earlier play. Princess Ida is the only opera of the 
Gilbert and Sullivan series written in three acts. In many 
respects it is the least interesting of the series, as it proved 
the least successful. And yet it contains some of Gilbert's 
most attractive writing and many of Sullivan's charming 
melodies. The composer, indeed, was at his very best in 
writing the trio in the first act : 

"Expressive glances 
Shall be our lances 

And pops of Sillery 

Our light artillery. 
We'll storm their bowers 
With scented showers 
Of fairest flowers 

That we can buy ! " 

The Disagreeable Man is capital fun, and was one of the 
songs that Gilbert himself always liked: 

*' If you will give me your attention, I will tell you what I am. 
I'm a genuine philanthropist all other kinds are sham 1 
Each little fault of temper, and each social defect 
In my erring fellow-creatures, I endeavour to correct. 
To aU their little weaknesses I open people's eyes, 
And little plans to snub the self-suffrcient I devise 1 
I love my fellow-creatures I do all the good I can ; 
Yet everybody says I'm such a disagreeable man 1 
And I can't think why ! 

" To compliments inflated I've a withering reply, 
And vanity I always do my best to mortify ; 
A charitable action I can skilfully dissect ; 
And interested motives I'm delighted to detect ; 
I know everybody's income and what everybody earns ; 
And I carefully compare it with the income-tax returns ; 
But to benefit humanity however much I plan, 
Yet everybody says I'm such a disagreeable man I 
And I can't think why I 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 95 

" Fm sure I'm no ascetic I'm as pleasant as can be ; 
You'll always find me ready with a crushing repartee ; 
I've an irritating chucHe, I've a celebrated sneer, 
I've an entertaining snigger, I've a fascinating leer. 
To everybody's prejudice I know a thing or two, 
I can tell a woman's age in half a minute and I do. 
But although I try to make myself as pleasant as I can, 
Yet everybody says I'm such a disagreeable man I 
And I can't think why ! " 

In one lyric, Gilbert is again in Herrick mood: 

" Whom thou hast chained must wear his chain, 

Thou canst not set him free, 
He wrestles with his bonds in vain 

"Who lives by loving thee ! 
If heart of stone for heart of fire, 

Be all thou hast to give, 
If dead to me my heart's desire, 

Why should I wish to live ? 

" No word of thine no stern command 

Can teach my heart to rove, 
Then rather perish by thy hand. 

Than live without thy love ! 
A loveless life apart from thee 

Were hopeless slavery, 
If kindly death will set me free, 

Why should I fear to die ? " 

Rarely, if ever, did Gilbert write more charmingly. Repeat- 
ing his familiar chaffing of the aristocratic soldier, he makes 
the sons of King Gama sing : 

" Politics we bar, 
They are not our bent ; 
On the whole we are 
Not intelligent." 

Mr. Walbrook has an excellent story of the first night of 
Princess Ida. Gilbert was sitting quietly in the green-room 
when the Frenchman who had made the armour rushed in 
excitedly and said : " Mais, monsieur, savez-vous que vous 
avez 1 un succds solide ? " " Oh, I think it's going very 
well/' said Gilbert. The Frenchman was disgusted by this 



96 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

display of British phlegm : " Mais, vous 6tes si calme ! " and 
walked out of the room. In telling this story, Gilbert added : 
" I think he wanted me to kiss all the carpenters/' 
During the writing of the opera, Gilbert wrote to Sullivan : 

DEAR SULLIVAN, 

Here Is Act I finished. I have made certain alterations in the first 
two or three numbers. I think you will say they are improvements. 
Don't you think the act might end with " O dainty triolet/* etc., 
followed by the departure of the Princes Arac, Guron, and Scynthius 
breaking from their captors to rush after Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian, 
to be captured at once as the act drop falls this possibly to be without 
words and done to a symphony ? It would make a good picture, I 
think. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT. 

The suggestion was not carried out, the act actually finish- 
ing with the trio : 

" For a month to dwell 
In a dungeon cell, 
Growing thin and wizen 
In a solitary prison, 
Is a poor look-out 
For a soldier stout, 
Who is longing for the rattle 
Of a complicated battle." 

On March 14, 1885, The Mikado, the most popular of all 
the Gilbert and Sullivan series, was produced at the Savoy. 
It has not only been played innumerable times in England 
and America, but for years it has been in the regular reper- 
toire of the German theatres, and it has given its author and 
composer an international reputation. It is interesting to 
recall the conditions prevailing in the London theatres on 
the evening The Mikado was produced. We quote from 
Mr. Walbrook: 

" Irving is away in America, so we miss that solid block of people 
in his old pit entrance ; and Toole is on tour in the provinces ; but the 
Bancrofts are at the Haymarket, Henry Arthur Jones's play Saints 
and Sinners is at the Vaudeville, Wilson Barrett is acting in Lord 
Lytton's play Juntas at the Princess's in Oxford Street Edward Terry 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 97 

is convulsing the public at the Gaiety in the burlesque Mazeppa ; 
W. S. Penley is causing the audience at the Globe to roll in their seats 
as he babbles of milk and Bath-buns in The Private Secretary ; Charles 
Wyndham is dazzling a crowded house in the humours of the Candidate 
at the merry little Criterion ; Promenade Concerts are being given 
at Her Majesty's, and there is a Circus at the Opera House in Covent 
Garden." 

The Mikado is one of the few Savoy operas the idea of which 
cannot be traced back to the Bab Ballads. It was received 
with enthusiasm by both Press and public, and it ran for 
672 performances. As usual, Gilbert took immense pains 
to get the details of costumes and scenery and movements 
exactly right, and in this he received great help from Lord 
Redesdale, and also from a number of Japanese craftsmen 
who happened to be exhibiting their skill at the time at 
Knightsbridge. Gilbert hired some of these Japanese to teach 
principals and chorus how to use their fans, and it will be 
remembered how large a part the fan plays in the action 
of the play. 

Though the scene is Old Japan, and though the characters 
have Japanese names and imitate Japanese manners, the 
satire and the fun are English in their objective. The familiar 
elderly lady in love reappears in Katisha. Pooh-Bah is the 
well-born pluralist. 

" It is consequently my degrading duty to serve this upstart, this 
First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, 
Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back- 
stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, and Lord Mayor, both acting and elect, 
all rolled into one. And at a salary! A Pooh-Bah paid for his 
services ! I a salaried minion I But I do it ! It revolts me, but I 
do it I " 

So familiar has the character become that Pooh-Bah is 
the common name for a pluralist as Mr. Pecksniff is for a 
humbug. Incidentally, Pooh-Bah gave Mr. Rutland Barring- 
ton the greatest success of his theatrical career. 

The Mikado is all sparkle from beginning to end, from 
Nanki-Poo's first song : 
7 



gS W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

"A wandering minstrel I 

A thing of shreds and patches, 
Of ballads, songs and snatches, 
A dreamy lullaby/* 

to the finale : 

" The threatened cloud has passed away, 
And brightly shines the dawning day, 
What though the night may come too soon, 
We've years and years of afternoon I " 

The " Three little maids from school " trio is a sheer 303 
and the grim, joke that Gilbert loved so well is instinct in th 

lines: 

" To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock, 
In a pestilential prison with a life-long lock, 
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock, 
Of a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block 1 " 

There is the same burlesque grimness in : 

" As in three weeks you've got to die, 
If Ko-Ko tells us true, 
'Twere empty compliment to cry 

'Long life to Nanki-Poo ! * 
But as you've got three weeks to live 

As fellow- citizen, 

This toast with three times three we'll give 
' Long life to you till then ! ' " 

AH the world knows the madrigal " Brightly dawns ou 
wedding day/' and the Mikado's song, allusions to whic] 
are now among the counters of everyday conversation : 

" My object all sublime 
I shall achieve in time 
To let the punishment fit the crime," 

and the ingenious " Tit-willow/' in the writing of whic] 
Gilbert proved that a comic song may possess the qualit* 
of daintiness. 

In every opera it would seem that Gilbert was determinec 
once more to prove his versatility, and nowhere does he succeec 
more completely than in The Mikado, though here the senti 



-GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 99 

mentalist Is tightly held by the humorist, and one of the most 
charming of the lyrics is sung by a comic character : 

" Hearts do not break ! 
They sting and ache 
For old sake's sake, 

But do not die ! 
Though with each breath 
They long for death, 
As witnesseth 

The living I I " 

The note of pathos is sounded, and then away again to the 
fun and the frolic : 

KATISHA. There is beauty in the bellow of the blast, 

There Is grandeur in the growling of the gale, 

There Is eloquent outpouring 

When the lion Is a-roaring, 
And the tiger is a-Iashing of his tail ! 

Ko-Ko. Yes, I like to see a tiger 

From the Congo or the Niger, 
And especially when lashing of his tail ! 

KATISHA. Volcanoes have a splendour that is grim, 
And earthquakes only terrify the dolts, 

But to him that's scientific 

There's nothing that's terrific 
In the falling of a flight of thunderbolts 1 

Ko-Ko. Yes, in spite of all my meekness, 

If I have a little weakness, 
It's a passion for a flight of thunderbolts. 

The last literary work of Gilbert's life was the rewriting 
of the story of The Mikado for children, in which there is a 
new and delightful version of " The little list " song : 

* As some day it may happen that a victim must be found, 

I've made a little list I've made a little list 
Of inconvenient people who might well be underground. 

For they never would be missed they never would be missed. 
The donkey who of nine-times-six and eight-times-seven prates, 
And stumps you with inquiries on geography and dates, 
And asks for your ideas on spelling ' parallelogram > 
All narrow-minded people who are stingy with their jam, 
And the torture-dealing dentist, with the forceps in his fist 
They'd none of them be missed they'd none of them be missed* 



ioo W. 5. GILBERT; HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

"There's the nursemaid who each evening in curlpapers does yonr 

hair, 
With an aggravating twist she never would be missed 

you that yon mustn't cough or sneeze or yawn or stare, 
She never would be missed I'm sure she'd not be missed. 
All who hold that children shouldn't have too much to eat, 

And think cold suet pudding a delicious birthday treat, 
Who say that little girls to bed at seven should be sent, 
And consider pocket-money isn't given to be spent, 
And doctors who on giving you unpleasant draughts insist 
They never would be missed they'd none of them be missed. 

" Then the teacher who for hours keeps you practising your scales 

With an ever-aching wrist she never would be missed. 
And children, too, who out of school are fond of telling tales, 

They never would be missed I'm sure they'd not be missed. 
All people who maintain (in solemn earnest not in joke) 
That quantities of sugar-plums are bad for little folk, 
And those who hold the principle, unalterably fixed, 
That instruction with amusement should most carefully be mixed ; 
AM these (and many others) I have placed upon the list, 
For they never would be missed never, never would be missed." 

A letter written by Gilbert to Sullivan on December 9, 1884, 
illustrates their method of work and the excellent relations 

that still existed between them : 

DEAK SITIJJVAH, 

I send a trio for Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pish-Tush. I think it 
ought to be quaint and effective. 

I have put the three verses side by side for convenience' sake, but, 
of course, they will be sung separately. 

1 fancy the metre admits of each verse being set differently from 
the others, but I may "be wrong in this. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

This was, of course, the trio with the refrain " To sit in 
solemn silence in a dull, dark dock/' 

In 1907 a revival of The Mikado was forbidden, for fear of 
wounding the susceptibilities of our Japanese allies. Smarting 
under a sense of injury, Gilbert wrote : 

" I suppose you have read that the King (with his unfailing tact) 
has forbidden that The Mikado shall ever be played again. That 
means at least five thousand pounds out of my pocket. It is so easy 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 101 

to be tactful when the cost has to be borne by somebody else. The 
Mikado of the opera was an imaginary monarch of a remote period, 
and cannot by any exercise of ingenuity be taken to be a slap on an 
existing institution. He has no more actuality than a pantomime 
Mng, and it's a poor compliment to the Japs to suppose they would 
be offended by it. . . But when tact gets the bit between its teeth, 
there is no knowing where it will carry you. It is generally supposed 
that was invited to Berlin to act by the Kaiser, with the malig- 
nant motive of showing the Germans what impostors we aH are/' 

It is satisfactory to know that a few days later Gilbert was 
much pleased to discover that he had been entirely misin- 
formed : 

" I learn from a friend, who had it direct from the King, that the 
Japs made the objection to The Mi&ado, and that it was at their instance 
it was suppressed. A delicate and polite action on the part of a guest 
towards a host. The rights in the piece do not revert to me for three 
years ; by that time we shall probably be at war with Japan about 
India, and they will offer me a high price to permit it to be played. . . . 
I hear the King is very angry about it, as he was supposed to have 
done it ofi his own bat. They are going to do lolanthe at the Savoy, 
and I hope it will be done better than the others. Mrs. Carte was 
at the Lord Chamberlain's weeping for two hours on end because 
they would not let her do The Mikado. King Edward's saving sense 
of humour should surely have secured him against such allegations 
as this." 

Mr. G, K. Chesterton says of The Mikado : 

" In that play Gilbert pursued and persecuted the evils of modern 
England till they had literally not a leg to stand on ; exactly as Swift 
did under the allegory of Gulliver's Travels. Yet it is the solid and 
comic fact that The Mikado was actually forbidden in England for the 
first time, because it was a satire on Japan. The cannon had been fired 
point-blank at us. The cannon-ball simply rebounded. And we were 
earnestly concerned about whether the camion would cannon and hit 
our Gallant Allies. I doubt if there is a single joke in the whole play 
that fits the Japanese. But all the jokes in the play fit the English, 
if they would put on the cap. The great creation of the play is Pooh- 
Bah. I have never heard, I do not believe, that the combination of 
inconsistent functions is specially a vice of the extreme East. I 
should guess the contrary ; I should guess that the East tends to split 
into steady and inherited trades or castes; so that the torturer is 
always a torturer and the priest a priest. But about England Pooh- 
Bah is something more than a satire ; he is the truth. It is true of 
British politics (probably not of Japanese) that we meet the same 



102 W. S. HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

twenty times as twenty different officials. There is a quarrel 

a landlord, Lord Jones, and a railway company presided over 

by Lord Smith. Strong comments are made on the case by a newspaper 

by Lord Brown;, and after infinite litigation, it is sent up to 

the of Lords, that is, Lords Jones, Smith, and Brown. Generally 

the characters are more mixed. The landlord cannot live by land, but 

live as director of the railway. The railway lord is so rich that 
he buys up the newspaper. The general result can be expressed only 
ia two syllables (to be uttered with the utmost energy of the lungs) : 
Pooh-Bah." 

The was followed by Ruddigore, which was produced 

at the Savoy Theatre on January 22, 1887, with the following 

cast: 

MORTALS 

ROBIN GAKAPPLE {a Young Farmer) . . Mr, George Grossmith 
RICHARD DAUNTLESS (his Foster-brother, a 

Mkn-of-war's-man) ...... Mr. Durward Lely 

SIR DESPARD MURGATROYD (of Ruddigore, a 

Wicked Baronet) ....... Mr. Rutland Barrington 

OLD ADAM GOODHEART (Robin's faithful 

servant) Mr. Rudolph Lewis 

ROSE MAYBUD (a Village Maiden) . . . Miss Leonora Braham 

MAD MARGARET Miss Jessie Bond 

DAME HANNAH (Rose's Aunt) .... Miss Rosina Brandram 

Bridesmaids . . . {**** Josephine Findlay 
(Mvss Lindsay 

GHOSTS 

SIR RUPERT MURGATROYD (the First Baronet) Mr. Price 
SIR JASPER MURGATROYD (the Third Baronet) Mr. Charles 
SIR LIONEL MURGATROYD (the Sixth Baronet) Mr. Trevor 
SIR CONRAD MURGATROYD (the Twelfth Baronet) Mr. Burbank 
SIR DESMOND MURGATROYD (the Sixteenth 

Baronet) Mr. Tuer 

SIR GILBERT MURGATROYD (the Eighteenth 

Baronet) . Mr. Wilbraham 

SIR MERVYN MURGATROYD (the Twentieth 

Baronet) .......... Mr. Cox 

SIR RODERIC MURGATROYD (the Twenty-first 

Baronet) ... Mr. Richard Temple 

The plot was derived from Ages Ago, a sketch written many 
years before for the German Reeds, which contained a scene 
of pictures of ancestors stepping from their frames. The 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 103 

famous duet, " I know a youth who loves a little maid/' can 
obviously be traced back to the Bab Ballad, The Modest CoupU. 
Peter and Sarah were betrothed when they were very young : 

" They blushed, and flushed, and fainted till they reached the age 

of nine, 

When PETER'S good papa (he was a Baron of the Rhine) 
Determined to endeavour some sound argument to find 
To bring these shy young people to a proper frame of mind. 

" He told them that as SARAH was to be his PETER'S bride, 
They might at least consent to sit at table side by side ; 
He begged that they would now and then shake hands, till he was 

hoarse, 
Which SARAH thought indelicate, and PETER very coarse." 

The " Ghost " song had its forerunner, too, in one of the 
Fun ballads not included in the published volumes : 

" Fair phantom, come ! 

The moon's awake. 
The owl hoots gaily from its brake, 
The blithesome bat's a-wing. 
Come, soar to yonder silent clouds, 
The other teems with peopled shrouds : 
We'll fly the lightsome spectre crowds, 
Thou cloudy, clammy thing ! " 

Some exception was taken in the Press to the title of Ruddi- 
gore, and Gilbert wrote to a friend : 

" When the Press shuddered with horror, as it did, at the title, I 
endeavoured to induce my collaborator to consent to the title being 
changed to " Kensington Gore, or Robin and Richard were Two 
Pretty Men." But Sullivan wouldn't consent." 

Ruddigore is a burlesque of transpontine melodrama, with 
its bold, bad baronet, its gallant sailor, and its artless village 
maiden who describes herself as " Sweet Rose MaybucL" 
Rose was a foundling : 

" Hung in a plated dish-cover to the knocker of the workhouse 
door, with naught that I could call my own, save a change of baby- 
linen and a book of etiquette, little wonder if I have always regarded 
that work as a voice from a parent's tomb. This hallowed volume 
(producing a book of etiquette), composed, if I may believe the title-page, 



104 W. S. HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

bv no less an authority the wife of a Lord Mayor, has been, through 
life, my and monitor." 

We referred to the sailor's song with its humorous 

of patriotism. The song of the Modest Man 

is delicious!}* Gllbertian : 

" As a poet, I'm tender and quaint 

I've passion and fervour and grace 

From Ovid to Horace, 

To Swinburne and Morris, 
They all of them take a back place. 
Then I sing and I play and I paint : 
Though none are accomplished as I, 

To say so were treason : 

Yon ask me the reason ? 
I'm diffident, modest and shy. 1 ' 

Gilbert took his usual meticulous care with the pictures 
come to life. They were specially painted and were 
accurately copied from the members of the company whom 
they represented. Similar care was taken with the uniforms 
worn by the chorus in the first act, which represented no less 
than twenty different regiments. The accuracy of military 
detail was vouched for by the Quartermaster-General, who 
specially attended the dress rehearsal. 

The dialogue after the pictures have come to life is in- 
geniously amusing : 

ROBIN, I recognize you now, yon axe the picture that Jiangs at the 

end of the gallery, 

SIR RODERIC, In a bad light. I am. 
ROBIN". Are you considered a good likeness ? 
SIR RODERIC. Pretty well. Flattering. 
ROBIN. Because, as a work of art, you are poor. 
SIR RODERIC. I am orade in colour, "but I have only been painted ten 

years. In a couple of centuries I shall be an Old Master, and then 

you will be sorry you spoke lightly of me. 

Robin's song after he has been condemned to a life of crime 
is characterized by Gilbert's unfailing fertility in rhyming ; 

" Henceforth all the crimes that I find in the Times 
I've promised to perpetrate daily ; 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 105 

To-morrow I start, with a petrified heart, 

On a regular course of Old Bailey. 
There's confidence tricMng, bad coin, pocket-picking, 

And several other disgraces 
There's postage stamp prigging, and the thimble-rigging, 

The three-card delusion at races ! 
Oh ! a Baronet's rank is exceedingly nice, 
But the title's uncommonly dear at the price ! " 

And the duet, "I am a very abandoned person," is perhaps 
the best Joke in the play. 

Gilbert's favourites among his operas were The Yeomen of 
the Guard, Ruddigore, and Utopia, Limited ; and after some 
years of neglect, Ruddigore now stands high in popular favour. 
It is humorous, ingenious, and admirably constructed, and 
the score is Sullivan in his richest and most varied mood. 
Ruddigore ran for two hundred and eighty-eight performances, 
and has often been described as one of the few Gilbert and 
Sullivan failures. But Gilbert publicly announced that the 
eight months' run put 7,000 into his pocket, and many 
other dramatists would be glad of such failures. 

On the day after the production, Gilbert wrote : 

DEAR SULLIVAN, 

I can't help thinking that the second act would be greatly im- 
proved if the recitation before Grossmith's song were omitted, and the 
song reset to an air that would admit of his singing it desperately almost 
in a passion the torrent of which would take him off the stage at the 
end. After the long and solemn ghost scene, I fancy a lachrymose 
song is out of place, particularly as it is followed by another slow 
number the duet between Jessie and Barrington. I feel this so strongly 
that I send this by hand, so that if you are of my opinion the matter 
could be put in hand at once, and perhaps sung on Wednesday next. 
The Observer is kindly. 

Yours truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 
P.S. I will call and talk it over this afternoon at three if you like. 

Mr. Archer has an amusing comment on the long line of 
bad baronets in Ruddigore. He says that, according to the 
conventions of drama, baronets were villains in the nine- 
teenth century, but they were respectable in the eighteenth 



io6 \V. S. HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

century, and blackguards who thought themselves fine fellows 
in the seventeenth. 

The Yeomen of the Guard was produced at the Savoy on 

3, 1888, with the following cast : 

SIR RICHARD CHOLMONDELEY (Lieutenant of 

the Tower) Mr. W. Brownlow 

COLONEL FAIRFAX (under sentence of death) Mr. Courtice Pounds 
SERGEANT MERYLL (of the Yeomen of the 

Guard) Mr. Richard Temple 

LEONARD MERYLL (his Son) Mr. W. R. Shirley 

JACK POINT (a Strolling Jester) .... Mr. George Grossmith 
WILFRED SHADBOLT (Head Jailor and Assis- 
tant Tormentor) Mr. W. H. Denny 

THE HEADSMAN . Mr. Richards 

FIRST YEOMAN ......... Mr. Wilbraham 

SECOND YEOMAN Mr. Medcalfe 

THIRB YEOMAN Mr. Merton 

FOURTH YEOMAN . Mr. Rudolph Lewis 

FIRST CITIZEN . Mr. Redmond 

SECOND CITIZEN Mr. Boyd 

ELSIE MAYNARD (a Strolling Singer) . . . Miss Geraldine Ulmar 
PHCEBE MERYLL (Sergeant MerylTs Daugh- 
ter) Miss Jessie Bond 

DAUB CARRUTHERS (Housekeeper to the 

Tower) Miss Rbsina Brandram 

KATE {her Niece) Miss Rose Hervey 

There can, we feel, be no question that with this opera the 
achievement of the collaborators reached its highest point. 

" I thought/* said Gilbert, " ' The Yeomen ' was the best 
thing we had done " and he was right : the best thing they 
had done or were ever to do a perfect work of art. 

Gilbert was once asked what gave him the idea of "The 
Yeomen/' and he said that, while waiting for a train on a 
railway platform one day, he noticed a poster of a beefeater 
advertising the Tower Furnishing Company, and this set him 
thinking and devising, and the result was The Merryman 
and His Maid. 

The evolution of the idea is indicated in two letters written 
to Sullivan : 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 107 

DEAR S., 

I have got the plot of the new piece pretty well combed out, and 
I'm glad to hear you can dine with us on Wednesday, as we can go 
carefully into the matter after dinner. It is quite a consistent and 
effective story, without anachronisms or pathos of any kind, and I 
hope you will like it. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

September 13, 1888. 
DEAR SULLIVAN, 

The more I think of it, the more convinced I am that " The Beef- 
eaters " is the name for the new piece. It is a good, sturdy, solid 
name, conjuring up picturesque associations and clearly telling its own 
tale at once. " The Tower " is nothing. No one knows but a few 
that beefeaters were called Tower Warders. I put the two names 
before Hare without comment and asked him which he preferred, and 
he said " * The Beefeaters ' by all means." This is for what it is 
worth. 

Very truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

There can be no sort of doubt that The Yeomen of the Guard 
is a far better title still. 

Talking to Mr. William Archer of The Yeomen of the Guard, 
Gilbert gave some interesting details of the method of his 
collaboration with Sir Arthur Sullivan : 

The verse always preceded the music, or even any hint of it. 
Sometimes very rarely Sullivan would say of some song I had 
given him, " My dear fellow, I can't make anything of this " and 
then I would rewrite it entirely never tinker at it. But, of course, 
I don't mean to say that I " invented " all the rhythms and stanzas 
in the operas. Often a rhythm would be suggested by some old tune 
or other running in my head, and I would fit my words to it more 
or less exactly. When Sullivan knew I had done so, he would say, 
" Don't tell me what the tune is, or I shan't be able to get it out of 
my head." But once, I remember, I did tell him. There is a duet 
in The Yeomen of the Guard beginning : 

" I have a song to sing, O I 
Sing me your song, O 1 " 

It was suggested to me by an old chantey I used to hear the 
sailors on board my yacht singing in the " dog-watch " on Saturday 
evenings, beginning : 



io8 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" Come, and I will sing to yon 

What -will yon sing me ? 
I will sing yon one, O ! 
What is yonr one, O I " 

And so on. Well, when I gave Sullivan the words of the dnet, he f onnd 
the utmost difficulty in setting it. He tried hard for a fortnight, but 
in vain. I offered to recast it in another mould, but he expressed 
himself so delighted with it in its then form that he was determined 
to work it out to a satisfactory issue. At last, he came to me and said : 
" You often have some old air in your mind which prompts the metre 
of your songs ; if anything prompted you in this one, hum it to me . 
it may help me." Only a rash man ever asks me to hum, but the 
situation was desperate, and I did my best to convey to him the air 
of the chantey that had suggested the song to me. I was so far 
successful that before I had hummed a dozen bars he exclaimed : 
" That will do I've got it i " And in an hour he produced the charm- 
ing air as it appears in the opera. I have sometimes thought that 
he exclaimed '* That will do I've got it " because my humming 
was more than he could bear ; but he always assured me that it 
had given him the necessary clue to the proper setting of the 
song. . . . 

I remember it (the chantey) as my sailors used to sing it. I 
found out afterwards that it was a very much corrupted form of an 
old Cornish carol. This was their version of it : 

FIRST VOICE. Come, and I will sing you - 

ALL. What will you sing me ? 
FIRST VOICE. I will sing you one, O ! 
ALL. What is your one, O ! 
FIRST VOICE. One of them is all alone, 

And ever will remain so. 
ALL. One of them, etc. 
SECOND VOICE. Come, and I will sing you 

ALL. What will you sing me ? 
SECOND VOICE. I will sing you two, O ! 
ALL. What is your two, O ! 
SECOND VOICE. Two of them are lilywhite maids, 

Dressed all in green, O ! 
ALL. One of them is all alone, 

And ever will remain so. 
THIRD VOICE. Come, and I will sing you 

ALL. What will you sing me ? 
THIRD VOICE. I will sing you three, O 1 
ALL. What is your three, O 1 
THIRD VOICE. Three of them are strangers. 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 109 

ALL. Two of them are lilywhite maids, 

Dressed all in green, O ! 
One of them is all alone, 
And ever will remain so ! 

And so on until twelve is reached. 

THIRD VOICE. Come, and I will sing you 

ALL. What will you sing me ? 
THIRD VOICE. I will sing you twelve, O I 
ALL. What is your twelve, O ! 
THIRD VOICE. Twelve are the twelve apostles, 

ALL. Eleven of them have gone to heaven. 
Ten are the Ten Commandments, 

Nine is the moonlight bright and clear, 
Eight are the eight archangels, 

Seven are the seven stars in the sky, 
Six are the cheerful waiters (I) 

Five are the ferrymen in the boats, 
Four are the gospel preachers, 
Three of them are strangers, 
Two of them are lilywhite maids, 

Dressed all in green, O; 
One of them is all alone, 
And ever will remain so ! 

Gilbert always professed that he knew nothing about 
music, and he had little ear for tune ; but he had a wonderful 
ear for rhythm, and he was by no means without musical 
appreciation. One of his Harrow Weald friends tells us of 
his particular liking for Mozart a striking instance of taste, 
because of the Mozartian qualities of Sullivan at his best. 
In a letter written to Sullivan in 1893, Gilbert said : 

" I am much flattered, and indeed touched, by your assumption 
that the * piece * of music you jotted down in your note would convey 
any idea to me that an inscription would not." 

In The Yeomen of the Guard Gilbert deserted, or almost 
deserted, Ms own land of topsy-turvydom. There is a good 
deal of himself in Jack Point, with his "jest and joke, and 
quip and crank," and Phoebe Meryll is perhaps the most 
fascinating and human character he ever created: 



no W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" The rose's sigh 
Were as a carrion's cry 
To lullaby 

Such as I'd sing to thee, 
Were I thy bride ! 

" A feather's press 
Were leaden heaviness 
To my caress. 

But then, of course, you see 
I'm not thy bride ! " 

Gilbert is quite serious in Dame Carruthers' ct Song of the 
Tower": 

'* When our gallant Norman foes 
Made our merry land their own, 

And the Saxons from the Conqueror were flying, 
At his bidding it arose ; 
In its panoply of stone, 

A sentinel unliving and undying. 
Insensible, I trow, 
As a sentinel should be, 

Though a queen to save her head should come a-suing, 
There's a legend on its brow 
That is eloquent to me, 

And it tells of duty done and duty doing. 

" The screw may twist and the rack may burn, 
And men may bleed and men may burn, 
On London town and all its hoard 
I keep my solemn watch and ward J " 

Once more he is the modern Herrick in his " Is Life a 
Boon 1 " He is delicately dainty in the duet, " I have a song 
to sing/' and pathetically ironic in the Jester's song : 

" Though your head may rack with a bilious attack, 

And your sense with toothache you're losing, 
Don't be mopy and flat they don't fine you for that, 
If you're properly quaint and amusing I 

" Though your wife ran away with a soldier that day, 

And took with her your trifle of money; 
Bless your heart, they don't mind they're exceedingly kind, 
They don't blame you as long as you're funny 1 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN in 

It's a comfort to fee! 

If your partner should flit, 
Though you suffer a deal, 

They don't mind It a bit 
They don't blame you so long as you're funny/* 

This Is the often repeated bitter cry of the humorist, who, 
once having been successfully funny, must willy-nilly go on 
being funny until the end of his days. It was a fate against 
which Gilbert himself rebelled, and if Jack Point is autobio- 
graphical, he is autobiography with more than a suggestion 
of bitterness. 

The Gondoliers was produced at the Savoy Theatre on 
December 7, 1889. Mr. George Grossrnith left the company 
after The Yeomen of the Guard, and it was joined by Mr. Frank 
Wyatt and Miss Decima Moore, who made her first stage 
appearance in the part of Casilda. The following is the cast : 

THE DUKE OF PLAZA-TORO (a Grandee of 

Spain) Mr. Frank Wyatt 

Luiz (Ms Attendant) Mr. Brownlow 

DON ALHAMBRA DEL BOLERO (the Grand 

Inquisitor) Mr. Denny 



MARCO PALMIER 

GIUSEPPE PALMIERI 

ANTONIO 

FRANCESCO 

GIORGIO 

ANNIBALE 

OTTAVIO 



Mr. Courtice Pounds 
Mr. Rutland Barrington 
Mr. Medcalf 
> Venetian Gondoliers \ Mr. Rose 

\Mr. De Pledge 
\Mr. Wilbraham 
\Mr. C. Gilbert 



THE DUCHESS OF PLAZA-TORO .... Miss Rosina Brandram 

CASILDA (her Daughter) ...... Miss Decima Moore 

GIANETTA\ /Miss Geraldine Ulmar 

TESSA I I Miss 1 Jessie Bond 

FIAMETTA > Contadine ...... 4 Miss Lawrence 

VITTORIA |Mtss Cole 

GIULIA / \Miss Phyllis 

INEZ (the King's Foster-mother) . . . Miss Bernard 

The Gondoliers was a return to the topsy-turvydom which 
Gilbert had more or less deserted for the moment in The 
Yeomen of the Guard. It took Gilbert five months to write 
the libretto of The Gondoliers, and Sullivan confessed that 



H2 W. S, GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

the given Mm more trouble than any of its pre- 

decessors. 

The " " was discussed in a series of letters to Sullivan. 

wrote on August 10, 1889 : 

DEAR SULLIVAN, - 

I certainly did not understand that the " Growling "chorus was 
cut out. It seems to me that the piece as it stands at present wants 
it. The Venetians of the fifteenth century were red-hot Republicans. 
One of their party is made king and invites his friends to form a Court. 
They object because they are Republicans. He replies that he has 
considered that and proposed to institute a Court in which all people 
shall be equal, and to this they agree. In Act II the absurdity of this 
state of things is shown. Without the dissatisfaction expressed by 
the " Growling " chorus (which can be rewritten if it won't do in its 
present form) the story would be unintelligible. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

In a letter dated August 31, 1889, he says ; 

DEAR S., 

Here is the entry of the Duke and Duchess. I fancy you will 
like the spirit of it. Would you like a short episodic aria for Carlotta 
introduced into it ? If so, it can be done. Or a duet for Carlotta 
and Luiz (aside). Luiz is not on, as at present arranged, but I could 
bring Mm on if you wanted him. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. G. 

At the end of September he wrote : 



SULUVAN, 

WiH you send me a copy of the ensemble, " In a contemplative 
fashion/* as I haven't kept one, then I will alter it at once. I have 
practically finished the lyrics of Act II subject, of course, to altera- 
tions and possibly to one or two additions but that I cannot tell 
tmtil the dialogue is written. It appears to me to be rather lacking 
in solo songs, and there are a good many duos, trios, quintets, etc. 
Perhaps that is an advantage, perhaps it isn't. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Perhaps I had tetter leave the absolute end of Act I until I see 
you. I have done something that might do. 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 113 

On September 12, 1889, lie wrote : 

DEAR S., 

WiH this do ? It is dactylic, but it is difficult to get the contrast 
you want without dactyls. Probably it will be impracticable to set 
the accompanying lines, " In a contemplative fashion," so as to be a 

running accompaniment to the verses as they now stand. If so, I 
suppose they could be omitted during the verses and introduced at 
the end to finish with. If the verses won't do, send them, back and 
1*11 try again. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Gilbert wrote on September 22, 1889 : 

DEAR S., 

I have altered " In a contemplative fashion " as suggested. The 
only question is whether the two last verses which the two girls sing 
at each other, and with which the two men have nothing to do, wouldn't 
be better in the original flowing metre, as lending itself to the volubility 
of two angry girls. I don't care a pin myself, which it is, but I thought 
you might find the original dactylic metre better for the purpose. 
Here it is in both forms. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

In a letter dated October u, 1899, he said : 

DEAR SULLIVAN, 

I didn't want to bother you while you were away, so I have worked 
at the piece myself, taking my chance of your finding it all right or 
otherwise. I have now finished it, subject, of course, to any altera- 
tions you may require, and it is set up in type that you may see and 
judge of it in a concrete form. I have found it necessary to make 
a few alterations and modifications, but none of them, I think and 
hope, will give you any trouble. I have written a nice little ballad 
for Pounds in Act I (he had no ballad), and a good rattling song for 
Barrington. I found that Denny had two songs in Act II, so I have 
taken a song from Denny (" Now I'm about to Mss your hand ") and 
transferred it to Wyatt. I could not consult you about this, as you 
were busy at Leeds, so have done it on the chance of your agreeing 
to it. If you don't, it can "be restored to Denny. I have also done 
without Brandram's song, " In the days when I was wedded," because 
it stopped the action of the piece (already too long), and I didn't 
think it was the kind of song that would show her off effectively. 
However, it can easily be restored if you like. I have rewritten Wyatt's 
song, " From, the country of the Cid, " and I think it is greatly improved ; 
but if you prefer the original, it can be restored, as the situation in 
8 



H4 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

which it occurs is unaltered. I have also inserted a brief passage for 
Carlotta in Act II. This is, I think, the sum and substance of the 
alterations. Oh there is one more I have altered the nurse's song 
at the end of the piece to eight lines of recitatif : firstly, because I 
thought the audience wouldn't care for a set ballad from a stranger 
at the end of the piece ; and secondly, because the situation became 
too like the situation at the end of Pinafore, where little Buttercup 
explains she has changed the children at birth. So, you see, I have 
not been idle since you left. . . . 

I it simply impossible to bring the Duke, Duchess, and Luiz 

in at the end of Act I without entirely reconstructing the piece. I 
think you will find it aH right without them. I find I can do without 
the National Anthem (" As long as you are good as gold "), so if you 
don't want it, it can go overboard. 

Yours always truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The " brief passage for Carlotta/' who, by the way, became 
Caslida when the opera was produced, was cut out, as were 
the songs "The country of the Cid" and "Now I'm about 
to kiss your hand/ 1 The latter, however, appeared in a 

quintet, in which the Duke sings : 

" I am a courtier grave and serious 
Who is about to Mss your hand : 
Try to combine a pose imperious 
With, a demeanour noble, bland." 

On October 25, 1889, Gilbert wrote : 

DEAR S., 

I send you herewith the corrected proof of the piece. I very 
much want to rewrite " Now I'm about to kiss your hand," making 
it more musically rhythmical and ending with a minuet for Wyatt 
and Bamngton. The words can easily be made to excuse and account 
for this: 

ist V. Now I'm about to kiss your hand, etc. 
2nd V, Now walk about with stately tread. 
3rd V. Now learn to dance the minuet 

or something of that kind. Wyatt and Harrington are both such 
excellent dancers that it seems a pity to miss so good a chance of 
utilizing them* What do you think ? Pounds could accompany 
them on a mandolin play the dance music, I mean. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 115 

The number eventually became a quintet, and instead of a 
minuet a gavotte was danced : 

" Now a gavotte perform sedately, 

Offer your hand with, conscious pride ; 
Take an attitude not too stately, 
Still sufficiently dignified." 

On November 9, 1889, Gilbert wrote : 

DEAR SULLIVAN, 

If I remember right, yon expressed some doubt as to whether 
Gianetta's song, " Kind, sir, you cannot have the heart/' was not too 
long for the situation, and said something about cutting it down to 
one verse. This was some time ago, and perhaps you are no longer 
of the same opinion. I have come across a song which I wrote for 
the same situation, and which perhaps presents better opportunities 
for acting than the other. Anyhow, I enclose it for your information. 
If you don't like it, tear it up. Or If you want the original song short- 
ened, could It be done by taking the second half of the first verse and 
the first half of the second verse ? Don't trouble to answer this. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S, GILBERT 

The song was, however, left in its original form. 

Venice is the scene of the opera, and the plot turns on the 
old device of changelings, which Gilbert had used several 
times before. In none of the operas was Gilbert more pains- 
takingly careful with the stage-management. In the second 
act there is a game of blind-man's buff, in which the two 
Gondoliers catch their own brides, and Gilbert rehearsed the 
Savoy Company in this short scene for three whole days 
before he was satisfied. 

The Gondoliers ran for 554 consecutive performances, 
earning more money than any other of the Savoy operas. 
When the score was published by Messrs. Chappell, 20,000 
copies were sold on publication, and over 70,000 copies of 
various arrangements within a few days. 

The Gondoliers is a satire on snobbery the snobbery of 
the courtier for whom a queen can do no wrong ; 



n6 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" And noble lords will scrape and bow, 
And double them into two, 
And open thek eyes, 
In blank surprise, 
At whatever she likes to do. 
And everybody will roundly vow 
She's fair as flowers in May, 
And say * How clever ! * 
At whatsoever 
She condescends to say ! 

" Oh ! 'tis a glorious thing, I ween, 
To be a regular Royal Queen ! 
No half-and-half affair, I mean, 
But a right-down regular Queen I " 

And the corresponding snobbery of the clamourer for equality : 

** For every one who feels inclined, 
Some post we undertake to find 
Congenial with his peace of mind 
And all shall equal be I 

" The Chancellor in his peruke, 
The Earl, the Marquis, and the Dook, 
The Groom, the Butler, and the Cook 
They all shall equal be 1 

** The Aristocrat who banks with Coutts, 
The Aristocrat who hunts and shoots, 
The Aristocrat who cleans our boots 
They all shall equal be 1 

" The Noble Lord who rules the State, 
The Noble Lord who cleans the plate, 
The Noble Lord who scrubs the grate 
They all shall equal be I 

" The Lord High Bishop of Orthodox, 
The Lord High Coachman on the box, 
The Lord High Vagabond in the stocks 
They all shall equal be I " 

The Gondoliers lias its full measure of songs that nowadays 
" every fellow knows "Take a pair of sparkling eyes, Of that 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 



117 



there is no manner of doubt, When a merry maiden marries, The 
workaday monarch, and that perfect comic song : 

" When everybody's somebodee, 
Then no one's anybody," 

Gilbert is at Ms satirical best in the duet in which the 
Duke and Duchess describe the methods by which needy 
aristocrats may contrive to earn a living : 

DUKE. Those pressing prevailers, 
The ready-made tailors, 
Quote me as their great double-barrel 

DUCHESS. Their great double-barrel. 

DUKE. I allow them to do so. 
Though Robinson Crusoe 
Would jib at their wearing apparel ! 

DUCHESS. Such wearing apparel ! 

DUKE. I sit, by selection, 
Upon the direction 
Of several Companies* bubble 

DUCHESS. All Companies' bubble 1 

DUKE. As soon as they're floated 
I'm freely bank-noted 
I'm pretty well paid for my trouble I 

DUCHESS. He's paid for his trouble 1 

DUCHESS. At middle-class party 
I play at ecarte 
And I'm by no means a beginner 

DUKE (significantly}. She's not a beginner. 
DUCHESS. To one of my station 

The remuneration 

Five guineas a night and my dinner. 
DUKE. And wine with her dinner. 
DUCHESS, I write letters blatant 

On medicine patent 

And use any other you mustn't 
DUKE. Believe me, you mustn't 
DUCHESS. And vow my complexion 

Derives its perfection 

From somebody's soap which it doesn't. 

There is dainty and ingenious burlesque of conventional 
comic opera in the duet sung by the two Gondoliers in the 
beginning of the play : 



ixS W. S. HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

** When morning is breaking, 
Our couches forsaking, 
To greet their awaking, 
With carols we come. 

" At summer day's nooning, 
When weary lagooning, 
Our mandolines tuning 
We lazily thrum. 



* When vespers are ringing, 
To hope ever clinging, 
With, songs of our singing, 

A vigil we keep. 

" When daylight is fading, 
En wrapt in night's shading, 
With soft serenading, 

We lull them to sleep." 



The opera does not, perhaps, contain any of the more 

distinctive essays of Gilbert the wistful poet, though there 

certainly is charm in : 

" Bead as the last year's leaves 

As gathered flowers ah, woe is me ! 
Dead as the garnered sheaves 

That love of ours ah, woe is me I 
Bom but to fade and die 

When hope was high, 
Dead and as far away 

As yesterday ah, woe is me ! " 

Nowhere has Gilbert summed up his own philosophy more 
completely than in the lines of the quintet : 

" Try we life-long, we can never 

Straighten out life's tangled skein, 
Why should we, in vain endeavour, 
Guess and guess and guess again ? 
Life's a pudding full of plums, 
Care's a canker that benumbs. 
Wherefore waste our elocution 
On impossible solution ? 
Life's a pleasant institution, 

Let us take it as it conies 1 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN ng 

** Set aside the dull enigma, 

We shall guess it all too soon, 
Failure brings no kind of stigma 

Dance we to another tune ! 
** String the lyre and fill the cup, 

Lest on sorrow we should sup. 
Hop and skip to Fancy's fiddle, 
Hands across and down the middle 
Life's perhaps the only riddle, 

That we shrink from giving up ! " 

In March, 1891, a special performance of The Gondoliers 
was given in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle, the 
first theatrical performance held there since the death of the 
Prince Consort. Queen Victoria was, of course, present at 
the performance, which was attended by many of the Royal 
family, including the recently widowed Empress of Germany. 
It is recorded that Queen Victoria was delighted with the 
opera, and was particularly amused by the song: 

" Oh, philosophers may sing 

Of the troubles of a king ; 
Yet the duties are delightful and the privileges great; 

But the privilege and pleasure 

That we treasure beyond measure 
Is to run on little errands for the Minister of State/ 1 

By a curious and surely unintentional oversight, Gilbert's 
name was not on the royal programme, the opera being 
described as " by Sir Arthur Sullivan,/' 

In 1896, when Gilbert was staying in Venice, the gondoliers 
of the city serenaded him as a recognition of the fact that 
he had used their name in one of the most successful of his 
operas. 

The morning after the production of The Gondoliers, Gilbert 
said in a letter to Sullivan : 

" I must again thank you for the magnificent work you have put 
into the piece. It gives one the chance of shining right through the 
twentieth century with a reflected light/* 

During the run of The Gondoliers, the partnership of Gilbert, 



120 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

and D'Oyly Carte, which had lasted for fourteen 
years, had produced ten operas, came to a temporary 

end. It had lasted so long that it was in itself something of 
a miracle, for theatrical partnerships are generally short- 
lived, artistic collaborators are beset with colossal diffi- 
culties. It is sufficient to say here that the original cause 
of the trouble was a difference of opinion between Gilbert 
and D'Oyly Carte concerning an item of expenditure, and 
Sullivan, apparently with some hesitation, and certainly with 
dislike, sided with D'Oyly Carte against the author of his 
librettos. There has been so much ill-informed talk about 
Gilbert's jealousy and his lack of appreciation, that we have 
in this chapter quoted at length from the letters he wrote to 
Sullivan during the rehearsals of The Gondoliers. From them 
it is obvious that Gilbert was always ready to listen to sug- 
gestions and to make all the alterations that Sullivan desired, 
and that he had the fullest appreciation of Sullivan's genius 
and of the great part his music had played in winning for 
Savoy opera its unparalleled popularity. 

The relations between the two men are made still more 
clear in a letter written by Gilbert on February 20, 1889, 
shortly before the opening of the Palace Theatre by D'Oyly 
Carte with the production of Sullivan's grand opera Ivanhoe. 
Sullivan had obviously suggested to Gilbert that he should 
himself provide the serious libretto, and the following letter 
was his reply : 

DEAR S., 

I have thought carefully over your letter. I quite understand 
and sympathize with your desire to write what, for want of a better 
term, I suppose we must caU Grand Opera. I cannot believe that it 
would succeed either at the Savoy or at Carte's new theatre, unless a 
much more powerful singing and acting company were got together 
than the company we now control. Moreover, to speak from my own 
selfish point of view, such an opera would afford me no chance of doing 
what I best do. The librettist of a grand opera is always swamped 
in the composer. Anybody Hersee, Farnie, Reece can write a 
good enough libretto for such a purpose. Personally, I should be lost 
in it. Again, the success of The Yeomen, which is a stage in the direc- 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 121 

tion of serious opera, lias not been so convincing as to warrant us in 
assuming that the public wants sometMng more earnest still. There 
is no doubt about it that the more reckless and Irresponsible the lib- 
retto has been, the better the piece has succeeded. The pieces that 
have succeeded least have been those in which a consistent story has 
been more or less consistently followed out. Personally, I prefer a 
consistent subject. Such a subject as The Yeomen is far more congenial 
to my taste than the burlesquerie of lolanthe or The Mikado, but I 
thfnlr we should be risking everything in writing more seriously still. 
We have a name jointly for humorous work tempered with occasional 
glimpses of earnest drama. I think we should do unwisely if we left 
altogether the path we have trodden together so long and so success- 
fully, I can quite understand your desire to write a big work. Well, 
why not write one ? But why abandon the Savoy business ? Cannot 
the two things be done concurrently ? If you can write an oratorio 
like The Martyr of Antioch while you are occupied with pieces like 
Patience and lolanthe, cannot you write a grand opera without giving 
up pieces like The Yeomen ? Are the two things irreconcilable ? 

As to leaving the Savoy, I can only say that I should do so with 
the profoundest reluctance and regret. I don't believe in Carte's new 
theatre. The site is not popular, and cannot become popular for 
some years to come. Our names are known all over the world in 
connection with the Savoy, and I feel convinced that it would be mad- 
ness to sever the connection with that theatre. If you don't care to 
write any more pieces of the " Yeomen " order, well and good. But 
before launching on grand opera, remember how difficult we found it 
to get effective singers and actors for the pieces we have already done. 
Where in God's name is your grand opera soprano who can act to be 
found ? 

From me the Press and the public will take nothing but what is in 
essence humorous. The best serious librettist of the day is Julian 
Sturgis. Why not write a grand opera with him ? My work in that 
direction would be deservedly or otherwise poo-poo*d. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Gilbert was justified in his prophecy that a grand opera 
at a new theatre would be nothing more than a partial success. 
This letter is important not only because it shows the cordial 
terms which existed between him and Sullivan just before 
the unfortunate breach, but also because it again accents the 
fact that he himself did not quite understand his own genius. 
It was when Gilbert was " reckless and irresponsible " that 
he was so supremely great, In 1880, Gilbert did, as a matter 



122 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

of fact, write the libretto for Sullivan's The Martyr of Antioch, 

was produced at the Leeds Festival of that year, and 
In a letter written to Sullivan he says : " It most certainly 
never occurred to me to look for any other reward than the 
honour of being associated, however remotely and unworthily, 
in a success which I suppose will endure till music itself shall 
die. Pray believe that of the many substantial advantages 
that have resulted to me from our association, this last is, and 
always will be, the most highly prized/' 
Again, in 1886, Gilbert wrote: 

" I congratulate you heartily on the success of the cantata, which 
appears from al accounts to be the biggest thing you've done." 

Nothing more need be said to prove, what is the obvious 
and first duty of the biographer to prove, that W. S. Gilbert 
was capable of the most generous appreciation, that the 
success of the Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration was largely 
due to his readiness to listen and to change, and that while 
he had unquestionably a proper idea of the merit of his own 
work, he never undervalued the work of his collaborator. 

Happily, after some time, the differences were smoothed 
over, and on October 7, 1893, Gilbert and Sullivan were again 
together at the Savoy with the production of Utopia Limited. 
During the interval, Gilbert's The Mountebanks had been 
produced at the Lyric Theatre, but to that opera we shall 
refer in a succeeding chapter. In the months immediately 
preceding the production of Utopia Limited, the relations 
between author and composer were once more cordial and 
friendly. On July 27, 1893, Gilbert wrote, in the middle of 
an attack of gout : 

Thanks for your letter. Don't trouble to go into the matter at 
present. I shall be back by the loth, and we can talk over the matter 
when we meet. So far, I am worse rather than better. My right foot, 
which I call Labouchdre, is very troublesome, and I take a vicious 
pleasure (not unalloyed with pain) in cramming him into a boot which 
is much too small for him. My left foot (known in Homburg as Clement 
Scott) is a milder nuisance, but still tiresome, and would hurt me a 
good deal if he could. 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 123 

On August 7, Gilbert wrote from Hamburg : 

MY DEAR S., 

I certainly shall not say that yon ought to have foreseen the 
difficulties in Act II. It would have been simply impossible to detect 
them, in a single hearing. I quite understand that it is only -when you 
begin to tackle the numbers that you discover what is really wanting. 
I shall, of course, be glad to have your suggestions. I have no doubt 
I shall find them very valuable, and I shall do my best to embody 
them. I confess I don't see how Act II can be materially shortened 
without spoiling the construction or the parts, but if you do, I dare 
say it can be done. Perhaps the duet (Scaphio and Phantis) could 
be omitted, but all the others seem to tell the story. As I said before, 
I will do my best to carry out your suggestions, which are always 
valuable. Of course, the sextet will be omitted, and I propose to 
omit the nigger dialogue. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The duet to which Gilbert refers, e{ With fury deep we 
bum/' was, after all, left in the score. 
On September 26, Gilbert wrote : 

BEAR St. 

I got up at seven this morning and polished oflE the new finale 
before breakfast. It is mere doggerel, but words written to an existing 
tune are nearly sure to be that. I ana sorry to lose the other finale, 
but I quite see your difficulty and that it can't be helped. You can 
chop this about just as you please a verse to Zara and a verse to the 
King, or the first half of each to Zara and the last half to the King, 
or the first half of the verse to Zara and the first half of the second 
verse to Fitzbattleaxe, giving the King the end of each verse, which per- 
haps is the arrangement that will suit you best. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

From this letter it is clear that so eager was Gilbert to 
make things easy for Sullivan, that he was willing to give up 
the usnal and proper custom of the words first and the music 
afterwards, and to write badly to suit the tune. The actual 
verse is : 

" Oh, may we copy all your maxims wise, 

And imitate her virtues and her charities, 
And may we, by degrees, acclimatize 
Her Parliamentary peculiarities I 



124 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

By doing so, we shall, In course of time, 
Regenerate completely our entire land 

Great Britain Is that monarchy sublime, 

To which, some add (but others do not) Ireland/* 

The original cast of Utopia Limited was as follows ; 

KING PARAMOUNT THE FIRST (King of 

Utopia) ......... Mr. Rutland Barrington 

SCAPHIO] Judges of the Utopian Supreme (Mr. W. H. Denny 

FHANTIS) Court (Mr. John Le Hay 

TARARA (the Public Exploder) .... Mr. Walter Passmore 

CALYNX (the Utopian Vice-Chamberlain) . Mr. Bowden Haswett 

IMPORTED FLOWERS OF PROGRESS 

LORD DRAMALEIGH (a British Lord Chamber- 
lain) Mr. Scott Russell 

CAPTAIN FITZBATTLEAXE (First Life Guards) Mr. Charles Kenningham 

CAPTAIN SIR EDWARD CORCORAN, K.C.B. (of 

the Royal Navy) Mr. Lawrence Gridley 

MR, GGLDBURY (a Company Promoter after- 
wards Comptroller of the Utopian 
Household) ........ Mr. Scott Fishe 

SIR BAILEY BARRE, Q.C., M.P. . . . Mr. Enes Blackmore 

MR. BLUSHINGTON (of the County Council) Mr. Herbert Rattand 

THE PRINCESS ZARA (Eldest Daughter of 

King Paramount) ...... Miss Nancy Mclntosh 

THE PRINCESS NEKAYA! Her Younger Sis- (Miss Emmie Owen 

THE PRINCESS KALYBAJ ters (Miss Florence Perry 

THE LADY SOPHY (their English Gouver- 

nante) Miss Rosina Brandram 

SALATA ^ fMiss Edith Johnston 

MELENE I Utopian Maidens . . . . . \ Miss May Bell 

PHYLLA j (Miss Florence Easton 

Miss Nancy Mclntosh made her first appearance in this 
production. Mr. Percy Fitzgerald says of Miss Mclntosh's 

debut : 

** One of the most surprising and interesting features of this rehearsal 
was the perfect self-possession of the heroine, who went through all 
the complicated passages of her role as though perfectly familiar with 
the boards. After a long experience of the stage, I may say that 
I have never seen anything that approached this tour de force*" 

Utopia Limited is a satire of contemporary English life, 
of the England that Gilbert loved so well that he could afford 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 125 

to laugh at It. Party System, War Office, Company Pro- 
moting are all subjects of excellent jokes, Gilbert even 
dared to laugh at the frugality of the Victorian drawing- 
room. At the drawing-room held by Ms king,, certain judi- 
cious innovations are made. " The cup of tea and the plate 
of mixed biscuits were a cheap, effective inspiration." 

The production of Utopia Limited was the most elaborate 
ever attempted at the Savoy, the scene of the throne-room 
in the second act being particularly gorgeous. During the 
rehearsals Sullivan appears to have been terrified at the 
proposed expenses, and Gilbert wrote to him on August 30, 
1893: 

DEAR S., 

I quite agree with you that it is desirable that the enormous esti- 
mated expense of production should be curtailed if this can be done 
without cramping the piece. I confess I should be sorry to lose the 
gentlemen-at-arms, who always stand two at the entrance and two 
at the exit of the Presence Chamber, and I am afraid that without 
them the ladies will have the appearance of loafing on to the stage 
without any " circumstance." Besides, you must remember that 
these four people must be dressed somehow. They can't go naked 
(unless you insist on it), and if they are put into good uniforms they 
will cost at least fifty pounds apiece. . . . 

I am as much for retrenchment as you are. The only question is, 
where can it be best effected and with least injury to the piece ? I 
agree with you that the ladies* bouquets and diamonds might well 
be curtailed. The merest paste mixed with glass emeralds and rubies 
will do for the jewellery. 

Very truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The trouble in Utopia begins when the king orders " that 
the Utopian language shall be abolished from his court, and 
that all communications shall henceforward be made in the 
English tongue/' An English governess is appointed for his 
daughters* An English soldier explains our military tra- 
ditions : 

" When Britain sounds the tramp of war, 

(And Europe trembles) 
The army of that conqueror 
In serried ranks assembles ; 



126 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Tis then this warrior's eyes and sabre gleam 

For our protection 
He represents a military scheme 

In aH Its proud perfection." 

There Is an English lawyer M.P. and an English Lord 
Chamberlain : 

" What these may be, Utopians all, 

Perhaps you'll hardly guess 
They're types of England's physical 

Aid moral cleanliness. 
This Is a Lord High Chamberlain, 

Of purity the gauge 
Hell cleanse our Court from moral stain 

And purify our Stage I " 

And an English company promoter : 

" A Company Promoter this, with special education 
Which teaches what Contango means and also Backwardation. 
To speculators he supplies a grand financial leaven, 
Time was when two were company but now it must be seven." 

And finally, the very English Captain Sir Edward Corcoran, 
R.N., borrowed from HM.S. Pinafore : 

" I'm Captain Corcoran, K.C.B., 
I'll teach you how we rule the sea, 

And terrify the simple Gaul, 
And how the Saxon and the Celt 
Their Europe-shaking blows have dealt 
With Maxim gun and Nordenfelt 

(Or will, when the occasion calls)* 
If sailor-like you'd play your cards, 
Unbend your sails and lower your yards, 
Unstep your masts you'll never want 'em more 
Though we're no longer hearts oi oak, 
Yet we can steer and we can stoke, 
And thanks to coal, and thanks to coke, 

We never run a ship ashore ! '* 

The Cabinet sitting in a row like Christie minstrels is a 
most admirable joke. For us, the most genuine Gilbert in 
Utopia, Limited is the chorus ; 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 127 

" Eagle high In clondland soaring 
Sparrow twittering on a reed 
Tiger In the jungle roaring 

Frightened fawn In grassy mead 
Let the eagle, not the sparrow, 
Be the object of your arrow 

Fix the tiger with your eye 

Pass the fawn In pity by. 

Glory then will crown the day 

Glory, glory, anyway ! " 

Utopia Limited ran at the Savoy for 245 performances, and 
finished on June 9, 1894. On March 7, 1896, Mr. D'Oyly 
Carte produced The Gmnd Duke, the last Gilbert and Sullivan 
opera, and also the least successful of the series. The following 
is the cast : 

RUDOLPH (Grand Duke of PfenigHalbpfenig) Mr. Walter Passmore 

ERNEST DUMMKOPF (a Theatrical Manager) Mr. C. Kenningham 

LUDWIG (his leading Comedian) .... Mr. Rutland Bamngton 

DR. TANNHAUSER (a Notary) .... Mr. Scott Russell 

THE PRINCE OF MONTE CARLO .... Mr. Scott Fishe 

VISCOUNT MENTONE Mr. Carltan 

BEN HASHBAZ (a Costumier) .... Mr. Workman 

HERALD Mr. Jones Hewson 

THE PRINCESS OF MONTE CARLO (betrothed 

to Rudolph) ........ Miss Emmie Owen 

THE BARONESS VON KRAKENFELDT (betrothed 

to Rudolph) ........ Miss Rosina Brandram 

JULIA JELLICOE (an English Comedienne) . Mdme. Ilka von Palmay 

LISA (a Soubrette) Miss Florence Perry 

OLGA Miss Mildred Baker 

GRETCHEN Miss Ruth Vincent 

BERTHA Miss Jessie Rose 

ELSA Miss Ethel Wilson 

MARTHA Miss Beatrice Perry 

It would be Idle to pretend that there is much of the genius 
of Gilbert in the libretto of The Grand Duke, though the plot 
has topsy-turvy humour and some of the verses are character- 
istic in their ingenuity for example, the song sung by the 
Grand Duke : 



123 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

** A pattern to professors of monarchical autonomy, 
I don't indulge in levity or compromising bonhomie, 
But dignified formality, consistent with economy, 

Above all other virtues I particularly prize. 
I never join in merriment I don't see joke or jape any 
I never tolerate familiarity in shape any 
This, joined with an extravagant respect for tuppence ha'penny, 

A keynote to my character sufficiently supplies." 

On November 7, 1900, Patience was revived with immense 
success at the Savoy. At the fall of the curtain only Gilbert 
and D'Oyly Carte went on the stage to take " the call." Sir 
Arthur Sullivan was very in, and on November 22 he died. 
Ten days before Ms death, Gilbert wrote to him from Grim's 
Dyke : 

MY DEAR SULLIVAN, 

I would gladly come up to town and see you before I go, but 
unfortunately in my present enfeebled condition a carriage journey to 
London involves my lying down a couple of hours before I am fit 
for anything, besides stopping all night in town. The railway journey 
is still more fatiguing. I have lost sixty pounds in weight, and my 
arms and legs are of the consistency of cotton-wool. I sincerely hope 
to find you all right again on my return, and the new opera running 
merrily. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

And he adds as a postscript, referring to the revival of Patience : 
" The old opera woke np splendidly." 

With the death of Sullivan, the most famous, the most 
interesting, the most successful collaboration in the whole 
history of the theatre came to an end. 

H.MS. Pinafore was produced in America soon after its 
London production, and was received with what a writer in 
Smbmr's Magazine calls "an enthusiasm bordering upon 
insanity/' So great, indeed, was the American success that 
in 1879 Gilbert and Sullivan themselves went to America 
with D'Oyly Carte and Alfred Cellier, the musical conductor, 
to produce The Pirates of Penzance, which was first played 
at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York, on December 31, 
1879, three months before its production in London. One 




f I 



GILBERT'S ORIGINAL DESIGN FOR THE PRINCE OF MONTE CARLO'S 
DRESS FOR Si THE GRAND DUKE " 



AND SULLIVAN 129 

evening during his stay in New York, Gilbert met the chief 
of the city's police* who told Mm that New York possessed 
the most efficient police force in the world. In order to make 
conversation, Gilbert remarked that lie supposed that, if that 
was so, burglaries were quite unknown. The police chief was 
most offended. " Sir/* he said, " I would have you to know 
that there are more burglaries in Xew York than in any other 
city on earth." 

The success of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas has been 
greater in the United States even than it has been in Great 
Britain. At one time forty different companies were playing 
the operas simultaneously. In a small book published in 
Boston shortly after the death of Gilbert, Mr. Isaac Goldberg 
says : 

" He found the stage a prey to the coarsest, least refined form of 
burlesque ; he left It an endowment of the richest wit and humour for 
this genre known in any country." 

Mr. Goldberg adds : 

** There is in these literary, artistic libretti that symmetry, counter- 
poise, and harmony of parts without which a work stands little chance 
of being remembered. . . . There is no figure of the past or present 
to whom Gilbert can be likened." 

There is a curious and interesting anticipation of the per- 
fection of the Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration in an imagi- 
nary conversation by Hoffmann, which lie calls " The Poet 
and the Composer." In this conversation the musician 
confesses that he needs " the fire of inspiration in the libretto." 
And the poet replies that to write a libretto is "the most 
difficult and thankless task in the world," because "when 
fine verse is written it is often mangled by wrong syllabic 
division to fit the music/' It is argued that " for music to 
be at its best it must be allied to real poetry." In a sense, 
the poet is himself a musician, even though he is entirely 
without technical musical knowledge, and there is a close 
alliance between poet and musician, because " the secret 
of word and tone harmony is one and the same." 
9 



130 W. S. HIS AND LETTERS 

" Music is at In pure phantasy/' writes HofE- 

would to the explanation of the 

that Sullivan received from Gilbert's fantastic 
plots. Opera bouffe can be made of " everyday folk in every- 
day clothes/" yet " it should have all the fine shades 
of romantic opera," The methods of Gilbert and Sullivan 
are anticipated in the dictum ; " The librettist must, like the 
designer, draw the whole picture with clear, decisive, accurate 
strokes. Then comes the music to fill in the details/' The 
librettist draws the outline, the composer fills it in. Hoffmann 
that humorous music should have its delicate intri- 
cacies and should be raised to the same artistic level as other 
music, and he quotes Mozart's " Cosi fan tutte ! " as an 
example of humorous music of the highest order. 

Gilbert and Sullivan are, certainly, the only librettist and 
composer who have succeeded in putting the Hoffmann 
ideal into practice. 

That Gilbert owed anything to Hoffmann is an impossibility, 
for two reasons. He never knew a word of German, and 
none of the translations of "Poet and Composer'* by Major 
Ewing and others appeared in French or English until the 
chief Savoy operas were household words. 

Gilbert would have had good grounds for Ms dislike of Ger- 
man had he read either of the three versions of The Mikado 
published in that language in America and Germany. Bad, 
worse, worst, sums them up almost without comment. In- 
stances of bad taste are ubiquitous the immortal " Little 
List " is made a mere vehicle for the cheap, vulgar sugges- 
tive references, abhorrent to Gilbert, to mothers-in-law and 
peccant wives. The melody, the grace, the thistledown airiness 
vanish, the " perverse fairy " flies from such heavy hand- 
ling. A single brief quotation from " The Three Little 
Maids >J is more than enough i 



" Drel atis dem Pensionat sind wir, 
Gauze olme Argwolm stehn wir Mer, 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 131 

Denn nnser Herz hiipft vor Plaisir 
Drel ans dem Penslonat ! ** 

< Drei Heine Madchen, siisze, gute, 
Ans einen Daman-Institute, 

Gllicklich entwischt sind wir der Hutte 

Drei ans dem Pensionat 1 " 

" Tit-willow " translated suffices to shatter the pre- 
posterous delusion of the " eighties/* that German lent its 
gutturals to music better than English. 

** Aiif der Weide am fiuss 

Sass ein Baclistelchen 3dein ! " 

TMs chapter on the work of Gilbert in collaboration with 
SuMvan may fitly be brought to an end with a reproduction 
of an amusing W. S. Gilbert examination paper published in 
the Westminster Gazette twelve years ago. 

The questions refer only to the Bab Ballads and to the thirteen 
Savoy operas produced in collaboration with Sir Arthur 
Sullivan. 

(1) Write a brief essay on Gilbert's use of ** chops " or " mutton- 
chops/* with references to at least two operas and three Bab Ballads. 

(2) Draw up a table to show when Frederic was born. Do yon 
consider that Gilbert forgot that 1900 would not be a leap-year ? And 
if so, why do yon think so ? 

(3) Collect anecdotes from the Bab Ballads about colonial bishops, 
and quote from an opera a description of their diocesan atmosphere. 

(4) Which chorus had at least one grandparent living ? On the autho- 
rity of what statement ? 

(5) Quote from two operas two references to oil at different tem- 
peratures, and two stage-directions for the display of indifference. 

(6) Who was rather dressy for her age, and what was her age ? 

(7) Describe in Gilbert's words two A*s, three B*s, two C*s, D's, 
E*s, and F's, and one G. How does the last of these differ from some- 
one in another opera, who was said to have been seen doing what with 
whom on the what of the what ? 

(8) Identify (a) a man all poesy and buzzem ; (b) a quiet venerable 
duck ; (c) Popsy ; (d) the man who had the run of the royal rum ; 
(e) the man who drove a Putney bus. (Give full name and creed in the 
last case.) 

(9) Who, and in which opera, married Ms nurse ? What was his 
Christian name, and how do you know it ? 



132 \V. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

(10) The foilowmg phrases occur eacli in two different operas. 
Give references or quote context to identify them : (a) Matrimonified ; 
(&) Monday Pops ; ft) shrivel into raisins ; (d) despite Ms best en- 
deavour ; () eacli a little bit afraid is ; {/) miminy-piminy ; (g) ladies' 
seminar}', (In the last instance give all words rhyming to " seminary " 
in both, cases.) 

(u) Explain, with reference: (a) Basingstoke ; (5) Burglaree ; 
(c) a descendant by purchase; (d) that's so like a band ; (e) Mr. Wilkin- 
son ; (/) Warren ; (g) Stephen Trusty ; (h) Gideon Crawle ; (i) the 
dancing catalogue of crime. 

(12) Give eight pairs of forced rhymes for one opera. Where is 
the only metrical error in any opera ? Quote the two best examples 
from the whole works of common phrase introduced rhythmically. 

Gilbert was warmly appreciative of the part played in the 
Savoy partnership by Mr. and Mrs. D'Oyly Carte, and even 
after the disagreement his letters were cordial. In the early 
days of the enterprise, Mrs. Carte, who maiden name was 
Lenoir, was D'Oyly Carte's secretary, a lady of unusual 
capacity, which Gilbert certainly did not fail to recognize. 
He wrote to her in 1883 : 

19, HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Nov. 25, 1883. 

DEAR Miss LBNOIR, 

I am really quite distressed that I should have referred so lightly 
to the remarkable letter I received from yon yesterday. I thought 
it would turn out to be a mere statement of account, or something 
equally unnecessary as between us. 

I don't believe there is another woman alive who could have stated 
so complicated a case in such a masterly manner. Of the hearty 
zeal and goodwill embodied in your letter, and evinced in the tremen- 
dous efforts you have made on our behalf, I can hardly trust myself 
to write lest I should seem to be using extravagant terms. Let me 
prove how implicitly I believe hi your brain-faculty and acute judgment 
by saying that, whatever your scheme may be, I will adopt it if you 
recommend it. 

Thanking you very heartily, 

I am, always truly yours, 

W. S, GILBERT 

Miss LENOIR. 

Three months afterwards he accents this implicit confi- 
dence : 



AND SULLIVAN 133 

19, HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Feb. 4, "84. 
MY DEAR Miss LENOIR, 

I have the honour to be, 
Madam, 

Your very obliged and 

truly humble servant, 

W. S. GILBERT, 
and will therefore sign any blessed thing you tell me to. 

Gilbert had a quaint affection for codes, and in the heyday 
of the Savoy triumphs he arranged a code for communica- 
tions between the theatre and himself. 



24, THE 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Dec. 21. 
DEAR CARTE, 

As anything we say at night by telephone is liable to be heard 
by the Court Theatre people and as it is undesirable that they should 
know the character of the business we are doing, I think it would be 
weH if, in giving me the nightly returns by telephone, a simple cypher 
be employed. Take the word " Favourites/* this consists of 10 letters, 
none of which are repeated. Then F will stand for i, A for 2, Vfor 3, 
and so on. 

FAVOURITES 
12 34 5 67890 

In telephoning (say) ^265, the clerk will say A E.U pounds ; so ^128 
would be F A T (but not very fat), and so on. 
Don't you think so ? 

Yours very truly, 

W, S. GILBERT 

He had prophesied failure for a Sullivan grand opera, and 
for the Palace Theatre, which D'Oyly Carte built for its pro- 
duction. But after seeing Ivanhoe, he wrote a cordial appre- 
ciation. This letter has an additional interest in its evidence , 
of Gilbert's meticulous care for the details of stage-manage- 
ment. 



134 VT. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AXD LETTERS 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Feb. 12, '91. 
DEAR MRS. CARTE, 

I was much pleased with Miss Macintyre and Mr. Oudin last night 
though Miss M. should show a little more emotion at the stake. 
The theatre Is most convenient and admirable for sound. The opera 
was more tuneful than I was led to expect. I am, as you know, quite 
unable to appreciate high-class music, and I expected to be bored 
and I was not. This is the highest compliment I ever paid a grand 
opera. Friar Tuck's part seemed (to me) excellent both in dialogue 
and music it is a pity the part could not have been played by a fat 
man. Its present representative over-acts he will not be quiet. 
Don't you think you want another dozen people on the left of the 
stage (up stage) during the last scene, to balance the templars ? From 
the left of the house I should fancy most of the chorus would be in- 
visible. And I think indeed, I am sure I should abolish the small 
tables in Act I, between the high table and the footlights. Poor 
Ivanhoe ought not to have to sing his opening recitative at the side 
and from behind a lot of people. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

P.S. Could not the high table be placed further up the stage ? 
And Rebecca should mount on the top of the battlement in her scene 
with the crusader. As it is, she doesn't look as if she meant throwing 

herself off. 



In Ms own operas, no item was too smaE for Mm to give if 
personal attention, and, as the following letters prove, he was 
as careful with the revivals as with, the original productions. 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD. 

A$. i5 '97- 

DEAR MRS* CARTE, 

I met Craven at the Tower this morning and selected a capital 
and most effective scene. He is to have the model ready by Monday, 
and I am to meet him at the Savoy Theatre on Monday at 11.30 to 
approve it. Perhaps you would like to be present. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT. 

The scene was, of course, for The Yeomen of the Guard. In 
the next letters he refers to a revival of lolanthe. 







ANOTHER OF THE DRAMATIST'S COSTUME DRAWINGS FOR 
'* THE GRAND DUKE " 



GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 135 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

A'ot*. 24, 1901. 
DEAR MRS. CARTE, 

An important idea has occurred to me. We were guile wrong 
in putting the two earls in Act 2 into plain court dress. That is the 
dress of men who have no rank above baronets or, at all events, who 
are not peers and knights of orders. A G.C.B. or a K.G. would never 
appear in velvet court dress he would be certain to hold some appoint- 
ment that would give him the right to wear a uniform. I should 
say that it would be best to put them into Lords Lieutenants' dress. 
(red coats, silver striped trousers, general's gold belt and cocked hat). 
These are posts that are (with one or two exceptions) held by peers 
of considerable landed property, and would be perfectly suitable to 
these two earls who ought also to wear the stay of the order of knight- 
hood assigned to them in Act I. Plain court dress would be impossible 
for such howling swells. Also, the peers ought to have calico or 
brown holland makeshift robes to rehearse in as they did when the 
piece was produced otherwise they will get into great trouble with 
their trains, etc. So long as they are of the right length, the detail of 
the robes is of no importance in the calico form. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Dec. 8, 1901. 
DEAR MRS. CARTE, 

It has occurred to me that it would be good to have practicable 
hands to the clock hi Act 2, with real clockwork (to be wound up every 
night before the act opens) and set to the actual hour of the night 
say five minutes past ten (or whatever the hour may be), and let it 
move on through the act to ten minutes past n or whatever the hour 
of finishing may be showing always throughout the act the actual 
current hour. 

The clockwork wouldn't cost above i, and could be wound up 
when the scene is lowered. 

I think people would talk about it, and it would become a good 
advt. 

Of course, the clockwork should be quite compact and occupy as small 
a space as possible in the middle of the clock, so as not to obscure the 
transparency too much. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Irr the years when another librettist was working with 
Sullivan at the Savoy, he wrote to Mrs. Carte : " I hope your 



i 3 6 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

f*J 

are going on satisfactorily and that the prospects 
for the new piece are bright." And to show the continuance 
of Ms appreciation, he wrote after a 1900 revival : " I am 
very much obliged to you for your great kindness on 
my behalf/ 1 



CHAPTER VI 
LATER PLAYS 

ON January 4, 1892, in what may be called the Sulli- 
van interregnum, Gilbert's The Mountebanks, with, 
music by Alfred Cellier, was produced by Horace 
Sedger at the Lyric Theatre. The following was the cast : 

ARROSTIXO ANNEGATO (Captain of the Ta- 

moiras, a Secret Society) ..... Mr. Frank Wyatt 

GIORGIO RAVIOLI ), r , * T- -r> j {Mr. Arthur Play fair 
T - \ Members of his Band . { , f , , .> a 

LUIGI SPAGHETTI j {Mr. Charles Gilbert 

ALFREDO (a Young Peasant, loved by Ultrice, 

but in love with Teresa) Mr. J. Robertson 

PIETRO (Proprietor of a Troupe of Mounte- 
banks) Mr. Lionel Brough 

BARTOLO (his Clown) Mr. Harry Monkfaause 

ELVINO DI PASTA (an Innkeeper) . . . Mr. Furneaux Cook 

RISOTTO {one of the Tamorras just married 

to Minestra) Mr. Cecil Burt 

BEPPO Mr. Gilbert Porteous 

TERESA (a Village Beauty, loved by Alfredo, 

and in love with herself) ..... Miss Gemldine Ulmar 

ULTRICE (in love with and detested by Alfredo) Miss Lucille Saunders 

NITA (a Dancing Girl) Miss Aida Jenoure 

MINESTRA (Risotto's Bride) ..... Miss Eva Moore 

The scene of The Mountebanks is Sicily, and among the names 
that Gilbert gives Ms characters are Ravioli, Spaghetti, 
Elvino, Risotto. Gilbert was always anxious to find pictu- 
resque settings for Ms operas, and at one time he thought of 
using Burma as a scene. Perhaps the best songs in the opera 
are the jokes about Hamlet, wMch Gilbert had already bur- 
lesqued in his Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The showman, 

137 



138 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Pletro, has two waxwork figures of Hamlet and Ophelia, and 
In inviting the villagers to watch their antics, he sings : 

" Now all yon pretty villagers who haven't paid, stand you aside. 
And listen to a tragic tale of love, despair, and suicide. 
The gentleman's a noble prince a marvel of ventriloquy 
Unhappily afflicted with a mania for soliloquy. 
The lady is the victim of the God of Love tyrannical 
You see it in her gestures, which are morbidly mechanical ; 
He*s backed himself at heavy odds, in proof of his ability 
That he'll soliloquize her into utter imbecility. 
She wildly begs him to desist appeals to his humanity, 
But all in vain observe her eyes a-goggling with insanity. 
He perseveres, improving the occasion opportunatic 
She sticks straws in her hair he's won his wager she's a lunatic 1 " 

Later in the play he returns to the same theme : 

" Ophelia was a dainty little maid, 

Who loved a very melancholy Dane ; 
Whose affection of the heart, so it is said, 
Preceded his affection of the brain. 
Heir-apparent to the Crown, 

He thought lightly of her passion. 
Having wandered up and down, 

In an incoherent fashion, 
When she found he wouldn't wed her, 
In a river, in a meadder. 
Took a header, and a deader 

Was Ophelia ! " 

The Mountebanks was a considerable success, and that fact 
dispels the illusion that Gilbert could not succeed without 
Sullivan, 

During the run of The Mountebanks, Gilbert wrote the 
following letter to Mr. D'Oyly Carte : 

36, PRINCES GARDENS, S.W., 

Jan. 28, '94, 
DEAR CARTE, 

As I told you some time since, Sedger suddenly dismissed a number 
of his chorus (I think 18), although they were engaged for the run of 
the piece. They expostulated and eventually commenced actions, 
and, on finding them to be in earnest, Sedger changed Ms ground and 



PLAYS 139 

wrote to telling them that they were not dismissed, but simply 

given two months* vacation which, by agreement* he had the power 
to do. The solicitor for the choristers Is anxious to prove that it is 
not the custom to use a clause of the kind in order to get rid of Indi- 
viduals which he has confessed to be his object. They want you 
and me to give evidence to this effect, but as I have no practical know- 
ledge of the matter (although I know the theory perfectly well), I am 
afraid my evidence would not be very valuable. Yon have always 
shown so much consideration and sympathy for choristers and the 
Savoy is always quoted by them as the only theatre in London in 
which they are fairly treated so they hope you won't mind going 
into the box to say that the usual vacation clause Is not customarily 
used in order to get rid of artists, but simply and bona fide for the 
purpose of giving them a rest at the dull season of the year. Yon see 
in tMs case Sedger actually dismissed them, and then, finding that 
they denied Ms po%i*er to do this and declined to accept the dismissal, 
he told them that he would give them two months' vacation instead 
clearly showing that he had In his mind a desire to get rid of them, 
in spite of the fact that their engagements were for the " run/* 

The case will be heard at the Westminster County Court on Feb. 28. 
Of course, they will wire to you when they want you. 

Yours very truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 



THs letter is characteristic of Gilbert's care for the lesser 
artists of Ms companies. In 1898 he wrote with a similar 
thought to Mrs. Carte : 

" There seems to be some misunderstanding about the understudy 
of Casilda. I proposed Miss Gerrard to CelHer, who said she had a 
very pretty voice and could sing the music excellently. So I asked 
her to study the part which she did and I rehearsed her twice in it 
and found her quite competent, and, as I understood, the matter was 
settled. She now writes to tell me that the part has been given to 
someone else. This is surely unfair to her. Perhaps you will kindly 
look into the matter, as I know how just you are and how unwilling 
you would be to disappoint a young lady who had been given reason 
to suppose that she was cast for the part/* 

On October 27, 1894, between the Savoy productions of 
Utopia Limited and The Grand Duke, His Excellency was 
produced at the Lyric. The libretto was set to music by 
Dr. Osmond Carr, and the cast was as follows : 



THE PRINCE REGENT Mr. Kuuana Harrington 

GEORGE GRIFFENFELD ...... Mr. George Grossmith 

ERLXNG SYKXE Mr. Charles Kenningham 

DR. TORTENSSEN Mr. Augustus Cramer 

MUNCK Mr. John le Haye 

CORPORAL HASOLD ....... Mr. Arthur Play fair 

A SENTRY Mr. George Temple 

FIRST OFFICER Mr. Ernest Snow 

SECOND OFFICER Mr. Frank Morton 

CHRISTINA Miss Nancy Mclntosh 

IHANNA Miss Jessie Bond 

THORA Miss Ellaline Terriss 

DAME HECLA CORTLANDT Miss Alice Barnett 

BLANC A , Miss Gertrude Aylward 

BLSA Miss May Cross 

His Excellency unquestionably contains the best verse that 
Gilbert wrote in Ms later years. The lyrics are far less familiar 
than those of the Savoy operas, and for this reason the Played- 
out Humorist may be worth quoting in full : 

fl Quixotic is Ms enterprise, and hopeless Ms adventure is, 

Who seeks for jocularities that haven't yet been said. 

The world has joked incessantly for over fifty centuries, 

And every joke that's possible has long ago been made. 
I started as a humorist with lots of mental fizziness, 

But humour is a drug wMch it's the fashion to abuse ; 
For my stock-in-trade, my fixtures, and the goodwill of the business 
No reasonable offer I am likely to refuse. 
And if anybody choose, 
He may circulate the news 
That no reasonable offer I am likely to refuse. 

" Oh happy was that humorist the first that made a pun at all 

Who when a joke occurred to him, however poor and mean, 
Was absolutely certain that it never had been done at all 

How popular at dinners must that humorist have been 1 
On the days when some stepfather for the query held a handle out, 

The door-mat from the scraper, is it distant very far ? 
And when no one knew where Moses was when Aaron put the candle 

out, 

And no one had discovered that a door could be a-jar ! 
But your modern hearers are 
In their tastes particular, 
And they sneer if you inform them that a door can be a-jar 1 



LATER PLAYS 141 

** In search, of quip and. quiddity I've sat all day, alone, apart, 

And all that I could hit on as a problem was to find 
Analogy between a scrag of mutton and a Bony-part, 

Which offers slight employment to the speculative mind : 
For you cannot caH it very good, however great your charity 
It's not the sort of humour that is greeted with a shout 
And I've come to the conclusion that the mine of jocularity, 
In present Anno Domini, is worked completely out I 
Though the notion you may scout, 
I can prove beyond a doubt 
That the mine of jocularity is utterly worked out ! " 

It Is not perhaps without something of a pathetic sug- 
gestion that Gilbert printed these verses at the end of the 
collected Bab Ballads which he published in 1897, Excellently 
humorous is the duet between the Governor and Dame Cort- 
landt, and one feels there is more than a little truth in the 
Regent's song, in which he recounts the horror of constantly 
listening to the National Anthem : 

" A King, though he's pestered with cares, 

Though, no doubt, he can often trepan them ; 
But one conies in a shape he can never escape 
The implacable National Anthem ! 

Though for quiet and rest he may yearn, 
It pursues him at every turn 
No chance of forsaking 
Its rococo numbers ; 
They haunt him when waking 

They poison Ms slumbers I 

Like the Banbury lady, whom every one knows, 
He's cursed with its music wherever he goes ! 
Though its words but imperfectly rhyme 

And the devil himself couldn't scan them, 
With composure polite he endures day and night 
That illiterate National Anthem ! 



r It serves a good purpose I own : 

Its strains are devout and impressive 
Its heart-stirring notes raise a lump in our throats 
As we burn with devotion excessive : 

But the King, who's been bored by that song 
From Ms cradle each day all day long 



142 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Who s s beard it loud-shouted 

By throats operatic, 
And loyally spouted 

By courtiers emphatic 

By soldier by sailor by drum and by fife 
Small blame if lie thinks It the plague of Ms life ! 
While Ms subjects sing loudly and long, 

Their King who would willingly ban them 
Sits, worry disguising, anathematizing 
That Bogie, the National Anthem ! " 

On May 3, 1904, Mr. Arthur BourcMer produced Gilbert's 
fantastic drama, The Fairy's DiUmma, at the Ganick Theatre. 
The cast was as follows : 

SUPERFATURALS 

THE DEMON ALCOHOL Mr. Gerald Robertshaw 

THE FAIRY ROSEBUD Miss Jessie Bateman 

UN1STATURALS 

COL. SIR TREVOR MAULEVERER, BART., of the 

Household Cavalry (afterwards Clown) . Mr. Arthur BcwrcMer 
THE REV. ALOYSIUS PARFITT, M.A., of S. 

Parabola's (afterwards Harlequin) . . Mr. O. B. Clarence 
MR. JUSTICE WHORTLE, of the High Court of 

Judicature (afterwards Pantaloon) . Mr. Sydney Valentine 
THE LADY ANGELA WEALDSTONE, Daughter 

of the Marquis of Harrow (afterwards 

Columbine) Miss Violet Vanbrugh 

CLARISSA (Daughter of Mr. Justice Whortle) . Miss Dorothy Grimstone 
MRS. CRUMBLE (Housekeeper to Mr. Parfitt) . Miss Ewell 

At the end of 1903, Gilbert wrote : 

" Shall I tell you a great secret ? I'm writing a play that will be 
produced at the Ganick. ... It seems quite odd after so many years* 
idleness. But I must make an effort to keep the little home together. 
When you see the piece, I think you'll caU it rather ' young ' for a 
wretched old josser in Ms sixty-eighth year." 

Li 1904 he continues : 

" Now I've got to go to the Garrick Theatre for rehearsal. They 
are all very civil and Mnd, but it is different from, the Savoy, where 
everything went by clockwork. There's a sad want of method at the 
Ganick, and I've had to put my foot down ! " 



LATER PLAYS 



143 



On May 6, lie added : 

" I have every reason to be satisfied with the reception of the child 
of my own old age. 1 znis tkere ? but I wouldn't on. 3 The better 
class of dramatic authors have agreed not to do so, as there is invari- 
ably a body of roughs in the gallery who encourage an author to appear 
in order that they may insult him when he complies with their request. 
These butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers are the curse of 
the theatre. Utterly ignorant brutes, they take upon themselves to 
decide what is to be received and what is to be rejected* and conse- 
quently many authors only consider them in writing plays. This 
accounts for much of the bad work put before the public. If I were 
a manager, I would close the gallery on first nights.* 1 

Five years later, Gilbert's last opera, Fallen Fairies, with 
music by Edward German, was produced at the Savoy, with 
Hiss Nancy Mclntosh as the Fairy Queen : 



FAIRIES 



THE FAIRY ETHAIS . 
THE FAIRY PHYIXON. 

SELENE (the Fairy Queen) 

DARINB ' 
ZAYDA 

LOCRINE 

ZARA 

CORA 

LIIA / Fairies 

NEODIE 

FLETA 

CHLORIS 

MAIA 

CLYTZE 

LUTIN ( a Serving Fairy) 



and 



MORTALS 

SIR ETHAIS ) 

SlRPHYLLONj 

LUTIH (Sir Ethais's Henchman) 



Two Hiinnish Knights 



Mr. Claude Flamming 
Mr. Leo Sheffield 
Miss Nancy Mclntosh 

'Miss Maidie Hope. 
Miss Jessie Rose 
Miss Ethel Morrison 
Miss Mabel Burnege 
Miss Rita Oiway 
Miss Ruby Grey 
Miss Alice Cox 
Miss Marjorie Dawes 
Miss Gladys Lancaster 
Miss Miriam LyceU 
Miss Isabel Agnew 

Mr. C. Herbert Workman 



(Mr. Claude Flemming 
{Mr. Leo Sheffield 
Mr. C. Herbert Workman 



The dialogue is written in blank verse. Gilbert himself had 
doubts about the opera's success, but its comparative failure 
was none the less a considerable disappointment to him. 
The opera suffered extremely from the lack of a male chorus. 



144 W. S. HIS AXD 

An on Z7i0 Wicked World, the origin of Fallen 

Fairies, in Gilbert's mind for years. He wrote 

to Mrs. Carte in 1897 : 

G RIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Ap. ii, '97, 

DEAR MRS. CARTE, 

I merely Tks Wicked World as the basis of a piece I 

don't at all press It. Cartels objection to the chorus being composed 
entirely of ladies may be a perfectly valid one. I am no musician and 
cannot express a useful opinion on such a point, but I should suggest 
that when the composer is decided upon, he should be consulted upon 
the point and Ms opinion might be taken as final. It is quite possible 
that he might be fascinated by the novelty of the idea it is often 
useful to shake ofi conventionalities. 

It has occurred to me that the difficulty might be met by making 
the fairies syrens on a rock in the Mediterranean. They discourse of 
the evils that come from love, and consider that much good might be 
done if a shipiui of mortals are lured to their island in order that they 
may be indoctrinated with the new theory. A shipful of classical 
warriors Ulysses and Ms companions, say are lured to their island 
by their songs, and as a consequence, the syrens, while preaching the 
horrors of love, fall hopelessly in love with the new-comers. Then all 
sorts of catastrophes result, the piece ending as The Wicked World 
ends, with the departure of the disgusted visitors in their ship and 
the restoration of peace and happiness to the syrens. This would 
provide a male chorus if this element is held to be indispensable. 

Do I gather from your letter that you are prepared to commission 
me to write an opera libretto on the terms arranged for The Grand Duke 
subject, of course, to Carte's approval of the scenario ? If so, I will 
set to work at once to find a plot if Carte doesn't think the ground- 
work I have suggested will do. 

Very truly yours, 

W, S. GILBERT 

GRJM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Ap. 13, '97. 
DEAR MRS, CARTE, 

It has occurred to me that the fact that classical dresses were 
used in Act 2 of The Grand Dnke is a reason why the male characters 
in the projected piece should not be Ulysses and his companions. 
There is no reason why they should not be mediaevals, or even people 
of to-day, though, personally, I should prefer mediaevals, I should 
make the piece much more broadly humorous than The Wicked 



LATER PLAYS 145 

WorM, keeping the principal lady to whatever there Is of dramatic 
and sentimental arc! surrounding her with people whose parts should 
be written in a humorous key. 

Yours fhly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Much, of the writing of Fallen Fairies is ingenious, some 
of it has genuine beauty. The fairy duet in the first act is 
characteristic : 

" Man is a brute, oppressed by strange 
Unintellectuality : 

Enlighten him, and you will change 
His normal immorality. 

If we exhibited to some 

Our course of life delectable, 
They might in course of time become 
Comparatively respectable ! 
Oh, picture then 

Our joy sublime, 
If mortal men 
Became in time 
Suppose we say, 
In guarded way, 
Comparatively respectable I " 

After Fallen Fairies Gilbert decided to write no more 

libretti. He said in a letter to Mrs. Carte : 

** I certainly do not intend to write any more libretti. The differ- 
ence between working for the Savoy, where I had a free hand, and work- 
ing under a manager of any other theatre, would (apart from other 
considerations) place my doing so out of the question. 1 * 

The Savoy Theatre was sold by Mrs. Carte after her hus- 
band's death, and this final end of a great enterprise caused 
Gilbert genuine pain. " It's sad to think of the old show 
being handed over to the Philistines/' he wrote to Mrs. Carte. 
" I'm sure that you and I could have worked the theatre 
together to the advantage of both. But it's too late now 1 " 

Five years later he returned to the same subject ; 
10 



W. ?. GILBERT: HIS AND LETTERS 



52, FONT STREET, S.W,, 

Mar. 12, 1909, 

MRS. CASTE, 

I am deeply sorry for the fate that has overtaken the Savoy. 
I on all sides that The Love Birds is an insult to one's under- 

standing. 

1 couldn't stand Walkley *s statement in The Times that musical 
comedy snufied out Savoy opera, so I had to write and contra- 

dict it. 

Very truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Gilbert's last work was The Hooligan, a grim little sketch 
of the last moments of a convicted murderer, played by Mr. 
James Welch, and produced at the Coliseum in 1911, shortly 
before the dramatist's death. In this last play Gilbert was 
supremely successful. Indeed, it may, we think, be reckoned 
the greatest serious achievement of his career. The plot, a 
decadent wastrel waiting in the condemned cell for the hour 
of execution, is a throw-back to the Dickens of Oliver Twist, 
and the cockney dialect is more Victorian than Georgian. 
But the little play has real dramatic grip, and the convict's 
dream is a finely conceived serious version of the famous 
" Nightmare " song : 

SOLLY. Bad night's rest ! I ain't 'ad no night's rest. Just a 
bleeding nightmare, I've 'ad. Oh, them nights ! The day's bad 
enough for a pore bloke wot can't read, and nuffin to do but to count 
the flies on the wall and wonder wot it's goin* to be like when it comes 
only broke up by a hour's trudge outside and a cigarette by the 
Governor's permission* Ah, the days is bad enough, but the nights ! 
O Gawd, the nights ! The lyin* awake for hours with a sick feelin* 
at your 'art and when you drops ofl, comes dreams that makes 
you blarst the sleep that brings 'em ! 

MATHERS. Dreams about the poor girl 1 

SOIXY. Abaht 'er ? No fear. It's one dream that conies every 
bloomin' night, and sometimes twicest a night and more 1 There's 
the court not a reglar proper court as one's seen eversomany times, 
but a court half a mile acrost an* a quarter of a mile deep, wiv a red 
judge eversofar off in the middle ; five 'undred jurymen on one side, 
a couple of 'undred lawyers in the middle, an' a thousand public coves 
on the other the jury noddin* their *eds all the time, and the lawyers 
noddin* their *eds, an* the public noddin* theirs all a-noddin* *cept 
the old judge. An* 'e ses, ses he, " Prisoner at the bar/' ses he, " them 



LATER PLAYS 147 

Jurymen found you guilty, and blow me if 1 ain't o' their way of 
thinkin'," ses 'e. " And this "ere's the sentence/ 9 ses 'e, and *e claps 
a black cap on "Is napper an* "Is two arms stretches out o" Ms red togs 
and they grows longer an" longer quarter o* a mile long they grows 
till "Is fists Is close the ray froat, the bilin in court noddin 1 their *eds 
all the time, as much as to say, " That's right go on give it 'im ! " an* 
when he reaches me he clutches me round the gullet and squeedges 
me wiv both *ands till I'm fair choked the crowd a -noddin* all the 
time, as if to say, " Just so ; we quite agrees, go on I " An' just wen 
1 feels I'm a-dyin* I gives a screech and wakes up shiverin* wiv cold 
an* all of a J ot perspiration, like a bloomin* toad, wiv my *arf a-beatin* 
nineteen to the dozen ! 

Gilbert's first Sullivan success was legal The Trial by 
Jury. His last play and his last success was also legal 
The Hooligan. 

Gilbert's opinion of the English censorship of plays, a sub- 
ject of Interest to every dramatist, Is expressed In the evidence 
that he gave in 1909 before a Joint Committee of the Lords 
and the Commons. Gilbert was examined by Mr. Herbert 
Samuel, now Sir Herbert Samuel, the committee's chairman : 

" Your long experience as a dramatic author has led you to some 
conclusions as to the Censorship ? I am strongly of opinion that 
there should be a Censor, and still more strongly of opinion that the 
responsibility of vetoing should not rest exclusively on Ms shoulders, 
but that there should be an appeal to a body consisting of one arbitra- 
tor appointed by the author, one by the Lord Chamberlain, and a third 
selected by those two. I submitted these views to the Home Secre- 
tary eighteen months ago in accordance with a resolution arrived at 
at a meeting of a dozen or so authors more or less of that opinion, some 
of whom believed that there should be no Censor, but agreed that if 
there was one the method suggested would be the best. I am not 
single in my opinion that there should be a Censor. 

" Why do you think a Censor of some kind is desirable ? Because 
I think the stage is not the proper pulpit from which to disseminate 
doctrines possibly of Anarchy, Socialism, or Agnosticism, doctrines 
of adultery and of free-love, before an audience of all ages, sexes, 
conditions of Hfe, and varied degrees of education. Moreover, I 
think that first-night audiences have as much claim to be protected 
from outrage as any that follow. 

** Does the Censorship as constituted inflict injury on the drama ? 
I cannot say. I do not know the plays that have been censored. I 
only know those that have been passed. 



148 W. S. HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" You are of opinion that if the Censorship were modelled in the 

way you suggest, no injury would be done ? I do not say that. Bat 
I thir.k it would be an important protection to the author, while it 
would relieve the Censor from an Intolerable responsibility and from 
the clanger df raining the hopes of rising authors. 

" Would yon say that such an appeal should be open in the case 
of a play not yet performed and also where the Examiner intervenes 
to stop the performance under special circumstances ? I think it 
would apply in both cases, 

" I have in mind The Mikado ? I consider that it was an act of 
depredation to take ray play, which was -worth. ^10,000, and, without 
any communication with me, prevent its performance. 

" But you would not wish to be a casus belli ? I really do not think 

that the Power concerned thought about it. The music of The Mikado 

played on the Japanese warships at the very time the play was 

prohibited, and that was a sort of musical comment on the 'absurdity 

of the prohibition, 

** With reference to the tribunal of appeal you suggest, by whom 
do you think the expenses should be borne ? In the event of the appeal 
being rejected, it should fall upon the author ; if successful, it should 
fall upon the Lord Chamberlain; and in the event of there being contri- 
butory negligence on both sides, the costs should be apportioned. 
The procedure, in fact, would follow that of a court of law. 

** Should the music-halls be allowed to produce anything they like ? 
The sketches they produce should, in my opinion, be censored, but I 
do not extend that to the songs. I don't see how every turn could be 
censored. 

" Can a line be drawn in an Act of Parliament between a dramatic 
entertainment, a sketch at a music-hall, and other terms ? I arn told 
that an Act of Parliament can do anything. I believe it might do 
even. that. I would have some kind of censorship for the songs, but 
I do not see what kind of machinery can be applied. 

** Bo you think a line can be drawn between what is and what is 
not a dramatic entertainment ? I think that is a matter of fact. 
I will not suggest any means by which it should be done, but I do say 
that all performances which require licensing for the theatre should 
also require it for the music-hall. 

" The law now draws a line between the "buildings, and only the per- 
formances in theatres have to be submitted to the Censor ? I am not 
prepared to suggest how a sketch and an acting song are to be differen- 
tiated, But I suggest broadly that what is good for the theatre is 
good for the music-hall as regards dramatic performances. 

** Do you think the legal distinction between the theatre and the 
music-hall should be maintained, or that there should be a general 
licence for the production by anybody of what he likes ? I certainly 
think the sketch should be under the control of the Lord Chamberlain. 

M Do you think the music-halls should be free to produce any form 



LATER PLAYS 149 

of entertainment they like ? I see no objection. It is true that the 
theatres might be in some degree injured, but they must take their 
chance. I see no reason why the existing legal distinction should be 
maintained. 

*' Cress-examined by LORD NEWTON. What occurred in the case of 
The Mikado ? As far as I know, it was this. I was informed that 
the Lord Qiamberfain had forbidden the production of Th& Mikado 
on the ground that it might give offence to our Japanese allies. I was 
not communicated with by the Lord Chamberlain, there was no pre- 
liminary correspondence there was some afterwards he simply 
took my property and laid an embargo upon it. Subsequently I 
had an interview with Lord Althorp. The Censor, I understand, had 
nothing whatever to do with the matter. 

" In fact, it was an autocratic action by the Lord Chamberlain ? 
Yes. Many years ago I had a difficulty -with the Censor, It was in 
the case of The Happy Land. That was not written by me, but by 
a Beckett. I drew up the scenario for a private performance which 
was to take place on an Ash Wednesday at the old Prince of Wales' 
Theatre. Before that took place I read the scenario to Miss Lytton, 
the manageress of the Court Theatre, who said that she wanted It, but 
I told her that I could not let her have it, as it was written for a special 
performance. That performance, however, did not come off owing 
to a death, and I then gave the scenario to Miss Lytton, asking her not 
to name me as the author. The play ran a week before any alteration 
was insisted upon; but then the Lord Chamberlain or the Censor 
came down on it. My maturer judgment is that the interference was 
absolutely justified. 

" You think the demand for the suppression of the Censorship 
proceeds from a limited number of men ? Yes, from a certain number, 
a limited number of people specially concerned. 

" The hostility of the Censor is confined to a comparatively small 
number ? Decidedly. 

" COLONEL LOCKWOOD. We have been told that as the law is 
sufficient to deal with a book on any subject which infringes propriety, 
the stage should be equally free. Would you distinguish between the 
stage and a book ? I should say there is a wide distinction between 
what is read and what is seen. For instance, in a novel you might 
read that Eliza slipped off her dressing-gown and stepped into her 
bath, and no harm would be done, but if that were represented on the 
stage it would be a very different matter. 

" If there was an appeal from the Censor, it would strengthen the 
hand of the Censor and of the dramatic author ? Yes ; it would be a 
benefit all round. 

" Answering LORD RIBBUESDALE, the -witness said that although 
the numbers opposed to the Censorship were small, they were not a 
negligible -minority, judged by the test of ability and talent. Men of 
the highest order of intelligence, he added, were opposed to the Censor* 



150 W. S. GILBERT: HIS AXD LETTERS 

ship. He therefore believed that although the professional hostile 
body small, it was entitled to every respect because of Its ability. 

" By Mr, A. E. W. MASON, M.P. He favoured practising banisters 
as the tribunal of appeal, as he thought they would be the most inde- 
pendent men who could be selected for the purpose. They were more 
or accustomed to forming a judicial opinion. 

" LORD GORELL. Would that be a satisfactory tribunal to decide 
whether a play should be prohibited on political grounds ? I see no 
reason for supposing that it would not be satisfactory. 

" Mr. R. HARCOCRT. You said that a theatre was not a suitable 
place to deal with adultery and free -love. Do you mean to say that 
the theatre does not deal with such subjects ? Oh, certainly, it does 
deal with them, but the manner of dealing with them is very impor- 
tant. I have seen plays that I should have been sorry to have taken 
my daughter to, although such plays have been licensed. It appears 
to me that the intentions of the author may be admirable, but the 
audience requires to wade through a great deal of moral mud before 
they appreciate the author's intentions. If I may be allowed to use 
a domestic simile, it is a reversal of the nursery process of administer- 
ing unpalatable medicines. In this case you are covering up the 
jam with the powder instead of covering up the powder with the jam. 

" In reply to further questions, Sir William Gilbert expressed the 
opinion that a play should be open to subsequent consideration after 
it had been licensed, because so much of what might appear insignifi- 
cant in the manuscript might have a deleterious effect in the presenta- 
tion. For instance, if a strongly expressed love-scene took place 
between a man and a woman sitting apart, that might be nothing, but 
if they were sitting together on a sofa with their arms round each other's 
waists and the dialogue was punctuated with Msses, the effect might 
be very undesirable. 

" Therefore a Censorship before production, unless followed up by 
rigid control and inspection, could not be said to be an efficient pro- 
tection ? No ; I should say not. 

" It has been said that Othello, judged by an up-to-date standard, 
might not have been passed. What do you think of that ? I think 
it would have been passed, because even as it stands the question of 
adultery is treated very delicately, and in such a manner as not to 
inform any of the audience who are ignorant on the point and not to 
disgust those who are not. 

** As to the relations between music-halls and theatres, his opinion 
was that what was not good enough for the theatre was not good 
enough for the music-hall. 

"THE CHAIRMAN. You said that the theatre-going public was 
satisfied with the present system. Are there not many who might 
not be satisfied ? No doubt. 

"What might be satisfactory to the public going to the Gaiety 
might not be satisfactory to the public that go to the Court Theatre 



PLAYS 151 

to see the Vedrenne-Barker plays ? -Satisfactory as an intellectual 
achievement. 

" Perhaps the great majority might be satisfied with the Censor- 
ship as It exists, but there may be an intellectual minority who consti- 
tute a theatre -going public of a different kind* which might be dissatis- 
fied ? Quite." 

Gilbert was certainly not numbered among the rebels 
against authority, but he did not bow to authority with 
enthusiasm. He said in a letter written in 1910 : " I am 
fullv In accord with those dramatists who consider that there 
should be an appeal from the decision of the Lord Chamber- 
lain when It is adverse to the interests of the author." 

A detailed survey of Gilbert's writings makes his right to 
be counted with the Immortals abundantly clear. Com- 
paring Mm with Dickens, Mr. Chesterton calls Gilbert "a 
smaller and more sneering but an equally sincere man/' But 
Gilbert never sneered; he laughed, and, as no one knows 
better than Mr. Chesterton, the man who knows how to laugh 
Is safe from the sinful sneer. Mr. Chesterton says : " In a 
song In The Pirates of Pmzance he practically called police- 
men cowards. ... In a song in Patience he directly accused 
the crack regiments of being common dandies; In another 
song In TJi Pirates he says plainly that our warriors under- 
stand everything but war. All this has been taken with a 
terrible levity because it Is true. 3 ' 

But it is not true. Policemen are not cowards, and the 
retreat from Mons and a dozen other modern heroic events dis- 
proved the too often repeated gibe that " our warriors under- 
stand everything but war/' As a matter of fact, Gilbert 
never believed that policemen were timorous or that soldiers 
were incompetent. He knew, as Dickens knew, that police- 
men and soldiers and all other men and women are funny. 
To be comic is the mark of humanity, for, as we believe Mr. 
Chesterton himself has pointed out, no one ever saw a comic 
cow, TMs great fact gives the humorist his supreme import- 
ance. The topsy-turvy world is the real world after all. 



CHAPTER VII 
GILBERT IN THE THEATRE 

GILBERT never had any doubt that the dramatist was 
the one man in the theatre who really mattered or 
who ought to matter. Although he had his anti- 
pathies Sir Henry Irving was one of them he had many 
actor and actress friends all through Ms life, but he would 
never dream of allowing any player, whether actor or actress, 
to interfere in the slightest degree with Ms own conception of 
a character or a scene. At the Savoy he ruled with a rod 
of iron. He once said in an interview with the late Bram 
Stoker : 

" I attribute our success in our particular craft to the fact that 
Arthur Sullivan and I were in a commanding position. We controlled 
the stage altogether, and were able to do as we wished, so far as the 
limitations of our actors would allow of it." 

Long before the Savoy days, when Gilbert was still a strug- 
gling dramatist, he fought fiercely against the player's in- 
vasion of what he properly regarded as the dramatists' 
domain, and there is no doubt that most of the most-discussed 
theatrical quarrels of his life were due to the reasonable re- 
sentment wMch all dramatists have felt for the emendations 
of the popular actor. 

One of his quarrels was with Miss Henrietta Hodson, who 
afterwards married Henry Labouchere, the founder of Truth. 
The quarrel began in 1874, when Miss Hodson produced at 
the Royalty Theatre a comedy called Ought we to visit her ? 
written by Gilbert in collaboration. It was revived when. 

152 



IX THE 153 

mid produced in 1877. Miss 

published an letter complaining of Gilbert's manner to 

players, and lie with an equally forcible " Letter 

to the Dramatic Profession." 

The Kendals produced many of the Gilbert comedies* 
the result was that he and they were not on speaking terms 
for nearly twenty years, Mrs. Kendal has been good enough 
to recall of the incidents of an interesting partnership. 

Despite the quarrels, she emphasizes the fact of Gilbert's 
generosity. " He was/' she says, " the most generous man I 
ever knew, and he had a poet's mind/' Mrs. Kendal also* 
naturally, remembers Gilbert's debt to her brother, Tom 
Robertson, the author of Caste : i My brother gave Gilbert 
all Ms first chances "a fact that Gilbert himself never forgot. 

Talking of the production of The Wicked World, Mrs. Kendal 
says : "I threw down my part and said I would not go on 
because Gilbert tried to force me to do what I was not going 
to do. He had to give way/ 1 Mrs. Kendal really justifies 
Gilbert's irritation. It is easy to understand that a dramatist 
who possessed a quick temper and a proper regard for his craft 
did not give way to a leading actress with any very good grace. 
Gilbert was an excellent amateur actor, and he appeared at 
least once in a professional company. Still talking of The 
Wicked World, Mrs. Kendal says : 

** One night, instead of the actor who was playing the part, Gilbert 
came up ttroiagh the trap-door and took the part himself. He had 
quarreled with the actor and had come to fisticuffs with Mm, and I 
am bound to say he had the best of it. The public never knew that 
the right actor was not appearing. At dress rehearsals he was often 
in front when we did not know lie was there, and he would suddenly 
shout out : * What on earth do you think you are doing ? ' ** 

The Kendals played the leading parts in Pygmalion? and 
GaM&a, Mrs. Kendal being the original Galatea. Mrs. Kendal 
admits that, angry as Gilbert could he on occasion, he in- 
variably endeavoured quickly to make amends. This charac- 
teristic is brought out in a letter we have received from Miss 
Fanny Holland (Mrs. Arthur Law), who was in the cast of 



154 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AXD LETTERS 

Topsy-Tunydom, a short musical play which was part of the 
programme of the opening of the Criterion Theatre in 1874. 
Miss Holland says : 

" We had been rehearsing very hard and very late, and were all 
desperately tired. I was singing my song when I came to a standstill 
in my words. Gilbert was very angry, and upset me so much that I 
was unable to continue for some time. He apologized, and we finished 
the rehearsal. But to show what a large-hearted man he was, though 
it was in the early hours of the morning, when he returned home, he 
wrote to me at once saying how grieved he was that he had upset me, 
and that he could not go to bed until he had made amends. I played 
in many of Ms pieces after that and we were always the best of friends/' 

The Bancrofts produced Gilbert's Sweethearts in 1874. In 
their Recollections of Sixty Years they remark on the skill 
with which he read and rehearsed his plays. In 1885, Miss 
Mary Anderson (Madame de Novarro) had a famous season 
at the Lyceum, during which she made a great success with a 
revival of Pygmalion and Galatea, in which Miss Julia Neilson 
made her first stage appearance as Cynisca. Gilbert's corre- 
spondence with Miss Anderson is particularly interesting. 
The first letter has a certain Importance as showing the 
dramatist's business methods : 

19, HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

April 8, 1885. 
MY DEAR Miss ANDERSON, 

I enclose a draft agreement, which, if yon approve of it, please 
sign and return to me, and I will then send you a duplicate agreement, 
signed by me. 

With regard to a new play to be written by me within twelve months, 
I am, prepared to write such a play on the following terms ; 

The scenario, containing the plot and a description of the general 
course of the incidents, to be submitted to you for your approval 
within six: months of this date. If you approve the general scheme of 
the piece as embodied in such a scenario, I am to complete the play 
(adhering generally, but not slavishly, to the scheme) within another 
six months. The piece to be yours for everywhere for five years for 
five thousand guineas one thousand to be paid on approval of scenario, 
the balance on completion of the piece. This may seem to you a 
large sum but it does not represent one-fifth of what you would 
willingly pay for a distinct success. The success cannot, of course, be 



IX THE 155 

guaranteed, but earnest thoughtful labour, and considerable experience 

on xnv part, can. If you are disposed to entertain the question, let 

me know, and we will go thoroughly into the question. 

Very truly yours, 

\V. S. GILBERT 

The next letter is evidence that at times Gilbert would 
defer even to the opinion of an actress : 

MY DEAR Miss ANDERSON, 

1 am dreadfully distressed to think that I should have been 
(however involuntarily/ the cause of disturbing your slumbers. But 
reassure yourself, 1 cannot glare. I don't know how it's done. The 
only cut in the IF. II 7 . that a Sects you is the one that I have marked, 
at the end of the book sent herewith. I fancy the piece wiH be better 
without the portion I have marked out. But herein, as in ail other 
matters, I refer to your better judgment. . . . 
With kindest regards, 

Always truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

In 1888, Miss Anderson revived A Winter's Tale. Gilbert 
wrote to her : 

HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Feb. 17, ? 88. 
MY DEAR Miss ANDERSON, 

I don't tMnk the Winter's Tale a well-constructed piece, but I 

think your performance delightful beyond measure, and I shall take 
the greatest interest in seeing it again. I don't think yon know the 
charm your acting has for me. . . . 

My very kindest regards. 

Always sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The next letter is interesting as showing Gilbert's high 
opinion of Miss Julia Neilson, then an unknown actress, whom, 
in a sense, he discovered. 

HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Jan. 22, '88. 
MY DEAR Miss ANDERSON, 

You said something about doing Pygmalion and Galatea for a week 
or two at the end of yonr season, with Comedy and Tragedy, If you 
have any such intention, I shall be glad to know of it, as I have found a 



156 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

magnificent Cynisca quite a novice at present but whom I will 
train to play the part to perfection. She is a girl with extraordinary 
natural aptitude for the stage in fact, the most remarkable novice I 
have ever seen. I am taking a great deal of pains with her, and I think 
she has a future before her. . . . 

Always sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

When the strain of rehearsal was over, Gilbert never failed 
in appreciation : 

HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Dec. 7, '88. 
MY DEAR Miss ANDERSON, 

Now that our rehearsals are at last at an end I must thank you 
most heartily for the unvarying kindness you have shown me during 
their progress, and the patience and thorough good-humour with 
which you have entertained my suggestions. Whatever the result of 
to-morrow night's performance may be and, as regards yourself, I feel 
sure that it will be brilliantly successful I shall never forget the 
pleasure I have experienced in seeing my conception so exquisitely 
realized. 

Believe me to remain, 

dear Miss Anderson, 

Very sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

But even admiration would not compel him to acquiesce in 
what seemed to him wrong readings of characters he had 
created. 

HARRINGTON GARDENS, 
SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Feb. 27, 1888, 
MY DEAR Miss ANDERSON, 

I can 'tallow you to say that "Inever cared much for your work." 
It is a reflection not on you, but on me, and one that I have not deserved. 
Are there so many actresses worthy of the name that one can afford 
to speak slightingly of such as you ? I delighted in Parthenia in 
Pauline in Clarice (the only parts, except Galatea, that I had seen 
you in). To certain passages in Galatea I took a critical exception 
not to the talent you displayed in rendering them not to your 
talent as an actress but because they were rendered in a manner 
other than that in which I conceived them. What I have said of 
Galatea behind your back, that I have said to your face, I have too 
profound a respect for you and your art to butter you with empty 



GILBERT IN THE THEATRE 157 

compliments. When I feel at all, I feel strongly and your Hermione 
has blazed in my eyes ever since Saturday night, and made them 
hot. Perdita is lovely in her girlish grace, but Hermione is the highest 
expression of dramatic art. But enough of me and my opinions. I 
am getting old and talkative, . . . 

With kindest regards, 

Always most truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Writing of her association with Gilbert, Madame Novarro 
says : 

" My memories of Gilbert are sweet and bitter. He was a very 
kind-hearted man, but he did not want anybody to know it. For 
the most part, he was very kind in our dealings at the theatre, but he 
took offence very easily, and the result was that he used his great wit 
like a two-edged sword often with sharp words. I am sure he was 
always sorry if he had hurt one. I could not help liking Gilbert, even 
though one was uncertain of him. I always had an idea he did not 
like Shakespeare's plays. When I was producing A Winter's Tale 
in London, he said to me : ' Of course, you will get full houses for a time, 
for the English public do not know the play, and as they are too lazy 
to read it, they will all go to see it once.' I remember his love for the 
Drury Lane pantomime, and I remember going with him and his wife 
to an excellent pantomime produced by Sir Augustus Harris. Gilbert 
was, in his own words : 

' A mass of contradictions, 
A bundle of incongruities. 1 
In his kind moods he was one of the most charming men imaginable." 

No one in the theatre perhaps knew Gilbert so well as Miss 
May Fortescue. She acted in several of his pieces, and when 
she went into management she produced no less than nine of 
his plays, among them The Fortune Hunter, which led to the 
action " Gilbert v. Ledger." Miss Fortescue made as great a 
personal success with Galatea in the provinces as Miss Mary 
Anderson made with it in London. 

Miss Fortescue' s recollections of Gilbert at rehearsal are 
of the happiest. 

" We never," she says, "had an altercation at rehearsal or at any 
other time. I have seen Gilbert show the patience of Job towards 
honest stupidity ; but what he could not stand were the people who 
could do and wouldn't. His kindness was extraordinary. On wet 
nights when rehearsals were late and the last buses were gone, he 



158 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

would pay the cab-fares of the girls whether they were pretty or not, 
instead of letting them tmdge home on foot. In financial matters he 
was a great gentleman. We never had or needed a written agreement. 
He was practical and business-like, but incapable of petty meanness. 
He was just as large-hearted when he was poor as when he was rich 
and successful. For money as money he cared less than nothing. 
Gilbert was no plaster saint, but he was an ideal friend/' 

Gilbert had a craftsman's appreciation of another crafts- 
man's deftness. Miss Fortescue recollects that once at a 
dinner-party, after some criticism of Pinero's His House in 
Order, Gilbert made an elaborate dissection of the play, em- 
phasizing its faultless technique and expressing his strong 
admiration of Pinero's fine workmanship. 

His relations with the company at the Savoy are pleasantly 
demonstrated in the following letters written to Miss Jessie 
Bond: 

HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Jan. ig, 1884. 
MY DEAR JESSIE, 

The moral of the whole thing is, come to me when you want 
anything, and if it's right you should have it, you shall have it. 
You have played Melissa admirably. 

Yours always, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The next letter refers to the production of The Pirates of 
Penzance : 

HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Feb. n, 1886. 
MY DEAR JESSIE, 

I have carefully considered how to improve the part of Edith 
(quite as much in our interests as in your own), and I don't see how 
the dialogue can be materially altered in such a way as to do you any 
real good. Padding out the few sentences that follow the entrance 
of the girls would be of no use to you the situation scarcely admits 
of amplification, does it ? Of course, I could add a couple of pages 
of dialogue about papa and the mermaids and so forth, but it would 
be obvious padding, and nothing else. My difficulty is increased by 
Sullivan being abroad, for he might have consented to a song, to pre- 
cede Frederick's entrance from the cave and I would gladly have 



GILBERT IN THE THEATRE 159 

written such a song but he is at Monaco, and quite unlikely to work. 
Indeed, I will write such a song with pleasure, if you think my doing 
so would satisfy you, and if you will take your chance of Sullivan's 
setting it. I suppose you could sing both the verses " Let us gaily 
tread " and " Far away from toil and care." I should be delighted 
if you would. I am writing so particularly good a part for you in 
the new piece, that I should be distressed beyond measure if you should 
leave us. I've never said as much as this to any other actor or actress 
before. I don't say it to induce you to play so insignificant a part 
as Edith, for if you left us now, and came back to us to play that part, 
I should be satisfied. But if you didn't play it, my calculations would 
be all upset, and I should lose a dear little lady for whom I have always 
had a very special regard. 

Always affectionately yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

HARRINGTON GARDENS, 

Jan. 16, '88. 
MY DEAR JESSIE, 

I am very sorry indeed to hear you have been so ill. I've been 
confined (to the house) myself for some weeks past, and had no idea 
your illness was so serious. I heard all about it from your sister on 
Saturday, and I was about to write to you, but I couldn't remember 
your number in Chancery Lane. 

1 I hope your health will benefit by a little sea-sidism. I shall be very 
glad, indeed, to see you back again the Savoy is not itself without 
you. 

Always affectionately yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

His admiration and appreciation for Miss Bond were deep 
and sincere, but the many-sided Gilbert had his definite 
business side. This letter shows it : 

BREAKSPEARE, 

UXBRIDGE, 

Sept. 22, 1889. 
MY DEAR JESSIE, 

I am distressed to learn that you decline to renew under ^30 a 
week distressed because, though nobody alive has a higher apprecia- 
tion of your value as a most accomplished artist than I, no considera- 
tion would induce me to consent to such a rise. 

While I do not forget how much of the success of our pieces has 
been due to you, you must not forget how much of your success has 
been due to the parts written for you by Sullivan and myself you 
have been most carefully measured by both of us, and, I think you will 
admit, not unsuccessfully, 



160 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Finally, it would distress me greatly to lose you after so many years' 
association, undisturbed, as far as I am concerned, by a single un- 
pleasantness, but I cannot let personal regard and esteem blind me to 
the fact that my partners have to be considered. 

I hope for your own sake (for engagements lasting 12 or 13 years, 
with parts written expressly for you, don't turn up every day) that 
you will reconsider the matter. I hope for your own sake you will 
not deprive us of the services of an artist whom we all regard with an 
affection which is quite apart from business considerations. 

Yours affectionately, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The cloud soon blew away and the affection remained. 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Aug. 15, 1894. 
MY DEAR JESSIE, 

Thank you for your note. I was afraid you were angry with 
me, and didn't want to be brought in contact with me. I am very 
glad it is not so. I look upon no piece that I am connected with as 
complete unless you are in the cast, and I have fought hard for you 
at the Savoy. The part always an extremely good one has been 
improved for your benefit, and I am sure you will be pleased with it. 

Yours always, 

W. S. GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 16, '94, 
MY DEAR JESSIE, 

Your lovely present has just arrived, and I can't thank you suffi- 
ciently for it. I shall always prize it very highly as a souvenir of 
most pleasant and (to me) most profitable associations, extending over 
many years. Was it a coincidence or was it intentional that it arrived 
on the eve of my 25th birthday. I hope you will never look older 
than that picture represents you to be you certainly don't now. 

Always affectionately yours, 

W. S, GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Jan. 4, '95- 
MY DEAR JESSIE, 

You are the dearest and kindest little lady ia th world you 
know instinctively what one most wants, and you get it and $nd it 
on as a matter of course, I can't have too many Jessies (no capital) 



GILBERT IN THE THEATRE 161 

about the place. I have 8 already besides those you've given me. All 
the associations connected with her are delightful, and I can't have 
too much or too many of her. 

I shall be at the theatre (D.V.) to-morrow night. 

Always afrtly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Miss Bond has a delightful story of Gilbert's kindness to 
her when she was for seven months incapacitated by an acci- 
dent to her ankle. At the time he was writing lolanthe, and 
one afternoon he came to see Miss Bond to tell her he was 
writing a special part for her in the opera. " You will not 
have to dance and hardly to move, and as you are always 
laughing, I have written a song to show you can be serious 
when you have the chance." The song was, of course, <( He 
loves/ 5 and proved one of the successes of the opera. " Little 
fool ! " was Gilbert's remark when Miss Bond told him she 
was going to marry. But her reply was unanswerable: " I 
have often heard you say you don't like old women. I shall 
be one soon. Will you provide for me ? You hesitate. 
Well, I am going to a man who will/' 

The Savoy career of Miss Decima Moore, now Lady Guggis- 
berg, was brief but triumphant. She made a great success in 
the production of The Gondoliers^ leaving the Savoy company 
after the breach between composer and librettist, which 
followed that production. Miss Moore won Gilbert's heart by 
her pronunciation of English, a point about which he was 
most sensitive. She remembers him as very kind and very 
patient, always quick to recognize earnest effort, equally quick 
in correcting any mistakes. 

Mr. Edward German, with whom Gilbert collaborated after 
the breach with Sullivan, describes him as generous, reason- 
able, and broad-minded. 

Miss Isabel Jay, who joined the Savoy Company in 1901 
in the revival of lolanthe, tells us that her experience of Gil- 
bert at rehearsals was that he was always considerate and 
delightful. It is probable, of course, that after the original 
productions of the Savoy operas the author's instructions 
11 



162 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

had been so carefully noted that they had become immovable 
traditions. At the first rehearsal that Miss Jay attended 
Gilbert was carried into the theatre in an invalid chair. H< 
was crippled with gout, and the company trembled. Mis< 
Jay was comforted when she was tojd that when he had the 
gout, Gilbert's temper was positively angelic, but when he was 
well it was apt to be a little trying. " I can only conclude/ 
she says, " that he always had gout when he rehearsed me.' 
Gout was Gilbert's constant enemy. In May, 1893, he 
wrote to D'Oyly Carte : 

" I have been laid up with a most violent attack of gout in botl 
feet and in the right hand, so I have not been able to do anything bui 
swear for the last eighteen days/ 1 

During the rehearsals of Utopia Limited in 1893, he wai 
crippled. He says in a letter to Mrs. Carte : 

" I am sorry to say I have had a bad relapse and am now com 
pletely crippled. I am sending up to town for a pair of crutches, sc 
that I may be enabled to turn up at the reading on Thursday*" 

On some occasions, as Miss Isabel Jay remembers, he hac 
to be carried on the stage. He used to make his own elaborate 
arrangements to meet the difficulty : 

" I will drive straight to the side-door in Beaufort BuMings. M} 
man will be with me and will help me down on to the stage. I am send 
ing a wheel-chair (the same that I used in rehearsing Utopia), and ] 
shall be glad if you will allow this to be on the stage for my use. ] 
am also sending a carrying-chair to take me up the steps from th 
stage to the side-door in Beaufort Buildings, I can manage to wall 
downstairs, but (when I am tired) I can't walk upstairs." 

Mr. Percy Anderson, who designed the dresses for manj 
of the Savoy productions, protests that Gilbert was always 
considerate, sympathetic, and understanding. He took in- 
finite pains to indicate what he wanted done, and was ful 
of appreciation when the work was completed. " I nevei 
had the slightest unpleasantness with Gilbert from the begin- 
ning to the end of our connection/' sstys Mr. Anderson, Theft 
professional association was, perhaps, inade easier by the 



GILBERT IN THE THEATRE 163 

fact that they had many mutual friends, including Miss Beatrice 
de Michele, to whom Gilbert wrote some of the letters quoted 
in the next chapter. 

In 1904, Mr. Arthur Bourchier and Miss Violet Vanbrugh 
produced the last of the Gilbert comedies, The Fairy Dilemma, 
at the Garrick Theatre, and his appreciation was shown in 
two very cordial letters : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Aug. 2, 1904. 
MY DEAR MRS. BOURCHIER, 

I am very sorry we are not to see you before you go away. It 
seems as if we were destined to meet under the most formal insincere 
circumstances. Anyhow, I hope you will have a very pleasant tinie 
at the seaside, and that it will thoroughly set you up again, for you 
must have had a very trying season. . . . 

The rehearsals of The Fairy teemed with pleasant associations, and 
I shall never forget the kind consideration and invaluable assistance 
I received from yourself and your husband. The piece came too 
late it should have been produced forty years ago, and then people 
would have appreciated its intention. 

But then I should not have enjoyed the advantage of seeing you 
play Angela. 

With kindest regards, 

I am always, 
Sincerely yours, 

W* S. GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Dec. 13, 1906. 
MY DEAR BOURCHIER, 

It's an absolutely unimportant matter to you, but a very import- 
ant one to me, that I should have omitted to include your name and Mrs. 
Bourchier's in my list of actors whose assistance at rehearsal I should 
greatly value, Of course, you know how highly I esteem you both, 
and I can only account for my omission by the fact that in hurriedly 
running my eye down the "Under the Clock " advertisements in The 
Times, I did not find yours and Mrs. BourcWer's and I had only about half 
am hour to writ it (last Sunday), for I had to send it to the D.T. by 
my coactmati (as I was anxious it should appear with the Ytwntn 
notices on Monday) without an opportunity of revising it. 
I know perfectly WeH that in your allusion to the omission last 



164 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

night yon were only joking, but it is no joke to me that I have appeared 
to slight two old friends for whose professional ability I, in common 
with all others, have the highest regard. 

Always sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

How sincerely Gilbert could appreciate another man's work 
is shown by the following letter written to the late Captain 
Robert Marshall after the production of his comedy, The 
Royal Family, in 1899 : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Oct. 15, 1899. 
DEAR CAPTAIN MARSHALL, 

I congratulate you sincerely on your success of last night. The 
piece is very brightly and wittily written, and, I think and hope, is 
sure of a run. The whole of Act i and the latter scenes of Act 2 
especially impressed me. 

I may, perhaps, be permitted to suggest that some of the scenes 
between the Cardinal and the priest would bear compression as being 
a little out of harmony with the airy character of the comedy scenes. 
And I think the Minister of Police and his subordinate were, on the 
other hand, played a little too grotesquely. 

Very truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

This letter, it will be noted, was written to a beginner, 
by the accepted master of their craft, and it is by no means an 
isolated incident. After seeing one of his plays that had been 
severely and, as Gilbert thought, unfairly criticized, he wrote 
to Mr. Alfred Sutro, whom he had never met, a warm letter 
of appreciation, and in a letter to Rowland-Brown, referring 
to a play by Mr. Louis Parker, he says : "I have read The 
Happy Life, which I will return in a day or two. It is brightly 
and feelingly written and with a good eye to unhackneyed stage 
effect. 1 ' 

Perhaps it is true that Gilbert had little love for dramatic 
critics. Few dramatists have. In common with all the 
stage celebrities of his day, he had his quarrels with Clement 
Scott, whose articles in the Daily Telegraph influenced the 
public and the box-office as those of no other newspaper critic 



GILBERT IN THE THEATRE 165 

have ever influenced them. But he quickly forgot and forgave. 
Gilbert was incapable of rancour. Most hot-tempered men 
are. For one critic, at least, Mr. William Archer, he had a 
great liking and respect, recognizing his fairness and respect- 
ing his judgments. 



CHAPTER VIII 
GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 

IN his earlier days, Gilbert's friendships were for the most 
part in the world in which he lived and worked. He 
was intimate with the Bancrofts and the Terrys, par- 
ticularly with Kate Terry (Mrs. Lewis). In the later years 
of his life, Gilbert had few intimate men-friends, although 
Ms guests at Grim's Dyke were many and varied. Indeed, 
the only men of a younger generation with whom he was ever 
on close terms of friendship were the late Henry Rowland- 
Brown, the late Robert Marshall, and Cyril Maude. On the 
other hand, he had many particularly charming friendships 
with women, and his letters to them are a remarkable revela- 
tion of character. 

" I know he liked women of brains ; he used to say so to 
me/' insists one of his friends. He had an artist's admiration 
for beauty, but the brainless beauty bored him. One worker 
in whose artistic career he was keenly interested was the 
gifted Liza Lehmann, to whom he gave all the assistance in 
his power over the production of her opera, The Vicar of Wake- 
field. He offered, too, to write a libretto for Madame Lehmann 
to set. 

To Liza Lehmann's sister, Mrs. Barry Pain, whose one novel 
and playlets are but a pale reflex of her personality, he gave 
the palm as the best conversationalist of his own wide circle. 
And we have it on the authority of Mrs, Lewis that Lady 
Tree, a woman of many brilliant parts, was the person who 
always excited Gilbert to his most sparkling talk, 

166 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 167 

Probably one of the strongest tenets of Gilbert's creed 
was the faith that the imitative art of acting can be perfected 
by instruction without inspiration. The Jane Austen insis- 
tence that " we all love to instruct " forcibly applied to him. 
He was prodigal of advice and help wherever he saw or 
believed he saw talent, nor was his lavish assistance confined 
to his own companies. More than one popular actress owe 
their fame and fortune entirely to Gilbert's tuition. Among 
others, the late beautiful Lily Hanbury always acknowledged 
with gratitude her debt to his discerning intervention. Failures 
were inevitable. He met more than one such "ungrateful 
little cat/ 1 to use his own term in a letter written in 1903. 

" I have discovered the loveliest girl in the world. She is on the 
Stage, and quite inexperienced, but with a good deal of dramatic 
aptitude. I've taken her in hand, and got her an engagement at 
five pounds a week at the Criterion, and a further engagement at the 
Haymarket in the autumn. Not a bad beginning for a young girl 
who (until she met me) had not a friend in the dramatic profession. 
T am sorry to say she is an ungrateful little cat, and looks upon all I 
have done for her as in the natural order of things/' 

Yet, despite the little cats, he never ceased to enjoy the bend- 
ing of the theatrical twig at the expense of much time and 
money, 

Gilbert was a voluminous letter-writer. He wrote quickly 
and clearly, and showed a notable, if ironic, courtesy, even in 
his replies to begging letters. He had no sort of idea that his 
autograph was of any value, and indeed at no time in his 
life had he much faith in the continuance of his fame. " I 
fancy/' he once said, " that posterity will know as little of 
me as I shall of posterity." At times he wrote in a whirl- 
wind of wrath, and this usually occurred when it seemed to 
him that his friends had been unfairly attacked. His mastery 
of English shows to the utmost advantage in many of his 
letters, though he was apt to make his own laws, and he de- 
lighted in the often condemned parenthesis. Generally, the 
shorter the note, the better the wording. To a request for 



168 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

a subscription to a charity he wrote : "I can but do your 
biding. Yours obediently, W.S.G." 

Like Thackeray, Gilbert wrote his best letters to his best 
friends, and the resemblance to the novelist is perhaps most 
notable in the letters to Mrs. Talbot, which recall those that 
Thackeray wrote to Mrs. Brookfield. It is unfortunate that 
many hundreds of letters written by Gilbert have been de- 
stroyed, among them long and interesting series written to 
Mrs. Perugini and Miss Fortescue. Mrs. Sofia Whitburn, 
who began her friendship with Gilbert as a little child, deplores 
the burning of a collection " illustrated like the Babs." 

As a letter-writer, Gilbert rarely dropped into poetry. He 
once told the late Rowland-Brown that he had never written 
any love- verses to anyone, " or indeed any other verse for 
which I have not been well paid/' As we have read, the most 
interesting series of Gilbert letters were addressed to Mrs. 
Talbot. The first note was written in 1894, and the last 
shortly before Gilbert's death in 1911. Mrs. Talbot was often 
an invalid, and she says : " I think our friendship began in 
pure pity for me/' There was no blood-relationship between 
them. Mrs. Talbot' s mother was American, and the word 
cousin was used in a sort of teasing friendship. The real 
Gilbert is in his letters. They are characterized by an old- 
world chivalry. They are whimsical, sympathetic, some- 
times indignant, always Gilbert. Were there no other Gilbert- 
ian in existence, the letters to Mrs. Talbot alone would be an 
admirable summary of the dramatist's character. Mrs. Talbot 
had a pleasant habit of writing birthday letters, and here are 
Gilbert's replies : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 20, 1894. 

MY DEAR MRS. TALBOT, 

It is worth while to be fifty-eight in order to receive so kindly 
an expression of goodwill from a lady whose goodwill 1 most highly 
value. 

Always most truly yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 169 



GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 19, '98. 
MY DEAR MRS. TALBOT, 

It reconciles me to being sixty-two to receive so kind a letter 
from you. I would willingly be sixty-two for ever so many years to 
come on the same terms. I am sorry you are not coming to England 
till the middle of January, as we shall be going to London about that 
time. 

Probably we shall go to the Crimea again in April, as we found it 
extremely interesting. There is a seaside resort Yalta, which is one 
of the loveliest places I ever saw. We had magnificent weather all 
the way both out and at home. Wherever we went we found a wet 
day had just preceded us in fact, we were chivying a wet day all 
round the Mediterranean and all round the Black Sea. 

We caught it up at last at Algiers, where it did rain. The ship 
was full of fubsy old ladies and gouty old gentlemen I called them 
" The Old Curiosity Shop," which annoyed the old guys, who wanted 
to know what I called myself. However, I never spent a more blameless 
six weeks. 

Always affectionately yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 1 8, '99. 
MY DEAR MRS. TALBOT, 

How kind of you to remember my birthday 1 I am already 
uncomfortable owing to shortbread and a box of chocOiSSes sent me 
by another sympathizer, but I would rather be bilious through their 
kind attentions than perfectly well without them. 

They came to console me for growing older and the worst of it is, 
that the older I grow the more consolation I shall need and I'm not 
at all sure that in this case the demand will create the supply. 

Affectionately yours (May I ?), 

W. S. GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 19, 1902. 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

Thank you very much for your good wishes. It is a great lark 
being sixty-six you try it. It is so delightful to have attained a 
time of life when one can feel quite sure that there is not the remotest 
chance of one's being a- snake on another man's hearth. One feels 



170 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

so safe and (involuntarily) good. I am slowly getting stronger, but I 
am still rather Richardy (I hate the slang expression " Dickey ") in 
the knees. If my left knee were as good as my right knee, all would 
be well. It would even be well if my right knee were as bad as my 
left knee, because they would at any rate be pairs. However, I can 
walk five miles at a pinch. My steam-car is going strong, and I hope 
I shall be able to give you a good spin when you come here. (Song 
for a lady motor-drover, "La donna e auto -mobile 1 '). . . . 

Your afL 

COUSIN BILL 



GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 1 8, 1903. 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

I thank you heartily for so kindly remembering my birthday. 
It is very pleasant to be 67, because one feels one is approaching one's 
prime. I look upon 70 as the prime of life. After 70 I don't want 
any congratulations, but condolences. 

What do you think of the following, which is absolutely true ? An 
English governess went to Paris to recover some property, and she 
arrived on the last day of the Commune. As she turned into the 
Rue Clichy, she was horrified to find herself in front of a barricade, 
on the top of which was a 12 -pounder gun surrounded by Communists, 
one of whom was about to apply a match to the touch-hole. She 
rushed into a porte-cochere in great alarm. A French gentleman who 
was passing said : " N'ayez pas peur, Mademoiselle, il n'y a pas de 
danger. 1 ' " Mais on va tirer un coup de canon 1 " <c Pardon, Made- 
moiselle," said the Frenchman, " ce n'est rien, on sc pose pour la 
photographic. " And then she saw a man with a camera focusscd on 
the group. It seems to me delightfully French, . . . 
Kindest regards to your husband. 

Always your affectionate 

COUSIN BILL. 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. ig, 1904. 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

It was delightful to see your welcome handwriting again, and 
very kind of you to remember my birthday. Personally, I'm sick of 
birthdays, I've had so many of them, and they begin to pall (but such 
is the inconsistency of the animal man), I feel I could do with a few 
more. Still, I wish it was my fortieth and not my sixty-eighth 1 Don't 
you mind being forty. You've been in the pride and glow of lovely 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 171 

life for the last twenty years, and you will be delightful to look at and 
talk to twenty years hence. 

As it is, I never think of you as more than five-and-twenty. 
Good-bye, dear Cousin Mary, best love from us all. 

Always yours afE., 

COUSIN BILL 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 19, 1905. 

MY VERY, VERY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

You are a dear to write me so charming a letter on the occasion 
of my doleful anniversary. Such a letter tends to grease the wheels 
of the creaking old machine as it goes lumbering down the hill. I 
have had many letters of condolence, but none that has given me so 
much comfort as yours. 

Can't get anyone to play croquet with me, so I have to resort to 
long walks. The other day I walked to London not bad for a crumb- 
ling old josser of 69. By the way, I think this will be my last year 
on earth you see, I am popularly identified with Topsy-turvydom. 
Now 69 is still 69 if you turn it upside down. See ? The same remark 
applies to 96. So if I escape this year I may go on to the higher figure. 
Good-bye, my most dear cousin. 

Always your attached and affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 

In the autumn of 1899, Mrs. Talbot was in Scotland : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Sept. 9, '99. 
MY DEAR MRS. TALBOX, 

Why does the Almighty make delightful people, and then make 
them go and live at Dunbar ? It is as though I were to write a master- 
piece of a play and then stipulate that it should only be performed 
at the Theatre Royal, Spitsbergen. Who but such as you would have 
thought of sending me that delightful shortbread ? And who but I 
would have eaten so much of it yesterday as to be quite uncomfortably 
bilious to-day ? A feeling as though I had a tablespoonful of warm 
oil at the back of my throat* But I don't mind being ill when it 
comes of your kind thought of me. 

Always yours, 

W, S, GILBERT 

The following letters were written during a holiday in 



172 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Egypt. The first letter refers to a particularly bad attack of 
gout: 

GRAND HOTEL, 
HELONASS, CAIRO, 

Dec. 30, 1900. 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

In the first place, let me tell you that I am writing under three 
serious disabilities. Morning service is proceeding in the room beneath 
me, and I cannot collect my ideas when Gregorian chants are going 
on (I suppose it is the inherent piety of my nature which asserts 
itself in spite of myself). Then a gale of wind is blowing my paper 
about (I am writing in the open air) ; and lastly, I am tormented by a 
plague of flies, which settle on my face and hands and will not be denied. 
I am sorry to say I cannot give a good account of myself. I am just 
as great a cripple as when I left England. We have had an unpre- 
cedented amount of rain, five wet days last week, and I have serious 
thoughts of starting for Margate, which is drier, cheaper, and more 
bracing than this place. People here say that they have never known 
so much rain to fall in Helouam as much fell last Sunday as in the 
whole of last year. I really have no luck. I have not left the hotel 
except to be wheeled to the sulphur-baths, which are rotten-cggy and 
do not seem to do me the slightest good, I am afraid I must reconcile 
myself to the prospect of being a cripple for life. In fact, the doctor 
here told me that he very much doubted if I should ever recover the 
use of my limbs. However, I'm not going to howl about it. I know, 
from your example, how delightful one may be, despite a drawback 
of that nature, and how much enjoyment may bo drawn from one's 
life under such conditions. But I should like to be able to wash the 
back of my neck. It is not a lofty aspiration, but at present it is 
the goal of my ambitions. 

I am always your affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 

GRAND T HOTEL, 
HELONASS, 

Feb, 18, 1901, 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

We had a frightfully narrow escape from destruction last Thurs- 
day. We all went by train to Cairo (my first excursion from the hotel), 
and when within about six miles of our destination, the engine ran. 
off the rails and tumbled down a steep embankment, dragging a third- 
class carriage with it and leaving our carriage half on and half off the 
embankment. We were in a long saloon carriage, and we felt a terrific 
bump which, sent us flying forward half the length of the carriage on 
to our faces. This was succeeded by a dozen more bumps of greater 
force, and we were all tossed about the carriage like parched peas in 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 173 

a drum. The engine, we found, was on its side alongside our carriage, 
and vomiting steam in great volumes. I was quite helpless, being 
unable to get up owing to my knees, and we expected the carriage 
to roll on to the engine, when I should certainly have been boiled 
alive in the steam. However, the carriage remained on the slope, and 
Nancy, by a tremendous effort, managed to get me on to my legs (my 
wife and she having got out in safety), and I also managed to descend. 
My wife had a bad bruise on the knee, and I had a very bad graze 
on the shin, with a bruise ten inches long and six wide so that I am 
more of a cripple than ever. Seven people were killed and about twenty 
wounded nearly all the occupants of the third-class carriage near 
the engine. Nancy was most plucky. She got up into the carriage 
again, collected all our traps, and finding that my hat had been shot 
through the window near the engine (on the further side from where 
we were), she clambered down and rescued it seeing a frightfully 
crushed man near by, a sight my wife and I happily escaped. Nancy 
then set off in the boiling sun to walk two and a half miles to old Cairo 
to get a carriage. She succeeded in this (after having being hustled 
by a crowd of low-class Arabs), and returned to the scene of the acci- 
dent. I shall never forget the shrieks of the wounded and dying, 
and we saw some awful sights into the bargain. We are none of us 
materially the worse for our adventxtre. Both ladies behaved with 
extraordinary pluck and self-possession. My wife's knee is practically 
well. It's extraordinary that, chucked about as I was, my knees were 
never touched. 

Always your affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 

Nancy was, of course, Miss Mclntosh, the leading lady in 
Utopia Limited and Fallen Fairies, and the constant friend and 
companion of Gilbert and Lady Gilbert. Happily, the doctors 
were quite wrong concerning the trouble with Gilbert's legs. 
He entirely recovered and was active until his death. The 
next letter is an example of Gilbert's habit of interspersing 
his letter^ with more or less original stories : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HAHROW WEALD, 

Dec. 25, 1901. 

MY DEAR COUSIN MAKY, 

I am very grieved to hear you have been ill again. I fondly hoped 
that all the trouble was done for good and all. When I think of all 
you have had to sniffer, I feel such a cowardly brute for complaining 
of my own twaddling grievances. I can't write an amusing letter, 
because my joints are full of rheumatism just now. The cold has got 



174 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

into them and I am a growling cripple. I read the other day of an 
Irish lady who married a man she didn't like, and when asked why 
she married him, she replied that she did so entirely that the poor 
little innocents who (she felt sure) would some day be born to her, 
should have some one to look after them and protect them if she should 
die during then* infancy. I call that very subtle. . . . 

Your affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 

In 1902, Gilbert bought his first motor-car. He wrote to 
Mrs. Talbot : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Oct. 6, 1902. 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

It was a real pleasure to me to see your handwriting again. It 
is long since I wrote to you, and I would have written again without 
waiting for your answer but that I feared I might be troublesome. 
I am slowly very slowly getting better of my arthritis, but my knees 
are still dicky and my wrists weak. Otherwise I am wonderfully well. 
I dare say youVe read in the papers that I've taken to motoring, 
and that I made my d&but by spoiling a parson who came round 
from under a dead wall on a bicycle. He was pretty badly hurt* The 
car was turned over at a ditch, I was pitched over the dashboard 
on to my head (I saw many stars of beautiful colours and was quite 
sorry when they vanished), and my wife was pitched very comfortably 
into a hedge, where she looked like a large and quito unaccountable 
bird's-nest. The car is a steam one a Locomobile an American one 
in honour to yourself. . . . 

I heard a nice story the other day, A lady wanted a page, and 
another lady sent her a boy on approval. The first lady declined to 
engage the boy, as he was covered (as far as she could see ; she only 
saw his face and hands, being a very respectable lady) with red spots 
with little yellow centres that seemed to want pricking. The second 
lady was annoyed at the rejection of her prot6g6, so the first lady wrote ; 
" I like a manly man and I like a womanly woman, but I can't stand 
a boyly boy. 1 ' 

Always affectionately yours, 

COUSIN BILL 

The motor continued to be a contrivance of accident and 
adventure. 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 175 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Dec. 21, 1902. 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

It is always delightful to hear you speak, even at the end of a 
telephone wire. . . . We have had several very jolly runs about the 
country in the car. Yesterday we went to Chesham, lunched there and 
returned, all in three hours. We seem fated, however, to cause disaster. 
On Thursday, although we were only creeping on at two miles an hour, 
we caused a horse, which was driven in a trap by two ladies, to shy up 
a bank. The trap was all but capsized. One lady was thrown out 
and run over ; the groom was also thrown out, and the trap went over 
his hand ; and the horse then bolted with the other lady, but was 
eventually stopped without damage. Happily the lady who was run 
over was not much hurt. She good-humouredly explained it was 
" only her legs." She seemed, from her way of speaking, to have but 
a poor opinion of those limbs, and Nancy (who saw them) said they 
were not up to much. The ladies both said it was the horse's fault, 
as we were going as slowly as a wheelbarrow and showing no steam. 
Yesterday a tipsy man rushed out from behind a cart and was knocked 
down by the car* He apologized with drunken profusion of etiquette. 
This is the third accident we have had, and in each case have been 
held blameless by the damaged people, . . . 

I am always your affectionate 

BILL 

On occasion Gilbert would write a letter merely to repeat 
a good story. 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Aug. 24, 1903. 

MY EXTREMELY DEAR CotJSIN, > 

I heard a good story of the late Bishop of London the other day. 
He went in a hansom from Victoria St. to Fulham Palace, and on 
arrival gave the cabby Ms exact fare, 25. 6$, The cabman, who was 
very respectful, said : " I beg your pardon, my Lord, but if St. Peter 
had been on earth, do you suppose he would only have given me 2$. 6d. ? *' 
" My good fallow, if St, Peter had been on earth, he would have been 
at Lambeth and you would only have had a shilling. 11 Not so bad 
for a mere bishop. Now, to show my perfect fairness, I'll tell an R.C. 
story about Father Healy, A young lady said to him ; "Is it true, 
Father Healy, you have no mistletoe in Ireland ? " " Alas, my dear," 
replied Healy, " it is only too true/' " But/' said the girl, " if young 
ladies can't kiss under the mistletoe, what can they do ? " "Why, 
they do it under the rose/ 1 said Healy. Not so bad for a mere parish 



I7b W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

priest. I am thinking of going to the Crimea in October, if I can find 
a male companion of a congenial disposition, but so far the desired 
article hasn't turned up. 

Good-bye, my extremely dear Cousin Mary. 

Always your aff. 

COUSIN BILL 

The topsy-turvydom of the operas sometimes creeps into 
the letters. 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Sept. 24, 1903. 
MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

Did you know Mabel Turner ? She was married yesterday to 
Dugdale of the i8th Hussars, with much pomp and ceremony. I can't 
understand why so much fuss is made over a partnership, or rather I 
don't understand why the process should not be applied to all partner- 
ships. It seems to me that the union (say) of Marshall Sc Snclgrove 
might, and should have, been celebrated in the same fashion. Marshall 
waiting at the altar for Snelgrove to arrive (dressed in summer stock 
remnants), a choir to walk in front of Snelgrove chanting, a Bishop and 
a Dean (and also a Solicitor) to ratify the deed of partnership, and a 
bevy of coryphee fitters-on to strew flowers in their path. It is a 
pretty idea, and invests a contract with a solemnity not to be found 
in a solicitor's or conveyancer's chambers. 

Always, my dear Cousin, 
Affly. yours, 

COUSIN BILL 

Gilbert was himself a good business man, reaping fully 
where he had sown, and he was always indignant when other 
authors and their dependents did not receive for their work 
an ample pecuniary return. He says in a letter to Mrs. 
Talbot, dated October 13, 1905 : " It is a shameful thing that 
copyrights should expire it ought to be freehold like land." 

In the autumn of 1905 the Gilberts went to Italy and Switzer- 
land. At one hotel where they had booked apartments they 
were disgusted to find that there were no rooms for them, and 
Gilbert afterwards discovered that the mysterious behaviour 
of the manager, to whom he referred in a letter to Mrs. Talbot 
as " the Belle Vue beast/' was owing to the fact that one of 
his deadly enemies was stopping in the hotel, and, indeed, 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 177 

had an interest in it. The deadly enemy was a well-known 
Radical politician, and Gilbert wrote to Mrs. Talbot : 

" I never could understand his hostility (except that he is the avowed 
enemy of the whole human race) until I remembered that thirty-seven 
years ago I introduced him to the woman who is now his wife 1 I 
admit that, quite unwittingly, I did him an irreparable injury, and 
am disposed to regard his hostility in some measure justified/' 

The lemurs at Grim's Dyke were a continual interest. 
Gilbert writes : 

We have had a most interesting occurrence in our household. A 
baby, quite unexpectedly, has been born to whom do you think ? to 
our two lemurs 1 It is the rarest possible thing for ring-tailed lemurs 
to breed in captivity. The Sec. to the Zoological Gardens, to whom 
I wrote on the subject, tells me that such a thing has not happened 
since 1881. The baby is an exact miniature of the mother in every 
respect, covered with fur and with an extremely long tail ; in fact, exactly 
like a full-grown lemur, but only as big as a newly born kitten. It 
clings all day to its mother (who is quite as active with it as before). 
It seems quite strong and well, and I expect it will live. . . . 

Ever your aff. 

COUSIN BILL 

Very occasionally Gilbert breaks his own rule and drops 
into verse : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Sept. 7. 

MY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

I made a Limerick yesterday : 

" When I asked a young girl of Portrush, 
' What book do you read ? ' she said, ' Hush I 

I have happened to chance 

On a novel from France, 
And I hope it will cause me to blush.* " 

That ought to get the ^500 prize. Here's another : 

"' There was a far-famed individdle 
Who had a bad pain in his middle, 
But a gentle emetic 
With Lamplough's Pyretic 
Soon made him as fit as a fiddle," 
12 



178 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Then another : 

" There was a young girl of Calcutta 
Who anointed herself with salt butter. 
She looked very well, 
But they say that the smell 
Was too utterly, utterly, utter ! " 

Ever your faithful 

COUSIN BILL 

The following letter is an illustration of Gilbert's deep 
regard for his friends : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

July 24, 1906. 

MY VERY DEAR COUSIN MARY, 

I am we all are greatly relieved to learn that the operation 
has been so successfully performed, and that the invalid has borne 
it so well. I've a hideous way of identifying myself with incidents 
of the kind when I know they are going to take place, and at 910 n 
I couldn't help fancying now the surgeons have arrived now they 
are being shown into the room now they are unpacking their devilish 
instruments, and so on. ... I wished I hadn't known when it was 
going to take place. . . . 
God bless you. 

Your affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 



and 



As he grew older, his joy in friendship became greater 
greater : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WKALD, 

Dec. 3, 1908, 
MY DEAREST COUSIN MARY, 

Your delightfully long letter gave me more pleasure than I can 
express. It is an infinite boon to possess, at the fag- end of a long 
life, a dear friend who can enter into and sympathize with one's pleasures, 
cares, and troubles. Men of my age are like trees in late autumn- 
their friends have died away as the leaves have fallen from the trees ; 
but it is enough for me to feel assured that there is at least one friend 
who will stick to me to the very end, 

I am, while I live, 
Your devoted and affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 179 

Again, in the same mood, but this time with a story : 

90, EATON SQUARE, 

Feb. 7, 1907. 
MY DEAREST COUSIN MARY, 

A desire to write to you has come over me, and I always yield to 
temptations. Even Providence yields to them. If I do a rash thing, 
I'm told I'm tempting Providence ; and if Providence can't resist 
my humble temptations, how can I be expected to resist His ? So 
I don't ; in I always go, head over heels. ... I read a good story 
about Jenny Lind. Many years ago, in 1852, she was singing in Heidel- 
berg. She was enthusiastically welcomed by the students, who dragged 
her carriage from the station to the hotel, serenaded her after the 
performance, and the next day (when she was to leave for Berlin) 
dragged her carriage from the hotel to the station and sang an enthu- 
siastic farewell to her. As soon as the train had started, the students 
rushed in a body up to her bedroom, tore the sheets from the bed, 
cut them up into strips, and each student stuck a strip in his button- 
hole and wore it all day long. That afternoon a stout and very greasy 
old gentleman said to Douglas Jerrold (who tells the story) : " I think 
these Heidelberg students are all mad ! " " No," said Jerrold ; " they 
are fine high-spirited young fellows, a bit eccentric, but not mad." 
"Well," said the greasy old gentleman, "I'll tell you what they did 
to me. As soon as I had left my hotel this morning, a body of them 
rushed to my bedroom, dragged the sheets from my bed, tore them 
into strips, and every one is now wearing a strip in his buttonhole." 
The moral of this seems to be that when you go into someone else's 
bedroom in an hotel, be quite sure it's the bedroom you want. I always 
do. ... 

Come back soon and make me happy. 

COUSIN BILL 

In the last letters, in his own way- half-serious, half-jokingly 
-he continually refers to his death. 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

June 5, 1909. 

MY VERY DEAREST COUSIN, 

Hooray I I'm overjoyed, we are overjoyed to learn that we are 
to enjoy the inestimable pleasure of a visit from you. But don't confine 
it to two days that's only a tasting order I This will be ray last 
year on earth, and I want it to be a jolly one, and I want you to make 
it jolly. Give as long as you can, for when you go it will be " Adieu " 
(and I'm afraid when I go it will be Au Diable). I'm told by a palmist 
that I am to die on loth July, She is a Hebrew maid ; I call her the 
sweet Palmist of Israel. 

Ever your affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 



i8o W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

What letters are so hard to write as letters of sympathy ? 
But in them Gilbert was always restrained and sincere. 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Dec. 2, 1909. 

MY VERY DEAREST COUSIN, 

Your letter caused me great distress. I need not tell you how 
heartily I sympathize with you and your dear mother in the heart- 
wringing distress from which you must be suffering at so sad a time. 
There is no condition more pathetic than that of loving relations 
watching at the bedside of one who is dear to them, and who is slowly 
and imperceptibly fading away. Words are useless in such circum- 
stances, but it is impossible not to let such dear friends know they have 
one's profoundest sympathy. God bless you both. . . . 
Your most devoted and affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 

In 1910 Gilbert went to Constantinople. Writing to Mrs. 
Talbot, he said : " I have been strongly advised to ally my- 
self with the Young Turkish party, but unfortunately I 
was not furnished with her address/' 

He was home again in December, and he wrote to Mrs. 
Talbot a letter, of which the following is the last paragraph : 

I heard a good Jew story the other day. A man was discussing 
Noah's Ark. He said : " I can concede a good deal. I can concede 
the kangaroo driven all the way from Australia. I can concede the 
Polar bears brought from the North Pole, I can concede a giraffe 
with his head and neck stuck through the ventilator. But what I cannot 
swallow is there being eight Jews and only two fleas among them/' 



Your most faithfully devoted 

COUSIN BILL 

The close of 1910 brought with it a curious anticipation 
that his end was very near : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Dec, 20, 1910* 
MY DEAREST COUSIN MARY, 

Your long and delightful letter was a godsend to me this morning, 
for I was in the dumps (for no definite reason), and it cheered mo up 
wonderfully. When I get a letter from you I feel as il 1 never wanted 



GILBERTS FRIENDSHIPS 181 

to receive a letter from anyone else, except, of course, those containing 
cheques. 

I received yesterday my diary for 1911, and as I looked through its 
blank pages it set me thinking. At my time of life (turned 74) the 
future becomes a serious consideration, and one can't help wondering 
what miseries, sorrows, calamities, deaths, and other horrors will have 
to be set down before it is finished if ever it is finished, which seems 
unlikely. However, this train of thought is rather morbid and not 
in the least in keeping with the festive (?) season. 
Ever my best beloved friend, 

Your sincerely affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 

90, EATON SQUARE, S.W., 

March 10, 1911. 

MY VERY DEAREST COUSIN MARY, 

Your kind letter has cheered me at a moment when I was rather 
" down in the mouth/' down for no particular reason; but so it was. 
It was comforting to think that so dear a lady had me in her mind 
to the extent of taking the trouble to write to this broken-down and 
tottering fragment of superannuated mortality. . . . The old crumb- 
ling ruin has been propped up and under-pinned, and will, I think, 
stand for a few months yet. 

Good-bye, my dearest cousin, God bless you and make you well. 
Ever your most devoted and affectionate 

COUSIN BILL 

In the last letter to Mrs. Talbot he refers to the swimming- 
pond in which he was to find his death. It was written in 
May, 1911, and he says : " This fearfully cold weather has 
put a stop to all my aquatic gymnastics." 

Another of Gilbert's intimate friends was Lady Crutchley, 
one of the most talented of amateur actresses. One of Gil- 
bert's characteristically illustrated letters to Lady Crutchley 
is reproduced on the next page. The friendship began 
with Lady Crutchley ? s mother, Lady Katharine Coke, to 
whom Gilbert wrote in 1881 : 

24, THE BOLTONS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

April 10, 1881. 
BEAR LADY KATHARINE, 

I am delighted to hear that you will come to our " premiere/' 
My new yacht Chloris is to be launched on the 3<>th, just a week 



i8a W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

SO, EA.TON SQUARE, 




GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 183 

after the launch of the play. Mr. and Mrs. lonides have promised to 
run down to Wyvenhoe to witness the ceremony. We shall be delighted 
if you and the young lady whom my constitutional bashf ulness scarcely 
permits me to call Sybil can manage to join them. We propose to 
picnic on board, after the event. 

The new piece is to be called Patience; or, Bunthorne's Bride, I 
only hope the name is not significant of a virtue which the audience 
will be called upon to exercise. 

Please give my love to the young lady whom my unconquerable 
diffidence will, even now, hardly allow me to call Sybil, and with kind 
regards, in which rny wife joins me, believe me to be, 

Sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The following is one of the many letters written to Lady 
Crutchley herself : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

June 20, 1902. 
MY BELOVED GAL, 

Would your Par come down to us for the 7th to stop ? Your 
lovely Mar is coming. Then your Attractive Self could come too, and 
your enticing Mate. I don't know Par's address, but will you put it 
to him, seductive one ? Try and induce him to come. 

Your devoted 

W. S, GILBERT. 

In 1908 Major-General Crutchley was appointed Governor 
of Chelsea Hospital, and Gilbert wrote his congratulations : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Nov. 25, 1908. 
MY DEAR CRUTCHLEY, 

We are all overjoyed at the news of your new appointment, which, 
I suppose, means a substantial improvement in your good fortunes. 
It is very kind of you to let us know of it so soon. 

I think you are quite right to resign your Governorship of Grim's 
Dyke Island. With every desire to say pleasant things, it would be 
a blatant compliment to describe your discharge of the duties attached 
to that appointment as a success. I believe you have never even set 
foot on that Dependency. I sincerely trust (and believe) that in the 



184 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

more subordinate capacity of a mere Lieutenant- Governor you will be 
more successful. Anyway, as the poet says : 

' It is it is a glorious thing 
To be a Major-General ! " 

With best love to Sybil, 

I am, 
Always sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

p.S. If, on the strength of this promotion, Sybil should become 
too big for her boots, I have several second-hand pairs in good condition 
which might fit her. 

Gilbert's love of yachting referred to in the letter to Lady 
Katharine Coke occurs again in one of the letters to Miss 
Beatrice de Michele. Besides the Pleione, he owned a 
no-ton yawl, called the C Moris, which was built for him 
by the well-known yacht-builder John Harvey, the father 
of Sir Martin Harvey. 

Gilbert had a charming Lewis Carroll-like affection for 
girl-children. Miss Marjorie Maude, now Mrs. Burden, re- 
members her visits to Harrow Weald when she was a child with 
intense pleasure, and the letters to Miss Beatrice de Michele 
are good enough to cause bitter regret for the large number 
that have been destroyed, Such an admonition as " Don't 
you marry the bathing-machine man " is the sort of 
thing that no one but Gilbert could possibly have written. 
The scores of letters to Miss Beatrice de Michele began in 
1878. Few, if any, of the many letters that Gilbert wrote 
more fully reveal the most attractive side of his personality : 

24, THE BOLTONS, 

SOUTH KENSINGTON, 

Dec, 13, 1878, 
My BELOVED B,, 

Thank you for keeping your promise, I have hungered for a 
letter from you, and it has come at last, I am sorry you find it dull 
at Ramsgate. I can't understand it, Ramsgate in December ought 
to be only one remove from Paradise. But I say Good God, how you 
will enjoy yourself when you come up to stop with us after Christmas, 
I can't understand your not enjoying Ramsgate, Do you bathe much ? 
You used to be so fond of bathing and I suppose the sands are not 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 185 

so crowded as they were in August, so you will not find the usual diffi- 
culty in getting a machine. Have you enjoyed many delightful sails 
in the shilling excursion yacht ? 

I can't tell you how I envy you at such a delightful place, and at 
such a delightful time of year. We poor creatures, who are obliged 
to spend Christmas in London, are really very much to be pitied. When 
are you coming to pay us a good long visit ? I don't mean a mere 
hour or two, but a visit that is something like a visit, say from Sunday 
evening to Monday morning. I am working hard finishing a piece, 
and as I eat that piece and drink that piece and exude that piece, 
and identify myself altogether with that piece (by which I mean that 
I am bothered and preoccupied by it), perhaps the letter is rather 
incoherent. 

My duty to you all, and my devoted attachment to yourself. 

Yours affectionately, 

W. S. G. 

P,S, Don't call me Mr. Gilbert, and don't you marry a bathing- 
machine man. 



DARTMOUTH, 
YACHT "PLEIONE," 

May 28, '79. 
MY BELOVED B., 

Many thanks for your letter, which came as a balm to the wounded 
soul. We are at Dartmouth just now, having taken a cruise to Ply- 
mouth and thence back to Dartmouth. We are trying to get eastward, 
but the prevalence of easterly winds has delayed us muchly. We are 
all very jolly, and have none of us been sea-sick yet. God knows what 
may happen, for we have all three been very near it. I think you would 
enjoy it if you were here with us, and we all (and especially I) are 
very good-tempered. The only difficulty is in the cuisine our chef 
has an idea that the more you water gravy, the more gravy you get. 
Also he thinks that shirt-sleeves and no collar is the proper tenue for 
waiting at table, but we arc gradually disabusing his mind of these 
unfounded impressions, We have had one week of fine weather and 
one very d enable, blowing, raining, and squalling like blue blazes 
no bathing, and thermometer at 54 every evening. Nevertheless, 
we are all right and very jolly. I wish you were with us, and I hope 
you, will be with us on our next cruise. We expect to be in the Thames 
next Friday or Saturday, We shall probably bring up at Gravesend, 
so look out for squalls. 
Good-bye, old lady. The missus sends her best love, so do I. 

Your affectionate 

UNCLE BILL 



186 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

THE YACHT "PLEIONE," 

Apnl 25, '80, 
B.,~ 

I shall arrive at Gravesend 1.44 to-morrow (Saturday) afternoon. 
You will be at the train to meet me. You will send your luggage up 
by passenger train, then as I shall probably have to stop at (?) Erith 
on my way home. You will accompany me on board the Pleione. 
You will so order yourself in all things as to tend most effectually to 
my bodily and mental comfort. 

You will wear your best hat. 

You will do your hair high on your head like a coco -nut -but not 
too high. You will present my compliments to Mrs, Pitman thank 
her very much for her invitation, and explain that I shall have but an 
hour in Gravesend, or I should be most happy to lunch with her. 

You will be careful to have dean nails and knuckles, and that no 
tapes are dragging below your dress. Also to wear neat boots and 
gloves. And in these matters fail not your friend, 

W. S. GILBERT 

27, PRINCE'S GARDENS, S.W,, 

Feb. 17, '98. 
MY DEAR DOROTHY, 

I have been on the look out for a basset -hound for you, and I 
think I have heard of one, but I shall know for certain on Wednes- 
day. . . . You won't beat him (unless he deserves it) or throw him at 
your mother (unless she deserves it), because you are a good and kind 
girl and know that it is very wicked to torture dumb animals unless 
they deserve it, 

With love to your mother (if she deserves it) and regards to your 
father (if he deserves them). 

Airtly. yours (if you deserve it), 

W, S. GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKK, 

HARROW WKALD, 

Zte. 24, '99. 
MY DEAR DOROTHY, 

I am not as well as a perfectly pure and blameless character 
deserves to be, for I have a racking cough, which m bringing me to 
an early grave. I always thought I shoxild die young* So youag -so 
beautiful, and yet to die 1 Oh, what a dashed unlucky dog am 1 1 
(Shakespeare). 

I'm making a lovely lake, 170 yards long and 50 yards wide, especially 
for you to bathe in. I said to myself: " What would Dorothy like 
better than anything else ? " And the answer was a lake, because 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 187 

her mother was one once. We are going to turn the water on at mid- 
night on the 3ist Dec., '99. . . . 

Always afftly. yours, 

BILLY G. 

The following letter was written to Miss de Michele's 
mother : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

July 12, 1905. 
MY DEAR BEE, 

Delighted you can come. I hope the sweet and altogether too 
lovely kid will give us a few days more than you are likely to be able 
to do, though the longer you can stay the better. 

God bless and protect you and make you a better woman. 

Always hopefully for the best, 

W. S. GILBERT 

For years Gilbert was on terms of intimacy with Mr. Cyril 
Maude and his family. The beginning of the friendship had 
nothing to do with the theatre. A school-friend of Mr. 
Maude's was the owner of Breakspears, of which Gilbert was 
for many years the tenant before he went to Grim's Dyke, 
and it was he who introduced him to the Maudes. Afterwards 
Gilbert's love for Mr. and Mrs. Maude's two daughters from 
the time that they were little children cemented a close tie. 
" To my daughters/' said Mr. Maude,, " Gilbert was a fairy 
godfather, showering on them the loveliest presents and 
planning for them all kinds of pleasures," I loved Sir William 
very much, and so did all my family/' This feeling is ex- 
pressed in a letter written by his daughter Margery, now Mrs. 
Joseph Burden, of New York, Mrs. Burden writes : 

" Among my early recollections are those of receiving always at Christ- 
mas-time the most sumptuous and enormous box of chocolates from 
the then Mr. Gilbert. For which I used to write laboured little epistles 
of thanks in return on much decorated notepaper, I always signed it 
* Your affectionate little friend, Margery Maucle.' After one of these 
letters I received a lovely copy of the Bab Ballads inscribed to * Miss 
Margery Maude, from her aflectionate little friend, the Author/ " 

Mrs. Burden has many charming recollections of annual 
visits paid to Grim's Dyke, She remembers asking Gilbert, 



i88 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

when he had bought a new Rolls-Royce, if it were a success, 
and he replied: " I have just written to the makers and said 
* Dear Sirs Your car Rolls but it won't Royce/ " Mrs. 
Burden concludes : 

' What endless laughter there always was throughout our visit 
the scintillating wit to which we listened and the teasing to which 
we submitted, because it was all such fun. I shall never forget his 
wonderful sympathy and sweetness and understanding of child -minds. 
He gained the confidence and love of a child at once and seemed really 
to en joy their companionship as much as that of their elders. The last 
time I was at Grim's Dyke I wanted to get a good snapshot of him, 
and he at once posed for me in a fantastic attitude rather like a ballet- 
dancer. I put the photo in my album, and he wrote under it, ' How 
ill grey hairs become a fool or jester/ " 

Perhaps it is an even better thing to have given one grown- 
up child such a splendid memory than to have written The 
Gondoliers or The Yeomen of the Guard. 

Gilbert wrote many characteristic letters to Miss Maude ; 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

July 8, 1909. 
MY DEAREST MARGERY,- 

Thank you for your sweet letter. It was, as you know, a real 
delight to us to have you with us for a visit that was all too short. 
Come again, my very dear Margery, as soon as you can, and for as long 
as you like, and bring Pam with you, if she will come, 
The Rolls-Royce is a huge success. 

Always your devotee! 

UNCLE BILL 

90, EATON SQUARE, S,W., 

Dec, 30, 1910, 
MY DEAREST MARGERY, 

I have received a very pretty portrait of a very pretty girl, but 
although the pretty girl is prettier than the pretty portrait, I am very 
glad to have the pretty portrait as a pretty souvenir of the very pretty 
original. 

Thank you, my dear and pretty Margery, for your very pretty present* 

-Always affectionately yours, 

W* S* GXLBBRX 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 189 

Few of Gilbert's friendships were longer or more unclouded 
than that with the members of the Terry family. Mrs. Lewis 
(Kate Terry) has an amusing memory of their first meeting 
at Dr. Doran's. She was then eighteen, and in the zenith of 
her fame. Gilbert took her in to supper, remarking : " What 
will you have ? Whatever you have I shall have, then I shall 
know exactly how you are feeling in the morning." Mrs. 
Lewis speaks highly of Gilbert's fidelity in misfortune, and 
underlines the general testimony as to his generosity. She 
says : "He was absolutely a good man/' With Marion 
Terry, Gilbert had many theatrical successes. Her per- 
formance of Belinda Treherne in Engaged was the talk of the 
town. She played the part in admirable mock-tragedy vein, 
and her " Thank Heaven, I can still eat tarts," brought down 
the house nightly. Another hit was made by this charming 
actress in Daril Druce. 

The traditional family friendship was warmly continued 
with Mrs. Lewis's daughter, Mabel Terry Lewis, now Mrs. 
Battley. She and Gilbert had a common bond in their love 
of animals, amusingly apparent in the letters. For her talent 
as an actress he had a sincere admiration. The long friend- 
ship with the Terry family had, of course, a memorable 
sequence when Julia Neilson married Fred Terry. 

Gilbert's letters to Miss Mabel Terry Lewis were written 
with the usual note of affectionate fun. The first quoted 
here was sent after the announcement of her engagement to 
be married, 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

April 1 6, 1903. 
MY DEAR MABEL, 

I am delighted to hear of your two engagements. 
I hope you will play leading business in both of them. Indeed, 
I'm sure you will. Joking apart, I am very happy to know you are 
so happy* 

Love to your mother and sister. 

Always affectionately yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 



igo W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

August 3, 1903. 
MY DEAR MABEL, 

You are a delightful girl, and I thank you heartily both for the 
kitten and the trouble you have taken to ensure a pleasant journey 
for her. She arrived quite safely is in roaring (or rather mewing) 
health, and is adored by everybody. She shares my humble bed (which 
sounds equivocal without the context), and is so supremely charming 
that she reminds me of nothing so much as her dear donor. . . . 
With best love to you and to all. 

Yours afrtly., 

W. S. GILBERT 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

Dec. ii, 1903, 
MY DEAR MABEL, 

I haven't an evening between this and the iQth that I can count 
upon, so although I hate matinees, I'm coming to sec Mrs, Gorringa 
on Saturday afternoon next. I hope you'll be a good girl and play 
very nicely. 

Always afftly, yours, 

W. S, GILBERT 

We are able to print one letter to Miss Marion Terry, Miss 
Mabel Terry Lewis's aunt : 

BREAKSPEARS, UXBRIDGE 

June 27, 1889* 
MY DEAR MARION, 

If you are the Miss Terry whom I knew very well some years 
ago, I shall, of course, be very pleased that you should play Engaged for 
your brother's benefit. But not having heard of or from that young 
lady for about s| years, I concluded that Abraham had taken her to 
his bosom* 

Yours affectionately- 

(if it is the same girl), 

W. S, GOBKRT 

Lady Bancroft, with whom Gilbert had been professionally 
associated years before, had rather a severe accident in 1893, 
and Gilbert wrote her a letter which Sir Squire Bancroft says 
in his reminiscences " caused my wife infinite pleasure, the 



GILBERT'S FRIENDSHIPS 191 

writer of it not being prone readily to show his feelings/' It 
ran : 

89, PROMENADE, HOMBURG, 

July 29, 1893. 
MY DEAR MRS. BANCROFT, 

I can't help writing to tell you how delighted we are to hear 
you are making such good progress towards recovery, and that you 
are likely to Jbe able to get out of town next week. Apart from any 
feeling of personal regard, it would have been a public calamity if 
your accident had permanently disabled you. I have a horror of 
" gush " and the Englishman's desire to keep his emotions to himself 
is always strong within me but there are occasions when this desire 
yields both to extreme pleasure and to extreme sorrow ; and when 
such an invaluable artist as yourself has had so narrow an escape from 
a dreadful catastrophe, it is impossible not to relieve one's feelings by 
writing to express one's gratitude, even at the risk of being tiresome. 
Please show me that you forgive me for worrying you with this letter 
by not replying to it. I shall then know that I have given you little 
or no trouble. I shall learn how you are. 

My wife sends her best regards and joins with me in my pleasure 
at the good news. 

Believe me to be always sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

The last letters that we include in this chapter were written 
to Miss Gordon Scott, an intimate family friend who had no 
connection with the theatre. 

GRTM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

July 30, 1903. 
MY DEAR AUNT ANNIE, 

I was much touched by your kindness in writing to Nancy to 
inquire after my health, and I take upon myself to reply to your kind 
inquiries, although I am debarred from going into physiological details 
as fully as she might have done. I caught a nasty chill at the Water- 
lows 1 from sitting on a damp lawn with, distinctly the loveliest copper- 
haired lady I have ever met at least it was that, or eating the greater 
part of a large melon on Sunday night. These two causes tend to 
the same effect, so I can't say positively which of them is responsible 
for the fact that I haven't left the house since Sunday, and have been 
living entirely on milk and rusks ever since. 

However, I am better to-day, If Nancy had been writing, she would 
have explained exactly how much better. I hope I shall be all right 



192 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

to-morrow. I am very sorry to hear that you have caught cold 
probably on the same occasion, and from sitting on damp lawns with 
a silver-haired youth of godlike aspect. 

Always, my dear Aunt Annie, 

Affectionately yours, 

ALPHONSE 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WJSALD, 

Sept. 29, 1903* 

MY EXTREMELY DEAR AUNT ANNIE, 

Your beautiful neck-tie has come to hand, and I am now wearing 
it. Every one tells me I look sweet. I hardly thought you meant it 
when you said you would finish it for me, so it came almost as a sur- 
prise. I hope that some day David will see me wearing it. Wouldn't 
he play Uriah the Hittite on me if he had a chance 1 

With many thanks for your lovely present, which I shall wear until 
it is rags (and then keep it next my heart). 

Always affectionately yours, 

W. S, GILBERT 

Nov. 1 8, 1908. 

MY VERY DEARLY BELOVED HIGHLAND LASSIE,- - 

Many thanks for your good wishes, I heartily reciprocate them, 
and hope I shall live long and be always very happy, and not too 
good. 

Affectionately yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

How different is the Gilbert of these letters- - affectionate, 

sympathetic, giving friendship with both hands from the grim 
Gilbert of tradition, the, Gilbert who never existed* 



CHAPTER IX 

THE CROWNING YEARS 

IT Is one of the ironies of the story of Gilbert and Sullivan 
that, great as was the immediate popularity of the operas, 
it was not until Sullivan's death that there was a general 

and conscious appreciation of the greatness of the gift that 
the two men had given to the English stage. Whole-hearted 

appreciation dates from 1906, when several of the operas were 
revived by Mrs. P'Oyly Carte, In December of this year 
the O.P. Club gave Gilbert a congratulatory dinner at the 

Hotel Cecil He wrote afterwards to Mrs- Talbot : 

" Four hundred and fifty #at down, and I was made much of; any 

amount of molted butter was (figuratively) poured down my back. 
The evening concluded with a number of selections from the Savoy 
oporaH, sung by the old Savoyards, who were present in great numbers. 

It'H well 1 don't believe all the good things tlwt were said about me, 
or 1 should bo suffering from a swelled head and be too big for my boots. 

As it is, both h<*a<l and feat are normal/* 

In response to the toast of his health, Gilbert said ; " The 

magnificent compliment that the O.P. Club has paid me, and 
the delicate and graceful fancy that prompted them to invite 
all my dear old comrades of the Savoy companies of long ago, 
has sunk into my soul No composer and no author was ever 
blessed with a more zealous or more effective body of coadju- 
tors ; and during the twenty years that 1 had the absolute 
control of the stage-management of the Savoy operas, 1 never 
had a seriously angry word with any member of the company, 
principal or chorus* Death has sadly thinned their ranks- 
Alfred Oilier, their conductor; Miss Evcrard, the 

13 m 



194 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

original Little Buttercup; George Bentham, the original 
Alexis in The Sorcerer ; Alice Barnett, the stately Lady Jane 
of Patience, and the Fairy Queen in lolanthe ; poor little 
Emmie Owen ; D'Oyly Carte, our enterprising manager ; our 
three stage managers, Richard Barker, Charles Harris, and 
William Seymour ; and lastly, my old friend and invaluable 
co-worker, Arthur Sullivan, whose untimely death, in the 
fullness of his powers, extinguished the class of opera with 
which his name was so honourably identified a composer of 
the rarest genius, and who, because he was a composer of the 
rarest genius, was as modest and as unassuming as a neophyte 
should be but seldom is. 

" It is a source of sincere gratification to me to reflect that 
the rift that parted us for a time was completely bridged 
over, and that, at the time of Sir Arthur Sullivan's lamented 
death, the most cordial relations existed between us. When 
Sullivan and I began to collaborate, English comic opera had 
practically ceased to exist. Such musical entertainments as 
held the stage were adaptations of the plots of the operas of 
Offenbach, Audran, and Lecoq. The plots had generally 
been * bowdlerized ' out of intelligibility, and when they had 
not been subjected to this treatment they were frankly im- 
proper, whereas the ladies' dresses suggested that the manage- 
ment had gone on the principle of doing a little and doing it 
well. Sullivan and I set out with the determination to proves 
that these elements were not essential to the success of humor- 
ous opera. We resolved that our plots, however ridiculous, 
should be coherent, that our dialogue should be void of offence ; 
that, on artistic principles, no man should play a woman's part 
and no woman a man's, Finally, we agreed that no lady of 
the company should be required to wear a dress that she 
could not wear with absolute propriety at a private fancy 
ball. I believe I may say that we proved our case* Wo are 
credited or discreditedwith one conspicuous failure, Ruddi* 
gore/ or, The Witch's Curse, Well, it ran eight months, and, 
with the sale of the libretto, put 7,000 Into my pocket. It 




g, 



w 

s 

6 



THE CROWNING YEARS 195 

is not generally known that, bending before the storm of 
Press execration aroused by its awful title, we were within 
an ace of changing it from Ruddigore ; or, The Witch's Curse, to 
Kensington Gore ; or, Robin and Richard were Two Pretty Men. 

" While I am dealing with Savoy opera, I am anxious to 
avow my indebtedness to the author of the Bab Ballads, from 
which I have so unblushingly cribbed. I can only hope that, 
like Shakespeare, I may be held to have so far improved upon 
the original stories as to have justified the thefts that I com- 
mitted. 

" Finally, I may say that it is a source of infinite pleasure 
to me to sec so many old Savoyards present, and it is still 
more delightful to know that so many of them have prospered 
and are now, in the plenitude of their powers, earning salaries 
varying from that of an Under-Seeretary of State to that of 
a Prime Minister. And when the operas revert, as they will, 
to their original proprietors, they (or their executors) will 
hold out their hands to George Grossmith, to Rutland Barring- 
ton, to Walter Passmore, lo Robert Evott, to Henry Lytton, 
to Coxirtico Pounds, to Charles Kenninghaxn, to Durward 
Lcly, to Frank Wyatt, to John le Hay, to William Denny, 
to Richard Temple, to Ruth Vincent, to Geraldinc Ulmar, 
to Isabel Jay, to Nancy Mclntosh, to Louie Pounds, to Agnes 
Fraser, to Deeima Moore, and to Rosina Brandram Rosina 
of the glorious voice that rolled out as full-bodied Burgundy 
rolled down ; Rosina, whoso dismal doom It was to represent 
itnclesiraWa old lacllos of sixty- five, but who, with all the 
resources of the perruquier and the make-up box, could never 
succeed in looking more than an attractive eight-and-twenty 
(it was her only failure) ; to all of these they will hold out 
their hands and implore them to return to the arena in which 
they achieved so many triumphs/' 

In Jannary, 1907, Gilbert wrote to Mrs. Talbot : 

11 Now I'vo a llttto bit of owa for you. It is a profound secret, and 
I haven't told it to anybody* My TOWS Is that has commissioned 
Lord Itwoilyn lo find uut whether I would accept & knighthood, and 



196 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

as I expressed my willingness to do so, it will, I suppose, be conferred 
next May, when the birthday honours are announced. It is a tin-pot, 
twopenny-halfpenny sort of distinction, but as no dramatic author as 
such ever had it for dramatic authorship alone, I felt I ought not to 
refuse it. I suppose it is to be given to me as a sort of impalpable old- 
age pension in consideration of my being a broken-down old ruin. Pos- 
sibly the King may forget all about it (which wouldn't cause me a 
moment's annoyance), but those who know about these things say it 
is sure to be." 

Sir John Vanbrugh, the Restoration dramatist, had, of 
course, been knighted generations before, but this honour 
came to him on account of the hideous architecture that 
survives in Blenheim Palace, and not for his licentious plays, 
Gilbert was knighted on June 30, 1907. The following is 
one of the first letters he wrote as Sir William : 

" 1 went yesterday to the Investiture at Buckingham Palace, and 
was duly tapped on both shoulders by Edward VII, and then kissed 
hands. I found myself politely described in the official list as Mr. William 
Gilbert, playwright, suggesting that my work was analogical to that 
of a wheelwright, or a millwright, or a wain wight, or a shipwright, 
as regards the mechanical character of the process by which our respec- 
tive results are achieved. There is an excellent word * dramatist ' 
which seems to fit the situation, but it is not applied until wo arc dead, 
and then we become dramatists as oxen, sheep, and pigs are tranfigiiral 
into beef, mutton, and pork after their demise. Yon never hear of a 
novel-wright or a picture-might, or a pocm-wrlght ; and why a play- 
wright ? When The Gondoliers was commanded at Windsor by her 
late Majesty, the piece was described as 'by Sir Arthur Sullivan/ 
the librettist being too insignificant an insect to bo worth mentioning 
on a programme which contained the name of the wig-mnkor in hold 
type I And I had to pay ^87 105, as my share of sending the piece 
down to Windsor, besides forfeiting my share of the night 'M profits 
at the Savoy I " 

In a leading article on the birthday honour, The Times 
said : 

" It is almost needless to say anything about Mr, William S. Gilbert, 
whose works have become classical and the object of swell fervtmt 
affection as classics seldom enjoy. Is the knighthood eompcmTOtlcm 
for the temporary ban which was placed on Th& Mikado t or a reward 
for the sublime mockery of the Peers in lolantfa ? 

The value of the title in Gilbert's eyes was solely that it 



THE CROWNING YEARS 197 

was a recognition of the dramatist's craft. This point of 
view is expressed in the letters he wrote in answer to the 
many congratulations he received, He said to Mr. Arthur 
Coke : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

July 3, 1907. 
MY DEAR COKE, 

It gave me infinite pleasure to receive your very kind and cordial 
letter of congi"atulation. The knighthood, per se, is, of course, a mere 
triviality, and, from any but a professional point of view, an unmeaning 
scrap of tinsel ; but it has a somewhat special significance in rny eyes, 
as I am the only dramatic author upon whom, qua dramatic author, 
it has ever been conferredfor Burnand received it for service to the 
Liberal Unionist Party as Kditor of Punch. My first impulse was to 
decline it, but on reconsideration I determined to accept it, for the 
reason 1 have stated. 

With best regards, 

Very sincerely yours, 

W. S. GILBERT 

Writing to Mr, HtrrbtTt Sullivan, Sir Arthur Sullivan's 
nephew, Gilbert said : 



GUIM'S 

HARROW WKALH, 

July 9 1907- 
MY me Ait Suu.rvAN,- 

Thank yon heartily for your kind congratulations, The good. 
will expressed by old and valued friends like ycmraelf is the pleasantcst 

part" of the biiBincHH, to my thinking. 

Very truly yours, 

W, S. GOBBRT 

Few things in Gilbert's lifo appear to have given him greater 

satisfaction than the invitation he received from the Com- 
mittee of the Garrick Club to become one of its members, 
The unqualified recognition of the distinguished position 
won by his art caused Gilbert readily to forget and forgive 

an unpleasant incident that had happened years before. 

Gilbert himself told the story in one of his letters : 

" Fve jiwt boon ulected to th Garrick Club, for which I was black- 
balled thlrty*ovn ngo^-through a canes of mistaken Identity, 



ig8 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

for I was quite unknown then, and the Committee thought they were 
pilling another man. When they discovered their mistake, they asked 
me to put myself up again, but it occurred to me that, as the mistake 
was theirs, it was theirs to rectify it. Moreover, I am not one of those 
who turn the second cheek to the smiter. So matters have remained 
until the other day, when the Committee did me the honour of selecting 
me for immediate election 'on account of my public distinction ' (!). 
As Heaven had signified its displeasure at the action of the Committee 
of thirty-seven years ago by sweeping them off the face of the earth, 
and as I had no quarrel with the present Committee, who are all my 
very good friends, I accepted the honour they had proposed to confer 
on me. And so ' the stone that the builders rejected/ etc/' 

The knighthood and the membership of the Garrick Club 
were followed by two other complimentary dinners, which, it 
is pleasant to record, were largely organized by Mr, Sxalllvan. 
Gilbert's pleasure is expressed in two letters : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

D$c, 24, 1907, 
MY DEAR SULLIVAN, 

Thank you for the oysters you have so kindly sent its. We are 
all prepared to die in excruciating agonies on the altar of friendship. 
I believe I am indebted to you, as well as to Marnliall and Willie 
Mathews, for having inaugurated and fostered the idea of the dinner 
of 2nd Feb. It is the most gratifying compliment that 1 have ever 
received, and I thank you heartily for it. 

Always truly yours, 
W. S, 



GRIM 's DYKK, 
HARROW WEALD, 

Oct. 4, 1908* 
MY DEAR SULLIVAN, 

There is little need to tell you how deeply 1 appreciate tlw good- 
feeling that actuated you in organizing yesterday^ most ttuccwwful 
dinner. It is an instance of friendship that can never fatlo from my 
memory. I know that you will believe that thorn? are no mciro words 
of course, but that they are the inadequate expression ol a fliacoro ami 
lasting gratitude, 

Always sincerely yourn, 
W, S. 



Referring to the enthusiasm with which his speech had 

been received at one of these banquets, he said to a corre- 



THE CROWNING YEARS 199 

spondent : " Even your stony heart would have been softened, 
and you would have said to yourself, ' There must be some- 
thing in the old booby after all/ " 

In many respects Gilbert was a lucky man. He was as 
lucky in meeting Sullivan as Sullivan was in meeting him ; 
he was lucky in the long-sighted managerial policy that gave 
him absolute control of the Savoy stage. He was lucky in 
the smaller things ; he once confessed that he had drawn the 
winner seven times and the second horse twice in the sweep- 
stakes held at his club -a record that must be hard to beat. 
But it was not luck, but genius added to nearly fifty years 
of hard work, that gave Gilbert his great position, 

He said in a speech at a Harrow Speech Day : 

" In proposing the toast, Sir Samuel Hoare has been so good as to 

speak in very complimentary terms of the knighthood which His 
Majesty has been pleased to confer upon me, conferred, I am afraid, 
owing to tho fact that I am the oldest dramatic author now before the 

public, I am not an agricultural labourer, but 1 have this in common 
with a certain typo of worthy ploughman, who in the bygone days was 
awarded by tho Squire with a pair of corduroy breeches, and a crown 
piece in each pocket, in consideration of his having brought up a family 
of fifteen children without extraneous assistance, I have been rewarded 
for having brought ttp a family of 63 plays without ever having had 
to apply to the relieving officer for parochial assistance. HUB knight- 
hood 1 take to bo a sort of commuted old-age ponnion, and may perhaps 
be taken as a sample of tho manner in which the present Government 
will deal with that complicated problem when it comes to tackle it 
two years hence,'* 

Fame was his at the end of his clays. An even greater 
fame is Ms to-day. 



CHAPTER X 
GILBERT AS A LAWYER 

WHEN Gilbert wrote : 
" The law's the true embodiment 
Of everything that's excellent/' 

he was writing something that he certainly believed. The 
law refused him a livelihood, but it remained his first love, 
and " when he went to the Bar as a very young man " he 
took a step destined to be fraught with definite and delightful 
consequences for the world. 

He turned every incident of his brief career as an almost 
briefless barrister to brilliant account, and transmuted dry 
dust to something all glitter and sparkle. It is interesting to 
remember that when Gilbert attended the old North London 
Sessions House at Clerkenwell, only lately disused, Dickens 
was still fulminating against legal abuses. The immortal 
Chancery suit of " Jarndyce v, Jamdycc" had only recently 
come to its tragic end. Mr, Stryver, K,C., and Sydney Carton, 
had not long finished the case which saved the life of Charles 
Darnay, Marquis d'Evremond, Gilbert was a younger con- 
temporary of Eugene Wraybum, the barrister concerned in 
the murder mystery in Our Mutual Friend, 

It is sometimes suggested that Gilbert over-caricatured 
the legal profession, but it must be remembered that he prac- 
tised in a less refined age, and, if the truth be told, Bwsfuz is, 
even now, frequently briefed at the sessions, 

Dickens's lawyers are often villains ; Gilbert's arc generally 
wags. Many of the Bab Ballads have legal subjects, and all 

200 



GILBERT AS A LAWYER 201 

through his life Gilbert had legal friends. One of the most 
intimate of them was that king of court jesters, Sir Frank 
Lockwood, with whom Gilbert had many battles of wit. The 
first success of the great collaboration between Gilbert and 
Sir Arthur Sullivan was purely legal Trial by Jury, It 
captured a public faithful to it ever since, and it is amusing 
to find the only dissentient voice that of a deceased judge. 
In a letter written in 1906, Gilbert said : " I met Kekewich 
the other day. He says he likes all my plays except Trial 
by Jury. He seemed to think that in holding the proceedings 
up to ridicule I was trenching on his prerogative." Mr, 
Justice Kekewich, it may be remembered, was famous for 
having his judgments upset by the Court of Appeal. 

In Gilbert's later days, Trial by Jury was often performed 
at benefit entertainments, and Gilbert delighted in appearing 
himself in the cast in wig and gown. In this connection he 
wrote : 

GRTM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

May 26, 1906. 
DEAR ROWLAND-BROWN, ~ 

I believe you nro off to the midnight stm soon. So I write to 
ask you if you will be wo kind as to lend me your wig and gown for 
Trial by Jtwy (Ellen Terry benefit on, I think, loth June or thereabouts). 

It yon like to end your kit hew, I will take care of it while you are 

away, and promiae it shan't be used for charades or other profane 
entertainments, 

Yours truly, 

W* S. GILBERT 

Again, on June 6, lie writes : " There is to be a dress rehearsal 
of Trial by Jury at 2.30, so that photographs may be taken 
to sell at the performance. Will you lend me your robes/ 1 
That these, having descended from father to son, were de- 
cidedly shabby, he never seemed to care. "Will you sink 
your dignity as a barrister and call wpon my solicitor in 
Lincoln's Inn Field** to execute the appointment of new 
trustees to my marriage settlement ? " reveals him, as always, 
punctilious regarding legal etiquette* 



202 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

An anthology might be made of Gilbert's legal ditties alone. 
In The Pirates of Penzance law is most prominent with the 
police. In Patience it is the solicitor on whom devolves the 
duty of raffling the poet Bunthorne among " twenty love- 
sick maidens." It has become a tradition, by the way, for 
the solicitor to be " made up " in the likeness of the late Sir 
George Lewis. lolanthe with its immortal Lord Chancellor 
is, like Trial by Jury, an intrinsically legal opera. The Sorcerer 
has a notary among the characters, and Ruddigore teems with 
quiet fun of legal origin. In Utopia Limited the Princess 
Zara sings the praises of Sir Bailey-Barrc, Q.C, M.P., and in- 
cidentally summarizes the qualities of the perfect lawyer : 

" A complicated gentleman allow me to present, 
Of all the arts and sciences the terse embodiment. 
He's a great arithmetician who can demonstrate with ease 
That two and two are three or five or anything you please ; 
An eminent logician who can make it clear to yon 
That black is white when looked at from the proper point of view ; 
A marvellous philologist who '11 undertake to show 
That ' yes ' is but another and a neater form of ' no.' " 

In an old number of Pun, Gilbert published a poem called 
" The Middlesex Sessions/' where he had himself practised, 
and for which he does not seem to have retained unquali- 
fied admiration ; 

" Oh, foreigners, wishing to carry away 
Of our legal procedure impressions, 

Don't take any curious specimens, pray, 
From the scenes of the Middlesex S<*sion# 
The blustering Middlesex Sessions 
Disorderly Middlesex Sessions - 
For exceptional quite, 
In our courts, is the sight 
You will see at the Middlesex Sessions. 



" There judge, bar, and jury, as matter of courtie, 
Sot etiqmtte all at defiance ; 

For each in its infallibility's force 
Reposes the firmest reliance. 



GILBERT AS A LAWYER 203 

It does, at the Middlesex Sessions 
Disorderly Middlesex Sessions 

To the others one pin, 

Will neither give in, 
In the cases at Middlesex Sessions," 

Gilbert made fun of law, but he also took it very seriously, 
and he was decidedly litigious. He brought many actions 
in his life, and was dissuaded with difficulty from bringing 
many more. The most famous litigation in which he was 
concerned was the action for libel which he brought in 1898 
against the Era, Miss Fortescue had produced his Fortune 
Hunter at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, and had after- 
wards taken it to Edinburgh, Here Gilbert, who had travelled 
north to see the performance, was interviewed by a local 
newspaper and wrongly reported in a reference to the late 
Mr. Sydney Grundy. The Era made some caustic comments on 
the interview, and the result was the libel action, in which 
Gilbert was represented by Mr. Lawson Walton, Mr. Marshall 
Hall, and Mr, Rowland-Brown. Mr. Carson, as he then was, 
appeared for the defendants. Sir Henry Irving, Sir George 
Alexander, Sir "Herbert Tree, and many other famous players, 
were called as witnesses in the case. The action was perhaps 
unwisely brought, and in the end the jury disagreed. The 
cross-examination of Gilbert by Mr, Carson was amusing, He 
admitted that he had said that English actors spoke blank 
verse exactly like Eton and Harrow boys on Speech Day, and 
that Irving, Tree, and Alexander suffered from a dull mono- 
tony of delivery. When asked if he thought that this was a 
fair criticism, he replied that he knew it to be absolutely 
true. He made many caustic references to the prevailing 
fashion in musical comedy. fl 1 call it bad and the managers 
call it musical comedy/ 1 He admitted he had once trans- 
lated a French play in one night, and had made 3,000 out of 
it. " That was better than the Bar," commented Mr. Carson, 
11 It was better than my cipericnce of it/ 1 was Gilbert's reply* 

In 1895 1 Gilbert brought aa action based OH the suggestion 



204 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

that an American lady journalist had misrepresented him. 
He wrote to Mrs. Carte : 

27, PRINCES GARDENS, S.W., 

Nov. 18, '98. 
DEAR MRS. CARTE, 

I know how terribly busy you are, but if you will spare me an 
hour on Monday or Tuesday (when the trial will probably come on) 
to say that you have known me personally in business for 16 or 18 years 
that during the last ten years or so you have been intimately con- 
nected with the management of the Savoy Theatre- that during that 
time you have had many opportunities of forming an opinion, as to my 
characteristics, and that you have seen nothing in me to suggest that 

1 am a man in whom vanity and egotism have degenerated into a disease 
that I do not desire (as far as you know) to dominate the universe 
and that I am not in the habit of abusing and insulting the actors who 
play in the pieces, I shall be greatly indebted to you. 

I will take care that you are sent for at the very latest moment, 
and that your evidence shall be taken as soon as possible after you 
arrive. 

Yours very truly, 

W, S, GILBERT 

The jury disagreed in this action too, and Gilbert wrote : 

" As you will have seen, the jury disagreed ro were for mo and 

2 against. The Judge summed up like a drunken monkeys-he is In, 
the last stage of senile decay and knew absolutely nothing about the 
case. It was impossible to convince him that I was not; bringing ilw 
action against the interviewer ! It is a frightful scandal that such men 
should be allowed to sit in judgment/* 

In another reference to the case he said; 

" The action was a * walk-over/ But this claim set up by the Ameri- 
can interviewer to interview any European h or she may select and 
burning that European in effigy if ho refuses is an extension of the 
Monroe doctrine in a direction never contemplated (I Jktei sure) by its 
originator. 11 

After he had been appointed J.P, for Middlesex, a large 

part of Gilbert's leisure was spent sitting as a magistrate at 
Edgware petty sessions. He rarely failed to attend, and never 

was there a more careful or a more interested magistrate. It was 
his habit to make full notes of the evidence* Like, Sir Frank 
Lockwood, he used to ornament these notes with clever pen* 



GILBERT AS A LAWYER 



205 





A"! 





SKETCHES IN COUKT 



206 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

and-ink drawings, many of which have been preserved. For 
the unfortunate he had sympathy and kindly understanding, 
as is shown by the following letter written in 1909 to the 
Clerk of the Court : 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

HARROW WEALD, 

May 28, 1909, 
DEAR MR, TOOTELL, 

I can't bear to think of that poor devil going to prison for a month 
on nulla bona, so I enclose a cheque for the amount owing by him. 

Yours, 

W, S. GILBERT 

For offences against the person Gilbert had no sort of mercy. 
He pursued the offender with a sort of bitter zest. He would 
not allow that there could be any sort of defence, and he used 
his legal experience and knowledge to the uttermost limit, 
often, as his colleagues on the Bench testify, with beneficial 
results, Old offenders learnt to dread Gilbert's lash, and 
cowards trembled when they were brought before him. 

Mr. A, K. Carlyon, who for twenty-two years sat on the 
Bench at Edgware with Gilbert, says that he acquired a high 
opinion of the dramatist's legal ability and admired the strict 
sense of justice which characterized his decisions. Mr. Carlyon 
says that cruelty to children or animals made Gilbert very 
wrath, and his sentences for such offences were as severe as 
the law permitted. 

The humorist sometimes appeared on the Bench. One 
morning an old man and woman appeared before him to 
obtain a separation order. In view of their age, the magis- 
trates tried pacification. " Well, but/ 1 said the old woman, 
" he's a nasty old man, he beats me, aid he's got an abscess 
in his back." "Not a case of abscess makes the heart grow 
fonder/' murmured Gilbert to Ms colleagues. 



CHAPTER XI 
GILBERT AT HOME 

IN 1890 Gilbert bought Grlm's Dyke, a beautiful house in 
Harrow Weald, built by Norman Shaw for Frederick 
Goodall, the Victorian painter. This remained Gilbert's 
home until his death, Even thirty years ago, Harrow Weald 
was almost a suburb, but despite tubes and speculative builders, 
G rim's Dyke remains a real country house, its beautiful garden 
affording a clear view northwards to the Chilterns. Grim's 
Dyke was excellently described by the laic Bram Stoker in 
an article iu the World's Magazine: 

" Tho house is large axid has many largo and handsome rooms, all 

of which are stored with objects of interest and beauty- The great 
drawing-room, formerly the painter's studio, which has the dimensions 
and windows of a chapel, is the storehouse of works of art. The fire- 
place, a massive carving in Cornish alabaster some fifteen feet high, 
was designed by Sir William himself, , * . 

** Scattered through the rooms are some lovely cabinets, one of 
great beauty* Italian of the XlVth century, another Japanese three 
hundred years old wrought in lacquer, tortoiseatoell, cedar, ivory, and 
agate. Gn one table In a great ivory goblet German XVIth century 
~on another table is an exquisite sculpture of a cat and kittens 
(Promliictt, 1863), 

" Elsewhere in, the house, scattered among works of art and curios 
of all kinds, are interesting souvenirs of the dramatist's own plays. 
For instance, in the billiard-room is the block and axe so long used in 
ThB Yeomm of tfa Guard, Here too are 250 drawings from the 
Baft Batiad$ framed* In the hall -wherein is a fine suit of steel 
armour ii a huge model of a full-rigged ship* It rests on a sea of 
green and in fourteen feet long, It is a facsimile of one of the 

old three-deckers of a hundred and ten guns sent to the Black Sea 
at the Crimean War the Qm$n, in which Sir Evelyn Wood was a 
midshipman*** 

207 



208 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

This ship was the model for Pinafore, of which Lord Jellicoe 
said, " Not a rope is wrong." 

Gilbert loved Grim's Dyke. It was his home. It was his 
custom to take a London house for a few months in the 
winter, but he was always glad to return to Harrow Weald 
in the spring, even preferring, in the days before he bought 
a motor-car and was busy with new productions, the tedium 
of midnight trains to staying in London. He once told Row- 
land-Brown that he hoped when he died he would be buried 
in his own garden. 

When Gilbert first arrived at Harrow Weald, he was just 
"the man who writes words for Sullivan/' and wealthy 
suburbia could hardly understand how a mere writer could 
contrive to buy such an estate, Gilbert was far too fine a 
gentleman for any arrogant display of wealth, but it was 
unquestionably a matter of great satisfaction to him to prove 
that fortune could be won by literary art as well as by business 
astuteness. Few men ever possessed more of the pride of 
his craft. 

Though Gilbert lavished money on the embellishment of 
the house he loved, his own personal tastes were Spartan. 
His bedroom was barely furnished with a narrow iron bedstead 
and a very simple bookshelf. Gilbert lived very happily at 
Harrow Weald, gaining the complete goodwill of his neighbours. 

He was an admirable host. He once said he liked to sit 
at " a fully decorated table/* and the flowers at Grim's Dyke 
were always exquisite and artistically arranged. Gilbert had 
a sentimental preference for mignonette, but he lovecl all 
flowers, though he once complained of a variety of cineraria 
that " Nature is sometimes too aniline/* He had the Dicken- 
sian habit of wearing a red flower In his buttonhole. 

The men always came from the dining-room very quickly 
at Grim's Dyke, Gilbert preferring to talk to women than to 
men, though certain men, particularly lawyers, like Sir Frank 
Lockwoocl, inspired him to brilliancy of repartee* 

Fancy-dress dinners WTC sometimes given at Grim*s Dyke, 




AT CKIM'B 



GILBERT AT HOME 209 

and Gilbert delighted in making up as a stately Arab chief. 
He liked dancing, and balls were often given at his house, 
when he would reproduce something of his youthful skill in 
performing the Scotch reel. 

Children were favoured guests at Grim's Dyke. " The 
little girl wants me to show her the chickens/' he said on 
one occasion to a roomful of visitors, and went off with an 
air of pleased obedience. 

The Gilbertian children's parties in Harrington Gardens 
were as superior in all ways to all others, as those of Dickens 
as described by Lady Ritchie were to those of his time. Gilbert 
led the revels with the obvious personal delight that Dickens 
himself felt, and thus diffused delight among the small guests. 
There were generally a few children sprinkled about the lawns 
at the Grim's Dyke garden parties, where the numerous pets 
made them very happy. They received an amount of atten- 
tion from the host that grown-ups often envied. 

When he chose, Gilbert was a master of small talk. His 
knack of painting a portrait in a word was peculiarly his own, 
and sometimes pretty, as when he said of that rara avis, a 
real old lady, all lace and brocade and sloping shoulders : 
" She belongs to the early keepsake period/ 1 There was 
uncomplimentary discussion of a matron of too ample pro- 
portions, when Gilbert put in, tolerantly ; " After all, she's 
quite nice, only I prefer a woman to be as long as she is broad/* 
He invariably had a lady on each side at dinner at Ms own 
house. Once, when surrounded by quite a bevy, he was 
asked why he was inconstant , and he answered ; " Because I 
am too good to be true/' 

Looking on at a dance, with an expression of modified 
boredom, he was ironically questioned whether he was enjoy- 
ing himself. " Not at all/ 1 was the rejoinder. " For every 
boy with an eyebrow on the tipper lip takes the pas of me here/ 1 
The same evening he announced that his horses were Bryant 
and May- the perfect match. When a fussy female exclaimed, 
" Sir William, Sir William, there's a wasp on your sleeve 

14 



210 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

you will be stung/' lie looked up unmoved. " I have no great 
opinion of the intellect of the insect, but it is not such a fool 
as to take me for a flower. 

He rarely talked about his work, and was the only person 
who never quoted it ; but occasionally, with his intimates, he 
accepted a challenge for a lightning rhyme. One well worth 
remembering should atone to the village it immortalizes 
for having inspired the worst ever made by Lear : 

" There was a young lady of Pinner, 
Who was a society sinner. 

She went ofi, they say, 

To Paris one day 
And the rest shall be told after dinner." 

It was naturally in talking of matters connected with the stage 
that Gilbert was at his happiest. He described a dancer whose 
scanty attire was causing scandalous tongues to wag as " contri- 
ving to support a bare existence." His scathing " funny without 
being vulgar " regarding a certain " Hamlet " has become 
hackneyed. " Poor Asterisk, he has all the faults of an actor 
without the excuse of being one/' is easily forgiven by those 
exasperated by the colossal conceit of the victim. Another 
player, suffering visibly from a too perfect make-up as Fal- 
staff on a hot night, inquired of Gilbert what he thought of 
his performance, with the result of a note of admiration : 
" My dear fellow, I think your pores act marvellously ! " 

Gilbert had a genuine affection for the amateur actor. He 
was himself fond of acting, and in 1902 he appeared in his 
own Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, of which four performances 
were given in aid of the Bushey Cottage Hospital. The cast 
included Miss Nancy Mclntosh, Lady Crutchley, and the late 
Captain Robert Marshall. Gilbert was splendidly made up 
as the King, and wore his royal robes as to the manner born, 
looking much more like a Shakespearean than a burlesque 
figure. He played the same part afterwards in Lincoln's Inn 
Gardens in aid of the King's College Hospital. An amateur 



GILBERT AT HOME 211 

performance of his Sweethearts, arranged by Gilbert at Stan- 
more in 1904, was followed by a delicious criticism in a local 
paper, which said : " The chief attraction of the afternoon was 
the performance of what is described as an ' original dramatic 
contrast entitled Sweethearts.' This comedy, which was 
first given in 1874, has lost nothing by keeping, and the little 
sketch was delightfully given. It is to be regretted that the 
comedies of Mr. Gilbert have undeservedly lost popularity 
in favour of the witty jingle wedded to the imperishable music 
of Sir Arthur Sullivan." 

The following is the programme of Rosencrantz and Gmlden- 
stern in 1902 : 

"ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN." 

A Tragic Episode in Three Tableaux, 
Founded on an old Danish Legend. 

By 

W. S. Gilbert. 

CAST : 

KING CLAUDIUS (of Denmark) .... Mr, W. S. Gilbert 

QUKKN GERTRUDE ..... ... Miss Nancy Mclntosh 

llAMurr (Queen Gertrude's son, betrothed to 

Ophelia) ..... . . , Captain R. Marshall 

ROSBNCRANT/, (a Courtier, in love with 

Ophelia) ......... Mr. Harry Hughes 

Guit-DENSTERN (a Courtior, not in love with 

Ophelia) , . ..... Mr, H. Rowland-Brown 

FIRST PtAYiw . , ....... Mr. G. Skilbech 

SUCOND PLAYKR . . ...... Miss Mabel Turner 

iA < ....... . Mrs. Charles Crutchley 



Mrs* Kcnclal has told the story of an early and unexpected 

appearance of Gilbert on the stage. Acting was one of the 

many things he did well How many times he rehearsed his 
own plays and operas with amateurs it would be hard to tell, 
How much wholly unexpected patience he showed it is diffi- 
cult to assess. Perhaps his affection for amateurs was partly 

due to their occasional support of his darling theory that 



212 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

acting, being mimetic, was as much a matter of instruction 
as elementary mathematics. There was nothing deeper- 
rooted in Gilbert's creed than the certainty that actors are 
made, not born. It was one of his obsessions. It was amusing 
to note that if he was in the audience at the worst of amateur 
" entertainments," he attended with just the close attention 
he invariably manifested in the theatre. When he acted 
himself, he was always delighted, as the player should be, 
when he had pleased his audience. 

The shelves of the library at Grim's Dyke arc lined by com- 
plete editions of all the best-known authors, but Gilbert was 
no bibliophil in the technical sense, and he possessed no first 
editions. He was a reader, not a collector. As has already 
been said, he loved Dickens, Thackeray, and Tennyson, and 
disliked Jane Austen, though it might have been supposed 
that her irony would have delighted him. For Trollopo he 
always expressed admiration, accounted for possibly by the 
pictures of high-spirited girls whom Trollopc drew. Ho dis- 
liked Kipling, but it is not true to say that he never admired 
the work of younger writers. He was particularly enthu- 
siastic about Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins's Dolly Dialogues, 
which pleased him by their neat craftsmanship. Criminology 
was one of his favourite subjects* Sir Anthony I lope Hawkins 
says: 

11 Wlien we had a house at Racllett, Gilbert came over to oo us 
there, bringing a book containing a lull account oj Mr. William Weftro, 
of atrocious memory. The house was near tho sottno of tho murder 
that Wearc committed, and Gilbert observed thai tho aecomit would 

make cheerful evening reading for us/* 

Gilbert was at one time an admirable conjurer, and bought 
many books on the art of conjuring, which he apparently read 

to good purpose, Trollope and criminals, and Tennyson and 

conjurers* -Gilbertian paradoxes ; yet he twice told Rowland- 
Brown that his favourite book was the Book of Job! launching 
out into unexpected eulogies on its " unique poetic splendour/ 1 
It may be worth noting the rather remarkable common 



GILBERT AT HOME 213 

tastes of Gilbert and Dickens, whom he loved so well. Both 
were excellent conjurers, and both were childlike in their love 
of acting and dressing up. 

Photography was one of Gilbert's favourite amusements in 
his Grim's Dyke days, and he became very expert. He was 
capable of almost infinite patience in small matters of manual 
dexterity, while in concerns of greater importance he was 
often impatient. 

While Gilbert loved the country, he had none of the ordinary 
country gentleman's love of those sports in which killing birds 
and beasts is an essential. When his garden was threatened 
with a plague of rabbits, it was his butler who shot them, 
because he was himself incapable of taking life. He once 
said to Mr. William Archer : 

" I have a constitutional objection to taking life in any form. I 
don't think I ever wittingly killed a black-beetle. It is not humanity 
on my part. I am perfectly willing that other people should Mil things 
for my comfort and advantage. But the mechanism of life is so 
wonderful that I shrink from stopping its action. To tread on a 
black-beetle would be to me like crushing a watch of complex and 
exquisite workmanship. . . . The time will no doubt come when the 
' sport * of the present day will be regarded very much as we regard 
the Spanish bull-fight or the bear-baiting of our ancestors. 11 

Grim's Dyke was the reward of his labours* Its well-kept 
grounds; its shimmering lake alas, to have a tragic history ; 
its opportunities for pleasant local duties; these were the 
things that Gilbert bought with his success, and they were 
the things that he prized the most. In nothing is character 
more clearly defined than in the gifts that a man gives to 
himself when achievement has spelled fortune. It is the 
revelation of Gilbert that he chose to live the life of a country 
gentleman in a beautiful well-kept house on the edge of 
London. 



CHAPTER XII 
GILBERT THE MAN 

IN the preceding chapters there Is, perhaps, sufficient 
material to re-create the character of the man who lives 
in literary history as the author of the Bab Ballads and 
the Savoy opera libretti. We venture to suggest that the 

testimony of old friends and associates, and particularly 
the letters given to the world for the first time in this volume, 
completely disprove the legend that Gilbert was lacking in 
consideration, in kindness, or in courtesy* It is abundantly 
evident that, in his collaboration with Sullivan, lie was amaz- 
ingly ready to subordinate his own judgment, and won his 
own art, to the wishes of the composer. Ills lettors to 
Mr. and Mrs. D'Oyly Carte evidence appreciative friendship 
which even a rather bitter disagreement could not bring 
to ail end. The memories of the players associated with 
him are, memories of kindness and forbearance Gilbert 
was a headstrong and impatient man, easily offended, but 
easily appeased. He would not lightly surrender what ho 
believed were the just privileges of the dramatist, in (lie theatre* 
nor would he suffer without vigorous protest what scorned 
to him unfair criticism or lack of proper appreciation. But 
when once the protest was made, the offence wan soon for- 
gotten and easily forgiven. He had more than one* serious 
squabble with Clement Scott, the famous theatrical critic 
of the Daily Tekgmph, who had been a eolkaguc of his on 
the staff of Fun* We have quoted the angry letter that 
he wrote when Clement Scott repeated Buftmrni's feeble 

214 



GILBERT THE MAN 215 

witticism about Broken Hearts. But when Scott was broken 
and dying, Gilbert remembered nothing but the comradeship 
that had existed between them forty years before. In her 
book, Old Days in Bohemian London, Mrs. Clement Scott 

says : 

" I like to think of Gilbert as the kindly creature of impulse I knew 
him to be, although that knowledge came to me when the dark veil 
of sickness had drawn itself with such a deadly grip about my home. 

" At intervals, when the news of Clement's illness ultimately became 
public property, Gilbert's cards would be found in the letter-box 
with messages of gentle inquiry written upon them. It puzzled me 
to know how they got there, until one afternoon, going out of the door, 
I met W.S.G, face to face coming up the steps. 

" Utterly confused, he turned to go away, but I stopped him, and 
when I told him of Clement's dangerous condition he was genuinely 
overcome. 

" From that moment I don't think Gilbert missed many days without 
calling, writing, or telephoning. He helped me with my work, he wrote 
articles for me, and to his last hour I am sure he never breathed a 
word of what he had done for me. 

** All the bitterness of the past was forgotten and put aside, old 
feuds were buried, and in the historical church at the end of Ely Place, 
Holbom, dedicated to the memory of Saint Ethelrcda, where the 
funeral service was 'chauntcd/ the one being whose eyes were most 
foil of tender tears was Gilbert at least, that is what friends told me, 
and 1 believed them. Doesn't this note strengthen my belief ? 

Train : Kuston to Harrow. GRIM'S DYKE, 

Telephone : 19 Bushey. HARROW WEALD, 

September 18, 1903, 

My BKAR MRS, SCOTT, 

1 am glad yon like the article* It is true, every word of it. 
Will you let me have proofs of the others, which I hope will be of 
some uo to yon ? 

I rettim the letter you sent me. Thank you for letting me read it. 
Haw relieved I shcwld be to hear good news of your poor invalid. 
Are you nure there is no hope ? Will yon ever be ia a position to give 
urn any ? 

Very sincerely yours, 

W. S, GILBERT 

** When I hear others sneering at Gilbert's heartlessness, 1 recall 
tho<s generoua acta of Ms to Clement Scott those journeys that he 
made o frequently, juat to get a stray bit of news of his old comrade ; 



2i6 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

his almost affectionate attitude directly he heard the truth- and I 
smile to myself, as IVe smiled so many times when I've jostled against 
those queer people who live in such a tiny world of their own, a world 
that is full of nothing beyond * I know/ ' I am sure/ ' I am certain/ 
a world which is minus all that is sincere and lacks facts," 

Gilbert was always an alien in Bohemia, He conquered 
the theatre, but it was never his spiritual home. He was 
a man of methodical mind and legal training, caring for simple 
pleasures, with a deep instinctive dislike of poses and poseurs. 
It was inevitable that such a man should be to some extent 
misunderstood in a world where " make-up " is so often 
carried from the stage, to which it belongs, through the stage- 
door, and into the real world, where it is merely ridiculous. 
Even this misunderstanding has been grossly exaggerated, 
and we have it on the authority of Miss Jessie Bond that 
when the break in the Savoy partnership occurred, the players 
were almost unanimously in sympathy with Gilbert, It 
has been shown, too, in certain of the letters that we have 
printed, how determined he was that the chorus and the 
less important members of the company should always be 
treated justly and fairly, He hated injustice, and was always 
on the side of the weak. 

Gilbert had a winsome affection for children and a Tur- 
geniev-like interest in young women and their careers. Aa we 
have already said, he hated killing of all sorts, and wan utterly 
unable to understand how any rational being could find 
amusement in taking life, One of his greatest Mentis was 
an entomologist ; but Gilbert had the same objection to the 
killing of butterflies as to the killing of rabbits, and he never 
discussed entomology with his friend. 

One Sunday afternoon two famous utars arrived 

unexpectedly at Grim's Dyke, They happened on a care- 
fully selected party* Lady Gilbert was painfully aware 
that her husband would not rejoice to hear of their coming. 
So she diplomatically told him they had driven clown from 
London in a one-horse carriage* He at once said ; lf The 



GILBERT THE MAN 217 

horse must be fed, so the man and woman can have some 
dinner." 

Gilbert was immensely interested in the Bushey Heath 
Cottage Hospital, an interest which Lady Gilbert still retains. 
He was its honorary secretary from its beginning until his 
death. He was constant and punctual in his attendance 
at committee meetings, and he was always ready with practical 
suggestions and substantial help. In an entirely unostenta- 
tious manner, he often provided for necessary after-care for 
the patients, and he never missed Christmas entertainments 
and frequently arranged performances for the benefit of the 
hospital. Pain and suffering deeply affected him. When 
he visited the wards, it was with the sort of shyness of a man 
who felt he might be intruding on privacy, all the more to 
be resented in the case of a hospital patient without the means 
of ensuring that seclusion which all sick people desire. 

Many stories could be told of Gilbert's practical and unob- 
trusive kindness. A boy was brought into the Bushey hos- 
pital suffering with a tuberculous ankle. He was ambitious 
to be an architect, and Gilbert, finding he had real talent, 
and realizing the handicap of a long stay in hospital, at once 
provided him with good teachers, and paid all costs, The 
lad was clever and hard-working, and his trouble was so far 
successfully dealt with that he was able to serve for a year 
in the war. When he left the hospital, Gilbert paid the 
premium to an architect, and his prot^g^ is now a prosperous 
professional mam, 

DEC of the Bushey nurses whom Gilbert respected had an 
unusual surname* An audacious application for money came 
to Mm in the same name, and he would not dismiss it till 
he was the writer was " not a relation/' On another 
occasion lie found out that a lady earning her own living 
contracted serious illness in the course of her work* For 
anything like complete recovery, two winters in a warmer 

Gilbert came to the rescue in such 
a that the hard task of acceptance became a pleasure* 



218 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

When the South African war broke out Gilbert remembered 
that he was an old soldier and volunteered for service, and he 
was indignant and bitterly disappointed when he was rejected 
on account of his age he was then sixty-three. However, 
he financed a younger man, who, without such help, would 
have been unable to volunteer. 

Gilbert was generous, and when he gave he always gave 
gracefully. Bishop Welldon, a famous head master of Harrow 
School, says of him : 

" To be the neighbour and the friend of Sir William and Lady 

Gilbert was one of the many privileges attaching to my life at 1 larrow. 
It was, I think, during my headmastership that they came to occupy 

their beautiful estate. Grim 'a Dyke, at Harrow Weald, From that 

time they were pretty frequent visitors to Harrow School, An often 
as they were able* they were always ready to be present on Speech 
Days and oil other special occasions of public interest, and Sir William, 
who became well known to the boys, was sure to be welcomed with 
hearty cheers as ho descended the steps leading Irani the Speech-room. 
Not infrequently I was their guest, for they were good enough to 
suggest that I should drive over to Harrow Weald, generally ou 
Sunday evenings, after service in the School Chapel, to meet their 
friends, among them being often well-known actons and actrcww, whom 
It was naturally easier for them to entertain on Sundays than ou other 
days of the week. Sir William was at hin bent on these Sunday even- 
ings. He was not one of those writers who keep all their witticism 
for their books or plays. His conversation wan an sparkling UH hin 
comedies, I can recall quite a number of MB auwtie yet kindly Morion 
relating to people with whom ho wa not, or pretended not to ln\ on 
good terms. But alas I ho was a sufferer from gout, and utmietimeg 
when 1 have gone to Ms hoiwo hoping for a talk with him, h<* wnn 
unable to join Ms party at the dinner-table. It In not ptrlw)> teitllml 
that Ms jests bubbled up from a fountain whew waters* wort* watt*n* 
of bitterness. He made the world laugh at time* while h Itlmwdf 
was lying in pain. 

"It Is impossible, I think, to ovor-e&timatc the clttbt of Society to 
the authors who have shown that the riclwwt humour may tw this 
purest too, and that there is no nticetwary or natural conmwtion Iwtwwm 
fun and folly or sin, Cervantes is otttt of thorns author*! ; MoWw ti 
another* But the wealth ol clear and clean humour way lx$ mild to 
be in an especial dagreo the ornament of Englifth HtwiUtrct, It 
seen in Addteon, in Thackeray; above all, in DickaitB. Nolnwly, I, 
suppose, haft ever thrown round the world *uch a girdln of innocent 
laughter as Die tons* With men lika Sir William Giltxirt 



GILBERT THE MAN 219 

to rank. Gilbertian humour is a thing by itself : subtle, whimsical, 
paradoxical, even absurd, but always pure. It has created numerous 
innocent scenes which live in the memory of all English-speaking 
people. It has given a new adjective to the English language. 

" There have been few such artistic partnerships as that of Sir 
William Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. I used to think at Harrow 
that the partnership of Mr. E. Bo wen and Mr. John Farmer in the 
composition of the school songs was a little like it. But it has enriched 
England, and, I may almost say, the British Empire, with the names 
and characters, with poems and melodies, which can never die. 

" It was not my fortune to see much of the serious side underlying 
Sir William Gilbert's merriment, but I know that it was not wanting. 
I have been told that his favourite book, not only in the Bible, but in 
all literature, was the Book of Job. Perhaps it was the book which 
most appealed to him. in his hours of suffering, when he felt all the 
dignity and the mystery of its soliloquies upon the eternal problems 
of life. 

" Sir William Gilbert by his death left a void which has not been 
filled, and which will possibly never be liilecl, among his fellow-country- 
men. Englishmen greater perhapH and cleverer, men of wider know- 
ledge and deeper learning, more highly cultivated, more influential 
than ho, may pass away and be forgotten. Other men rise up and 
fill their places. But Sir William Gilbert was uniquely loved while 
he lived, and IUIH been uniquely mourned since Ms death, because there 
has* not been, and perliax>8 cauuot be, anyone quite like him ; and the 
Mends (o whom I claim to be one) who were glad and proud to be 
the uAHOcintos of his earthly life feel ever more and more keenly, as 
the yearn How onward, the greatness of the privilege that once was 
theirs," 



CHAPTER XIII 
THE LAST DAY AND AFTERWARDS 

GILBERT once said suddenly : " I should like to die 
upon a summer clay in my own garden/ 1 The wish 
was fulfilled in a way of which he had never dreamed* 
Nothing became Gilbert better in a long life, marked with 

many evidences of high courage, than the way he ended it. 

The last day, May 29, 1911, dawned upon a glory of flowers 
and sunshine. Grim's Dyke was ablaze with masses of rhodo- 
dendrons, It seemed, in the great heat, as if summer had 
outstripped spring. How was it spent ? The short story 
of these last hours has a fragrance giving it pathetic interest, 
irradiated as they were by pleasant words and kindly deeds. 

The morning was happily spent at Chelsea with Sir Charles 
and Lady Crutchley, for many years among his real intimates, 
and Lady Crutchiey herself best tells how it passed : 

" On the day of Ms death, Sir William CAIWI to th Royal Hospital 
to aee the Annual Parade and Inspection, which wan, awl In wtill, known 

as Oak-apple Day, Lord Roberts held the Ia#{WtttUm, and my htwbaud 
was then Lieut-Governor at the Hospital. Sir William had amw uacli 
year to the Inspection since my husband WUH appointed LlMit>Gov<rnor, 
and always took the greatmt intereHt in tho Parade, nncl in tha Pen- 
sioners, I remember asking him if ho would not lay to luncheon, 
but he said he wanted to nee Fortteuo, who had Ixttsti ill, and 
must then htirry back to Grim's Dyke, as h had mttdo an appointment 
to bathe in the lake with two girls. H went off with a ehtwy good- 
bye, and that was the last time 1 



The following note to Winifred Emery* nieces of Mm 
Cyril Maude, explains the engagement to which Lady Crutchloy 
refers ; 



THE LAST DAY AND AFTERWARDS 221 

GRIM'S DYKE, 

May 28, 1911. 
DEAR Miss EMERY, 

I believe you arranged to come over and swim to-morrow (Mon- 
day). I am going to town on that morning, and shall return by the 3.20 
Great Central, which arrives at Harrow-on-the-Hill at 3.38. I will 
drive you (and your young lady pupil if she likes to come) to Grim's 
Dyke in my motor. 

Yours truly, 

W. S. GILBERT 

On this bright May day Gilbert was in the best of health 
and spirits, cheered, no doubt, by the marked success of the 
macabre Hooligan, which had given him another much-desired 
triumph for a piece of serious dramatic work. 

On leaving Chelsea, he went to the Junior Carlton Club 
for lunch. It has been told by Mrs, Kendal, in her frank 
avowal of hot altercations and warm reconciliations, how 
the breach with Gilbert was healed after many years. She 
and her husband met him at a London dinner-party, where 
the old relations were renewed* She added : 

" We wore not quarrelsome people, and we were very glad. We 
were gladder .still when something else happened. For on May 29, 1911, 
Gilbert came into the Junior Carlton, wliere ray husband was lunching 
at a table alone, and said, * Kcudal, may I sit down with you ? ' and 
they lunched together very pleasantly. In the evening we heard he 
had been drowned in his own lake/' 

The two had surely gossiped of the far-away theatrical 
days before Savoy opera flashed upon the eager town, of 
the time when Gilbert's dream of fame as a poetic dramatist 

was vastly stimulated by the aid of such artists as Mrs, Kendal 
and Miss Marion Terry. 

Savoy opera had an interesting link with the events of 
the last day, for when he left the Junior Carlton it was, as 
he told Lady Crutchley, to go to see one who had not only 
been the loveliest of the " twenty love-sick maidens " in 
PatiwuM, but who had a real claim on his friendship, for Miss 
Fortescuo, in her long years of popular provincial management, 
had scored great successes with the plays that he loved best. 



222 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

They had maintained an unbroken friendship for many years. 
" And the past and its dear histories, and youth and its 
hopes and passions, and tones and looks, for ever echoing in 
the heart, and present in the memory/* Gilbert once quoted 
Thackeray's words in a low voice as if they greatly moved 
him. They might have been in his mind as the end drew 
near, with far-away memories clustering about its coming. 
Miss Fortcscue has herself told what happened : 

" The last visit Gilbert ever paid was to me, on the last day of all, 
on his way back from Chelsea Hospital. 1 had had a bad accident 
In the Park, and had been thrown from my horse on the back of my 

head, so that the optic nerves were alleetecl, and I had to bo kept in 
almost complete darkness. My mother had told him this, and he 
wrote at once to ask if he might come and see me, in the midst of his 
many engagements at the height of the season. * I won't ask what 
you think of her appearance, for you can scarcely see her/ remarked 
my mother. * Her appearance matters nothing. It; is her disappear- 
ance we could not stand/ was the quirk reply. This was the pretty 
parting word- Gilbert's last jest, 11 

" Gilbert was no plaster saint, but Iw wan the host of friends/' 
was Miss Fortescue's conclusion of the whole matter. It is 

good to think of him cheering the invalid by his kindness a 

few hours before his own death. 

There has been an infinite variety of inaccuracies regarding 
the short and simple annals of the end* Mrs* Guscoync, then 

Miss Winifred Emery, niece to Mrs* Cyril Maude, lias told 
us what happened, 

f * Sir William Gilbert was teaching w* to tiwim, Ami he invited me 
and a pupil of miuo to Grim'H Dyke on May a;th. W wet hint At 
Harrow station and motored to (trim*** Dyke* mid went **trai#ht to th< 
bathing pool. My pupil and I wrn* In tho water Imfom Sir William 
had made an appearance. It was a very hot day, but tho water struck 
very cold, My pupil wits a much better tiwiumuT ihuu l # and aoou 
outdistanced IKUS, We were both unaware that thw luku wiui deep 
further out, and prottently who tried to touch bottom ami found 
herself out of her depth, She nhrtokwi out, ' Oh, Emery, 1 am 
drowning I ' I called to Sir William, who wan em the itepn^ ami Im 
called out to her not to be frightened, and that hn wtw coming. He 
swam out to her very quickly, and I heard him y : * Put your 
on my shoulders and don't struggle/ Thtauhe dki, but ulmo*t immc- 



THE LAST DAY AND AFTERWARDS 223 

diately she called out that he had sunk under her hand and had not 
come up. We both called to him, but got no answer. I tried to reach 
them, but soon got out of my depth and could do nothing but call 
for help. My pupil managed to struggle to the bank, and presently 
the gardener came and got out the boat, but it seemed a long time 
before they recovered the body." 

So died a very gallant gentleman 1 

Life was extinct before the arrival of Dr. Shacldeton, and 
later Dr. Wilson ; and Miss Costello, the nurse from Bushey 
Cottage Hospital, who performed the last duties, has men- 
tioned that as there was no water in the lungs, the instan- 
taneous death was not due to drowning. Mrs. Gascoyne's 
statement shows it to be indubitable that he acted on the 
certainty that he was answering a cry for help from one in 
xirgent need. It was a splendid death for a man of seventy- 
four, still active and determined, of high courage, impatient 
of physical suffering, fearful, above all, of mental decay ; a 
far better end, indeed, than months of lingering illness. The 
last lino of The Hooligan was thus strangely spoken by the 
doctors-" DeadHeart Failure/' Nor was the customary 
Gilbcrtian paradox lacking, inasmuch as his picturesque pet 
plaything, the little artificial lake, was the cause and scene of 
his death. 

No one has ever bathed there since. It is a place of silence, 
whore London seems a thousand miles away. In May the 
tiny island in the centre of the lake flames with rosy azaleas* 
The water's edge is fringed with golden iris and forget-me- 
nots, and beside the winding pathway there is white heather 
for good fortune. It is all set in a greenwood carpeted with 
half -uncurled bracken ferns, where the shadowy fading blue- 
bells might be fancied to ring a muffled peal from fairyland. 

A more perfect clay than Gilbert's last never dawned, and 
if Ms spirit could return, there is bizarre company for it, for 
quite near and much the worse for wear is the one statue of 
Charles II, removed by the Blackwells former owners of the 
land from Soho Square. The presence of the king "who 



224 W, S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

never said a foolish thing " does not seem quite inappro- 
priate. 

Miss Cora Pillans, the matron of the Bushey hospital, 
who speedily followed Miss Costcllo, bears testimony to the 
dignity of Gilbert in death. There was no suggestion of 
any struggle disturbing the calm serenity of expression, and a 
friend who stood alone in the still presence in the twilight 
has said : '* There was the strongest likeness to Socrates." 

Lady Gilbert's near relatives being distant, many duties 
they felt to be privileged devolved on Rowland-Brown and 
upon Sir Charles Crutchlcy, who came to Grim's Dyke imme- 
diately. The genuine grief of the servants said much, espe- 
cially that of the faithful and attached butler, Warrilow a 
quaint personality, once a music-hall performer, who remained 
with Lady Gilbert till his death in 1921. 

The inquest was held on May 31, a tropical clay crashing 
into a violent thunderstorm. 

Early upon the brilliant morning of June! 2, the body of 
Sir William Gilbert was cremated at Golder's Groen. Gilbert 
held strong views in favour of cremation, and it wan no surprise 
to find it directed by him. In accordance with the wish of 
Lady Gilbert, and in real harmony with the austere side of a 
mind to which funeral pomp would have been abhorrent, the 
arrangements for the burial of the urn in Groat Stanmore 
churchyard were of the simplest. Thret? hundred wreaths 
lay fading in the sun, among them one from Mr, Whitelaw 
Reid, then American Ambassador, and of them all, surely 
Gilbert would have been best pleased by a namclm trophy 
of roses " from Ms little Columbine," who had danced with 
him in those gay clays when it was said of him that never 
was such a harlequin. 

Among those present at the funeral ware Lord Mersey, Sir 
Francis ami Lady Burnand, Sir Arthur Wiusro, Sir C. Montague 
Lush, Mr- Arthur Collins, Sir A, Scott-Gatty, Mr, Cyril Maudu, 
Mr, Arthur Bourchior, Sir John and Lady Hare, Lady Tree, 
Sir Hubert von Hcrkomer, Mr, Rupert b'Oyly Carte, Lord 



THE LAST DAY AND AFTERWARDS 225 

Burnham, Sir L. Alma-Tadema, Sir Charles Matthews, Mr. 
A. Gray, K.C., and Sir Squire and Lady Bancroft. 

The beautiful figure of an angel, the work of Mr. Pomeroy, 
A.R.A., watches over a plain slab of white marble inscribed 
only with name and dates. " The source of innocent merri- 
ment " had no need of the tombstone eulogy he of all men 
would have most despised. Lady Gilbert erected a memorial 
tablet with bas-relief portrait in Harrow Weald church, the 
work of Sir Bertram Mackennal, R.A. As a likeness it is 
less striking than that which was a labour of love to Sir George 
Frampton, R.A. 

Sir George Frampton's bronze medallion, with its graceful 
figures of Comedy and Tragedy, was most happily inspired, 
and is excellent as a portrait. It stands appropriately opposite 
Charing Cross Station, close to the memorial to Sir Arthur 
Sullivan. The inscription is worthy of it, and regarding it 
Sir Anthony Hope writes : 

" Whilst on the committee of the Authors' Society I had something 
to do with the memorial. The words on the memorial are mine, except 
that I put them into prose first.' Folly was his foe, and wit his weapon * 
and somebody (I forget who) pointed out that, transposed, they would 
make a line, and this was adopted/* 

From a note in his diary it would seem as if the more 
euphonious version came from Rowland-Brown, who selected 
the text from the Proverbs for Harrow Weald church, " The 
tongue of the just is as choice silver," for, like Mr. Carlyon, 
he had always been struck with Gilbert's strictly just attitude 
upon the Bench and elsewhere. 

Sir William Gilbert's estate was valued for probate at 
110,971. Sir Arthur Sullivan left estate of the gross value 
of 54,527, and Mr. D'Qyly Carte 240,817. Gilbert's will is 
interesting because of the large benefits that will ultimately 
accrue to the two principal theatrical charities, 

The executors of his will were his widow and Miss Nancy 
Mclntosh, both of Grim's Dyke, and Mr. Percival Birkett, 
solicitor. Sir William Gilbert left the portraits of 

15 



226 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

by Frank Holl, R.A., and Herman Gustave Herkomer, and the 
bronze statuette of himself by Andrea Lucchesi, to his wife for 
life, and, subject thereto, he left his portrait by Holl to the 
National Portrait Gallery, and if it should not be accepted 
by the trustees, then to the Garrick Club, whom failing, to 
Miss Nancy Mclntosh, and his portrait by Herkomer to Miss 
Nancy Mclntosh, and the bronze statuette of himself by 
Andrea Lucchesi to Cora Pillans, matron of the Bushcy Heath 
Cottage Hospital 

He left his leasehold premises, the Garrick Theatre, with 
fixtures, fittings, etc., to his wife for life, with remainder 
to Miss Nancy Mclntosh for life, and ultimate remainder to 
the Actors' Benevolent Fund, " absolutely for the benefit of the 
said fund, to be retained, sold, or otherwise dealt with as 
the Executive Committee for the time being of the said fund 
in their absolute discretion shall think most desirable in the 
interests of the said fund," He bequeathed 200 to the 
Bushey Heath Cottage Hospital ; ^100 to Cora Pillans ; 5 
for each completed year of service to his butler, cook-house* 
keeper, lady's-maid, head housemaid, head gardener, head 
chauffeur, and his bailiff in his service at his decease and 
not under notice to leave for misconduct ; 3 for each com- 
pleted year of service similarly to each indoor undertenant 
and his second chauffeur ; 2 for each completed year of 
service similarly to each of his gardeners, labourers (including 
cowman and night watchman) employed at Grim's Dyke. 
His stock of cigars Is to be divided equally between Carlo 
Perugini and Henry Rowland-Brown ; his microscopes and 
fittings by Beck to Henry Rowland Brown ; his cameras and 
photographic apparatus to Arthur Helsham* Jones, J.I'., of 
Billericay, Essex, 100 each for the purchase of mementoes 
goes to A. H. Brown ; Sybil, wife of Major-General Crutchlcy ; 
Mabel, wife of Captain Gordon Dugdalc ; Annie Gordon 
Scott ; and Mary, wife of Major Talbot, of Balcombc, Sussex ; 
and 100 each goes to Carlo Pcrugini, Sybil Carlisle, Mary 
Gilham, and Rachel, wife of Major Neil le Mestarier* 



THE LAST DAY AND AFTERWARDS 227 

The testator left to Ms wife his residence, Grim's Dyke, 
and all his effects there not otherwise disposed of, his cash in 
house or at bank, stocks and shares in his name, and copy- 
rights, and all other leasehold properties not otherwise be- 
queathed. He left the residue of his property to his wife 
for life, with remainder as to one-half equally between Stan- 
ley Weigall and his wife, Mary Weigall ; Mary, daughter of the 
late Alfred Weigall, of Salisbury ; Captain Harold Turner and 
Captain Herbert Guy Turner, sons of Major -General Turner; 
but the bequests to each of these five legatees is not to exceed 
4,000, and any balance goes to the Royal General Theatrical 
Fund. The other half is to be divided equally between the 
Rev. Gilbert Weigall, Edith Weigall, the Rev. Spencer Weigall, 
Howard Weigall, Harold Weigall, Cyril Weigall, Mary Wise, 
Dorothy Weigall, and Audrey Weigall, the share of each of 
these nine legatees being limited to 1,000, and any balance 
being payable to the Royal General Theatrical Fund. He 
expressed the wish that his wife should keep up his subscrip- 
tion of 21 per annum to the " Kitty Cot " in the Victoria 
Hospital for Children at Chelsea, and that of 10 guineas per 
annum to the Bushey Heath Cottage Hospital, and that she 
should, by her will, leave her residuary estate upon the same 
trusts, as far as practicable, as those upon which he had left 
the residue of Ms own property. 



CHAPTER XIV 
GILBERT THE ARTIST 

CHARLES DICKENS and William Schwcnk Gilbert 
were the two greatest English humorous writers of 
the Victorian era. As a writer of humorous verse, 
Gilbert has no peer in English literature. As a dramatist, 
in one of the most fortunate collaborations in history, he gave 
to the English theatre its first considerable drama for many 
generations. The story of the English drama has no parallel 
in the records of any other art. It begins with the splendour 
of Shakespeare, and then for two and a half centuries there 
follows a period of almost unbroken barrenness. We do not 
forget Congreve, but what is Congreve compared with Molidre ? 
And the other Restoration dramatists appear to us to be rated, 
largely, perhaps, owing to the enthusiasm of ("harks Lamb, 
far above their artistic merits, We do not forget Sheridan, 
but what is Sheridan but Congreve in a more genteel guise, ? 
And after Sheridan, who is there until the first Gilbert and 
Sullivan operetta was produced at the Opdra-Comique in 
1877 ? No one but a theatrical expert can even remember 
the names of the dramatists who wrote for the theatre during 
the first two-thirds of the last century, with the possible 
exception of that of Tom Robertson, whose lf bread-and- 
butter " comedies were applauded as realistic, so hopeless 
was the bombastic artificiality of the drama of the time. As 
Mr. Shaw once wrote, Robertson arrived " after years of sham 
heroics and superfluous balderdash. 1 * 

Gilbert and S^liYaP operas are a popular national 

228 




Slk (iKOMlSK KRAMl'TON'S MliHAUJON ON TIIF VICTORIA KM14ANKMBNT 



GILBERT THE ARTIST 229 

possession, rivalled only in their widespread and appar- 
ently permanent appeal by the plays of Shakespeare and 
the novels of Dickens. They brought living and enduring 
art into a valley of dead bones. Gilbert, as Mr. Archer 
has said, "restored the literary self-respect of the English 
stage." 

The first fact of immense interest in Gilbert's career is that 
his genius was sharply limited and defined. He was a humo- 
rist with a great technical equipment as a writer of verse and 
as a constructor of plays. When he ceased to be a humorist, 
when he turned on the one hand to satire, or on the other hand 
to sentiment, his work becomes artificial and far less techni- 
cally excellent. The rhyming and the rhythm of his topsy- 
turvy poems are delightful. The satirical verses are almost 
always on a lower level. The blank verse is smooth, but 
comparatively undistinguished. 

Gilbert was a great Victorian. He had all the prejudices 
of a Victorian of the professional class. He distrusted en- 
thusiasms and mocked at emotion. He had none of Dickens's 
tremendous sympathy. He disliked all "movements/' and 
was irritated by most reformers. While at heart a Tory of 
the most die-hard description, he had as little respect for 
highly placed personages as Palmerston had for the Prince 
Consort. He was almost fiercely English, but he laughed at 
jingoism* In an admirable essay written after Gilbert's 
death, Mr, Chesterton pointed out that his description of 
the English as a stupid people evidenced almost complete 
misunderstanding, The English are neither stupid nor 
humourless. Like the Bishop of Rum-ti-Foo, they never fail 
in appreciation of a joke. The common English failing, as 
Mr. Chesterton says, is to miss the fact that the humorist, the 
Dickens or the Gilbert, is generally laughing at the English 
themselves. 

As a framework for Ms humour Gilbert invented the Topsy- 
turvydom, which has come to be generally known as " Gilbert- 
ian," and which consists in giving to Ms characters qualities 



230 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

exactly opposite to those that they would possess in real life, 
Gilbert created what Maurice Baring has well called a " cuckoo- 
land," in which it is only the possible that never happens. 
This cuckoo-land came into being when he wrote the first 
Bab Ballad, and it was the scene of almost all his libretti. In 
his creation of Topsy-turvydom Gilbert was to some extent 
anticipated by Gay. The Beggar's Opera is Gilbcrtian. Gay's 
highwayman is of the same breed as Gilbert's Lord Chancellor. 
But it is to a far greater than Gay that Gilbert lias been, as 
it seems to us, justly compared, The atmosphere of Gilbert 
is the atmosphere of Aristophanes. Mr, Walter Sichcl has 
said that the world both of Aristophanes and Gilbert " is one 
not of nonsense, but of sense upside clown* It laughs thought 
into us. And though it is in both cases a sphere as light as 
down, it is not ethereal, but a borderland between empyrean 
and the too solid earth/* Aristophanes is the greater artist. 
He wrote with a fierce indignation which Gilbert never felt ; 
he employed his supreme irony to pillory gross evils, Gilbert, 
for the most part, is content to emphasise the absurdity of 
smaller foibles. Aristophanes was partly Crusader, partly 
Jeremiah. Gilbert, again to quote Mr. Sichd, was the apostle 
of "cultivated common sense/' 

It was indeed common sense for which Gilbert; always stood. 
He often makes common sense stand on its head, but that is 
only done to prove to us its uncommon merits. Like, most 
men who tilt at sentiment, Gilbert was at heart a aentimeu- 
talist, as is proved by his letters and the Incidents of his life, 
His literary enthusiasms were for Tennyson, Thackeray, and 
Dickens unlike in everything except that each, in his own 
manner, was a Victorian scntimcntalistattd h disliked the* 
unsentimental realism of Jane Austen, For all this* It is not 
altogether paradoxical that Gilbert, who revelled in paradox, 
should often be compared to Mr. Bernard Shaw, who has 
described himself as " the most humorously extravagant 
paradoxer in London/' Mr, Shaw has far wider interests 
than Gilbert had, and the opinions and prejudices of the two 



GILBERT THE ARTIST 231 

men are as the poles asunder. But " common sense " is the 
foible of them both, compelling them to fling realistic stones 
at romantic illusions. In Arms and the Man, for instance, 
Shaw attacks the idea that a soldier is necessarily a strutting 
hero, unaffected by fatigue and nerves, and surely the police- 
men in The Pirates of Penzance are very near relatives of the 
chocolate-cream soldier, Mr. Shaw has a genius for the 
creation of self-assured common-sense women, and Lady 
Cecily Waynflete in Captain Brassbound's Conversion might 
sing with Yum- Yum in The Mikado: 

" Ah, pray, make no mistake, 

We are not shy I 
We're very wide awake, 
The moon and I." 

There is hardly any sentiment in Mr. Shaw. Gilbert was a 
sentimentalist tempered by common sense, and his common 
sense and his vision led him to anticipate Mr. Shaw in laugh- 
ing at love-making and romance, and in the libretti his atti- 
tude to love is certainly not " to worship it, deify it, and 
imply that it alone makes our life worth living/' Lady Cecily 
Waynflete declares : " I've married no less than seventeen 
men to other women. And they all opened the subject by 
saying that they would never marry anybody but me." And 
Gilbert loved to suggest that it really does not matter whom 
one marries so long as the normal man selects the normal 
woman, 

The dragoons in Patience cheerfully sing, " We don't care, 
we don't care/' when they are thrown over by their young 
women, and in the same opera there is the famous gibe at the 
posing imitation passion of the people who are nowadays 
described as the " intelligentzia" ; 

41 Then a sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion must excite your 

languid spleen, 
An attachment & la Plato for a bashful young potato, or a too-too 

French French bean 1 



232 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle in the 

high aesthetic band, 
If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your mediaeval 

hand. 

And every one will say, 
As you walk your flowery way, 
If he's content with a vegetable love, which would certainly not 

suit me, 
Why what a most particularly pure young man this pure young 

man must be 1 " 

Nevertheless, Gilbert here very tmlikc Mr, Shaw could 
write charmingly of love : 

" Love that no wrong can cure, 

Love that is always new, 
That is the love that's pure, 
That is the love that's true I " 

For the English girl, even more unsentimental in these 
strenuous athletic days than she was forty years ago, 
Gilbert had an unqualified regard, again because common 
sense and not sentimentality recognizes her quality and 
charm; 

" Her soul is sweet as the ocean air, 

For prudery knows no hav< v n tluw ; 
To find mock-modesty, please apply 
To the conscious bluh and tlws downwwd eye. 

Rich in the things couttmtmtmt brings, 

In every pure enjoyment wealthy. 

Blithe as a beautiful bird she sirtgn. 

For body and mind are halo and healthy* 

Her eyes they thrill with a right goodwill- 

Her heart is as light as a floating ftiathe*r, 

As pure and bright as the mountain rill 

That leaps and laughs in the Highlntut ht;atln*r I ** 

Mr. Shaw is the hero, or the heroine, of all bin playn. It 
was not Gilbert's habit often to exploit his own personality 

in his plays, but it is fair to that Jack Point in T/iu 

Yeomen of the Guard is, at least to some ttxtont, the author 
himself, and Jack Point's fairly to represent 

Gilbert's own view of himself as an arttet : 



GILBERT THE ARTIST 233 

" I've jest and joke, 
And quip and crank, 
For lowly folk 
And men of rank. 
I ply my craft 
And know no fear, 
I aim my shaft 
At prince or peer. 

At peer or prince at prince or peer 
I aim my shaft and know no fear. 

" IVe wisdom from the East and from the West, 
That's subject to no academic rule ; 
You may find in it the jeering of a jest, 
Or distil it from the folly of a fool. 
I can teach you with a quip, if I've a mind ; 
I can trick you into learning with a laugh ; 
Oh, winnow all my folly, and you'll find 
A grain or two of truth among the chajff 1 

" I can set a braggart quailing with a quip, 
The upstart I can wither with a whim ; 
He may wear a merry laugh upon his lip, 
But his laughter has an echo that is grim. 
When they're offered to the world in merry guise, 
Unpleasant truths are swallowed with a will 
For he who'd make his fellow-creatures wise 
Should always gild the philosophic pill 1 " 

While in his personal life Gilbert had a genuine and diffident 
respect for sorrow and trouble, lie had little knowledge of the 
life of the poor and no sympathy whatever with the political 
and social demands of the wage-earning classes. In The 
Sorcerer one of the characters describes the working man as 
" a noble creature when he is quite sober ; " and in the Gon- 
doliers writing of the king, who was eager to abolish social 
distinctions, he concludes : 

11 When every one is somebodee, 
Then no one's anybody. 1 ' 

But if he was no democrat, Gilbert was no panderer 

to high position. Politicians always moved his deepest 

scorn : 



234 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" Ye supple M.P.'s who go clown on your knees, 

Your precious Identity sinking, 
And vote black and white as your leaders indite 

(Which saves you the trouble of thinking). 
For your country's good fame, her repute, or her shame, 

You don't care the snuff of a candle- 

But you're paid for your game when yew 're told that your name 
Will be graced by a baronet's handle. 

Oh, allow me to give yoti a word of advice, 
The title's uncommonly clear at the price," 

He hated philanthropists as much as he hated politicians, 
and while the accusation that Gilbert took a rather cruel 
delight in laughing at the waning charms of elderly women 
cannot be denied, it is the old woman posing as a girl at whom 
he laughs, and not the old woman content with dignified age. 

The writer of a Quarterly Review article that appeared some 
twenty-five years ago said : 

"The world of Mr, Gilbert is a farce, and on the whole a norry 
farce withal; ho is something of a melancholy 



This assertion is justified by the song in The 



Q life-long, xvc can turvt*r 
Straighten out; lifa'g ttuigkd nkein, 
Why should wc% in vain nulmvtmr, 
Giitiss and guess and gttmn again f 

Life'H a pudding full of plums, 

Care's a canker that Itt'numki. 
Wherefore wate our elocution 
On impossible solution ? 
Life's a pleasant institution, 

Let us take it an It comt'N I 

* Sot asida the dull enigma, 

Wo shall it all too oon ; 

Failure brings no kind of utigmtv ** 
Dance we to another tutw I 

String tho lyre and III! the cup, 
Lest on narrow wet tthemld 
Hop ami skip to Fancy's fiddle, 

Ifancii iiml down the 

Life's perhap the only riddle 

That wtt slirink frtim giving wp I 



GILBERT THE ARTIST 235 

On the other hand Gilbert writes in Ruddigore : 

" Every season has its cheer, 
Life is lovely all the year/ 1 

And there is certainly no pessimism in the exquisite lines : 

Is life a boon ? 

If so, it must befall 

That Death, when'er he call, 
Must call too soon. 

Though four-score years he give, 

Yet one would pray to live 
Another moon I 

What kind of plaint have I 

Who perish in July ? 

I might have had to die 
Perchance in June." 

Gilbert's resemblance to Aristophanes does not only lie in 
his attitude to life and his ironic comments on contemptible 
shams and impostures. There is in Hookham Frere's metrical 
translation of Aristophanes an extraordinary suggestion both 
of Gilbertian matter and manner. Aristophanes speaks of a 
poet: 

" That so oft on the stage, in the flower of his age, 
Had defeated the chorus his rivals had led, 

With, his sounds of all sort that were uttered in sport, 

With whims and vagaries unheard of before, 

With feathers and wings and a thousand gay things 

That in frolicsome fancies his choruses wore/' 

Gilbert was something more than a witty commentator on 
life. He was a poet with a gift of what has well been called 
" madrigal melody/' and he is the author of many lyrics 
almost equal in beauty to those of Tennyson himself, even 
though they lack the passion that is the lyric's glory. One 
could prove this assertion by dozens of examples, among them 
this from Patience : 

" Love is a plaintive song, 

Sung by a suffering maid, 
Telling a tale of wrong, 
Telling of hope betrayed* 



236 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" Tuned to each changing note, 

Sorry when he is sad, 
Blind to his every mote, 
Merry when he is glad ! 

" Love that no wrong can cure, 

Love that is always new, 
That is the love that's pure, 
That is the love that's true 1 " 

There is, too, a " perfume of Herrick " in the song in Princess 
Ida : 

"Whom tliou hast chained must wear his chain, 

Thou canst not set him free; 
Ho wrestles with his bonds in vain 

Who lives by loving thee 1 

" If heart of stone for heart of firo, 

Be all thou hast to giv<\ 
If dead to mo my heart *H desire*, 
Why should I wish to live ? " 

As a writer of nonsense verses, ingenious in their rhymes 
and audacious in their surprises, Gilbert is supreme in our 
literature, Calverlcy being, indeed, his only possible* rival. 

He can at times write such dreadful HUOH as : 

"In, short when Pvo a Kmattmitig of Hciwutary .ntnttegy^ 
You'll say a hotter raajw-giwntl luui n<vir wit ;i .$<(*/' 

But generally the whimsicality of thts huugmatiou is i*qualld 

by the felicity of the verse : 

" Cheerily caroln tlui lark 
Over thft cot, 

Merrily wltiitlns the tflrrk 

Scratching a blot. 
But the lark 
And the clurk, 

1 remark, 
Comfort mo licit t 



** Over tho ripaniug 
thtt lx*e, 

Splaiii cut the biUuwy tow: la 
Tumbles the 



GILBERT THE ARTIST 237 

But the peach 
And the beach, 
They are each 
Nothing to me J " 



The two lines 



" Splash on the billowy beach 
Tumbles the sea " 



are really magnificent in their truth and their beauty. 

There are two other aspects of Gilbert's genius that must 
not be forgotten. He had a great power of parody, generally 
used by him to imitate a school rather than an individual, 
which, as Mr. Maurice Baring has suggested, is shared to some 
extent by a later poet, Mr. E. V. Knox, The best of these 
parodies is in Patience, when Gilbert is laughing at the Bun- 
thornes, who write distressing verse in our generation as they 
did in his : 

" Oh 1 to be wafted away 
From this black aceldama of sorrow, 
When the dust of an earthy to-day 
Is the earth of a dusty to-morrow 1 " 

Gilbert, too, like all humorists, had a gift of pathos. This 
is evident more in his early plays perhaps than in the operas, 
where in a very English manner he obviously fights against the 
tendency to emphasize the sadness of life, and he often hides 
his sighs with a laugh, But the pathos will out, even in the 
operas. A notable instance is the duet in The Gondoliers : 

" Dead as the last year's leaves 

As gathered flowers ah 1 woe is me 1 
Dead as the garnered sheaves, 

That love of ours- ah I woe is me I 
Born but to fade and die, 

When hope was high, 
Dead, and as far away 

As yesterday ah 1 woe is me ! " 

Gilbert and Sullivan have given modern England songs to 
remember and to sing, the only equivalent to the folk-songs 

of a simpler age, Every one knows the Sullivan tunes, and 



238 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

most people know the Gilbert verses. They are a possession 
keenly appreciated, held in such high esteem that when on 
one occasion, some years ago, a comedian " gagged " in one 
of the Savoy operas, he was strongly admonished by a member 
of the gallery to stick to the text. 

Gilbert had little ear for melody, but he had a supreme 
sense of rhythm, and he took a master-craftsman's joy in 
using a hundred different metres and conceits. The song 
" Were I thy bride/' in The Yeomen of the Guard, was defi- 
nitely written to prove that the English language was as tune- 
ful as the Italian a fact hotly denied by the majority of Vic- 
torian musical critics, and apparently disproved by English 
writers of doggerel verse, 

Rowland-Brown has well said that as soon as Gilbert found 
himself he came at once into his own. It would be difficult 
to find another literary artist whoso work varied so little in 
its inspiration and in its quality from the beginning to the 
end. The earliest Bah Ballads and the last of the libretti 
reflect the same whimsical outlook on life, and are distin- 
guished by the same felicity of expression and audacity of 
idea* It was only when the ironic poet set out to imitate 
Robertson and write sentimental comedies that he Ml away 
from his own high standard of achievement. 

Gilbert left BO papers, neither completed nor unfinished 
manuscripts* There were no literary rcmiuin.H when he died* 
The one exception is a small notebook! In which, some years 
before his death, he had jotted clown a number of ideas for 
a musical play called Topsy'tunydom t with which the Criterion 
Theatre was opened* 

The conditions in Topsy-luwydom were to be exactly what 
its name implies, Here is a quotation from the notebook: 

" Poverty is honoured wealth Ignorance is honoured*-** 

learning dcuptaed, 

" Children arc born learned, gratltmlly everything until, an 

old men, they are utterly ignorant* Wtmu*n t bold, bftithful* 

Vice is rewardttd* Virtue pu&iched, 



GILBERT THE ARTIST 239 

Dishonesty is rewarded. Cowards are honoured. Brave men elbowed 
aside. Therefore the most ignorant, the most vicious, the most lazy 
man is made Ruler. Women hate their husbands. Thieves are 
employed to arrest honest men." 

It may perhaps be suggested that the idea is not so topsy- 
turvy as Gilbert supposed, for while in the real world poverty 
is not honoured and wealth is certainly not despised, learning 
is still held in small esteem, dishonesty is frequently rewarded, 
virtue is quite commonly punished, and ignorance is often to 
be found in high places. 

Here is another entry in the notebook. This time it is an 
idea for a court scene : 

" The Prime Minister a most popular man enters with top and 
hoop. He is received with hoots and groans, this being the topsy- 
turvy method of expressing applause. M.P. inquires why he is hooted 
in this way. Mentor explains that it is because he is so popular. He 
was raised to his present ofBce because he is so unfit for it. Why 
raise him to an office for which he is so obviously unfitted ? Why ? 
Because this is topsy-turvydom. ' Well/ says M.P., ' I never heard 
anything like it before,' ' No/ says Mentor, ' you wouldn't be likely 
to in England/ M.P. must go through certain adventures involving 
an encounter with such typical topsy-ttirvyites as will best help the 
satire. So he gets involved in a breach of promise action, having 
taken a great fancy to a pretty woman, while alleged to be engaged 
* to another ugly one to whom he takes a great dislike/ The father 
of the ugly one (the Prime Minister) says that he has noticed that 
M.P, has taken a great dislike to his daughter. . . . M.P. admits it. 
' You don't admire her at all/ M.P. says, ' Not at all/ 

"Then, I am authorized to say that she has taken just such a de- 
testation to you/ M.P. is wholly indifferent, * Then take her and 
be unhappy I ' * Eh 1 ' * You hate her. She hates you. Marry and 
be wretched. It is the law of the land/ ' Never 1 ' " 

Here is a genuine Savoy opera idea, and it is quoted here as 
a proof that the Gilbertian trait of standing the world on its 
head was in its creator's mind long before it made him famous. 

Gilbert is a difficult man to place, as Mr. Archer says ; " a 
crotchety genius, a man of unaccommodating angles, whom it 
is impossible to fit into any pigeon-hole of classification/* 

'* His foe was folly and Ms weapon wit/' George Mere- 



240 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

dith's words admirably apply to Gilbert : " He was, of course, 
a sentimentalist and a satirist, entitled to lash the age and 
complain of human nature." Mrs. Meynell spoke his epitaph 
when she said, on hearing of Gilbert's death : " We have lost 
a poet." 



APPENDIX 

THE "LOST BABS" 

The following Bab Ballads were printed in Fun, but were not included 
in any of the collections made by Gilbert. 

PRINCE IL BALEINE 




When autumn boat and train 
Bore London folk to pleasure, 

The good Prince II Baleine 
He sought, across the main, 
Amusement for his leisure.. 



16 



A dusty time, and long, 

' ' He'd had at balls and races, 
At crowded levee throng, 
At play and concert song, 
And various other places, 
241 



242 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

But, ah ! the British Snob 

Besieged that Prince, in plenty : 

The Snob adores a Nob, 

And follows him, to rob 
His dolce far niente \ 

And finding that the Prince 
Much eagerness to know thorn 

Did not at once evince, 

They did not matters mince, 

But begged himself he'd show thorn. 

' Our wishes do not baulk, 

Throw off this English shyness- 

And show us how you walk, 

And lot tiw hoar yon talk- 

Now do, your Royal Highness ! 

" You're too reserved by half : 
Begin perambulating ; 

We've paid to sec you laugh-- 

We've paid to hoar you chaif 
Four gentlemen in waiting, 

" Come sit and eat an ict% 
Or drain a bumping mcamiiT ; 

We've practised much device* 

And paid a heavy price, 
To sec you take your 



(It grieved that Prince Jfuleme 

Most sensitive of i'iahes * 
It always gives him pnm 
When people can't obtnin 

The fullness of their wtahc**** 

But doctors grave had said, 

" Hang up your atick and lHtuvt*r ; 
You must have rtt and #hadt% 

Or you will soon Im laid 

Upon your back with ftivt?r/') 



No morning whan he 

lint British 8nob tuktrcmwHl Itiiti ; 
lli peace ol mind they broke*, 

So tip ht? r0 # and 
These words to thowj who him 



APPENDIX 

" Oh, over-loyal throng, 

Be guided, pray, by reason : 

You may encore a song 

(Though that, I think, is wrong), 
But not a London Season 1 



243 



** I'm told to lie me down 

And rest me at my leisure ; 
But here's my valet, Brown, 
He's not much worked in town, 

He'll take my place with pleasure 1 

" I am Ms special care ; 

He brushes, combs, and laves me, 
He parts my chestnut hair 
He folds the coats I wear 

And strops the blade that shaves me. 

" He knows my little ways 

And, though it's not expected 
He'll match my Royal blaze, 

Yet, basking in my rays, 

He'll shine with light reflected." 




" Oh, my I " the people cried, 

"To Mister Brown 111 bow me! 
Oh, ain't he dignified, 

Yet not a spark of pride 1 , 
Oh, Mister Brown, allow ine I 



244 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" And so you wash, the Prince, 
And pack his clothes for starting, 

You scent with jasmine leaf 

His pocket-handkerchief, 
And regulate his parting ! 



" And that, I understand, 

Is your department, is it ? 
And this then is the hand 
That combs at his command ? 
Oh, please, do let me kiss it ! 



" Is this (oh, treat of treats !) 
The bedroom that you sleep in ? 

When cloyed with Royal sweets, 

And these the very sheets 

Which every night you creep in ? 




" And in this bath, you tub, 

Ere out of doors you sally ? 
And do these flesh-gloves scrub - 
These dainty towels rub 
The Prince's happy valet ? '* 

The Snobs with joy insane, 

Kotoo'd to Brown, unseemly ; 
And Brown does not complain, 
While good Prince II Baleine 
Enjoys his rest extremely. 



APPENDIX 



245 



FANNY AND JENNY 




Fanny and Jenny in Paris did dwell, 

Miss Jane was a dowdy, Miss Fanny a swell 

Each went for to dine at a quarter to four 

At her own little favourite Restaura*or0 

Fanny of Bertram and Roberts was fond, 

While Jenny she worshipped her Spiers and Pond. 



Fanny was pretty and piguante and 

pert, 
Her manners were shortish and so 

was her skirt, 
While Jenny the elder would make 

a man wince, 
la a dress of the mode of a century 

since, 
Bertram and Roberta's Fanny was 

blonde, 
And dark was the Jenny of Spiers 

and Pond* 





246 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Jane lived in a modest and lady-like way : 
To Spiers and Pond she went every day, 
She'd order up beef and potatoes as well, 
And cut off the joint until senseless she fell : 
(She fed herself daily all reason beyond 
To gaze all the longer at Spiers and Pond.) 



But Fanny, that frolicsome, frivolous 

maid 
(Whose tastes were more airy than 

Jenny's the staid), 
To Bertram and Roberts would hie her 

away, 
And swallow plum-pudding the rest of 

the day. 
The best of her dresses Miss Fanny she 

donned 
(As Jenny did also for Spiers and 

Pond). 

The Restaurateurs didn't seem for to care 
For Jenny's soft ogle or Fanny's fond stare. 
Said Jenny, " Don't let us be taken aback, 
We're probably on an erroneous tack, 
And Bertram and Roberts of me may be fond, 
While you are beloved by Spiers and Pond ! " 

" Oh, Bertram and R., are you dying for me, 

Or am I the chosen of Spiers and P. ? 

Oh, which is the angel and fostering star 

Of Spiers and P., or of Bertram and R. ? 

Which firm have I collared in Venus 's bond ? 

Say, Bertram and Roberts speak, Spiers and Pond 1 

" Perhaps if you cannot completely agree 

Which of you shall have Fanny and which shall have me, 

And you wish for to go for to do what is right, 

You will go to the Bois de Boulogne for to fight 

It's the mode that is popular in the beau monde, 

Will Bertram and Roberts fight Spiers and Pond ?" 

But Spiers and Pond are but perishing clay, 

So they gasped and they gurgled and fainted away 

The burden of Bertram and Roberts 's song 

Was " Goodness ! how shocking ! Oh, please go along 1 



APPENDIX 

With, neither for worlds would we ever ab- 
scond ! J> 

And " Ditto for us," exclaimed Spiers and 
Pond. 

Said Fanny, " How bold, and how dreadfully 

rude ! " 
" Those men are too forward/ 1 said Jenny 

the prude, 
" Such youth and such beauty as both of us 

own 

Are safe in the walls of a convent alone, 
We shall there be the coarse persecutions 

beyond 
Of Bertram and Roberts and Spiers and Pond." 




SIR CONRAD AND THE RUSTY ONE 




knight for doughty doings rife, 
With falchion, lance, or bill, 
Was fair Sir Conrad Talbotype, 
Of Talbotypetonneville. 

His parents he had never known 
(The sting of many a taunt) ; 

He had one relative alone 
A sweet, dyspeptic aunt. 



A time must come when loving hearts 

Must part awhile and lo 1 
Sir Conrad into foreign parts 

As errant-knight must go 1 

Some name to which he might be true 
He sought for near and far, 

But with the maidens whom he knew 
He was not popular. 



248 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Men jeered the knight who ne'er had been 

With love of maiden blessed, 
Till, mad with disappointment keen, 

His aunt he thus addressed : 

" No longer shall such chaff inane 

Against my head be hurled ; 
If you'll allow me, I'll maintain 

Your charms against the world ! 

" All knights shall at thine honoured name 

In fealty bend the knee 
From every errant I will claim 

His homage, aunt, for thee 1 " 

A tear stood in her widow'd eye, 

And thus outspoke the dame 
" Oh, don't you think you'd better try 

Some younger lady's name ? 

" For folks would chuckle if they should 

Discover I'm your aunt." 
"I would/ 1 said Conrad, " if I could, 

But then, you see, I can't." 

" Then go, my boy, with dauntless eye, 

My peerlessness maintain ; 
Make this your dreaded battle-cry, 

' King Harry and Aunt Jane 1 * " 




APPENDIX 249 

** Ho ! stand, Sir Knight r if thou be brave, 

And try thy might with mine, 
Unless you wish this trusty glaive 

To cleave thee to the chine ! " 

So spake Sir Conrad as he thrust 

His lance in gallant mode 
Towards a knight in suit of rust, 

"Who passed him on the road. 

The knight at words so boldly shaped, 

Stopped short and turned him round, 
Then humbly touched his brow, and scraped 

His foot upon the ground. 

" Ha ! " quoth Sir Conrad, " malpert I 

Dost think with threats to brave 
Sir Conrad's wrath, thou thing of dirt 

Thou braggadocio knave ? 

" Sir Conrad thus you may not daunt, 

Or make him hold his rein 
Come swear you never knew an aunt 

So fair as my Aunt Jane 1 " 

"Fair sir/* the Rusty One replied, 

" Indeed, I do not think 
I ever knew but one who died, 

And all along of drink." 

"Then own, thou braggart, by thy star," 

Sir Talbotype replied, 
" That my Aunt Jane is fairer far 

Than she who lately died 1 " 

The knight rejoined, " Oh, do not cut 

Forbear, my Lord, to strike I 
I have not seen the lady, but 

I think it's very like. 

" To that belief I own it free 

I solemnly incline - 
3STo aunt of yours could ever be 

So great a beast as mine. 



250 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

" She figured in police reports 

Along of * heavy wet/ 
And was be-known at all the courts 

As ' Coxybogy Bet ! ' " 



" Then sign this paper," Conrad said, 
" Or there 1*11 stretch thee stark ! " 

The Rusty One inclined his head 
And made his knightly mark. 



" Beshrew me ! here's a dullard wight, 

Grammercy, halidame ! 
Thou call'st thyself an errant knight, 

And canst not sign thy name I " 



" A knight ? " exclaimed the Rusty One 
" Lor bless your honour, no 1 

I'm only hired to set of sun 
To join the Lord Mayor's Show ! " 



Sir Conrad hied him home again 

As quickly as he could, 
Right-welcomed by his kind Aunt Jane 

And all the neighbourhood. 




He told them how in foreign land 

He fought that rusty buck; 
And though the maidens scorn his hand. 

They do not doubt his pluck. 



APPENDIX 



251 



THE BANDOLINE PLAYER. 



A troubadour, young, brave, and 
tall, 

One morning might be seen, 
A singing under Colter's Hall 

Upon the village green. 

He went through all the usual 
forms, 

And rolled his eyes of blue, 
As dying ducks in thunderstorms 

Are often said to do. 

For Colter had a daughter, she 
Was barely twenty-two. 

Why sang that minstrel party ? 

He 
Adored her so would you. 




He played upon a what's-its-name 
You know the thing I mean 

The Pall Mall critics call the same 
A " dainty bandoline." 




And Colter's daughter, wrapt 

in joy 

(A sweet romantic maid), 
She smiled upon that guile- 
less boy 
As gracefully he played. 

" Oh, person in the crimson 

legs/ 1 

She modestly exclaimed, 
" A bashful maiden coyly 

begs 

You'll tell her how you're 
named. 

" For, oh, you feed a tender 

flame 

In playing on the green, 
And, oh, she loves what 

critics name 
The dainty bandoline I " 



252 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

That troubadour he tore his hair 

And sent a sigh above, 
To think his bandoline should share 

That maiden's wealth of love. 

He hied him to his village shed, 

Wept village tears in quarts, 
Then laid him on his village bed, 

And thought these village thoughts : 

" I must be worshipped all in all, 

For what I've always been 
And not for what the critics call 

My dainty bandoline. 

" To which of us her loving may 

Be due, I'll thus detect 
Upon the fiddle I can play 

With singular effect. 

" To-morrow, with its graceful aid, 

Her moments I'll beguile, 
That maiden I will serenade 

In Joachim's finest style/' 

And so he did, that gallant boy, 

But never came the maid ; 
He, hoping she was only coy, 

Still sang to her and played. 

Beethoven, Gluck, Piccini, Spohr, 

He gave her for a while, 
And other masters even, more 

" Dot-touch-and-go " in style. 

For hours that patient boy he played 

At Father Colter's farm 
Behind his noble shoulder-blade, 

And underneath his arm ; 

Below his legbehind his back 

He played tiH he was red 
Between his knees, with dainty knack, 

And then above his head. 



APPENDIX 



253 



With, musico-gymnastic tricks 
He warbled forth her name : 

From half -past nine till half -past six, 
But, ah 1 no maiden came. 

(For Mary had been sent away 
To Weston-super-Mare 

A fact of which that minstrel gay 
Was wholly unaware.) 

But Father Colter rose at nine, 

His wrath it also rised, 
For fiddle, voice, and bandoline 

He equally despised. 

" I have, "said he, "some bellows here 

A fine young noddle there 
It would but be politeness mere 

To introduce the pair 1 " 



No sooner was it said than done, 

And as above I've shown, 
Upon the sconce he fetched him one 

One for himself alone I 

"Ah, Mary," said the simple lad, 
*' I know thy gentle touch, 

Upon my word, this is too bad, 
I feel it very much. 



" That you don't care lor me at all 

Is easy to be seen 
You love what Pall Mall critics call 

My dainty bandoline 1 " 




(But Mary had been sent away 
To Weston-super-Mare 

A fact of which that minstrel gay 
Was wholly unaware.) 



254 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 
THE STORY OF GENTLE ARCHIBALD 

WHO WANTED TO BE A CLOWN 




My children, once I knew a boy 
(His name was Archibald Molloy), 
Whose kind papa, one Christmas-time, 
Took him to see a pantomime. 
He was a mild, delightful boy, 
Who hated jokes that caused annoy ; 
And none who knew him could complain 
That Archy ever gave them pain. 
But don't suppose he was a sad. 
Or serious, solemn kind of lad ; 
Indeed, he was a cheerful son, 
Renowned for mild, respectful fun. 

But, oh, it was a rueful day 
When he was taken to the play ; 
The Christmas pantomime that night 
Destroyed his gentle nature quite ; 
And as they walked along the road 



APPENDIX 255 

That led to his papa's abode, 
As on they trudged through muck and mire. 
He said, '* Papa, if you desire 
My fondest hopes and joys to crown, 
Allow me to become a clown ! " 
I will not here attempt to show 
The bitter agony and woe, 
The sorrow and depression dire 
Of Archy's old and feeble sire. 
" Oh, Archibald," said he, " my boy, 
My darling Archibald Molloy 1 
Attention for one moment lend 
You cannot seriously intend 
To spend a roving life in town, 
As vulgar, base, dishonest clown, 
And leave your father in the lurch, 
Who always meant you for the Church, 
And nightly dreams he sees his boy 
The Reverend Archibald Molloy ? " 
That night as Archy lay awake, 
Thinking of all he'd break and take, 
If he but had his heart's desire, 
The room seemed filled with crimson nre ; 
The wall expanded by degrees, 
Disclosing shells and golden trees, 
Revolving round, and round, and round ; 
Red coral strewn upon the ground ; 
And on the trees, in tasty green, 
The loveliest fairies ever seen ; 
But one more fair than all the rest 
Came from a lovely golden nest, 
And said to the astonished boy, 
" Oh, Master Archibald Molloy, 
I know the object of your heart 
To-morrow morning you shall start 
Upon your rambles through the town 
As merry, mischief -making clown 1 " 
* * * * # 

Next day, when Nurse Amelia called, 

To wash and dress her Archibald, 

She opened both her aged eyes, 

With unmistakable surprise, 

To find that Archy, in the night, 

Had turned all red, and blue, and white, 

Of healthy colour not a trace 

Red patches on his little face, 



256 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

Black horsehair wig, round rolling eyes, 

Short trowsers of prodigious size, 

White legs and arms, with spots of blue, 

And spots upon his body too 1 

Said she, " Why, what is this, my boy ? 

My gentle Archibald Molloy ! 

Your good papa I'll go and tell, 

You must be dreadfully unwell, 

Although I know of no disease 

With any symptoms such as these/' 




The good old lady turned to go 

And fetch his good papa, when lo I 

With, irresistible attack 

He jumped upon her aged back, 

Pulled off the poor old lady's front, 

And thrashed her, while she tried to grunt, 

" Oh, Archibald, what have you done ? 

Is this your mild, respectful fun, 

You bad, ungentlemanly boy ? 

Fie on you, Archibald Molloy I " 

Some dreadful power unseen, but near, 

Still urged him on his wild career, 

And made him burn, and steal, and kill, 

Against his gentlemanly will. 

The change had really turned Ms brairx ; 

He boiled his little sister Jane ; 



APPENDIX 257 



He painted blue Ms aged mother ; 
Sat down upon his little brother ; 
Tripped up his cousins with his hoop ; 
Put pussy in Ms father's soup ; 




Placed beetles in Ms uncle's shoe ; 
Cut a policeman right in two ; 
Spread devastation round, and, ah, 
He red-hot pokered his papa 1 

Be sure, this highly reckless course 
Brought Archibald sincere remorse. 
He liked a joke, and loved a laugh, 
But was too well-behaved by half 

With, too much justice and good sens 
To laugh at other folks* expense. 
The gentle boy could never sleep, 
But used to lie awake and weep, 
To think of all the ill he'd done. 
" Is this/' said he, " respectful fun ? 
Oh, fairy, fairy, I would fain 
That you should change m back again ; 
Some dreadful power I can't resist 
Directs my once respectful fist ; 
Change, and I'll never once complain, 
Or wish to be a clown again I " 

17 



258 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 

He spoke, and lo 1 the wretched boy 
Once more was Archibald Molloy ; 
He gave a wild, delighted scream, 
And woke for, lo, it was a dream 1 




THE THREE BOHEMIAN ONES 



worthy man in every way 
Was Mister Jasper Porldebay ; 
He was a merchant of renown 
(The firm was Porklebay and Brown). 

Three sons he had, and only three, 
But they were bad as bad could be ; 
They spurned their father's righteous ways, 
And went to races, balls, and plays. 



On Sundays they wotild laugh and joke, 
I've heard them bet, I've known them smoke. 
At whist they'd sometimes take a hand ; 
These vices Jasper couldn't stand. 

At length the eldest son, called Dan, 
Became a stock tragedian, 
And earned his bread by ranting through 
Shakespearean parts, as others do. 

The second (Donald) would insist 
On starting as a journalist, 
And wrote amusing tales and scenes 
In all the monthly magazines. 

The youngest (Singleton his name) 
A comic artist he became, 
And made an income fairly good 
By drawing funny heads on wood. 

And as they trod these fearful ways 
(These three misguided PorMebays) 
They drew not on their father's hoard 
For Jasper threw them overboard. 

Yes Jasper, grieving at their faU, 
Renounced them one, renounced them all* 
And lived alone, so good and wise, 
At Zioa Villa, CLapham Rise. 



APPENDIX 

By dint of work and skilful plan 
Old Jasper grew a wealthy man ; 
And people said, in slangy form, 
That Jasper P. would " cut up warm. * 



259 




He had no relative at all 
On whom his property could fall, 
Except, of course, his wicked sons, 
Those three depraved Bohemian ones. 




So he determined he would fain 
Bequeath Ms wealth (despite mortmain), 

Freeholds, debenture, stock and all, 
To some deserving hospital. 

When Ms intent was known abroad, 

Incitement reigned in every ward, 
And with the well-experienced throng 
Of operators all want wrong. 



260 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



St. George's, Charing Cross, and Guy's, 
And little Westminster likewise, 
Bartholomew's and Middlesex, 
Combined old Jasper to perplex. 

House surgeons, spite of patients' hints, 
Bound headaches up in fracture splints ; 
In measles, strapped the spots that come, 
With strips of plain diachylum. 

Rare leeches, skilled at fever beds, 

For toothache shaved their patients' heads ; 

And always cut their fingers off 

If they complained of whooping cough. 

Their zeal grew greater day by day, 
And each did all that in him lay 
To prove his own pet hospital 
The most deserving of them all. 

Though Jasper P. could not but feel 
Delighted at this show of zeal, 
When each in zeal exceeds the rest, 
One can't determine which is best. 

Interea, his reckless boys 
Indulged in low Bohemian joys ; 
They sometimes smoked till all was blue* 
And danced at evening parties too. 

The hospitals, conflicting sore, 
Perplexed poor Jasper more and more* 
But, ah I ere Jasper could decide, 
Poor charitable man, he died. 

And Donald, Singleton, and Dan 
Now roll in wealth, despite Ms plan : 
So Donald, Dan, and Singleton, 
By dint of accident have won, 

L Vice triurnplis here ; but, if yon please, 
It's by exceptions such as these 
(From probability removed) 
That every standing rule is proved* 

By strange exceptions Virtue deigns 
To prove how paramount she reigns; 
A standing rule I do not know, 
That's been more oft established so. 




BIBLIOGRAPHY 



John Camden Hotten 
Routledge 



1869 
1866 

1874 
1864 



1869 
1870 
1873 

1876 and 1877 
1878 

1882 
1887 
1889 



King George's Middy (Gilbert W.), with illustrations by W.G.S. 
The Magic Mirror (Gilbert W.), with illustrations by W.G.S. 
London Characters (H. Mayhew), with illustrations by W.G.S. 

and others 
An Algerian Monkey versus British Apes (" The Spectre "), 

with illustrations by W.G.S. 
The Bab Ballads. Much Sound and 

Little Sense. With illustrations by the 

author 

The Bab Ballads. Another edition 
The Bab Ballads. More Bab Ballads 
Fifty Bab Ballads 
Fifty Bab Ballads (a re-issue) 
The Bab Ballads. With 225 illustra- 
tions by the author 
Fifty Bab Ballads 
Fifty Bab Ballads (a re-issue) 
The Bab Ballads, with which are included 

Songs of a Savoyard. With 350 

illustrations by the author 
Sixth edition 
An Old Score, An original comedy drama 

in three acts 
Another edition 
The Princess. A whimsical allegory. 

Being a respectable perversion of Mr. 

Tennyson's poem 
The Palace of Truth, A fairy comedy 

in three acts 
The Gentleman in Black, An original 

musical legend in two acts 
Randall's Thumb. An original comedy 

in three acts 

Creatures of Impulse. A musical fairy- 
tale in one act 
On Guard. An entirely original comedy 

in three acts 

261 



Macmillan & Co, 
Lacey's Acting 
Edition of Plays 



1898 
1904 
1870 

1876 



1870 
1871 
1871 
1872 
1872 
1874 



262 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



Pygmalion and Galatea, An entirely 

original mythological comedy in three 

acts 
The Wicked World. An entirely original 

fairy comedy in three acts and one scene 

(printed for private circulation only) 
Another edition 
Sweethearts. An original dramatic 

comedy in two acts 
The Wedding March (Le Chapeau de 

Faille d'ltalie, by E.M.Labiche). An 

eccentricity in three acts 
Tom Cobb ; or, Fortune's Toy. An en- 
tirely original farcical comedy in three 

acts 
Broken Hearts. An entirely original 

fairy play in three acts 
Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith. A new and 

original drama in three acts. An inci- 
dent in the last act suggested by George 

Eliot's novel, " Silas Marner " 
Engaged. An entirely original farcical 

comedy in three acts 
On Bail. A farcical comedy in three acts. 

Adapted from Le Reveillon 
Charity. An entirely original play in four 

acts 
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. A tragic 

episode in three tableaux, founded on an 

old Danish legend 
Comedy and Tragedy. An original drama 

in one act 
Robert the Devil ; or, The Nun, the Dun, 

and the Son of a Gun, An operatic 

extravaganza 
La Vivandiere ; or, True to the Corps. 

An original Operetta extravaganza 
The Sorcerer. An entirely original 

modern comic opera in two acts 
The Sorcerer. . . . Also Trial by Jury, etc, Chappell 
Trial by Jury. A dramatic cantata , , 

H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass that 

Loved a Sailor. An entirely original 

nautical comic opera 
Another edition. Calcutta, Saturday Club 
Another edition (with full-length portrait 

of the characters in costume) 



Edition of Plays 1875 

1875 
1887 

1878 
1879 

1880 
1881 

1881 
1881 
1881 
1885 

1893 
1895 



Phillips 
Montague 



Metzler 



Metzler 

G. W. Carleton, 
New York 



1868 
1868 

1877 
1878 
1888 



1878 
1879 
1879 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



263 



Another edition Metzler 1878 

Another edition Chappell 1878 

Selections of Songs from H.M.S, Pinafore. 
Printing Press, 2nd Batt. loth Regt., 

Malta 1880 

The Pirates of Penzance ; or, The Slave of 
Duty. An entirely original comic 

opera in two acts ,, 1880 

Patience ; or, Bunthorne's Bride. An en- 
tirely new and aesthetic opera in two 

acts ,, 1881 

Princess Ida ; or, Castle Adamant. A 
respectable perversion of Tennyson's 

" Princess," in three acts ,, 1884 

The Brigands. An opera bo tiff e in three 
acts, by Offenbach, The English ver- 
sion by W. S. Gilbert Boosey 1884 
lolanthe ; or, the Peer and the Peri. An 

entirely original fairy opera in two acts Chappell 1885 

The Mikado ; or, The Town of Titipu. 
An entirely new and original Japanese 

opera in two acts , 1885 

Three Little Maids from School. A song 

from The Mikado, illustrated in colours Castell Bros. 1892 

Mikadoen eller en dag i Titipu Pac 

Dansk sed E. A. Nyegaard, English and 

Danish Christiania 

Der Mikado, oder die Stadt Titipit, Japan - 

ische Komische Oper in 2 Akten. Text 

von W. S. Gilbert Nebe, Chicago 1887 

Ruddigore; or, The Witch's Curse. An 
entirely original supernatural opera in 

two acts Chappell 1887 

Another edition , 1891 

The Yeomen of the Guard ; or, The Merry- 
man and his Maid , 
The Yeomen of the Guard (illustra- 
tions of scenes from the opera, with 
quotations from the libretto by W, S. 
Gilbert) *, 
The Gilbert and Sullivan Birthday Book Pickering & Chatto 1888 
The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria. 
An entirely original comic opera in two 

acts ChappeU 1889 

Songs of a Savoyard (illustrated) Routledge 1890 

The Mountebanks* An entirely original 

comic opera Chappell 1892 



264 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



Utopia Limited ; or, The Flowers of Pro- 
gress 

His Excellency. An entirely original 
comic opera in two acts 

The Grand Duke ; or, The Statutory Duel, 
A comic opera in two acts 

No Cards. A musical piece in one act (part 
of the German Reed repertory of 
musical pieces) 

Original Plays. Four series 

Rutland Barrington, by Himself, with a 
preface by Sir W. S. Gilbert 

W. S. Gilbert, by Edith A. Browne 

Savoy Operas Patience, Princess Ida, 
Pirates of Penzance, Yeomen of the 
Guard. With illustrations in colour by 
W. Russell 

Comic Operas, with coloured illustrations 

As above lolanthe, The Mikado, Ruddi- 
gore, and The Gondoliers. With illus- 
trations in colour by W.R.F. 

The Pinafore Picture Book. The story of 
H.M.S. Pinafore told by Sir W. S. Gil- 
bert, and illustrated by Alice B. Wood- 
ward 

A Sensation Novel in three volumes (an 
operetta), written by W. S. Gilbert, 
composed by Florian Pascal 

Judge Parry's article in Dictionary of 
National Biography 

William Schwenck Gilbert: an Autobio- 
graphy 

Life of Sir Arthur Sullivan, by Arthur 
Lawrence 

English Dramatists of To-day, by William 
Archer 

Real Conversations, by William Archer 

The Savoy Opera and the Savoyards, by 
Percy Fitzgerald 

Gaiety Chronicles, by John Hollingshead 

W.S.G. in Scribner's Monthly, xviii, 754 

Smalley's London Letters (2 vob,) 

Anglo-American Memories 

The English Aristophanes 

Dictionary of the Drama, by W* Daven- 
port Adams 



Chappell 



Williams 
Chatto & 
Windus 



Lane 



Bell 



Williams 



1893 
1894 
1896 



1902 
1876 & 1911 



1908 
1907 



1909 

1911 



1910 



1908 



1912 



The Theatre (April) 1883 



1889 



1898 
1879 

1890 

1911 

Fortnightly Review 1912 



THE GILBERT AND SULLIVAN 
OPERAS 



OPERA. 


Date of 
First Production. 


Theatre. ^.of 


Trial by Tury 


March 25, 1875 


Royalty Theatre 


The Sorcerer 


Nov. 17, 1877 


Opera- Comique 1 75 


H.M.S. Pinafore .... 


May 25, 1878 


>, 700 


The Pirates of Pcnzance. 


April 3, 1880 


363 


Patience 


April 23, 1 88 1 


578 


lolanthe 


Nov. 25, 1882 


Savoy Theatre 398 


Princess Ida 


Jan, 5, 1884 


246 


The Mikado ..... 


March 14, 1885 


> -|.v 

672 


Ruddigore , 


Jan. 22, 1887 


v / 

288 


lite Yeomen of the Guard . 


Oct. 3, 1888 


423 


The Gondoliers .... 


Dec. 7, 1889 


554 


Utopia Limited .... 


Oct. 7, 1893 


245 


The Grand J)ukc 


March 7, 1896 


123 






No of 


OPERA. 


Date of Revivals. 


Theatre. Perfs 


The Sorcerer t% Trial by Jury * 


Oct. ix, 1884 


Savoy Theatre 150 


The Sorcerer <& Trial by Jury . 


Sept. 22, 1898 


,, IO2 


KM.S. Pinafore , 


Nov. 12, 1887 


120 


H.M.S, Pinafore .... 


June 6, 1899 


174 


H.M.S. Pinafore . . . . 


July 14, 1908 


61 


The Pirates of Pcnzance 


March 17, 1888 


80 


The Pirates of Penzance 


June 30, 1900 


127 


The Pirates of Penzance 


Dec. i, 1908 


43 


The Mikado ..... 


June 7, 1888 


1*6 


The Mikado ..... 


Nov. 6, 1895 


127 


The Mikado . 


July ix, 1896 


,, 226 


The Mikado 


April 28, 1908 


142 


The Yeomen of the Guard . 


May 5, 1897 


1 86 


The Yeomen of the Guard . 


Dec. 8, 1906 


90 


The Yeomen of the Guard , 


March 1, 1909 


28 


The Gondoliers .... 


March 22, 1898 


62 


The Gondoliers . . . , 


July 1 8, 1898 


63 




265 





266 W. S. GILBERT: HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



Date of Revivals. 



OPERA. 

The Gondoliers .... 

The Gondoliers .... Jan. 18, 1909 

Patience ...... Nov. 7, 1900 

Patience ...... April 4, 1907 

lolanthe ...... Dec. 7, 1901 

lolanthe ...... June 11,1907 

lolanthe ...... Oct. 19, 1908 



Repertory Season 



Theatre 



Jan. 22, 1907 Savoy Theatre 76 

,, 22 

,, 150 

,, 51 

,, 113 

,, 42 

>f 38 



. . Sept. 29, 1919 Prince's Theatre 
to Jan. 31, 1920 

All the above-named operas were played excepting Ruddigore, 
Utopia Limited, and The Grand Duke. 

Repertory Season . . . Oct. 3, 1921 Prince's Theatre 

to April 8, 1922 

All the above-named operas were played excepting Utopia Limited 
and The Grand Duke. 



INDEX 



Actors, Authors and Audiences, 37 
Addison, Carlotta, 43 
Anderson, Mary, 51, 56 
Letters to, 154 

Percy, 162 

Archer, William, 56, 61, 105 

Bab Ballads, 24-35 
_ _ Origin of, 4 

Bancroft, Mrs., 54, 154 
_ _ Letter to, 191 
Harrington, Rutland, 56, 70, 73, 
78, 83, 87, 93> 102, in, 124, 

127, 140 
Bateman, Miss, Criticism of, 15 

Jessie, 142 
Bcntham, George, 70 
Beresford, Lord Charles, Letter 

from, 75 
Bond, Jessie, 73, 78, 87, 93 I0 %> 

106, in, 140 
~ Letters to, 158 
Bourchier, Arthur, 143 

Mrs., Letters to, 163 
Braham, Leonora, 87, 93, 102 
Braadram, Miss, 93, 102, 106, m, 

124, 127 

Brantingham& Hall, 56, 57 
Brief, Gilbert's Maiden, 6 
Broken Hearts, 54 
Brough, Lionel, 47, 137 
Buckstone, Mr,, 50 



Charity, 53 

Charles, Mr. F., 43 

Codes, Gilbert's Affection for, 133 

Coke, Lady Katharine, Illustrated 

Letter to, 181 
Collard, John, 69 
Comedy and Tragedy, 56, 58 
Comic Physiognomist, The, 22 
Crutchley, Lady, 181 
Letter to, 183 

Dan' I Druce, 55 

Darned Mounseer, The, 48 

Denny, W. H,, 106, in, 124 

Derby Poem, 27 

D'Oyly Carte, 68 

Dulcamara, 42 

Eclwardes, George, 83 
Elixir of Love, An, 37 
Engaged, 55 
Everard, Miss, 70, 73, 93 

Fairy's Dilemma, The, 142 

Fallen Fairies, 143 

Parr en, Miss E., 62 

Faust, Criticism of Burlesque of, 

17 

Five Alls, Th& f 40 
Foggerty's Fairy, 36, 56 
Forbes, Norman, 56 
Fortescue, Miss, 83, 87, 157 
Fun, Writers for, 9 



Carte, Mrs, D'Oyly, Letters to, Gilbert, William (Senior), 3, 4 

135, 144, 145- *4$ 2 4 w * s " Beath of ' 222 

Chappell, Frank, 69 Gilbert 1 First Literary Effort, 7 

267 



268 W. S. GILBERT : HIS LIFE AND LETTERS 



Gondoliers , The, in 

Grand Duke, The, 127 

Great Expectations, 53 

Gretchen, 56 

Grim's Dyke, Description of, 207 

Grossmith, George, 70, 73, 78, 83, 

87, 93, 102, 106, 140 
Gwynne, Fanny, 50 

Julia, 78, 83, 87 

Happy Land, The, 53 
His Excellency, 139 
Hodson, Henrietta, 47 
Hollingshead, John, 63 
Hood, Marion, 78 

lolanthe, 67, 87 
Jay, Isabel, 161 

Kenclal, Mrs., 50, 51, 53, 54, 153 

Mr., 53, 54 

King George's Middy, 3 
Knighthood, Gilbert's, 196 

La Vivandi&re, 47 
Le Hay, John, 124, 140 
Lenoir, Miss, Letters to, 132 
Lewis, Mabel Terry, Letters to, 

189 
Lie of a Lifetime, The ; of, The 

Modern Augustus, 12 
Limericks, 177, 178 
Loseby, Constance, 63 
LostBabs, The (Appendix), 241 
Lytton, Marie, 53 

McDonnell, Ellen, 43 
Mclntosh, Nancy, 124, 140, 143, 

211 

Magic Mirror, The, 3 
Manners, Charles, 87 
Marshall, Captain, Letter to, 164 
Mathews, Mr. and Mrs. Charles, 17 
Matthews, Frank, 43 
Maude, Cyril, 187 

Margery, 188 



Memoirs of a Cynic, 3 

Michele, Miss Beatrice de, Letters 

to, 184 

Mikado, The, 96 
Monkhouse, Harry, 137 
Moore, Decima, in, 161 

Eva, 137 
Mountebanks, The, 137 
Murray, Gaston, 43 

Mrs. Gaston, 56 
Musings in a Music-hall, ig 

Neilson, Jitlia, 56 
Norreys, Hose, 56 

On Guard, 53 

Palace of Truth, The, 50, 52 

Pantomimic Unities, On, ig 
Passmore, Walter, 124, 127 
Patience, 72, 82 
Penley, W. S., 66 
Pinafore, If.JVf.S., 48, 67, 73 
Pirates of Penzance, The, 4, 77 
Playfair, Arthur, 137, 140 
Portcous, Gilbert, 137 
Pounds, Courtice, 106, nx 
Princess Ida, 92 
Princess, The, 50, qi 
Pygmalion and Galatea, 51, 52 

Randall's Thumb, 53 
Reinhardt, Miss M,, 50 

Robinson Crusoe ; or. The, Injun 

Bride and the Injured Wifo t 10 

Roscncrant^ and Guildenstern t 56, 

2X1 

Ruddigare* 67, 102 
Ruy Bias, 44 

Scott, Clement and Gilbert, 214 

Miss Gordon, Letter to, 19 x 
Sorcerer, The, 69, 70 
Sotitar, Robert, 63 
Sullivan, 62 

Swetifaavts, 54 



INDEX 



269 



Talbot, Mrs., Letters to, 168, 195 
Temple, Richard, 70, 73, 78, 87, 

93, 102, 106 
Terriss, Ellaline, 140 
Terry, Kate, 189 
Marion, 55 

Letter to, 190 

Thespis ; or, The Gods Grown Old, 

62 

Tom Cobb, 54 
Toole, J. L., 47, 63 
Trial by Jury, 65 

Ulmar, Geraldine, 106, 137 



Unappreciated Shakespeare, 39 
Utopia Limited, 124 

Valentine, Sydney, 142 
Vanbrugh, Violet, 142 
Vincent, Rtith, 127 

Walbrook, H. M., 61 
Waller, Louis, 56 
Wedding March, The, 53 
Wilton, Marie, Criticism of, 17 

Yeomen of the Guard, The, 106 



Printed in Great Britain by 

Butler & Tanner LtdU 

Frome and London 





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114581