W. S. Gilbert

W. S. Gilbert

Infobox Writer
name = W. S. Gilbert

imagesize = 180 px
caption = Sir William Schwenck Gilbert
pseudonym =
birthdate = birth date|1836|11|18|df=y, London
deathdate = death date and age|1911|5|29|1836|11|18|df=y, Grim's Dyke
occupation = Dramatist
influences = Planché; Robertson
influenced = Oscar Wilde; George Bernard Shaw; Oscar Hammerstein

Sir William Schwenck Gilbert [The name "Gilbert" is pronounced with a hard G.] (18 November 1836 – 29 May 1911) was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include "H.M.S. Pinafore", "The Pirates of Penzance", and one of the most frequently performed works in the history of musical theatre, "The Mikado". [ [http://www.musicals101.com/gilbert3.htm Kenrick, John, "G&S Story: Part III"] , copy downloaded 13 October 2006; and [http://www.libertystory.net/LSARTSGILBERT.htm Powell, Jim, "William S. Gilbert's Wicked Wit for Liberty"] downloaded 13 October 2006.] These, as well as most of their other Savoy operas, continue to be performed regularly throughout the English-speaking world and beyond by opera companies, repertory companies, schools and community theatre groups. Lines from these works have become part of the English language, such as "short, sharp shock", "What never? Well, hardly ever!", [ [http://math.boisestate.edu/GaS/other_sullivan/lawrence/lawrence_3.html Lawrence, Arthur H. "An illustrated interview with Sir Arthur Sullivan"] Part 3, from "The Strand Magazine", Vol. xiv, No.84 (December 1897)] and "Let the punishment fit the crime".Green, Edward, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3634126.stm "Ballads, songs, and speeches"] , BBC, 20 September 2004. (Downloaded 16 October 2006)]

Gilbert also wrote the "Bab Ballads", an extensive collection of light verse accompanied by his own comical drawings. His creative output included over 75 plays and libretti, numerous stories, poems, lyrics and various other comic and serious pieces. His plays and realistic style of stage direction inspired other dramatists, including Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. [Feingold, Michael, [http://www.villagevoice.com/theater/0418,feingold1,53206,11.html "Engaging the Past"] , in "The Village Voice" May 4, 2004.] According to "The Cambridge History of English and American Literature", Gilbert's "lyrical facility and his mastery of metre raised the poetical quality of comic opera to a position that it had never reached before and has not reached since." [http://www.bartelby.net/223/0815.html "The Cambridge History of English and American Literature"] , Volume XIII, Chapter VIII, Section 15 (1907–21)]


Early life and career


Gilbert was the stage director for his plays and operas and had strong opinions on how they should best be performed. Gilbert was strongly influenced by the innovations in 'stagecraft', now called stage direction, by the playwrights James Planché and especially Tom Robertson. Gilbert attended rehearsals directed by Robertson to learn this art firsthand from the older director, and he began to apply it in some of his earliest plays. He sought realism in acting, if not in content of his plays (although he did write a romantic comedy in the "naturalist" style, as a tribute to Robertson, "Sweethearts"), shunned self-conscious interaction with the audience, and insisted on a standard of characterisation where the characters were never aware of their own absurdity, but were coherent internal wholes. [Cox-Ife, William. "W. S. Gilbert: Stage Director". Dobson, 1978 ISBN 0-234-77206-9. See also Gilbert, W. S., [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/html/stage_play.html A Stage Play] , Bond, Jessie, [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/books/bond/introduction.htm Introduction] , etc.] In Gilbert's 1874 burlesque, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern", the character Hamlet, in his speech to the players, sums up Gilbert's theory of comic acting: "I hold that there is no such antick fellow as your bombastical hero who doth so earnestly spout forth his folly as to make his hearers believe that he is unconscious of all incongruity". With his work along these lines, Gilbert set the ground for later playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde to be able to flourish on the English stage.

Robertson "introduced Gilbert both to the revolutionary notion of disciplined rehearsals and to mise-en-scène or unity of style in the whole presentation - direction, design, music, acting." Like Robertson, Gilbert demanded discipline in his actors. He insisted that his actors know their words perfectly and obey his stage directions, which was something quite new to many actors of the day. [Cox-Ife, William. "W. S. Gilbert: Stage Director". Dobson, 1978 ISBN 0-234-77206-9.] "That Gilbert was a good director is not in doubt. He was able to extract from his actors natural, clear performances, which served the Gilbertian requirements of outrageousness delivered straight." [ [http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1938719,00.html Mike Leigh interview] ] Gilbert prepared meticulously for each new work, making models of the stage, actors and set pieces, and designing every action and bit of business in advance. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=KGBLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA106&vq=Gilbert#PPA125,M1 From "Real Conversations" by William Archer, 1904, pp. 129-30] ] Gilbert would not work with actors who challenged his authority. [ [http://faculty.winthrop.edu/vorderbruegg/winthropweb/vitaindex/gilbert.html Vorder Bruegge, Andrew "W. S. Gilbert: Antiquarian Authenticity and Artistic Autocracy" (Associate Professor, Department Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance, Winthrop University). Professor Vorder Bruegge presented this paper at the Victorian Interdisciplinary Studies Association of the Western United States annual conference in October 2002] , accessed March 26, 2008] In addition, "Mr. Gilbert is a perfect autocrat, insisting that his words should be delivered, even to an inflection 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 them to be." [ [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/books/grossmith/gg06.html George Grossmith's description of Gilbert's direction of his shows] ] Even during long runs and revivals, Gilbert closely supervised the performances of his plays, making sure that the actors did not make unauthorised additions, deletions or paraphrases. [See, e.g. Stedman (1996), p. 269 (quoting a 30 April 1890 letter from Gilbert to D'Oyly Carte); Gilbert, W.S., [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/html/stage_play.html A Stage Play] ; Bond, Jessie, [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/books/bond/chapter04_txt.htm Chapter 4] ; [http://www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/guided_tours/musicals_tour/first_musicals/doyly_carte.php PeoplePlay UK, "D'Oyly Carte"] , etc.] Gilbert was famous for demonstrating the action himself, even as he grew older. [In Gilbert, W. S., [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/html/stage_play.html A Stage Play] , Gilbert describes the effect of these demonstrations: "...when he endeavours to show what he wants his actors to do, he makes himself rather ridiculous, and there is a good deal of tittering at the wings; but he contrives, nevertheless, to make himself understood...." See also Stedman (1996), p. 325; and Hicks, Seymour and Terriss, Ellaline [http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/mdpemberton-wsg.htm "Views of W.S. Gilbert"] ] Gilbert himself went on stage in a number of productions throughout his lifetime, including several performances as the Associate in "Trial by Jury", as substitute for an ailing actor in his play "Broken Hearts", and in charity matinees of his one-act plays, such as King Claudius in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern". [ [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/books/lytton_secrets/notes.html Robert Morrison, in editorial notes to Henry Lytton's book, "The Secrets of a Savoyard"] .]

The collaboration with Sullivan

First collaborations amidst other works

In 1871, John Hollingshead commissioned Gilbert to work with Sullivan on a holiday piece for Christmas, "Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old", at the Gaiety Theatre. "Thespis" outran five of its nine competitors for the 1871 holiday season and was later revived for a benefit performance. However, nothing more came of it at that point, and Gilbert and Sullivan went their separate ways. Gilbert worked again with Clay on "Happy Arcadia" (1872), and with Alfred Cellier on "Topsyturveydom" (1874), as well as writing several farces, operetta libretti, extravaganzas, fairy comedies, adaptations from novels, translations from the French, and the dramas described above. Also in 1874, he published his last contribution for "Fun" magazine ("Rosencrantz and Guildenstern"), after a gap of three years, then resigned due to disapproval of the new owner's other publishing interests. [Jones, John Bush, "W.S. Gilbert's Contributions to Fun, 1865–1874", published in the "Bulletin of the New York Public Library", vol 73 (April 1969), pp. 253–66]

It would be nearly four years after "Thespis" was produced before the two men worked together again. In 1868, Gilbert had published a short comedic sketch libretto in "Fun" magazine entitled "Trial by Jury: An Operetta". In 1873, Gilbert arranged with the theatrical manager and composer, Carl Rosa, to expand the piece into a one-act libretto. Rosa's wife was to sing the role of the plaintiff. However, Rosa's wife died in childbirth in 1874. Later in 1874 Gilbert offered the libretto to Richard D'Oyly Carte, but Carte could not use the piece at that time. By early 1875, Carte was managing the Royalty Theatre, and he needed a short opera to be played as an afterpiece to Offenbach's "La Périchole". He contacted Gilbert, asked about the piece, and suggested Sullivan to set the work. Sullivan was enthusiastic, and "Trial by Jury" was composed in a matter of weeks. The little piece was a runaway hit, outlasting the run of "La Périchole" and being revived at another theatre. [Walbrook, H. M. (1922), [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/books/walbrook/chap3.html "Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, a History and Comment"(Chapter 3)] . See also Barker, John W. [http://www.madisonsavoyards.org/Public/reference/gsbio.html "Gilbert and Sullivan"] , which quotes Sullivan's recollection of Gilbert reading the libretto of "Trial by Jury" to him: "As soon as he had come to the last word he closed up the manuscript violently, apparently unconscious of the fact that he had achieved his purpose so far as I was concerned, in as much as I was screaming with laughter the whole time."]

Gilbert continued his quest to gain respect in and respectability for his profession. One thing that may have been holding dramatists back from respectability was that plays were not published in a form suitable for a "gentleman's library", as, at the time, they were generally cheaply and unattractively published for the use of actors rather than the home reader. To help rectify this, at least for himself, Gilbert arranged in late 1875 for publishers Chatto and Windus to print a volume of his plays in a format designed to appeal to the general reader, with an attractive binding and clear type, containing Gilbert's most respectable plays, including his most serious works, but mischievously capped off with "Trial by Jury".

After the success of "Trial by Jury", there were discussions towards reviving "Thespis", but Gilbert and Sullivan were not able to agree on terms with Carte and his backers. The score to "Thespis" was never published, and most of the music is now lost. It took some time for Carte to gather funds for another Gilbert and Sullivan opera, and in this gap Gilbert produced several works including "Tom Cobb" (1875), "Eyes and No Eyes" (1875, his last German Reed Entertainment), and "Princess Toto" (1876), his last and most ambitious work with Clay, a three-act comic opera with full orchestra, as opposed to the shorter works for much reduced accompaniment that came before. Gilbert also wrote two serious works during this time, "Broken Hearts" (1875) and "Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith" (1876).

Also during this period, Gilbert wrote his most successful comic play, "Engaged" (1877), which inspired Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest". "Engaged" is a parody of romantic drama written in the "topsy-turvy" satiric style of many of Gilbert's Bab Ballads and the Savoy Operas, with one character pledging his love, in the most poetic and romantic language possible, to every single woman in the play; the "innocent" Scottish rustics being revealed to be making a living through throwing trains off the lines and then charging the passengers for services, and, in general, romance being gladly thrown over in favour of monetary gain. "Engaged" continues to be performed today by both professional and amateur companies. [Gilbert, W. S., [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/other_gilbert/engaged.txt "Engaged"] , see also Feingold, Michael, [http://www.villagevoice.com/theater/0418,feingold1,53206,11.html "Engaging the Past"] (Note the last paragraph, where Feingold writes, "Wilde pillaged this piece for ideas."); Gardner, Lyn, [http://arts.guardian.co.uk/critic/review/0,,852202,00.html Review of Engaged in "The Guardian"] , etc.]

The peak collaborative years

Carte finally assembled a syndicate in 1877 and formed the Comedy Opera Company to launch a series of original English comic operas, beginning with a third collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan, "The Sorcerer", in November 1877. This work was a modest success, and "H.M.S. Pinafore" followed in May 1878. Despite a slow start, mainly due to a scorching summer, "Pinafore" became a red-hot favourite by autumn. After a dispute with Carte over the division of profits, the other Comedy Opera Company partners hired thugs to storm the theatre one night to steal the sets and costumes, intending to mount a rival production. The attempt was repelled by stagehands and others at the theatre loyal to Carte, and Carte continued as sole impresario of the newly renamed D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. [Bond, Jessie, [http://math.boisestate.edu/GaS/books/bond/chapter04_txt.htm Chapter 4] .] Indeed, "Pinafore" was so successful that over a hundred unauthorised productions sprang up in America alone. Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte tried for many years to control the American performance copyrights over their operas, without success. [ [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=963540 Article on the pirating of G&S operas (and other works) and the development of performance copyrights] ] For the next decade, the Savoy Operas (as the series came to be known, after the theatre Carte later built to house them) were Gilbert's principal activity. The successful comic operas with Sullivan continued to appear every year or two, several of them being among the longest-running productions up to that point in the history of the musical stage. [ [http://www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/th-longr.html List of longest running London shows through 1920] . This list shows that "Pinafore", "Patience" and "The Mikado" each held the position of second longest-running musical theatre production in history for a time (after adjusting Pinafore's initial run down to 571 performances), and "The Gondoliers" was not far behind.] After "Pinafore" came "The Pirates of Penzance" (1879), "Patience" (1881), "Iolanthe" (1882), "Princess Ida" (1884, based on Gilbert's earlier farce, "The Princess"), "The Mikado" (1885), "Ruddigore" (1887), "The Yeomen of the Guard" (1888), and "The Gondoliers" (1889). Gilbert not only directed and oversaw all aspects of production for these works, but he actually "designed" the costumes himself for "Patience", "Iolanthe", "Princess Ida", and "Ruddigore". [ [http://math.boisestate.edu/GaS/whowaswho/G/GilbertWS.htm Profile of W. S. Gilbert] ] During this time, Gilbert and Sullivan also collaborated on one other major work, the oratorio "The Martyr of Antioch", premiered at the Leeds music festival in October 1880. Gilbert arranged the original epic poem by Henry Hart Milman into a libretto suitable for the music, and it contains some original work. During this period, Gilbert occasionally wrote plays to be performed elsewhere – both serious dramas (for example "The Ne'er-Do-Weel", 1878) and humorous works (for example "Foggerty's Fairy", 1881). However, he no longer needed to turn out multiple plays each year, as he had done before. Indeed, during the more than nine years that separated "The Pirates of Penzance" and "The Gondoliers", he wrote just three plays outside of the partnership with Sullivan. Only one of these works, "Comedy and Tragedy", proved successful. ["Foggerty's Fairy": Crowther, Andrew, [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/other_gilbert/foggerty/failure.html "Foggerty's Failure,"] "Comedy and Tragedy": Stedman, 1996, pp. 204–05. Although "Comedy and Tragedy" had a short run due to the lead actress refusing to act during Holy Week, the play was revived regularly. With respect to "Brantinghame Hall", however, Stedman (1996), p. 254, says, "It was a failure, the worst failure of Gilbert's career."]

In 1878, Gilbert realized a life-long dream to play Harlequin, which he did at the Gaiety Theatre as part of an amateur charity production of "The Forty Thieves", partly written by himself. Producer John Hollingshead later remembered, "...the gem of the performance was the grimly earnest and determined Harlequin of W. S. Gilbert. It gave me an idea of what Oliver Cromwell would have made of the character." [Hollingshead, John. [http://books.google.com/books?id=j2NuebFfsScC&dq=%22john+hollingshead%22+my+lifetime "My Lifetime"] , vol 2, p. 124 (1895) S. Low, Marston: London] Another member of the cast recalled that Gilbert was tirelessly enthusiastic about the piece and often invited the cast to his home for dinner extra rehearsals. "A pleasanter, more genial, or agreeable companion than he was it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to find." [Elliot, William Gerald. [http://books.google.com/books?id=joc0AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA127&lpg=PA127&dq=%22Forty+Thieves%22+%22Beefsteak+Club%22&source=web&ots=TqA5n3dc7G&sig=3NiMBN4HCHD6JPUbGS0kX7kpByY&hl=en#PPA107,M1 "The Amateur Pantomime of 1878", "Amateur Clubs and Actors", Chapter VI, pp. 122–23] (1898) London: E. Arnold] In 1882, Gilbert had a telephone installed in his home and at the prompt desk at the Savoy Theatre, so that he could monitor performances and rehearsals from his home study. Gilbert had referred to the new technology in "Pinafore" in 1878, only two years after the device was invented and before London even had telephone service. [Bradley, p. 176.]

The Carpet Quarrel and end of the collaboration

Gilbert sometimes had a strained working relationship with Sullivan, partly caused by the fact that each man saw himself allowing his work to be subjugated to the other's, and partly caused by the opposing personalities of the two—Gilbert was often confrontational and notoriously thin-skinned (though prone to acts of extraordinary kindness), while Sullivan eschewed conflict. In addition, Gilbert imbued his libretti with "topsy-turvy" situations in which the social order was turned upside down. After a time, these subjects were often at odds with Sullivan's desire for realism and emotional content. [See, e.g. Ainger, p. 288, or Wolfson, p. 3] In addition, Gilbert's political satire often poked fun at those in the circles of privilege, while Sullivan was eager to socialize among the wealthy and titled people who would become his friends and patrons. [See, e.g. Jacobs, Arthur (1992); Crowther, Andrew, [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/html/gilbert_l.html The Life of W.S. Gilbert] ; and Bond, Jessie, [http://math.boisestate.edu/GaS/books/bond/chapter16_txt.htm Chapter 16] Stedman (1996), pp. 264–65, notes some of Sullivan's cuts to Gondoliers to remove anti-monarchist sentiments.]

Throughout their collaboration, Gilbert and Sullivan quarrelled several times over the choice of a subject. After both "Princess Ida" and "Ruddigore", which were less successful than the seven other operas from "H.M.S. Pinafore" through "The Gondoliers", Sullivan asked to leave the partnership, saying that he found Gilbert's plots repetitive and that the operas were not artistically satisfying to him. While the two artists worked out their differences, Carte kept the Savoy open with revivals of their earlier works. On each occasion, after a few months' pause, Gilbert responded with a libretto that met Sullivan's objections, and the partnership was able to continue successfully. [Crowther, Andrew, [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/html/quarrel.html The Carpet Quarrel Explained] .]

During the run of "The Gondoliers", however, Gilbert challenged Carte over the expenses of the production. Carte had charged the cost of a new carpet for the Savoy Theatre lobby to the partnership. Gilbert believed that this was a maintenance expense that should be charged to Carte alone. As scholar Andrew Crowther has explained:

:After all, the carpet was only one of a number of disputed items, and the real issue lay not in the mere money value of these things, but in whether Carte could be trusted with the financial affairs of Gilbert and Sullivan. Gilbert contended that Carte had at best made a series of serious blunders in the accounts, and at worst deliberately attempted to swindle the others. It is not easy to settle the rights and wrongs of the issue at this distance, but it does seem fairly clear that there was something very wrong with the accounts at this time. Gilbert wrote to Sullivan on 28 May 1891, a year after the end of the "Quarrel", that Carte had admitted "an unintentional overcharge of nearly £1,000 in the electric lighting accounts alone."Crowther, Andrew, [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/html/quarrel.html The Carpet Quarrel Explained] ]

Sullivan sided with Carte, who was building a theatre in London for the production of new English grand operas, with Sullivan's "Ivanhoe" as the inaugural work. While the protracted quarrel worked itself out in the courts and in public, Gilbert wrote "The Mountebanks" with Alfred Cellier and the flop "Haste to the Wedding" with George Grossmith.

, his protégée from "Utopia", led to Sullivan's refusal. [ Wolfson, pp. 61–65.] "Utopia", concerning an attempt to "anglicise" a south Pacific island kingdom, was only a modest success, and "The Grand Duke", in which a theatrical troupe, by means of a "statutory duel" and a conspiracy, takes political control of a grand duchy, was an outright failure. After that, the partnership ended for good. [Wolfson, passim] Sullivan continued to compose comic opera with other librettists but died four years later. In 1904, Gilbert would write, "...Savoy opera was snuffed out by the deplorable death of my distinguished collaborator, Sir Arthur Sullivan. When that event occurred, I saw no one with whom I felt that I could work with satisfaction and success, and so I discontinued to write "libretti"." [Letter to the Editor, "The Times", Saturday, Mar 12, 1904; pg. 9; Issue 37340; col C]

Later years

Gilbert built the Garrick Theatre in 1889. [ [https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/garricktheatre.asp Garrick Theatre history site] .] The Gilberts moved to Grim's Dyke in Harrow in 1890, which he purchased from Robert Heriot, to whom the artist Frederick Goodall had sold the property in 1880. [Stedman (1996), p. 278.] In 1891, Gilbert was appointed Justice of the Peace for Middlesex. [Stedman (1996) p. 281.] After casting Nancy McIntosh in "Utopia, Limited", he and Lady Gilbert developed an affection for her, and she eventually gained the status of an unofficially adopted daughter, moving to Grim's Dyke to live with them. She continued living there, even after Gilbert's death, until Lady Gilbert's death in 1936. [ [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/whowaswho/M/McIntoshNancy.htm Who Was Who in The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company: Nancy McIntosh] at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive.] A statue of Charles II was carved by Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber in 1681 and placed at the centre of Soho Square. By the early 19th century, the statue was described as being 'in a most wretched mutilated state; and the inscriptions on the base of the pedestal quite illegible'. [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41027&strquery=Cibber "Soho Square Area: Portland Estate: Soho Square Garden"] in "Survey of London" volumes 33 and 34 (1966) St Anne Soho, pp. 51-53. Date accessed: 12 January 2008.] In 1875, it was removed during alterations in the square and given for safekeeping to Frederick Goodall, with the intention that it might be restored. Goodall placed the statue on an island in his lake at Grim's Dyke, where it remained when Gilbert purchased the property. In her will, Lady Gilbert directed that the statue be returned, and it was restored to Soho Square in 1938. [ [http://www.londonremembers.com/memorial/?id=216 Photo of the statue] ]

Although Gilbert announced a retirement from the theatre after the poor initial run of his last work with Sullivan, "The Grand Duke" (1896) and the poor reception of his 1897 play "The Fortune-Hunter", he produced at least three more plays over the last dozen years of his life, including an unsuccessful opera, "Fallen Fairies" (1909), with Edward German. [Wolfson, pp. 102–03.] Gilbert also continued to supervise the various revivals of his works by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. [Wolfson, p. 102.] His last play, "The Hooligan", produced just four months before his death, is a study of a young condemned thug in a prison cell. The piece was so grim and powerful that, according to Mrs. Alec Tweedie, "women [in the audience] had gone out fainting". "The Hooligan" was one of Gilbert's most successful serious dramas, and experts conclude that, in those last months of Gilbert's life, he was developing a new style, a "mixture of irony, of social theme, and of grubby realism," [Stedman (1996), p. 343.] to replace the old "Gilbertianism" that he had grown weary of. [Crowther, Andrew, [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/other_gilbert/hooligan/index.html Notes on the Hooligan] ]

Gilbert was knighted on 15 July 1907 in recognition of his contributions to drama. [Ainger, pp. 417–18] Sullivan had been knighted for his contributions to music almost a quarter of a century earlier, in 1883. Gilbert was, however, the first British writer ever to receive a knighthood for his plays alone—earlier dramatist knights, such as Sir William Davenant and Sir John Vanbrugh, were knighted for political and other services. [Stedman (1996), p. 328.]

On 29 May 1911, Gilbert was giving swimming lessons to two young ladies in the lake of his home Grim's Dyke when one of them lost her footing and called for help. Gilbert dived in to save her, but suffered a heart attack in the middle of the lake and drowned. His ashes were buried at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Stanmore. The inscription on Gilbert's memorial on the south wall of the Thames Embankment in London reads: "His Foe was Folly, and his Weapon Wit."

Personality and legacy

Jessie Bond wrote that Gilbert "was quick-tempered, often unreasonable, and he could not bear to be thwarted, but how anyone could call him unamiable I cannot understand." [Bond, Jessie, [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/books/bond/chapter16_txt.htm Chapter 16] ] Aside from his occasional creative disagreements with, and eventual rift from, Sullivan, Gilbert's temper led to the loss of friendships with a number of people. For instance, he quarrelled with his old associate C. H. Workman over the firing of Nancy McIntosh from the production of "Fallen Fairies". He also saw his friendship with theatre critic Clement Scott turn bitter. However, Gilbert could be extraordinarily kind. During Scott's final illness in 1904, for instance, Gilbert donated to a fund for him, visited nearly every day, and assisted Scott's wife, [Scott, Mrs. Clement, "Old Days in Bohemian London" (c.1910). New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. pp. 71–72] despite having not been on friendly terms with him for the previous sixteen years. [See Stedman (1996), pp. 254-56 and 323-24] Similarly, Gilbert had written several plays at the behest of comic actor Ned Sothern. However, Sothern died before he could perform the last of these, "Foggerty’s Fairy". Gilbert purchased the play back from his grateful widow. [See, e.g., Ainger, pp. 193–94.]

As the writings about Gilbert by husband and wife Seymour Hicks and Ellaline Terriss (frequent guests at his home) vividly illustrate, Gilbert's relationships with women were generally more successful than his relationships with men. [ Hicks, Seymour and Terriss, Ellaline [http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/mdpemberton-wsg.htm "Views of W.S. Gilbert"] ] Also, according to George Grossmith, Gilbert loved children:

Gilbert's legacy, aside from building the Garrick Theatre and writing the Savoy Operas and other works that are still being performed or in print over a hundred and twenty-five years after their creation, is felt perhaps most strongly today through his influence on the American and British musical theatre. The innovations in content and form of the works that he and Sullivan developed, and in Gilbert's theories of acting and stage direction, directly influenced the development of the modern musical throughout the 20th century.Downs, Peter. "Actors Cast Away Cares". "Hartford Courant", 18 October 2006. Available for a fee at [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/courant/access/1147907091.html?dids=1147907091:1147907091&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Oct+18%2C+2006&author=PETER+DOWNS&pub=Hartford+Courant&edition=&startpage=B.3&desc=ACTORS+CAST+AWAY+CARES+ courant.com archives.] ] [Cox-Ife, William. "W. S. Gilbert: Stage Director". Dobson, 1978 ISBN 0-234-77206-9] Gilbert's lyrics employ punning, as well as complex internal and two and three-syllable rhyme schemes, and served as a model for such 20th century Broadway lyricists as P.G. Wodehouse, [ [http://books.guardian.co.uk/authors/author/0,,-248,00.html "PG Wodehouse (1881–1975)"] guardian.co.uk, Retrieved on 2007-05-21.] Cole Porter, [ [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/education/lesson35_procedures.html "Lesson 35 — Cole Porter: You're the Top"] PBS.org, American Masters for Teachers, Retrieved on 2007-05-21.] Ira Gershwin, [Furia, Phillip. [http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Music/PopularMusic/Jazz/~~/dmlldz11c2EmY2k9OTc4MDE5NTExNTcwMw= "Ira Gershwin: The Art of a Lyricist"] Oxford University Press, Retrieved on 2007-05-21.] and Lorenz Hart.

Gilbert's influence on the English language has also been marked, with well-known phrases such as "A policeman's lot is not a happy one", "short, sharp shock", "What never? Well, hardly ever!", and "let the punishment fit the crime" arising from his pen. In addition, biographies continue to be written about Gilbert's life and work, [e.g., Stedman (1996), Crowther (2000)] and his work is not only performed, but frequently parodied, pastiched, quoted and imitated in comedy routines, film, television and other popular media. [Bradley (2005), Chapter 1]

ee also

*Arthur Sullivan
*Bibliography of W.S. Gilbert
*Cultural influence of Gilbert and Sullivan
*Gilbert and Sullivan
*List of W. S. Gilbert dramatic works


* (A collection of material from several books published previously.)
* (Contains mostly stories from "Foggerty's Fairy and Other Tales".)
* This book is [http://books.google.com/books?id=Y2kOAAAAIAAJ available online here] .
* Gilbert, W. S., "The Realm of Joy", ed. Terence Rees, 1969, self-published, Nightingale Square, London. ISBN 0-9500108-1-2
* p. 71–72.

Further reading

*cite book|last=Benford|first=Harry|year=1999|title=The Gilbert & Sullivan Lexicon, 3rd Revised Edition|location=Ann Arbor, Michigan|publisher=The Queensbury Press|id=ISBN 0-9667916-1-4
*cite book|last=Browne|first=Edith A.|year=1907|title=W. S. Gilbert|location=London|publisher=John Lane company The book is [http://books.google.com/books?id=pzYfAAAAMAAJ available online here] .
* (Macmillan Modern Dramatists series)
* McIntosh, Nancy. "The Late Sir W.S. Gilbert's Pets" in the "W. S. Gilbert Society Journal", Brian Jones, ed. Vol. 2 No. 18: Winter 2005 (reprinted from "Country Life", 3 June 1911), pp. 548-56


External links

* [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/html/gilbert_l.html The Life of W. S. Gilbert] , by Andrew Crowther
* [http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1938719,00.html Mike Leigh November 4 2006 interview in "The Guardian"]
* [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/other_gilbert/strand_article.html Interview of Gilbert] by Harry How
* [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ajcrowth/wsgsoc.htm The W. S. Gilbert Society website]
* [http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/mdpemberton-wsg.htm Views on Gilbert] by Seymour Hicks and Ellaline Terriss
* [http://www.msu.edu/~hungerf9/thr432.pdf An analysis of Gilbert's work, by Andrew Hungerford]
* [http://math.boisestate.edu/GaS/other_gilbert/fallen_fairies/article.html "The Controversy Surrounding Gilbert's Last Opera"] by Robert Morrison
* [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/other_gilbert/html/other_gilbert.html List of Gilbert's works, with links to most of them] at The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive
* [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/other_gilbert/short_stories/index.htm Some of Gilbert's short stories]
*gutenberg author| id=William+Schwenck+Gilbert | name=W. S. Gilbert
* [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/html/stage_play.html "A Stage Play"] , by W.S.Gilbert
* [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ajcrowth/babliophile.htm The Babliophile] , An Internet Magazine for the Seriously Deranged W.S. Gilbert Enthusiast
* [http://www.grimsdyke.com Grim's Dyke Hotel] , the Gilberts' former residence.
*imdb name|0318275
* [http://www.charendoffamilee.com W. S. Gilbert Society Journal article] about the discovery of a sketchbook claimed by the owner to be by Gilbert. The next issue published letters criticising the attribution.
* [http://www.adam-matthew-publications.co.uk/digital_guides/gilbert_and_sullivan_part_1/Brief-Chronology.aspx Chronology of Gilbert and Sullivan]

NAME= Gilbert, W. S.
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Gilbert, Sir William Schwenck
SHORT DESCRIPTION= playwright, poet
DATE OF BIRTH= 18 November 1836
PLACE OF BIRTH= Strand, London
DATE OF DEATH= 29 May 1911

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