WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
- Uncle Baby, London, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 31 October 1863.
- Hush-a-Bye Baby, on the Tree Top; or, Harlequin Fortunia, King Frog of Frog Island, and the Magic Toys of Lowther Arcade, by Gilbert and Charles Millard, London, Astley's Theatre, 26 December 1866.
- Dulcamara; or, The Little Duck and the Great Quack, London, St. James's Theatre, 29 December 1866.
- La Vivandière; or, True to the Corps! Liverpool, St. James's Hall, 15 June 1867.
- Robinson Crusoe; or, The Injun Bride and the Injured Wife, by Gilbert, Henry James Byron, Thomas Hood, Henry Sambrooke Leigh, and Arthur Sketchley, London, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 6 July 1867.
- Allow Me To Explain, London, Prince of Wales's Royal Theatre, 4 November 1867.
- Highly Improbable, London, New Royalty Theatre, 5 December 1867.
- Harlequin Cock Robin and Jenny Wren; or, Fortunatus and the Water of Life, the Three Bears, the Three Gifts, the Three Wishes, and the Little Man Who Woo'd the Little Maid, London, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 26 December 1867.
- The Merry Zingara; or, The Tipsy Gipsy and the Pipsy Wipsy: A Whimsical Parody on the "Bohemian Girl," London, New Royalty Theatre, 21 March 1868.
- Robert the Devil; or, The Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun, adapted from the opera Robert Le Diable (1831), by Giacomo Meyerbeer and Eugène Scribe, London, Gaiety Theatre, 21 December 1868.
- No Cards, music by Thomas German Reed, London, Royal Gallery of Illustration, 29 March 1869.
- The Pretty Druidess; or, The Mother, the Maid, and the Mistletoe Bough, adapted from the opera Norma (1831), by Vincenzo Bellini, London, Charing Cross Theatre, 19 June 1869.
- An Old Score, London, Gaiety Theatre, 19 July 1869.
- Ages Ago: A Ghost Story, music by Frederick Clay, London, Royal Gallery of Illustration, 22 November 1869.
- The Princess, adapted from the poem The Princess (1847), by Alfred Tennyson, London, Olympic Theatre, 8 January 1870; revised as Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant, music by Arthur Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 5 January 1884; New York, Fifth Avenue Theatre, 11 February 1884.
- The Gentleman in Black, music by Clay, London, Charing Cross Theatre, 26 May 1870.
- Our Island Home, music by German Reed, London, Royal Gallery of Illustration, 20 June 1870.
- The Palace of Truth, London, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 19 November 1870; New York, Garden Theatre, 17 January 1910.
- Randall's Thumb, London, Royal Court Theatre, 25 January 1871.
- A Sensation Novel, London, Royal Gallery of Illustration, 30 January 1871.
- Creatures of Impulse, music by Alberto Randegger, London, Royal Court Theatre, 2 April 1871.
- Great Expectations, adapted from the novel Great Expectations (1861), by Charles Dickens, London, Royal Court Theatre, 28 May 1871.
- Pygmalion and Galatea, London, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 9 December 1871; New York, Wallack's Theatre, 1 October 1872.
- Thespis; or, The Gods Grown Old, music by Sullivan, London, Gaiety Theatre, 23 December 1871.
- A Medical Man, London, St. George's Hall, 24 October 1872.
- Happy Arcadia, music by Clay, London, Royal Gallery of Illustration, 28 October 1872.
- On Guard, London, Royal Gallery of Illustration, 28 October 1872.
- The Wicked World, London, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 4 January 1873.
- The Happy Land, by Gilbert, as F. Tomline, and Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, London, Royal Court Theatre, 3 March 1873.
- The Realm of Joy, as Tomline, adapted from the play Le Roi Candaule (1873), by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, London, Royalty Theatre, 28 October 1873.
- The Wedding March, as Tomline, translated from Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (1851), by Eugène Labiche, London, Royal Court Theatre, 15 November 1873; revised as Haste to the Wedding, music by George Grossmith, London, Criterion Theatre, 27 July 1892.
- Charity, London, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 3 January 1874.
- Ought We to Visit Her? adapted from the novel Ought We to Visit Her? (1871), by Annie Edwardes, London, Royalty Theatre, 17 January 1874.
- Committed for Trial, translated from the play Le Réveillon (1872), by Meilhac and Halévy, London, Globe Theatre, 24 January 1874.
- Topsyturvydom, music by Alfred Cellier, London, Criterion Theatre, 21 March 1874.
- Sweethearts, London, Prince of Wales's Royal Theatre, 7 November 1874.
- Trial by Jury, music by Sullivan, London, Royalty Theatre, 25 March 1875; New York, 15 November 1875.
- Tom Cobb; or, Fortune's Toy, London, St. James's Theatre, 24 April 1875.
- Eyes and No Eyes; or, The Art of Seeing, music by German Reed, London, St. George's Hall, 5 July 1875.
- Broken Hearts, London, Royal Court Theatre, 17 December 1875.
- Princess Toto, music by Clay, Nottingham, Theatre Royal, 24 June 1876.
- Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith, adapted in part from the novel Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe (1861), by George Eliot, London, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 11 September 1876.
- On Bail, London, adapted from Le Réveillon, Criterion Theatre, 3 February 1877.
- Engaged, London, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 3 October 1877; New York, 52nd Street Theatre, 18 June 1925.
- The Sorcerer, music by Sullivan, London, Opéra Comique, 17 November 1877; New York, Broadway Theatre, 21 February 1879.
- The Forty Thieves, by Gilbert, Byron, and Francis C. Burnand, London, Gaiety Theatre, 13 February 1878.
- The Ne'er-do-Weel, London, Olympic Theatre, 25 February 1878; revised as The Vagabond, London, Olympic Theatre, 25 March 1878.
- H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor, music by Sullivan, London, Opéra Comique, 25 May 1878; Boston, Boston Museum, 25 November 1878.
- Gretchen, London, Olympic Theatre, 24 March 1879.
- Lord Mayor's Day, anonymous, translated from the play La Cagnotte (1864), by Labiche, London, Folly Theatre, 1 July 1879.
- The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty, music by Sullivan, New York, Fifth Avenue Theatre, 31 December 1879; London, Opéra Comique, 3 April 1880.
- Patience; or, Bunthorne's Bride, music by Sullivan, London, Opéra Comique, 23 April 1881; New York, Standard Theatre, 22 September 1881.
- Foggerty's Fairy, London, Criterion Theatre, 15 December 1881.
- Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri, music by Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 25 November 1882; New York, Standard Theatre, 25 November 1882.
- Comedy and Tragedy, London, Lyceum Theatre, 26 January 1884.
- The Mikado, music by Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 14 March 1885; New York, Fifth Avenue Theatre, 19 August 1885.
- Ruddygore; or, The Witch's Curse, music by Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 22 January 1887 (title changed to Ruddigore on 2 February); New York, Fifth Avenue Theatre, 21 February 1887.
- The Yeomen of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid, music by Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 3 October 1888; New York, Casino Theatre, 17 October 1888.
- Brantinghame Hall, London, St. James's Theatre, 29 November 1888.
- The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria, music by Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 7 December 1889; New York, New Park Theatre, 7 January 1890.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, adapted from the play Hamlet (circa 1600-1601), by William Shakespeare, London, Vaudeville Theatre, 3 June 1891.
- The Mountebanks, music by Alfred Cellier, London, Lyric Theatre, 4 January 1892.
- Utopia, Limited; or, The Flowers of Progress, music by Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 7 October 1893.
- His Excellency, music by Osmond Carr, London, Lyric Theatre, 27 October 1894.
- The Grand Duke; or, The Statutory Duel, music by Sullivan, London, Savoy Theatre, 7 March 1896.
- The Fortune-Hunter, Birmingham, Theatre Royal, 27 September 1897.
- Harlequin and the Fairy's Dilemma, London, Garrick Theatre, 3 May 1904.
- Fallen Fairies; or, The Wicked World, London, Savoy Theatre, 15 December 1909.
- The Hooligan, London, Coliseum Theatre, 27 February 1911.
- An Algerian Monkey versus British Apes: A Satirical, Political, Poetical & Quib (London: Chapman & Hall, 1864).
- The Goldsworthy Family; or, The Country Attorney (London: Freeman, 1864).
- A New and Original Extravaganza, Entitled Dulcamara; or, The Little Duck and the Great Quack (London: Strand, 1866).
- Ruy Blas: A Preposterous Piece of Nonsense for Private Representation (London: F. Warne / New York: Scribner, 1866).
- Harlequin Cock-Robin and Jenny Wren; or, Fortunatus and the Water of Life, the Three Bears, the Three Gifts, the Three Wishes, and the Little Man Who Woo'd the Little Maid: Grand Comic Christmas Pantomime, music by William Henry Montgomery (London: Music-Publishing, 1867).
- Robinson Crusoe; or, The Injun Bride and the Injured Wife: A Burlesque (London: "Fan" Office, 1867).
- La Vivandière; or, True to the Corps! An Original Operatic Extravaganza Founded on Donizetti's Opera, "La Figlia Del Regimento" (Liverpool: Matthews, 1867).
- The Merry Zingara; or, The Tipsy Gipsy and the Pipsy Wipsy: A Whimsical Parody on the "Bohemian Girl" (London: Phillips, 1868).
- Robert the Devil; or, The Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun: An Operatic Extravaganza, adapted from the opera Robert Le Diable, (1831), by Giacomo Meyerbeer and Eugène Scribe (London: Phillips, 1868).
- The "Bab" Ballads: Much Sound and Little Sense (London & New York: Routledge, 1868).
- An Old Score: An Original Comedy-Drama in Three Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1869).
- The Pretty Druidess; or, The Mother, the Maid, and the Mistletoe Bough: An Extravaganza, adapted from the opera Norma (1831), by Vincenzo Bellini (London: Phillips, 1869).
- The Gentleman in Black: An Original Musical Legend in Two Acts, music by Frederick Clay (London: Thomas Hailes Lacy, 1870).
- The Palace of Truth: A Fairy Comedy, in Three Acts (London: Thomas Hailes Lacy, 1870).
- The Princess: A Whimsical Allegory: Being a Respectful Perversion of Mr. Tennyson's Poem, adapted from the poem The Princess (1847), by Alfred Tennyson (London: Thomas Hailes Lacy, 1870); revised as Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant, music by Arthur Sullivan (London: Chappell, 1884; New York: J. M. Stoddart, 1884).
- Randall's Thumb: An Original Comedy, in Three Acts (London: Thomas Hailes Lacy, 1871; New York: S. French, 1871).
- Pygmalion and Galatea: An Entirely Original Mythological Comedy in Three Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1871).
- Creatures of Impulse: A Musical Fairy Tale, in One Act, music by Alberto Randegger (London: Thomas Hailes Lacy, 1871).
- Randall's Thumb: An Original Comedy in Three Acts (New York: S. French, 1871).
- A Medical Man: A Comedietta in One Act (London: S. Rivers, 1872; New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1872).
- On Guard: An Entirely Original Comedy in Three Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1872).
- The Wicked World: An Original Fairy Comedy in Three Acts (London: Printed by Judd, 1873; New York: S. French, 1873).
- The Happy Land: A Burlesque Version of The Wicked World, by Gilbert, as F. Tomline, and Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (London: J. W. Last, 1873).
- More "Bab" Ballads: Much Sound and Little Sense (London & New York: Routledge, 1873).
- The Wedding March (le chapeau de paille d'Italie): An Eccentricity in Three Acts, translated from Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (1851), by Eugène Labiche (London & New York: S. French, 1873).
- Charity: An Entirely Original Play in Four Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1874).
- Sweethearts: An Original Dramatic Contrast, in Two Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1874).
- Ought We to Visit Her? A Comedy in Three Acts: Dramatized from Mrs. Edwardes's Novel, adapted from the novel Ought We to Visit Her? (1871), by Annie Edwardes (London & New York: S. French, 1874).
- Tom Cobb; or, Fortune's Toy: An Entirely Original Farcical Comedy in Three Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1875).
- Ages Ago: A Musical Legend, music by Clay (New York, 1875).
- Broken Hearts: An Entirely Original Fairy Play in Three Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1875).
- Trial by Jury: A Novel and Original Dramatic Cantata, music by Sullivan (London: Walter Smith, 1875).
- Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith: A New and Original Drama, in Three Acts, adapted in part from the novel Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe (1861), by George Eliot (New York & London: S. French, 1876).
- Fifty "Bab" Ballads: Much Sound and Little Sense (London: Routledge, 1876; New York: Street & Smith, 1876).
- Engaged: An Entirely Original Farcical Comedy in Three Acts (London & New York: S. French, 1877).
- On Bail: A Farcical Comedy in Three Acts, adapted from Le Réveillon (London: S. French, 1877).
- H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor: An Entirely Original Nautical Comic Opera, music by Sullivan (London: Metzler, 1878; New York: S. French, 1878).
- The Ne'er-Do-Weel: An Entirely Original Play in Three Acts (London: Privately printed, 1878).
- Gretchen: A Play (London & New York: S. French, 1879).
- The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty: Comic Opera, music by Sullivan (London & New York: Chappell, 1879).
- An Entirely New and Original Aesthetic Opera, in Two Acts, Entitled Patience; or, Bunthorne's Bride! (London: Chappell, 1881); republished as Patience; or, Bunthorne's Bride: A Comic Opera in Two Acts, music by Sullivan (New York: Hitchcock & McCargo, 1881).
- Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri, music by Sullivan (London: Chappell, 1882; New York: J. M. Stoddart, 1882).
- The Sorcerer: An Original Modern Comic Opera in Two Acts; Also, Trial by Jury: A Dramatic Cantata, music by Sullivan (London: Chappell, 1884).
- Comedy and Tragedy: An Original Drama in One Act (London & New York: S. French, 1884).
- An Entirely New and Original Japanese Opera in Two Acts, Entitled The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu, music by Sullivan (London: Chappell, 1885; New York: W. A. Pond, 1885).
- An Entirely Original Supernatural Opera in Two Acts Entitled Ruddigore; or, The Witch's Curse, music by Sullivan (London: Chappell, 1887); republished as An Entirely Original Supernatural Opera in Two Acts Entitled Ruddygore; or, The Witch's Curse! (New York: W. A. Pond, 1887).
- An Entirely New and Original Drama, in Four Acts, Entitled Brantinghame Hall (London: Henderson, Rait & Spalding, 1888).
- The Yeomen of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid, music by Sullivan (London: Chappell / New York: W. A. Pond, 1888).
- The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria, music by Sullivan (London & New York: Chappell, 1889).
- Songs of a Savoyard (London & New York: Routledge, 1890).
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: A Tragic Episode in Three Tableaux, Founded on an Old Danish Legend, adapted from the play Hamlet (circa 1600-1601), by William Shakespeare (London & New York: S. French, 1891).
- Songs of Two Savoyards, music by Sullivan (London: Routledge & Chappell, 1892).
- Foggerty's Fairy and Other Tales (London: Routledge, 1892).
- The Mountebanks, music by Alfred Cellier (London & New York: Chappell, 1892).
- An Original Comic Opera in Two Acts Entitled Utopia Limited; or, The Flowers of Progress, music by Sullivan (London: Chappell / New York: Novello, Ewer, 1893).
- His Excellency: An Entirely Original Comic Opera in Two Acts, music by Osmond Carr (London & New York: Chappell, 1894).
- Eyes and No Eyes; or, The Art of Seeing, music by Thomas German Reed (London: Joseph Williams, 1896).
- The Grand Duke; or, The Statutory Duel: A Comic Opera in Two Acts, music by Sullivan (London & New York: Chappell, 1896).
- No Cards: A Musical Piece in One Act for Four Characters, music by German Reed (London: Joseph Williams, 1901).
- The Yarn of the Nancy Bell: Being a Reprint of Gilbert's Famous Ballad in Chap-Book Form (Boston: Seaver-Howland Press, 1913).
- Topsyturvydom: Original Extravaganza, music by Cellier (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931).
- A Colossal Idea: An Original Farce (London & New York: Putnam, 1932).
- Uncle Baby: A Comedietta (London: Terence Rees, 1968).
- W. S. Gilbert's Theatrical Criticism, edited by Jane W. Stedman (London: Society for Theatre Research, 2000).
- Original Plays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1875; New York: Scribner, Armstrong, 1876).
- Original Comic Operas, music by Arthur Sullivan (London: Chappell, Chatto & Windus, 1885; New York: Harper, 1886).
- The Savoy Operas: Being the Complete Text of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas Originally Produced in the Years 1875-1896, music by Sullivan (London: Macmillan, 1926).
- Book and Lyrics of the Best-Known Gilbert & Sullivan Operas, and the Bab Ballads, music by Sullivan (New York: Windsor, 1932).
- Plays and Poems, Including the Complete Text of the Fourteen Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, Three Other Gilbert Plays and All the Bab Ballads, music by Sullivan, preface by Deems Taylor (New York: Random House, 1932).
- Authentic Libretti of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, foreword by Frederick Hobbs (New York: Bass, 1934).
- The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan, edited by Ian C. Bradley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
- William Gilbert, The Magic Mirror: A Round of Tales for Young and Old, illustrated by W. S. Gilbert (London & New York: Alexander Strahan, 1866).
- William Gilbert, King George's Middy, illustrated by W. S. Gilbert (London: Bell & Daldy, 1869).
On the death of W. S. Gilbert, H. L. Mencken wrote in the 30 May 1911 Baltimore Evening Sun: "Here, indeed, was wit that Aristophanes might have fathered; here was humor that Rabelais might have been proud to own." Gilbert was quarrelsome, stodgily middle-class, autocratic as a director, and possessed of a singular vision, and his collaboration with the composer Arthur Sullivan had an impact on the development of modern theater that cannot be overestimated. Of their fifteen-year partnership Mencken wrote, "Sullivan, without Gilbert, seemed to lose the gift of melody, and Gilbert, without Sullivan, was parted from that exquisite humor which made him, even above Mark Twain , the merrymaker of his generation." Their light operas continue to play to sold-out houses and show little sign of decreasing in popularity.
William Schwenck Gilbert was born in London on 18 November 1836; he was the only son of the four children of William Gilbert, a former naval surgeon who had retired at twenty-five on receipt of a sizable inheritance and later became a writer, and Anne Morris Gilbert. The family spent much time traveling on the Continent, and at age two Gilbert, whose nickname was "Bab," was kidnapped by bandits near Naples and returned to his parents on payment of a ransom. He was educated in Boulogne, France, from age seven to ten; at the Western Grammar School in Brompton from 1846 to 1849; and at the Great Ealing School, where he wrote several plays for student performances, from 1849 to 1852. In October 1855 he enrolled at King's College, London, where several of his poems appeared in the student magazine, and also began studying law at the Inner Temple. He intended to go on to the University of Oxford; but the Crimean War was at its height, and he decided instead to take an examination for a commission in the Royal Artillery. The war ended in December 1856, and the examination was indefinitely postponed. Gilbert received his B.A. from the University of London in 1857 and took a commission in a militia unit, the Third Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders. His military career was less than stellar: he was prepared to make any sacrifice for his country short of subjecting himself to personal discomfort. According to Alfred E. Watson, Gilbert once instructed his troops to abandon the field during a war game in Scotland; while his superior officer spent the entire day looking for the battalion in the rain, Gilbert was back in the barracks with his men, warming himself by the fire.
In 1857 Gilbert went to work as a clerk in the Educational Department of the Privy Council Office. His first professional writing job occurred in 1858, when he was asked by his childhood friend, the soprano Euphrosyne Parepa de Boyesku, to translate her signature piece, the "laughing song" from Daniel-François-Esprit Auber and Eugène Scribe 's opera Manon Lescaut (1856), into English for the playbill for a promenade concert at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.
Gilbert detested his work at the Educational Department and quit in 1861 on receiving a substantial inheritance from an aunt; in "An Autobiography," published in The Theatre magazine in 1883 and collected in Harold Orel's Gilbert and Sullivan: Interviews and Recollections (1994), he describes the day he sent in his resignation as "the happiest day of my life." Also in 1861 he submitted a short column and a half-page drawing to the magazine Fun, which had been started that year by Henry James Byron. Byron commissioned Gilbert to submit a column and drawing every week; Gilbert did so until 1871. His most popular contributions to Fun were a series of whimsical columns, collectively known as "Bab Ballads" after his nursery nickname, published between June 1867 and January 1869. He also wrote humorous pieces for other periodicals, including Punch, Cornhill, Tinsley's, Temple Bar, and London Society, and dramatic criticism for The Illustrated Times; since many of these writings were unsigned, the full extent of Gilbert's contributions to periodicals will probably never be known.
Gilbert's friend Thomas W. Robertson, an actor and dramatist best known today for his plays Society (1865) and Caste (1867), encouraged Gilbert to become a playwright. Gilbert's first professionally produced play, Uncle Baby, premiered on 31 October 1863 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre.
Gilbert paid £100 of his inheritance for his call to the bar, which took place on 17 November 1863; he used the rest to set himself up in chambers. He was not successful as a barrister; he was, by his own description, a poor speaker, and one of his clients threw a boot at him after a judgment went against her. On 15 March 1866 he joined the Northern Circuit, practicing in London, Manchester, and Liverpool. That year he provided eighty-four illustrations for his father's The Magic Mirror: A Round of Tales for Young and Old.
In 1866 the St. James's Theatre needed a piece for a Christmas production in a scant two weeks, and Robertson urged Gilbert to accept the job. The result, written in ten days, was Dulcamara; or, The Little Duck and the Great Quack, a burlesque of Gaetano Donizetti's opera L'Elisir d'Amore (1832, The Elixir of Love). Astley's Theatre premiered Gilbert's Hush-a-Bye Baby, on the Tree Top; or, Harlequin Fortunia, King Frog of Frog Island, and the Magic Toys of Lowther Arcade on 26 December; Dulcamara opened at the St. James's on 29 December. Dulcamara was followed by La Vivandière; or True to the Corps!, based on Donizetti's La fille du régiment (1840, The Daughter of the Regiment), which opened at St. James's Hall in Liverpool on 15 June 1867.
On 6 August 1867 Gilbert married Lucy Agnes Blois Turner. They bought a house in the Kensington section of London, where, although they never had children of their own, the couple was well known for hosting parties for children at which Gilbert was charming and playful--in contrast to the gruff, sarcastic demeanor he typically displayed in his relationships with adults. He gave up the law in 1868 to concentrate on his burgeoning career as a writer.
In the late 1860s Gilbert's prolific output and skill at writing to order for specific playhouses and casts earned him a reputation as a reliable craftsman, and his failures at the box office were rarer than his successes. The Merry Zingara; or, The Tipsy Gipsy and the Pipsy Wipsy opened at the New Royalty Theatre on 21 March 1868. A cascade of puns and doggerel, the play did not fare well in comparison to Francis C. Burnand's hit Black-Eyed Susan, which had immediately preceded it at the New Royalty.
On 7 July 1868 Gilbert was promoted to captain of his militia regiment. His Robert the Devil; or, The Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun, premiered at the newly opened Gaiety Theatre on 21 December. In 1869 he provided 150 illustrations for his father's novel King George's Middy. His first full-length comedy, An Old Score, debuted at the Gaiety on 19 July 1869.
Gilbert wrote six plays for the producers Thomas German Reed and his wife, Priscilla Horton German Reed: No Cards (1869), Ages Ago (1869), Our Island Home (1870), A Sensation Novel (1871), and Happy Arcadia (1872) were produced at the German Reeds' Royal Gallery of Illustration, and Eyes and No Eyes (1875) was staged at St. George's Hall. Gilbert occasionally appeared as an actor in the plays, although the journalist and theater manager John Hollingshead described his Harlequin as equivalent to what Oliver Cromwell's interpretation might have been.
The plays Gilbert wrote prior to working with the German Reeds show a process of experimentation with various genres and techniques, each one providing a lesson that Gilbert incorporated into his mature libretto style. That style is clearly in evidence in the Gallery of Illustration pieces. Gilbert's decision to switch from the conventional rhymed couplets to prose for the dialogue between songs gave him free rein to indulge in puns, slang, and billingsgate. The plays also show a growing willingness to toy with, and sometimes ironically subvert, conventions of staging and characterization.
Gilbert developed his work to suit the tastes of the rising middle class, which was finding itself with increasing wealth and leisure time and was beginning to accept the theater as a respectable form of entertainment. Avoiding any hint of impropriety or obscenity, he filled his pieces with caricature, teasing satire of the upper classes, and gentle assaults on institutions such as the courts, the military, and Parliament that stopped short of substantial criticism. He was training his budding audience to listen carefully to the words of a play--to pay strict attention in case a sudden plot twist or paradox might appear. This conditioning prepared the London theatergoing public for the sophisticated plays of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw .
Gilbert first met Sullivan in 1869. While working for the German Reeds, he collaborated on several plays with the musician Frederick Clay; one of them was Ages Ago, the score of which Clay dedicated to his friend Sullivan. Clay invited Sullivan to a rehearsal of the play, where he introduced the composer to Gilbert (portions of the score of Ages Ago appeared in Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddygore in 1887). In 1904 Gilbert told William Archer that he played a joke on Sullivan with a "piece of musical clap-trap" he had cribbed from an encyclopedia without having any idea what it meant:
So I said to him, "I'm very glad to have the pleasure of meeting you, Mr. Sullivan, for you will be able to decide a question which has just arisen between my friend Fred Clay and myself. I maintain that, if a composer has a musical theme to express, he can express it as perfectly upon the simple tetrachord of Mercury, in which (as I need not tell you) there are no diatonic intervals at all, as upon the much more complicated dis-diapason (with the four tetrachords and the redundant note), which embraces in its perfect consonance all the simple, double, and inverted chords." Sullivan appeared to be impressed by the question. . . . He must have thought about it for about thirty years, for I never received an answer. . . .
In the ensuing months Gilbert completed The Princess. An experiment in blank verse and mock-heroic seriousness adapted from Alfred Tennyson 's 1847 poem, the play premiered at the Olympic Theatre on 8 January 1870 to resounding success. Gilbert was then commissioned by the manager of the Theatre Royal Haymarket, John Baldwin Buckstone, to write a blank-verse fairy comedy, The Palace of Truth. This satirical psychological piece, in which the characters are magically forced to tell the truth, parodies high society; it opened on 19 November 1870 and was one of Gilbert's greatest successes apart from his collaborations with Sullivan. It was followed at the Haymarket on 9 December 1871 by Pygmalion and Galatea, for which Gilbert earned £40,000.
During this period Gilbert's production rate was astonishing: often a single London theater season would feature four or more of his works. The newly constructed Royal Court Theatre commissioned Gilbert to write its debut piece, the comedy Randall's Thumb; it premiered on 25 January 1871, followed on 2 April by Creatures of Impulse and on 28 May by his adaptation of Charles Dickens 's 1861 novel, Great Expectations. (Gilbert was a lifelong devotee of Dickens's writings and never traveled without a volume of his works.) The Royal Court produced Gilbert's On Guard in 1872 and The Wedding March in 1873. The Haymarket premiered the fairy comedy The Wicked World on 4 January 1873; the "Lozenge Plot," a contrivance through which a character is transformed by swallowing a magic lozenge, makes its first appearance in this play. In March 1873 Gilbert's satirical attack on Prime Minister William Gladstone, The Happy Land, was produced at the Royal Court. Negative attention from Parliament resulted in some minor censorship of the piece, on which the playwright Gilbert Abbott à Beckett had collaborated. The comedy Charity followed at the Haymarket on 3 January 1874; its assault on the double standard of behavior for men and women resulted in cries of "immorality" and incited a minor scandal.
Several months after their meeting at the Royal Gallery of Illustration, Gilbert and Sullivan were brought together by Gaiety Theatre manager Hollingshead to collaborate on Thespis; or, The Gods Grown Old; it was staged on 23 December 1871 as an afterpiece to Dearer Than Love, by Byron, Gilbert's former editor at Fun. Gilbert then proposed that Sullivan compose a score for his The Princess. Sullivan was reluctant: he had often been the target of Gilbert's wit, and he had a rather low opinion of comic opera in general. Seduced in the end by money, Sullivan entered into a partnership with Gilbert that lasted for more than two decades. (Princess Ida, the musical version of The Princess, did not appear until 1884.)
Gilbert's Ought We To Visit Her? opened at the Royalty Theatre on 17 January 1874; it was based on the 1871 novel of the same title by Annie Edwardes. Sweethearts premiered on 7 November 1874 at the Prince of Wales's Royal Theatre. Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on Trial by Jury, commissioned by Carl Rosa as a starring vehicle for his wife, Gilbert's soprano friend, who was then known as Euphrosyne Parepa de Boyesku Parepa-Rosa. The operetta, which opened at the Royalty Theatre on 25 March 1875, featured Sullivan's brother Frederick as the judge. Gilbert's name was at first absent from the promotional materials; later, it was misspelled and followed Sullivan's, contradicting the traditional practice of placing the librettist's name first. This slight on Gilbert's prerogatives may have been one of the seeds of the eventual tension between the two, as Gilbert was a champion holder of grudges.
Gilbert's cloyingly sentimental Broken Hearts opened at the Royal Court on 17 December 1875. The critic Clement Scott earned the playwright's enmity by jokingly referring to the play as "Gilbert's Broken Parts," initiating a feud that lasted for twenty-nine years. (According to the 1919 memoirs of Scott's widow, Constance Margaret Brandon Scott, Gilbert characteristically put the past aside when Scott was on his deathbed and provided the critic and his wife with assistance until Scott died.)
Gilbert wrote Tom Cobb, an indictment of greed and the sexual double standard, for the St. James's Theatre; it opened on 24 April 1875. The Haymarket premiered his Dan'l Druce, a not-so-successful work partly adapted from George Eliot 's novel Silas Marner (1861), on 11 September 1876. Engaged, a deeply cynical satire of marriage and greed, opened at the Haymarket on 3 October 1877; many literary historians consider it equivalent in dramatic skill to Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Shaw decried the play vehemently and Gilbert frequently, but was later accused of attempting to duplicate the "Gilbertian" themes of Engaged in his Arms and the Man (1894); Shaw denied this charge with equal vehemence.
Richard D'Oyly Carte, the managing director of the Opéra Comique, had been so impressed by Trial by Jury that he commissioned Gilbert and Sullivan to write The Sorcerer. Based on Gilbert's Dulcamara, the play opened on 17 November 1877, ran for six months, and introduced George Grossmith and Rutland Barrington to the London professional stage; the two actors became staples of the D'Oyly Carte company, and the Gilbert and Sullivan operas afforded them the peaks of their acting careers.
Without Sullivan, Gilbert created The Ne'er-do-Weel for the Olympic; it opened on 25 February 1878 and, true to its title, did not do well, receiving hisses from the audience. Gilbert rewrote it and retitled it The Vagabond; this version opened one month after the first with no better success.
Gilbert became famous--or infamous--for his "stage management" of his plays. Dramatists in Victorian London often took on the role of what is today known as the director, although that modern concept did not fully take hold until later. Gilbert, who credited his friend Robertson with the invention of stage management, paid minute attention to detail and micromanaged his actors in a manner that would not be tolerated today; even among Victorian casts Gilbert's strict direction and thorough rehearsal process were unusual. He dictated every spoken inflection and even the tiniest movements of his actors and insisted that they stick precisely to the script. He discouraged the practice of many Victorian principal actors of calling attention to themselves with unrehearsed or unmotivated stage business and the star-turn convention in which an actor broke character for a moment to receive acclaim from the audience. Gilbert threatened to sue actors who disobeyed his instructions; he once knocked an actor down during an argument and then took the man's place onstage for the entire performance. Madge Kendal (Dame Margaret Shafto Grimston, née Robertson) accuses Gilbert in her memoirs (1933) of behaving abominably from his box during her performances after they quarreled during rehearsals, and Mary Anderson reports in A Few Memories (1936) that she repeatedly left rehearsals of Pygmalion and Galatea in tears after being berated by the playwright. During a rehearsal of The Vagabond Johnston Forbes-Robertson refused to become word-perfect in his line readings; the actor got the better of Gilbert in the ensuing argument, an exchange of witticisms, and the two did not speak to one another for thirty years. (As with Scott, Gilbert eventually initiated a reconciliation with Forbes-Robertson.) He was jealous of others' success and sensitive to even the mildest criticism of his own work. Offense was often taken at his acerbic wit; his penchant for robust banter immersed him in many quarrels; and his quick temper, coupled with his reluctance to let go of a grudge, earned him many enduring enemies. But his actors profited immensely from his intense training both individually and as a troupe, and many of them praised his exacting standards and professionalism in their memoirs. And his courtesy to actresses--when he was not berating them--was legendary; he often paid for cabs to take them home after late rehearsals.
Sullivan found Gilbert a capable and invigorating collaborator. He was impressed with Gilbert's innovative manner of integrating the chorus into the plot, and he laughed uproariously when Gilbert read the librettos aloud. For his part, Gilbert was always deferential when dealing with Sullivan; and he praised the acting of Sullivan's brother, to whom the composer was devoted. ("The Lost Chord," the ode Sullivan composed on Frederick's death of pneumonia in 1877, is one of the great musical achievements of the nineteenth century.) The two men matched each other in perfectionism and professionalism and agreed that hiring good singers who could not act was detrimental to the production. Grossmith, a drawing-room actor with no professional experience, was surprised to have been selected to star in The Sorcerer and confessed to Gilbert, "I should have thought you required a fine man with a fine voice." Gilbert replied, "No, that is exactly what we don't want." Gilbert preferred inexperienced actors whom he could mold according to his ideals, and he often dismissed performers who quibbled with his vision.
In preparation for writing H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor Gilbert secured permission from the Royal Navy to make a minute study of the H.M.S. Victory, Admiral Horatio Nelson's former flagship. Sullivan, who had been suffering from kidney stones since 1872, completed the lighthearted score during brief intervals between paroxysms of excruciating pain. The production opened at the Opéra Comique on 25 May 1878 and ran for two years. H.M.S. Pinafore gripped all of London in a kind of mania but raised some eyebrows in Parliament for its obvious caricature of W. H. Smith, a publisher who had recently been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli ; Disraeli himself humorously referred to his cabinet minister as "Pinafore Smith."
Intellectual-property laws left British theatrical producers at the nonexistent mercy of American pirates: by 1879 H.M.S. Pinafore was being performed all over the United States, even in church choirs, without a cent going to its creators; eight unauthorized productions were running in New York City alone. Sullivan quipped that "a free and independent American citizen ought not to be robbed of his right of robbing someone else." In a desperate attempt to protect what passed for the play's "copyright," D'Oyly Carte moved his company, including Gilbert and Sullivan, to New York to mount an authorized production. A theatrical producer suggested that the play would be a greater success locally if the ship were renamed the U.S.S. Pinafore and the Union Jack replaced with the Stars and Stripes. Gilbert improvised on the spot a rewriting of Bill Bobstay's song "He Is an Englishman":
Based on Gilbert's childhood kidnapping in Italy, The Pirates of Penzance opened at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York on 31 December 1879. It did not have an English premiere until 1880: it opened at the Opéra Comique on 3 April and remained in production for a year.
Patience, a biting satire of the "Aesthetic Movement" championed by Wilde, followed on 23 April 1881 and ran for nineteen months. D'Oyly Carte persuaded Wilde to go on a lecture tour of the United States, which generated advance interest in the American tour of Patience that followed. Meanwhile, Gilbert wrote Foggerty's Fairy, another instance of the Lozenge Plot, without Sullivan's collaboration. It premiered at the Olympic Theatre on 15 December 1881.
The overwhelming and unprecedented success of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas prompted D'Oyly Carte to build the Savoy Theatre, the first auditorium with electric lighting, as a venue for their works. D'Oyly Carte also inaugurated the convention of "queuing for tickets" at the box office. Patience was transferred from the Opéra Comique to the Savoy on 10 October 1881. The first production to premiere at the Savoy was Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri, in which a fairy marries a mortal and British politics--especially the House of Lords--is satirized; it opened on 25 November 1882 and was the fourth straight blockbuster for D'Oyly Carte, Gilbert, and Sullivan.
Sullivan was knighted by Queen Victoria on 22 May 1883. Iolanthe was followed on 5 January 1884 by Princess Ida and on 14 March 1885 by The Mikado. Considered by many to be Gilbert and Sullivan's masterpiece, The Mikado was inspired by a large Japanese sword that hung in Gilbert's library. In 1885 a replica of a Japanese village had been set up in the Knightsbridge area of London to acquaint Britons with Japanese culture; Gilbert employed a male dancer and a geisha who knew only two words of English--"Sixpence, please," the price of tea--from the village to instruct his cast in comportment, dance, makeup, and such details as the snapping of fans. The Mikado garnered for Gilbert, Sullivan, and D'Oyly Carte a profit of around £30,000 each. (Although the Japanese were flattered to have occupied the attention of London's foremost librettist, a 1907 revival of the piece at the Savoy was banned by the government on the grounds that it might jeopardize British-Japanese relations.)
Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddygore; or, The Witch's Curse opened at the St. James's Theatre on 22 January 1887. The title was criticized because the word ruddy was considered too close to the then-taboo bloody; a bishop wrote to Gilbert calling the title unsavory, and Gilbert replied:
So much, I would remind your lordship, must always depend on the sense in which words are understood. I will, if you will allow me, give you an instance in point. If I were to say to your lordship, who has done me the honor to address me about the title of my play, that I admired (which I do not) your blooming complexion, your lordship might be graciously pleased to accept it as a high compliment; but if I were to say precisely the same thing to your lordship, in a slightly different form of words, and were to affirm that I wondered at (which I certainly do) your lordship's bloody cheek, your lordship might not be at all disposed to accept the sentiment with equal gratitude.Nevertheless, eleven days after the opening of the play, the spelling of the title was changed to Ruddigore.
Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeoman of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid opened at the Savoy on 3 October 1888. After the poor reception of his Brantinghame Hall, which premiered at the St. James's on 29 November 1888, Gilbert decided to write no more serious pieces. In a letter to the Sunday Times drama critic Malcolm C. Salaman he said: "This is my sixth consecutive failure in that class of work, and I simply bow to what I take to be the verdict of the press and public." With Sullivan he wrote The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria, which debuted at the Savoy on 7 December 1889.
Gilbert worked out his blocking and effects in meticulous detail on a miniature replica of the Savoy stage, with blocks of wood--three inches high for the men, two and a half inches high for women--representing his actors. At the Savoy, where he enjoyed a rarely questioned sovereignty over his actors, his fits of pique grew less frequent, and the warmer side of his wit was more in evidence. Barrington recounts in his memoirs (1908) an instance when Gilbert directed him to sit on a skylight "pensively." Barrington was a huge man, and the skylight collapsed under his weight. Gilbert remarked, "That's expensively." During a rehearsal for a Savoy revival of H.M.S. Pinafore, in which the men all played sailors and the women were the visiting sisters, aunts, and cousins, Gilbert ordered his cast to pair off; to Gilbert's consternation, one sailor repeatedly appeared with two women. When he discovered that the problem was not intransigence on the part of the actors but another actor not having appeared for the rehearsal, he remarked good-naturedly to the "sailor" with the two women: "Ah, now I see; it is evident you have just come off a long voyage." He then instructed his stage manager to form a press-gang if necessary to keep his own "crew" complete.
During his collaboration with Sullivan, Gilbert earned the epithet "the English Aristophanes " for his use of comedy to expose social and political foibles. The typical Gilbert and Sullivan opera focuses on some legalistic or social quirk and follows it out to its absurd conclusion. For instance, Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance cannot abandon the pirate trade, which is odious to him, until he is legally discharged from the pirates' custody on his twenty-first birthday; unfortunately, as he was born on 29 February of a leap year, he will be eighty-four when he celebrates that birthday. Also described in the press as "the king of topsyturvydom," after his 1874 play of that title, Gilbert wrote operas that upset the "natural" social order and substitute a perverse but more satisfying one: love in H.M.S. Pinafore transcends rank and class, the dragoons in Patience must abandon their uniforms and pose as poets to win the fair maids, and fairies become base and human in Iolanthe. With the exception of The Mikado, the operas follow a predictable--and profitable--pattern that includes a starry-eyed heroine, a brave but rather stupid hero, an aging and decrepit contralto who hopes for a dalliance, and a prissy authoritarian for whom a tongue-twisting "patter song," such as "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" in The Pirates of Penzance, is typically reserved.
Tensions in the D'Oyly Carte-Gilbert-Sullivan relationship were on the rise throughout the 1880s. Sullivan grew increasingly self-conscious about his participation in "low burlesque," a genre that was not held in high regard by the elite of London's musical scene, and he began to murmur about breaking his contract with D'Oyly Carte so that he could craft the sacred cantatas and grand operas that commanded the highest respect of the day. In 1890 Gilbert, worried about his share of the profits, sued D'Oyly Carte over carpeting for the Savoy Theatre that had been misidentified as part of the production costs for The Gondoliers instead of being charged, as it should have been, to building improvements. Sullivan sided with D'Oyly Carte in the "carpet quarrel," infuriating Gilbert. Before the case came to trial, D'Oyly Carte paid Gilbert £2,000; Gilbert won the suit and was awarded a further £1,000.
In 1890 Gilbert purchased Grim's Dyke, an estate in Harrow Weald, Middlesex. He was appointed justice of the peace for the county in 1891.
Gilbert, Sullivan, and D'Oyly Carte eventually reconciled; Gilbert seemed particularly eager to patch things up with Sullivan, giving the composer the unheard-of prerogative of providing the score for Utopia, Limited; or, The Flowers of Progress before Gilbert wrote the libretto. The opera opened at the Savoy on 7 October 1893. But the rifts were too deep: Gilbert resented Sullivan's open disdain for the comic opera and for his fairy-tale plot contrivances, including magic lozenges, elixirs, potions, and coins; Sullivan was exhausted by Gilbert's quarrelsome behavior. They wrote one more opera together: The Grand Duke; or, The Statutory Duel opened at the Savoy on 7 March 1896.
On 9 November 1900 Gilbert, alarmed by Sullivan's crumbling health and ill himself with rheumatic fever, wrote his former partner a tender letter in which he expressed the hope that he, Sullivan, and D'Oyly Carte could take a curtain call together at the opening of a revival of Patience at the Savoy and patch up any old arguments. Gilbert and D'Oyly Carte appeared onstage on opening night; Sullivan was too ill to attend and died on 22 November at fifty-eight. D'Oyly Carte died on 3 April 1901.
Gilbert spent his final years at Grim's Dyke. He continued to write scripts, including Harlequin and the Fairy's Dilemma in 1904 and Fallen Fairies; or The Wicked World in 1909. He was knighted by King Edward VII on 15 July 1907. His final work, The Hooligan, opened at the Coliseum Theatre on 27 February 1911. On 29 May 1911 Gilbert was giving swimming lessons to two young women guests in a lake on his estate when one of them called for help; Gilbert dove in to try to rescue her. The woman regained her footing, but Gilbert died in the water of a heart attack. His cremated remains were interred in the churchyard at Great Stanmore. At his death some seventy plays could be attributed to him; many more may have been lost in the files of the German Reeds or of the dozens of theaters that commissioned his work.
W. S. Gilbert's effect on the development of theater in the Western world was immense. Archer told him in 1904:
I shall always feel that, as regards the serious drama, you were in advance of your time. . . . Whether you admit the dramatic revival or not, you were one of the prime movers in it. You restored the literary self-respect of the English stage.Praise of this kind may seem strange to twenty-first-century readers of Gilbert's scripts. Gilbert was an exacting craftsman with a shrewd eye for commercial success, and his plays, especially his most mature work in the Savoy operas, may seem replete with the charming nostalgia and naiveté that are peculiar to cultural products of the Victorian period. But his satirical work possesses a hard edge, and a serious commentary on some aspect of the human condition can often be sensed even in his most ridiculous contrivances. At the same time, he is decried by some critics as an apologist for the upper classes. While opinions about Gilbert's work remain divided, the Savoy operas continue to command audiences in adaptations and revivals all over the world. The place of his work in the canon not merely of musical theater but of drama in general is assured.
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- William Archer, Real Conversations (London: Heinemann, 1904).
- Harold Orel, ed., Gilbert and Sullivan: Interviews and Recollections (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1994).
- Townley Searle, A Bibliography of Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, with Bibliographical Adventures in the Gilbert & Sullivan Operas (New York: Burt Franklin, 1968).
- John Bush Jones, W. S. Gilbert: A Century of Scholarship and Commentary (New York: New York University Press, 1970).
- Hesketh Pearson, Gilbert and Sullivan: A Biography (London: Hamilton, 1935).
- Pearson, Gilbert: His Life and Strife (London: Methuen, 1957).
- Leslie Baily, Gilbert and Sullivan: Their Lives and Times (New York: Viking, 1974).
- Jane W. Stedman, W. S. Gilbert: A Classic Victorian and His Theatre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
- Michael Ainger, Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
- Mary Anderson, A Few Memories (London: Hutchinson, 1936).
- Rutland Barrington, A Record of Thirty-five Years' Experience on the English Stage (London: Richards, 1908).
- Ian C. Bradley, Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! The Enduring Phenomenon of Gilbert and Sullivan (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
- Caryl Brahms, Gilbert and Sullivan: Lost Chords and Discords (Boston: Little, Brown, 1975).
- François Cellier, Gilbert and Sullivan and Their Operas (New York: Little, Brown, 1914).
- Andrew Crowther, Contradiction Contradicted: The Plays of W. S. Gilbert (Madison, Wis.: Associated University Presses, 2000).
- William Aubrey Darlington, The World of Gilbert and Sullivan (New York: Crowell, 1950).
- George E. Dunn, A Gilbert & Sullivan Dictionary (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971).
- David Eden, Gilbert and Sullivan: The Creative Conflict (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press / London: Associated University Presses, 1986).
- Augustine Henry Godwin, Gilbert & Sullivan: A Critical Appreciation of the Savoy Operas (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1969).
- Michael Hardwick, The Drake Guide to Gilbert and Sullivan (New York: Drake, 1973).
- Horace G. Hutchinson, Portraits of the Eighties (New York: Scribners, 1920).
- Madge Kendal (Margaret Shafto Grimston), Madge Kendal by Herself (London: Murray, 1933).
- Frank Ledlie Moore, Crowell's Handbook of Gilbert and Sullivan (New York: Crowell, 1962).
- Constance Margaret Brandon Scott, Old Days in Bohemian London (London: Hutchinson, 1919).
- Geoffrey Smith, The Savoy Operas: A New Guide to Gilbert and Sullivan (London: Hale, 1983; New York: Universe, 1985).
- Max Keith Sutton, W. S. Gilbert (Boston: Twayne, 1975).
- Alfred E. Watson, A Sporting and Dramatic Career (London: Macmillan, 1918).
- Audrey Williamson, Gilbert & Sullivan Opera: An Assessment (London & Boston: M. Boyars, 1982).