W.S. Gilbert: A Classic Victorian and his Theatre
Jane W. Stedman
Oxford University Press, 1996
Though Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911) is best remembered as the writer of the libretti of the ‘Savoy Operas' with Sir Arthur Sullivan, he also enjoyed a very long and successful career in the Victorian theatre first as a writer of pantomimes, then a large number of plays, both comedies and serious drama, and pantomimes. He was also a prolific journalist and produced several volumes of poems, notably the comic ‘Bab Ballads'. His output was considerable; in the 1870s ALONE, before he embarked on his regular collaborations with Sullivan, including ‘HMS Pinafore', ‘The Pirates of Penzance', and ‘The Mikado', he was responsible for over 30 plays.
This biography looks at his life and work with and without Sullivan. It also provides a sympathetic portrait of a perfectionist, who had a hasty temper and could undoubtedly be difficult to work with. For instance, ‘the carpet quarrel' was a trivial dispute which grew out of all proportion and led to his temporarily severing professional and personal relations with Sullivan and the impresario who helped them to success, Richard D'Oyly Carte.
The review of this Book prepared by John Van der Kiste