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WSG to The Era, May 15, 1886 (Issue 2486), p. 8


To the Editor of The Era

Sir, – I am indebted to an unknown friend for a copy of the New Haven Daily Morning Journal, in which I find a polite paragraph (quoted from the New York Dispatch) to the following effect: –

It will be remembered that when Manager Palmer revived Gilbert’s comedy of Engaged at the Madison-square Theatre, and honourably forwarded to the author proper payment for the use of the work, Mr. Gilbert wrote a reply, in which he stated that but two managers – Mr. Palmer and the late John M‘Cullough – had ever paid him a dollar out of its receipts for playing it in America.  Mr W.S. Gilbert has an exceedingly defective memory, or else he is a very great and incurable liar.  And this proves it right, here and now – "the punishment being fitted to the offence."  In the season of ’78-9 Mr Horace Wall, now manager of the New Haven Opera House, brought out the comedy of Engaged at Abbey’s Park Theatre in this city.  It had a run here of nine weeks.  Then he played it three weeks at the Park in Boston, three weeks in Philadelphia, one week in Baltimore, and one week in Buffalo.  For all these performances Mr Wall paid as royalties to Mr Gilbert the sum total of $9,801.  It must be remembered, too, that this payment was voluntary and in no sense obligatory on Mr. Wall’s part, no more than it was with Mr. Palmer or Mr. M‘Cullough.

It is sufficient for my present purpose to state that when Engaged was produced in the United States by Mr. Wall, in February, 1879, the piece had not been published by me, and I had, therefore, the usual common-law right in it.  Mr Horace Wall was simply my agent.  His duty was to account to me, week by week, for all moneys received by him on my behalf, deducting his expenses and 25 per cent. commission for his services, as the subjoined weekly balance sheet – one of eighteen or twenty in my possession – will incontestably prove.

I am not in the habit of using offensive language, so I will leave it to the author of the paragraph in the New York Despatch to apply to himself, and to the person by whom he was inspired, such terms from his vocabulary as the circumstances of the case may seem to require. 

  I am, your obedient servant,
    W. S. GILBERT.
Savoy Theatre, May 9th, 1886.

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