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WSG to The Orchestra December 2, 1870.

"THE ASSERTING OF DIGNITY"

To the Editor of The Orchestra

SIR, – In an article in the Orchestra of the 25th November, you assume that on the occasion of the first performance of the "Palace of Truth," I presented myself on the stage before the artists engaged in the piece had had an opportunity of doing so, in order to assert "the dignity of authorship."  Will you allow me to assure you that that assumption is altogether gratuitous?

The curtain fell on the last act of the piece, and it was immediately raised in compliment to the ladies and gentlemen engaged in the performance.  The applause still continued, and as it was mingled with the usual call for the Author, and as the company appeared to be waiting until I had answered to that call, I stepped on to the stage – partly because I thought I was wanted – partly because I was pushed from behind – and wholly because it did not appear to me to be a matter of the smallest importance to any person before or behind the curtain, whether the actors appeared before the author or the author before the actors.  Certainly my "reception" (to use a theatrical term) gave no indication that I appeared before I was wanted.

It appears to me that an author who proposes to "assert his dignity" would best do so by declining to appear before the curtain at all.  Unfortunately it has become the invariable custom to call the author after the first performance of a new piece, whatever the merits of the piece may be, and a refusal to answer such a summons would probably involve a counter-expression of disapprobation.  It would be attributed to a churlish indifference to the wishes of the audience.

  Your obedient servant,
    W.S. GILBERT.
26th Nov., 1870.

[Unenlightened by Mr. Gilbert’s letter, we assumed that unless the author made his appearance with his piece to assert his dignity, he had no reason to appear at all.  But we admit the force of his triad of reason why an author should appear: – a belief that he may be wanted, a push from behind, and the unimportance of the matter.  We are glad to know that Mr. Gilbert considers his appearance at all as a waiving of dignity. – ED.]



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