Gilbert's Letter to The Times of 2 December 1873
Issue 27862, pg. 12 col F


Gilbert v. Enoch


Sir,--In the many comments which have appeared on this case I do not think due allowance has been made for the exceptionally grave character of the charge brought against me by the writer in the Pall Mall Gazette. While that journal confined itself to attacking my intellectual claims to the position of a dramatist--while it contented itself with asserting that my plays are barbarous productions, that my prose is uniformly dull, that my verse is mere doggerel and my conceptions of character wholly impossible--I had no fault to find. I know the critic of the Pall Mall Gazette to be a conscientious gentleman, and it never occurred to me that, in finding fault with the intellectual qualities of my plays, he was actuated by any personal motives. But when I am charged by the Pall Mall Gazette--a journal of the very highest class--with having written a coarse, gross, and brutal play, containing one scene which is "simply indecent," it seems to me that my character as a gentleman is at stake, and I am bound either to accept the charge as true, or to resent it in the only way open to me. A charge of deliberate indecency is morally akin to a charge of deliberate dishonesty; and the indignation it gives rise to can scarcely be classed with the fidgety vanity that prompts an over-praised author to resent a criticism reflecting simply upon his literary qualities. Much toleration has been expressed for the "girlish sensitiveness" of a critic who sees indecency where it is admitted no indecency exists, but no toleration whatever has been expressed for the "sensitiveness" of an author who declines to accept a charge which distinctly affects his claim to appeal to refined and educated audiences.

The jury have decided that my piece is perfectly innocent, and that a critic is, nevertheless, justified in describing it as "coarse," "gross," "brutal," "offensive," and "simply indecent." With that verdict I am satisfied. I am condemned in certain costs, but I have established beyond all question the only point which I had at heart in commencing an action against the Pall Mall Gazette. It has been decided that my work does not deserve the strictures with which that journal has visited it.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Junior-Carlton Club, Dec. 1.

W.S. GILBERT

Previous letter Next letter



Page created 9 October 2004