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Click for the full imageEngaged
was produced at the Haymarket Theatre on 3 October , 1877, Miss Marion Terry playing the leading part. Engaged is a humorous farce with a definite suggestion of the "topsy-turvydom" of the Gilbert of the Bab Ballads and the operas, and it has a proper place in the story of Gilbert's considerable achievements. It was produced in the same year as The Sorcerer. The first act takes place in a Scottish cottage, near Gretna, and it opens with the courting of Maggie Macfarlane by Angus Macalister. Angus explains to his future mother-in-law:

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"I'm a fairly prosperous man. What wi' farmin' a bit land and gillieing odd times, and a bit o' poachin' now and again ; and what wi' my illicit whusky still — and throwin' trains off the line, that the poor distracted passengers may come to my cot, I've mair ways than one of making an honest living — and I'll work them a' nicht and day for my bonnie Meg!"

A train is wrecked, the distracted passengers arrive, and the fun begins, the dramatist burlesquing romantic drama with a gusto that Mr. Shaw might well envy. The dialogue is excellent. For example:

MINNIE. Mr. Belvawny, I don't know what we should have done without you. What with your sweet songs, your amusing riddles, and your clever conjuring tricks, the weary days of waiting have passed like a delightful dream.

MISS TREHERENE. It is impossible to be dull in the society of one who can charm the soul with plaintive ballads one moment and the next roll a rabbit and a guinea-pig into one.

The conclusion is pure Gilbertian. The heroine speaks:

"Belvawny, I love you with an intensity of devotion that I firmly believe will last while I live. But dear Cheviot is my husband now; he has a claim upon me which it would be impossible — nay, criminal — to resist. Farewell, Belvawny; Minnie may yet be yours. Cheviot — my husband — my own love — if the devotion of a lifetime can atone for the misery of the last few days, it is yours, with every wifely sentiment of pride, gratitude, admiration, and love."

Poster from 1879 New York Production
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(courtesy of Adam Cuerden)
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Text from W.S. Gilbert, His Life and Letters  by Sidney Dark and Rowland Grey     

  • Comment in "English Theatre in 1881", The Times, January 28th 1882.

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