Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Andrew Crowther: Iolanthe contains so many wonderful lines - more than any other? Not to mention such touches of genius as "Spurn not the nobly born" Gilbertianism reduced to the essence; the superb second verse to Private Willis's song; "henceforth, Strephon, cast away" - which has all the simplicity and energy of a children's rhyme; and who knows how many other things?

David Duffey:

Comic genius.

Ray Thackeray: The winner has to be:

Why the audience generally doesn't burst out with mirth at that point I don't know. I wonder if "Give him one" meant the same a hundred years ago? I rather think so.

Paul McShane: Full marks to Andrew Crowther for introducing this theme which, among other things, well help to explain why Iolanthe is so highly favoured among Savoynetters - perhaps even the Leader of the Opposition might concede that there are one or two lines worth preserving.

As well as those mentioned, I would include:

And that is only Act I!
"The true embodiment of everything that's excellent"

Robert Jones:

That entire stanza from "To say she is his mother..." leaves me rolling on the floor every time I hear it, even when I'm sober. Iolanthe simply teems with such gems. In fact, the whole Act I finale is hilarious from start to finish.

Eugenia Horne:
Phyllis:We won't wait long.
Strephon:No. We might change our minds. We'll get married first.
Phyllis:And change our minds afterwards?
Strephon:That's the usual course.

Chris Webster: I think the passages between the Queen and the Lord Chancellor in the Act One finale from 'Go away madam' through 'Oh, Chancellor unwary' to 'Ladies Seminary' must rank as WSG at his very best. This is one of my very favourite passages of WSG, although musically Sullivan wrote dramatically rather than tunefully for this section. Surely the best recorded rendition of this MUST be from the 1930 recording between Bertha Lewis and George Baker. Mind you, I think the later Baker rendition of LC as a whole is among the best recordings of any of the G & S character. (as opposed to my contrary comments in my Nickolas Grace posting)

He is still vocally sound and has the added benefit of a genuine of 'old' sound rather than a forced older voice put on by a younger man.

PS I have just glanced at the libretto and noticed the Fairies version of 'Go Away, Madam'. I have never heard this before. It only increases my above opinion. I wonder how many other words have been lost to me (and others) because of the double chorus trick of singing different words at each other.

Paul McShane: Chris Webster recently wondered if "a plague on both your houses" came from our OOTW. This posting led me to consider the Act II trio "If you go in", which is composed almost entirely of familiar one-liners. Consider:

Now the question is, which (if any) of these epigrams did Gilbert invent, and which did he merely copy or transpose?

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations quotes the lines:
"Faint heart never won fair lady!
Nothing venture, nothing win-
Blood is thick, but water's thin-
In for a penny, in for a pound-
It's Love that makes the world go round",
but also quotes:
"faint heart ne'er wan a lady fair" - Robert Burns (1759-1796)
"Blood, as all men know, than water's thicker" - Aldous Huxley (1894-?),
Which doesn't help us much, except to show that the "faint heart" line wasn't a Gilbert original.
Ideas, anyone? (And I wouldn't dream of posing a similar question when we come to the Buttercup/Corcoran duet in Act II of Pinafore!)

Arthur Robinson: I've wondered this too--I'll have to check Bartlett's Familiar Quotations etc. when the library here is open tomorrow (at least some computer labs are open for US Memorial Day). I suspect most of them are standard sayings, possibly adapted slightly to fit the metre. But off the top of my head:
Dark is the dawn when day is nigh. There's a saying that goes something like "It's always darkest just before the dawn"--I suspect Gilbert adapted this.
While the sun shines make your hay. Also presumably familiar; a character in the earlier PIRATES sings "Let her make her hay/ While the sun doth shine."
Where a will is, there's a way. The standard saying is "Where there's a will, there's a way."
Beard the lion in his lair. Obviously Princess Ida knew this one ("Audacious tyrant, do you dare/ To beard a maiden in her lair?")
None but the brave deserve the fair. To quote another pre-IOLANTHE authority, Mrs. Cripps: "Only brave deserve the fair."
I suspect someone--Martyn Green, Isaac Asimov or whoever--has dealt with this topic before. I'll try to track something down.

Neil Ellenoff: He invented none of them. The point is that they were (and are) popular aphorisms

Andrew Crowther: Exactly so! As in the duet in _Pinafore_, this is Gilbert saying, "Observe: I have nothing up my sleeves. I shall now construct a song entirely out of well-known proverbs. Voila!" And, as with Little Buttercup's verse of "Things are seldom", each proverb is perfectly relevant to the situation.

Andrew Crowther: Steve Sullivan wrote: "As the Anarchist for the Iolanthe OOTW I have noticed that there has been very little discussion of the women's roles. Would someone who has done some thinking about each of the women's roles in Iolanthe, please start a thread?"

I'm sure I've said this before but I believe that the main characters in _Iolanthe_ aren't Strephon & Phyllis, or Iolanthe & the Ld Ch, but the two choruses. A couple of things have struck me about the Chorus of Fairies during this OOTW, so here's my excuse to tell you about them.

The first quotations I thought of from _Iolanthe_, when picking out favourite lines, were "We know it's weakness, but the weakness is so strong" and "They couldn't help themselves./It seems they have helped themselves...." And I realised that both these are jokes about desire. I'll try not to think about what it says about me, that I like them so much. But they are both lines about desire from the female perspective. (Whether they are accurate reflections of that perspective I am in no position to say.) The romance between the Peers and the Peris, which is one of the main plot actions of the opera, is interesting because it is the Fairies who are the active parties: the Peers are passive, and even beat a dignified retreat from the Fairies' advances ("If that's the case, my dears... We'll go!").

This is reflected in the Fairy Queen/Private Willis romance. ("Romance" doesn't seem the right word, but never mind.) And notice that in the Act 1 Finale, the Peers are constantly on the defensive against the Fairies.

I was about to conclude by saying that I didn't know what to deduce from all this, but something's just occurred to me. The Fairies are powerful beings. They can do whatever they want - even get a semi-fairy returned to Parliament. They certainly have the power to make anyone they want fall in love with them. They are in the dominant position in relation to the Peers (who are privileged but powerless). The only thing that restrains them is Fairy Law. So it's quite natural that Gilbert should focus on their feelings, rather than those of the Peers.

Maybe Gilbert was also influenced by his earlier Fairy Comedy _The Wicked World_, which was about how fairies cope with a sudden introduction to them of Mortal Love. There, too, he was concerned mainly with _their_ emotions and desires, not those of the Mortals.

Bill Kelly: Subject: Lowly Air of Seven Dials

The 28 May New York Times has an article on the food page about the rise of the specialty cheese business in England since the Milk Marketing Board was disbanded. Quoted is one Randolph Hodgson of a shop called Neal's Yard Dairy. The shop is on Shorts Gardens, "a narrow street that radiates from the Seven Dials crossroads."

Blue Cheese! Blue Cheese!

Updated 28 November 1997