Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Princess Ida

Adapted from the book "Tit-Willow or Notes and Jottings on Gilbert and Sullivan Operas" by Guy H. and Claude A. Walmisley (Privately Printed, Undated)

Anacreon. A celebrated Greek poet of whose life little is known. He was probably born in the 6th century B.C. in Ionia, and died at the age of 85 from suffocation by swallowing a grape-stone while drinking. He was an amusing voluptuary and an elegant profligate.

Aristophanes. A Comic poet, probably an adopted, and not a natural, citizen of Athens, was born about 440 B.C. and died when about 80 years of age.

At a very early period of his dramatic career he directed his attention to the political situation and occurrences of Athens. Among his many famous plays one of the best-known is "The Frogs", which contains the "croaking chorus", composed of the frogs of the Styx—a river of Hell. (See Pirates of Penzance Notes under "Frogs").

This comedy was represented in 405 B.C. and earned him the prize over Phrynichus and Plato. Aristophanes' language is elegant in the last degree and, in his writing, he has an astonishing ability for imitating sounds.

Bowdlerized. So called after Dr. Thomas Bowdler, an English physician, who published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare in 1818, by omitting or modifying parts which were considered indelicate or offensive.

Cribbage pegs. A game of cards played by 2, 3 or 4 persons, the chief object of which is to form various counting combinations. The dealer has an extra set of cards called the crib, composed of discards from the hands of the players. Points are usually scored by moving pegs on a cribbage board, a strip of wood or other material, having 61 holes for each player. The player who first counts or "pegs" 61 holes, or sometimes 121 holes, wins.

Darwinian Man. Man and apes, in fact all existing species of animals, plants, etc. are derived or descended from a few simple forms of life, if not from one. Man is not descended from an ape or vice versa, but both, according to Darwin, 1809-1882, have a common ancestor.

Etui. A case for small articles, as bodkins, needles, toothpicks, etc.

Gask from Gask. Gask and Gask were a celebrated firm of silk mercers in Oxford Street, London.

Helicon, Climb the. A mountain in Boeotia, near the Gulf of Corinth in Greece, sacred to Apollo and the Muses. On the summit was the grove of the Muses where these divinities had their statues.

Hipparchus. Son of Pisistratus who, with his brother Hippias, succeeded his father as Tyrant of Athens. Hipparchus patronised literature and literati and studied astronomy. He was slain in the public streets by Harmodius, whose sister he had insulted.

Hurdy-gurds. Hurdy Gurdy. A rhyming combination suggested by the sound of the instrument. It was a primitive street organ, on one leg, of the most melancholy type, and usually carried by an Italian with a monkey; it was played by turning a handle, like a barrel-organ.

Strictly speaking a hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument, lute like in shape, in which the sound is produced by the friction of a resined wheel turned by a crank at the end.

Juvenal. A Roman Satirist, born at Aquinurn about A.D. 42 at the commencement of the reign of Claudius. He was a man of rigid probity and worthy of living in a better and purer age. Abhorring vice he wrote a satire, which he dared not publish, though it was secretly handed about among his friends, directed against a young pantomime dancer, named Paris, who was the undoubted favourite of the Emperor Domitian.

A circumstance extremely favourable to Juvenal's literary reputation is to be found in his not having dared to publish his Satires until he had reached an advanced period of life; hence he was enabled to revise and retouch them, purify his taste, and calm the fiery spirit which animated his earlier efforts, by the sober judgement of maturer years.

Lalage, Mistress. Presumably taken from Horace, (65-8 B.C.) the famous Roman Satirist and poet, Book I, Ode 22 "In praise of Lalage". She was one of the poet's mistresses of whom he says that no harm can come to him when he walks through the woods thinking of her:

"In Sabine woods, and fancy-free
A wolf observed my wandering tread;
Unarmed, I sang of Lalage;
He saw, and fled".

Lewis from Allenby. Lewis and Allenby Ltd., were a well-known firm of silk mercers, etc., of 123, Pall Mall, London.

"Metamorphoses", Ovid's. This work, in 15 books, is extremely curious from the many different mythological facts and traditions which are related, but it can have no claim to an epic poem. In composing this, the poet was more indebted to the then existing traditions and theogony of the ancients than to the powers of his own imagination. "Metamorphoses" was not totally finished when the Emperor Augustus sent Ovid into banishment. (See under Ovid. See also Ovidius Naso (Iolanthe).

Minerva. The goddess of wisdom, war and all the liberal arts. She was known among the ancients by many names such as Athena, Pallas, etc., from her perpetual celibacy.

The worship of Minerva was universally established; she had magnificent temples in Egypt, Phoenicia, all parts of Greece, Italy, Gaul and Sicily.

Neophytes. Properly, newly planted. Meaning a new convert, usually a convert to the Christian faith—a novice—a beginner in anything.

Ovid's "Metamorphoses". See under "Metamorphoses".

P. Ovidius Naso, the celebrated Roman poet was born at Sulmo on 20 March about 43 B.C. The Emperor Augustus patronised him with unbounded liberality; however these favours were but momentary as the poet was soon afterwards banished to Tomos on the Euxine Sea by the Emperor, though the true cause of this sudden exile is unknown. Some attribute it to a shameful amour with Livia, wife of Augustus; others to the fact that Ovid had witnessed the unpardonable incest of the Emperor with his daughter Julia. Whatever the cause, it was something improper in the family or court of Augustus of which Ovid himself was afraid to speak.

The poet had three wives, and died in the 7th or 8th year of his banishment in his 59th year, A.D. 17, and was buried at Tomos.

Paynim foe. A pagan or heathen foe.

Plantagenet. Was the surname of an Angevin house which in 1154-1485 reigned in England (Henry II-Richard III).

The name was adopted by Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, husband of Matilda, daughter of Henry I, from a sprig of broom (planta genista) which he wore. The Countess of Salisbury, beheaded on Tower Green, 1541, was a Plantagenet of royal blood. (See under "Tower Green". Yeomen of the Guard ).

Polemist. A controversialist.- (Rare).

Pops of Sillery. See under Sillery.

Set the Thames on fire. To do something remarkable, to work wonders. Usually used with the negative—never to distinguish oneself.

One writer imagined the origin of the expression was "temse", a sieve, which an active man might set on fire by force of friction; but the idea has since been abandoned. It seems that in other parts of the world also well-known rivers are alluded to just as we allude to the Thames. Rivers such as the Rhine, the Arno and the Liffey.

Sewell from Cross. Sewell and Cross were a firm of drapers at the junction of Old Compton Street and Frith Street, Soho, London. (See Patience ).

Sillery, Pops of. Originally a champagne made at Sillery—now chiefly a trade namc—also Sillery Sec, a still white wine made near Rheims.

Sizars. In the University of Cambridge, and at Trinity College, Dublin, an undergraduate who, having passed a certain examination, is exempted, under this designation, from college fees and charges. He formerly waited on the table. The name was probably applied from his employment in distributing the "size" or provisions—duties which are now discharged by the college servants.

Swan secede from Edgar. Swan and Edgar Ltd., of 49-63 Regent Street, London. "The Centre of London's Smart Shopping".

Thames. See Set the Thames on Fire.

Watts, Dr. Isaac. 1674-1748. Was one of the greatest English hymn-writers. He occasionally descended to doggerel, but at his best he was unsurpassed: "0 God, our help in ages past" has won its place as a great national hymn, and with "When I survey the wondrous cross", "Jesus shall reign where'er the Sun" and many others, is sure to survive.

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Page created 4 April 2000