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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gilbert's character revealed, 15 May 2011
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This review is from: Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan: His Life and Character (Hardcover)
I am very taken with this biography of WS Gilbert written, I presume, to coincide with the centenary of his death. I am glad about this because there is very little else around to remind us of the fact.

Andrew Crowther loves his subject but does not tarry over details, instead keeping the pace brisk and fresh. I have read numerous books on the subject but never before has Gilbert's personality been so clearly brought to life for me. Using the lightest of touches, the author manages to show us that Gilbert was, like Ralph Rackstraw, 'a living ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms'.

There are many interesting new snippets to add to the familiar events and bons mots. In particular, I was fascinated by the chapter on Gilbert's plot book for Iolanthe and how the opera seemed to take its familiar form comparatively late in the creative process. I had not known that the house we all know as Grim's Dyke had been previously known as Graeme's Dyke until Gilbert renamed it. Extraordinary that it cost only £30,000, even then. I had not heard Gilbert's retort before that he could justify flirting with young would-be actresses in The Flirtorium because he was 'too good to be true' to his wife, Lucy!

One tiny observation: Mr Crowther says that Mrs Howard Paul was 'edged out' of the first production of HMS Pinafore. My understanding has always been that she was taken very seriously ill and died not long after the First Night? It is interesting to speculate how the rest of the Savoy Operas might have developed had there continued to be two elderly ugly ladies rather than the usual one?! Gilbert was, after all, very loyal to his regular team at the Opera Comique and then the Savoy.

All in all, then, a very welcome addition to the bibliography of Gilbert, the Savoy canon and, it is worth adding, theatrical life in the second half of nineteenth century London.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 May 2011 02:26:59 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 May 2011 02:32:24 BDT
M. Card says:
Dr. Morris is mistaken about Mrs. Howard Paul (Isabella Featherstone). Both Gilbert and Sullivan wanted her out of the cast. Her voice and talents were deteriorating and they concluded that she was not up to the part. She died a year later. See Michael Ainger's "Gilbert and Sullivan - A Dual Biography", pp. 156-57; and Jane Stedman's "W. S. Gilbert, A Classic Victorian and His Theatre", pp. 160-61. However, I agree that Crowther's book (and his previous one, "Contradiction Contradicted") are excellent books!
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