Peter Haining [ed] - The Lost Stories of W.S. Gilbert (Robson, 1982)
W.S. Gilbert Design: Stonecastle Graphics
Peter Haining - Introduction
My Maiden Brief The Poisoned Postage Stamp Maxwell and I The Triumph of Vice Jones‘ Victoria Cross Diamonds An Elixir of Love Tom Poulton's Joke Creatures of Impulse The Wicked World Wide Awake Comedy and Tragedy Foggerty's Fairy The Burglar's Story The Finger of Fate Little Mim Angela The Fairy's Dilemma The Lady in the Plaid Shawl Trial by Jury
Blurb: Sir William Schwenk Gilbert is today famous for the brilliant partnership with Arthur Sullivan which produced Comic Operas loved all over the world for their witty songs and ingenious plots as well as their eminently singable tunes.
Gilbert was, though, established as a writer long before the two men started working together, contributing to some of the most important magazines of the day (Fun, Cornhill, London Society, Punch). And no doubt the phenomenal success of the operas has caused the overshadowing of other writings — in particular the varied and inventive short stories which he personally believed were among his finest work.
In this book is the first-ever collection of the best of these tales, complete with Gilbert's quirky and unmistakable illustrations. The topsy-turvy world of the operas is inhabited by the characters in these stories. which are set in the realm of quaint mésalliances and, often, humorous supernaturalism where only the probable never happens.
There are tales humorous and grim, tales witty and even romantic. There are stories, such as ‘The Elixir of Love', which were the basis of later successes - and there are even the 1868 verses he wrote for Fun which give the first hint of Trial by Jury.
For the enthusiast of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas this collection of stories will prove an absolute feast — as it will for any lover of witty and whimsical writing,
Diamonds: (Routledge's Christmas Annual, 1867). Disowned by his father over gambling debts, young Ralph Warren hits London where he falls in with a tribe of Boho scribblers and Mary Vyner, humble milliners assistant, to whom he proposes. But on the death of his own father, Warren senior, desperate to keep the family's wealth is house, relents. Ralph is returned to favour on the understanding he marry icy beauty Lady Julia, the daughter of rich, influential Lord Sangazure. Will Ralph accept these terms? How will Mary react if he does? A bleak melodrama - "it shows that even the consummate punster and vitriolic wit could turn his comic talent to horrific themes" - benefits from Gilbert playing it straight.
The Lady in the Plaid Shawl: A Scrap of Autobiography: (The Flags, 1908). While working as a war correspondent for The Observer, Gilbert claims to have fallen foul of husband and wife con artists in Paris. When later their paths cross in Covent Garden, Gilbert lets on that he knows the fellow is a scoundrel. All ends in cordial fashion.
The Finger of Fate: (Routledge Annual, 1990). A typically pompous Gilbert stuffed-shirt discovers to his horror that his fortunes are inextricably linked to those of a Mulatto woman to whom he has taken an instant dislike. Eventually a shipwreck sees both washed ashore on a desert island for 13 years. As a creature of proud NSOH disposition, I've no idea if Gilbert's jokes are still/ ever were "funny," but he can certainly tell a story.
Angela: An Inverted Love Story: (The Century, Sept. 1890). Venice. A one-sided romance played out to heartbreaking conclusion as an English invalid falls for an Italian girl across the canal.
In memory of Mr. Edmund Valkenberg, Sherlock Holmes and Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiast. Inspirational teacher.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.