click to read the letter the Editor of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society Magazine would not publish

IOLANTHE. The Musical World 1883 July 14 61(28): 434-435 [by "Simon Half"]

(To the Editor of the "Musical World.")

    SIR, On Saturday, Nov. 25, 1882, I witnessed with delight, at Mr R. D'Oyly Carte's elegant Savoy Theatre, the first performance of that covert satire in guise of "an entirely original fairy opera," bearing the too suggestive title of Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri, from the inseverable brains and pens of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur S. Sullivan. Charmed nay, entranced from end to end, I left the theatre, so impressed with both words and music that I could remember for months after every syllable of the one and every note of the other. Since that happy occasion, lured to distant regions, and deeply engaged in studying the Conditiones Entium as laid in plan by Francis Bacon of Verulam, and the Effegies Rerum as shadowed forth by Lucilio Vanini, I only within a week returned to my ancient four quarters in the City of Lud. No sooner arrived than I sped in one of Mr Hansom's two-wheelers to the elegant Savoy. Not finding Mr D'Oyly Carte who, I was told, had gone to Cochin China with a Patience company, for the comfort of Emperor Tuduc under his threatened afflictions I paid for a stall, and heard with renewed enchantment the Iolanthe of my constant dreams. Scene after scene, piece after piece, came back to me with a force not to be subdued; and yet there was something wanting in this July performance which, on the first occasion, so long ago, had moved me with persistent inordinance. I went home, and ruminated over the pipe that courts repose, but to no purpose. What had I missed? Dieu sait! I retired to bed, and shortly fell on sleep. My slumber was troubled with visions, however, peopled by the phantoms that delirium paints upon darkness. More and more restless, I tumbled from side to side, till, thoroughly exhausted, I had a dream, which I can only describe as a mixture prepared from that of Mr Gilbert's Lord Chancellor and that of Rustan, in Voltaire's Blanc et Noir. When at length I had fairly dozed off, I was suddenly (as I thought) aroused en sursaut by a giant spectre, assuming the shapely form and figure of Mr Rutland Barrington. "I am" said that spectre, in sepulchral tones "Lord Mountararat! I will sing you a song wherein it shall be set forth how 'people are made peers.' " Transfixed with fright, I muttered, "Sing, oh ghastly shadow!" It sang, and each word that came from its gaping mouth stuck in the fibres of my brain, as glue on the bristling tops of erect and affrighted hairs.

Song of Lord Mountararat.

De Belville was regarded as the Crichton of his age;
His tragedies were reckoned much too thoughtful for the stage:
His poems held a noble rank although it's very true
That, being very proper, they were read by very few.
He was a famous Painter, too, and shone upon the Line,
And even Mister Ruskin cqme and worshipped at his shrine;
But, alas! the school he followed was heroically high
The kind of Art men rave about, but very seldom buy.
                                And everybody said,
                                "How can he be repaid
            This very great this very good this very gifted man?"
            But nobody could hit upon a practicable plan!

He was a great Inventor, and discovered, all alone,
A plan for making everybody's fortune but his own;
For in business an Inventor's little better than a fool,
And my highly gifted friend was no exception to the rule.
His poems people read 'em in the sixpenny Reviews;
His pictures they engraved 'em in the Illustrated News;
His inventions they perhaps might have enriched him by degrees,
But all his little income went in Patent Office fees!
                                So everybody said,
                                "How can he be repaid
            This very great this very good this very gifted man?"
            But nobody could hit upon a practicable plan!

At last the point was given up in absolute despair,
When a distant cousin died, and he became a millionaire!
With a country seat in Parliament, a moor or two of grouse,
And a taste for making inconvenient speeches in the House.
Then, Government conferred on him the highest of rewards
They took him from the Commons and they put him in the Lords!
And who so fit to sit in it, deny it if you can,
As this very great this very good this very gifted man?
                                Though I'm more than half afraid
                                That it sometimes may be said
That we never should have revelled in that source of proper pride
However great his merits if his cousin hadn't died!

At the word "died" the spectre vanished, as Sir Thomas Malory has it, "in an horrible tempest." I felt an earthquake underneath me, and (methought) was about to leap out of bed; but, on awakening, I found this impracticable. The words I have quoted are on my oath the words uttered by the simulacrum of Mr Barrington, whose singing was of such a nature, both as to voice and vocal utterance, that for the life of me I can't remember a note, much less a phrase. I am glad, however, to have retained the verses; and it would not be an ungrateful act on the part of Sir Arthur Sullivan to present me with a copy of the music, which I will endeavour to sing to my friends in tones less gruff and jibbering than those of the imaginary Lord Mountararat.* Take this communication, sir, in good part, and believe me yours respectfully,

Half Moon St., Halfminster, July 10.

* Who probably had not seen ere a rat for forty days. Dr Blidge.


transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 8 January 2002

click to read the letter the Editor of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society Magazine would not publish