The artistic productions
of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan stand so high in popular favour that the
success of any work of their composition amounts to a foregone conclusion.
It is needless to state that the reception of the new operetta Iolanthe,
or the Peer and the Peri, produced at the Savoy Theatre on Saturday
night, was as brilliant as a crowded house, innumerable encores which prolonged
the performance till close upon midnight, and enthusiastic calls for author,
composer, and the principal executants could make it. Perhaps the operetta
is something like previous productions; the authors go on extracting the
same or from the same mint; they till their field without any "rotation
of crops." But familiarity does not spoil the fun. In Iolanthe the
public are introduced to the House of Peers, who "do nothing in particular
and do it very well," to a Lord Chancellor, who embodies the law, which
said law embodies all that is excellent, and to a member of Parliament.
This Lord Chancellor deeply feels the responsibility of his office. Can
he give his own consent to marry his own ward? Can he marry his own ward
without his own consent? And if he marries his own ward without his own
consent, can he commit himself for contempt of his own Court? And if he
commit himself for contempt of his own Court, can he appear by counsel
before himself to move for arrest of his own judgment? There are some clever
allusions to modern Parliamentary experiences, but perhaps one of the happiest
strokes is directed at the barrister. When one of the fairies "went to
the bar as a very young man," he determined to work "on a new and original
plan." The virtuous resolutions of the legal fairy are worth quoting as
an illustration of the humour of the operetta:–
"I'll never assume that a rogue or a thief
Is a gentleman worthy implicit belief,
Because his attorney has sent me a brief.
I'll never throw dust in a juryman's eyes,
Or hoodwink a judge who is not over-wise,
Or assume that the witnesses summoned in force
In Exchequer, Queen's Bench, Common Pleas, or Divorce
Have perjured themselves as a matter of course.
Ere I go into court I will read my brief through;
And I'll never take work I'm unable to do,
My learned profession I'll never disgrace
By taking a fee with a grin on my face,
When I haven't been there to attend to the case."
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 25 March 2002