THEATRICALS. THE SAVOY. The Weekly Dispatch 1882 December 3 4234: 6, col. 3 [unsigned review]
It was said of Cervantes that he laughed Spain's chivalry away. Perhaps in ages to come it will be asserted of Mr. W. S. Gilbert that he laughed away the House of Lords; at any rate, some writers have professed to see danger in the mild satire contained in "Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri." The witty playwright has shown us the ridiculous side of many things before now, and we can only suppose that the umbrage taken in the present instance is because the cap happens to fit better than usual. Whether Society, the Constitution, and the Throne are likely to be wrecked in consequence of the new production at the Savoy Theatre we will leave our readers to infer. Says Lord Mountararat, speaking in behalf of his own order:–
A little later, explaining tro a fairy how peers are made, he quotes as an example De Belville, a very great, a very good, and a very gifted man – the Crichton of his age – who languished for any adequate reward until his cousin happened to die, and he became a millionaire. Then he went into Parliament, and kept a moor or two of grouse.When Britain really ruled the waves
(In good Queen Bess's time)
The House of Peers made no pretence
To intellectual eminence
Or scholarship sublime.
* * * * *
When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte
As every child can tell,
The House of Peers throughout the war
Did nothing in particular
And did it very well
* * * * *
And while the House of Peers withholds
Its legislative hand
And noble statesmen do not itch
To interfere in matters which
They do not understand,
As bright will shine Great Britain's rays
As in King George's glorious days!
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!
Speaking generally, "Iolanthe" shows no falling off in Mr. Gilbert's special fund of humour. The second act is a trifle too wordy, and would bear a little compression; but the fun only flags for a minute or two at a time, and our quotations are but a fair sample of the general standard of the lyrics. Mr. Sullivan's music is unequal, but side by side with weak and watery numbers are some of conspicuous mirth. For constructive excellence and general effectiveness the finale to the first act will compare with that of any of Auber's operas; and the accompaniments to a "patter song" descriptive of nightmare, and supposed to be sung by the Lord Chancellor, are exceedingly clever.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 25 April 2002