Cover image for Gilbert and Sullivan : a dual biography
Gilbert and Sullivan : a dual biography
Ainger, Michael.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford : New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 504 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1400 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.S95 A77 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



"A Gilbert is of no use without a Sullivan." With these words, W.S. Gilbert summed up his reasons for persisting in his collaboration with Arthur Sullivan despite the combative nature of their relationship. In fact, Michael Ainger suggests in Gilbert and Sullivan the success of the pair's workis a direct result of their personality clash, as each partner challenged the other to produce his best work. After exhaustive research into the D'Oyly Carte collection of documents, Ainger offers the most detailed account to date of Gilbert and Sullivan's starkly different backgrounds and longworking partnership. Having survived an impoverished and insecure childhood, Gilbert flourished as a financially successful theater professional, married happily and established himself as a property owner. His sense of proprietorship extended beyond real estate, and he fought tenaciously to protectthe integrity of his musical works. Sullivan, the product of a supportive family who nourished his talent, was much less satisfied with stability than his collaborator. His creative self-doubts and self-demands led to nervous and physical breakdowns, but it also propelled the team to break thesuccessful mode of their earliest work to produce more ambitious pieces of theater, including The Mikado and The Yeoman of the Guards. Offering previously-unpublished draft libretti and personal letters, this thorough double-biography will be an essential addition to the library of any Gilbert andSullivan fan.

Author Notes

Michael Ainger, formerly deputy headmaster and teacher of French and Italian at London secondary schools, is a freelance researcher and writer. He has worked at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and once sang for Bridget D'Oyly Carte at the Savoy Theatre

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Both individual and dual biographies of Gilbert and Sullivan have appeared over the years, but the dual biography--this one the first in several decades--is more appropriate for the inextricably connected careers of these giants of English musical theater. Freelancer Ainger writes in a documentary-like fashion, using resources that have become available since the last joint biography was published. The book is replete with citations from the correspondence of his subjects and their associates and from periodicals and documents of the day. Ainger tells the story chronologically in 36 chapters preceded by "Curtain Raiser," an introduction, and followed by "Curtain Call." The frequency of quotations produces a somewhat constricted writing style. Nevertheless, the contrast between the men is everywhere evident: Gilbert, with more diverse talents (actor, artist/illustrator, barrister/magistrate, costume designer, stage director, playwright/librettist, journalist, militiaman, poet/balladeer) and an unpredictable temper; Sullivan, a lifelong bachelor, less volatile, concentrating primarily on musical matters (composing, conducting, and performing), with extensive travel and gambling as diversions. Photos, family trees, maps of contemporary London, and other expected material supplement the narrative. The production of the book is of the highest quality. Summing Up: Recommended. Academic and public libraries; all levels. R. Stahura emeritus, Ripon College

Table of Contents

Mapsp. xvii
Gilbert's family treep. xxi
Sullivan's family treep. xxii
Curtain-Raiser: The London Grocer and the Irish Soldierp. 3
Part 1 1836-1866 By Different Routes to the Stage Door
Chapter 1 1836-1853 Gilbert: A Dramatic Childhood; Sullivan: A Musical Backgroundp. 13
Chapter 2 1853-1858 The Chapel Royal and King's Collegep. 26
Chapter 3 1858-1862 Sullivan at Leipzig; Gilbert at Lawp. 37
Chapter 4 1863-1866 Gilbert and Sullivan: The Ballad Writersp. 48
Part 2 1867-1877 Establishing Reputations: From Cox and Box to The Sorcerer
Chapter 5 1867-1868 Gilbert and Sullivan in the Theaterp. 65
Chapter 6 1869-1871 The Meeting of Gilbert and Sullivan--Thespisp. 81
Chapter 7 1872-1873 Different Worlds: Gilbert's The Wicked World; Sullivan's The Light of the Worldp. 96
Chapter 8 1874-1875 Trial by Juryp. 104
Chapter 9 1875-1876 In Search of a Managerp. 111
Chapter 10 1876 Sullivan Is Honored; Gilbert Is Ridiculedp. 121
Chapter 11 1877 The Comedy Opera Company and The Sorcererp. 128
Part 3 1877-1884 The G&S Phenomenon: From HMS Pinafore to Princess Ida
Chapter 12 1877-1878 HMS Pinaforep. 145
Chapter 13 1878-1879 Troubled Watersp. 160
Chapter 14 1879-1880 America and The Pirates of Penzancep. 174
Chapter 15 1880-1881 Patiencep. 186
Chapter 16 1881 The Savoy Theatrep. 198
Chapter 17 1881-1882 Iolanthep. 204
Chapter 18 1883-1884 Princess Idap. 218
Part 4 1884-1891 The Golden Years: From The Mikado to the Carpet Quarrel
Chapter 19 1884-1885 The Mikadop. 229
Chapter 20 1885-1887 Ruddigorep. 246
Chapter 21 1887-1888 "A Fresh Start"p. 262
Chapter 22 1888 "A New Departure"--The Yeomen of the Guardp. 273
Chapter 23 1888-1889 "I Have Lost the Liking for Writing Comic Opera"p. 283
Chapter 24 1889 The Gondoliersp. 293
Chapter 25 1889-1890 Carpets, Etc.p. 304
Chapter 26 1890-1891 Disentangling the Knotp. 317
Part 5 1891-1911 Utopia and Beyond
Chapter 27 1891-1893 Picking up the Threadp. 331
Chapter 28 1893 Utopia, Limitedp. 339
Chapter 29 1893-1896 The Grand Dukep. 349
Chapter 30 1896-1898 They Went On ... "But Did Not Speak to Each Other"p. 362
Chapter 31 1899-1900 "I Am Sorry to Leave"p. 376
Chapter 32 1900-1905 A Gilbert without a Sullivanp. 388
Chapter 33 1905-1906 The Trouble with Castingp. 401
Chapter 34 1907-1908 Interpolationsp. 412
Chapter 35 1909-1910 Enter Fairies--Their Flight and Fallp. 425
Chapter 36 1910-1911 "A Very Honorable End"p. 435
Curtain Call: A Selection of the Characters in the Story and What Happened to Them Subsequentlyp. 445
Notesp. 449
Select Bibliographyp. 485
Indexp. 489