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Gilbert, William Schwenck, Sir

Born: 1836 AD
Died: 1911 AD
Nationality: N/A
Categories: Authors, Dramatist, Librettists, Lyricists, Playwrights, Poets

English playwright, poet and librettist


Born at No: 17 Southampton Street, Strand, London on 17th November 1836


First play "Uncle Baby" (1863), possibly written in collaboration with his father, Dr William Gilbert, himself a respected and prolific writer, mainly of ‘sensation’ novels.  First acknowledged play "Dulcamara, or the Little Duck and the Great Quack" (1866), a burlesque of Donizetti’s "L’elisir d’amore".  Most famous play, still the subject of occasional professional revivals, "Engaged" (1877), generally acknowledged to be the inspiration for Oscar Wilde’s "Importance of Being Ernest".  Contributed a large number of comic poems to several comic papers of the day.  These were later collected into various editions of "The ‘Bab’ Ballads", ‘Bab’ being the family’s pet name for him.


Gilbert is best remembered today as the librettist for the series of 14 comic operas written in collaboration with composer Arthur Sullivan between the years 1871 – 1896.  These are: –


"Thespis or, The Gods Grown Old", Gaiety Theatre, 26th December 1871
"Trial by Jury", Royalty Theatre, 25th March 1875
"The Sorcerer", Opera Comique, 17th November 1877
"H. M. S. Pinafore or, The Lass that Loved a Sailor", Opera Comique, 25th May 1878
"The Pirates of Penzance or, The Slave of Duty", Royal Bijou Theatre, Paignton, 31st December 1879
"Patience or, Bunthorne’s Bride", Opera Comique, 23rd April 1881
"Iolanthe or, The Peer and the Peri", Savoy, 25th November 1882
"Princess Ida or, Castle Adamant", Savoy, 5th January 1884
"The Mikado or The Town of Titipu", Savoy, 14th March 1885
"Ruddygore or, The Witch’s Curse", Savoy, 22nd January 1887
"The Yeomen of the Guard or, The Merryman and his Maid", Savoy, 3rd October 1888
"The Gondoliers or, The King of Barataria", Savoy, 7th December 1889
"Utopia (Limited) or, The Flowers of Progress", Savoy, 7th October 1893
"The Grand Duke or, The Statutory Duel", Savoy, &th March 1896


In addition to his comedies, burlesques, pantomimes, dramas and the operas with Sullivan, Gilbert was librettist for a number of other comic operas with various composers, the principal titles being:-


"Ages Ago" (composer Frederic Clay), Royal Gallery of Illustration 1869
"Happy Arcadia" (composer Frederic Clay), Royal Gallery of Illustration, 1872
"Topsyturvydom" (composer Alfred Cellier), Criterion, 1874
"Princess Toto", (composer Frederic Clay), Strand, 1876
"The Mountebanks", (composer Alfred Cellier), Lyric, 1892
"Haste to the Wedding", (composer George Grossmith), Garrick, 1892
"His Excellency", (composer Frank Osmond-Carr), Lyric, 1894
"Fallen Fairies or, The Wicked World", (composer Edward German), Savoy, 1909