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The following three items concern the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, Patience, and the possible models for the two poets, Reginald Bunthorne and Archibald Grosvenor. Having now suf..., sorry, watched Patience, I have to say I think the evidence that Robert Buchanan was the inspiration for Archibald Grosvenor is sketchy, to say the least. That Bunthorne was based on Swinburne seems quite likely, and perhaps the ‘Fleshly School’ controversy might have provided the initial spark for the idea of a dispute between a pair of poets, but that’s about as far as I’d take it. Of course, I’ve only seen one interpretation of Patience and I suppose you could have a more Buchanan-like Archibald Grosvenor, if the director wanted to go down that path, but from all the various illustrations I’ve seen or the other productions available on youtube I’ve had a quick glance at, the two poets seem to be pretty much the same, and ‘aesthetic poets’ in general seem to be the butt of the joke. 
     Patience was first performed in April, 1881, by which time, I would suggest, Buchanan was no longer perceived primarily as a poet, following his success with his first novels and his renewed attempts with the drama. Of course, subsequently, the Swinburne connection with Bunthorne was also lost because of the identification of the character with Oscar Wilde. In the DVD version I watched, this was explained in the interval by none other than Douglas Fairbanks Jr, (Rupert of Hentzau himself), who pointed out that Wilde was sent to America following the initial flop of Patience there, to show the wild colonials what an aesthetic poet looked like.
     So, although I believe the link to Buchanan is fairly negligible, others don’t, and so I have placed these three articles here in the Miscellanea section of the site.



1. ‘In Search of Archibald Grosvenor: A New Look at Gilbert’s Patience’ by John B. Jones
From Victorian Poetry, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Winter, 1965 - pp. 45-53). West Virginia University Press

2. ‘Swinburne, Robert Buchanan, and W. S. Gilbert: The Pain That Was All but a Pleasure’ by William D. Jenkins
From Studies in Philology, Vol. 69, No. 3 (July, 1972 - pp. 369-387). University of North Carolina Press

3. Mr. Gilbert and Dr. Bowdler: A Further Note on Patienceby John Bush Jones
From Victorian Poetry, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring, 1974 - pp. 65-66). West Virginia University Press



‘In Search of Archibald Grosvenor: A New Look at Gilbert’s Patience by John B. Jones
From Victorian Poetry, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Winter, 1965 - pp. 45-53).
West Virginia University Press


In Search of Archibald Grosvenor:
A New Look at Gilbert’s Patience



EVER SINCE an anonymous first-night critic attempted to equate Archibald Grosvenor with Algernon Swinburne eighty-four years ago,1 scholars, critics, and assorted devotees of Gilbert and Sullivan have tried their hand at identifying the prototypes of the two rival poets in Patience. Most of the attention has been given to Reginald Bunthorne, and, amidst some rather wild and haphazard guesses, a few sound theories have been put forth. Most of the earlier writers on the subject favored an equation of Grosvenor with Swinburne and Bunthorne with Oscar Wilde.2 It was not until a decade ago that Leslie Baily and Audrey Williamson (independently, it appears) offered more satisfactory suggestions, suggestions which need little additional support in order to establish a fairly positive identification for the prototype of Bunthorne.3 However, neither Mr. Baily nor Miss Williamson hazards a guess at the identity of a model for Grosvenor, the latter finally despairing of the fact that Grosvenor’s poems “can hardly be conceived as the parody of any known writer of the day.”4 It is my present purpose to add a few new bits of evidence in support of Miss Williamson’s identification of Bunthorne and to suggest possible prototypes for Grosvenor which I believe to be not only plausible, but accurate, not only consistent with the satiric intent of Patience, but also instrumental in adding a new dimension to that satire.
     The conclusion to be drawn from Miss Williamson’s cogent arguments is that Reginald Bunthorne is a composite of the appearance, mannerisms, physical attributes, and artistic tastes and abilities of several of the Pre-Raphaelite and “Aesthetic” figures of Gilbert’s day. Though the character embodies a few characteristics of Whistler, Burne-Jones, and Rossetti, and rather more of Oscar Wilde, the primary


     1 “An Aesthetic Opera” (anon, rev.) London Times, April 25,  1881, p. 10.
     2 This point of view is most fully presented by S. J. Adair Fitz-Gerald in The Story of the Savoy Opera (London, 1924), pp. 80-82, and by Isaac Goldberg in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan, rev. ed. (New York, 1935), pp. 252-261 passim.
     3 See Baily’s The Gilbert and Sullivan Book (London, 1953), pp. 175-180, and Miss Williamson’s Gilbert & Sullivan Opera (New York, 1953), pp. 80-85.
     4 Williamson, p. 85.


46 component both of Bunthorne’s poems and personality is Algernon Swinburne. While carefully comparing evidence from Patience with the careers of these men, Miss Williamson stops short of examining the poetry itself. She only remarks in passing that “Bunthorne’s literary style, as exemplified in his recited poetry and conversation, is without doubt the parody of a particular literary style, not (like the language of the girls) just a general reflection of the aesthetic jargon.”5 A look at the poetry, I believe, will add even further weight to Swinburne’s dominant position in the character of Bunthorne.
     If Gilbert was seeking a living model for his poetic parodies which the theatre-going public would have recognized, he would not have had too many resources open to him. Oscar Wilde’s first collection of poems appeared in June of 1881, three months after the opening of Patience. Rossetti’s output was confined to the single volume, Poems, of 1870 and its subsequent editions. Swinburne, on the other hand, had published seven substantial volumes of poetry before 1881, most of which went through several editions.6 It might also be added that Swinburne was better known to the general public than Rossetti, thanks to his vitriolic counterattack on Buchanan’s “Fleshly School” and his other defenses of the Pre-Raphaelites.
     In addition to the argument for notoriety and familiarity through sheer bulk of publication, there is evidence in Bunthorne’s poems themselves that points directly to Swinburne. Metrically, none of Rossetti’s poems published before the writing of Patience bear even a distant resemblance to “Oh Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!,” whereas the structure of the first six lines (of eight-line stanzas) of at least two of Swinburne’s poems, “To Victor Hugo,” and “Blessed Among Women,” are reproduced exactly in Bunthorne’s lyric:

     Yet though all this be thus,
     Be those men praised of us
Who have loved and wrought and sorrowed and not sinned
     For fame or fear of gold,
     Nor waxed for winter cold,
Nor changed for changes of the worldly wind;7

     When from the poet’s plinth
     The amorous colocynth
Yearns for the aloe, faint with rapturous thrills,


     5 Ibid. pp. 83-84.
     6 Atalanta in Calydon: 1865 (First ed.), 1865 (2nd ed.), 1866, 1868, 1875; Poems and Ballads: 1866 (First ed.), 1866-67 (2nd ed.) 1868, 1871, 1873; Songs Before Sunrise: 1871, 1874, 1877, 1880; Songs of Two Nations: 1875; Poems and Ballads, Second Series: 1878 (First ed.), 1878 (2nd ed.), 1880; Songs of the Springtides: 1880 (First ed.), 1880 (2nd ed.); Studies in Song: 1880.
     7 “To Victor Hugo,” in The Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne (Philadelphia, n.d.), p. 65hereafter cited as “Swinburne.”



     How can he hymn her throes
     Knowing as well he knows,
That they are only uncompounded pills?8

It is partly the meter, but, more important, the “verbal tricks” and inverted repetition of ideas in such a poem as Swinburne’s “Satia Te Sanguine” that are echoed in Bunthorne’s “Heart Foam”:

I wish you were dead, my dear;
     I would give you, had I to give,
Some death too bitter to fear;
     It is better to die than live.9

Oh, to be wafted away
     From this black Aceldama of sorrow,
Where the dust of an earthy to-day
     Is the earth of a dusty tomorrow!         (p. 38)

Swinburne’s heavy use of alliteration is mimicked in such lines as,

What time the poet hath hymned
The writhing maid, lithe-limbed
     Quivering on amaranthine asphodel,          (p. 33)

in a way similar to his own anonymous self-parody of 1880, “Nephelidia”:

From the depth of the dreamy decline of
     the dawn through a notable nimbus of
     nebulous noonshine.10

These literary parallels concur in every respect with Miss Williamson’s arguments to make Swinburne the most likely candidate for the primary, though not sole, source of the person and poetry of Reginald Bunthorne.
     The character and literary efforts of Archibald Grosvenor also suggest a composite prototype. Miss Williamson’s attempt to write off Grosvenor’s good looks, insipid manner, and child-like poetry as leftovers from Gilbert’s earlier draft in which the rivals were curates rather than poets, is a disappointing anti-climax to her careful analysis of Bunthorne. Granted, Grosvenor is less clearly drawn and not as fully developed as the “Fleshly Poet,” but there are plenty of hints to suggest that Gilbert had some of his contemporaries in mind while creating this “Idyllic Poet.” This term, “Idyllic Poet,” occurs in the Dramatis Personae of Patience, but, unlike Bunthorne’s appelation


     8 William Schwenck Gilbert, Patience, in Selected Operas, First Series (London: MacMillan, 1956), p. 33. This edition of Gilbert’s comic operas, no better or worse than any other readily available edition, does not number the lines. Future references to Patience are incorporated in the text by page reference to this edition.
     9 Swinburne, p. 43.
     10 Swinburne, p. 654.


48 “Fleshly,” it does not immediately suggest a generic identification with a particular school or group of poets. “Idyllic” suggests, rather, a type of poetic composition—more or less simple, romantic narrative verse often depicting peace, happiness, and contentment. Tennyson’s Idylls of the King comes first to mind, but the Poet Laureate may be summarily dismissed as the object of Gilbert’s satire since none of Grosvenor’s characteristics jibe with the popular impression of Tennyson. Besides, in spoofing Tennyson’s The Princess in 1870, Gilbert carefully called his play “A Respectful Perversion”; there is nothing respectful about the treatment of contemporary poets in Grosvenor.
     A second, far more plausible, conjecture is William Morris. Virtually all of Morris’ major poems published before 1881 are narratives and may, without stretching the term too far, be classified as idylls. In addition to this hint in the Dramatis Personae, there are several characteristics of Grosvenor’s manner and career that point to Morris as at least one of the models. Before discussing these, however, I would like to offer one further—though slightly tangential—implication of the term “idyllic” as applied to Grosvenor. Ever watchful for a pun, even in such a mature work as Patience, Gilbert may have labelled Grosvenor “idyllic” in reference to Morris’ well-known phrase, “An idle singer of an empty day.” This seemingly far-fetched suggestion draws further strength from the similarity of the sentiment expressed in Grosvenor’s “They [his poems] will not cure thee of thy love” (p. 53) and Morris’

I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears11

     Grosvenor’s other similarities to Morris begin with his general physical appearance. In contrast to the diminutive George Grossmith’s portrayal of Bunthorne in the original production of Patience (Swinburne was a small, odd-looking individual), the handsome and stocky Rutland Barrington was cast as Grosvenor. William Morris was known generally as a strikingly handsome man “rather below the middle height, deep-chested and powerfully made, with a head of singular beauty.”12 At one point in the second act of Patience, Bunthorne declares that he will make Grosvenor “cut his curly hair” (p. 60). A glance at photographs of Morris in any of the many biographies—not to mention the outlandishly exaggerated hair in contemporary


     11 The Earthly Paradise, “An Apology,” II. 2-5.
     12 J. W. Mackail in DNB s.v. “William Morris.”


49 caricatures—reveals wildly curly locks to be a predominant physical feature of Morris.
     Taking handsomeness as an attribute drawn from reality, Gilbert warps the picture by a flight into the realm of caricature. By extension of Grosvenor’s good looks, he furnishes Grosvenor with an overbearing conceit: “It is pleasant to be able to gaze at leisure upon those features which all others may gaze upon at their good will! . . . Ah, I am a very Narcissus!” (p. 65).
     Before 1881 Morris had begun his lectures on art and crafts, and several of these speeches had appeared in pamphlet form: The Lesser Arts (1877), The Art of the People (1879), and The Beauty of Life (1880). These writings already reveal in Morris what he was later to call his passionate “desire to produce beautiful things,”13 and a part of his idea of beauty is that the beautiful is basically the simple. Grosvenor describes himself both as “a trustee for Beauty” and “the Apostle of Simplicity” (p. 42) both possible reflections of Morris’ published artistic mission.
     Even Morris’ socialistic views, juxtaposed with his personal wealth and landholdings in a typically Gilbertian fashion, do not escape a wry notice:

I may say at once. I’m a man of propertee—
     Hey willow waly O!
         Money, I despise it,
         Many people prize it.          (p. 41)

Though Morris did not found the Socialist League until 1884, he was already treasurer of the National Liberal League and had proclaimed his socialistic views in the lectures mentioned earlier and in the Manifesto to the Working Men of England in 1877. It may be assumed fairly safely that these views were known widely enough to allow for a sly dig in a theatrical performance. I also feel that Morris’ socialism as a referent helps to make clear the rather befuddling contrast between Grosvenor’s apparent wealth and hatred of money.
     Reference to Morris alone, however, cannot account for the full portrait of Grosvenor, nor does it seem likely that Gilbert even had Morris uppermost in his mind. Morris was not the only narrative poet to achieve popularity in the decades preceding Patience, and the appelation “idyllic” more rightly applies to Coventry Patmore than to the “idle singer of an empty day.” Patmore’s poems were more familiar to many Englishmen than those of Morris, especially The Angel in the House and The Victories of Love, those horrendously long poetic tracts


     13 Quoted in Victorian Poets and Poetics, ed. Walter E. Houghton and G. Robert Stange (Boston, 1959), pp. 583-584.


50 on the bliss of domestic and marital love. In the first few editions of the former poem, the several sections were designated “Idyl I,” “Idyl II,” and so forth, although in the later editions they were labelled cantos. That these poems, which Frederic Harrison referred to as “goody-goody dribble,”14 were still familiar enough for public satire in the 1880’s is evidenced by Swinburne’s parody “The Person in the House,” appearing in his anonymous Heptalogia the year before the production of Patience. The popularity of Patmore is further attested to by the fact that between the first edition of 1854 and 1896, the year of the poet’s death, an estimated quarter million copies of The Angel in the House were sold, not counting the popular edition of 1887.15 Patmore’s popularity and peculiar brand of poetry, then, would have made him an easy target for theatrical satire, and his narrative verse and incessant theme of marital joy strongly suggest him as a model for the “idyllic” Grosvenor.
     If Grosvenor embodies Morris’ physical attributes and a few of his ideas on art and society, even more does he display the personality traits of Patmore as they were popularly thought of from the public’s reading of The Angel in the House. Patmore was generally thought to be of an “insipid amiability,”16 to be “a mild, soft, and rather sentimental personality.”17 This description jibes with Grosvenor’s behavior as well as with Bunthorne’s comments on it: “I know what it is; it’s his confounded mildness . . . . But I will show the world I can be as mild as he. If they want insipidity, they shall have it” (p. 59). It matters not at all that Patmore’s true nature was “haughty, imperious, combative, sardonic, susceptible, and capable of deep tenderness.”18 For the purpose of public satire, the popular notion of the poet’s personality is a fitter subject than his real character.
     Patmore was also generally thought to be sanctimonious as well as insipid.19 Grosvenor’s “holier-than-thou” attitude, if taken as a reflection of Patmore’s supposed religiosity, helps to explain a point about Patience that has long troubled critics. The line “Your style is much too sanctifiedyour cut is too canonical” (p. 59) has hitherto been interpreted as a remnant of the earlier “rival curates” version of the play. However, the description applies equally well to the self- righteous


     14 Quoted in J. C. Reid, The Mind and Art of Coventry Patmore (London, 1957), p. 3.
     15 Reid, p. 3.
     16 Richard Garnett in DNB s.v. “Coventry Patmore”.
     17 Basil Champneys, Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Patmore (London, 1900), I, 394.
     18 DNB, loc. cit.
     19 Ibid.


51 and almost clerically mild and moral poet as it would have to the clergyman of the original draft. Taken as an aspect of the popular notion of Patmore’s character, then, “canonical” may be viewed as an integral part of the literary satire of Patience rather than as an anomalous leftover from Gilbert’s original plan for the play.
     The poems of Grosvenor comprise the final piece of evidence suggesting that this character is a composite of familiar aspects of the person and poetry of William Morris and Coventry Patmore, with the emphasis on the latter. Both of Grosvenor’s “decalets,” as well as most of his song “A magnet hung in a hardware shop,” are written in somewhat irregular octosyllabic couplets. This metrical arrangement and rime scheme was a favorite of both narrative poets on whom Grosvenor appears to be based. Several of Morris’ shorter pieces (“A Good Knight in Prison,” “The Haystack in the Floods,” and “The God of the Poor”) and substantial portions of “The Blue Closet,” Love is Enough, and The Life and Death of Jason follow this scheme, while Patmore’s lengthy The Victories of Love is in octosyllabic couplets throughout. Some of Morris’ simple narrative technique and the “story-telling” quality of his verse have their counterparts in Grosvenor’s poems:

There was a lord that hight Maltete,
Among great lords he was right great,
On poor folk trod he like the dirt,
None but God might do him hurt.20

Gentle Jane was good as gold,
She always did as she was told;
She never spoke when her mouth was full,
Or caught bluebottles their legs to pull.          (p. 53)

However, in homely diction and mundane subject matter, Grosvenor’s poems more closely approximate the domestic verse of Patmore:

I hope you’re well, I write to say
Frederick has got, besides his pay,
A good appointment in the Docks;
Also thank you for the frocks
And shoes for Baby.21

He punched his poor little sisters’ heads,
And cayenne-peppered their four-post beds,
He plastered their hair with cobbler’s wax,
And dropped hot halfpennies down their backs.          (p. 54)

Finally, Patmore’s constant reiteration of the rewards of virtue and the bliss of marriage is echoed in Grosvenor’s


     20 “The God of the Poor,” in The Collected Works of William Morris, ed. May Morris (London, 1910), IX, 157.
     21 “From Jane to Mrs. Graham;” The Victories of Love, in The Poems of Coventry Patmore, ed. Frederick Page (London, 1949), p. 260.



And when she grew up she was given in marriage
To a first-class earl who keeps his carriage.          (;p.53)

The Patmore-like morality of these lines about a very good girl Grosvenor declares is not “calculated to bring the blush of shame to the cheek of modesty” (p. 53).
     The evidence for an irrefutably positive identification of a prototype for Archibald Grosvenor is, to be sure, fragmentary. But, until a document is discovered wherein Gilbert has expressly declared his intentions and sources, the text of Patience itself must serve as the only source of information. From the evidence available at this time, I feel more than justified in offering the foregoing suggestion of a composite of Morris and Patmore, primarily Patmore, as the foundation of the “Idyllic Poet” Grosvenor.
     Furthermore, I find that this interpretation is not only consistent with the satire embodied in Patience, but also serves to reveal an aspect of that satire not yet considered by critics. It is true that an audience or reader can appreciate the opera without knowing that Grosvenor is modelled on Morris and Patmore; this knowledge is not necessary to understand the humor of the fluctuating poetic tastes of the “rapturous maidens.” However, in viewing Grosvenor in this new light, it becomes apparent that Gilbert is having his fun with the Philistines as much as with the so-called aesthetes. Morris was somewhat on the fringe of the Pre-Raphaelites, the bulk of his poetry displaying few of the elements of the esoteric lyric flights of those men. Patmore, by anybody’s definition, was a “popular” poet; the mundane, almost anti-poetic, nature of his subject matter and the mode of his presentation of the idyll of married love were directed at a public taste far different from, perhaps below, that of the people who really understood or blindly followed the Pre-Raphaelite and aesthetic poets. Gilbert, in having the girls vacillate in their affections between the “aesthetic” Bunthorne and the “commonplace” and almost Philistinian Grosvenor, is ridiculing the “popular” as well as the cultivated poetic tastes of his day. The satire takes an even sharper turn when Bunthorne convinces Grosvenor to become

An every-day young man:
     A commonplace type
     With a stick and a pipe
And a half-bred black-and-tan.         (p. 68)

When Grosvenor appears at the end in his business suit and bowler, he is the living picture of the middle-class, un-aesthetic, Philistine taste that his poetry had expressed all along. His aesthetic pretensions are broken down completely, his true “anti-culture” nature is 53 revealed, and—by extension—Gilbert has taken his final swipe at the Philistines with as much vigor as he had earlier bludgeoned the aesthetes.
     The common accusation that Gilbert is militantly pro-Philistine in Patience no longer seems justified. Rather, the identification of the insipid Grosvenor with the commonplaces of Patmore’s poetry makes the rivalry between him and the “highly spiced” Bunthorne more clearly defined and the satire, now double edged, more pointed.

Northwestern University



 ‘Swinburne, Robert Buchanan, and W. S. Gilbert: The Pain That Was All but a Pleasure’ by William D. Jenkins
From Studies in Philology, Vol. 69, No. 3 (July, 1972 - pp. 369-387).
University of North Carolina Press


Swinburne, Robert Buchanan, and W. S. Gilbert:
The Pain that Was All but a Pleasure



     THE middle-aged spinster as an object of ridicule in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas has been the subject of much inconclusive controversy. Many commentators have interpreted Gilbert’s frequent use of the “old maid” joke as indicating a streak of cruelty in his character; the word “sadism” has been specifically applied.1 However, at the very worst, Gilbert was only mocking a recognizable type of woman. Apparently no one has charged Gilbert with using a living individual as a model for Ruth, Lady Jane, or Katisha.
     On the other hand, some of the male figures of fun bore a remarkably close resemblance to living contemporaries. There was W. H. Smith, for example, a politically-appointed First Lord of the Admiralty who stuck close to his desk and had never been to sea. Then, of course, there was Oscar Wilde, lampooned as Bunthorne, in Patience: or so it has been generally supposed.
     Sweet were the uses of publicity for Wilde in 1881, and he was willing, indeed eager, to identify himself with Bunthome. The future author of The Importance of Being Earnest had a Gilbertean sense of humor of his own and found nothing personally objectionable in the benign mimicry of his poses and posies. His poesy, as such, was spared, because almost nobody had read it. Wilde was twenty-five


     1 Leslie Baily, The Gilbert & Sullivan Book (London, I966), p. 2I8, cites various comments.


370 years old, just down from Oxford, and his private life had not yet become a public scandal. So much could not be said for another literary figure of the day. Persistent emphasis, over a period of eight decades, on the harmless mockery of Wilde has minimized recognition of the more subtle witticisms directed at a much greater and more vulnerable man—Algernon Charles Swinburne. Although several commentators on Patience have mentioned Swinburne’s name in passing, it seems that only three, Frances Winwar,2 Audrey Williamson,3 and John B. Jones,4 have emphasized Swinburne as the primary figure in the composite of Victorian aesthetes that constitutes the “Fleshly Poet,” Reginald Bunthorne.
     Since the subject of Miss Winwar’s book is Oscar Wilde, it is understandable that she did not discuss the Swinbume-Bunthome identity at length. Both Miss Williamson and Mr. Jones have developed the argument with convincing evidence. But both stop short before considering a hypothesis which adds another intriguing dimension to Patience: Bunthorne is primarily Swinburne; ergo, Bunthorne’s hated rival, Grosvenor, is primarily Swinburne’s bitter antagonist in the Fleshly Controversy, Robert Buchanan. Both Williamson and Jones suggest that the appellation, “Fleshly Poet,” for Bunthorne derives from “The Fleshly School of Poetry,” an essay by Buchanan which, as Williamson says, “was a direct attack on Rossetti and Swinburne, made on the grounds of the alleged immoral tendencies of their verse.” There is much evidence, in the polemics of Swinburne and Buchanan, and in the final text of Patience, suggesting that the appellation, “Idyllic Poet,” for Grosvenor derives from the same source. Furthermore, since the point at issue in the Fleshly Controversy was Swinburne’s “immoral tendencies,” I suggest, as an added hypothesis, that Gilbert inserted several subtly disguised private jokes on this subject (specifically sado-masochism) into Patience.
     The most recent analytical study of Patience is Jane W. Stedman’s


     2 Frances Winwar, Oscar Wilde and the Yellow Nineties (New York, 1940), p. 60.
     3 Audrey Williamson, Gilbert & Sullivan Opera (London, 1953), pp. 79-87.
     4 John B. Jones, “In Search of Archibald Grosvenor: A New Look at Gilbert’s Patience,” Victorian Poetry, III (I965), 45-53.



372 detailed account of the earliest known extant draft, a fragment of Act I, deposited in the British Museum. Miss Stedman points out that “at this stage the rival poets of the final version are still the competitive clergymen whom Gilbert borrowed from his own Bab Ballad, ‘The Rival Curates.’” 5 However, Miss Stedman also notes that the identity of the leading characters in Patience “seesawed between the Grosvenor Gallery and the Anglican church for some six months. Gilbert’s original intention seems to have been to make aesthetes of Bunthorne and Grosvenor (long before these names had been settled upon).” Like other commentators, Miss Stedman cites part of a letter (November 1, 1880) from Gilbert to Sullivan: “I mistrust the clerical element. I feel hampered by the restrictions . . . and I want to revert to my old idea of a rivalry between two aesthetic fanatics . . . instead of a couple of clergymen.”
     Only one of the rival clergymen appears in the fragment discussed by Stedman. He bears a poet’s name, “The Reverend Lawn Tennison,” and he recites Grosvenor’s two ridiculous verses, “Gentle Jane” and “Teasing Tom.” Despite such sports as Donne, Swift, and Lewis Carroll, the writing of verse (even idyllic verse) is not a commonplace accomplishment among the clergy. Hence it may be reasonable to believe that this aspect of the Reverend Lawn Tennison is a holdover from Gilbert’s “old idea of a rivalry between two aesthetic fanatics.”
     In view of the many identifications of Bunthorne and Grosvenor (Wilde, Swinburne, Whistler, Burne-Jones, Morris, etc.) made by various exegetes, the composite theory advanced by Leslie Baily,6 Williamson, and Jones, seems the most reasonable. Indeed, to attempt to exclude any of Gilbert’s artistic contemporaries from the composite picture is to move to unsafe ground. Jones, for example, suggests that the “Idyllic Poet,” Grosvenor, is a composite of Coventry Patmore and William Morris; Tennyson, composer of Idylls of the King, is “summarily dismissed as the object of Gilbert’s satire since none of Grosvenor’s characteristics jibe with the popular impression of Tennyson.”


     5 Jane W. Stedman, “The Genesis of Patience,” Modern Philology, LXVI (1968-9), 48-58.
     6 Baily, pp. 201-6.


373 Whatever the “popular impression” may have been, Gilbert, apparently, was not greatly concerned with it when he wrote Lawn Tennison into his early draft. I suggest further, that Gilbert was no more concerned with consistency in creating his rival aesthetic fanatics. Thus Williamson finds a touch of Morris in Bunthorne, Jones finds a touch of Morris in Grosvenor; both are probably correct. Isaac Goldberg finds a touch of Swinburne in Grosvenor;7 the slight evidence for this view does not negate the primary Bunthorne-Swinburne identification.
     The essential point is that Patience was written at two levels. The average Victorian theater-goer, like the average reader of Punch, viewed the rival poets as comic figures who wore funny clothes and said ridiculously funny things. He could not know, and did not care, whether the originals were Swinburne or Wilde, Postlethwaite or Maudle. That the jokes about specific identity were not intended to be generally understood appears in the earnest work of the students who have addressed themselves to the problem. Neither Gilbert nor Sullivan ever dropped a single extra-theatrical hint on the subject. The astute Richard D’Oyly Carte was similarly close-mouthed, despite his exploitation of the willing Wilde for promotion purposes. Such discretion may well have been dictated by the element of “other-Victorian” bawdry in the principal private joke.
     It has been noted that W. S. Gilbert was a gentleman of good taste and sensibility, who adapted his discourse to his company. Among his male peers, Gilbert’s off-stage humor was heartily Rabelaisian.8 On the other hand, his opera librettos were written to be appreciated by “the young lady in the dress circle.”9 Goldberg cites a declaration made by Gilbert many years after Patience:

     I am so old-fashioned as to believe that the test whether a story is fit to be presented to an audience in which there are many young ladies, is whether the details of that story can be decently told at (say) a dinner party at which a number of ladies and gentlemen are present.10


     7 Isaac Goldberg, The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (New York, 1928), p. 261.
     8 Baily, p. 422.
     9 Goldberg, p. 495.
     10 William Archer, quoted by Goldberg, p. 492.


374     This attitude is decidedly different from that expressed by Swinburne in an 1866 essay, “Notes on Poems and Reviews,” which contributed to the Fleshly Controversy:

     Who has not heard it asked, in a final and triumphant tone, whether this book or that can be read aloud by her mother to a young girl? whether such and such a picture can properly be exposed to the eyes of young persons? If you reply that this is nothing to the point, you fall at once into the ranks of the immoral.11

     Perhaps Gilbert did protest his purity too much. However, his precept was not violated in Patience. The joke about Swinburne’s sexual deviation is not only “too French,” it is told in a language that “the young lady in the dress circle” did not understand; she was not sophisticated enough to be shocked. Perhaps Gilbert could not resist the opportunity of applying his unique topsy-turvy logic. Was it a case of letting “the punishment fit the crime”? Or was it rather, since it is not cruelty to be cruel to a masochist, “a most ingenious paradox”?
     In any case, the theme of sado-masochism in Patience begins with the very first chorus of the twenty love-sick maidens who revel in their misery. The meaning is clear to the simple milkmaid, Patience, who observes that “love is a thorn . . . love is a nettle that makes you smart.” Patience is thus led to believe that true love must be painful, and later she voluntarily subjects herself to the ordeal of loving Bunthorne, as she says: “With a heart-whole ecstasy that withers, and scorches, and burns, and stings!” And she sings: “Love is a plaintive song,/ Sung by a suffering maid.” Like the Marquis de Sade’s innocent Justine, Patience suffers “The Misfortunes of Virtue.” A more direct reference to Swinburnean masochism appears in Gilbert’s sextette with the repeated chorus identifying pain with pleasure:

I hear the soft note of the echoing voice
     Of an old, old love, long dead—
It whispers my sorrowing heart “rejoice”—
     For the last sad tear is shed—
The pain that is all but a pleasure will change
     For the pleasure that’s all but pain,


     11 Swinburne Replies, ed. Clyde Kenneth Hyder (Syracuse, 1966), pp. 29-30.



And never, oh never, this heart will range
     From that old, old love again!

Yes, the pain that is all but a pleasure will change
     For the pleasure that’s all but pain, etc.

     The linkage of pleasure and pain in Swinburne’s poetry scarcely needs comment. It is especially notable in “Rococo,” a poem about dead love, which may have been the model for Gilbert’s parody. Here is Swinburne’s third stanza:

Time found our tired love sleeping,
     And kissed away his breath;
But what should we do weeping,
     Though light love sleep to death?
We have drained his lips at leisure,
     Till there’s not left to drain
A single sob of pleasure,
     A single pulse of pain.12

     The concluding two lines of half the stanzas of this ten-stanza poem refer to pleasure and pain. Equally characteristic of Swinburne is the structure of Gilbert’s lines: “The pain that is all but a pleasure . . . the pleasure that’s all but pain.” Such repetition, but inversion, of the key words has been called by Cecil Y. Lang, “the purest Swinburnese—‘simple perfection of perfect simplicity.’13
     However, it is the poetry of Reginald Bunthorne which offers the most amusing parodies of Swinburne—in style, in content, and, in one instance, in circumstances of inspiration. Here is a passage from Act I, wherein Patience says that she does not like poetry and rejects Bunthorne’s love:

PA. I only ask that you will leave me and never renew the subject.
BUN. Certainly. Broken-hearted and desolate, I go. (Recites.)

“Oh, to be wafted away
     From this black Aceldama of sorrow,
Where the dust of an earthy today
     Is the earth of a dusty tomorrow!”

It is a little thing of my own. I call it “Heart Foam.” I shall not publish it.
Farewell! Patience, Patience, farewell!


     12 Swinburne, Poems and Ballads, First Series (London, 1866). All the poems herein suggested as models for Gilbert’s parodies are from this collection.
     13 The Swinburne Letters, ed. Cecil Y. Lang (New Haven, 1959), I, xvi.


376     Gilbert seems to have crammed several Swinburnean references into the four lines of “Heart Foam,” including the repetition-inversion of “dust” and “earth.” Additionally, there is a close resemblance to “The Garden of Proserpine,” described by Swinburne in “Notes on Poems and Reviews” as expressing “that brief total pause of passion and thought, when the spirit, without fear or hope of good things or evil, hungers and thirsts only after perfect sleep.”14 Stanza ten reads:

We are not sure of sorrow,
     And joy was never sure;
Today will die tomorrow;
     Time stoops to no man’s lure;

Bunthorne as the rejected poet and lover suggests “A Leave-taking,” wherein Swinburne plays a similar role: “Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear . . . . Let us go seaward as the great winds go, / Full of blown sand and foam.” The seemingly meaningless title, “Heart Foam,” is perhaps explained by Swinburne’s fondness for the word “foam,” notable even in a poet who loved sea imagery. Thus the bitterly hostile Buchanan commented: “I attempt to describe Mr. Swinburne; . . . men and women wrench, wriggle and foam in an endless alliteration.”15 Whether the point deserves criticism is immaterial; the fact is readily documented. The disappointed lover “foams” frequently in “The Triumph of Time”; in “We have seen thee, O Love”; in “Rococo”; and in “Dolores” no fewer than eight times, e. g., “By the lips inter-twisted and bitten / Till the foam has a savour of blood.”
     The first and third stanzas of Bunthorne’s other poem, “Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!” suggest passages from “Dolores” and “Felise” respectively:

What time the poet hath hymned
The writhing maid, lithe-limbed,


     14 Swinburne Replies, p. 24.
     15 Robert Buchanan, The Fleshly School of Poetry (London, 1872), p. 80. Gilbert was not the first parodist to make fun of Swinburne’s “foaming.” (Mortimer Collins, “Salad”: “Anchovies foam-born, like the Lady / Whose beauty has maddened this bard.” Lewis Carroll, “Atalanta in Camden-Town”: “When the foam of the bride-cake is white, and the fierce orange-blossoms are yellow.”)



     Quivering on amaranthine asphodel, (Hollow)

Thou wert fair in the fearless old fashion,
     And thy limbs are as melodies yet,
And move to the music of passion
     With lithe and lascivious regret. (Dolores)

Is it, and can it be,
Nature hath this decree,
     Nothing poetic in this world shall dwell?
Or that in all her works
Something poetic lurks,
     Even in colocynth and calomel?
                                               I cannot tell. (Hollow)

For many loves are good to see;
     Mutable loves, and loves perverse;
But there is nothing, nor shall be,
     So sweet, so wicked, but my verse
     Can dream of worse. (Felise)

The “Hollow” title, and the flowers that “are only uncompounded pills” in Bunthorne’s second stanza, may derive remotely from “The Garden of Proserpine”: “Where summer song rings hollow / And flowers are put to scorn.” Patience’s confusion of the alliterative “Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!” with “a hunting song,” perhaps hints at “a hymn from the hunt that has harried the kennel of kings,” the concluding line of Swinburne’s self-parody, “Nephelidia,” published in The Heptalogia, 1880. In November of that year Gilbert completed the libretto of Patience. Although The Heptalogia was published anonymously, it seems probable that Gilbert knew the identity of the author and admired the wit of a fellow-parodist.16 Bunthorne confesses: “There is more innocent fun within me than a casual spectator would imagine.” Note the names of the humorous weekly, Fun, for which Gilbert had written his Bab Ballads, and the literary journal, the Spectator, which was strongly anti-Swinburne


     16 Swinburne and Gilbert had the same book publishers, John Camden Hotten, and his successor, Andrew Chatto, who published The Heptalogia. Gilbert could hardly fail to recognize “Nephelidia” as a parody of Swinburne’s style. Did he also recognize the allusive content of the concluding line? (Atalanta in Calydon: “Amid the king’s hounds and the hunting men,” etc.)


378 on moral grounds and which figured in the Fleshly Controversy.17
     The Swinburne-Buchanan feud began with unfavorable reviews of Swinburne’s poetry, suggestive references to the poet’s private life, and even unflattering comment on Swinburne’s personal appearance. Typically, these Buchananisms were unsigned. An early skirmish was Swinburne’s mildly defensive “Notes on Poems and Reviews,” in the Fortnightly Review, 1866. The poet conceded that his work was not necessarily written for young ladies, but demanded that it be judged on aesthetic grounds exclusively. (Bunthorne: “They find me too highly spiced, if you please! And no doubt I am highly spiced.”) He paid tribute to Tennyson, but decried the Laureate’s less talented imitators:

     Thus with English versifiers now, the idyllic form is alone in fashion. . . . We have idyls good and bad, ugly and pretty, idyls of the farm and the mill; idyls of the dining room and the deanery; idyls of the gutter and gibbet.”18

     Buchanan, author of a volume of verse entitled Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, interpreted Swinburne’s anti-idylism as a direct affront. The animosity smouldered until 187I, when it flared into white heat with publication in the Contemporary Review of a critical article, “The Fleshly School of Poetry.” Using the pseudonym “Thomas Maitland,” the mean-spirited Buchanan attacked Swinburne and D. G. Rossetti for the immoral sexuality of their poetry. Buchanan criticized Rossetti’s rhyming technique; “accenting the last syllable in words which in ordinary speech are accented on the penultimate . . . ‘Between the lips of Love-Lilee.’” (Bunthorne: “I shall have to be contented with a tulip or lily!”) Swinburne was chastised as “only a mad little boy letting off squibs . . . . ‘I will be naughty!’ screamed the little boy.”19 Finally, Buchanan noted Swinburne’s “foaming” (“Heart Foam,” above).
     If Buchanan’s condemnation helps identify Swinburne as Bunthorne, the “Fleshly Poet,” Swinburne’s response is equally suggestive of Buchanan as Grosvenor, the “Idyllic Poet.” In a pamphlet, Under


     17 John A. Cassidy, Algernon C. Swinburne (New York, 1964), pp. 128-44, gives a detailed account of the Fleshly Controversy.
     18 Swinburne Replies, p. 31.
     19 Buchanan, The Fleshly School, pp. 36-48.


379 the Microscope, 1872, Swinburne recalled his “Notes on Poems and Reviews” of 1866:

From a slight passing mention of ‘idyls of the gutter and gibbet’ in a passage referring to the idyllic schools of our day, Mr. Buchanan . . . is led even by so much notice as this to infer that his work must be to the writer an object of special attention.

In Patience, Grosvenor recites two examples of his “idyllic” verse, “Teasing Tom . . . a very bad boy,” and “Gentle Jane . . . as good as gold.” Swinburne uses both names, Tom and Jane, in referring to Buchanan. Because Buchanan concealed his identity under the pseudonym, “Thomas Maitland,” Swinburne observes that it was “not the good boy, Robert, for instance, but the rude boy, Thomas,” who was throwing stones and shooting off a popgun. Elsewhere Swinburne asks: “How should one address him? [Buchanan] ‘Matutine pater, seu Jane libentius audis?’ As Janus, rather, one would think, being so in all men’s sight a natural son of the double-faced divinity.”20
     Grosvenor’s “Teasing Tom” reflects not only Swinburne’s idea of the hypocritical Buchanan, “the rude boy Thomas” with his stones and popgun, but even more pointedly Buchanan’s idea of Swinburne, “a mad little boy letting off squibs.”

Teasing Tom was a very bad boy,
A great big squirt was his favorite toy;
He put live shrimps in his father’s boots,
And sewed up the sleeves of his Sunday suits;
He punched his poor little sisters’ heads,
And cayenne-peppered their four-post beds,
He plastered their hair with cobbler’s wax,
And dropped hot halfpennies down their backs.
     The consequence was he was lost totally,
     And married a girl in the corps de bally!

How the ribald inner Gilbert must have chuckled when he wrote Grosvenor’s introduction of this priapic young sadist! “I believe I am right in saying that there is not one word in that decalet which is calculated to bring the blush of shame to the cheek of modesty.” To which Angela, echoed by “the young lady in the dress circle,” affirms:


     20 Swinburne Replies, pp. 71, 76-7. The Latin is identified by Hyder as a quotation from Horace: “O father of the morning, or Janus, if you would prefer to be so addressed.”


380 “Not one; it is purity itself.” Swinburne never married, “single he did live and die”; but in 1867 he did contract a notorious liaison with a “girl in the corps de bally.” She was the beautiful actress and courtesan, Adah Isaacs Menken. The brief affair was arranged by Swinburne’s friends and was eagerly accepted by the poet; in his case it was good publicity to let it be thought that he indulged in anything so normal as keeping a mistress. The window dressing was so successful that a photograph of Algy and Adah together was sold in London stationery shops.21
     In contrast to “Teasing Tom,” Grosvenor’s “Gentle Jane” is pointedly uninterested in sadistic pastimes. Neither does she foster “a passion for alcohol,” another of Swinburne’s well-known failings.

     Gentle Jane was as good as gold,
     She always did as she was told;
     She never spoke when her mouth was full,
     Or caught bluebottles their legs to pull,
     Or spilt plum jam on her nice new frock,
     Or put white mice in the eight-day clock,
     Or vivisected her last new doll,
     Or fostered a passion for alcohol.
And when she grew up she was given in marriage
To a first-class earl who keeps his carriage!

     The style of Grosvenor’s dreadful doggerel is a more-than-fair approximation of some of the highly moral stuff Buchanan contrived to publish. As Swinburne commented: “In effect there were those who found the woes and devotions of Doll Tearsheet or Nell Nameless as set forth in the lyric verse of Mr. Buchanan calculated rather to turn the stomach than to melt the heart.”22 We recall Bunthorne’s scorn of Grosvenor’s “placidity emetical.” However, except for his titles, Grosvenor’s verse is not really a parody of Buchanan. Totally without style, Buchanan, at his worst, defies parody. Perhaps this passage from “Attorney Sneak” represents Buchanan at his worst:

“Tommy,” he dared to say, “you’ve done amiss;
I never thought to see you come to this.
I would have stopped you early on the journey
If I had ever thought you’d grow attorney.


     21 The Swinburne Letters, I, 295.
     22 Swinburne Replies, p. 72.



Sucking the blood of people here in London;
But you have done it and it can’t be undone.
And Tommy, I will do my best to see
You don’t at all disgrace yourself and me.”23

One wonders on what grounds the rhymer of “London” with “un-done” could cavil at Rossetti’s “Love-Lilee.” Also compare Grosvenor’s “totally” and “bally.” Here’s another; “The Widow Mysie. An Idyl of Love and Whisky”:

O Widow Mysie, smiling soft and sweet
O Mysie buxom as a sheaf of wheat!
O Mysie, widow Mysie, late Monroe
Foul fall the traitor face that served me so!
O Mysie Love, a second time a bride,
I pity him who tosses at your side—
Who took, by honied smiles and speech misled,
A beauteous bush of brambles to his bed! 24

The last line recalls the complaint about Swinburne’s “endless alliteration.” It also recalls the song of Patience: “If love is a thorn, they show no wit / Who foolishly hug and foster it.” One more example; Buchanan’s “Kitty Kemble,” a girl from the corps de bally:

You pertly spake a dozen lines or so,
While just behind you, glaring in a row,
Your sillier sisters of the ballet stood
With spleen and envy raging in their blood!
Thus, Kitty Kemble, on and up you went,
Merry, yet ill content;
And soon you cast, inflated still with pride,
Your city man aside
Cut him stone dead to his intense annoy,
And like a maiden coy,
Dropt, blushing crimson, in the arms scarce vital
Of an old man of title! 25

     Unlike Gentle Jane, Kitty did not marry her man of title; the consequence was she was lost totally. A comparison of these moral idyls


     23 Buchanan, London Poems (London, 1867), p. 168. “Attorney Sneak” was first published in 1866, two years after W. S. Gilbert became an impecunious young barrister.
     24 Buchanan, Idyls and Legends of Inverburn (London, 1866), p. 157. The “beauteous bush of brambles” was altered to an unalliterative “Delilah” in some later editions.
     25 Buchanan, Poetical Works (Boston, I874), pp. 299-300.


382 with those ascribed to Grosvenor reveals Gilbert’s vastly superior technique, which Swinburne specifically noted. In a letter entitled “The Devil’s Due,” signed “Thomas Maitland” (The Examiner, 1875), Swinburne called Buchanan “the multi-faced idyllist of the gutter,” and advised him:

. . . to study in future the metre as well as the style and reasoning of the “Bab Ballads.” Intellectually and morally he would seem to have little to learn from them; indeed a careless reader might easily imagine any one of the passages quoted to be a cancelled fragment from the rough copy of a discourse delivered by “Sir Macklin” or the “Reverend Micah Sowls,” but he has certainly nothing of the simple and perfect modulation which gives a last light consummate touch to the grotesque excellence of verse which might wake the dead with “helpless laughter.”26

     It can hardly be doubted that Gilbert was amused and gratified at Swinburne’s appreciation, and that the letter intensified his interest in the Fleshly Controversy. Both “Sir Macklin” and the “Reverend Micah Sowls,” from two different Bab Ballads, are long-winded clergymen who deliver boring, moralizing sermons. A certain line in Patience concerning Grosvenor, “Your style is much too sanctified—your cut is too canonical,” has been called by Williamson, “a rather obscure gibe as applied to a poet.”27 Jones agrees that this point


     26 The Swinburne Letters, III, 91-2. Swinburne’s delight in Gilbert is evident in several letters. To D. G. Rossetti, 1870: “By the way what a splendid ‘Bab’ that was in the Graphic for Christmas Day about the shipwrecked men and their common friend—I thought it one of the best—and it took me about an hour to read out en famille owing to the incessant explosions and collapses of reader and audience in tears and roars of laughter” (II, 106). To Andrew Chatto, 1886: Ordering two copies of “Gilbert’s comic operas,” published that year by Chatto & Windus; a third copy in 1888 (V, 154, 237). He also wrote three letters to Chatto requesting separate copies of the libretto for Ruddigore (V, 195, 201, 237). Ruddigore, produced in 1887, includes these lines:

As a poet I’m tender and quaint—
     I’ve passion and fervor and grace—
         From Ovid and Horace
         To Swinburne and Morris
     They all of them take a back place.

Did Swinburne ever attend a G&S performance? Lang notes that during his Putney retirement, the poet “came to loathe the theater, partly as a result of encroaching deafness” (I, xxxi).
     27 Williamson shares the view that this line is a holdover from the “Rival Curates” version of Patience. I would argue that the gibe is even more obscure as applied to a curate; in fact it is no gibe at all. A curate is expected to be canonical, as a poet is expected to be poetical, not canonical.


383 “has long troubled critics.”28 I suggest that the obscurity is readily dissipated if the line is read as a paraphrase of the gibe at Buchanan. Swinburne’s use of Buchanan’s alias, “Thomas Maitland,” also gives point to another of Bunthorne’s lines: “I’ll meet this fellow on his own ground and beat him on it.” This threat immediately precedes the “canonical” gibe.
     In his earlier essay, Under the Microscope, Swinburne had loosed a lengthy (and somewhat twisted) satirical shaft at the sanctified style and canonical cut of his adversaries:

. . . in place of the man of God at whose admonition the sinner was wont to tremble . . . perhaps a comic singer, a rhymester of boyish burlesque; there is no saying who may not usurp the pulpit when once the priestly office and the priestly vestures have passed into other than consecrated hands. For instance, we hear, in October, say, a discourse on Byron and Tennyson . . . we stand abashed at the reflection that never till this man came to show us did we perceive the impurity of a poet who can make his heroine “so familiar with male objects of desire” as to allude to such a person as an odalisque “in good society”; we are ashamed to remember that never till now did we duly appreciate . . . the depravity of the Princess Ida and her collegians.”29


     28 In line with his theory that Grosvenor is primarily Coventry Patmore, Jones holds that the line refers to the “popular notion” of Patmore’s prissy character: “For the purpose of public satire, the popular notion of the poet’s personality is a fitter subject than his real character.” I would argue that the “popular notion” is manifestly irrelevant since, in eighty years, Jones is the first man to appreciate the joke. If “public satire” of anybody was intended, this must surely be Gilbert’s most spectacular failure.
     29 Swinburne Replies, p. 39. Perhaps Gilbert remembered this passage in 1883, when he wrote (or re-wrote) his own Princess Ida. Buchanan’s response to Under the Microscope was “The Monkey and the Microscope,” 1872, a scurrilous rhyme directed at Swinburne:

A clever Monkey—he can squeak,
Scream, bite, mumble, all but speak;
Studies not merely monkey-sport
But vices of a human sort;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Is amorous and takes no pain
To hide his Aphrodital vein;
And altogether trimly drest
In human breeches, coat and vest,
Looks human, and upon the whole
Lacks nothing, save perchance a Soul.

Cf. Princess Ida:

A Lady fair of lineage high,


384 The quotation recalls a passage from Tennyson’s The Princess: “Our statues!—not of those that men desire, / Sleek Odalisques, or oracles of mode.” And if we have “the keen penetration of Paddington Pollaky,” perhaps we may find a recollection of Swinburne’s sarcasm among the elements that make up a Heavy Dragoon in Patience. These include “Tupper and Tennyson” (but not very much of him) and the “Grace of an Odalisque on a divan.” It cannot be denied that this effeminate grace stands out in startling incongruity to the other attributes of a Heavy Dragoon. Did Gilbert throw it in merely for want of a better rhyme?
     Lang has commented on certain financial arrangements between Swinburne and one of his publishers, John Camden Hotten: “Swinburne co-operated (collaborated might be a more precise word) with Hotten in the issue of certain books from which both publisher and poet seem to have derived both satisfaction and income—Flagellation and Romance of the Rod are the two named by Swinburne.”30 It so happened that Hotten was also W. S. Gilbert’s first book publisher. In 1869 Hotten reprinted from Fun a collection of Bab Ballads. The last four pages of this edition carry advertisements for other Hotten books, the final item being: “Romance of the Rod—An anecdotal History of the Birch in Ancient and Modern Times. With some quaint illustrations. (In preparation.)” The advertisement does not mention the author of this obviously unpoetic work. Not included in the Hotten Bab Ballads is the prototype of Archibald Grosvenor’s “Teasing Tom,” a ballad called “The Story of Gentle Archibald.” Archibald’s behavior is even more reprehensible than Tom’s:

With irresistible attack
He jumped upon her aged back,
Pulled off the poor old lady’s front,
And thrashed her while she tried to grunt,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
     Was loved by an Ape, in the days gone by.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
He bought white ties, and he bought dress suits,
He crammed his feet into bright tight boots—
And to start in life on a brand new plan,
He christened himself Darwinian Man! etc.


     30 The Swinburne Letters, I, xlviii.



The change had really turned his brain;
He boiled his little sister Jane;
He painted blue his aged mother;
Sat down upon his little brother; etc.

     “Gentle Archibald” appeared in Fun, May 19, 1866, and it may not be unreasonable to speculate that Gilbert, realizing the possible association of ideas, withheld it from Hotten because of the publisher’s known pornographic ventures.31 Goldberg, commenting at length on “Gentle Archibald” as one of the “lost” Bab Ballads, has remarked that Gilbert never acknowledged the relationship with “Teasing Tom.”32 Nevertheless, the name “Archibald” was eventually bestowed on Grosvenor. It is certain that Gilbert originally intended to use the name “Algernon” for at least one of his poets. A stage direction from an early draft of the libretto reads at a certain point: “Algernon Bunthorne enters followed by ladies.” Elsewhere in the same draft, Patience, speaking to Grosvenor, says, “Farewell, Algernon!”33 The final choice for Bunthorne’s Christian name is equally significant. It was apparently no secret that Swinburne used “Reginald” as a nom de plume in his lewd correspondence. Clyde Kenneth Hyder notes that as early as 1871 a novel introduced “Reginald Swynfen, obviously a defamatory caricature of the poet.”34 Nevertheless, Swinburne defiantly called himself “Reginald Harewood” in Love’s Cross-Currents, published in 1877 as A Year’s Letters, and later gave the name “Reginald Fane” to a flogged schoolboy in The Whippingham Papers.
     Swinburne’s paternal grandfather was a baronet; his mother, Lady Jane Swinburne, was the daughter of the Earl of Ashburnham. Bunthorne lives in a Castle, and Grosvenor also “comes of noble race.” But the proper swell in Patience is Lieutenant The Duke of Dunstable, who explains significantly that he joined the Dragoons because he might be “perhaps even bullied, who knows? The thought was rapture.” (In 1854 the youthful Swinburne, fresh from


     31 Steven Marcus, The Other Victorians (New York, 1967), p. 68.
     32 Goldberg, pp. 90-1, 253.
     33 Reginald Allen, The First-Night Gilbert & Sullivan (New York, 1958), p. 166.
     34 Swinburne Replies, p. 10. The novel was Two Plunges for a Pearl, by Mortimer Collins.


386 the flogging block and bullying of Eton, expressed the desire to join a cavalry regiment, a project firmly vetoed by his father.35) At this point in the libretto Gilbert had written a solo for the Duke which was eliminated before the opening performance. However, it survives in the British Museum in the manuscript which had been submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for approval. The Duke sings, in part:

. . . Scandal hides her head abashed,
Brought face to face with Rank and Money!

Society forgets her laws,
And Prudery her affectation,
While Mrs. Grundy pleads our cause
And talks “wild oats” and toleration;
Archbishops wink at what they think
A downright crime in common shoddy,
Although Archbishops shouldn’t wink
At anything—or anybody!36

     The reference to scandal is intriguing, but the song seems to have no thematic relevance to Patience, whether the context be curates or poets. We can understand its deletion, but why was it written in the first place? Is it possible that Gilbert had heard a garbled version of an anecdote related by Edmund Gosse? Lady Ritchie, Thackeray’s daughter, met Swinburne at Lord Houghton’s home in 1862. The company included her father, her sister, and the Archbishop of York, to whom the poet read his “The Leper” and “Les Noyades.” According to Gosse, the Archbishop did not wink. On the contrary, his Grace was silently horrified, while Thackeray and his daughters were enchanted by poet and poetry alike.37 Manifestly, Swinburne’s rank and money did not protect him from scandal, although he did have a few influential apologists. Lady Ritchie, the highly respectable Edmund Gosse, and others remained Swinburne’s life-long friends. So, of course, did the very model of a Victorian


     35 Cassidy, p. 33.
     36 Kenneth Carrdus, “The Duke’s Song in ‘Patience,’” The Gilbert & Sullivan Journal, May 1967, pp. 97-8.
     37 Edmund Gosse, The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne (London, 1927), p. 90.


387 factotum general, Theodore Watts-Dunton, described by Lang as “the dingy old nursemaid who, irresistibly, excites the satirist in every man.”38 (Bunthorne, introducing his solicitor: “Heart-broken at my Patience’s barbarity,/ By the advice of my solicitor . . . I’ve put myself up to be raffled for!”)
     Although some of the evidence is tenuous, the sum suggests that it was W. S. Gilbert himself who, in 1881, walked to stage center, glanced furtively about, and whispered conspiratorially:

     This costume chaste
         Is but good taste

               Let me confess!
A languid love for lilies does not blight me!

The musical ear of “the young lady in the dress circle” was insufficiently attuned. She did not catch the faint counterpoint of one of Swinburne’s most frequently quoted lyrics:

     Men touch them, and change in a trice
The lilies and languors of virtue
     For the raptures and roses of vice.


     Wayne, New Jersey


     38 The Swinburne Letters. I, xliii.




‘Mr. Gilbert and Dr. Bowdler: A Further Note on Patienceby John Bush Jones
From Victorian Poetry, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring, 1974 - pp. 65-66).
West Virginia University Press


Brief Articles and Notes


         John Bush Jones


A number of years ago I first hypothesized in the pages of this journal a composite prototype for the character of Archibald Grosvenor in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, that composite consisting of traits of the poetry and persons of William Morris and Coventry Patmore.1 I am pleased that since then I have received a number of favorable responses to this suggestion—both in print and informally—and no less pleased to find that my remarks have helped stimulate at least one lively controversy over that character identification. In the course of exposing a possibly covert, private level of satire in Patience, William D. Jenkins suggests that Grosvenor is modeled, at least in part, on Robert Buchanan, author of “The Fleshly School of Poetry” and perhaps Swinburne’s most vituperative detractor.2 Such an identification works well in the context of the opera as a rival and foil to the Bunthorne- Swinburne figure, and though some of Mr. Jenkins’ ingenuity in compiling supporting evidence occasionally may strain the reader’s credulousness, nevertheless, the main thrust of his argument deserves serious consideration.
     Now, at the risk of perhaps undermining not only Mr. Jenkins’ identification of Grosvenor but my own composite prototype as well, I would like to introduce a piece of evidence strongly suggesting that Gilbert chiefly based this character not on specific personalities at all, but rather on an outlook, an attitude, a frame of mind—employing characteristics of contemporary personages only insofar as they might help to dramatize this attitude and particularize the satire directed against it. The object of the attack is, in a word, prudery, and the evidence for Gilbert’s intention is Grosvenor’s commentary on his “Gentle Jane was as good as gold,” the particularly pure and moral poem he has just recited:


     1 “In Search of Archibald Grosvenor: A New Look at Gilbert’s Patience,” VP, 3 (1965), 45-53.
     2 "Swinburne, Robert Buchanan, and W. S. Gilbert: The Pain that Was All but a Pleasure,” SP, 69 (1972), 369-387.



I believe I am right in saying that there is not
one word in that decalet which is calculated to
bring the blush of shame to the cheek of modesty.3

We no longer recognize the last phrases of this speech as a literary allusion, but it is quite probable that the audiences in Gilbert’s day would and especially the respectable family audiences at the Savoy, “many of whom scarcely attended any other theatre.”4 More even than an allusion, these lines are almost a verbatim borrowing from that eminent expurgator and precursor of Victorian verbal delicacy, Dr. Thomas Bowdler:

It certainly is my wish, and it has ever been my study, to exclude from this publication whatever is unfit to be read aloud by a gentleman to a company of ladies. I can hardly imagine a more pleasing occupation for a winter’s evening in the country than for a father to read one of Shakspeare’s plays to his family circle. My object is to enable him to do so without incurring the danger of falling unawares among words and expressions which are of such a nature as to raise a blush on the cheek of modesty [my italics].5

     While it is merely coincidental and interesting, perhaps, that Grosvenor is indeed reading to a “company of ladies,” it is a fact that Bowdler’s expurgated Shakespeare remained one of the most popular editions of the dramatist throughout the nineteenth century,6 at the same time that his name became synonymous with editorial priggery. A rather strange case of concurrent popularity and humorous notoriety, and, as such, a perfect subject for satire. Furthermore, Bowdler’s Shakespeare was mostly in the homes of that sort of decent middle-class folk who also attended Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and it is for this reason that it is probable, though not provable, that Gilbert’s echo of the good doctor’s preface did not go unrecognized and unappreciated.
     The effect of Grosvenor’s speaking Bowdler’s words, when added to his previously noted qualities of insipidity and commonplaceness, is to reinforce and extend an idea put forth in my original paper on Patience (pp. 52-53). I then suggested that Grosvenor was really quite un-aesthetic all along—an embodiment of middlebrow Philistine taste, a quality underlined by his purely physical transformation to business suit and bowler at the end of the opera. Bowdler’s words in his mouth anchor him even more securely not only to middle-class taste but middle-class morality as well. Through Grosvenor, then, Gilbert broadens the base of his satire from a narrow concern with poetry and the muddying of art by aesthetic pretensions to the more generally societal concern of prudery and the meddling with art by self-styled arbiters of propriety.


     3 Gilbert, Patience, in The Savoy Operas (Oxford Univ. Press, 1962), I, 207.
     4 H. Barton Barker, History of the London Stage (London, 1904), p. 512.
     5 Bowdler, “Preface,” in The Family Shakspeare, 10 vols. (London, 1818), I, x.
     6 For a full history of his popularity, as well as that of his successors and imitators, see Noel Perrin, Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy: A History of Expurgated Books in England and America (New York, 1969), esp. Chapters III and IV.



So much for Patience. I’ve had these items for a number of years now but I was holding onto them because I was planning a separate section on fictional representations of Robert Buchanan. However, I’ve now given up - there aren’t any. In 2009 the BBC broadcast a TV series called Desperate Romantics, which gave a fictional account of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which unfortunately ended with the retrieval of Rossetti’s poems from the grave of his wife. I waited in vain for a second series, but none was forthcoming and Dante Gabriel Rossetti was shortly off to Cornwall and made a bit of a stir by taking off his shirt to mow his lawn. In 1967 Ken Russell had made a 90 minute film for the BBC’s Omnibus programme on the same subject. Dante’s Inferno featured Oliver Reed as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and began with the exhumation of the poems and then went into flashback. When it caught up with itself, that event was taken as the cause of Rossetti’s descent into madness and the suicide attempt. Buchanan does not appear although an anonymous critic of Rossetti’s poems gets the briefest of mentions. When it was first broadcast, this was probably seen as adventurous stuff, whereas now, it just looks a bit naff. It is available on youtube (Part 1, Part 2 and for some reason, a Russian version).
Other than that, and the dubious case of Patience, the only definite appearance of Robert Buchanan I’ve managed to find in a work of fiction, is the short story, ‘Buchanan’s Head’, by Avram Davidson, published in the anthology, The Other Nineteenth Century (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2001).



However, I’ve now given up - there aren’t any.”

Seems I spoke too soon. In December 2021, a novel featuring Harriett Jay and with a passing mention of Robert Buchanan, written by Peter Regan, appeared on Amazon, under the title, The Strange Case of Robert Louis Stevenson. Here’s the blurb:

Robert Louis Stevenson is hunting a monster.

     London, the latter half of the 19th Century. A writer, trying to find inspiration, walks home alone for the evening only to find himself in unfamiliar surroundings.
     Cut off on all sides he is attacked by a mysterious creature leaping down from the rooftops, trapping its prey. Were it not for a couple of nefarious Samaritans, the writer Robert Louis Stevenson may not have survived that night...but this was simply the catalyst that kick-started a series of events that would lead Stevenson to write one of his most famous works Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in this fictitious retelling of history.
     In The Strange Case of Robert Louis Stevenson, the celebrated author must face his fears and overcome inner demons as he joins forces with his old school friend, Detective Jacob Hawkins, to investigate a series of sightings of a bizarre, spring-heeled creature across the rooftops of Whitechapel.
     Will they uncover the truth behind this beast stalking the city streets?
     Will they finally reveal the identity of one of London's most notorious villains?’


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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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