On November 18th 1836, Sir William S. Gilbert was born. Probably best known for his collaboration with Sir Arthur Sullivan, he was also the author of the “Bab Ballads” and a writer of many comic plays, as well as a few serious ones.
As regular readers of this blog may know, I am huge Gilbert and Sullivan fan; but here I confess my appreciation is mostly for Gilbert. I have almost no understanding of music, though Sullivan’s seems quite good to me. But it is Gilbert whose work so fascinates me. As everyone who has heard them knows, his lyrics and dialogues certainly “bubble with wit and good humour“, but, even more remarkably: “winnow all the folly and you’ll find a grain or two of truth among the chaff“. Gilbert’s works, in my opinion, offer deeper insights into human nature than they are often given credit for.
On his memorial, Gilbert is called a “playwright and poet”. No doubt, he would laugh at the irony, for Gilbert himself hated the term “playwright”, preferring “dramatist”. But this unfortunate fact is made up for by the inscription, which reads: “His Foe was Folly, and his Weapon Wit”.
To me, that sums up Gilbert perfectly.