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W.S. GILBERT (1836-1911)

The following biography was originally published in The Ridpath Library of Universal Literature, vol. XI. Ed. John Clark Ridpath. New York: The Globe Publishing Company, 1898.

William Schwenck Gilbert was an English humorist and playwright, born in London, November 18, 1836. He was educated at Great Ealing School and at the University of London, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1864. His first play was Dulcamara (1866). Among his subsequent dramatic productions are An Old Score and Pygmalion and Galatea (1871); The Wicked World, a Fairy Comedy (1873); Charity and Sweethearts (1874); Broken Heart (1876); H.M.S. Pinafore and The Sorcerer (1877); The Pirates of Penzance (1879); Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride (1881); Iolanthe (1882), Princess Ida (1883); The Mikado (1885); Ruddigore (1887); Yeoman of the Guard (1888); The Gondoliers (1889), and Utopia (1893). In most of his comic operas he collaborated with Sir Arthur Sullivan. In 1877 he published a volume of humorous verse entitled Bab Ballads.

The London Spectator said of the first series of Bab Ballads: "We have not found a single line in the book which expresses either a subtle sense of incongruity as distinguished from a calculated and vulgar distortion or a really buoyant and playful heart. It is all screams of forced mirth and coarse exaggerations of the grotesque into the impossible." And of the second series: "The nonsense, even when most nonsensical, is seldom unredeemed by some spice of wit, some shy gleam of irony or reflected ruddy glow of humor."