Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Iolanthe

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Enter part of a term; e.g., "gill" for Gillow's.

Act I

Sketch of Gossamer

Any filmy substance, such as a cobweb, floating in the air or spread on bushes or grass.

Behest [To thy behest, offended Queen, I bow!]



A small crown.


A small fipple flute resembling the treble recorder but having usually four finger holes and two thumb holes and a cylindrical mouthpiece (307). Dr. Daly (The Sorcerer) was a past master of that delicately modulated instrument, if you'll recall.

Arcadee [songs of Arcadee]


Bar [At first he seemed amused, so did the Bar]

A collective reference to those assembled at a court of law. See Trial By Jury for the derivation of the term. When the American Bar Association scheduled a convention in London some years ago, our British friends thought they were to receive a collection of barkeepers. Gilbert could have made something of that.

Bade [bade me get out]

Pronunciation: bad


Servile [A servile usher]

Obsequious, slavish, submissive, and fawning.


A doorkeeper, messenger, and keeper of order in a court of law.

Crumpled bands and rusty bombazine

The bands are the wide, falling collars worn with clerical, legal, or academic robes. Bombazine is a twilled or corded material made of various combinations of silk, cotton, and wool. It may also refer to a robe of the same material. We may take the "rusty" to imply that the servile usher's robe was past its prime. Black fabric often turns brown with age. Goodman (141) informs us that the bands are a remnant of the links between the law and the Church, while Bradley (48) says that ushers generally do not wear bands.

Chancery Lane

The London site of various establishments related to the legal profession, and many law offices. For details see Goodman (140).

Borough [I've a borough or two at my disposal]

A borough is a town represented in Parliament, corresponding roughly to a Congressional district in the USA. The Queen of the Fairies has enough influence in one or two of these to send whomever she wants to Parliament.

Tory [I'm a Tory of the most determined description]

The Tories were the forerunners of the Conservative party. Now Tory is a nickname for a member of the Conservative party, or at least one who holds conservative views (generally favoring free-market economics with minimum government control). Wilson (319) says that in England government by party first came about in approximately 1680.


Those who hold extremely left-wing views, favoring extensive reforms, usually to be effected by increased government controls.

Division [on a division, they'd be sure to take me into the wrong lobby]

A method of voting in which those in favor of a motion go to one location and those opposed to another. The system is used in Parliament.

Working majority [they're two to one, which is a strong working majority]

In the two-party system, the ruling party needs more than a simple (i.e., one-vote) majority to be sure of carrying all its measures. A working majority involves a considerable numerical edge. Two-to-one would do nicely.

Returned [You shall be returned as a Liberal-Conservative]



This can be interpreted as (i) an independent, (ii) a member of both parties, or (iii) a liberal-leaning member of the Conservative party. In the context, I favor (ii). Just to complicate matters, however, please note that Halton (147) and Terry (285) quote the Queen of the Fairies as saying "Liberal-Unionist," which was a group that splintered off from Gladstone's Liberal party in 1886, some four years after the opera was written. Allen's First Night Gilbert and Sullivan (3) shows "Liberal-Conservative." All of which proves that even the durable Savoy operas are subject to change, or even -- as in this case -- later switching back to the original.

Clean [He's a clean old gentleman]

Brewer (56) gives as one definition: "Free from blame or fault." We may assume that to be Phyllis's opinion of the Lord Chancellor.


Simulated fanfare. Kravetz (181) informs us that Gasophile Sy Miller has a yacht named Tan Tan Tara, which tows a dinghy named Tzing Boom!