Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Iolanthe

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

Act II

Penny ice [penny ice and cold meat]

Prestige (243) assures us this is "a quantity of ice cream purchased for a penny from a street vendor."

Sloane Square and South Kensington Stations

These are adjacent stations in the London transit system near where Gilbert lived in South Kensington. He claimed, incidentally, that the plot for his short story and, later, play Comedy and Tragedy came to him while riding between the two stations (140).

Devon [who started that morning from Devon]

A shire (county) in the southwest of England, just east of Cornwall.


Prestige (243) explains that this is a horse-drawn hackney carriage, that is, a vehicle that you could hire. The word hackney is apparently derived from the French haquenée, an ambling nag (41).

Round games

Card games in which each player takes his turn in sequence around the table, playing for himself, without a partner.

Clocks [the black silk with gold clocks]

Ornamental stitchings on socks, on each side of the ankle.

Salisbury Plain [crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle]
Sketch of Crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle

A rolling countryside in the southwest part of England. Its best-known attraction is Stonehenge.

Tars [he's telling the tars]

Common sailors. See HMS Pinafore for derivation.

Cables [from cough mixtures to cables]

Heavy ropes such as those used to anchor ships.

Boot-tree [first take off his boots with a boot-tree]
Bab sketch of large spadesman, small tradesman, and boot-tree (or boot-jack)

A boot-tree is a device used to stretch a boot or keep it in shape. That isn't what Gilbert meant; he meant a boot-jack, a notched board used to restrain the heel while extracting one's foot from a boot. The cartoon, which Gilbert himself drew to illustrate the song, shows what he really had in mind.

Greengrocer [From the greengrocer tree]

A retailer of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Apple puffs

Light, baked pastries containing thinly sliced apples and various other delicious components. Never pass up a chance to accept one when served hot, and especially mit Schlag.


These are presumably what are more commonly known as turnovers: a triangular, filled pastry.


A special kind of cake first made in Banbury, Oxfordshire (75). Webster (307) adds that they are tarts with a fruit and raisin filling. Brewer (54) says they are "a spiced pastry turnover." Burgess (60) says they are Danish in origin. I don't know about you readers, but my stomach is beginning to gurgle. Let us move on to less filling matters.

Rothschild [are taken by Rothschild and Baring]

This refers to the Rothschild family of international bankers. The firm was founded by Mayer Anselm Rothschild (1743-1812) of Frankfurt-am-Main. Each of his five sons established banks in different European cities. One of his grandsons, Lionel Nathan Rothschild, was the first Jew admitted to the English Parliament, and his son was made a baron (105).


An English family of bankers, also with German roots. The brothers Francis and John started the firm in 1770. Francis was made a baron in 1793. Recently a Dutch bank rescued the establishment, which had fallen on hard times (60).

Andante [given andante in six-eight time]

Moderately slow -- not at all like the bulk of that nightmare song.

Six-eight time

The musical time signature used in most of the songs in the show, including the nightmare song (48).

Maidie [the charming maidie]

A single woman, with modest variation to rhyme with lady.

Shies [He who shies]

To swerve suddenly aside, as a startled horse.