A prosaic town southwest of London. Goodman (142) describes it as "horribly modern and faceless." BosdĂȘt (44) explains that at about the time Gilbert was writing the libretto the summer was so hot, "the newly laid macadam road surfaces in Westminster and Mayfair sizzled and ran off into the sewers, clogging them up. [Prime Minister] Gladstone and the cabinet were trying to get several bills through Parliament, e.g., Home Rule for Ireland. What with the heat, the smell from the drains, and the party's unpopularity with hoi polloi, the chief ministers spent long periods out of town at [a] Basingstoke mansion, and were jeered at in many journals and newspapers. The government fell in the autumn but 'Basingstoke' was still good for a giggle, if not a guffaw, the following year." That was probably true at the time, and Stedman (276) concurs. If BosdĂȘt's hypothesis leaves you unconvinced, an earlier one by Wilson (321) was apparently endorsed by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and is repeated by Bradley (48). In any event, humor now arises from the singular unsingularity of the town of Basingstoke. Margaret is simply daft.

Act II