Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Sorcerer

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

Act II

Minx [I’m no saucy minx]

In Gilbert’s day the term meant a flirt or a harlot, or anything in between. Today it merely implies little more than an impertinent woman, and that may come close to Mrs. Partlet’s intent.

Hussies [Hussies such as them]

A word of contempt for a woman, ranging from slight (36) to extreme (294) depending on the degree of venom in the voice.

Widdy [a clean and tidy widdy]

A corruption of widow.

Lowering [Why do you glare at one with visage lowering?]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with cowering.

Threatening. Applegate (8) argued that the one in the quotation is likely a typographical error dating back to the earliest editions of the libretto. See Allen (3). A few of the newer editions substitute me. The old D’Oyly Carte Opera Company consistently used me, and also changed glare to gaze. Their example seems worth following.

One Tree Hill [I often roll down One Tree Hill]
Sketch of One tree hill

In the first edition of this book I listed seven “One Tree Hills” within reasonable distance of London. I also noted the widespread disagreement among various authorities as to which one of those Gilbert may have meant. Since then, George Williams (317) has submitted a rather poor photocopy of a cartoon by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827). Entitled “The centre of attraction at Greenwich Fair: One Tree Hill,” it presents a wild and bawdy scene, which we have carefully copied and reproduced below. As you will note, among other disreputable actions, it shows several couples rolling down the slope while locked in close embrace. Some of the well-fed “ladies” with legs akimbo offer no evidence whatsoever of wearing undergarments. This surely is the sort of social activity that should revolt a person of Lady Sangazure’s refined tastes. In my opinion those other six hills are out of the running. This conclusion is strengthened by Rees (254) who has uncovered an 1865 comic drama named One-Tree Hill.

Act 1 is set in “Greenwich Park, Summit of One-Tree Hill.”

Enter a young husband and wife.

Annie: Tom, you won’t do anything to oblige me.

Tom: Why, haven’t I brought you here today to roll down the hill if you like?

For I suppose that is one of your reminiscences of happiness.

[Note: For those of you who don’t know London, Greenwich Park is in the southeast environs of that city. The fair had become such a nuisance that it was closed down in 1870 (161).]

Rosherville [I sometimes go to Rosherville]

This refers to Rosherville Gardens, a lower class amusement park, described as follows by Brewer (54): “In Victorian times ‘the place to spend a happy day.’ These gardens were established by Mr. Rosher in disused chalk quarries at Gravesend. A theatre, zoological collections, and music formed part of their attraction, and the gardens were particularly favored by river excursionists.” Hardwick (149) contributes the titillation that the Gardens “were notorious for the number of prostitutes who used them to ply their trade.” Goodman (140) may be consulted for a definitive exposition on the gardens.

Abjure [abjure my lot!]

A strong term meaning to disclaim. Strictly speaking abjure means to abandon an allegiance to a cause, break an oath, and so forth.

Mésalliances [To foster mésalliances through the nation]

Pronunciation: MACE-ahl-ee-AHNS

French for mismatches. This is from the original libretto as recorded by Allen (3), and is not used in modern versions.

Sovereign law [Thine uttered will is sovereign law to me!]

A law subject to no overriding laws.


A small, non-reed wind instrument with a mouthpiece and six holes, usually without keys. The instrument, a variant of the recorder, was invented in 1599 by Juvignay, an instrument-maker in Paris (89). See also Iolanthe.

Pillage [hearts to pillage]

Plunder or steal.

Love’s tillage [What a worker on Love’s tillage]

Interpret as: What an aid in Cupid’s work. This is a somewhat different interpretation of tillage as used earlier in the libretto.

Magic fell [Its magic fell]

Fell here is an adjective, so the term means villainous magic.

Perfidy [Thy perfidy all men shall know]

Treachery or breach of faith.

Instance [This poor child drank the philtre at your instance]

Urging, or insistence.

Colonial Bishopric [the congenial gloom of a Colonial Bishopric]

A district under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of some overseas bishop. Knight (178) comments that many of those overseas dioceses were lacking in amenities, and such an appointment was originally tantamount to exile.

Ahrimanes [must yield up his life to Ahrimanes]

Pronunciation: Ahri-MONN-ees or Ah-RIM-enees

In Persian mythology, the personification of evil, somewhat analogous to Satan. For a closer look at the old boy, read Byron’s Manfred (65). Rees (251) observes that Ahrimanes is none other than the Oromanes already mentioned under our discussion of Abudah chest. Rees (254) also explains that Ahrimanes was a name familiar to English audiences because he was portrayed in a popular opera by Balfe.

Take stock [we take stock next week]

To inventory the goods still unsold. (Somehow, that very small prophet was going to be unavailable to carry out the task.)

Co. [It would not be fair on the Co.]

The company. {As printed, the word would be pronounced Ko, and it may be that in Gilbert’s time that would have been conventional. For modern audiences, however, make it KUM-penny.}