Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Patience

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Act I

South Kensington!

This is somewhat obscure, but the consensus of my more knowledgeable friends (140, 243, 247, 251, 265, 273) is that the reference is to the bohemian inhabitants of that part of London. Quoting Prestige (243): "South Kensington was, and still is, the centre in London for art museums, the Royal College of Art, and the area where those so inclined live or (if students) lodge. Punch of the period made frequent references to the outré aesthetic habits of the denizens of South Kensington." Rees (251) makes these comments: "South Kensington and the immediately adjacent Brompton were not only the sites of more than one 'art school' but also the abode of many of the more aesthetically inclined. Gilbert lived on the fringe of this area at The Boltons during the 1870s and '80s and it was here that he wrote the libretto of Patience … Aesthetes were probably two-a-penny in some of the streets nearby and Gilbert doubtless had plenty of opportunity to study them in situ." The aesthetes of that day would certainly look upon primary colors as lacking in sophistication. To Jane's "Oh, South Kensington!" might be added: "Forgive these hopeless Philistines."

Cobwebby gray

This presumably alludes to Whistler's extensive use of muted grays and blacks, as in that famous picture of his mother.

Bloom [with a tender bloom like cold gravy]]

The dull, cloudy coagulated surface of once-warm gravy.

Hessians [a lover's professions, when uttered in Hessians]
Sketch of a Hessian

Knee-high cloth boots with tassels, long worn by Hessian troops (229).


Most extreme.

Chaste [handsome and chaste]

Simple in taste and style (an unlikely adjective to apply to those gaudy dragoon uniforms, but let it pass).


Pertains to the philosophy of Aristotle, who believed in teaching while ambulating about. In the present context one need infer no Aristotelian influence other than the walking-talking aspect.

Dirty greens [I do not care for dirty greens]

This is an apparent allusion to the affected attire of some of the aesthetes. Stedman (274) says they showed a preference for sage green (green mixed with gray).

Platitudes [I am not fond of uttering platitudes]
Sketch of Platitudes in stained glass attitudes

Mundane remarks, especially those uttered in a pompous manner.

Stained-glass attitudes

This may call attention to Morris and Burne-Jones, both of whom worked in stained glass, a medium that tends to depict figures in stiff attitudes. On the other hand it may be a hold-over from those rival curates.

Germs of the transcendental terms

Fundamentals of mystic jargon.

Palmiest day

Most flourishing period (229).

Empress Josephine

Empress of France 1804-09; first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Bradley (47) says, "She held a brilliant court and helped confirm the reputation of Paris as the artistic capital of the world." To this DeLorme (88) adds that Josephine also held brilliant courts in Strasbourg and Mainz; she founded a conservatory with great teachers, and is known to have encouraged Cherubini and Le Sueur. Barker (27), on the other hand, maintains that her brilliant court was ostentatious and often empty show. "Bunthorne was trying to emphasize the absurdity of condemning all that is recent by picking a correspondingly absurd climatic point for the last stage of 'good' art." Other historians (109, 218) mention that her rustic upbringing was such that she found it necessary to employ a full-time tutor to bring her cultural prowess up to the level of her imperial position.

Born in Martinique in 1763, Josephine started life as Marie Josephine Rose Tascher de la Pagerie. While still in her teens she married the vicomte Alexandre Beauharnais, who was executed as an anti-revolutionist fifteen years later. After two years of widowhood, she married Napoleon, but he had their marriage annulled after eight years. She nevertheless lived on in style until her death in 1814.

Spleen [must excite your languid spleen]

Asimov (11) explains that the spleen is a small organ near the stomach. In times gone by the spleen was believed to be the seat of various emotions. A man with a "languid spleen" would be unable to work up much enthusiasm for loving a woman.

An attachment à la Plato

Friendly, but without sexual overtones. Plato (ca. 427-347 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher, a pupil and friend of Socrates. He advocated a love of the idea of beauty, evolving from a physical desire for a person through love of physical beauty and later of spiritual and ideal beauty.

French bean

The term has been variously defined as what Americans call an ordinary string bean (perhaps with the pod sliced along its length), kidney bean, wax bean, or scarlet runner (75, 229, 238, 250, 290).

Philistines [Though the Philistines may jostle]]

Pronunciation: FILL-is-tines, or -tins

Uncultured wealth-worshippers who have no interest in the arts. Brewer (54) has a nice outline of the etymology of the word, which has overtones of friction between town and gown. The term was popularized in England by the poet, essayist and critic Matthew Arnold (1822-88).

Apostle [you will rank as an apostle]

A leader of reform. Dixon (94) suggests that this may have been a sly reference to the Apostles Club, a well known but exclusive intellectual society formed in Cambridge in 1820.


A well-known London street of prestigious hotels and shops. "The street's name is believed to be derived from certain collars of the seventeenth century made by a fashionable tailor who called his home 'Piccadilly Hall' "(77). Goodman (140) says the collars were starched and were thought to be called "pikadils."

Poppy or lily

Poppies, as well as lilies, figured in some of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The line about walking down Piccadilly alludes to the popular notion that Oscar Wilde had a habit of parading down the street holding a lily. Did he really do so? Ellmann (101) finds reason to think so; but Fido (119) quotes Wilde to the effect that he (Wilde) said he had never done such a thing, but had nevertheless convinced the world that he had, which was far more difficult. Does that settle the issue? Not unless you have confidence in Wilde's veracity.