Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Ruddigore

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Act I


Chloe was the shepherdess beloved by Daphnis, "and hence a generic name in literature for a rustic maiden -- not always of the artless variety" (54).


Phyllis is another name associated with an Arcadian setting. The word comes from the Greek for "green bough."

Tillage [The sons of the tillage]
Sketch of Tillage

Farm land. The sons of the tillage are young farmers, the masculine equivalents of the Daughters of the Plough mentioned in Princess Ida.


Rustic boors.


Those who drive sheep or cattle to market. Also those who sell the animals.


Those who cultivate and trim hedges. Hedges are often used in place of fences. The aim is to make them, as the old expression goes, "horse high, bull strong, and pig tight."


Those who drive carts.


Those who care for flocks, i.e., shepherds.


One meaning of the word is a rope-and-pulley arrangement. Since one form of catapult was powered by twisting heavy ropes, I suppose Gilbert was justified in stretching trice to mean catapult.

Steeped [steeped in infamy]

Soaked, saturated.


Public disgrace, ill fame.

Bishopric [endowed a bishopric]

The diocese or office of a bishop (250).

Nation [I will give them all to the Nation, and nobody shall ever look upon their faces again]

Probably refers to the National Portrait Gallery in London. Walters (302) says museums and galleries have a reputation of keeping large stocks of paintings in storage. Goodman (142) says portraits are sometimes given to the Crown as equivalent payment for death duties. Such acquisitions may end up gracing the dimly-lit corridors of civil service buildings. Shepherd (263) reports having heard "Smithsonian" substituted for "Nation" in some productions. That may seem out of place, but at least American audiences would understand the joke. Turnbull (294) mentions that after the Art Council of England refused the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company a grant, Kenneth Sandford, playing Despard, changed the line to: "I will give them all to the Arts Council "-- a well-deserved jab that received enthusiastic audience acclaim.

Ax [Ax your honour's pardon]


Doldrums [becalmed in the doldrums]

Pronunciation: DOLE-drums, or DOLL-drums

A belt of calms astride the equator. Colloquially a state of mental depression.

Quarter-deck orders

Orders from a naval officer and not to be debated. The quarter-deck of a ship was the area of the upper deck generally reserved for officers. See Item No. 4, drawing of Some nautical terms in HMS Pinafore.

Stand off and on [Ought you to stand off and on]

To vacillate or dither. In nautical parlance, to tack in and out along the shore.

Bring her to

Stop her advance. Figuratively, to warn her.

Thraldom [the hideous thraldom]


Fiddle-de-dee [To shirk the task were fiddle-de-dee]

Foolish, not open to serious consideration. Shipley (266) says the word derives from the Italian Fedidio, Fe di Dio (by the faith of God) and is used as an ironic equivalent of "you don't say so!" Brewer (56) on the other hand says it "is meant to express the sound of a fiddle-string vocalized. Hence 'sound signifying nothing'." Readers who wish to delve further into this profound matter might gain some clue from what Lewis Carroll's Alice had to say on the subject: "If you'll tell me what language 'fiddle-de-dee' is, I'll tell you the French for it!" (67).

Teem [teem with glee]



Become tiresome.


An old French dance somewhat like a minuet but less stately (250). Knight (178) says it originated with the Gavots, the inhabitants of the district of Gav in the Province of Dauphiné. Hyder (162) says a gavotte has four beats to the measure, a minuet three.

Enjoyed [His rightful title I have long enjoyed]

One meaning of enjoy is "to have the use of." That fits the context far better than the usual meaning of the word.

Rated [But when completely rated]


Bart [When I'm a bad Bart]

Baronet. One of the standard abbreviations for baronet that would be appended to the full name, thus: "Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, Bart." An alternative abbreviation is "Bt." Next time you write to a baronet be sure to keep this in mind. "Dear Bart" won't do.


Fibs or yarns. Relatively innocuous little lies (115).

Falsest of fiddles

Splendaciously mendacious (with a tip of the hat to Rudyard Kipling).

Sententious [my morals sententious]

Expressed as maxims. Stuffy.