- , GILBERTIANISMSir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911), born in Harrow Weald, Middlesex, England, was a playwright and humorist whose plays burlesqued contemporary behavior.As a young man, Gilbert was left a legacy that enabled him to study law, and in 1863 he was admitted to the bar. Before then Gilbert had been a writer.In 1870 Gilbert met Arthur Seymour Sullivan, later Sir Arthur (1842- 1900), and they formed a partnership in which Gilbert would write the words and Sullivan the librettos of their comic operettas. The partnership lasted for twenty-five years, but relations between the partners were always strained because Sullivan aimed for something higher than comic opera. Despite some personality clashes over the years, the partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan evolved into a commercial success unparalleled in the history of music.Gilbert finally became estranged because Sullivan had not supported him in an argument over contractual arrangements with the impresario Richard D'Oyley Carte, who had produced many of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas, beginning with Trial by Jury, and had built the Savoy Theater specially for their productions.The names of their operettas are known throughout the world. Possibly the most outstanding are H. M. S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), The Mikado,(1885), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), and The Gondoliers (1889). Of these, perhaps The Mikado furnishes the best example of Gilbertianism, a term applied to anything light-hearted and fanciful or humorously topsy-turvy.Gilbert died from heart failure while trying to rescue a woman in a pond on his country estate.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.