delier rose from the floor, while the furniture was fixed to thernceiling. In her recent W.S. Gilbert: A Classic Victorian and HisrnTheatre (Oxford University Press), Jane Stedman describesrnGilbert’s vision of a “double world: one part consisting of thingsrnor principles as they are, and the other consisting of ideas aboutrnor attitudes toward these things and principles; a world of truthrnand a wodd of what we think is reality—two separate worldsrnwhich are only intermittently synonymous.”rnTopsyturvydom was produced only months before the firstrnsuccessful collaboration between William Gilbert and ArthurrnSullivan, Trial by Jury, but Gilbert’s technique was already welladvancedrnin his Bab Ballads, where we meet the prototype forrnTopsyturvydom as well as the originals of characters made familiarrnin the Savoy operas: the common soldier who discovers thatrnhe and his general were switched at birth, a curate namedrnGeorge, the son of a fairy who objects to his High Church proclivitiesrn(“To this / Papal rule-ish / Twaddle put an ending; Thisrna swerve is / From our service / Plain and unpretending”).rnWhen the bishop finds him embracing his young and beautifulrnmother, he refuses to believe she is not a hussy of two andrntwenty. The curate takes umbrage: “George the point grewrnwarm on; / Changed religion / Like a pigeon, / And became arnMormon!”rnMy favorite topsyturvy ballad concerns “Gentle AlicernBrown,” daughter of a family of Italian robbers. Alice falls inrnlove with a poor but honest man and goes to make her confessionrnto the village priest, who is indulgent toward her peccadilloesrnof kidnapping, burglary, and murder: “You mustn’t judgernyourself too heavily my dear. / It’s wrong to murder babies, littlerncorals for to fleece; / But sins like these one expiates at half-acrownrnapiece.” But, when she confesses her innocent dalliance,rnthe good father is outraged:rnThis dreadful piece of news will pain your worthy parents so!rnThey are the most remunerative customers I know;rnFor many many years they’ve kept starvation from my doors;rnI never knew so criminal a family as yours!rnThe hapless young man is chopped into particularly smallrnpieces, and Alice is wed to her father’s lieutenant.rnIn turning the conventional on its head, Gilbert was able tornsee into the paradoxes that lay just beneath the surface ofrnVictorian morality. His favorite plot device—which he neverrnsucceeded in selling to Sullivan—was of a magic lozenge whichrnturned people into what they pretended to be. Sullivan wantedrnsomething more human, but Gilbert gave him a series ofrnUtopias and fantasies that were as topsyturvy as he could makernthem: a magic potion that makes people fall in love with thernfirst member of the opposite sex they encounter, a family cursernthat condemns the baronets of Ruddigore to “do a crime a dayrnor die,” the appointment of a condemned man to the positionrnof executioner on the grounds that “he cannot cut off another’srnhead until he’s cut his own off.”rnLike Alice Brown and the baronets of Ruddigore, many ofrnGilbert’s characters are trapped in an allegiance to somethingrnessentially absurd or wrong. The Mikado of Japan does not actuallyrnwish to execute Ko Ko, Poo Bah, and Pitti Sing by boilingrnthem in oil, but they have unknowingly executed the heir to thernthrone, who has been traveling in disguise as a wandering minstrel.rnThe Mikado quite understands, thinks perhaps his sonrngot what he deserved, but, unfortunately, the law in questionrnsays nothing about a mistake. Cheer up, he tells them, “I’llrnhave it altered next session. Now let’s see about your executionrn—will after luncheon suit you?” The baronets of Ruddigorerndo not enjoy committing a crime a day, but what are theyrnto do? It is a family tradition, or rather curse.rnThis message of affable cynicism is often conveyed by arnworidly wise older man who is variously the Pirate King,rnthe Mikado, and the Grand Inquisitor in The Gondoliers. InrnH.M.S. Pinafore, the cynical baritone is poor Dick Deadeyernwho sums up Gilbert’s view of life with his, “It’s a queer world.”rnDick ought to know. Cursed with an ugly name and a stillrnuglier face, he cannot say “nice day” without incurring quiternliterally a chorus of disapproval. When Dick repeats thernBoatswain’s warning that the captain’s daughter will never marryrna simple sailor like Ralph Rackstraw, the boatswain tells him,rn”Them sentiments of yourn are a disgrace to our commonrnnatur.”rnIn the recently republished The Complete Annotated Gilbertrnand Sullivan (Oxford University Press), Ian Bradley describesrnDick as “the nearest that Gilbert comes . . . to creating thernarchetypal stage villain of Victorian melodrama,” but Dick isrnmore of a Cassandra than a villain. He is resigned to beingrnhated for his looks, and he knows that on his lips “the noblestrnsentiments sound like the black utterances of a depraved imagination”rn(a charge the critics often leveled against Gilbert’srncruel brand of humor). Dick’s paradoxical nature illustrates therncentral point of Pinafore, whose plot turns on the distinctionrnbetween a man’s true nature and the position he holds inrnsociety—the simple sailor turns out to be the captain and vicernversa.rnSir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, is convincedrnthat “love levels all ranks,” and when he explains his doctrine ofrnequality to the crew, they naturally assume that he is puttingrnthem on his own level. Only Dick understands reality: “Hernmeans well, but he don’t know. When people have to obeyrnother people’s orders, equality is out of the question.” But inrnGilbert’s upside-down world, Sir Joseph—the “monarch of thernsea” who knows nothing of the navy—is applauded, while Dickrnis excoriated. In the end, when Buttercup reveals the truth,rnRalph and the Captain exchange places, and in most productionsrnthe Captain begins speaking in a Cockney accent. His dutyrnis not to anything in his real life (e.g., his daughter, his crew),rnbut to the social position he has inherited.rnUnder the sinister influence of Immanuel Kant, the publicrnmorality of the 19th century was dangerously deontological,rnthat is, duty-bound. Schopenhauer pointed out the absurdityrnof Kant’s insistence upon a universal duty owed by all humanrnbeings, regardless of circumstances, and Gilbert put the dilemmarnon the stage in the person of young Frederic, “the slave ofrnduty” in the Pirates of Penzance. As a boy, Frederic was mistakenlyrnapprenticed to a pirate band (his father wanted him to berna pilot, but his nurse was hard of hearing). The young manrnhates piracy, and he is not persuaded by the Pirate King’s declarationrnthatrnMany a king on a first-class throne,rnIf he wants to call his crown his own.rnMust manage somehow to get throughrnMore dirty work than ever I do.rnBut out of a sense of duty, he will not abandon the pirates untilrnhe has reached the age of 21, when the term of his indenturernMAY 1997/11rnrnrn