will have expired. On the day of his liberation he meets and affiancesrnthe daughter of Major General Stanley, and it becomesrnhis duty to lead a squad of timid policemen against the friendsrnof his youth. There is, however, a wrinkle, or rather a paradox.rnIt seems that Frederic was born in a leap year, on February 29,rnand as the King explains: “Though you have lived 21 years, yetrnif we go by birthdays, you are only five and a little bit over.”rnFrederic’s duty is plain: he must delay his marriage to Mablern(who promises to wait until 1940, while complaining, “It seemsrnso long”) and rejoin the pirates who are planning to murder hisrnfuture father-in-law, who had secured the release of his daughtersrnfrom the marriage-mad pirates by claiming to be anrnorphan. (While the Major General, too, has a conscience, herncannot quite bring himself to confess his sin to the Pirate King.)rnWhen the pirates defeat the police and seize the Major General,rnonly a deus ex machina can save the day. In this case the deusrn(or rather dea) is Queen Victoria in whose name the pirates arerncommanded to surrender. But even the pirates are not beyondrnredemption. “They are no men of the common throng. Theyrnare all noblemen who have gone wrong.” The Major General,rndeclaring that Englishmen, for all their faults, love their Housernof Peers, pardons the pirates and gives them his daughters.rnThese irreverent digs at royalty and peerage are not casualrnbits of fun. Victorian rigorism was embedded in a social systemrnthat equated worth with status. Gilbert was no leveler, but hernwas convinced that many criminals are victims of circumstance.rnRich people do not steal from shops, because they dornnot need to, and if they do go wrong—like the pirates orrnMichael Milken—they will never lack for apologists. In his balladrn”Mister William” the hero, an otherwise good man whornforges a will “as an experiment,” assuages his conscience by reflectingrnthat “the greater the temptation to go wrong, the lessrnthe sin.” Gonvicted of his crime William suffers from the unaccustomedrnharshness of prison life, his gaolers take pity onrnhim, arguing, “He ain’t been brought up common, like the likesrnof me and you.” Eventually Mr. William is released with anrnapology from the Secretary.rnWith the exception of the cowardly police, everyone in thernPirates has a strict sense of right and wrong. With a thrill in herrnvoice, Mabel tells the policemen to march off to “glory and therngrave”; the pirates’ merciful creed forbids them to harm orphans,rnand once the word got out, all of their victims claimedrnto be orphans. Ruth, the nursemaid, when she realizes her mistake,rnresolves to stick with her master, becoming “a piraticalrnmaid of all work.” Piling absurdity upon paradox, Gilbert hasrnmanaged to satirize moral rigorism by revealing its vicious consequences.rnIn the name of duty, a good man is willing to betrayrnand murder his childhood friends and the father of the womanrnhe loves, although, as he says, “It breaks my heart to betray thernhonored father of the girl I adore.” In an earlier version of thernsame plot. Our Island Home (1870), a similarly indenturedrnpirate captain comes upon a group of castaways and informsrnthem that it is his duty, unpleasant though it be, to murderrnthem all. He persists in his resolution even after realizmg thatrntwo of his victims are his long-lost parents. As his father explains:rn”I wouldn’t have him break his articles of apprenticeshiprnon my account. I always taught him a scrupulous adherence tornhis engagements, and I am glad—very glad . . . [shaking thernpirate’s hand] to see that you have not forgotten my precepts.”rnThere is more here than poking fun at Victorian moralityrnwhose emphasis on duty had made heroes of the soldiers sacrificedrnat Balaclava (Gilbert was an armchair expert on thernC^rimean War) and would slaughter untold thousands in thernGreat War, for nothing. Frederic has made a religion out ofrnobedience, and while his fanaticism owes much to the pietiesrnso vigorously promoted bv his beloved Queen, his lofty devotionrnto duty is only one aspect of the liberal tradition of ethicsrngoing back to Kant, Locke, and Descartes. Gilbert’s idioticrnhero gets himself in trouble for embracing precisely the sort ofrnuniversalist ethics that Englishmen had been taught for tworncenturies, and the situation could only be resolved (and thernmurder avoided) by an old-fashioned appeal to the love andrnItjyalty that even bad men may feel for their country and theirrnsovereign. Yet Gilbert can play it both ways. The pirates are absurdlyrntenderhearted when it comes to Queens and orphans,rnbut their misplaced loyalty and ridiculous sentimentalism arernfar more human than Frederic’s cult of duty or the Major General’srnprickly conscience.rnFrederic is a decent, if dunderheaded young man, butrnGilbert carries the satire further in the person of Dick Dauntless,rnthe young sailor in Ruddigore. Dick is the foster brother ofrnRuthven Murgatroyd, who is by right the latest “bad baronet”rnof Ruddigore, but Ruthven has disguised himself as a farmerrn(under the name Robin Oakapple). Too shy to propose to Rose,rnhe asks his apparently good-hearted foster brother to intercede.rnHe and Robin had sworn an oath that they “would always actrnupon our hearts’ dictates,” and when he sees how beautiful shernis, he proposes on his own account. When Rose learns therntruth, she prefers Robin, but Dick has another trick up hisrnsleeve, and he reveals Robin’s true identity to his youngerrnbrother, who has been reluctantly upholding the family honorrnby committing a crime a day. At the wedding. Sir Despard denouncesrnRobin, and when Rose asks “who is the wretch whornhas betrayed thee?” Dick replies:rnWithin this breast there beats a heartrnWhose voice can’t be gainsaid.rnIt bade me thy true rank impart.rnAnd I at once obeyedrnI knew ‘twould blight thy budding fate—rnI knew ‘twould cause thee anguish great—rnBut did I therefore hesitate?rnNo I at once obeyed.rnGilbert has sometimes been censured for introducing Dick,rnin Act One, with a silly song in which he boasts of Englishrncourage against the French. But the whole point of the song isrnto reveal Dick as a dishonest blowhard who explains that hisrnsloop did not attack a French frigate, because “to fight a Frenchrnfa lal, it’s like hitting of a gal.” The French were outraged but,rnlike most critics, they missed the point. Dick Dauntless is thernvery opposite of the ugly but honest Dick Deadeye. Dauntlessrnis handsome, strong, as sentimental as a greeting card, butrnessentially selfish and hypocritical.rnT; ‘he mistaken indenture is only a variation on his “lozengernplot” (the same might be said of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”)rn. In his most effective political satire, however, he asks usrnto laugh at English customs dressed up in Japanese costumes, tornsee the absurdity of English republican arguments when theyrnare propounded by Venetian gondoliers, and in his penultimaterncollaboration with Sullivan, to understand the corruptionrnof English politics by watching a Southsea paradise (whosernname is Utopia) as it turns itself into an English limited stockrn12/CHRONICLESrnrnrn