Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Sorcerer

Click a term to expand the definition; Search for a term; Select other Opera Chapters; Go to the Lexicon menu for introductory and afterword content..

Enter part of a term; e.g., "gill" for Gillow's.

Act II

Where be oi, and what be oi a doin’

Bradley (48) states that these accents imply that Ploverleigh is located in the western part of England, probably in Dorset (a.k.a. Dorsetshire) not far from the Devon border. (See map.) On the other hand, Joseph (166) thinks those accents more indicative of Somerset (just north of Dorset). He points out, too, that Wellington and Wells are two small towns in Somerset. Walters (302) would settle for “Mummerset,” a term for an unspecified western region.

Guineas [I’ve guineas not a few for you]

A monetary unit equal to £1.05 (i.e., one pound, one shilling). In this case read: I’ve plenty of money for you. The coin was last issued in 1813, but the term remained in general use long thereafter. It took its name from the African country that was its source of gold. See also Patience and Princess Ida.

Nectar [My cup is not of nectar]

In Greek mythology, the drink of the gods.

Rector [Our kind and reverend rector]

A Church of England clergyman in charge of ecclesiastical affairs of a parish. Constance may be using the term loosely as a favor to Gilbert who wanted a rhyme for nectar. Dr. Daly is clearly the Vicar of Ploverleigh. A Rector holds the equivalent position and authority, but there is a significant difference in the way their incomes are handled (75). Walters (302) says the terms are interchangeable in today’s common parlance.

Snuffy [He’s dry and snuffy]

This may mean soiled with grains of snuff or (colloquially) irritable and cross (75). It may also mean tipsy (115). In the context I should vote for the first interpretation. If he is dry can he also be tipsy? In the next line he is called ill-tempered, so irritable and cross would be wasted.

Blind young boy

The context clearly implies Cupid (Eros), who is referred to by Shakespeare as “This wimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy,” “The blind bow-boy,” and “Her [i.e., Venus’s] purblind son and heir, Young Adam Cupid” (82). Shakespeare is also quoted as saying, “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”

Vaunted [thy vaunted love]


Solaced [not unlikely to be solaced]

Comforted and cheered.


West country language for “everything.”

Estimable [your estimable father]

Worthy of admiration.

Minx [I’m no saucy minx]

In Gilbert’s day the term meant a flirt or a harlot, or anything in between. Today it merely implies little more than an impertinent woman, and that may come close to Mrs. Partlet’s intent.

Hussies [Hussies such as them]

A word of contempt for a woman, ranging from slight (36) to extreme (294) depending on the degree of venom in the voice.

Widdy [a clean and tidy widdy]

A corruption of widow.

Lowering [Why do you glare at one with visage lowering?]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with cowering.

Threatening. Applegate (8) argued that the one in the quotation is likely a typographical error dating back to the earliest editions of the libretto. See Allen (3). A few of the newer editions substitute me. The old D’Oyly Carte Opera Company consistently used me, and also changed glare to gaze. Their example seems worth following.

One Tree Hill [I often roll down One Tree Hill]
Sketch of One tree hill

In the first edition of this book I listed seven “One Tree Hills” within reasonable distance of London. I also noted the widespread disagreement among various authorities as to which one of those Gilbert may have meant. Since then, George Williams (317) has submitted a rather poor photocopy of a cartoon by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827). Entitled “The centre of attraction at Greenwich Fair: One Tree Hill,” it presents a wild and bawdy scene, which we have carefully copied and reproduced below. As you will note, among other disreputable actions, it shows several couples rolling down the slope while locked in close embrace. Some of the well-fed “ladies” with legs akimbo offer no evidence whatsoever of wearing undergarments. This surely is the sort of social activity that should revolt a person of Lady Sangazure’s refined tastes. In my opinion those other six hills are out of the running. This conclusion is strengthened by Rees (254) who has uncovered an 1865 comic drama named One-Tree Hill.

Act 1 is set in “Greenwich Park, Summit of One-Tree Hill.”

Enter a young husband and wife.

Annie: Tom, you won’t do anything to oblige me.

Tom: Why, haven’t I brought you here today to roll down the hill if you like?

For I suppose that is one of your reminiscences of happiness.

[Note: For those of you who don’t know London, Greenwich Park is in the southeast environs of that city. The fair had become such a nuisance that it was closed down in 1870 (161).]

Rosherville [I sometimes go to Rosherville]

This refers to Rosherville Gardens, a lower class amusement park, described as follows by Brewer (54): “In Victorian times ‘the place to spend a happy day.’ These gardens were established by Mr. Rosher in disused chalk quarries at Gravesend. A theatre, zoological collections, and music formed part of their attraction, and the gardens were particularly favored by river excursionists.” Hardwick (149) contributes the titillation that the Gardens “were notorious for the number of prostitutes who used them to ply their trade.” Goodman (140) may be consulted for a definitive exposition on the gardens.

Abjure [abjure my lot!]

A strong term meaning to disclaim. Strictly speaking abjure means to abandon an allegiance to a cause, break an oath, and so forth.

Mésalliances [To foster mésalliances through the nation]

Pronunciation: MACE-ahl-ee-AHNS

French for mismatches. This is from the original libretto as recorded by Allen (3), and is not used in modern versions.

Sovereign law [Thine uttered will is sovereign law to me!]

A law subject to no overriding laws.


A small, non-reed wind instrument with a mouthpiece and six holes, usually without keys. The instrument, a variant of the recorder, was invented in 1599 by Juvignay, an instrument-maker in Paris (89). See also Iolanthe.