Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Patience

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Act I

Sir Garnet

This is Sir Garnet Wolseley, who in the 1870s was the leader of successful military campaigns against native African leaders both on the Gold Coast and in South Africa. He was later made a viscount and now is generally referred to as Lord Wolseley. In 1887, when he was Field Marshal, he agreed to come to a rehearsal of Ruddigore to check the authenticity of the military uniforms worn by the bucks and blades. A more urgent matter came up, however, and he had to send a substitute (139). What could possibly have been more urgent?


The melancholy Dane, tragic protagonist of what many believe to be Shakespeare's greatest play.

The Stranger

The protagonist of a then well-known play by August (or Augustus) Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue (1761-1819), translated from German into English by Benjamin Thompson.


The most likely candidate is the gloomy hero of Lord Byron's dramatic poem of the same name (65). This character, supposedly Byron's self-image, lived as a recluse in an Alpine castle, haunted by remorse for his incestuous role in his sister's suicide. (Byron is suspected of carrying on with his stepsister.) A less likely candidate is the Manfred who was king of Naples and Sicily in the thirteenth century. Halton (147), Terry (286), and Darlington (86) favor that interpretation; but Byron's unhappy protagonist fits the "not very much of him" context considerably better. Moreover, if you read the poem you will easily be convinced that Gilbert was well acquainted with it. You will meet such old Sorcerer friends as "Spirits of earth and air," (close enough to "Sprites of earth and air") and "Appear!-- appear! -- appear!" and even wicked old Ahrimanes is featured. Then, from Ruddigore, we meet "What wouldst thou with me?" and "ho! without there!" Further evidence is found in an early outline of Patience exhumed from the British Museum by Stedman (272). In this, Gilbert describes "two grim and portentous middle-aged females dressed in heavy black -- who stand about in gloomy Manfred-like attitudes…" This can only be Byron's Manfred. Moreover, Gilbert has a character disguised as Byron's Manfred in his burlesque La Vivandière (273).

Beadle of Burlington

This is almost assuredly the beadle (uniformed attendant) who maintains decorum in the Burlington Arcade (shops) off Piccadilly. Bryson (58) says it was the world's first shopping mall. The arcade is still in business and still maintains a corps of retired military officers who serve as beadles, uniforms and all. Goodman (140) shows a picture of one.

Richardson's show

In his book Sketches by Boz -- Illustrative of Every-Day Life of Every-Day People (90), Charles Dickens describes this traveling theatrical troupe as he witnessed it at the Greenwich Fair: "This immense booth, with the large stage in front, so brightly illuminated with variegated lamps, and pots of burning fat, is 'Richardson's,' where you have a melodrama (with three murders and a ghost), a pantomime, a comic song, an overture, and some incidental music, all done in five-and-twenty minutes."

Mr. Micawber

A character in Dickens's David Copperfield. He was a shiftless fellow, but always full of unjustified optimism. Why the colonel dragged him in is not clear -- unless it was for the optimism; but we should have thought that Paget, about to trepan, would have supplied more than enough of that commodity.

Madame Tussaud

Pronunciation: too-SO

Marie Tussaud (1760-1850) was a Swiss who learned wax modeling in Paris and founded her now-famous London wax museum in the early 1800s.

* * * * * [end of catalog] * * * * *

(And that ends the catalog of names from the Colonel's song.)
* * * * * * * * * *

Thousand a day [to be a duke, with a thousand a day!]

This refers to the ducal income, largely from tenants, amounting to a thousand pounds per day.


This is much like what Americans call taffy, a chewy candy made, usually, from brown sugar or boiled-down molasses with butter mixed in. Some American versions of the libretto substitute "candy" (181).


Excessive flattery.



To a T! [That describes me to a T!]

Exactly; to a nicety; as true as an angle drawn with a T-square (115).


Treated with contempt. See also Princess Ida.

Thorough-paced [A thorough-paced absurdity]

Complete and unmitigated.

Flushing [Blushing at us, flushing at us]

Glowing with color. Blushing is generally linked with embarrassment; flushing has a broader meaning -- quite aside from its association with indoor plumbing -- but here it simply means much the same as blushing.

Fleering [fleering at us, jeering at us]
Sketch of Fleering, a pretty sort of treatment

Mocking or scorning.

County family

Collins (75) defines this as "an ancestral family having long associations with a particular county." Rees (251) adds that the term has strong snobbish connotations. These lovesick maidens are socially acceptable and want Bunthorne to know it. They are members of the gentry, ranking just below the nobility. The honorific "Lady" given to at least four of the group is another clue that these ladies are clearly of the upper crust.

Clay [who despises female clay]

As earth is the Biblical material for the human body, clay is a figurative expression for the body, as distinct from the soul. Bunthorne is using it to imply that the girls are mere mortals. "Clay" was a clergyman's favorite word.

Deign [Deign to raise thy purple eyes]


Poesy [heart-drawn poesy]

An archaic synonym of poetry (229).

Transcendental lore [That some transcendental lore]

Learning in matters far above ordinary comprehension: mystic, obscure, and fantastic.

Supplicate [This we supplicate]

Beg humbly and earnestly.

Fleshly [a wild, weird, fleshly thing]

In this case the word means sensual.

Precious [very yearning, very precious]

The word has a remarkable range of meanings: (i) of great monetary value, (ii) of great moral or spiritual value, (iii) affecting a fastidious delicacy, and (iv) colloquially, an intensive of something bad, e.g., a precious mess. Bunthorne probably had (ii) in mind. A few lines later the Lady Saphir also uses the word. She, too, probably meant version (ii), but Gilbert meant (iii) or (iv). Take your pick.

Faint lilies

The Pre-Raphaelite painters were particularly attracted to lilies as symbols of beauty and purity. Many of their paintings show languorous maidens holding lilies while apparently thinking of nothing at all.

[Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!]

(The next seven entries are from Bunthorne's poem "Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!" which Patience mistakes for a hunting song because fox hunters by tradition cried "Hallo!" when sighting the prey.)

Amaranthine [Quivering on amaranthine asphodel]

Pronunciation: am-are-AN-thine

The word is from the Greek: a, meaning "not," and marainein, meaning "fading," hence when combined: unfading (66).


Any of various liliaceous plants of the genera Asphodelus and Asphodeline native to southern Europe … (6). A second meaning is a lily or daffodil. In Greek mythology, asphodels were the ever-blooming flowers that grew in the Elysian fields. Rees (251) adds that the plant is also the source of a potent diuretic, meaning a medicine that turns on the waterworks -- and we don't mean tears.