Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Patience

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

Act II

Gloamings [in life's uncertain gloamings]

In the later years of life.

Well-saved "combings"

Loose hairs caught up in a comb and collected (perhaps starting while still young) for later augmenting whatever hair remains.



Pearly grey

Face powder. English ladies in Victorian times tried to remain pale because a tanned skin was associated with a working-class existence. They wore long gloves and big hats and carried parasols largely for that reason. Any signs of exposure that crept in despite those precautions were likely to be covered by a dusting of pearly white or grey face powder, the forerunner of the tinted face powders we know today. In Lady Jane's case, the powder would also help hide that mottled complexion she laments. Truly advanced cases might be accorded the stronger treatment of the "pearly-white dye" that Gilbert mentions in his Bab Ballad "King Borria Bungalee Boo" (127).



Incontinently [Or incontinently perish]

Immediately (archaic) (11).


A ten-line stanza.

Daisy [a very daisy]

An exceptionally pleasing person or thing. MacPhail (194) invites you to consider "the simple loveliness of the daisy when compared with the languid lily. A nice touch for Grosvenor, often overlooked."

Gentle Jane

Grosvenor's two poems are not at all reflective of the aesthetes. Again, the rival curates (who competed for being most bland) may be to blame (272).

Bluebottles [Or caught bluebottles their legs to pull]

A kind of large fly, about like a horsefly.

Vivisected [Or vivisected her last new doll]

To vivisect is to cut up a living animal for experimental purposes. Dolls aren't really living animals, but the sentiment is well meant.


In England a nobleman ranking below a marquis and above a viscount.

Carriage [a first-class earl who keeps his carriage]

This noble fellow had no need for livery stables since he maintained his own carriage and stable of horses. Nineteenth century literature is full of allusions to keeping a carriage (45, 287, 293). The implication is usually one of "having arrived," perhaps flaunting an ostentatious life style. Keep in mind that maintaining even one carriage also required keeping one or more horses, a footman or two, a groom, a barn with stables, and plenty of fodder -- no easy thing for a city dweller. Hilton (155) mentions that burlesque queen Nellie Farren was once fined thirty shillings for keeping a carriage, a male servant, and armorial bearings without licenses for any of them. See also The Gondoliers.

Squirt [A great big squirt]

A syringe (229).


Teasing Tom sprinkled his sisters' beds with red pepper to cause sneezing. Tush.

Cobbler's wax

Wax that shoemakers put on shoe-sewing thread to make it easier to use. It helps prevent knotting and lets the thread slide through the holes easier. It also strengthens the thread and increases its durability.


Pronunciation: HAY-p'nees

Large coins (one inch diameter) of little value, ideally suited to Tom's iniquities (314).

Corps de bally

Pronunciation: CORE-de-BALLY

The non-featured dancers in a ballet troupe. In those times actresses and dancers were looked down upon by proper Victorians. As one example, Becky, in Vanity Fair (287), is held in low esteem because her mother was a dancer at the opera.

Cloying [This is simply cloying]

Sickeningly sweet.

Drove them home

When a nail is hammered in so that the top of its head is flush with the surface of the board, it is said to be "driven home."


In Act I, "peripatetic" refers to Bunthorne's philosophies. As used here, however, it refers to the magnet's walking away from the love offered by all those admiring articles of iron or steel.

Mote [Blind to his every mote]



To talk to oneself.


Damsels, dames, maidens, maids, girls, gals, etc., etc., etc., each lovelier than the other.

Spiced [too highly spiced]

The opposite of bland; in this case perhaps skating on the thin edge of respectability, e.g., that "writhing maid, lithe-limbed, quivering on amaranthine asphodel."


Being deficient in taste, spirit, life, and animation. That is, dull, flat, and vapid; not at all like this book.

Your cut is too canonical

Canonical pertains to the vestments worn by a clergyman officiating at a cathedral service. Remember that Gilbert at one time meant his rivals to be curates rather than poets. The same goes for sanctified (272). Cut may refer to Grosvenor's hair style, the shape of his suit, or figuratively the "cut of his jib," i.e., his general appearance. More broadly, it could refer to Grosvenor's personality, which Bunthorne finds too bland. (See "placidity emetical" below.)

Beau ideal

A real or imaginary person who is an ideal of perfection, almost like the present reader.


Pertaining to an unhealthy mental state.


Contrary to orthodox opinions or beliefs.