Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Iolanthe

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

Act I

Chancery Lane

The London site of various establishments related to the legal profession, and many law offices. For details see Goodman (140).

Borough [I've a borough or two at my disposal]

A borough is a town represented in Parliament, corresponding roughly to a Congressional district in the USA. The Queen of the Fairies has enough influence in one or two of these to send whomever she wants to Parliament.

Tory [I'm a Tory of the most determined description]

The Tories were the forerunners of the Conservative party. Now Tory is a nickname for a member of the Conservative party, or at least one who holds conservative views (generally favoring free-market economics with minimum government control). Wilson (319) says that in England government by party first came about in approximately 1680.


Those who hold extremely left-wing views, favoring extensive reforms, usually to be effected by increased government controls.

Division [on a division, they'd be sure to take me into the wrong lobby]

A method of voting in which those in favor of a motion go to one location and those opposed to another. The system is used in Parliament.

Working majority [they're two to one, which is a strong working majority]

In the two-party system, the ruling party needs more than a simple (i.e., one-vote) majority to be sure of carrying all its measures. A working majority involves a considerable numerical edge. Two-to-one would do nicely.

Returned [You shall be returned as a Liberal-Conservative]



This can be interpreted as (i) an independent, (ii) a member of both parties, or (iii) a liberal-leaning member of the Conservative party. In the context, I favor (ii). Just to complicate matters, however, please note that Halton (147) and Terry (285) quote the Queen of the Fairies as saying "Liberal-Unionist," which was a group that splintered off from Gladstone's Liberal party in 1886, some four years after the opera was written. Allen's First Night Gilbert and Sullivan (3) shows "Liberal-Conservative." All of which proves that even the durable Savoy operas are subject to change, or even -- as in this case -- later switching back to the original.

Clean [He's a clean old gentleman]

Brewer (56) gives as one definition: "Free from blame or fault." We may assume that to be Phyllis's opinion of the Lord Chancellor.


Simulated fanfare. Kravetz (181) informs us that Gasophile Sy Miller has a yacht named Tan Tan Tara, which tows a dinghy named Tzing Boom!

Paragons [Paragons of legislation]

Models of excellence.

Lords [the deuce to pay in the Lords]

The House of Lords. As you may infer from the libretto, Gilbert must have looked upon the institution with amusement. He might have agreed with Lloyd George (at one time prime minister) who defined the Lords as, "five hundred men, ordinary men chosen accidentally from among the unemployed" (12).

Hear, hear

An English expression of approbation. See also The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and The Zoo.

Counsel [can he appear by counsel before himself … ?]

A legal advisor. The expression means: Can he send a barrister to appeal to himself on his own behalf?

Arrest of … judgement

To hold a court decision in abeyance because an error in trial procedure has been discovered (141).


This refers to the Lord Chancellor's traditional seat in Parliament: an oversized red hassock stuffed with wool, symbolic of the nation's former reliance on the wool industry. It is thought to have originated in the fourteenth century (105).

Bar of this House

This alludes to an actual physical barrier (a brass bar or bars) set up in the House of Lords. When Phyllis is induced to present herself "at the Bar of this House," she is figuratively standing or kneeling at the aforementioned barrier. Goodman (142) explains that the House of Lords may sit as a court of law. See Bradley (48) for further details.

Pipes [my pipes and my tabors]

Simple wind instruments such as flageolets, Pandaean pipes, or even bagpipes.


Small drums.

Cot [in lowly cot]


Blue blood

This is a colloquial expression for an aristocrat. (Remember Lady Sangazure in The Sorcerer?) The OED (229) suggests that the term originated because aristocratic people tended to have untanned skin, making their veins more visible and thus appearing blue in contrast. (A tanned skin was indicative of laboring in the field.)

Belgrave Square

A prestigious residential area of London, just west of Buckingham Palace. Goodman (140) gives a good history, including a picture.

Seven Dials

A convergence of seven streets in what was then a disreputable area of London, near the theater district. The name arises from seven sundials, each facing one of the streets and placed atop a 40-foot column at the convergence. See Goodman (140) for a detailed history and picture.

Riven [With grief my heart is riven]

Torn asunder.

Arcady, Arcadee

Pronunciation: ARK-a-DIE, or ARK-a-DEE

Poetic variations of Arcadia, that bucolic region of Greece already defined.



Innately [Proud are we innately]

Inherently proud, like Pooh-Bah.


This is in the stage directions and means that those named remain on stage. To complete our lesson for the day, manet is the singular form; also exeunt is plural and exit is singular for indicating who is to leave.

Court of Chancery

The court of the Lord Chancellor of England, the highest court of jurisdiction next to the House of Lords; but since … 1873, a division of the High Court of Justice (229).

Chorused [When chorused Nature bids]

Combined. He means every element of nature is speaking, or singing, or both.