Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Utopia, Ltd.

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Act I

Rue [we ne’er shall rue]


Act II


Sharps and flats on the musical scale.

Shake in vibrato

A shake is a trill. Vibrato is a musical “pulsating effect caused by rapid variations of stress on the one note” (75).

Agitato [Or never attempt agitato]

“Agitated, hurried, restless” (102).

Palate [his sensitive palate]

The roof of the mouth.


An ornamental musical passage (102).

Sister services

Army and Navy.

Trammels [Freed from the trammels imposed upon them]

Rigid constraints.


A brochure describing the attractive features of a proposed company.

Transmute [transmute by a word]

Change from one substance, nature, or form to some other.


A formal reception at Court where ladies are presented to the sovereign (75). Terry (286) states that these were afternoon affairs in Victorian times, and with this Fitzbattleaxe concurs; but the Utopians plan to hold them in the evenings because the ladies look better by candle-light. Shipley (266) says the word was derived from the old practice in which, after a formal dinner, the ladies withdrew to another room.

Court train [my Court train has just arrived]

An elongated part of a cloak or skirt trailing behind on the floor. For illustrations, see Wolfson (322). This explains why so few English ladies go to a royal reception on their bikes. Stedman (274) says that at court presentations trains were required, along with three feathers on the head.

Declamation [indulge in declamation]

Formal speech-making, in oratorical style.


Ringing of a funeral bell.

Philomel [Soft the song of Philomel]

This refers to Philomela. In Greek legend she was an Athenian princess and sister of Procne, who married Tereus. Tereus violently deflowered Philomela and cut out her tongue to prevent her from accusing him. Philomela, however, embroidered her tale on a swatch of cloth (what a collectors’ item that would be) and sent it to her sister. Procne’s revenge was to serve Tereus the flesh of their son, and then the sisters fled. Tereus gave chase, but the sisters were turned into birds by compassionate gods. Philomela flew away as a nightingale but, according to some versions of the tale, she never regained her tongue. That would more than explain why her song was soft. In the big transformation scene a better-organized god would have allowed her to regain her tongue and even possibly her virginity.​

Lay [the notes of lover’s lay]

A short poem to be sung.

Clarions [his noisy clarions bray]

Shrill trumpets.

Artless [Lovers tell their artless story]

Unaffected and sincere.

Virelay [In a whispered virelay]

“An ancient form of French verse, based on two rhymes; a roundelay” (75).


The highest ranking officer in the British army. “Marshal” was presumably derived from old High German marah, horse + scalh, servant, i.e., a groom. In the old Teutonic kings’ eyes the chief groom was a most important officer (266).

Statutory Cabinet Council

The OED (229) defines cabinet council as “that limited number of the ministers of the sovereign or head of state who are in a more confidential position and have, in effect, with the head of the state, the determination and administration of affairs.” The term “statutory” implies that the head of state is required to act in concert with such a council.

Christy Minstrels

A troupe of black-faced minstrels organized by the American Christy brothers (1815-62). Singing plantation songs and cracking bad jokes, they were a popular form of entertainment in Victorian England, as well as in America (54). Bradley (48) offers further details.

Court of St. James’s

St James’s Palace, in London, was the site of the British royal court and where Queen Victoria held royal receptions. The term “court” has many meanings. The pertinent ones here are: (i) the residence of the sovereign, (ii) the collective body of persons forming his or her retinue, (iii) a sovereign and his or her councilors as the political rulers of a state, and (iv) a formal assembly held by a sovereign.

Court of St. James’s Hall

St. James’s Hall was a London music hall known then for its minstrel shows. (The Piccadilly Hotel now occupies the site.) Music halls of the time combined a restaurant/bar with a stage for entertainment (136). Goodman (140) says the hall was an extremely large edifice. It contained not only the bar/restaurant/stage but also a much larger concert auditorium in which were presented the “Monday Pops” of Patience and Mikado fame. He adds, further, that the minstrel shows featured antics and lines that were considered less than respectable. That adds light to Gilbert’s irony in substituting the music hall for the palace.

Peeress [No peeress at our Drawing-Room before the Presence passes]

Female member of the nobility, either a duchess, marchioness, countess, viscountess, or baroness.


Alludes to the sovereign. In short, she’ll not be introduced to the monarch. Goodman (140) mentions that Queen Victoria received débutantes in the “Presence Room” at St. James’s Palace.

Willy-nilly [we’ve done it willy-nilly]

Without conscience effort. See entry for the same term in Princess Ida for etymology.

Belgrave Square [And all that isn’t Belgrave Square is Strand and Piccadilly]

Belgrave Square was among the most prestigious residential areas of London. The Strand and Piccadilly are streets with smart shops and theaters. All fashionable areas.

Slummeries [We haven’t any slummeries in England!]


Labour question [We have solved the labour question]

Probably refers to labor-management problems. Huston (158) says that 1893, the year the opera was produced, saw the formation in England of its first labor party. Prestige (245) believes the reference is to unemployment.