Haddon Hall
Derbyshire, England

An Old Score by W. S. Gilbert

An Old Score opened in London in 1869, before Gilbert's meeting with Arthur Sullivan. This edition of An Old Score consists of two sections. The first section, through page 50, contains the introduction, play and notes. The second section, starting on page 50a, contains reviews and commentary by Mr. Gilbert and his contemporaries, and by the editor.

In his brief "Autobiography" of 1883, Gilbert described An Old Score as "my first comedy." Indeed, though he had written about a dozen stage works before this one, and though most of these were designed to make their audiences laugh, they were not "comedies" in the sense that Gilbert means here. An Old Score had no sinking ships or burning barns. The humour came from character and wit, not from outrageous farce.

Gilbert clearly intended his play to be at least partly serious, as we can tell by his calling it a "comedy-drama." So what exactly was the "moral lesson" Gilbert was preaching to us in this play? We can see some obvious things: the distrust of big business in the form of Colonel Calthorpe, and the idea that a wild but good-hearted young scapegrace such as Harold Calthorpe is far preferable. And in the play's tone we have a consistent idea of plain-speaking being a good thing, as opposed to social two-facedness.

In Gilbert's later works, he tended to disguise his intentions with topsyturvydom and irony. In these later works Gilbert was much more careful in the way he expressed his view of life. He showed his rogues and hypocrites without stating a moral attitude to their antics. In An Old Score his attitudes are clear; anyone can tell Gilbert's contempt for Colonel Calthorpe.

An Old Score has been included in the book Five W. S. Gilbert Plays. A printed copy of the book may be purchased at www.LULU.com/shop
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