Your intrepid reporter, Saralee Etter, is here in Yorkshire at the beautiful ancestral castle known as Snowden Hall, speaking with Mr. William S. Gilbert. When he is not (as he is now) a guest at an exclusive country house party, he works for the Department of Education while also preparing for a future career as a barrister.
Mr. Gilbert is over 6 feet tall, slender, and possesses a lounging grace in his movements. You might think him German, because he is fair with tawny mustaches and blue eyes. Quick-tempered and quick-witted, he has an amazing talent for clever wordplay. He places a high value on honor and loyalty. His natural reserve makes him appear almost brusque toward strangers and those he doesn’t like, but no one could be kinder or more generous to his friends.
WSG: (looking over my shoulder) You might want to mention that I’ve written a few play reviews and comic pieces for Fun.
SLE: For fun? Have they been published anywhere?
WSG: Yes, in Fun! Fun magazine. I write a weekly column, accompanied by a half-page drawing. And you might remove the adjectives “amazing” and “clever” from your descriptions above. That’s a bit too too, as the Aesthetic types would say.
SLE: And you also write burlesque plays, I hear. Aren’t they a bit risqué?
WSG: My dear lady, you’re thinking of the American burlesque. In England, a burlesque is a comedy based on puns, nonsense and extravagant wordplay, similar to a Christmas pantomime. They are often parodies of well-known operas. I’ve written a dozen of them – you may have heard of my version of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore? I called it Dulcamara! Or the Little Duck and the Big Quack. No? How about Robert the Devil, or the Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun? Well, you are American, after all.
SLE: Tell me what brings you to Snowden Hall, up here in Yorkshire.
WSG: The North Eastern Railway. Very well, I came here because my two sisters, Maude and Florence, were all in a lather to visit the place. Both of them cherish hopes of marrying our host, baronet Sir John Snowden, although I can’t see how they’ll manage it. Generally a fellow is limited to only one wife at a time, and the law prohibits him from marrying sisters one after another. So at least one sister is bound to be disappointed, and most likely both. Furthermore, they aren’t the only young women here who are angling to wed a baronet.
SLE: Are you referring to Miss Lucy Turner?
WSG: (laughs) Little Lucy! If anybody could win a fellow over, it’s her. I call her Kitten—she’s an adorable little ball of fluff with a surprising streak of temper and willfulness. People underestimate her. She may be tiny, but like any kitten she can do a lot of damage with those razor-sharp teeth and claws.
SLE: So you think Sir John might ask for Miss Turner’s hand in marriage?
WSG: I hope not! That is, Kitten’s much too young for me, but I don’t fancy that Sir John as a husband for any young woman I care about. He’s far too slick and ingratiating. The danger is, she might accept him if he offers for her, because of that wretched curate.
SLE: Which wretched curate is that? You don’t mean Rev. Reed Niemand from the Victoria Road Church in Kensington?
WSG: That’s exactly the one. He used to mope and sigh and pant over little Kitten, and then suddenly, poof! One morning, he became another girl’s love-sick boy.
SLE: The curate fell in love with another woman? Who?
WSG: My sisters report that his new love is none other than our host’s sister, Miss Tallullah Snowden. And now they’re all here together at this blasted house party! I don’t envy Mr. Niemand at all. That curate is going to be one sorry fellow when Kitten catches up with him.
SLE: But I heard that Mr. Niemand had not promised to marry Miss Turner.
WSG: That doesn’t matter. Every female in Kensington knew about it and were loud in their pity, so Kitten was as good as jilted. I just hope I can stop her before she does something drastic.
SLE: Thank you for your time. I hope that this country house visit is pleasant and uneventful!
About the Author
Saralee Etter is the author of three traditional Regency romances. She’s presently working on A SHORT SHARP SHOCK, the first novel in a Victorian-set mystery series featuring sleuth Lucy Turner and her friends, William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. You can visit her on the web at www.saraleeetter.com, or check out her blog, A Fine Mystery Indeed, at www.saraleeetter.com/blog1