Social Victorians/People/Arthur Sullivan

Also Known AsEdit

  • Family name: Sullivan
  • Sir Arthur Sullivan
  • Arthur S. Sullivan
  • A. S. Sullivan


  • Nationality: British



  • Thomas Sullivan
  • Mary Clementine Sullivan (1811 – 27 May 1882)
  1. Fred Sullivan (– 18 January 1877)
  2. Arthur Sullivan (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900)


Acquaintances, Friends and EnemiesEdit






1854, at 12, Sullivan became a choirboy at the Chapel Royal. According to Leslie Ayre, Arthur Sullivan's older brother Frederic sometimes accompanied him to the Chapel Royal and "amuse[d] the boys with comic songs" (397).

1856, Sullivan was the first person to win the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London, which enabled him to study in Liepzig.

1861, Sullivan became the organist at St. Michael's.

1862, when he was twenty, Sullivan's incidental music to a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest was performed to acclaim at the Crystal Palace.

1871, while he was still younger than 30, Sullivan composed the setting for "Onward Christian Soldiers," a hymn still sung in Protestant Christian churches today.

1872 May, Sullivan's Festival Te Deum was performed at the Crystal Palace with 2,000 performers and 26,000 people in the audience (Mackenzie-Rogan 23). The piece was written to celebrate Bertie's recovery from typhoid and dedicated to Queen Victoria.

1877 January 18, Sullivan's brother Fred died.

1877 June 30, Saturday, on Friday 8 June 1877 the London Standard reported the following: <quote>The Princess Louise (Marchioness of Lorne) and Prince Leopold, have consented to patronise an performance, to be given at the Opera Comique, on Saturday afternoon, June 30, in aid of the funds of the Victoria Hospital, Gough House, Queen's-road, Chelsea, S.W., when Trial by Jury will be performed, under the supervision of Mr. Arthur Sullivan and Mr. W. S. Gilbert, both of whom are on the committee of management of the hospital, and supporters of special cots.</quote> (

1877, end of summer or beginning of fall, Sir Coutts and Lady Lindsay hosted a dinner for Princess Louise which Sullivan attended (Lawrence 122).

1878, Sullivan composed the music for the hugely popular song "The Lost Chord." Leslie Ayre describes the importance of this song in Sullivan's life:<quote>During [Frederic Sullivan's] last illness, his devoted brother [Arthur] sat by his bedside reading verses by Adelaide Anne Procter, his setting of one of which was published a few years later and became enormously popular, "The Lost Chord." Indeed, it became so familiar that it attracted a parody, provoking Sullivan to write to the perpetrator, "I wrote 'The Lost Chord' in sorrow at my brother's death. Don't burlesque it." Fred Sullivan[, who was two years older than Arthur,] died in January 1877, aged thirty-six. (Ayre 397)</quote>

1879 December 31, Sullivan conducted the premier of Gilbert and his The Pirates of Penzance at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York City to establish copyright in the U.S. (Lawrence 135).

1880 March, Sullivan and Gilbert return to England (Lawrence 138).

1880 April, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance premiered in England at the Opera Comique (Lawrence 153).

1881 October 10, D'Oyly Carte opened the Savoy with Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, which he transplanted from the Opera Comique; Sullivan conducting (Lawrence 153–154).

1882 May 27, Mary Clementine Sullivan, Arthur Sullivan's mother, died (Lawrence 155).

1883, Sullivan was knighted by the Queen at the recommendation of Prime Minister William Gladstone, twenty-five years before Edward VII knighted Gilbert (Richards 22).

1885 March 14, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado premiered, with Sullivan conducting.

1885, Sullivan visited the U.S. again, just after The Mikado opened (Lawrence 140). He was in Los Angeles in July 1885; he visited Salt Lake City, including the Mormon Tabernacle Sunday service, having played the organ for an hour the day before; he visited San Francisco as well (Lawrence 172).

1886 October 16, Sullivan conducted The Golden Legend at the Leeds Festival (Lawrence 169).

1887 March 27, Sullivan conducted The Golden Legend at the Royal Opera House in Berlin, with many royals in the audience; according to Lawrence, the performers were not very good (177).

1887 April 3, The Golden Legend was performed at the Berlin Royal Opera House again, this time with Albani singing the soprano role; according to Lawrence, this performance was a redeeming success (178).

1888, John Millais painted Sullivan's portrait, The Yeoman of the Guard, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

?? 1888 February 18, Sullivan was losing at gambling in Monte Carlo (Lawrence 190). It's marked 1888 in Lawrence, but it should be 1889, when he was also there?

1888 May 8, a command performance of The Golden Legend was given at the Albert Hall (Lawrence 189).

1888 December 29, Henry Irving's production of Macbeth at the Lyceum included incidental music written by Sullivan (Lawrence 181).

1889 February 18 – March 6, at least, Sullivan was in Monte Carlo (Lawrence 190–191).

1889 April 7, Sullivan was in Berlin for a production of The Mikado. He spent time with Victoria, Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, and her family (Lawrence 191).

1889 December 7, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers: or, The King of Barataria opened at the Savoy (Lawrence 181).

1893 October 7, Utopia, Limited performed at the Savoy (Lawrence 194).

1894 December 12, Sullivan's and F. C. Burnard's The Chieftain was performed at the Savoy (Lawrence 195–196).

1896 March 7, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Grand Duke was performed at the Savoy (Lawrence 197).

1897 May 5, Sullivan's ballet Victoria and Merrie England opened at the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square; Sullivan conducted at least the first performance (Richards 31).

1897 May 25, The Grand Duke not having done very well, The Yeoman of the Guard was revived at the Savoy (Lawrence 198).

1897 June 20, Sunday, the official Jubilee Hymn, music by Sullivan and lyrics by William Waltham How, Bishop of Wakefield, was "used in all churches and chapels"; Sullivan's tune is called Bishopgarth and "was later offered in The Methodist Hymnal as an alternative for the Harvest hymn by William Chatterton Dix To Thee, O Lord, Our Hearts We Raise" (Richards 406).

1897 June 22, Tuesday, Diamond Jubilee Day, Queen Victoria's Jubilee procession went from Buckingham Palace to St. Paul's, on whose steps the service took place, "with the Queen remaining seated in her carriage. The choir contained many of the most famous musicians of the day joining in the singing: Sir Arthur Sullivan, Sir Walter Parrot, Dr Hubert Parry, Dr Frederick Bridge, Alberto Randegger, Dr A.H. Mann, BartonMcGuckin, John E. West, and Joseph Bennett. ... / Then the Archbishop of Canterbury on an impulse called for three cheers for the Queen. They could be heard in Trafalgar Square" (Richards 137–138).

1897 July 2, Louise Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, threw her famous fancy-dress ball at Devonshire House in London. Arthur Sullivan is not listed anywhere as having attended. Fanny Ronalds did attend, dressed as Music, so why didn't Sullivan?

1897 July 8, from this day until the end of the run in December 1897, Sullivan's ballet Victoria and Merrie England at the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, "included a cinematograph film of the Jubilee procession" (Richards 31).

1897 December 25 or so, Sullivan's ballet Victoria and Merrie England closed at the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square (Richards 31). According to Richards, "members of the royal family attended on nineteen occasions (31).

1898 March 22, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers was revived at the Savoy (Lawrence 198).

1898 May 28, Pinero and J. Comyns Carr's and Sullivan's The Beauty Stone premiered (Lawrence 198).

Questions and NotesEdit

  1. Arthur Sullivan is not listed anywhere as having attended the Duchess of Devonshire's fancy-dress ball. Fanny Ronalds did attend, dressed as Music, so why didn't Sullivan?
  2. Arthur Sullivan's brother Frederic, according to Leslie Ayre, <quote>was the original Apollo in [Gilbert and Sullivan's first collaboration] Thespis and, as a member of the Dolaro company, was in the cast of La Perichole at the Royalty Theatre when it was decided to add [their second collaboration] Trial by Jury to the bill. This gave Fred his great chance. He was a good musician as well as a lively actor and his creation of the role of the Judge was the big hit of the show. Indeed, Gilbert said afterwards that the success of the piece was due in no small measure to Fred Sullivan's 'admirable performance'. The role of John Wellington Wells in the next opera, The Sorcerer, was specifically written with Fred in mind but he did not live to play it.</quote> (397)
  3. Sir George Grove, upon Sullivan's 1883 knighthood: "Surely the time has come when so able and experienced a master of voice, orchestra, and state effect — master too of so much genuine sentiment — may apply his gifts to a serious opera on some subject of abiding human or natural interest" (qtd in Taylor).
  4. F. C. Burnand (dramatist and, later, editor of Punch), wrote the libretto for Box and Cox.
  5. Sullivan conducted the Savoy operas even though he had other, seemingly more prestigious gigs, like conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra between 1885 and 1887, or conducting at the Leeds Festivals 1880-1889. While Gilbert's libretti are traditionally considered fair game for updating or making topical, many productions treat Sullivan's music as if it were static, when in fact, Sullivan himself interpolated other music into particular performances as the spirit moved him. He introduced 7 bars of Bach's B-Minor Mass into a performance of The Mikado (check to be sure this is true). He added "Rule, Britannia" to the Finale of H.M.S. Pinafore.

Gilbert and Sullivan's Style of CompositionEdit


  1. Gilbert wrote the text first.
  2. Sullivan wrote the rhythms of the music, using dashes and dots.
  3. Sullivan composed the tunes.
  4. Sullivan orchestrated the score once the performers were cast and their particular voices were known. Sullivan did not always compose the overtures; the Overture of The Mikado, for example, was composed by one Hamilton Clarke.
  5. Gilbert directed and staged the operas, with Richard D'Oyly Carte producing.
  6. Sullivan conducted, though he had many prestigious obligations during the 1880s, and so probably there were others who conducted as well.


Sullivan's WorksEdit

  • 1871, Thespis, or the Gods Grown Old, with Arthur Sullivan
  • 1875, Trial by Jury, with Sullivan
  • 1877, The Sorcerer, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1878, H.M.S. Pinafore, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1879, New York; 1880, London, The Pirates of Penzance, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1881, Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1882, Iolanthe, or the Peer and the Peri, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1884, Princess Ida, or Castel Adamant, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1885, The Mikado, or the Town of Titipu, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1887, Ruddigore, or the Witch's Curse, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1886, The Yeomen of the Guard, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1889, The Gondoliers, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1893, Utopia Limited, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte
  • 1896, The Grand Duke, with Sullivan, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte

Secondary SourcesEdit

  • Ayre, Leslie. The Gilbert and Sullivan Companion. Forward by Martyn Green. New York: New American Library, 1972.
  • Lawrence, Arthur, Benjamin William Findon, and Wilfred Bendall. Sir Arthur Sullivan: Life-Story, Letters, and Reminiscences. London: James Bowden: 1899. [Millais' portrait, p. ii.] Google Books:
  • Mackenzie-Rogan, Lt. Colonel John. Fifty Years of Army Music. London: Methuen, 1926.
  • Richards, Jeffrey. Imperialism and Music: Britain, 1876–1953. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2001.
  • Taylor, Deems. "Preface." The Complete Operas of W. S. Gilbert. Yugoslovia: Dorset Press, Random House, 1932.