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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   W. S. Gilbert 1836-1911

The programme described this as "a very free and easy version of the highly successful Palais Royal Farce, Le Roi Candaule" - which had been written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, most well-known today for being Offenbach's best librettists. However, Gilbert's version was more than just a quick translation of a popular French farce: he rewrote parts of it to make it apply to a topical event in which Gilbert himself had been closely involved.

Le Roi Candaule is set in the box lobby of a theatre where an immoral play is being performed. In The Realm of Joy, the play is politically rather than sexually scandalous - a clear reference to The Happy Land, which Gilbert had co-written earlier the same year and which was still running on the first night of this piece. The Lord Chamberlain had briefly banned The Happy Land because of its political satire - thus the references in this play to "the Lord High Disinfectant".

For both pieces Gilbert used the pseudonym "Tomline", though the disguise must have been pretty transparent by the time of The Realm of Joy: He probably used it here as a taunt to the Lord Chamberlain. The Lord Chamberlain's Office licensed the play despite its provocative tone, simply to prevent a round of bad publicity like the one which arose from the Happy Land affair. The Lord Chamberlain told the Examiner of Plays (William Donne) that it should be passed with "the usual corrections"; Donne, exasperated, wrote: "What 'the usual corrections' can be in a piece so utterly incorrigible, and so obviously meant to be an official, if not a personal insult, passes my understanding...." But he passed it, nonetheless.

During the play's run, the title was changed to Realms of Joy.

Andrew Crowther



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