Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sir Arthur Sullivan: An Anecdote from the United States

I found this wonderful story about the great Victorian composer. It is worth retelling and needs no commentary save to note that Sullivan was in California in 1886 visiting family. Pinafore was a great success in the States and was the subject of copyright ‘piracy.’

When Sir Arthur Sullivan, as President, took the chair at the annual dinner of the Birmingham Clef Club in 1886, he gave, in a very humorous speech, an anecdote of his travels in America. He was travelling on a stagecoach in a wild part of California, and had to alight for refreshments at a mining camp.
"They are expecting you here, Mr. Sullivan," said the driver. Sullivan was flattered that his fame had travelled into so remote a region. A knot of prominent citizens met him at the hotel bar.
“Are you Mister Sullivan?" asked the foremost citizen, addressing a big burly fellow, who was standing by Sullivan's side.
“No, this is the gentleman," he replied, pointing to the author of Patience.
“Why, is that so? How much do you weigh, Mister?''
Sullivan thought the question curious, but he replied: "I weigh about 162 pounds."
"And at that weight do you mean to say that you pounded John S. Blackmore into fits?"
“No, sir," said Sullivan, “I did not pound him at all."
“Ain’t you John L. Sullivan, the slogger?”
“No, I am Arthur Sullivan”, the composer rejoined.
“Arthur Sullivan!” said the prominent citizen thoughtfully. “Maybe you're the man that put Pinafore together?”
"I am that man," Sullivan replied.
"Well," said the citizen, "we are sorry, ain't we, boys?”
"We are sorry," they responded in chorus.
Then "that you ain't John L. Sullivan," continued the foremost citizen; ”but, still, we're glad to see you, eh boys?"
“We are mighty glad, and we invite you to take a drink with us, and we'll make it a basket of wine."
"Let her go at that," chimed in the others, and there were drinks all round, and the coach resumed its journey merrily for the passengers, as well as those who remained behind to talk over the two Sullivans. 
From A Souvenir of Arthur Sullivan George Newnes Ltd. London 1901 – with minor edits

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