1836 18 November; born Strand, London.
1843 First formal schooling, Boulogne.
1849 Returns to England to study at the Great Ealing School.
1853 Enters King's College, London.
1857 Earns the B.A. from King's College. Studies for the artillery commissioning exam; Crimean War ends before he can put his artillery skills to use so he gets a four year assistant clerkship in the Education Department of the Privy Council Office.
1861 An respectable inheritance liberates him to quit the Education Department (which vocation he had not enjoyed) and enroll at the Inner Temple to study law. He was never a very busy solicitor.
1861 Submits first article and illustration to Fun, a new humor magazine which would soon rival Punch. The submission begins a career in (mostly satirical) writing and illustration that will support him for over a decade.
1865 Founds the informal "Serious Family"--a Saturday night gathering of contemporary young humorists, journalists, and draftsmen based on other celebrated bohemian groups like the "Savage Club". Members include Hood, Sketchley, Prowse, Paul Gray.
1865 Begins to write for the stage. Early experiments include hastily-wrought but successful lyrics for pantomimes: Millward's King Solomon, and also his Harlequin Prince Paragon and the Queen of the Valley of Perpetual Spring, and Hush A Bye, Baby, on the Treetop; or, Harlequin Fortunia, King of Frog Island, and the Magic Top of Lowther Arcade.
1866 Dulcamara! runs; a burlesque of Donzetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, this is Gilbert's first acknowledged play.
1867 Another burlesque: La Vivandiere; or, True to the Corps!.
1867 Marries Lucy Agnes Blois Turner--"Kitty"--with whom he develops a close and loving marriage, unusual for the period.
1869 Compilation of Bab Ballads from Fun (an early cause of Gilbert's popularity as a satirist) published.
1869 Joins the Junior Carlton Club, a conservative organization.
1869 An Old Score, Gilbert's first complete attempt as satrirical comedy for the stage, appears.
1869 Introduced to composer Arthur Sullivan by Frederic Clay (composer of Ages Ago).
1870 The Princess, another burlesque; this one a blank verse parody of mock-heroism.
1870 Maneuvers with the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders, a sort of military reserve of which Gilbert was a member, provide a break from the ascending literary career and show the writer's professional depth.
1871 The Palace of Truth: Gilbert's first "fairy play".
1875 Richard D'Oyly Carte (the eventual third--the business--part of the Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration) has Gilbert show his libretto for Trial by Jury to Arthur Sullivan. The latter agrees to score the work, which becomes the first Savoy Opera.
1877 The Sorcerer opens 17 November. Like Trial by Jury, it is another successful Gilbert and Sullivan joint-endeavor.
1878 H.M.S. Pinafore; greatest G and S triumph to date.
1877 Attends the trial of Whistler v. Ruskin.
1879 Writes and stages Gretchen, his "Faust play."
1879-80 Tours United States with Sullivan and others.
1880 Pirates of Penzance; opens in the United States before U.K.
1881 D'Oyly Carte's new theater opens; one of the first to be illuminated by electric (as opposed to the more dangerous gas) light.
1884 Princess Ida, a light satire of the feminist movement, opens; more serious and melodious than the earlier G&S operettas, having been produced by Gilbert in response to a falling out with Sullivan who was weary of the repeated "topsy turvy" plots associated with Gilbert and Sullivan works like Pinafore.
1885 The Mikado premieres, revealing the Eastern influence introduced to mainstream England by the Aesthetic movement. Most popular opera, it becomes--like Pinafore--a fad in the U.S. where it is heavily pirated.
1888 The Yeomen of the Guard, topsy-turvy free and mostly serious in response to Sullivan's requests for an operetta more in this style.
1888 Brantinghame Hall (solo effort) opens; Gilbert designs costumes himself. The play is generally not well received.
1889 Sullivan's grumbles too loudly that he can no longer produce light comic opera at the expense of his creative integrity. Asks Gilbert to write a serious opera in which the words are secondary to the music, rather than the other way around as in the Savoy Operas. Gilbert refuses to subordinate himself, regarding both Sullivan and himself as equally brilliant. The future collaboration is jeapordized, and splits like this one become increasingly frequent.
1889 The Garrick Theater, Gilbert's own modern, electric-lighted, theater opens.
1889 The Gondoliers, the product of a renewed relationship with Sullivan, opens to immediate popular and critical acclaim. Victoria likes it so much that she has it performed at Windsor Castle.
1890 Gilbert, Sullivan, and Carte have a row over money. The relationship is patched up again, but never the same.
1891 Tries working with Cellier on a new operetta, but the composer dies before its completion. When The Mountebanks finally opens in 1892, it is warmly received and reviewed.
1891 Becomes a magistrate--Justice of the Peace in Middlesex.
1893 Reunites with Sullivan: Utopia Limited.
1894 His Excellency; music by Dr. Osmond Carr.
1896 Last Savoy Opera, The Grand Duke.
1900 22 November; Sullivan dies.
1901 22 January; Victoria dies.
1901 3 April; Richard D'Oyly Carte dies.
1906 Elected to Garrick Club.
1907 15 July; Knighted.
1909 One final libretto: Fallen Faries.
1911 29 May; dies of a heart attack in cold water while attempting to save what he took for a drowning adolescent.

Works refered to in this chronolgy are acknowledged and briefly discussed in the Sullivan Bibliography.


Victorian Theater & Popular Entertainment Gilbert sitemap