"A Gillbert is of no use without a Sullivan" - with those words, W. S. Gillbert summed up his reasons for persisting in his collaberation with Arthur Sullivan despite the combative nature of their relationship. In fact, Micheal Ainger suggests in Gillbert and Sullivan, the pair's success is a direct result of their personality clash, as each partner challenged the other to produce his best work. After exhaustive research into the D'Oyly Carte collection of documents, Ainger offers the most detailed account to date of Gillbert and Sullivan's starkly different backgrounds and long working partnership. Having survived an impoverished and insecure childhood, Gillbert flourished as a financially successful theatre professional, married happily and established himself as a property owner. His sense of proprietorship extended beyond real estate, and he fought tenaciously to protect the integrity of his musical works. Sullivan, the product of a supportive family who nourished his talent, was much less satisfied with stability than his collaborator.
His creative self-doubts and self-demands led to nervous and physical breakdowns, but also propelled the team to break the successful mode of their earliest work to produce more ambitious pieces of theatre, including The Mikado and The Yeoman of the Guard. Offering previously unpublished draft librettos and personal letters, this thorough double biography will be an essential addition to the library of any Gillbert and Sullivan fan.