[ Norman Forbes-Robertson on his 'sensitive hearted friend' W. S. Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan. ] Carbon typescript of 'Laughter Loving Friends. | On the Stage | Sir William Gilbert. | by | Norman Forbes.'
9pp., 4to. In good condition, on nine leaves of lightly-aged paper. With three deletions in pencil. A stalwart of the Garrick Club, Forbes-Robertson was a friend of Dame Ellen Terry, Oscar Wilde and Sir Edward Elgar, and organised Sir Henry Irving's funeral with Bram Stoker. There is no indication that this paper was ever published. It begins: 'I have come to the conclusion after a long life that those of a passionate nature whose strong emotions, by which their mind is swayed, by anger, fear, joy, grief, love, hatred, etc., often make the ideal friend so long as anger is kept within bounds. | As a boy I found it most difficult to control this passion. I would say, in my anger, cruel things to my brothers and sisters [Forbes-Robertson was one of eleven siblings] and those whom I loved most, and then go away and suffer in silence and self-contempt. How, I asked myself, could I cure these hateful brain storms that drove my frail bark upon the rocks? When my brothers and sisters and I were kiddies, we used to play a favourite game of Noughts and Crosses. In my childish mind the O represented good, the X all that was bad.' After explaining his belief in 'the exercise of will power', he claims that Gilbert 'lost the consoling influence of many loving friends during his life' as a result of his inability to do so: 'There are numberless examples of how such blessings were scattered to the winds by Gilbert's uncontrollable temper, over utterly childish trivialities. The notorious split between Gilbert, and Sullivan and Carte was, as my brother Johnston records in his enchanting book, due to the question of new carpets for the Savoy Theatre'. He next discusses the 'breach between the Kendalls and Gilbert', rude exchanges with a lady and police chief in New York, with a man 'whose father was a Jew', and with 'a neighbour, a partner of Crosse and Blackwell, the famous jam and pickle preservers'. He then recalls, '[i]n the days when typewriting machines were first invented, over forty years ago', seeing one 'in the library of Gilbert's handsome house in Collingham Garden. I asked hm if he found the instrument useful. "Most useful," he replied. "I sign all my autographs with it."' The document ends with a long anecdote regarding Sullivan's country house 'Grimsdyke', and a practical joke he played on his neighbour Arthur Bouchier, who came after a burglary to test the guns Sullivan had claimed to have placed around his grounds, and found '[o]n arriving halfway up the drive', that 'the air was rent with blazing blasts of roaring [last word deleted in pencil] guns from every side, even from the house. "Stop, stop!" shouted Bouchier, imagining himself riddled with bullets, "I'm a friend!" "A friend," cried Gilbert from his window, "what is a friend doing in my private grounds at this time of night?"' With this anecdote the paper comes to an end, and the lack of a passage summing-up the piece may suggest that it was not concluded, although the original lightly-rusted paperclip holding the leaves together and the manner of folding indicate that this is how it was preserved by Forbes-Robertson's brother Eric Forbes-Robertson, from whose papers it derives.