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Letter published in The Era, Nov. 16, 1889 (issue 2669), p. 9
(in response to letter signed "Boosey and Co.," which quotes a lyric
interpolated into Gilbert’s adaptation of Les Brigands and a lyric by
Gilbert that was omitted in the same production) 

Sir, – I quite agree with Messrs. Boosey’s poor opinion of the song they quote, but they appear to forget the circumstances under which it was written.  Twenty years ago, when I was trying my wings at dramatic work, I was employed by their firm to translate Les Brigands for copyright purposes, and I translated it as literally as the exigencies of rhyme and metre would allow.  Here is one verse of the song, in the original French and in the translation:

O mes amours!  O mes maîtresses!
  Pour vivre à vos genoux;
Pour m’enivrer de vos caresses,
  De vos baisers si doux;
Pour me faire dire, "Je t’aime, je t’aime,"
  Par des chiens-chiens chéris,
J’ai donné mon argent, et même
  Tout l’argent de mon pays!
    C’est un peu vif, mais si c’était à refaire,
      Si c'était à refaire, je le referais.
    V’la, v’la, v’la mon caractère,
      V’la, v’la, v’la mon caractère!

O, woman, in thy soft caresses
  My happiest moments fly;
I love to play with golden tresses,
  The slave of love am I!
In kisses and accents of honey,
  In bouquets and presents not a few,
I’ve dissipated all my money,
  And all my country’s money, too!
    But, in spite of all the pain
      Such conduct is entailing,
    I’d squander it again —
      Ah, that’s my little failing!

For a justification of the atrocious sentiments expressed in this piece of imbecility, I must refer Messrs. Boosey to MM. Meilhac and Halévy.  The atrocious metre is referable to the musical gymnastics of M. Offenbach.  It is, perhaps, a little ungenerous of Messrs. Boosey to employ me to make this translation and then to twit me for having done it.

The real question at issue between Messrs. Boosey and myself is ingeniously obscured in their letter – the question whether they were justified in publishing under my name work which was not mine.  Their plausible offer to state in the playbill that the two introduced songs were not written by me does not cover the ground, inasmuch as I had to complain of alterations and modifications in every page of the dialogue.

  Your obedient servant,
    W. S. GILBERT.
     
Savoy Theatre, Nov. 9th.



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