H.M.S. Parliament

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Advertisement published in the Toronto Globe, 11 May 1880

H.M.S. Parliament, also titled The Lady Who Loved A Government Clerk, is a comic operetta. Published in 1880, it adapted the music of H.M.S. Pinafore by Arthur Sullivan to a new libretto by William H. Fuller (who was also the librettist for The Unspecific Scandal). The work satirised contemporary Canadian politics,[1] particularly the perceived corruption of Sir John A Macdonald and his government.[2] It was written as a "piece of extravagance" for performance by the Eugene McDowell Comedy Company, an American-led touring group active from 1875 to 1890.[3] The foreword suggested that the show existed only "for the fun of things" rather than any "political proclivities".[4]

The characters are largely similar to those of HMS Pinafore: Captain Corcoran is rewritten as Captain McA (John A. Macdonald); Dick Deadeye becomes Alexander MacDeadeye (Alexander Mackenzie, Canada's second prime minister); Sir Joseph Porter is renamed Sir Samuel Sillery (Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, finance minister); and the couple Josephine and Ralph are presented as Angelina and Sam Snifter.[5] The new libretto too is loosely based on the original: for example, where Pinafore opens "We sail the ocean blue / and our saucy ship's a beauty", Parliament begins "We sail the ship of state / tho' our craft is rather leaky".[4][6]

H.M.S. Parliament opened in Montreal at the Academy of Music on 16 February 1880.[4] The work was positively received by initial audiences, and its planned run became a multi-city tour spanning 30 communities over five months.[1][5] After that tour finished, political events had made the satire out-of-date, so no further performances were done. The piece re-emerged when its book and lyrics were included in a volume of Canada's Lost Plays in 1978; a few attempts at revival were made shortly afterwards, including at least two full productions. A director of one such revival noted that "Fuller's sparkling wit remains the main preserving spice...[which] spares the operetta from the worst excesses of Victorian sentiment and patriotism".[5]


  1. ^ a b "H.M.S. Parliament". Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Watermeier, Daniel; Londré, Felicia (2000). The history of North American theater: the United States, Canada, and Mexico, from pre-Columbian times to the present. Continuum. p. 257. ISBN 9780826412331. 
  3. ^ Wagner, Anton; Plant, Richard, eds. (1978). Canada's Lost Plays, Vol. 1: The Nineteenth Century. CTR Publications. p. 159. 
  4. ^ a b c Atkey, Mel (2008). Broadway north: the dream of a Canadian musical theatre. Dundurn Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 9781554881086. 
  5. ^ a b c Day, Moira (1985). "Forum". Theatre Research in Canada. 6 (1). 
  6. ^ Libretto for H.M.S. Pinafore at Wikisource

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