Suggested Further Reading

Back to Arthur Sullivan

There have been hundreds of books written about Sullivan, Gilbert, G&S and related topics. The great majority of them are of worth only to collectors and some are positively unhelpful. Anything written before Terence Rees’ Thespis (1964) will not approach modern standards of scholarship, and some of the best-known (and, by some people, best-loved) books, such as Leslie Baily’s The Gilbert and Sullivan Book and Hesketh Pearson’s Gilbert and Sullivan are full of obvious errors, biased judgements and, at times, plain falsehoods. The Baily book has some nice illustrations, but is otherwise useful only to stop thinner volumes falling off the end of one’s shelves. The books detailed below are of value.


Ian Bradley: Arthur Sullivan: A Life of Divine Emollient. Oxford University Press 2021. ISBN 978-0-198-86326-7. Reveals how important spiritual factors and influences were to Sullivan’s life and work. Explores his sacred pieces and identifies the huge importance of his friendship with George Grove.

Arthur Jacobs: Arthur Sullivan: A Victorian Musician. First edition Oxford University Press 1984 (revised paperback 1986); second edition Scolar Press 1992. ISBN 0 85967 905 5. Not as meticulously researched as it seemed at the time of its publication, and many of its value judgements now look very questionable in the light of subsequent scholarship and greater accessibility of the music. But still the best available full length biography. The second edition of the book has now been reissued by Routledge in their series Routledge Revivals. New  ISBN 9781138609495. It is available in hardback, paperback and e-book. However, in the retypesetting/reformatting process, a lot of careless errors, not present in the 1992 edition, have been introduced.

Meinhard Saremba: Arthur Sullivan: Ein Komponistenlebem im Viktorianischem England: Florian Noetzel-Verlag 1993. ISBN 3-7959-040-7. Full length biography of the composer in German with much valuable additional material in its appendices.

Michael Ainger: Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography: Oxford University Press 2002. ISBN 0-19-514769-3. A soundly-researched “dual biography” of Gilbert and Sullivan; offers detail about the G/S/D’Oyly Carte collaboration, but little new insight into the composer himself.


Benedict Taylor: Arthur Sullivan: A Musical Reappraisal. Routledge 2018. ISBN 978-1-409-46910-0. A scholarly examination of Sullivan’s output, looking in detail at specific works in the major genres in which he composed.

Ian Bradley: Lost Chords and Christian Soldiers: the Sacred music of Arthur Sullivan. SCM Press 2013. ISBN 978-0334-04421-5. A detailed study, aimed at the general reader, of Sullivan’s oratorios, cantatas, Te Deums, anthems, sacred songs and hymns. Includes a complete list of hymns composed and arranged by Sullivan.

Individual Works

Terence Rees: Thespis: A Gilbert and Sullivan Enigma (Dillon’s University Bookshop 1964, revised edition 2003). The first book on Sullivan to be written to modern standards of scholarship. Remains the definitive voice on Sullivan’s “lost” Gilbert opera.

David Eden (ed): Sullivan’s Ivanhoe (SASS 2007). ISBN 978-0-9557154-0-2. A collection of modern essays, plus contemporary reviews and illustrations.

Robin Gordon-Powell: Sullivan’s The Golden Legend (SASS 2012). A modern background and performance history, plus contemporary analytical note by Joseph Bennett.

Collections of Essays

Albert Gier, Meinhard Saremba, Benedict Taylor, Antje Tumat (eds): SullivanPerspektiven I, II, III. Oldib-Verlag 2012, 2014, 2016. ISBN 978-3-939556-29-9; 978-3-939556-42-8; 978-3-939556-58-9. A series of of essay collections (16, 17, 18 essays respectively) published at the initiative of the Deutsche Sullivan-Gesellschaft. International scholarship (Australia, France, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, UK, USA) on a wide range of Sullivan-related topics. Most of the essays are printed in English; some in German, but with an abstract in English.

Ulrich Tadday (ed): Musik-Konzepte 151: Arthur Sullivan: 2011. Part of a prestigious and highly scholarly German series, contains five essays in German (abstracts in English). Worth the read if your language skills are up to it.

David Eden and Meinhard Saremba (eds): The Cambridge Companion to Gilbert and Sullivan. Cambridge University Press 2009. ISBN 978-0-521-88849-3 (hardback); 978-0-521-71659-3 (paperback). Edited by  the former SASS Chairman and Vice-President; and the Secretary of the Deutsche Sullivan-Gesellschaft. Contains 16 scholarly essays with the general reader in mind, and with the emphasis firmly on Sullivan.


Ian Bradley: The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan. Oxford University Press 2016. ISBN 978-0-199-39241-4 (hardback); 978-0-199-39242-1 (paperback). All fourteen of Sullivan’s Gilbert libretti gathered between one pair of covers, with background information, detailed annotations dealing with composition history, cut or unused lyrics etc, “difficult” terms, etc. all delivered with style and humour.

Ian Bradley: Oh Joy! Oh Rapture!: The Enduring Phenomenon of Gilbert and Sullivan. Oxford University Press 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-516700-9.  Not a book about Sullivan per se, but an entertaining look at G&S around the world today and a happy antidote to the suggestion, sometimes heard, that it is dying.

David Eden: Gilbert and Sullivan: The Creative Conflict. Associated University Presses 1986.  ISBN 0-8386-3282-3.Essentially a book about the G&S partnership and the tensions within it. The first chapter is an excellent short summary of the history of the partnership.

David Eden: The Carpet Quarrel: A Documentary Narrative. SASS 2010. A narrative account, using the letters of the participants, of the dispute between Gilbert and Sullivan and Carte which ruptured the partnership during the run of The Gondoliers.

Harold Orel (ed): Gilbert and Sullivan: Interviews and Recollections. Macmillan 1994. ISBN 0-333-57012X (hardback); 0-333-63905-7 (paperback). A collection of contemporary press interviews and reminiscences.


Arthur Lawrence: Sir Arthur Sullivan: Life Story, Letters and Reminiscences. James Bowden 1899. To all intents and purposes an authorised biography (Sullivan read the proofs). As such, invaluable for its immediacy; but not wholly reliable in matters of fact.

B. W. Findon: Sir Arthur Sullivan: His Life and Music. James Nisbet 1904. Written by his cousin, this, too, is not to be relied upon for matters of fact, but is a valuable voice of someone close to Sullivan. The first edition is much rarer than the second as the author initially spoke out (in terms much less explicit than might be used today) about Charles Stanford’s underhand manoeuvrings to get Sullivan deposed, and himself installed, as conductor of the Leeds Triennial Music Festival. Stanford sued and the first edition was pulped.

Herbert Sullivan and Newman Flower: Sir Arthur Sullivan. Cassell 1927 (second edition 1950) Full of errors (many of them avoidable), and presenting a very sanitised picture of Sullivan, but important for the involvement of his nephew Herbert.

Thomas F. Dunhill: Sullivan’s Comic Operas. Edward Arnold 1929. An attempt to counteract the anti-Sullivan mood of its author’s era. Its opening chapter, “Mainly in Defence” remains relevant.

Walter J. Wells: Souvenir of Sir Arthur Sullivan. Newnes 1901. A “brief sketch of his life and works” with “portraits, facsimiles and illustrations”. These give the book its continuing value.


David Mackie: Arthur Sullivan and the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain. RSM 2005. ISBN 0-9509481-3-6.

Bob Fitzsimons: Arthur O’Leary and Arthur Sullivan: Musical Journeys from Kerry to the Heart of Victorian England. Doghouse 2008. ISBN 978-0-9558746-1-1. The story of one of the composer’s teachers.

Paul Seeley: Richard D’Oyly Carte. Routledge 2019  ISBN 978-1-138-48628-7. Useful sidelights on Sullivan’s career as a composer for the stage.

Sullivan the man/family man

Amy Sullivan Stephens: Amy’s Book. 1998. An account by Sullivan’s niece of her family life in London and California.

Scott Hayes: Arthur Sullivan: the California Connection. SASS 2003, second edition 2008. An account by his great-grandnephew of Sullivan’s support of his late brother’s family in the USA.

Scott Hayes and Scott M. Hayes (eds): Your Affectionate A. SASS 2015. ISBN 978-0-9932993-0-8. A collection of Sullivan’s letters to his family.

George W. Emerson: Arthur Darling. Galt House 1980. ISBN 0-919534-04-X. Sullivan’s love affairs with Rachel and Louise Scott Russell seen through Rachel’s letters

David Eden: Kyrie Eleison: The Ancestry of Sir Arthur Sullivan. SASS 2016. ISBN 978-0-9557154-1-9.

Elaine Richardson: The untold story of Herbert Sullivan. Elaine Richardson, 2023.  ISBN 978-1-9059129-0-2. The book chronicles the life of Herbert Sullivan, nephew and heir of Sir Arthur, and provides an insight into the close relationship Herbert had with his uncle. It also includes many new and surprising facts about the Sullivan family.

Doctoral theses

David Russell Hulme: The operettas of Sir Arthur Sullivan: a study of available autograph scores. University of Wales 1985. Accessible at

Nathan P. W. Smith: Sir Arthur Sullivan the Romantic. Ivanhoe, Haddon Hall, and The Beauty Stone –  sad milestones or compositional maturity? University of Durham 2022. Accessible at

Anne Stanyon: Arthur Sullivan, the 1898 Leeds Festival and Beyond. University of Leeds 2017.

Martyn P. Strachan: Style in the Music of Arthur Sullivan: An Investigation. Open University 2018. Accessible at