To what extent is a great comic writer the product of his time? How far is he (or she) influenced by factors of personal psychology upbringing and environment? To what is the writing actually part of a long continuum in which there is continuity within change and change within continuity? The Progress of Fun considers principally the last of these areas, focussing on the case of W.S. Gilbert and challenging the frequently held view that he is pre-eminently a typical Victorian. This it does by tracing his roots back to Ancient Greek comedy and to the various comedic developments that have dominated Western Europe thereafter. Also included is a careful examination of the constraints and limitations that in various forms have long affected comedy-writing, and an evaluation of Gilbert’s particular skills and legacy within the on-going process. The whole is a suitable prelude to a second volume (Pipes and Tabors) which will consider Genre in W.S. Gilbert, again relating it to comedic precedents and the universally timeless within the particular.
Richard Moore is a University lecturer and teacher in adult education with a Cambridge University doctorate on the subject of Christianity and Paganism in the Victorian Novel. He has at various points been a Civil Service executive, a Vice Principal in secondary education, and a leader of seminars on topics as diverse as Roman Comedy; the Puritans and Creative Literature; literary Waste Lands; and the Literature of Gardens. He is also a creative writer, responsible for over a hundred dramas and numerous libretti for comic operas and musical farces, several of them performed in the schools and colleges where he has taught.
Currently Richard Moore is preparing more work on the Victorian Theatre while running seminars and literary courses in Newcastle, Berwick upon Tweed and Pitlochry. His other interests are nature conservation, social and dynastic history, and the detective fiction of the Golden Age. He lives in the Scottish Borders, alternating with the southern Highlands and is a keen follower of Scottish countryside interests.