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Fred Sullivan

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Fred Sullivan

Portrait of Fred Sullivan

Frederic Sullivan ((1837-12-25)25 December 1837 – 18 January 1877(1877-01-18)) was an English actor and singer. He is best remembered as the creator of the role of the Learned Judge in Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, providing a model for the comic roles in the later Savoy Operas composed by his brother Arthur Sullivan.

By 1870, Sullivan had abandoned architecture for a career on stage. In 1871, he first performed the role of Mr. Cox in a revival of his brother's first comic opera, Cox and Box, and later that year created the role of Apollo in the first Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Thespis. He then remained with the Gaiety Theatre company, playing in Jacques Offenbach pieces, among others. In 1874 he played in comic operas on tour and in other London theatres.

In 1875, he created the role of the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury, also playing in the accompanying Offenbach piece, La Périchole, and earning enthusiastic reviews. He then toured in Trial, and French operettas, returning to London for the revival of Trial. By early 1876, Sullivan's health was deteriorating, and he was forced to stop performing in October 1876. He died in January 1877, leaving a pregnant widow and seven young children. Arthur Sullivan's enduring song, "The Lost Chord", was composed at Fred's bedside. After Fred's death, Arthur became guardian to the children and helped support Fred's family for the rest of his life even after they moved to California against his wishes. He left the bulk of his estate to Fred's children.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Trial by Jury and death 2
  • Family and legacy 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life and career

Born in Lambeth, England, Sullivan was the elder brother of composer Arthur Sullivan. His father, Thomas Sullivan (1805–1866), was a military bandmaster and music teacher born in Ireland, who was educated in Chelsea, London and was based for some years at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[1] His mother Mary Clementina (née Coghlan, 1811–1882) was English, of Irish and Italian descent.[1][2] He trained as an architectural draftsman but soon decided on a career as a performer. Later, he quipped, "I still draw large houses."[3] According to Leslie Ayre, Fred sometimes accompanied Arthur to the Chapel Royal and "amuse[d] the boys with comic songs".[3]

Sullivan played Mr. Cox in this 1874 production

Sullivan first appeared in several amateur productions, but his professional London debut is believed to have been as Ali Brown Windsor in a burlesque by Robert Reece, Whittington Junior, and his Sensation Cat, at the New Royalty Theatre in 1870, and as Smart in the accompanying farce Rendezvous.[4] The next year, at the Alhambra Theatre, he took the role of Mr. Cox in a revival of his brother Arthur Sullivan's first comic opera, Cox and Box, with a libretto by F. C. Burnand.[5] Later in 1871, he ran a provincial touring company, playing Cox, with Richard Temple as Bouncer and Richard D'Oyly Carte conducting. The other works played by "Sullivan's Operetta Company" that summer were two Offenbach adaptations, Rose of Auvergne (with Sullivan as Pierre) and Breaking the Spell, in which Selina Dolaro starred.[6]

Sullivan created the role of Apollo in his brother's first operatic collaboration with W. S. Gilbert, Thespis, at the Gaiety Theatre, which ran from December 1871 until March 1872. During this run, he also starred in the companion pieces Dearer than Life by H. J. Byron[7] and Ganymede and Galatea, among other works. He continued to appear at the Gaiety Theatre in 1872 and 1873, playing Patachon in Jacques Offenbach's Les deux aveugles (1872)[4] and in The Magic Fife, a translation of another Offenbach operetta (1873). He moved to the Holborn Empire Theatre by early 1874.[5]

After performances in the spring at

  • and Sullivan as JudgeTrial by JuryHistorical discussion of
  • 3 February 1877The Musical WorldObituary notice in
  • Information about Fred's family, including descendants
  • Les deux aveuglesInformation about a programme listing Fred Sullivan playing Patachon in

External links

  • "Frederick Sullivan, Thespian", Gilbert and Sullivan Journal, September 1971 and January 1972
  • Ainger, Michael (2002). Gilbert and Sullivan – A Dual Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • Allen, Reginald; Gale R. D'Luhy (1958). Sir Arthur Sullivan – Composer & Personage. New York: The Pierpont Morgan Library. 
  • Ayre, Leslie (1972). The Gilbert & Sullivan Companion. London: W.H. Allen & Co Ltd.  
  • Hayes, Scott. Uncle Arthur: The California Connection (2002) Sir Arthur Sullivan Society
  • Jacobs, Arthur (1992). Arthur Sullivan – A Victorian Musician (Second ed.). Portland, OR: Amadeus Press. 
  • Prestige, Colin "Frederic Sullivan, Thespian", The Gilbert & Sullivan Journal, September 1971 and January 1972 issues.
  • Rollins, Cyril; R. John Witts (1961). The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. London: Michael Joseph, Ltd.  (and four supplements published in 1966, 1971, 1976, and 1983)
  • Young, Percy M. (1971). Sir Arthur Sullivan. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. 


  1. ^ a b Ainger, pp. 6 and 22–23
  2. ^ Sullivan, Arthur, Sir, 1842-1900. Correspondence with W. S. Gilbert, Harvard University Library
  3. ^ a b Ayre, p. 407
  4. ^ a b c Rendezvous and Whittington Jr.Programmes for
  5. ^ a b c Stone, David. websiteWho Was Who in the D'Oyly CarteBiography of Fred Sullivan at the
  6. ^ Liverpool Mercury, 5 September 1871, p. 1
  7. ^ and companion piecesThespisLinks to programme materials for
  8. ^ The Era', 26 April 1874, p. 16
  9. ^ Birmingham Daily Post, 2 June 1874, p. 8
  10. ^ a b Ainger, p. 107
  11. ^ "The London Theatres", The Era, 6 September 1874, p. 11. It was coupled with a version of Offenbach's Deux Aveugles, called A Mere Blind, and Acts II and III of The Princess of Trebizonde, starring Nellie Farren. Meyer Lutz conducted.
  12. ^ Grossmith, George. "Sir Arthur Sullivan", The Pall Mall Magazine, vol. 23, no. 94 (February 1901), p. 250
  13. ^ The Era, 25 October 1874, p. 14
  14. ^ The Era, 6 September 1874. p. 16
  15. ^ Allen, p. 31, quoting the Daily Telegraph
  16. ^ Allen, p. 31, quoting The Times
  17. ^ Ayre, p. 408
  18. ^ a b McElroy, George. "Whose Zoo; or, When Did the Trial Begin?", Nineteenth Century Theatre Research, 12, December 1984, pp. 39-54; Rollins and Witts, Third supplement.
  19. ^ Ainger, p. 113
  20. ^ Ainger, p. 120
  21. ^ Hayes, pp. 6-8
  22. ^ Hayes, p. 9
  23. ^ Hayes, pp. 10-12
  24. ^ Hayes, pp. 14-22
  25. ^ Hayes, pp. 23-32
  26. ^ The Gilbert and Sullivan Journal, September 1965, p. 310


Fred Sullivan is buried at Brompton Cemetery, London, together with his parents, Thomas Sullivan and Mary Clementina Sullivan. It was originally planned that Arthur would also be buried there until Queen Victoria insisted on his interment in St Paul's Cathedral.[26]

Charlotte died in January 1885, barely a year after the move to California. Hutchinson, unable to cope with this loss and his responsibilities, soon returned to England, leaving the six children to be raised mostly by Charlotte's brother and the older girls, with the financial support of their uncle Arthur.[23] From June through August 1885, after completing his work on The Mikado, Arthur Sullivan travelled to America to visit the family in Los Angeles and to take them on a sightseeing trip of the American West, including Yosemite Valley.[24] Arthur Sullivan continued, throughout the rest of his life and in his will, to take good care of Fred's children, continuing to correspond with them and to be concerned with their education, marriages and financial affairs. Bertie lived with his uncle in London for the rest of Arthur's life.[25]

In December 1883, at the urging of Charlotte's brother, William Lacy, Charlotte, her new husband, and six of her seven surviving children emigrated to Los Angeles, California, leaving the oldest son, Bertie, in Arthur Sullivan's sole care. Despite Arthur's reservations about the move to Los Angeles, he paid for the trip and continued to give very substantial financial support to the family.[22]

[21] Sullivan married Charlotte Louisa Lacy (1841–1885) in 1862, and they had eight children: Amy Sophie (1863–1947), Florence Louise (1865–1891), Edith Mary (1866–1877),

Sullivan in an early role

Family and legacy

A 1913 recording of "The Lost Chord" sung by Reed Miller.

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Sullivan died of liver disease and tuberculosis in Fulham, in 1877, at the age of only 39. Arthur Sullivan's enduring song, "The Lost Chord", was composed at Fred's bedside just five days before Fred died, and it is dedicated to his memory.[5]

After the Royalty closed for the summer in June 1875, Fred Sullivan toured with Dolaro's company, performing in operettas, playing the Viceroy in La Périchole and Pomponnet in Lecocq’s La fille de Madame Angot, as well as the Judge in Trial.[18] He was back at the Royalty Theatre when it reopened for the autumn season, again playing the Judge, and continued in the role when the show opened at the Opera Comique beginning in January 1876,[19] except when he played the role in a few matinee performances at the Gaiety Theatre. In March 1876, W. S. Penley replaced Sullivan as the Judge for several performances when Sullivan was too ill to play the role because of his worsening tuberculosis.[20] Sullivan was, however, able to resume the role until the production closed in May. From May to October, Emily Soldene's company played Trial on tour with Sullivan as the Judge, but at the end of the tour his declining health forced him to retire.[18]

Sullivan next joined the company of Selina Dolaro at the Royalty Theatre, opening on 30 January 1875 in the role of Don Andres, the British Viceroy, in Offenbach's La Périchole. Richard D'Oyly Carte was manager of the theatre for Dolaro, and when one of La Périchole's companion pieces proved weak, Carte asked Gilbert to collaborate with Arthur Sullivan to write a one-act piece, Trial by Jury, for the theatre. Gilbert and Sullivan wrote the role of the Learned Judge for Fred Sullivan, and Trial by Jury opened at the Royalty 25 March 1875. Fred also continued to play Don Andres.[10] Sullivan was made up for the role of the Learned Judge to look like the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Alexander Cockburn. The first-night critics reserved especial praise for his performance: "The greatest 'hit' was made by Mr. F. Sullivan, whose blending of official dignity, condescension, and, at the right moment, extravagant humour, made the character of the Judge stand out with all requisite prominence, and added much to the interest of the piece."[15] The Times concurred: "Mr. F. Sullivan's impersonation of the learned and impressionable Judge deserves a special word of praise for its quiet and natural humour."[16] Sullivan's performance was the hit of the show. F. C. Burnand wrote of him: "Fred Sullivan, Arthur's brother, was one of the most naturally comic little men I ever came across. He, too, was a first-rate practical musician. ... As he was the most absurd person, so was he the very kindliest. The brothers were devoted to each other".[17]

Fred Sullivan as The Learned Judge in Trial by Jury

Trial by Jury and death

[14], for which Sullivan was credited as "secretary", but in which he did not perform.La fille de Madame Angot's Lecocq In the autumn of that year, he and Carte were both concerned in presenting a touring production of [13].Hervé by G. M. Layton and Melusine the Enchantress and at the Holborn Amphitheatre as the impoverished and henpecked Duke of Rodomont, in [4] by F. C. Burnand, with music selected by W. C. Levey,extravaganza opéra bouffe, an Ixion Rewheel'd as Mercury in Opera Comique Later in 1874, he appeared at the [12]

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