Memorial to W.S. Gilbert

From the website of the Grim’s Dyke Hotel, London:

“If you cross the road from Victoria Embankment, on the retaining river wall, the northern side of Hungerford Bridge, you’ll find the memorial to Sir William Schwenck Gilbert. Showing a bronze side profile of the dramatist, it has two wreaths above, a shield below and two women depicting tragedy and comedy. Tragedy has a book on her lap and is handing Gilbert flowers, whilst Comedy has puppet characters from The Mikado and is staring at one in her hand.

The epitaph plaque between the two women states: ‘1836 W.S. Gilbert – 1911. Playwright & Poet. His foe was folly & his weapon wit’. On the scroll with the shield beneath, it states ‘Mallem mori quam mutare’*, which translates to ‘I would rather die than change’. 

The memorial was created by British sculptor and leading member of the New Sculptor movement, Sir George James Frampton. It was erected in 1915.

Frampton was born in London, on 18th June 1860. His father was a stonemason and Frampton was a practising artist at the Royal Academy of Arts, earning him his Royal Academician status. Frampton refused to limit himself to one single medium. He preferred instead, to use a material for the effect he desired, and therefore, drew upon many materials, including bronze, marble, mother of pearl, shells and amber, and even ivory, lapis lazuli, gold and silver in his work.

Frampton’s most memorable works include the bronze statue commissioned by, and depicting, J. M. Barrie’s famous literary character ‘Peter Pan’, in Kensington Gardens, the lions at the British Museum and Edith Cavell memorial that stands outside the National Portrait Gallery.

Married to artist Christabel Cockerell, Frampton had one son, painter and etcher Meredith Frampton. George Frampton died on 21st May 1928 and his ashes lie in a niche on the ground floor of east wing of the Ernest George Columbarium.

Interestingly, if you cross the road and go back into the Victoria Embankment gardens, you’ll find a statue of W.S. Gilbert’s previous partner, Arthur Sullivan.

Created by Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John, the statue was unveiled by Princess Louise on 10th July 1903. A weeping muse leans against the stone pillar on which the bust of Sullivan stands, mourning his loss. Below the bust is an inscription of W.S. Gilbert’s words from The Yeomen of the Guard, ‘Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon.’ At the bottom of the pedestal lie some sheet music, a mandolin and a Pan mask.  Sullivan’s statue looks towards the Savoy Theatre and is only a few hundred yards away from Gilbert’s statue – seemingly bringing the pair closer once more, near a place they both loved.”

*From ELYARD Genealogy:

“GILBERT family of Blatchington (later Eastbourne), Sussex, England

These arms were initially granted to Nicholas Gilbert of Blatchington, Sussex, in 1662. Since then, four other visitations are recorded, with the most recent being granted to a descendant in 1926.

‘Argent, on a chevron sable, three roses argent. Crest, on a wreath of the colours, a squirrel sejant erect gules, holding a nut. Motto: Mallem Mori Quam Mutare’   (Death rather than change)”

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