Remembering Shakespeare has explored David Garrick’s appropriation of Shakespeare, and the emergence of Shakespeare as an English national icon over the course of the eighteenth century. “While these visions did appear”: Shakespeare on Canvas, a parallel exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art, considers the visual engagement with Shakespearean performance and text in the eighteenth century. An online gallery shows some of the exhibition highlights, drawn from the permanent collections of the Yale Center for British Art.
As exhibition curators Eleanor Hughes and Christina Smylitopoulos relate, “Artists and patrons in the eighteenth century responded to and encouraged the assertion of Shakespeare as Britain’s foremost national playwright. Through the remarkable efforts of David Garrick, the actor and Drury Lane theater manager, the plays flourished on the stage, while the promotion of the playwright as the “immortal bard” was seized as an opportunity to foster a British school of history painting.”
David Garrick and his wife by his Temple to Shakespeare, Hampton, painted by Johan Joseph Zoffany, ca. 1762. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
While these visions did appear was curated by Eleanor Hughes, Associate Curator and Head of Exhibitions and Publications, and Christina Smylitopoulos, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Exhibitions and Publications at the Center. It is on view through Sunday, July 29, 2012 at the Yale Center for British Art.
Remembering Shakespeare draws on the Shakespearean collections, in print and manuscript, across Yale University’s institutional holdings, in particular those of Yale’s Elizabethan Club, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale Center for British Art, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. But another concurrent exhibition, “Yale’s Shakespeareans,” on view in Yale University Library’s Memorabilia Room, documents Shakespeare particularly at Yale, in the curricula, performances, and collections of its faculty and students over centuries.
Elizabethan Club, Yale University, records, ca. 1900-2007 (inclusive). Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University
“Confidential have secured entire collection Huth sale Shakespeares,” writes Yale graduate Alexander Smith Cochran (BA, 1896) in this cablegram to the Yale University Librarian, Andrew Keogh. The Henry Huth collection of early printed editions of Shakespeare’s plays was to form the cornerstone of the extraordinary collections of Yale University’s Elizabethan Club, which Smith Cochran founded in 1911.
Another beloved item from the collections of the Lewis Walpole Library, and included in “‘The God of all our idolatry’: Garrick and Shakespeare” an exhibition on view at the Lewis Walpole Library through September 28, 2012.
“Mr Garrick in the Character of Richard the 3d,” by William Hogarth. Collection of Prints from Pictures Painted for the Purpose of Illustrating the dramatic Works of Shakespeare, by the Artists of Great Britain. London: John and Josiah Boydell, 1803. From the collections of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University
Anna Jameson’s moral rendition of Shakespeare for young women, and Charles Lamb’s 1830 Tales from Shakspeare for children, were only two examples of the improving, instructive Shakespeare of the nineteenth century. So inspirational was Shakespeare that even the shape of his head could be used to inform, as in these physiognomical rolls, used in an American traveling lecture, c. 1855. Here Shakespeare joins Jonathan Edwards and other illustrious figures as an example of a fine head.
A recent addition to the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Call number: Gen MSS 858
The expectation that Shakespeare would edify as well as entertain arose only much later. Even (or perhaps especially) in mid-eighteenth century America, Shakespeare was cobbled in the “many Valuable Books” in the 1742 Yale College Library catalog, but only at the very end, alongside Cervantes, Ben Jonson, and others of colorful repute. The student was encouraged to intermix these “other less principal Studies” only with the most regular course of study.
And yet, intermix readers clearly did, as the copy of Rowe’s 1714 Shakespeare listed here does not survive in the Yale University Library collections. The copy of Ben Jonson’s works does, however: much signed and annotated, much foxed, in library buckram, and bearing all the marks of a well-loved and diverting academical interlude.
Like Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare’s texts were themselves also adopted, with varying degrees of success and anxiety, as morally instructive works for young readers. In her “Essays on Shakespeare’s Female Characters,” Anna Jameson sought to improve young women through vignettes of Shakespearean female characters, as here with Juliet, Lady Macbeth, and a scene of instruction in the library.
Anna Jameson, Characteristics of women, moral, poetical and historical: with fifty vignette etchings (London, 1832). From the collections of the Beinecke Library, Yale University
Shakespeare’s Stratford acquired its own moral force by the late eighteenth century, as we have seen in William Henry Ireland’s scouting expeditions to Shakespeare’s native and archival fount. This aura was only to build over the course of the nineteenth century, as Stratford emerged as site of pilgrimage for visitors from Britain, America, and beyond. A visit to Shakespeare’s childhood haunts was viewed as edifying, shaping youthful character, as seen in this 1893 edition of the Boys’ Own Paper, touting Stratford as a formative force for Britain’s emergent leaders.