The Complete Works of Shakspere

The other day my family took a little vacation to the Newport Mansions, a neighborhood of Gilded Age mansions owned by families like the Vanderbilts. Everything we saw was all mid-to-late 1800’s and basically looked like sets from Downton Abbey.

Of course I spent all my time looking for Shakespeare references.

At one point I did see a book open on a table that said something about the lamentable death of King Edward the something.  I leaned so far over the rope to read more that an alarm went off ;).  But I don’t believe I was looking at anything Shakespearean.

What I did see, in one of the libraries, was a set of volumes entitled “The Complete Works of Shakspere”.  Note the spelling. I even called the kids over to spot it.

I wonder if I was looking at this 1850 edition?

What frustrates me is I came back to the computer and started googling for references to either Vanderbilt Shakespeare, or gilded age Shakespeare.  What I found in the case of the former was little more than stories from Vanderbilt University’s Shakespeare program, and nothing about the families potential early interest in our favorite playwright.

When I googled the latter I discovered the novel of the same name by Mr. Mark Twain, and I think I learned that Shakespeare is actually where we get the term in the first place? That I did not know.  I knew about laughing at gilded butterflies and gilding the lilly but I guess I never made the connection that the entire expression to gild something all comes from Shakespeare.

What was the state of American Shakespeare in the late 1800’s, anybody know? We know about President Lincoln’s interest, and the Booth family.  I guess I just assumed that somewhere in one of those mansions in all the stories about all the parties they threw, somebody would have mention something Shakespearean, someplace.

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