“I am thy father’s spirit,/Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,…”*

*from Act I, scene V of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

Image: (Wikipedia): “The Chandos portrait is the most famous of the portraits that are believed to depict William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616). Painted between 1600 and 1610, it may have served as the basis for the engraved portrait of Shakespeare used in the First Folio in 1623. It is named after the Dukes of Chandos, who formerly owned the painting. The portrait was given to the National Portrait Gallery, London on its foundation in 1856, and it is listed as the first work in its collection.

From Wikipedia:

“Thomas Bowdler, LRCP, FRS (1754-1825) was an English doctor best known for publishing The Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. The work, edited by his sister Henrietta Maria Bowdler, was intended to provide a version of Shakespeare that was more appropriate than the original for 19th-century women and children. Bowdler also published several other works, some reflecting his interest in and knowledge of continental Europe. Bowdler’s last work was an expurgated version of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published posthumously in 1826 under the supervision of his nephew and biographer, Thomas Bowdler the Younger.

The verb bowdlerise (or bowdlerize) has linked his name with the censorship or omission of elements deemed inappropriate for children, not only in literature but also in motion pictures and television programmes.

Thomas Bowdler was born in Box, near Bath, Somerset, the youngest son of the six children of Thomas Bowdler (c. 1719–1785), a banker of substantial fortune, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Cotton (d. 1797), the daughter of Sir John Cotton, 6th Baronet of Conington, Huntingdonshire. Bowdler studied medicine at the universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, where he received his degree in 1776, graduating with a thesis on intermittent fevers. He spent the next four years travelling through continental Europe, visiting Germany, Hungary, Italy, Sicily, and Portugal. In 1781 he caught a fever in Lisbon from a young friend whom he was attending to through a fatal illness. He returned to England in broken health and with a strong aversion to the medical profession. In 1781 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP), but did not continue to practise medicine. He devoted himself instead to the cause of prison reform.

Bowdler was also a strong chess player and once played eight recorded games against the best chess player of the time, François-André Danican Philidor, who was so confident of his superiority that he played with several handicaps. Bowdler won twice, lost three times, and drew three times. The Bowdler Attack is named after him.

In Bowdler’s childhood, his father had entertained his family with readings from Shakespeare. Later in life, Bowdler realized that his father had been omitting or altering passages he felt unsuitable for the ears of his wife and children. Bowdler felt it would be worthwhile to publish an edition which might be used in a family whose father was not a sufficiently “circumspect and judicious reader” to accomplish this expurgation himself.

Some examples of alterations made by Bowdler’s edition:

• In Hamlet, the death of Ophelia was referred to as an accidental drowning, omitting the suggestions that she may have intended suicide.

• “God!” as an exclamation is replaced with “Heavens!”

• In Henry IV, Part 2, the prostitute Doll Tearsheet is omitted entirely; the slightly more reputable Mistress Quickly is retained.

Prominent modern literary figures such as Michiko Kakutani (in the New York Times) and William Safire (in his book, How Not to Write) have accused Bowdler of changing Lady Macbeth’s famous “Out, damned spot!” line in Macbeth to “Out, crimson spot!” But Bowdler did not do that. Thomas Bulfinch and Stephen Bulfinch did, in their 1865 edition of Shakespeare’s works.”

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