February 24, 1827: A Midsummer Night’s Prayer Meeting

“The Family Shakespeare — in which nothing is added to the original text,censored-shakespeare but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family. My great objects in this undertaking are to remove from the writings of Shakespeare some defects which diminish their value.”

Thus read an introduction for the 1807 edition of Shakespeare’s works, finally made suitable for general audiences by Thomas Bowdler some 200 years after the Bard was safely buried. Certainly Shakespeare, were he alive, could not have objected to having the defects which diminished their value removed from his works. Shakespeare and family values — together at last.

Shakespeare no doubt would have thanked Thomas Bowdler who joined him in the hereafter on February 24, 1827.

Bowdler undertook this project, along with his sister Henrietta, thanks to childhood memories in which his father had entertained his family with readings from Shakespeare. Only later as an adult did Bowdler realize that his father had been leaving out some of the naughty parts of the plays, anything he felt unsuitable for the ears of his wife and children. Realizing that not all fathers were clever enough to censor on the spot, Bowdler decided it would be worthwhile to publish an edition which came already sanitized and “expletive deleted.” True to his word and to his credit, Bowdler did not add anything to the Shakespeare texts as some earlier tinkers had (Poet Laureate Nathum Tate had, for example, given King Lear a happy ending.)

More than a century later, scholars decided that sister Henrietta had a somewhat heavier hand in the expurgations than previously believed. Naturally, as an unmarried lady, it would have been scandalous for her to admit having read, much less understood, the naughty stuff removed.

Later publications by Bowdler demonstrated his interest in and knowledge of continental Europe (with France presumably excised). His last work was a rather monumental expurgated version of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — no togas, no orgies — published posthumously in 1826. His version of Lady Chatterley’s Acquaintance turned out to be three pages long.

Bowdler has been recognized for his contributions to English literature by being awarded an adjective — bowdlerize, to change a book, play, movie, etc. by removing parts that could offend people.

 

From my earliest years I had always wanted to be a writer. It was not that I had any particular message for humanity. I am still plugging away and not the ghost of one so far, so it begins to look as though, unless I suddenly hit mid-season form in my eighties, humanity will remain a message short. ~ P. G. Wodehouse

 

 

 

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February 19, 1600: Thar She Blows

Back in the 16th century, the natives of Arequipa in the Andean mountains of Peru led a simple, uncluttered existence, pounding stuff on volcano1rocks, doing folk dances and sacrificing bits of clothing, animals and virgins to the neighborhood volcano, Huaynaputina. The sacrifices kept Supay, the god of death, happy. It’s always best — though not necessarily easy — to keep the god of death happy. But then along came the buttinsky Spanish to colonize South America, and right away they outlawed the practice of sacrifice. Well, we we can be certain Supay was not amused. In fact, Father Alonso Ruiz of Arequipa in 1599 predicted an imminent “hit from heaven.”
supaySure enough, Huaynaputina began to noisily pass gas.  The local natives scrambled to appease the volcano, preparing virgins, pets, and flowers for sacrifice. Huaynaputina just kept chugging and rumbling and carrying on as though it were about to blow its top, and on February 19, 1600, it did. With a huge fiery explosion, it spewed volcanic ash into the Peruvian sky. Rivers of lava flowed down the mountain. Supay was throwing one mean tantrum. Within 24 hours, Arequipa was covered with a foot of ash, and most everyone around was dead.

Not only did Huaynaputina do a number on Peru, it also affected a good part of the world. In the northern hemisphere, 1601 was the coldest year in six centuries. There was a famine in Russia. In China, the peach trees didn’t bloom. In France, the wine harvest was late.

All for the want of a virgin or two.

 

Success didn’t spoil me, I’ve always been insufferable. ~ Fran Lebowitz

 

 

February 24, 1827: A Midsummer Night’s Prayer Meeting

“The Family Shakespeare — in which nothing is added to the original text,censored-shakespeare but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family. My great objects in this undertaking are to remove from the writings of Shakespeare some defects which diminish their value.”

Thus read an introduction for the 1807 edition of Shakespeare’s works, finally made suitable for general audiences by Thomas Bowdler some 200 years after the Bard was safely buried. Certainly Shakespeare, were he alive, could not have objected to having the defects which diminished their value removed from his works. Shakespeare and family values — together at last.

Shakespeare no doubt would have thanked Thomas Bowdler who joined him in the hereafter on February 24, 1827.

Bowdler undertook this project, along with his sister Henrietta, thanks to childhood memories in which his father had entertained his family with readings from Shakespeare. Only later as an adult did Bowdler realize that his father had been leaving out some of the naughty parts of the plays, anything he felt unsuitable for the ears of his wife and children. Realizing that not all fathers were clever enough to censor on the spot, Bowdler decided it would be worthwhile to publish an edition which came already sanitized and “expletive deleted.” True to his word and to his credit, Bowdler did not add anything to the Shakespeare texts as some earlier tinkers had (Poet Laureate Nathum Tate had, for example, given King Lear a happy ending.)

More than a century later, scholars decided that sister Henrietta had a somewhat heavier hand in the expurgations than previously believed. Naturally, as an unmarried lady, it would have been scandalous for her to admit having read, much less understood, the naughty stuff removed.

Later publications by Bowdler demonstrated his interest in and knowledge of continental Europe (with France presumably excised). His last work was a rather monumental expurgated version of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — no togas, no orgies — published posthumously in 1826. His version of Lady Chatterley’s Acquaintance turned out to be three pages long.

Bowdler has been recognized for his contributions to English literature by being awarded an adjective — bowdlerize, to change a book, play, movie, etc. by removing parts that could offend people.

 

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason. — Jack Handey

 

 

February 17, 1895: New Kid on the Block

Mickey Dugan, a bald, snaggle-toothed kid with a silly grin who always wore an over-sized yellow hand-me-down nightshirt, was right at home in the 19th century New York slum known as Hogan’s Alley, and beginning on February 17, 1895, became right at home in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World.
yellowkid
In the neighborhood filled with quirky characters that was home to R. F. Outcalt’s comic strip, Mickey, also know as the Yellow Kid was the quirkiest. The Hogan’s Alley comic strip gradually became a full-page Sunday color cartoon with the Kid as its main character. He spoke in a muddled slang that was practically his own language, and everything he said was printed on his nightshirt as though he were a walking billboard.

yellow_kidIt may have been a cartoon, but Outcault’s comic strip aimed its humor and social commentary squarely at an adult audience. It has been described as a turn-of-the-century theater of the city, in which a group of mischievous ragamuffins act out the class and racial tensions of their urban environment.

As the Kid’s popularity  grew, the strip’s presence actually increased paper sales for the World, and led to all sorts of merchandising from dolls to playing cards to cigarettes.  It also earned Outcault the appellation ‘father of the comic strip.’

Several years later, Outcault created the character Buster Brown who became a spokesboy for the Brown Shoe Co with the immortal line “Hi! I’m Buster Brown and I live in a shoe. This is my dog, Tige, and he lives there, too.”

 

carlin