1889: When Concord New Hampshire First Feted the Bard

Shakespeare's Birthday in Concord N.H.–For the first time in the history

of the capital of New Hampshire the 23d of April was appropriately observed this year by the six Shakespeare clubs and their friends.  In the afternoon a reception was given by two ladies of the “Shakespeare” and the “Warwick” Clubs in honor of Mrs. Abba Goold Woolson, of Boston.  Mrs. Woolson was for a long time a resident of our city, and by her Shakespearean and other lectures has done much to educate the literary taste of Concord.

  About two hundred and fifty ladies and gentlemen attended the reception, which was a very pretty affair.  The invitations were unusually artistic and bore Shakespeare's coat of arms in gold.  The house was elaborately decorated with flowers and adorned with many photographs and engravings of Shakespearean scenes, with portraits and a bust of the poet.  A little page in Elizabethan costume opened the door, and the supper-table was attended by Anne Boleyn and the French princess Katharine, while the refreshments were served by Ophelia, Perdita, Portia, and Juliet.

  In the evening Mrs. Woolson gave a lecture on “The Homes of Shakespeare.” The attendance was not quite three hundred people, and the entire proceeds are to go for the furnishing of the Shakespeare Room in the Fowler Library.  This fine building, which was given to the city last October through the generosity of Clara M. and William P. Fowler, of Boston, former residents of Concord, contains a beautiful room in the second story especially set apart for Shakespearean uses. It was left unfurnished by the givers in order that the Shakespeare clubs might have full opportunity to exercise their taste and judgment in its arrangement. The proceeds of the Woolson lecture are sufficient to provide necessary furniture, so that the room can be occupied by the clubs next season.

  The names of the six clubs are the “Shakespeare,” the “Stratford,” the “Avon,” the “Warwick,” the “Juniors,” and the “Monday Evening.”  They range in age from two to twelve years, the Shakespeare Club being the eldest. With the exception of the Warwick, all are composed of ladies, the average membership being sixteen. The Warwick is about double the size of the others, is composed of ladies and gentlemen, and meets fortnightly.  The clubs begin reading about the first of November and continue till April or May.
  The Stratford Club has a field-day each year, which always proves a delightful occasion. The trip this summer (the sixth) will be to North Woodstock, at the southern end of the Franconia Notch, and the date is June 25.

  Speaking in a general way of the societies, I may say that the Concord clubs believe in reading Shakespeare rather than in reading about him.  Very few of the members prepare papers or essays, but most of them make an effort to attend good theatrical performances of the plays.  Next to continual reading of the text we believe this is the best way to know the great dramatist.    — Frances M. Abbott (Stratford Club.)

From: POET-LORE, A monthly magazine devoted to Shakespeare, Browning and the

Comparative Study of Literature, edited by Charlotte Porter and Helen A.

Clark, 1889, The Poet-Lore Co.

Authors note: apologies to William Shakespeare who looks disturbingly well wearing a party hat!  (JB)

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