Balz Engler

Shakespeare, Washington, Lincoln: The Folger Library and the American appropriation of the Bard



The Folger Shakespeare Library, in its history and in the shape that it has gradually acquired, is a document of the American appropriation of Shakespeare. Built as a shrine both to Shakespeare and to the American entrepreneurship making the collection possible, the choice of location immediately invited its being placed in the symbolic geography of the American capital, and gave Shakespeare a privileged place, that of origin, among American heroes. The history of the collection and of the building also illustrate the problems of such an appropriation, of an Elizabethan English author to an imperial twentieth-century America. It shows how America tried to ingest Shakespeare whole, but eventually managed to transform him into its own transcendental origin. What the Folgers may have started, like other book collectors of their time, notably, Furness and Huntington (*1), as the acquisition of a revered past, became something else as the project developed, something truly American, something truly imperial.

Within walking distance from the Capitol in Washington DC, between 2nd and 3rd Street, and facing East Capitol Street, beside the enormous Victorian-style Jefferson building of the Library of Congress and near the Cecil B. de Mille-Roman structure of the Supreme Court, there is what continues to be one of the most splendid buildings in the US capital, a huge white marble box, inscribed: "The Folger Shakespeare Library," "Shakespeare" duly written in somewhat larger letters. It is surrounded by shrubbery, by a lawn in front of its main façade to the north, a small Elizabethan garden to the East, and a fountain in the West, towards the Capitol, showing Puck and his words "Lord, what fooles these mortals be!" (Mids. III.2.115). This frame, suggesting Nature in different degrees of domestication (*2), separates the building from its metropolitan surroundings.

The building itself, raised above street-level on a pedestal, is in exquisite art deco style. Its main façade towards East Capitol Street blends in with the classicism of its surroundings. Between two entrances nine high rectangular windows are cut into its shiny surface, separated by flat pilasters, without either base or capital. Above this middle section of the façade, where the classical arrangement would demand a sculptural frieze, there are three inscriptions instead. The central one (*3) is from the First Folio: "HIS WIT CAN NO MORE LIE HID THEN IT COVLD BE LOST. READE HIM THEREFORE: AND AGAINE AND AGAINE. John Heminge. Henrie Condell." Strikingly, these inscriptions combine historical English spelling, Roman lettering, and, as a democratic gesture, an indication of their sources. Large, strongly sculpted reliefs instead appear below the windows, at eye level for the onlooker, depicting climactic scenes from nine Shakespeare plays, with the death of Julius Caesar in a central position (*4). They contribute substantially to the impression of a treasure chest.

The Folger, as it is affectionately called by those who have had the privilege of working there, is indeed a treasure chest. It offers the finest collection in the world of Shakespeareana, and other books and objects from the early modern period to the eighteenth century. Among the books there are more than eighty Folio editions of Shakespeare (*5), about one third of those still extant, and a large number of Quartos, among them the only existing copy of Titus Andronicus.

The collection was brought together by Henry Clay Folger (1857-1930) and his wife Emily Clara Jordan Folger (1858-1936), in a sustained effort of forty years. Folger, an executive of Standard Oil in New York, used his increasing wealth for their collection. In 1928 he resigned from his post as chairman of the board and devoted all his energy to the project of the library. At his death in 1930, the building was well under way; it was dedicated on April 23, 1932. The Folgers also left a substantial endowment for the further development of their project, for the expansion of its holdings, for exhibitions based on them, for educational and academic programs and cultural events.

The Folger was not originally conceived as the research library it is now. Its founders first wanted it to be called the "Folger Shakespeare Memorial," but then Emily Folger felt that this name had inspired Philippe Cret, the architect of the building, who had also designed several war memorials (*6), to propose too somber a façade. Folger explained: "Of course we mean the memorial to be a testimonial, rather than something serious" (*7) --i.e. something to be remembered for. But they decided to change the title to "Folger Shakespeare Foundation". And some months later Folger wrote again to the architect: "We now have come to the conclusion that the simplest form will be the best. Let us, then, put on the building "FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY" (*8). After all, our enterprise is primarily a Library, and all other features are supplemental." (*9)

Two things are instructive about this process of naming. First, the inclusion of the Folgers' name was never in doubt. The memorial was to be both to themselves and to Shakespeare; it did become the kind of somber memorial Emily Folger had feared when they were both buried in it. But at the same time it was to mark the hope of a happy union in spirit. As the pastor put it at Folger's funeral: "I have felt that perhaps after his father and mother and loved ones had greeted him, Will Shakespeare took Henry Clay Folger by the hand, and led him up to the blessed Christ." (*10) But it speaks for the Folgers' modesty they wanted the name "Shakespeare" on the façade to be written in larger letters than their own.

Secondly, the process of naming shows that it took the Folgers some time before they called their project a library, and even then it was not to be simply a resource center. They thought of their memorial as a proud exhibition of books as venerable objects. When planning the basement, Folger expressed the wish that "there will be transferred from the Main room the more common items and less valuable books into these stack rooms; so that at no time will they contain any of the rare, more costly, or better bound volumes." (*11) This arrangement, which banished common reference works from the reading room, was followed in the early years of the Folger as a research library.

At the same time the Folgers were very much aware of the role their library would play for research. As Folger put it in a letter, "my ambition has been to make the United States a center for literary study and progress." (*12) This ambition has been brilliantly realized; in no other place in the world can Shakespeare's printed texts be compared as systematically, in no other place can such comparison be used towards establishing the best texts. Charlton Hinman's facsimile edition of the First Folio, and his study The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (*13) are monuments to this.

The Folgers made their books more available to scholarship; as Michael Bristol has pointed out: "By 'liberating' these rare books from the vagaries and eccentricities of residual proprietary holdings, Folger also freed American Shakespeare scholars from their dependency on England and on the noblesse oblige of owners of 'great houses'. Social credentials thus became less important than professional credentials in achieving access to the material." (*14) Shakespeare studies too could declare themselves independent.


Where in the United States would such a library have to be placed? The Folgers decided early on to build it near the Capitol and the Library of Congress in Washington (*15). Emily Folger's happy childhood memories of Washington, as has been suggested (*16), cannot have played the crucial part in their choice. As Folger wrote to the Librarian of Congress:

Two Universities in the United States have approached me to locate the collection with them, making flattering offers, providing quarters and supervision for it. But I have always preferred to consider Washington as its permanent home, being satisfied that it is of sufficient value and importance to add to the dignity of your City. (*17)

Not only did the Folgers expect their Shakespeare memorial to add to the dignity of the capital of the United States, they also wanted it to be close to the buildings that represent the nation. There was clearly a political vision that determined their choice. Michael Bristol ascribes this to the Folgers' "nationalistic sentiments" (*18), but one may be more specific. This was not the capital of just any nation, but of one that increasingly had imperial aspirations since the Spanish-American War in the 1890's, symbolically articulated in the Roman classicism (*19) of its public buildings and in the universal collections of the Library of Congress. Shakespeare, the universal poet, would be an important acquisition for this imperial project. Not only would it free American Shakespeare scholars from their dependency on England; it would also oblige Shakespeare scholars from all over the world to come to Washington (*20) (an obligation, it has to be said, made a pleasure by the welcoming staff of the Folger).

The political dimension of the Folger Shakespeare Library suggested here is confirmed by how it was immediately given its place in the symbolic geography of the capital (*21). In his address at Folger's funeral in 1930, William Slade, the first director of the library, quoted Ashley Thorndike's observation that 'Washington, Lincoln, Shakespeare . . . are the three whom Americans universally worship,' (*22) and he continued:

[A] line drawn from the site of the Folger Shakespeare Memorial through the Capitol building and extended onward, will all but touch the monument to Washington and the memorial to Lincoln--the two Americans whose light also spreads across the world. The amount of deviation of the extended line will, in fact, be only great enough to indicate the alteration from the older order which finds its summation in the name of Washington, for more than half his lifetime an English subject, albeit an English colonial, and which again finds its summation in the name of Lincoln. (*23)

All three stand for union: Lincoln in the West "for the Union of the States as an enduring fact", Washington for the foundation of the Federal Union, Shakespeare in the East for the transcendent unity that made it all possible, for "the age which produced a poetry that is capable of speaking to each successive age because its living content is itself the material of life." (*24)


Unusually for a building of its kind, the Folger has two main entrances, at the two ends of the North façade, the one to the East marked by the mask of tragedy, the one the West by the mask of comedy. The one to the East, for visitors, leads to the exhibition spaces and the theater, the one on the West to the administrative offices and the reading rooms (*25).

Through the visitors' entrance, which is open to all, we enter a lobby with a barrel vault, which, unlike the outside of the building, does not suggest any particular period style; only the entrances to the adjacent spaces, the Elizabethan Theatre and the Exhibition Gallery, allude to Tudor decorative elements (the same holds true for the lobby to the west). Straight on we enter the Theatre, which reconstructs the idea of an Elizabethan one, based on what was known when the theater was planned in the late 1920's (*26). Today it is sometimes used for theatrical performances; originally it was to be one of the exhibits, which, on occasion, could also be used for public functions, like lectures (*27).

Turning to the right from the lobby we enter the Exhibition Gallery, a large long space between the two lobbies. It combines simple square paneling in darkly varnished Appalachian oak (*28), and a high, richly decorated Tudor-style plastered vault. On the tiled floor we find again the mask of tragedy to the East, that of comedy to the West (*29). The walls above the entrances towards the two lobbies contrast two worlds. Towards the East, where we have come from, there is the coat-of-arms of Queen Elizabeth I, towards the West the contemporary crest of the United States. Below them there are two poetic texts celebrating Shakespeare's inclusiveness, on the English side Garrick's lines: "Thrice happy the nation that Shakespeare has charm'd./ More happy the bosoms his genius has warm'd! / Ye children of nature, of fashion and whim, / He painted you all, all join to praise him." These lines, with their skipping rhythm, are taken from the final chorus of his pantomime Harlequin's Invasion (1759) (*30), in which the Powers of Pantomime are finally overcome by Mount Parnassus, Shakespeare rises and Harlequin sinks, a moment celebrated in the final song, which starts with the lines quoted. In context the quotation may therefore be read as being critical of the English neglect of Shakespeare's serious art.

On the Western or American side we find the more ponderous words of the American poet, essayist and drama critic William Winter (1836-1917), from his poem "At Shakespeare's Grave": "There is not anything of human trial / That ever love deplored or sorrow knew, / No glad fulfillment and no sad denial / Beyond the pictured truth that Shakespeare drew." (*31) Here Shakespeare's works are presented as those of a genius who knew the ultimate truths of human experience and was able to inspire others in writing about them.

The arrangement of the Exhibition Gallery suggests a history, which is reflected in the itinerary prescribed to visitors today. It takes us from East to West, like the symbolic geography of the capital, from England to the United States, from an old world to a new one, from the distant past, the periods of Elizabeth and Garrick, to the present (and future) of America, a history of progress. The juxtaposition of tragedy in the East and comedy in the West, both on the façade and on the floor of the Exhibition Gallery supports such a redemptive account.

But such a reading would be too simple. East and West, and everything associated with them, also seem to stand for conflicts to be resolved, not by force, but by negotiation producing more inclusive solutions. This is suggested by the symmetry of the façade, the juxtaposition of entrances for the general visitors and for those doing serious work on Shakespeare, even by the superimposition of historical English spellings and Roman writing in the inscriptions.


These contrasts and juxtapositions become crucial once we include the main reading room in our considerations. Running parallel to the Exhibition Gallery and south of it, the main reading room is the heart of the Folger and reserved for an academic elite (*32). Entering the building on the West side, having passed the desk of the (very friendly) Folger Shakespeare Library Special Police, which is possible only by permission, a sign saying "Private Offices, No Admittance," and the table of the registrar, we enter the reading room from the West.

We find ourselves in a gigantic Tudor hall, which forms a complete contrast to the art deco exterior, and contradicts the view, widely held when it was built, that "the interior and exterior treatment of a building must possess unity." (*33) The hall is almost 131 feet long, 38 feet wide, and 32 feet high, as high as the building itself, with shelves along the walls, a gallery running around it, and stained glass windows, creating a curious space combining the comfort of American furniture, the stateliness of a noble house, and the hallowedness of a church.

In the East, in front of us, there is a hall screen; where the altar would be placed, a small staircase leads up to the gallery, flanked by the austere portraits of Henry Clay and Emily Folger in academic garb (*34); above it, centrally placed, there is a copy of Shakespeare's monument on the south side of the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, and at its back wall a plaque with the inscription, "To the Glory of William Shakespeare and the Greater Glory of God" and the names and dates of the Folgers. Behind this plaque the ashes of the founders are immured, making the building indeed a memorial both to the Folgers and to Shakespeare.

These are not the only ecclesiastical features of the room. Opposite, on the West side above the entrance, there is a large gothic window; its tracery is again patterned on the chancel window of Holy Trinity. It shows the seven ages of man, as they are presented in Jaques' speech in As You Like It (II.7). (*35) Below this window Shakespeare's universality is stressed by two large old Italian globes flanking the entrance doors, and two inscriptions above them, the only ones by non-Anglo-Saxon writers in the building, one from Goethe, one from Victor Hugo, both celebrating the inspirational quality of Shakespeare's insights, both translated into English (*36).

On the north side, between the shelves towards the Exhibition Gallery, finally, there is a fireplace, above which there is yet another inscription, from Emerson: "England's genius filled all measure / Of heart and soul, of strength and pleasure, / Gave to the mind its Emperor, / And life was larger than before: / Nor sequent centuries could hit / Orbit and sum of Shakespeare's wit. / The men who lived with him became / Poets, for the air was fame." This quotation, according to Mrs. Folger, summarizes her husband's motives for creating the library (*37). Shakespeare, as in the other quotations elaborating on this theme, is viewed as a divinely inspired genius who, in turn, inspired his contemporaries (*38) and can inspire and guide mankind. However, and this is crucial for Folger's project, we need criticism, historical criticism, to understand what may inspire us.

Several conflicting perspectives emerge: Whereas the Exhibition Gallery looks from East to West, the perspective in the main reading room is clearly from West to East, from the modern world not simply back into history, but towards transcendental value offered by it. At the same time, the conflict between the Tudor reading room and the art deco façade--between inside and outside--remains unresolved and is negotiated only to some extent by the lobbies and the less heavily historicized Exhibition Gallery.

Cret explained this conflict as follows:

Mr. and Mrs. Folger desired to see specimens of their collections displayed in a Gallery recalling the period rooms of our museums, and, further, they thought that the scholars who were to work in the Library would feel most at home in surroundings reminiscent of the England of the XVIth or XVIIth centuries. On the other hand, the architect and the consulting architect could readily see that the site selected, facing a wide and straight avenue of one of the most classical cities, surrounded by classical buildings and lying in the very shadow of the classical dome of the Capitol itself, would be inappropriate for an Elizabethan building.

But this only explains the conflicting intentions of those involved. As the exterior of the building and the interior of the main reading room, the container and its contents, now exist beside each other, their conflict marks both the attempt to appropriate Shakespeare in the idiom of imperial classicism and the impossibility of doing this in any way other than by ingesting it in one piece.

Today, there is an addition, the so-called new reading room (*39), built in the early 1980's, which forms a striking contrast both to the old Tudor one just to the north of it and to the building's exterior. Its colors are simple white and sand, its shape based on rectangle and semi-circle. The decoration of the arches takes up elements from the lobbies, and there is again a barrel vault, one, however, that, defying the laws of gravity, hangs from the ceiling. From its edges and perforations indirect light streams into the room, creating a space of unearthly meditative beauty without obvious historical associations; where they are perceptible, they are to an idealized form of late eighteenth-century architecture, the period when Shakespeare acquired his universal role (*40). As one critic exclaims: "Everything here works in concert: function, form, scale, and light--and the space comes as close to being perfect as it is possible to be in this imperfect world." (*41)

Here some of the pictures are hung that the Folgers collected on the side, as it were. Most of them show scenes from Shakespeare's plays. Pride of place, at the center of the East wall, is given to the early nineteenth-century Beadle portrait of Shakespeare (*42), which has an elaborate Gothic frame, crowned by an arch. This suggests an orientation and ecclesiastical spirit similar to the old reading room.

The painting dominating the new reading room, however, both for its theme and its location in the middle of the South wall, is George Romney's allegorical portrait "The Infant Shakespeare Attended by Nature and the Passions" (1791-92), originally executed for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery (*43). It shows Nature in a sand-colored mantle, unveiling her face to the chubby infant Shakespeare, the untutored genius, who, however, is looking at us, and beyond us, towards the chimney piece with the Emerson inscription. Joy and Sorrow (Sorrow dressed in blue), also standing for Comedy and Tragedy, are tending him, while other passions are respectfully looking on. This is an apotheosis of Shakespeare appropriate to this room: "The infant is clearly associated with the Christ Child, as beams of light, surrounded by adoring angels, burst through the clouds. In the middle of the radiant glow appears Shakespeare's name, another example of the Word made flesh." (*44) With this painting and the space it is part of we have left behind the historical contingencies of the old reading room and the exterior of the building and moved into a transcendental realm, that of the divine inspiration Emerson claimed for Shakespeare.


The Folger Shakespeare Library was officially dedicated on Shakespeare's 368th birthday, April 23, 1932, at a moment when economic depression was at its worst. At the ceremony, which was broadcast nation-wide, all the public institutions were represented: "The state, the church, the universities and schools, learned societies, painting, sculpture, music, and literature sent their respective delegates." (*45) The world of academe was represented by Amherst College, in whose trusteeship Folger had placed the library. The president and Mrs. Hoover, surrounded by military and naval aides, as well as the Secretaries of the Navy, of Commerce, and of the Interior, were on the platform, the stage of the Elizabethan Theatre. The British, French and German ambassadors were present. The pastor from the Folgers' church in Brooklyn gave the invocation and the benediction. King George V sent a telegram.

The principal address was given by Joseph Quincy Adams, the research director of the Folger, who spoke on "Shakespeare and American Culture." He took up Ashley Thorndike's observation yet again that there were three persons to whom Americans paid universal homage, Washington, Lincoln, and Shakespeare, and pointed out that "now each of this trinity of heroes has a memorial in the Nation's Capital." (*46) He pointed out how eagerly the British idolization of Shakespeare since the early nineteenth century had been taken up in the United States, and described the crucial role Shakespeare played in education, in preserving a homogeneous culture, since the late nineteenth century, "when foreign immigration, in floodgate fashion, poured into our land." Further, he expressed hope that in the future, Shakespeare would "bind together more and more the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon people." The tie would not be political, "rather it will be spiritual."

The local The Sunday Star reported extensively about the "noble shrine ... dedicated in Washington ... to the supreme genius of the English-speaking race." (*47) It celebrated the "marble temple whose classic grandeur ideally personifies the splendor of him in whose honor it is reared"; and it added: "The Bard of Avon was an Englishman, but he long since ceased to belong exclusively to Britain. ... The American people pay him homage in the proud pretension that he is as much of their cultural bone and sinew as the island that is privileged to call him a native son." (*48)

Since the First World War it had become part of common political rhetoric to stress not only the shared roots of English and American culture, but their unity, which meant that the English would have to share Shakespeare with the Americans. (*49) The shared experience of this war had led to closer ties between the countries, eventually to a "special relationship" (*50). Strikingly, but not surprisingly, the American rhetoric of Shakespeare's universality, and paradoxically their special rights in him, resembled the one used in Germany for the same purpose before the war. As Slade suggestively remarked at Folger's funeral: "It was probably more by chance than by conscious direction that active operations looking to the construction of the Memorial building began on an Armistice Day. That anniversary is the annual reminder of the human kinship written large in Shakespeare's plays." (*51)

On the same day, in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Memorial Theatre, which had burned down six years earlier, was reopened by the Prince of Wales (the King and Queen were attending the Cup Final), in the presence of the ambassadors of many countries and representatives of important social institutions. The speeches emphasized the universal appeal of Shakespeare, but in particular the close ties between Britain and America. The American ambassador Andrew W. Mellon summarized the spirit of many other speeches when he said: "Shakespeare belongs not to one nation but to the world. However, in a special sense we in America share a feeling of pride that England has given such a man to the world. He is part of the heritage we carried in founding a new civilization on the other side of the ocean." (*52) It remained for Stanley Baldwin, the representative of the British government to insist on Shakespeare as a universally acknowledged poet, but ultimately a possession of the English: "The magic that the greatest poets had--the words that seemed to come not from the brain of man but to be caught up from the seventh heaven and brought down to earth--spoke to the native ear as it could not to those who were not native." (*53)




(*1) Other libraries opened to the public at about the same time: the Huntington in 1927, the Furness Library in 1932, on the same day as the Folger. [back to text]

(*2) Folger wrote to the architect of the Folger, Paul Philippe Cret, April 30, 1930: "As the figure for the fountain will be, to a greater or less extent, embowered in shrubbery, the most fitting figure for the purpose would be Puck." (The Folger Archive, Box 57) [back to text]

(*3) The other two, on its left and on its right are: "THOU ART A MONIMENT WITHOVT A TOMBE, AND ART ALIVE STILL, WHILE THY BOOKE DOTH LIVE, AND WE HAVE WITS TO READ AND PRAISE TO GIVE." (Ben Jonson), and "THIS THEREFORE IS THE PRAISE OF SHAKESPEARE THAT HIS DRAMA IS THE MIRROVR OF LIFE." (Samuel Johnson). The texts of the inscriptions (there are more on the west and east façades) were chosen by the Folgers. [back to text]

(*4)To the left there are A Midsummer Night's Dream (IV.1), Romeo and Juliet (III.5), The Merchant of Venice (IV.1), Macbeth (IV. 1), to the right King Lear (III.2), Richard the Third (III.1), Hamlet (III.4) and King Henry IV, part 1 (II.4). [back to text]

(*5) On the complexity of counting them see Blayney, Peter W.M., The First Folio of Shakespeare. Washington, DC: The Folger Library, 1991, pp. 45-6. [back to text]

(*6) See Grossman, Elizabeth Greenwell, The Civic Architecture of Paul Cret, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996, pp. 167-70. [back to text]

(*7) "Testimonial" in the sense of "a gift presented to some one by a number of persons as an expression of appreciation or acknowledgment of services or merit, or of admiration, esteem, or respect." (OED 5) [back to text]

(*8) Folger to Alexander Trowbridge, the consulting architect, Dec. 17, 1928 (Folger Archive, Box 57) [back to text]

(*9) Folger to Trowbridge June 20, 1929 (Folger Archive, Box 57) [back to text]

(*10) Cadman, S. Parkes, "Henry C. Folger", in Henry Clay Folger. New Haven: privately printed, 1931, pp. 11-19, p. 18. [back to text]

(*11) Folger to Trowbridge, May 2, 1930 (Folger Archive, Box 57) [back to text]

(*12) Folger to Herbert Putnam, Library of Congress, Jan 19, 1928 (Folger Archive, Box 57). [back to text]

(*13) The First Folio of Shakespeare. The Norton Facsimile. Prepared by Charlton Hinman. New York: Norton, 1968. Second edition, with a new introduction by Peter W.M. Blayney, New York: Norton, 1996; The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963. [back to text]

(*14) Bristol, Michael, Shakespeare's America, America's Shakespeare, London: Routledge, 1990, p. 72. [back to text]

(*15) Already in 1918, fourteen years before the opening of the library, they were quietly acquiring land in the place where the library is now located. [back to text]

(*16) McDonald, Travis C., Jr. "Modernized Classicism: The Architecture of Paul Philippe Cret in Washington, DC" M.A. Thesis School of Architecture, University of Virginia, 1980, p. 42. [back to text]

(*17) Folger to Herbert Putnam, Library of Congress, Jan 19, 1928 (Folger Archive, Box 57). [back to text]

(*18) Bristol, p. 73. [back to text]

(*19) The popularity of classical style for public buildings is often ascribed to the success of the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, in 1893, which led to a re-thinking of American urban architecture. [back to text]

(*20) This worry was already expressed in the year when the library opened. See Max Förster in Shakespeare-Jahrbuch 68 (1932), p. 6. [back to text]

(*21) This symbolic geography was established when the Senate Park Commission proposed, in 1902, to erect the Lincoln Memorial in the place, where after long debate, and the consideration of alternative sites, it has stood since its dedication in 1922. See Reps, John W., Monumental Washington: The Planning and Development of the Capital Center. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967, pp. 96, 107, 157-8. [back to text]

(*22) Thorndike, Ashley, Shakespeare in America, Annual Shakespeare Lecture of the British Academy, 1927. London: Oxford University Press, 1927, p. 20. [back to text]

(*23) Slade, William, "The Significance of the Folger Shakespeare Memorial: an essay towards an interpretation" in Henry Clay Folger. New Haven: privately printed, 1931: 41-71, p. 41-2. Michael Bristol, Shakespeare's America, America's Shakespeare, London: Routledge, 1990, p. 76-7, quotes this speech and dryly remarks: "The revolutionary break between England and America was so diminished in significance here that the military leader of that revolution could be described as an 'English colonial'." (p.76) [back to text]

(*24) Slade, p. 42. [back to text]

(*25) Originally, the entrance to the West, nearer the Capitol, was considered to be the more important entrance, and visitors were also expected to enter there, coming from the center of metropolitan activities. The importance of the West side is also marked by the Puck fountain on this side. [back to text]

(*26) It is not, as was first envisaged, a reconstruction of the Fortune theater. This was abandoned because, even though it was the best documented, too little was known about it to make possible an exact copy. [back to text]

(*27) Folger wrote to Cret, Aug. 10, 1919: "The Theatre is to show the conditions under which Elizabethan plays were presented, primarily, and any other use by us will be supplemental." [back to text]

(*28) As David G. White puts it: "The oaks chosen for use in the Folger Shakespeare Library appear to have reached their destiny, for theirs is the mission to preserve in imperishable beauty and for centuries to come an atmosphere of the period that the genius of Shakespeare and his contemporaries made the golden age of English literature." ("The Folger-Shakespeare Library," American Forests, May 1932, 270-2, 296) [back to text]

(*29) On a stripe running along the walls the names of sixteen plays by Shakespeare are inscribed. Starting in the Northwest they are: Richard III, Othello, Twelfth Night, King John, Henry IV, Macbeth, Henry VIII, Coriolanus, King Lear, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Cymbeline, Richard II, Henry V, The Tempest, Henry VI. [back to text]

(*30) It was produced by Garrick in 1759. The Folgers, who chose these lines, probably knew them from Stein, Elizabeth P., ed., Three Plays by David Garrick, New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1926, p. 47. The copy in the library is dedicated by the author to H.C. Folger, Dec. 2, 1927. The three graces were actually dancing to it. [back to text]

(*31) Winter, William, The Poems, New York: Moffat, Yard and Co., 1909, p.112. The poem celebrates Shakespeare as divinely inspired, as somebody who was closest to God in knowing all. The stanza before the one quoted reads: "Here the divinest of all thoughts descended; / Here the sweet heavens their sweetest boon let fall; / Upon this hallowed ground begun and ended /The life that knew, and felt, and uttered all." In its last stanza, however, the poem presents a world that is past its fulfillment, in which the "crown of patience is the best", contradicting the emancipatory account that the placement of the quotation suggests. [back to text]

(*32) Originally, visitors to the Exhibition Gallery could observe the researchers at work through two glass doors. Legend has it that this ended when somebody posted a note in the Exhibition Gallery, saying: "Don't feed the readers." [back to text]

(*33) Cret, Paul Philippe, "The Building", in The Folger Shakespeare Library Washington. Published for the Trustees of Amherst College, 1933. p. 31. [back to text]

(34) A description of the two paintings, the details of which relate to the Library, is given in Pressly, William L., A Catalogue of Paintings in the Folger Shakespeare Library, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993, pp. 5-6. [back to text]

(*35) Originally, Folger had intended the stained glass to show something different. As he wrote to Trowbridge on Jan. 7, 1929: "I presume you have often looked at a picture of the beautiful window back of the chancel in Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. [...] It not only seems to be of proper form for our style of architecture, but is fortunately divided into seven parts, so that the center section could be devoted to Shakespeare, and two each given to Shakespeare characters in Comedy, History and Tragedy, assuring adequate variety." This seems to suggest that Folger was thinking very much in terms of character criticism. The ways in which the links between Stratford-upon-Avon and the U.S. have been strengthened by the adoption of architectural features is striking. The Seven Ages window in Holy Trinity (on the north side of the chancel) was a gift by American admirers of Shakespeare; the Folger stained glass loans it back, as it were. There is also the so-called American Window in the south transept, linking biblical and American history. At one point in the correspondence between Folger and the architect Philippe Cret there was considerable confusion about these various windows, which Folger ended by referring Cret to the frontispiece of William Winter's Shakespeare's England, New York: Moffat, Yard, 1910. [back to text]

(*36) Both texts have been shortened and sobered up, as it were. "I do not remember that any book or person or event ever produced so great an effect on me as Shakespeare's plays. I am astonished by their strength and their tenderness, by their power and their peace." Between the two sentences, Carlyle's translation has the following text: "They seem as if they were performances of some celestial genius, descending among men, to make them, by the mildest instructions, acquainted with themselves. They are no fictions! You would think, while reading them, you stood before the unclosed awaful Books of Fate, while the whirlwind of most impassioned life was howling through the leaves, and tossing them fiercely to and fro." (Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and Travels, trans. Thomas Carlyle, 2 vols., London: Chapman and Hall, 1899, vol. 1, 225. [Bk. III, ch. 11]); "Shakespeare is fertility, force, exuberance, no reticence, no binding, no economy, the inordinate and tranquil prodigality of the creator." In Victor Hugo's William Shakespeare, trans. Melville B. Anderson, Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1887, p. 212, it reads: "Shakespeare is fertility, force, exuberance, the swelling breast, the foaming cup, the brimming trough, sap in excess, lava in torrents, the universal rain of life, everything by thousands, everything by millions, no reticence, no ligature, no economy, the inordinate and tranquil prodigality of the creator." (italics mine) [back to text]

(*37) Slade, William Adams, "The Folger Shakespeare Library", D.C. Libraries 3,4 July 1932, 96-107, p. 100. The quotation is from Emerson's "Solution", in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. by Edward Waldo Emerson, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1903-04, vol. IX, p. 222. Emerson presents, in the voice of the muse, the tradition of genius in five figures: Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Swedenborg, and Goethe. The poem, an occasional piece, was not deemed worthy by him of inclusion in his Selected Poems. When he used the lines as a conclusion to his essay "Shakespeare" he changed the wording; the lines "Nor sequent ... Shakespeare's wit." became "And centuries brood, nor can attain / The sense and bound of Shakespeare's brain." See Wynkoop, William M., Three Children of the Universe: Emerson's View of Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton, The Hague: Mouton, 1966, p. 69. [back to text]

(*38) Cf. Wynkoop, 37-115. [back to text]

(*39) Its official name is "The Theodora Sedgwick Bond and William Ross Bond Reading Room". Its architects were Hartman-Cox. [back to text]

(*40) The architects seem to have drawn inspiration from two sources, apart from Cret's building: a national library scheme by Etienne-Louis Boullée and Kenwood Library by Robert Adam (1767-9). See Dixon, John Morris, "With respect to Cret," Progressive Architecture, July 1983, p. 68. [back to text]

(*41) Weeks, Christopher, Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994, p. 43. [back to text]

(*42) See Pressly, William L., A Catalogue of Paintings in the Folger Shakespeare Library, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993, for an account of this and other paintings mentioned. [back to text]

(*43) Pressly, pp. 317-20. It meant more to the Folgers than most others. It was the most expensive painting the Folgers ever bought (Pressly, p. 2), at a moment (1927) when the plan of the Library was already taking shape. [back to text]

(*44) Pressly, p. 320. [back to text]

(*45) The Washington Post, April 24, 1932, p. 1 [back to text]

(*46) The Washington Post, April 24, 1932, p. 10. Published under the title "The Folger Shakespeare Memorial Dedicated, April 23, 1932; Shakespeare and American Culture," The Spinning Wheel 12, 1932. [back to text]

(*47) The Sunday Star, April 24, 1932, p. 1. [back to text]

(*48) The Evening Star, April 23, 1932, p. 4. [back to text]

(*49) Bristol, p. 76. [back to text]

(*50) The term was probably first used by Winston Churchill in 1941. [back to text]

(*51) Slade, p. 70. [back to text]

(*52) The Washington Post, April 24, 1932, p. 10. [back to text]

(*53) The Times (London), April 24, 1932, p. 16. [back to text]




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