Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview
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53
SECOND SABBATICAL

On 16 February 1911 I persuaded Horace Howard Furness ( 1833-1912) the Shakespearean scholar and editor of the Variorum, to give a reading to the Yale undergraduates. This splendid old man, nearly eighty, was as deaf as Beethoven, and could not hear the applause of the students, which almost shook the building. As was his custom, he read from his own copy of the First Folio ( 1623). Every place in the hall including the aisles was filled with undergraduates, and how they did cheer! After he had read for nearly an hour, he announced a recess of ten minutes and withdrew to the room reserved for speakers. He told me there that he expected to see less than half of the original audience when he returned. Not a single man had left the room when he reappeared on the platform, and the enthusiasm was overwhelming. He read the famous passage in King Henry V, beginning

Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

Then he paused, and asked two questions. 'Just what did Shakespeare mean by that passage? But how can my puny mind comprehend the mind of William Shakespeare?'

There was proportionally not so much cheering on 19 November 1912, when I took Henry Arthur Jones, the English dramatist, to the annual football game between Yale and Harvard, the first and last he ever saw. He was disappointed when the result was a tie, neither side having scored. His emotions as a man of the theatre had been

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