Shakespeare--Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon

By Richard F. Whalen | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
The Search for the True Author

One day in April 1786 two American diplomats stopped for the night in Stratford-on-Avon. They were not there on business as emissaries for their infant nation but as tourists, to visit the famous Birthplace of the Bard of Avon. Stratford was already becoming famous as a tourist town. Seventeen years earlier, the "Shakespeare Industry" had been launched in earnest with the Shakespeare Jubilee celebration staged there by the actor and theater promoter David Garrick.

The two diplomats were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who would become the second and third presidents of the United States. Jefferson's only record of the visit is what today would be called his expense account. John Adams made some notes in his diary, but he was not impressed by what he saw:

There is nothing preserved of this great genius which is worth knowing--nothing which might inform us what education, what company, what accident turned his mind to letters and the drama. His name is not even on his gravestone. An ill sculptured head is set up by his wife by the side of his grave in the church.

Adams then concludes by noting that the sculpture cannot do justice to Shakespeare's fame; his genius is "immortal" 1

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