Shakespeare’s England

 

Early in his  bicycle tour of England, Scotland, and Wales, twenty-four year old Winfred E. Garrison exhibited some of the qualities that make his 1898 travelogue so interesting even now, more than a century later. He knew how to select just the right amount of detail to convey the spirit of places that he visited. With deft phrasing, he gave hints about the routines of travel and the peculiarities of touring Great Britain by bicycle.

Garrison was interested in the history of the places he visited, especially the great figures of literature, art, and religion. Some of his description must have come from his travel guide–“my faithful friend, Baedeker”–but even more must have come from a mind already well stocked with the great tradition of the Western World. In today’s chapter from his book Wheeling Through Europe (published in 1900) dramatist William Shakespeare and pre-Reformation theologian John Wycliffe (Garrison spelled the name Wiclif) are the heroes. The first few lines of his chapter “Shakespeare’s England” follow below.

“For the Shakespeare-loving pilgrim, who has made Stratford-on-Avon the center of his daily thoughts and nightly dreams from the day when he first stepped upon British soil, there may possibly be disappointment in store when he finds himself in the midst of the actual Stratford. Here one instinctively demands a more distinct flavor of antiquity than elsewhere,—more of the England of three centuries ago, more of Elizabethan gaiety and splendor and riotousness. In fact, you expect to find the supreme embodiment of Shakespeare’s England,—and you do not find it.”

To read more, click …  Shakespeare’s England

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