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Imagining the Man

In the mid-nineteenth century, Delia Bacon (1811-1859) began vocalizing her theory which questioned the authorship of William Shakespeare. In 1857, a year before her text,The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded, she wrote in the January 1856 issue of the periodical Putman’s Monthly Magazine that Shakespeare was not the author of his plays; she hoped to go to England to prove her theory,

“He has those manuscripts!...to leave the best wit and scholars of succeeding ages to exhaust their ingenuity, sour dispositions and waste golden hours year after year in guessing hidden meanings!” 1

Bacon believed that Shakespeare could not have authored his plays because of his education and upbringing – most significantly his works were too original to belong to a single man. While the Baconian theory challenged the borderlands of authorship, still others tried to recreate a singular “real” Shakespeare visually. Indeed, on one side were those who believed this authorship was not possible, on the other we find what is represented in gift book illustrations – in essence adding flesh-to-the-bones and imagining the man’s contemporaries, childhood, and conversations.

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1. p. 5. Bacon, Delia. "William Shakespeare & His Plays" Putnam's Monthly Magazine. Vol 7. Jan. 1856.

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