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What Blest Genius?: The Jubilee That Made Shakespeare

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  41 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In September 1769, three thousand people descended on Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate the artistic legacy of the town’s most famous son, William Shakespeare. Attendees included the rich and powerful, the fashionable and the curious, eligible ladies and fortune hunters, and a horde of journalists and profiteers. For three days, they paraded through garlanded streets, liste ...more
Hardcover, 249 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Ellie Stevenson
I really enjoyed this book, which takes us back to the 18th century - to the time around David Garrick's jubilee of 1769, in Stratford-upon-Avon. Despite being a literal washout, and a financial drain for David Garrick, this event raised Shakespeare's profile and put Stratford on the map as a potential tourist attraction. The book introduces a number of characters as well as Garrick, notably James Boswell, and gives some fascinating stories about the jubilee itself, and its aftermath. Garrick's ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book does a good job of bringing up a little-known historical event that was the biggest news of its day and has reverberations through to now. Also, the book does a good job of putting that event into the startling complexity of its times. But that latter effort also creates a bit of a flaw in the book because the digressions sometimes feel like padding on what's a rather slim volume.

This is one of those short non-fiction books that would be just as good as a lengthy magazine article, and
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was provided an Advanced Review copy of this by the publishers via Edelweiss+. I really enjoyed the book and would gladly add it to my Shakespeare shelf!

This is a focused and approachable work of history. It looks at the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769, and reads like the behind the scenes story of Woodstock. The author centers the story around a few key players, giving it a strong narrative thread and human interest. The first half of the book looks at the events that lead
Mary Berger-Hughes
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating read, a world without Shakespeare seems impossible to imagine. I had not thought it through realizing that with Cromwell in power there would be no theater, no amusements. Thus, Shakespeare’s works would molder. And when the crown was restored to power, full speed ahead with the theater but where to find plays. The companies dug through what was at hand and found his writings. One group produced Macbeth as a musical comedy. (I would like to see that.) Thank goodness, David Garrick ...more
Stan Rea
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1769 David Garrick, the leading British actor of his day, sponsored a festival in honor of Shakespeare to be held in Stratford upon Avon. By most accounts the event was a disaster. The big event was the delivery of a very long poem (Garrick's Ode) and the dedication of a statue of The Bard. Despite torrential rain and rising water, Garrick managed to deliver his ode, dedicate the statue and get out of town without losing his shirt. He was one of the fortunate ones.

James Boswell (of Life of Sa
Brian Page
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Andrew McConnell Stott’s, What Blest Genius? The Jubilee that made Shakespeare is a wonderful entertaining work that I suspect will appeal to admirers of the bard, even though, in my opinion, it is maybe a third too long. Reading it, I sometimes imagined that the tale would have made a better piece in The New Yorker. Still, it’s not so long as to be tedious, just a tad too wandering into irrelevant detail having the appearance of simply adding sufficient bulk to achieve 187 pages of text. Nevert ...more
Matt Kuhns
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a delight. It has its limitations, including filling out what is a relatively short book with a lot of biography of James Boswell. But the material is well chosen, padding or no, and the main narrative is great fun. This Jubilee was an event organizer's nightmare which somehow turned out a great success afterward. ...more
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
At first I was expecting way more Shakespeare. Then I was expecting way more of the “jubilee event” (which admittedly read like an amusing comedy of errors). Instead you mostly get what amounts to character studies of a few folks caught up in the event one way or another. The topic side notes were odd.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
A little disappointing overall, but am interesting subject of which I knew nothing about before reading the book. The author's writing was somewhat like reading the many quotes and citations he took from period writings, especially news sources. ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I read this after I finished The Club so it seemed repetitious and superficial. There really wasn't enough information to warrant a book. ...more
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