Inventions of Anecdotes
Steevens emphasizes official documentation and parish records - births, deaths and marriages - what one would expect from a legalistic Enlightenment scholar. But William Oldys (1696-1761) had already proposed that Shakespeare’s birthday was St George’s Day, and there were other traditions too. According to William Guthrie in 1747 …
Such colourful tales were difficult to ignore. Biography and memoir were growing in popularity, especially after James Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791), when biographical criticism became the critical orthodoxy. The problem with Shakespeare was not how little one knew, but how much could be inferred or simply made up.
SHAKESPEAR SHUT HIMSELF UP ALL NIGHT IN WESTMINSTER-ABBEY WHEN HE WROTE THE SCENE OF THE GHOST IN HAMLET. HE ALSO SAYS THAT I WENT TO THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER TO WRITE ACT IV OF KING LEAR. CHARLES GILDON DISAGREED: THE GHOST SCENE WAS WRITTEN IN SHAKESPEARE’S HOUSE IN STRATFORD, ADJACENT TO THE CHARNEL HOUSE!