Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity Exhibition Material

This article offers the label text as well as a comprehensive list of each piece included in Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.


Will & Jane tracks the parallel afterlives of two of the most popular writers in English: William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Jane Austen (1775-1817). In 2016, we can consider the rise of literary celebrity in real time. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the approaching 200th anniversary of Austen’s.

Modern celebrity culture was born in the late 18th century when a growing entertainment industry staged popular spectacles and exhibitions that fanned the flames of Shakespeare’s early reputation. Similarly, starting in the late 20th century landmark TV mini-series and a wealth of films have done for Austen as she nears her bicentenary what theater and public entertainments did for Shakespeare at his 200 mark.

Two writers, acclaimed for their works, have soared in public recognition, transforming into cultural superheroes. The process of fandom leaves a trail of material objects— from the sublime to the ridiculous. Literary celebrity, from its 18th-century beginnings, is as much about relics and souvenirs as about books and plays.

Explore how today’s Cult of Jane resembles the first exuberant wave of “Bardolatry” (coined from “the Bard” and “idolatry”) in Will & Jane.

Curated by Janine Barchas (University of Texas at Austin) and Kristina Straub (Carnegie Mellon University) with assistance from Georgianna Ziegler, Louis B. Thalheimer Associate Librarian and Head of Reference for the Folger Shakespeare Library

Will & Jane is made possible by the generous support of May Liang, Roger and Robin Millay, the Winton and Carolyn Blount Exhibition Fund of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and supporters of The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare including The Lord Browne of Madingley, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Share Fund, and other generous donors.

[Painting to the right]

Items Included

George Romney (1734-1802).The Infant Shakespeare Attended by Nature and the Passions. Oil on canvas. London, 1791-92. FPa49

This painting, which reimagines the birth of Shakespeare as The Nativity, was cut down on all four sides by a previous owner. When it hung as a centerpiece in John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery in the 1790s it would have been even larger. To see this painting in its original Georgian context, go to the What Jane Saw touch screen at media station 1. 


Will and Jane are beloved not just for their writing, but for the people that readers imagine them to have been. The fact that we know so little about their lives or what they looked like has meant that readers have felt the need to imagine much. Our desire to know these authors intimately has led to over two centuries of trafficking in the images, lives, and loves of Will and Jane. We have stocked libraries, museums, movie theaters, and gift shops with portraits, souvenirs, forged love letters, and bio-pics that embody what we want them to have been like. Jane Austen lived through the first wave of Bardolatry. In some of her work, we see glimpses of one author’s participation in the fan culture around another.

Picturing the Author

Author portraits and biographies play important roles in Will’s and Jane’s reception as literary celebrities, yet their earliest portraits (in the nearby reproductions) provide a base for imaginative depictions rather than definitive images. The portraits gathered here cluster around the first flush of their fame, 200 years after the authors’ respective deaths.

Even though the well-known Droeshout engraving from the First Folio in 1623 is now the most “authoritative” and widely-circulated image of Shakespeare, it was created after his death in 1616.

In portraits from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Shakespeare is imagined as an aristocratic gentleman in lace collar, a more down-to-earth working artisan, and a romantically poetic dreamer. Painters exercised their imaginations—and contemporary ideas about Shakespeare—with artistic license that seems unconstrained by historical accuracy.

Several images of Austen were made during her lifetime, but most were considered inadequate for use as a public author portrait—too informal or too young. In 1869, Austen’s family commissioned an artist to prettify a small candid sketch of Jane by her sister Cassandra (in the nearby reproductions), originally made around 1810. Re-engraved in 1870 for use as a frontispiece to a memoir by James Edward Austen-Leigh, this Victorian version has become the public face of Jane we recognize today. It will be even more widely circulated when it appears on the British ten-pound note next year.

For both authors, ongoing portrait controversies continue the public’s longing for intimacy with the elusive “real” author.

Items Included

1)   Parian bust of Shakespeare. 19th Century. ART 248540

2)   LOAN. Anonymous. Marble bust of Austen on wooden base. Late 20th century. Loan courtesy of Joan Doyle, Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region

The best-known public images of Shakespeare and Austen are the first engravings used as author portraits to front their printed works. Both are posthumous images.

Left: Martin Droeshout’s portrait of Shakespeare for the title page of the First Folio (1623).

Right: The engraving made for James Edward Austen-Leigh’s A Memoir of Jane Austen (1870).

  • Martin Droeshout (b. 1601). William Shakespeare from the title page of the First Folio. London, 1623. Engraving. Reproduction. Luna Image
  • After Cassandra Austen (1773-1845) . Portrait of Jane Austen in J. E. Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen. London: Richard Bentley, 1870. Engraving. Reproduction. Reproduction courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

[Shakespeare Portraits]

1)   Anonymous.The Staunton Portrait of Shakespeare. Oil on canvas. English, ca. 1770. FPs18. Luna Image

2)   Anonymous. The Lumley Portrait of Shakespeare . Oil on canvas English, 18th century. FPs23. Luna Image

3)   Anonymous.The Dexter Portrait of Shakespeare. Oil on panel. 19th century. FPs10. Luna Image

[Austen Portraits]

From left to right, these works represent the progression of Austen’s public image, from original sketch in 1810 to engraved public portrait in 1870.

1)   Cassandra Austen (1773-1845). Jane Austen drawn from life. Pencil on paper. ca. 1810. Reproduction. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

2)   James Andrews, of Maidenhead Jane Austen. Watercolor on paper. 1869. Reproduction. Image courtesy of 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop, Stevenson, Maryland.

3)  Jane Austen Engraving as published in James Edward Austen-Leigh (1798-1874). A Memoir of Jane Austen. London: R. Bentley, 1870. Reproduction. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Missing Lives and Loves

The first biographies of Will and Jane prefaced editions of their works. Editor Nicholas Rowe wrote Shakespeare’s earliest biography in 1709 (1), while Austen’s was authored by her brother Henry for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in December 1817 (2). In both instances, the authors’ lives take up little print space relative to the bulk of their work, yet these slim accounts remain foundational.

The shared myth of humble origins is literally painted onto souvenirs with images of the authors’ respective birthplaces. (3 & 4)

Fan culture tends to fill in biographical gaps with romance. A fake love letter from Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway, forged in the 1790s by William Henry Ireland (5), and the manuscript pages from Tom Stoppard’s 1990s screenplay for Shakespeare in Love (6) are just two examples of the continuing desire to give Will the love life for which we have so little evidence. Recently, the film Becoming Jane (7) similarly conjured a romance for Jane.

Items Included

1)   Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718).The works of Mr. William Shakespear… with an account of the life and writing of the author. London: Jacob Tonson, 1709. PR2752 1709a copy 1 Sh. Col. Open to frontispiece || leaf a1 recto (page i)

2)   LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Northanger Abbey: and Persuasion. London: John Murray, 1818. First edition in original boards. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Library. PR4034 N7. All four volumes closed and stacked.

3)   Pomade jar depicting Shakespeare’s house. Prattware jar with lid, ceramic. England, 19th century. ART Inv. 1056 Luna Image.

4)   LOAN. Pillbox depicting Steventon Rectory (Jane Austen’s birthplace). Silver-trimmed ceramic, with image on lid. England, late 20th century. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Library.

5)   William Henry Ireland (1775-1835). Forged letter from William Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway. Manuscript, ca. 1790s. S.b.157, no.6 Open to folio 1 recto

6)   LOAN. Tom Stoppard (b. 1937). Typescript page and manuscript scrap of screenplay drafts for Shakespeare in Love. August 1992. Stoppard 51.6.1, Stoppard 50.9.1. Loan courtesy of the Tom Stoppard Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.

7)  Becoming Jane. Miramax, 2007. Film poster. Reproduction. Loan courtesy of private collector.

Jane's Shakespeare

Jane Austen, born in 1775, experienced Shakespeare’s early rise to celebrity status first-hand. She read and admired his work, referenced him in her fictions, and saw his plays performed on London’s stage. In her novel Mansfield Park (1814), Austen’s characters “all talk Shakespeare” while rehearsing amateur theatricals. (7) Three of her fictional characters in that novel, Yates and the Crawfords, share surnames with famous Shakespearean actors of the 18th century. The playbill on display announces the performance of The Merchant of Venice that Jane saw on 5 March 1814. (1) In a letter to her sister, she deftly describes that night’s performance by Edmund Kean. (6) Kean’s portrait on a snuff box contrasts with an engraving of him as he looked in the role of Shylock. (2& 3) A paper “pinup” of actress Mrs. Crawford and a jewelry pin of diva Mrs. Yates give further evidence of the emerging culture of celebrity in which Austen was both witness and participant. (4 & 5)

Items Included

1)    Playbill for Merchant of Venice. Drury Lane Theatre, March 5, 1814. Bill Box G2D84 1813-1814. No. 141. Copy 2. Luna Image

2)   Samuel Raven (1775-1847), artist. Circular table snuff box painted with portrait of Edmund Kean (1787-1833). Papier mâché. English, ca. 1822. ART 241306 Luna Image

3)   Henry Hoppner Meyer (1783-1847), printmaker. Edmund Kean as Shylock. Great Britain, 19th century. Mezzotint. ART File K24.4 no.39 part 1 Luna Image

4)   Mrs. Crawford in the Character of Cleopatra. Stipple engraving of tragedienne Ann Barry Crawford (1734-1801). Great Britain, late 18th century. ART File C899 no.7 Luna Image

5)   Mary Ann Yates (1728-1784), Actress. Depicted on medallion en grisaille. English, ca. 1777. ART 241267 Luna Image

6)   LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Letter signed to her sister Cassandra Austen. March 5-8, 1814. Manuscript. MA 977.36. Loan courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Purchased by J.P. Morgan, Jr. in 1920.

7)   LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Mansfield Park. London: T. Egerton, 1814. First edition in original boards. PR4034 M3 1814 v.1-3. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections.

Austen as Playwright?

No manuscript of a complete Shakespeare play in his handwriting survives, but a play in Austen’s hand does. 200 years later, theater and film professionals dramatize her novels, turning them into scripts for stage and screen.

This lighthearted dramatization sets scenes from the 1755 novel Sir Charles Grandison by Samuel Richardson—one of Jane Austen’s favorite writers. (1) While it remains uncertain whether Austen authored this adaptation in whole or in part (family legend held that her niece Anna was author and Aunt Jane a mere amanuensis), it does give us evidence of Austen’s participation in just the type of amateur theatricals that she seems to critique in her fiction.

Biographers agree that the young Jane was an active participant in family theatricals throughout her youth at the Steventon rectory, where the Austens staged plays in their barn. The back-stage tomfoolery in Mansfield Park does not make Austen anti-theatrical.

Just as Austen turned Richardson’s novel into a play, others have realized the dramatic potential of her novels. Actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson adapted Sense and Sensibility for the silver screen in 1995 (2). Thompson scripted and starred in the film, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress.

Items Included

1)   LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Sir Charles Grandison, or the Happy Man. A Comedy. Manuscript in five sections, of varying sizes, pinned separately. ca. 1791, ca. 1800. 792 AUS. Loan courtesy of Chawton House Library.

2)   LOAN. Emma Thompson (b. 1959). Screenplay of Sense and Sensibility. Author’s annotated typescript. 1995. Loan courtesy of Emma Thompson.

Making of Literary Celebrity

Will and Jane’s respective celebrities were each kicked off by media extravaganzas marking, roughly, the 200th anniversaries of their lives and work.

In 1769, David Garrick organized a Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon, while in 1789, in London, John Boydell opened the Shakespeare Gallery. The television “bonnet drama” is to Austen as the Jubilee and Boydell’s Gallery were to Shakespeare. Assisted by Hollywood, the BBC awarded Austen, and her characters, special star status just as she approached her bicentenary.

Reverence for Will and Jane has swelled into numerous expressions of devotion— from pilgrimage routes to the collection of “relics.” This exhibition would not exist without the committed collecting activities that such devotion has inspired.

The claiming of Will and Jane as national (and international) icons is another offshoot of their celebrity effect. Their portraits grace money and stamps, each has been translated into a host of languages, and both marched to war as reading material for active duty military during two World Wars. 

The Best Friend

David Garrick, actor and theater manager, leans familiarly on a bust of Shakespeare, summing up the integral relationship between Shakespeare’s growing fame and the cult of theatrical celebrity that emerged in the 18th century. Garrick’s status in the British theater and Shakespeare’s reputation as “the English Bard” proved mutually beneficial, strengthening the celebrity around both men.

Items Included

Unknown, after Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88). David Garrick Leaning on a Bust of Shakespeare. Oil on canvas, after 1769. The original painting by Gainsborough was destroyed by fire in 1946. FPb27. Luna Image

Museum Spectacle

The first-ever museum dedicated to The Bard was the Shakespeare Gallery, built by London entrepreneur and publisher John Boydell in 1789. 

Until financial difficulties forced it to close its doors in 1804, the gallery was a popular tourist attraction and charged visitors a shilling to see life-sized paintings of famous scenes commissioned from contemporary artists. The gallery had its own shop on the ground floor and sold large engravings of the pictures (like today’s museum posters) as well as subscriptions to a grand, multi-volume edition of Shakespeare’s works. The whole enterprise, like the 1769 Jubilee, was a financial failure despite its significant cultural influence on Shakespeare’s popular reception.

The building that housed the Shakespeare Gallery was demolished in 1870 and the bulk of Boydell’s paintings, sold by lottery and subsequently auctioned off in 1805, are now considered lost. A paper lottery ticket (in nearby case) and George Romney’s canvas of the “Infant Shakespeare” at the exhibition entrance (also reproduced nearby) are rare survivors from the gallery’s dissolution.

Touch the screen and join Jane in a visit to the Shakespeare Gallery in 1796.

Items Included

George Romney (1734-1802). The Infant Shakespeare Attended by Nature and the Passions. Oil on canvas London, 1791-92

FPa49. Reproduction – see the original on this wall at the exhibition entrance. Luna Image 

This painting reimagines the birth of Shakespeare as The Nativity. When first engraved, this image carried the following explanation: “Nature is represented with her face unveiled to her favourite Child, who is placed between Joy and Sorrow. On the right hand of Nature are Love, Hatred & Jealousy: on her left hand, Anger, Envy, & Fear.”

Spectacle at 200

An advertisement for a Shakespearean horse race (2) illustrates the odd range of activities—from fireworks to concerts—planned for the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford in 1769, which was ultimately rained out. The portrait of Garrick, master of ceremonies, reverently contemplating a miniature of Shakespeare’s likeness, links the star status of actor and playwright. (1)

The planned parade of Shakespeare’s characters (3) never happened at the Jubilee, but was regularly performed at London’s Drury Lane Theatre. Events that did happen, such as Garrick’s recitation of his ode to Shakespeare (9), “the God of our idolatry,” circulated far beyond the soggy audience at Stratford.

Similarly, the paintings that John Boydell had assembled for the first-ever Shakespeare Gallery (5, 8), beginning in 1789, continued to be disseminated through engravings to an even larger audience after the museum closed in 1804.

The televised “bonnet drama” functions as the modern equivalent to these Georgian spectacles. In particular, the BBC’s 6-part television broadcast of Pride and Prejudice in 1995 (7) proved a watershed moment in the popular reception of Austen, as commemorated here by a bonnet (6) worn during that production’s final wedding scene.

Items Included

1) Joseph Saunders after Benjamin Van der Gucht. Mr. Garrick as Steward of the Stratford Jubilee, September 1769. Great Britain, 1773. Engraving. ART 242301. Luna Image 

2) Bill of advertisement for horse race. Stratford, 1769. PR2923 1769 R2 Cage. 

3) Anonymous. The Procession at the Jubilee at Stratford upon Avon! Oxford, 1769. Engraving. Folger Garrickiana Maggs no. 198.

4) Signed “F. Westwood” Medallions commemorating the Jubilee, 1769. Recto: “We shall not look upon his like again.” Verso: “Jubilee at Stratford in honour and to the memory of Shakespeare, Sept. 1769, D.G., Steward”. Coin Collection Env. 29. 

5) John Boydell (1719-1804). Ticket for his Shakespeare Lottery. London, 1804-05. No. 320 of approximately 22,000 lottery tickets sold for the inventory of 167 paintings during the dissolution of the gallery. Y.d.295 Luna Image

6) LOAN. Bonnet from 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. Worn by actress Susannah Harker as Jane Bennet London, 1995. Property of Cosprop Ltd., London.

7) Promotional image for BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (1995). DVD Box. Reproduction. Loan courtesy of private collector

8) Francis Wheatley (1747-1801). Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. Watercolor on paper, 1790. Reproduction. Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

9) Mr Garrick Reciting the Ode, in honor of Shakespeare. England, after 1769. Line engraving. ART FILE G241 no. 2. Luna Image


Fans of both Will and Jane have, at times, claimed divine status for their beloved author. The phrase “the divine Jane” was coined by American critic William Dean Howells in 1891 (4), joining existing references to Shakespeare as “the God of our idolatry” in the cultural lexicon. 

Devotees continue to make pilgrimages to locations associated with both authors, following routes spelled out in special guidebooks and maps. (2 & 3)

In 1756, just as Stratford began to attract the first trickle of literary tourists, an old mulberry tree that Shakespeare supposedly planted was cut down, inciting nationwide lament. A local man named Thomas Sharp bought the wood and turned it into mementos for visitors, including this chalice. (5) A thriving industry ensued in an impossibly large number of relics that claimed to be made from that same tree. Fragments were even embedded in bindings of Shakespeare editions, as if pieces of an alternative True Cross. (6)

More recently, acorn-shaped darning eggs (used to mend socks) were carved from the wood of an oak tree that Jane Austen is said to have planted beside the boundary wall of her Chawton cottage but which had to be felled in 1986–87. (7)

Items Included

1) Johann Heinrich Ramberg (1763-1840). Shakspere. Drawing, watercolor. 1832. ART Box R167 no.1. Luna Image 

2) E. Cilks, printmaker. Twelve Shakespearean landmarks. London: E. Cilks, 19th century. Colored lithograph. ART File S898 no.21. Luna Image 

3) LOAN. Janet Aylmer. In the Footsteps of Jane Austen. Bath: Copperfield Books, 2003. Loan courtesy of private collector. 

4) LOAN. William Dean Howells (1837-1920). Criticism and Fiction. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1891. PN81 H6. Loan courtesy of Georgetown University Library. 

5) Thomas Sharp (1725-1799). Goblet made from mulberry tree wood, trimmed with silver. Stratford, n.d. Inscription: "Made from a piece of Shakespeare’s mulberry tree by Mr. Sharpe silversmith Stratford on Avon." Wood no. 12a.

6) William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Dramatic Works. London: Sherwin and Co., 1821. Fragment of mulberry tree planted by Shakespeare embedded in binding. PR2752 1821c copy 1 Sh.Col. Shown closed.

7) LOAN. Local Chawton craftsman. Large decorative acorn (and darning egg) made from oak tree planted by Jane Austen. Chawton, England, ca. 1987. Loan courtesy of private collector.


Locks of hair have long been cherished and fought over as primary relics. Each of the hair relics in this case has a contentious history. (1 & 2) 

Objects used by the author are of course also much coveted, especially if they have a strong provenance history to back claims to authenticity.

The turquoise ring that once graced the hand that wrote Pride and Prejudice radiates value, even in the form of this gold replica. (3) Kelly Clarkson, the American pop star and Austen fan, briefly won the true ring at auction but was ultimately not allowed to take the “national treasure” out of Britain.

Even ordinary, random objects found beneath the floorboards of Austen’s house (5) or a bundle of old sticks (4) that may or may not have been Shakespeare’s chair, become evocative of saintly relics— preserved solely for their distant association with the “divine” Will or Jane.

Items Included

1) “Shakespeare’s Hair”. Single auburn strand, mounted on card with inscription dated August 24, 1866. London, Before 1820. ART Inv. 1004. Luna Image 

The inscription states that the hair was enclosed in an undated letter sent by Samuel Ireland, presumably around 1800, to a Mr. Bindley and auctioned on 8 August 1820. It then passed into the possession of one J. E. H. Taylor, Esq., who donated it to the collector W. J. Bernhard Smith in 1866. The Folger acquired it in 1896.

2) LOAN. Lock of Jane Austen’s hair in a circular copper alloy frame with a ribbon bow crest. Formerly owned by Alberta Burke. CHWJA:JAH28. Loan courtesy of Jane Austen’s House Museum.

3) Jane Austen’s gold and turquoise ring. Briefly owned by singer Kelly Clarkson. Replica.

4) Wood from Shakespeare's Birthplace. Bundle of seven pieces of wood from a chair, molding, chest, and walking stick. Stratford, 1600-1900? ART Inv. 1180. Luna Image

5) LOAN. Selection of items found under the floorboards of Jane Austen’s House. Glass bottle; iron alloy spoon, knife, and nail; copper alloy buckle; white clay pipe. Chawton, England, 18th and 19th century. CHWJA: JAH63.5, JAH360; JAH361; JAH363; JAH362; JAH364. Loan courtesy of Jane Austen’s House Museum.

Passionate Collecting

Two American couples shared parallel literary passions that led to two monumental collections: Henry and Emily Folger, who founded the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Alberta and Henry Burke, collectors of Jane Austen materials (now divided between The Morgan Library and Goucher College). 

The Folgers faced the challenge of collecting through the First World War while the Burkes lived through the Second. Each couple was childless, looking after their collections with parental fidelity. Both couples worked tirelessly for decades to collect books, art, decorative items, and every possible type of object that carried their author’s name, image, or association. Without the Folgers and the Burkes, Will & Jane would not exist.

Remarkably, the Folgers and Burkes systematized the daunting process of collecting in similar ways, using early bibliographies as virtual shopping wish-lists. (1 & 2) A 1940 telegram exchange between a London bookshop and the Burkes demonstrates how some fish got away (4 & 5), while a 1918 Folger check returning borrowed funds suggests the vast sums devoted to the enterprise. (3) Even the Burkes’ bookplate is similar to one adopted early on by the Folger Library. (6)

Items Included

1) James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips (1820-89). A Calendar of the Shakespearean Rarities, 2nd edition, Ed. Ernest E. Baker. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1891. Folger Collection[Folger Archives]. 

Extra-annotated bibliography of coveted Shakespeare treasures, handled to pieces and marked throughout by Henry and Emily Folger. 

2) LOAN. Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982). Jane Austen: A Bibliography. London: Nonesuch Press, 1929. Z8048 .K44 1968. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections.

Extra-annotated bibliography of Austen editions, handled to pieces and pasted throughout with clippings from dealer catalogues by Alberta and Henry Burke. 

3) Henry Folger to John D. Rockefeller. Bank check for $53,000, dated January 29, 1918. Folger Collection [Folger Archives]

This sum was partial repayment for a personal loan to buy more Shakespeare. Luna Image

4-5) LOAN. Bernard Quaritch Bookshop, London, to Henry Burke, Baltimore, December 1940. RCA Radiogram and Postal Telegraph telegrams. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections.

6) Bookplates from the Folger and [LOAN] Burke collections. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections. Luna Image

Devotion Beyond Death

The original of this dedicatory plaque hangs inside the adjacent Folger Reading Room, just a few feet away. Behind this plaque, the ashes of Henry and Emily Folger are interred, at their request, inside a wall of the room where scholars work with the collections. The Folgers did not want to be parted from their Shakespeareana—not even by death.

In an open letter addressed to the Jane Austen Society in 2008, a distraught Louise West, then-curator at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, England, asked Austen fans not to instruct relatives in legal wills to strew their ashes in the cottage’s garden. The letter banning the practice identifies a similar urge among Austen fans to associate their last resting places with their beloved Jane.

“While we understand many admirers of Jane 

Austen would love to have ashes laid here, 

it is something we do not allow. 

It is distressing for visitors to see mounds

of human ash, particularly so for our gardener.

Also, it is of no benefit to the garden!”

 —Louise West, Jane Austen’s House Museum Chawton   

National/Universal Reputations

One big difference between Will and Jane that seems to make no difference to their fans is that while Austen’s stories are set exclusively in England’s southern counties, Shakespeare’s plots roam from Venice and Padua, Italy, to Denmark and Scotland. 

The different geographical locations of their fictional settings doesn’t impact these authors’ perceived Britishness. Will and Jane each appear on British stamps and bank notes, with Shakespeare on a now retired 20pound note and Austen, starting next year, on the 10pound note. While their Britishness is unquestionable, their works have been enthusiastically translated and celebrated throughout the globe.

[Images of] Covers of Shakespeare translations from Folger collections:

King Lear in Spanish, 1894. PR2796 S5 K6 1894 Sh. Col. Luna Image

King Richard III in German, 1964. PR2796 G3 K8 A12 Sh. Col.

Othello in Russian, 1983. PR2796 K25 O1 1983 Sh. Col. Luna Image

Merchant of Venice in Spanish, 1944. PR2796 S5 M3 1944 Sh. Col.

King Lear in Hindi, 1972. PR2796 H4 K6 1972 Sh. Col.

Hamlet in Japanese, 2003. PR2796 J3 H3 K39 2003 Sh. Col.

[Images of] Covers of Jane Austen translations from Goucher College Special Collections:

Pride and Prejudice in Dutch, 195? Goucher RARE PR4034 P7 D7 195-

Northanger Abbey in Spanish, 1945. Goucher RARE PR4034 N7 S6 1945 c.2

Sense and Sensibility in Dutch, 1922. Goucher RARE PR4034 S4 D7 1922

Pride and Prejudice in Danish, 1952. Goucher RARE PR4034 P7 D2 1952

Pride and Prejudice in Italian, ca.1957. Goucher RARE PR4034 P7 17 1957c c.1

Pride and Prejudice in Hebrew, 1984. Goucher RARE PR4034 P7 H3 1984

[Other Images Reproduced:]

  • Bank of England. Twenty pound sterling note with William Shakespeare on verso. Print on cotton paper. Bank of England Printing Works, 1970-1991. No longer legal tender. Sh.Misc. 269541
  • Bank of England. Concept design for ten pound sterling note depicting Jane Austen. Revealed July 2013, to be released as legal tender in 2017.
  • Jane Austen stamps. Six stamps on one sheet. British Royal Mail, 2013. Image courtesy of private collector.
  • Shakespeare stamps 1899-1902, specimens of different issues. Five stamps on one postcard. England, ca. 1911. ART File S527.3 no.26 Luna Image

Will and Jane Go to War

In World War I, both Shakespeare and Austen reached troops on active duty through the American Library Association’s “War Service Library” program. Copies of Shakespeare and Pride and Prejudice survive in their original publisher’s bindings from the 1880s and 1890s, still bearing the bookplates that served as their passports to the front. (1 & 2, 6) For Rudyard Kipling, reading Jane on the front lines was something of a cruel joke—as well as a universal truth. His 1924 short story "The Janeites," which describes a “mess-waiter” bonding with his fellow WWI soldiers over the reading of Austen, popularized the term “Janeite” to designate an Austen devotee. (3) In World War II, heavy shipments of used books for camp libraries gave way to lightweight paperbacks designed to fit in the pocket of a uniform. Penguin’s “The Forces Book Club” published two Austen novels for British servicemen. (4) More recently, Henry V was printed as part of the new “Armed Services Editions” for American troops serving in Iraq. (5) 

Items Included

1) William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Ed. W. G. Clark and W. Aldis Wright. Chicago: Morrill, Higgins & Co., 1892. “War Service Library” label inside. PR2752 1892c Sh.Col. Shown closed. 

2) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1880s. “War Service Library” label inside. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown Closed

3) LOAN. Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). “The Janeites”. In Hearst’s International Magazine, May 1924. LOC PN4854 .J36 1924, Colt Kipling Coll. Loan courtesy of the Library of Congress.

4) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Persuasion. Penguin: The Forces Book Club Series, 1943. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

5) LOAN. William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Henry V. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications for the Legacy Project, 2002. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

6) Bookplate of the American Library Association’s War Service Library. Reproduction. From Shakespeare, Complete Works, Chicago, 1892. Luna Image

Gendering Audiences

Although both Will and Jane share a gritty history of wartime reading during WWI and WWII, only one of them is increasingly marketed to women. Given their similar reception histories during wartime, how did the soldiering Jane of the first half of the 20th century ever become the girly “chick lit” author hyped at the century’s close? A sampling of 1960s paperbacks with covers that “pinked” Austen shows the post-war gendering of her works through graphic design. 

[Cover Images Reproduced]

Mansfield Park. Signet Classic Series. New York and Toronto: New American Library, 1964.

Sense and Sensibility. Everyman’s Library Series. London and New York: Dent and Dutton, n.d.

Pride and Prejudice. London: Pan Books Ltd, 1967.

Pride and Prejudice. Universal Library Series. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, n.d.

Sense and Sensibility. New York: Washington Square Press, 1961.

Northanger Abbey. Everyman’s Library Series. London and New York: Dent and Dutton, 1966.

Emma. London and New York: Collier-Macmillan and Collier, 1965.

Persuasion. New York: Airmont, 1966.

Selling Will & Jane

Literary celebrity, for both Will and Jane, transforms the authors into commodities. We bring them home in the form of objects to decorate our mantelpieces, roll out our pastry, and even to wear. This phenomenon soon produces repetition, a powerful reinforcing mechanism of celebrity: the cultural value attributed to an image increases the more it is copied.

Eventually, such proliferation of celebrity products risks descending into kitsch, which playfully links revered literary celebrity— including Will and Jane—to the mundane or the ridiculous.

Celebrities sell products—sometimes unwittingly. Will and Jane have been posthumously coopted to endorse everything from hotels and shoes, to pubs, gin, and beer.

Toys and juvenile editions maintain Will and Jane’s literary celebrity across generations. Audiences of children are important for growing ever-larger and more diverse bodies of readers, spectators, and consumers.

Cutting a Figure with Figurines

Over the course of the 18th century, cheaper porcelain manufactured in Europe put collectibles newly in the hands of middle-class consumers, outstripping the sales of imported Asian porcelain as status symbols for the elite. Figures of Shakespeare (2), his characters (4), and popular actors (6 & 8) in Shakespearean roles were a part of this new and rapidly expanding market in souvenirs.

By the 20th century, collectible porcelain was a thriving niche ready and waiting for figurines of Jane (1) and her characters. (3) These similarly resemble the actors who embody them in dramatizations, although now on film rather than the stage. (5 & 7)

Items Included

1) LOAN. M. Young, artist. Jane Austen. “Limited Edition of 750; No. 64”. England: Frederick Warne & Co. for Rockingham China, 1994. Loan courtesy of Joan Doyle, Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region. 

2) Porcelain figurine of William Shakespeare. Staffordshire, 18th century. McCall 198

3) LOAN. Martin Evans, artist. Emma Woodhouse. Porcelain figurine. “Limited edition of just 4,500 of which this is No. 1055”. Royal Worcester, “Jane Austen Heroines” series, 1998. Loan courtesy of Joan Doyle, Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region.

4) Othello Relates his Story. Dresden, Germany, after 1880. Tableau of Othello, Desdemona, and Brabantio based on painting by Carl Ludwig Becker, 1880. Colored pottery. ART 231732. Luna Image

5) LOAN. Pauline Parsons, artist. Elizabeth Bennet. Bone china figurine resembling actress Jennifer Ehle. “Limited edition of just 3,500 of which this is No. 685”. Royal Doulton “Literary Heroines” series, 1998. Loan courtesy of Joan Doyle, Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region.

6) James Quin as Sir John Falstaff. Derby porcelain England, 1765. ART 241004

7) LOAN. Emily Kaufman, artist. Jane Austen’s Emma. Porcelain figurine resembling actress Gwyneth Paltrow. No. A5000 in “limited edition” of 9,500 Malaysia for Franklin Mint, ca. 1998. Loan courtesy of Joan Doyle, Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region.

8) Thomas Parr, artist. Charlotte and Susan Cushman as Romeo and Juliet. Staffordshire porcelain, double figure. English, ca. 1852. ART Inv. 1095. Luna Image

Repetition is Celebrity

Certain moments in the history of Shakespeare performance quickly became iconic.

The popularity of actor David Garrick as Richard III crystalized in two poses that were then repeated in print and porcelain, and even transferred from actor to actor. Features of the next generation’s players replaced Garrick’s in later versions of the same figurines. (1, 2 & 3) Consumers could re-experience the thrill of these iconic performance moments every time they glanced at their mantel, wall, or cabinet. (4-8)

This same pattern occurs in the reception of Austen, although in a different visual media, namely film and television. At Jane’s 200th anniversary, it is the BBC’s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, particularly the moment when a wet-shirted Colin-Firth-as- Fitzwilliam-Darcy meets our desiring gaze, that has been singled out to celebrate and duplicate. This film moment has been spoofed, imitated, and reworked in different media and visual formats—even restaged with different actors stepping into Firth’s place.

Watch movie clips and images of other reproductions of this popular BBC’s Pride and Prejudice moment projected on the nearby screen.

Items Included

1) David Garrick (1717-1779) as Richard III. Derby porcelain. England, 1775-1780. ART 241076. Luna Image

2) John Philip Kemble (1757-1823) as Richard III. Derby porcelain. England, ca. 1790. ART 241078. Luna Image

3) Edmund Kean (1787-1833) as Richard III. Derby porcelain. England, ca. 1815. ART 241079. Luna Image

4) William Hogarth (1697-1764), engraved by Charles Grignion. Mr. Garrick in the Character of Richard the 3rd. London, 1746. Folger Garrickiana Maggs 123, Folder 27. Luna Image

5) David Garrick as Richard III. Staffordshire pottery. England, ca. 1860-1870. ART 241057, Luna Image; 257552, Luna Image; 255853, & 262221. [Group Image]


Mr. Garrick in the Character of Richard the 3rd. Six prints, after William Hogarth. 18th and 19th century. D6. br portfolio 130, D6. br portfolio 131, D6. br portfolio 132, D6. br portfolio 133, D6. br portfolio 134, D6. br portfolio 135.

S.W. Reynolds, engraver. Garrick in the Character of Richard III. Engraving after Nathaniel Dance. Mezzotint. London: Colnaghi & Co., March 3, 1825. Folger Garrickiana Maggs 128, Folger 27.


David Garrick as Richard III. Painting after Nathaniel Dance. Oil on canvas. After 1772. FPb18. Luna Image  

The Shirt

Actor Colin Firth wore this shirt in 1995, when he played Mr. Darcy emerging from the Pemberley pond in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice production.

LOAN. Costume, regency-style man’s chemise. Dinah Collin, Costume Designer London, 1995. Property of Cosprop Ltd., London.

Will & Jane at Home

Will and Jane’s images and characters have been copied and repeated on domestic objects, bringing the two authors into daily household functions.

The use of Will to roll out pastry (4), hold cider (1), or blow the fire (7) in the 18th century or of Jane to cut cookie dough (5), sprinkle salt at table (6), or dry dishes (8) in the 21st are acts similarly motivated by a long-standing desire to participate in celebrity culture.

Items Included

1) Mug with portrait of Shakespeare and image of Mulberry Tree. Cider mug, for likely use at Stratford Jubilee. Chinaware. England, 1769. ART Inv. 1074. Luna Image

2) David Garrick as Don John. Liverpool creamware with transfer-printed design. England, ca. 1790. ART 241061. Luna Image

3) LOAN. Kathleen Bader Stevans, artist. Vintage ceramic platter hand-painted with Chawton cottage. Pittsburgh: Pure Hokum, 2014. Loan courtesy of private collector.

4) Thomas Sharp (1725-1799), artist. Rolling pin made from “Shakespeare’s” mulberry tree. Pasted image of Chandos portrait. England, 1756. Wood no. 1. Luna Image

5) LOAN. Jane Austen silhouette cookie cutters. Metal. United States, 21st century. Loan courtesy of private collector.

6) LOAN. Darcy and Elizabeth salt and pepper shakers. Glazed ceramic. Bas Blue, 2013. Loan courtesy of private collector.

7) Bellows with Shakespeare bas relief portrait. Wood, leather, and brass.England, 18th or 19th century. ART Inv. 1131. Luna Image

8) LOAN. Pride and Prejudice dish towel. Cotton. Lincolnshire: Countryside Art, 21st century. Loan courtesy of private collector.

9) Toasting fork with portrait of Shakespeare on handle. Brass. England or United States, 19th or 20th Century. ART Inv. 1140.

Wearing Will & Jane

Will and Jane are also worn close to the bodies of their proud fans. These three objects integrate literary celebrity into fashion statements about a consumer’s own identity and cultural heritage.

Fan culture becomes a pun in the hands of anyone wafting this 18th-century Georgian fan, hand-painted with a Shakespeare scene. (1)

This 19th-century necklace set bearing Will’s image has been claimed to be carved from the wood of the Herne’s Oak featured in Merry Wives of Windsor. (2)

The modern silken scarf is printed with a graphic of Austen’s family tree. (3)

Items Included

1) Hand-painted fan depicting the marriage scene from Henry V. Possibly after design by William Hamilton (1751-1801), illustrator for Boydell. Ivory and paper. England, 18th century. ART Inv. 1132. Luna Image

2) William Perry, artist. Carved necklace, bracelet, pendant, brooch, and earrings Oak with gold. London, mid-to-late 19th century. Wood no. 5a-e. Luna Image

3) LOAN. Scarf with Austen family tree. Edging text: “Circular Family Tree Showing Jane Austen’s Paternal and Maternal Ancestry Courtesy of Alwyn Austen”. Silk cloth. Winchester & Chawton: JASNA AGM, 2003. Loan courtesy of private collector.

Will & Jane in Advertising

The stories of Will and Jane have become giveaways in promotions for sewing machines (2) and hotel stays. (3)

Brand poaching was already in full swing in the 18th century, as the large tavern sign nearby demonstrates. (Imagine meeting at “Shakespeare’s Head” tavern for a pint.)

The authors’ portraits or names can sell staggeringly unrelated non-book products, from malted milk (1) and beer (4) to cigarettes (6) and shoes. (7)

Even posthumous endorsements can create moments of so-called “public intimacy,” dramatically illustrated in the slyly winking Jane selling Bath Gin. The mere presence of the literary celebrity familiarly recommends the beverage to her fans. (5)

Items Included

1) C. Allan Gilbert (1873-1929), artist. Horlick’s Malted Milk Shakespearean Calendar 1908. United States: Horlick’s Malted Milk Co., 1907. At top: "Shakespeare’s Heroines". ART Inv. 1145. Luna Image 

2) George L. Gray. Shakespeare Boiled Down. Chicago: New Home Sewing Machine Co., ca. 1890. Reproduction. Sh. Misc. 267-792q. Luna Image

3) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Pride and Prejudice. New York: Hotel Taft, ca. 1930. Loan courtesy of private collector. This novel was offered gratis to hotel guests, as if a Gideon Jane.

4) Falstaff beer can. St. Louis, Missouri: Falstaff Brewing Corp., 1950s. 269538.

5) LOAN. Bath Gin bottle. Bath: The Bath Gin Co., 2014. Loan courtesy of private collector

6) LOAN. An Album of Celebrities of British History. Collector’s album for cigarette cards. London: Carreras Limited, ca. 1935

Loan courtesy of private collector. 

7) LOAN. Jane Austen ™ shoebox. Empty box for mary-jane style shoes in black, size 8. United States, ca. 1970s. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections.


Kitsch is perhaps most successfully promoted through mass production, which helps celebrity images migrate across the boundaries between “high” and “low” culture. At Will’s 200th, hand-made production was only transitioning towards industrialism, so we see just the emergence of this playful assimilation of Will’s sublime celebrity into the everyday and even silly. (4, 5 & 10) 200 years later, Jane’s kitsch is instantly full-blown and Shakespeare is right there with her. (1-3 & 6-9) 

Items Included

1) LOAN. Jane Austen bobble-head doll. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections.

2) William Shakespeare bobble-head doll. Off the Wall Toys, 2015. F269539.

3) LOAN. Jane Austen Bandages. 15 plasters in tin. Accoutrements, 2013. Loan courtesy of private collector.

4) Mr. Mead as Hotspur. London: J. Redington, 1850-1876. Tinseled print, hand-colored. ART Flat c15, no. 64.

In the tinseling of a print, brightly colored pieces of tinsel and paste jewelry were glued on the figures as a popular craft activity in the 19th century. 

5) William Shakespeare as The Clock Shakespeare. Staffordshire pottery with clock face forever indicating ten past five. England, after 1848. Art Inv. 1050. Luna Image

6) Geoff Blower, artist. William Shakespeare. Toby jug. Staffordshire: Kevin Francis. Ceramics, ca. 1990. ART 260314. Luna Image

The handle is formed by the figure of Richard III leaning over Shakespeare’s shoulder and whispering in his ear.

7) LOAN. Jane Austen action figure. Molded plastic. Seattle: Accoutrements, 2003. Loan courtesy of private collector.

8) William Shakespeare action figure. Molded plastic. Seattle: Accoutrements, 2003. ART 258426.

9) LOAN. Sun catchers of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Glass, lead, with suction cup. Cumbria, England: Winged Heart Decorative Glass, 2015. Loan courtesy of private collector.

10) Salt-carved half bust of Shakespeare mounted on wall plaque. Salt and wood. 19th century. ART 266370. Luna Image

11) Shakespeare signboard. Painting on mahogany panel. Likely former tavern sign. England, Late 17th or 18th century

FPs9. Luna Image  

Child's Play

Shakespeare’s plays began their history of adaptation into child’s play in the late 18th century, as we can see from the rather alarming example of The History of Shylock the Jew. (1) 

Will’s work continues to feature in comic books (5) and even board books for babies, now alongside Austen’s. (4 & 6) Jane’s novels found a young adult audience through gift book series and cover art targeted at adolescents. (10) Similarly, the adaptations of Will’s plays by Charles and Mary Lamb (2) are part of the larger cultural phenomenon of early children’s literature. (3)

But kids don’t have to read to play with Will and Jane, who have been associated with games and dolls since the late 19th century. (7-9)

Items Included

1) The History of Shylock the Jew… Adapted to the Minds of Young Children. London: printed for the booksellers, 1794. PR3291 H655 Cage. Open to Title Page

2) Charles Lamb (1775-1834). Tales from Shakespear: Designed for the Use of Young Persons. London: Thomas Hodgkins at the Juvenile Library, 1807. PR2877 L3 1807 Cage. Open to Title Page

3) Young Albert, the Roscius. London: S. and J. Fuller, 1811. PN2598 B65 Y7 Ex. Ill. Shown closed with paper doll on display Luna Image

Includes seven hand-colored cut-out figures, with two moveable heads, and four hats.

4) LOAN. Jack Wang and Holman Wang, adapters. Cozy Classics Pride and Prejudice. Baby boardbook. Vancouver, Canada: Simply Read Book, 2012. Loan courtesy of private collector.

5) Julius Caesar/William Shakespeare. Classics Illustrated, No. 68. New York: Gilberton Co., 1969. ART Vol. e171.

6) LOAN. Nancy Butler, author, and Hugo Petrus, illustrator. Pride and Prejudice. Marvel Comics, 2009. Loan courtesy of private collector.

7) The Shakspere Oracle or Wheel of Fortune. Cardboard game with 13 colored circular cards, ribbon, two lids. Boston: D. Lothrop Company, 1892. ART Flat c25. Luna Image

8) LOAN. Julienne Gehrer. Pride and Prejudice The Game. Cardboard game with board, cards, die, plastic mounts. Prairie Village, Kansas: Ash Grove Press, 2001. Loan courtesy of Private Collector.

9) LOAN. Morgan May, artist. Elizabeth and Darcy dolls. Mattel and Stardust Dolls, 2014. Loan courtesy of Joan Doyle, Member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region.

These Barbie-style dolls were refashioned after actors Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, complete with hand-sewn, look-alike costumes to match the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice.

10) LOAN. Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice. London: W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd, [circa 1940s]; London: Dean & Son Ltd, n.d. [circa 1960s]; London: Purnell Books, 1978; London: Dean & Son Ltd, n.d.; Garden City, NY: Junior Deluxe editions, n.d.

LOAN. Jane Austen. Emma. London: W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd, n.d. [circa 1960s].

LOAN. Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility. London: W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd, n.d. [circa 1940s]; London: Bancroft Books, 1973. Loan courtesy of private collector.

All shown closed, and stacked.

Wanting More

Sadly, literary celebrities cannot write plays or novels after their deaths. Beginning in the 18th century, fellow writers and theater professionals have taken up their own pens to feed the steady demand for variations on Shakespeare and Austen, producing new versions “in the style of” that appeal to the tastes of their contemporaries. 

Both Will and Jane have been adapted to performance media popular at specific times—from puppet theaters to webcasts. Their works have been reimagined in contemporary settings, with every generation refashioning them in its own image. 

Since the 1940s, when megastar Laurence Olivier played Darcy, Henry V, and Hamlet in seamless succession, the cinema has helped to adjust both Will and Jane to changing tastes. And just as stage actor David Garrick augmented his own status in the 18th century by promoting the celebrity of Shakespeare, modern movie stars burn ever brighter when fanning the flames of Will’s and Jane’s fame. Like Olivier, many familiar faces from stage and screen alternately cycle through film and television adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays and Austen’s novels, doubling their own celebrity factor. 

Fans also get chills from imagining their favorite author’s work in the hands of a film star or celebrity. Association copies, books owned by the famous, offer further opportunities to imagine how other types of celebrities engage with Will and Jane.  

Adaptations and Modernizations

Fans of the Bard in the 18th century enjoyed lighthearted musical adaptations as diverse as this “ballet” and “mock opera.” (1 & 2) Writer Nahum Tate radically revised King Lear in 1681 to provide audiences with an ending in which Cordelia and Edgar live happily ever after. What we perceive as a desecration of the Bard was an adaptation for audiences so moved by the original play that they considered it too painful to watch on stage. (3) Later authors have tried their hand at dramatic adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. Margaret MacNamara’s inventive play I Have Five Daughters—“a morning-room comedy in three acts” based upon Pride and Prejudice— was published in 1936. (8) 

In the 20th century, box-office draws such as Laurence Olivier performed in both Austen and Shakespeare films; Olivier played Mr. Darcy in 1940 and Hamlet in 1948. (4, 5)

Great affection for these authors’ stories has similarly led to sweeping modernizations. In the 1990s, two films, Clueless (7) and 10 Things I Hate About You (6), reset both authors in modern American high schools. These films relocated the plots of Emma and Taming of the Shrew to settings unimaginable to their authors but which made these stories newly appealing to a generation used to encountering literary classics through movie adaptations and modernizations.

Items Included

1) James Cartwright Cross (d.1809). The History, Murders, Life, and Death of Macbeth … the Ballet of music and action. London: Stevens and Co., 1809? PR2823 A74 C7 copy 1 Cage. Open to Title Page 

2) William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Pyramus and Thisbe: a mock-opera/written by Shakespeare;...set to musick by Mr. Lampe. London: H. Woodfall, 1745. PR2827 .A51 1745 Sh. Col. Open to Title Page

3) Nahum Tate (1652-1715). The history of King Lear, a tragedy… Reviv’d with Alterations. London: W. Feales, 1736. PR2819 1736 Sh. Col. Open to Title Page

4) Laurence Olivier as Hamlet. Publicity photo for Hamlet film, 1948. Carlton International. ART File O49.3-H1 no. 1 [Incorrect call number on display. Correct call number is O49.3-H23 no. 37]

5) LOAN. Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet. Publicity photo for Pride and Prejudice film, 1940. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections

6) 10 Things I Hate About You. Press information folder. Burbank, California: Touchstone Pictures, 1999. ART Vol. f134

7) LOAN. Clueless DVD. Paramount Studios, 1995. Loan courtesy of private collector.

8) Margaret MacNamara. I have Five Daughters. Boston: Walter H. Baker Co., 1936. Goucher RARE PR4034.P74 M22 1936 c.1. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections. Shown closed.

Fan Fictions

The desire for more manifests in spinoffs and continuations of both Will and Jane. The 18th century saw the beginning of fan fiction in staged sequels to favorite Shakespeare plays as well as lurid romances based on his characters. (1) 

The Internet and fan culture of the 20th and 21st centuries have opened the floodgates to a wide range of continuations across different media that reprise familiar characters in new stories and situations. Jane’s fictional characters have solved mysteries (7) and swooned their way through bodice rippers. (2)

Two of the most critically successful continuations, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Longbourn, have expanded the points of view of minor characters, breathing creative life into servants who occur off-page or in the wings of the original stories. (3 & 4)

Items Included

1) F. G. Waldron (1744-1818). The Virgin Queen, a drama in five acts … a sequel to Shakespeare’s Tempest. London: Printed for the author, 1797. PR3748 W5 V5 Cage Open to Title Page 

2) LOAN. Linda Berdoll. Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2004. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

3) LOAN. Jo Baker. Longbourn, A Novel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

4) Playbill Eugene O’Neill Theater. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. New York: Playbill, 1967

Scrapbook 258436. Shown closed. 

5) W. Fitzhugh. The Murder of Duncan, king of Scotland, or, the history of Macbeth and Banquo: founded on Shakespeare’s Play. London: W. Cole, ca. 1830. PR2823 A71 E5. Open to Title Page

6) LOAN. Helen Fielding (1958-). Bridget Jones’s Diary. New York: Viking Adult, 1998. Goucher RARE PR 4034 P74 F54 1998. Loan courtesy of Goucher College Special Collections. Shown closed.

7) LOAN. P.D. James (1920-2014). Death Comes to Pemberley. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.


Once a literary celebrity’s work becomes household knowledge, it is ripe for parody.

Travesties of Macbeth and other plays followed hard upon the heels of Shakespeare’s 18th-century popularity. (1, 2 & 5) Austen’s work, at 200, has already been transformed into horror fiction (3 & 4) and erotica (6), self-consciously calling attention to the author’s iconic status, even when such reverence is turned into a source for mockery.

Items Included

1) Macbeth: A Burlesque… Entertainment of the Young Folks at Merry Christmas Time. Nottingham, England: J.N. Dunn, 1866. PR2823 A72 M2. Reproduction of Title Page 

2) Francis Cowley Burnand (1836-1917). Richard III, or A New Front to an Old Dicky … a Richardsonian Burlesque. London: Phillips, ca. 1870. PR2821 A72 B9 Open to Title Page

3) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817) and Seth Grahame-Smith (1976- ). Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2009. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

4) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817) and Ben H. Winters. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2009. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

5) John Poole (1786?-1872). Hamlet Travestie: in Three Acts. With Burlesque Annotations. London: J. M. Richardson, 1811

PR3991 J8 Cage Open to leaf A2 recto (page 3): 2nd title page 

6) LOAN. Arielle Eckstut and Dennis Ashton. Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2003. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

7) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Emma. Penguin Books, 1983. Loan courtesy of private collector. Shown closed.

Association Copies

Copies of Shakespeare and Austen owned by prominent figures in history engage in yet another level of celebrity culture and fandom. Association copies allow us to imagine celebrity encountering celebrity.

What occurred in Walt Whitman’s mind as he read that tiny copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets that he allegedly always carried in his pocket? (1) Do the coffee stains on James Joyce’s cheap paperback of As You Like It betray his disrespect or just his habits of reading even during meals? (3) Does Evelyn Waugh’s choice of a gilded edition of Pride and Prejudice indicate his admiration for a fellow novelist? (2) Is Cassandra Austen’s copy of Emma, which Jane presumably gave to her sister, evidence of shared sisterly pride? (4) Did actor and writer Stephen Fry sharpen his comic wit on Jane Austen when reading this copy of Mansfield Park as a set text for his English A-level exams in 1977? (5)

Items Included

1) William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Poems. Philadelphia: John Locken, 1847. PR2841 1847a Copy 1 Sh.Col. Walt Whitman’s copy. Shown closed.

2) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Pride and Prejudice. London: Allen, 1894. PR4034 P7 1894 WAU. Courtesy of the Evelyn Waugh Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Evelyn Waugh’s copy. Shown closed.

3) LOAN. William Shakespeare (1564-1616). As You Like It. Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1868. PR2803 A2 D9 1868 JJT. Loan courtesy of the Joyce Trieste Library, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. James Joyce’s copy. Shown closed.

4) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Emma. London: Murray, 1816. An Au74e 1816. Loan courtesy of the Rare Book Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Cassandra Austen’s copy. Shown closed.

5) LOAN. Jane Austen (1775-1817). Mansfield Park. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975. Loan courtesy of Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry’s student copy, with his annotations circa 1977. Shown closed.

The End?

These rubbings taken from the gravestones of our celebrity authors are not just reminders of the reverence accorded them—visiting their graves is an act of pilgrimage—but also of their shared ability to outlive their own mortality. 

Fans are not merely passive worshippers of the celebrity of these authors but its creators, producing new art—high and low, bad and good—in continuing celebration of the art of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

Items Included

Rubbing from the stone slab on William Shakespeare’s grave. Stratford, 1887. Penciled inscription: “This is to certify that George H. Carey removed this from the grave of Shakespeare, Aug. 8, 1887, with my permission [signed] W. Butcher, Parish Clerk, Stratford-upon-Avon.” ART Inv. 1197

LOAN. Crayon rubbing from the stone over Jane Austen’s grave. Taken with official permission from the Cathedral’s vergers. Winchester Cathedral, 2014. Loan courtesy of private collector.