Bowdlerizing

I found the following story on Jeff Kacirk’s “Forgotten English” calendar from July 11, 2013.

Thomas Bowdler was a reverend and an uptight rogue editor who lived from 1754-1825. “Sanitized synonyms, still known as bowdlerisms … were found in Bowdler’s best-selling 1818 edition of the Bard’s works, as well as his editions of such works as the Old Testament and Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His ten-volume Shakespeare avoided anything ‘which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family,’ such as Lady Macbeth’s admonishment, ‘Out, damn’d spot!’ — which was purified to read ‘Out, crimson spot!'”

GAAAAAH, YOU’RE MESSING WITH THE METER

THE METER IS THERE FOR A REASON

YOU CAN’T JUST ADD SYLLABLES

HAVE YOU NO CONCEPT OF POETRY

“Bowdler, who had abandoned a medical career three decades earlier because patients made him ‘queasy,’ explained that he wished to present this material without ‘anything that could raise a blush on the cheek of modesty.'”

Okay, 1.) if you have to sanitize the Bible, you might be a bit uptight. 2.) if you sanitize the Bible . . . how are you suppose to understand what lessons are being taught? How on earth would you explain why Ham is cursed?  Pretty sure even bringing up the concept of nakedness would not be appropriate in Bowdler’s eyes. So Ham was cursed . . . because. Not to mention the million other references to sin and sex and murder and theft and nakedness and everything else in the Bible.

“Queen Victoria … who until age 18 was not allowed to read popular books, or even walk outdoors or on stairs unattended — was likely a fan of Bowdler.”

VICKY, NO

“She wrote to her daughter, Victoria, in 1859, ‘By the bye, you went to see the Merry Wifes . . . I have never had the courage to go to see it — having always been told how very coarse it was — for your adored Shakespeare is dreadful in that respect, and many things have to be left out in many plays.”

Fun fact: I once dated a guy whose last named was Bowdler, who was apparently a distant relation. I knew it was doomed from the start, since I could never associate that name with anything else.

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One Response to Bowdlerizing

  1. I assume his version of the Bible was very, very, very short.

    Like

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