Shakespeare Connected - Shakespeare and Literary Pilgrimage
11. Washington Irving’s entry in the Shakespeare Birthplace Visitor Register, Oct 1821, p. 33
Of many famous visitors to the Birthplace, Washington Irving, celebrated as the founder of American literature, would be one of the most influential. On his visit in May 1822, he inscribed his name with a diamond on a window-pane in the Birthplace, and wrote (after a false start) a verse in the Visitor Register:
Of mighty Shakspeare’s birth the room we see,
That where he died in vain to find we try;
Useless the search: -- for all Immortal He
And those who are Immortal never die.
This epitomises the quasi-religious language of literary pilgrimage, and suggests the imaginative force of the Birthplace over that of the grave in Holy Trinity -- immortality versus mortality. The verse, more than mediocre in itself, had enough purchase as an early American tribute to have been made in due course into a ready-made sentiment on a postcard sold at the ‘Shakespeare View Store’ in the town; for the remainder of the century American tourists would deliberately follow in Irving’s footsteps to emulate his sentiments in this way.
Visitor Register: DR 185/4
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