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Thomas Bowdler

(1754-1825) Editor of The Family Shakespeare, born near Bath, son of a gentleman of independent fortune, studied medicine at St. Andrews and at Edinburgh, where he took his degree in 1776, but did not practise, devoting himself instead to the cause of prison reform. In 1818 he puborn his Family Shakespeare in 10 volumes, "in which nothing is added to the original text, but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." The work had considerable success, 4 editions having been puborn before 1824, and others in 1831, 1853, and 1861. It was, however, subjected to some criticism and ridicule, and gave rise to the expression "bowdlerise," always used in an opprobrious sense. On the other hand, Mr. Swinburne has said, "More nauseous and foolish cant was never chattered than that which would deride the memory or depreciate the merits of Bowdler No man ever did better service to Shakespeare than the man who made it possible to put him into the hands of intelligent and imaginative children." Bowdler subsequently essayed a similar enterprise in regard to Gibbon, which, however, was not so successful.

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