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The remarkable, ridiculous, rain-soaked story of Shakespeare’s Jubilee: the event that established William Shakespeare as the greatest writer of all time.
In September 1769, three thousand people descended on Stratford-Upon-Avon to celebrate the legacy of the town’s most famous son. For three days, attendees paraded through garlanded streets, listened to songs and oratorios, and enjoyed masked balls. It was a unique cultural moment—a coronation elevating William Shakespeare to the throne of genius. It was also a disaster as the poorly planned Jubilee imposed an army of Londoners on an ill-equipped backwater town.
Told from the perspectives of David Garrick, who masterminded the Jubilee, and James Boswell, who attended it, What Blest Genius? is rich with humour, gossip and intrigue. Recounting the absurd and chaotic glory of those three days, Andrew McConnell Stott illuminates the circumstances in which Shakespeare became a transcendent global icon.
“McConnell Stott’s wildly exuberant new book... has brought this odd and oddly resonant event to enchanting and illuminating life.” — Simon Callow, The Sunday Times
“McConnell Stott writes with a clear brisk style and also an evident enjoyment of language...” — Times Literary Supplement
“... highly entertaining book... sharp-eyed and funny account... Stott’s book is a glorious study of the mother of all heritage events, and it’s an excellent reminder of why they should be avoided like the plague.” — Emma Smith, Book of the Week, The Guardian
“... curious, passionate revisions of the Shakespearean myth... remind me why I came to enjoy Shakespeare so much in the first place.” — Emma Smith, Literary Review
“This is the hilarious tale of a poorly organised three-day festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1769 that launched the bard into the mega-celeb he is today... A comedy of errors as funny as Twenty Twelve.” — Literature Books of the Year 2019, The Sunday Times
“... lively account...” — 100 sizzling summer books, Mail Online
“On the non-fiction side I enjoyed What Blest Genius? by Andrew McConnell Stott, a diverting account of the Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769 in Stratford-upon-Avon...” — Nick Curtis, The Best Books of 2019, Evening Standard
Winner — Marfield Prize for Arts Writing, 2019