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Home » 5th Season » “Is All Our Company Here?” –Shakespeare at St. Mark’s

“Is All Our Company Here?” –Shakespeare at St. Mark’s

By Richard E. ”Nick” Noble, SM & SS ‘76

“Is All Our Company Here?” –Shakespeare at St. Mark’s

QUINCE: Is all our company here?

BOTTOM: You were best to call them generally, man by man,
according to the scrip.

QUINCE: Here is the scroll of every man’s name, which is
thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our
interlude before the duke and the duchess, on his
wedding-day at night.

BOTTOM: First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats
on, then read the names of the actors, and so grow
to a point.

In the fall of 1972, veteran St. Mark’s English teacher Jay Engel directed a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was the third of what would eventually be five productions of the popular Shakespearean comedy at the School. It is vivid in my memory, because I played the central role of “Nick Bottom, the Weaver,” wearing denim overalls for a costume. It was also my first introduction to performing Shakespeare. Like so many St. Markers, my first in-depth interaction with the Bard of Avon happened right here on the SM campus.

Early November of 1972 was only a few months more than a century since the very first performance of a Shakespeare play at St. Mark’s. On April 11, 1871, just two days after Easter, intrepid young St. Markers put on a somewhat abridged version of Julius Caesar. As School Historian, I had known that this earliest production had taken place, thanks to a passing reference in an old source. There was no stage or theater at St. Mark’s at the time, so space had to be booked upstairs in Southborough’s Town Hall, just a short walk up the hill from the original SM campus, and St. Mark’s Board Treasurer (and Founder) Dr. Joseph Burnett had duly recorded the nominal rental fee in his ledger of accounts. But I knew nothing else about it until 2013, when Mr. Lyons 

1871 Julius Caesar Program

discovered what may be the last surviving program from that day, packed away in a box in the eaves of the current history wing. Handling that 140-plus year-old document, set in a small, decaying frame, started me thinking about the long tradition of Shakespeare study and performance at St. Mark’s, in which I had played a small part during my Third Form year.

The study of Shakespeare’s works has been part of the St. Mark’s curriculum since almost the very beginning of the School. While there is no specific reference to his plays or poems in the School’s first year prospectus (1865-66), that is not surprising. St. Mark’s was initially established along the lines of a traditional British “public school,” with the primary academic focus being on the Classics—Latin and Greek—with “Sacred Studies” also emphasized, as befitting a church school. Mathematics and French are also referenced, without any specifics (although we know that French was introductory and taught only to the youngest boys by an outside teacher contracted for that purpose (actually, the Founder’s cousin). Everything else was lumped together under “English Literature,” which at first was taught only to the less able students [1]. However, in 1866, when two of the School’s first Tutors (as teachers were called in those days) left St. Mark’s to take other jobs, one of them—Louis C. Lewis—was presented a copy of Shakespeare’s works by the Board of Trustees for “faithful labors on behalf of the Schoiol in its first year of organization.”

It was one of Lewis’ successors, Mr. William Orcutt, who carved out a more prestigious position for English literature among the School’s curricular offerings. Orcutt came to St. Mark’s directly from Harvard, and was just 23 when he edited Julius Caesar (essentially removing Calpurnia and Portia, the only two female characters) and directed a cast of fourteen students in a flamboyant and dramatic production of the play. Many of the actors would play interesting, even important roles in the history of the School.

ANTONY: Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt. 

Marc Antony was played by Hubbard Winslow White, Class of 1872. White was known as a runner. The following year, he would impress his peers by pacing the annual winter sleigh ride from Southborough to Westborough and back, running alongside the sled through slush and snow for the entire ten-mile round trip. Much later, in 1898, he would be one of the first St. Markers to die in military service, during the Spanish-American War. Solomon Howe Class of 1874, who the year before had been one of the rowers in the very first athletic competition ever at St. Mark’s, played Cassius. The part of Cinna the Poet was taken by Sixth Former Waldo Burnett, a son of the Founder. Burnett would go on to become an ordained Episcopal priest, Rector of St. Mark’s Church in Southborough, and a key figure in some of the School’s most contentious moments between 1882 and 1894. In a minor supporting role as “a Plebian” was Benjamin Fosdick Harding, Class of 1873. Two years later he would be Head Monitor and take home the Founders’ Medal. After graduating from Harvard, Harding would return to Southborough as the very first alumnus to serve on the St. Mark’s faculty. He would move on from his alma mater to teach at St. Paul’s, and would eventually teach for 22 years at Milton Academy.

With students also working as stage manager, property manager, set painters, and costume creators, the performance was a success, entertaining the entire school community, as students thrilled to the drama of Caesar’s assassination and cheered as Hubbard White declaimed Antony’s funeral speech.

Part of the increased interest in Shakespeare’s plays at St. Mark’s may have been due to the presence of Henry Bright Hudson, who entered St. Mark’s in the fall of 1868 as Third Former from Boston. His father, Dr. Henry Norman Hudson, was the nation’s leading Shakespearean scholar and editor of the Bard’s works. Hudson’s best-known work—Shakespeare: His Life, Art, and Characters (1872) [2] —continues to be utilized and referenced today, while his series of public lectures on Shakespeare’s plays were extremely popular in the late nineteenth century and were also published to great acclaim. He also produced the first un-bowdlerized edition of Shakespeare’s plays for students. St. Mark’s was one of the first institutions to add Hudson’s School Shakespeare (1870) to its curriculum. This multi-volume set was “edited but unexpurgated and uncensored” according to Hudson himself, and was replete with carefully researched footnotes and explanations to enhance the experience of the Bard for young scholars.

It was Dr. James Ivers Trecothick Coolidge (Headmaster 1873-1882) who invited Dr. Hudson to speak at St. Mark’s. Hudson would travel to Southborough three or four times each year, spending the weekend as a guest at Joseph Burnett’s mansion on Main Street, and enlivening the School’s regular Saturday evening programs with passionate dissertations on the Shakespearean canon. Dr. Hudson would continue his visits under Dr. Coolidge’s successor, William E. Peck. His presentations had become so popular that at least twice they were relocated to Southborough’s Town Hall (the site of that first-ever St. Mark’s Shakespeare production) to permit a larger audience enhanced by local residents.

One of those Southborough locals was Lawrence Barrett [3], a renowned actor who would essay many Shakespearean roles upon the stage, several times—in multiple productions of Othello and Julius Caesar—partnered with the great American tragedian Edwin Booth [4]. 1885 Barrett was invited to be the keynote speaker at the School’s Prize Day ceremony. Barrett’s address was well-received—not so much for its references to Shakespeare and the theater, but because he regaled his audience with personal reminiscences about his old friend, the late General George Armstrong Custer, then considered an American hero idolized by many of the St. Mark’s boys. So popular was Barrett with the St. Mark’s community that he would be invited back again and again to campus. On one such occasion, a group of St. Markers declaimed speeches from Shakespeare’s plays in his honor. He was particularly impressed with the performance of one young man, and at Prize Day in 1888 he presented William Henry Leonard Edwards, St. Mark’s Class of 1889 [5], with the first and only Lawrence Barrett Medal for Elocution and Public Speaking.

HAMLET: Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. . . . Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. 

In January of 1886, Dr. Henry N. Hudson died. The erudite Shakespearean scholar had been very popular among the boys, who looked forward eagerly to his visits and presentations. In his will, he left one third of his formidable library to St. Mark’s. The Hudson Library bequest would prove an immense boon to the scholarly aspirations of St. Markers over the next several decades. Then, in 1891, Lawrence Barrett died. With the passing of those two gentlemen, while Shakespeare would remain an integral part of the St. Mark’s English curriculum, there would be no significant performance of Shakespeare’s work outside the classroom for at least two decades.

There were a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost was the situation of the faculty. There was considerable turnover among the English department during the years following St. Mark’s move into its new main building and the School’s leadership controversies of the late 19th century. Secondly, as stage performance at St. Mark’s was not curricular, the Dramatics Club, resurrected during this time, was controlled in no small measure by the tastes and abilities of the students. There was a decided preference for burlesque, satire, broad comedy, and musical revues. Dramatic acting was considered too challenging for many in the small St. Mark’s community, and the mastery of Shakespearean prose and blank verse even more so. But then, in the autumn of 1907, George Bancroft Fernald joined the faculty. An 1898 graduate of Harvard, Fernald had been teaching in his home state of Maine when he was brought to Southborough to teach English and to organize and direct the School’s library collection.

In 1909, a Vindex editor noted that the year “1908 witnessed a complete change in the type of play performed” at St. Mark’s. English master George B. Fernald had approached the Headmaster to sound him out about expanding the horizons of the St. Mark’s Dramatics Club. Up until this time, annual School productions (invariably held in Southborough’s town hall) were usually scaled-down versions of popular modern farces, minstrel shows, or student-written send-ups of St. Mark’s life. Fernald wanted to produce more significant works by important dramatists, and he also felt that St. Mark’s should have its own stage on which to present these efforts. Permission granted, construction began immediately on a makeshift stage and backstage area along an end wall of the Peck Gymnasium (Benson today). Casting and rehearsals were soon underway for Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, which was a tremendous success at St. Mark’s that December. Fernald would go on to direct plays by Sheridan and Pineero. Then, in 1912, Shakespeare returned to the St. Mark’s stage, with a slightly truncated version of A Comedy of Errors. Fernald followed that in 1913 with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. All comedies, to be sure (it would be a while before the School would present its first real drama) with boys in both male and female roles, but the quality of the Dramatics Club’s offerings had been substantially raised through Mr. Fernald’s efforts. Fernald had been nicknamed “Tissaphernes” by the boys, after the ancient Persian soldier and statesman, and it was soon shortened to “Tissy.”  In addition to his teaching of English and his theatrical efforts, Fernald was the first modern St. Mark’s librarian, carefully cataloging the School’s growing collection in its new home. He also played tennis (coaching St. Markers at that game before a varsity team existed) and for many years he would supervise Dormitory D, just behind the quadrangle clock, where he would read to the boys every night before bedtime. Often, he would read to them from a worn edition of Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.

The more prestigious theatrical productions introduced by Fernald went into a decline during the First World War. With increasing responsibilities as the School’s librarian, Fernald had handed over his guidance of the St. Mark’s Dramatic s Club to a new faculty member—Chauncey Lyman Parsons—in 1919. Parsons had no interest at all in sports. He was, as one St. Marker described him, “an aesthete,” but while his manner was delicate and precise, he was in no way fragile. He was admired as an English teacher who terrified his students, from the First Form to the Sixth, with a caustic temperament and an acid wit. But, out of that terror came the echoes of beautiful music. “He could make poets and dramatists sing for him and for his students,” wrote one alumnus. Mr. Parsons, whose affectionate nickname was “Pansy,” would often uses his classes as a kind of preliminary audition, after taking over the role of dramatics coach or director of plays at St. Mark’s from the overburdened Mr. Fernald. He continued his predecessor’s vision of sophisticated plays beautifully produced and performed. In 1922 it was Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, in 1925 A Comedy of Errors, and one year later A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was a stern, demanding director, and every year, like clockwork, he would storm out in the middle of a bad rehearsal. “Successive Presidents of the Dramatic Club,” wrote another alumnus, “would give ‘Pansy’ a few hours to cool off and then appear at his sanctum in North Corridor 2 with apologies, pleas, and pledges. And the show would go on.”

A young performer in those latter two Shakespearean productions was Oouthout Zabriskie “O.Z.” Whitehead, Class of 1930, who would later be praised by Mr. Parsons for his “dramatic intelligence.”  Whitehead would go on to a sixty year career as a successful actor on stage (winning awards for his 1966 performance in Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie) and in films (he had a major supporting role in John Ford’s 1940 classic The Grapes of Wrath). During his Sixth Form year, Whitehead recognized the talents of a younger St. Marker—John Cromwell ’32— and he urged Chauncey Parsons to plan a very production for Cromwell’s Sixth Form year.

HAMLET: May be the devil, and the devil hath power t’ assume a pleasing shape. Yea, and perhaps out of my weakness and my melancholy, as he is very potent with such spirits, abuses me to damn me.  I’ll have grounds more relative than this. The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

It would be the St. Mark’s Dramatic Club’s most ambitious project to date: a full-scale production of Hamlet. Mr. Parsons was convinced that he finally had the talent to pull off a major Shakespearean tragedy. No more comedies, farces, mysteries, or melodramas; this would be the real thing. The major burden would indeed fall upon John Cromwell ’32. As Dramatic Club president, he convinced Mr. Parsons that he could manage the title role. Fortunately. he was continuously supported by alumnus O. Z. Whitehead ’30, then in his second year at Harvard, so Chauncey Lyman Parsons was emboldened to move ahead with casting. From the principal actors down to those with walk-on bit parts, all realized that they were taking part in something significant. Mr. Parsons edited the play’s twenty scenes down to nine, although much less was lost as key moments were moved from one to another.

1932 Production of Hamlet

The curtain went up on February 20, 1932. The gymnasium was packed with an eager but—it was noted by some—a somewhat skeptical audience. Long before the final curtain fell, all doubt was dispelled. “Those who attended the play quickly realized that Hamlet was the greatest success that Mr. Parsons has ever had,” wrote O. Z. Whitehead in his Vindex review. “The performance had a really professional air,” he went on, and “Mr. Parsons’ direction was unsurpassed.” Cromwell, noted Whitehead, “was continuously excellent and sometimes great” in his performance interpreting “this most difficult role ever written.” Cromwell’s scenes as Hamlet “were all brilliant and moving pieces of acting.”  Also singled out for praise—somewhat unusual in those hierarchical days when members of the Upper School garnered most of the published accolades—was Second Former Schuyler Nickerson, for his delightfully “boisterous” interpretation of Ophelia, delivered with “a charming quality of naiveté” and “an understanding remarkable for his age.” The production was both impressive and powerful, and many who saw it never forgot its impact. One alumnus would more than thirty years later recall it as a “triumph,” and he could still mimic John Cromwell’s gestures and intonations in the leading role.

Cromwell would, like Whitehead, go on to a successful acting career, primarily on the stage, specializing in plays by Ibsen, Shaw, and Shakespeare. Mr. Parsons, after what one alumnus described as “an unsuccessful trial of strength with higher authority,” would leave St. Mark’s in 1939, after twenty years at the School. Once again, productions of high-quality plays (including Shakespeare’s) would disappear from the St. Mark’s stage for at least a decade. The Second World War would be the principal preoccupation of the school community for the next few years.

In 1949, Shakespeare made an interesting reappearance at St. Mark’s. Each spring since 1943, Mr. J. Stanley Sheppard—music teacher on the St. Mark’s faculty—had spearheaded an original musical production. That year, the spring musical was called Weekend at Illyria. It was, essentially, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with original songs by Mr. Sheppard sprinkled throughout, and “additional dialogue by Mr. Badger.” Walter Irving Badger had joined the St. Mark’s English Department in 1943, and would soon take over the direction of all St. Mark’s Drama Club efforts.

PETRUCHIO: Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith, you are too angry.
KATHERINE: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
PETRUCHIO: My remedy is then, to pluck it out.
KATHERINE: Ay, if the fool could find where it lies.
PETRUCHIO: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
KATHERINE: In his tongue.
PETRUCHIO: Whose tongue?
KATHERINE: Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
PETRUCHIO: What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman.” 

One of Mr. Badger’s greatest triumphs was the 1954 production of The Taming of the Shrew, the first genuine Shakespearean theatrical offering at St. Mark’s since Hamlet. Sadly, just four years later, less than a month after his production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest opened the newly-renovated Benson Auditorium, Mr. Badger died suddenly. That spring, the very first Walter Irving Badger Dramatics Prize was presented at Prize Day, and its first recipient was Mr. Badger’s last Drama Club president and star of that year’s Earnest, Peter Saccio ’58. Saccio would go on to teach Shakespeare at Dartmouth College for forty years, becoming Dartmouth’s Leon Black Professor of Shakespearean Studies. His book Shakespeare’s English Kings (1977) remains a standard for directors and actors. In 2015, he was elected to the St. Mark’s Cloister of Distinguished Alumni/ae.

FALSTAFF: What is honour? A word. What is in that word honour? What is that honour? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No.

  1. Kent Carr, a teacher of French at St. Mark’s for nineteen years, would take over as faculty advisor to the Drama Club and director of their productions. In 1967, the Benson stage would feature Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I, familiar to the school community as required reading during the Fourth Form year. As with all St. Mark’s productions since the earliest years, any female roles were played by boys.

That would not be the case with the School’s next foray into Shakespeare: the aforementioned Midsummer Night’s Dream in the autumn of 1972, in which this author played Bottom. When Puck transformed Bottom’s head into that of an ass (the wooden silhouette of a donkey’s head affixed to the shell of an old football helmet concealed by strips of brown fabric), I found myself staring into the eyes of Lita Kean ’73, a member of the very first class from the Southborough School [6]. Mr. Engel’s production was the first ever at St. Mark’s to feature young women in female roles, with Lita the first in a major leading role (like its predecessors, this foray into Shakespeare at St. Mark’s was heavily edited, and featured primarily the comic scenes, so there was little seen of the mixed-up lovers).

TITANIA: What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?

There was more Shakespeare during the 70s, but in the classroom and not onstage. Second and Third Formers tackled A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Julius Caesar. Substituting for a week in a Third Form English class, Headmaster Edward T. Hall ’37 directed the students in dramatic, sometimes bloodthirsty scenes from the latter play. Some of the histories—both parts of Henry IV and sometimes Henry V—invigorated the Fourth Form curriculum. Fifth Formers took on Macbeth, Sixth Formers Hamlet, and a variety of electives—Shakespeare’s Use of the Supernatural, Imagery in Shakespeare, Three Plays by Shakespeare, Shakespeare the Playwright and others—carried St. Markers more deeply into these and other plays. In the required course in public speaking, I can remember declaiming Antony’s angry oration over Caesar’s body: “O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, that I am meek and gentle with these butchers!” I write it now from memory, as it has stuck with me all these years.

My classmate, the late Tom Philips ’76, chose to explore the curricular use of Shakespeare for his Sixth Form Independent Study Project. He called it Developmental Shakespeare at St. Mark’s. “Going through the English curriculum at St. Mark’s,” he wrote, “I had the distinct impression that there might be a better way to use the plays of Shakespeare.” He set out to “read all the plays of Shakespeare, and then come to my own conclusions about how they might best be used at the School.” As he progressed through the plays in the order they were written, he said

I became aware that the material was developing all the time,

creatively, technically, in content, in demands it made on the

audience. It became clear that these developing aspects could

be seen as demonstrating a mind,  Shakespeare’s, coming progressively

into full possession and control of its powers.

This movement, he said, “invited a curricular response,” and so he focused his efforts toward “establishing a correspondence between the ‘ongoingness’ of the plays and the related ‘ongoingness’ of the student.” His ultimate proposal added Richard II, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, and Othello to the required curriculum, eliminating Julius Caesar, and putting the plays in a different order for study.

Shakespeare also inspired the use of more modern technology (for its time). As a younger St. Marker I was asked to be videographer for a recreation of Act 2, Scene 4 from Henry IV Part I, by David Stack ’75 (father of current Sixth Former Will Stack): Falstaff boasting of false heroics.

FALSTAFF: I am a rogue, if I were not at half-sword with a dozen of them two hours together. I have ‘scaped by miracle. I am eight times thrust through the doublet, four through the hose; my buckler cut
through and through; my sword hacked like a hand-saw–ecce signum! I never dealt better since I was a man: all would not do.

The mid-to-late 1970s saw a renaissance in the study of Theater Arts at St. Mark’s. The catalyst was the Southborough School for Girls, who in 1974 brought actress and director Barbara Jacks on to its faculty to teach drama as part of the curriculum. A dozen St. Markers signed up for that very first Theater Arts class, along with several Southborough School students. It was held twice weekly in Taft Hall, and included all aspects of performance. I was a member of that pioneering class, and along with all the emotional and physical exercises, scenes, dance lessons, and more, I can recall rehearsing monologues from Othello and The Merchant of Venice.

SHYLOCK: Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? 

Over the last four decades, Shakespeare has continued at St. Mark’s as part of the St. Mark’s curriculum, both in the traditional English Department and through the relatively (since the late 70s) new Theater Arts component of the Arts Department. In 1988, one of Mrs. Jacks’ successors, Tom Edgar, directed a dynamic production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, utilizing a thrust stage reaching well beyond the Benson proscenium, with Thor Benander ’90 as a spectacular Puck. Six years later, in 1994, Edgar returned to Shakespeare with the first-ever St. Mark’s production of Love’s Labour Lost.

St. Markers were also exposed to Shakespeare beyond campus, most often through the efforts of veteran faculty member Jay Engel (yes, the same Mr. Engel who directed the 1972 Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring yours truly). Throughout his forty-plus year career at the School, Engel encouraged students to look beyond the insular confines of the St. Mark’s bubble, arranging off campus trips to musical and theatrical performances in Boston and New York, including productions of Shakespeare. In 1996, for example, his “Magic Bus” excursions took St. Markers to The Tempest at the American Repertory Theater and the Huntington Theater’s Hamlet.

In the 21st century, the School’s longest-serving Theater Arts teacher, Les Baird, directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream and two different productions of Twelfth Night during his 17 years at St. Mark’s, the last in the innovative Black Box Theater. Shakespeare is still an integral part of the English curriculum. Last March, Mr. Camp’s Fifth Form “Books Without Borders” English class visited the Boston Public Library (BPL) to experience its unique exhibit, “Shakespeare Unauthorized.” And more recently, Dr. Glomset’s students just finished The Tempest.

2012 Twelfth Night

ANTONIO: . . . what’s past is prologue

Shakespeare’s plays are part of St. Mark’s past since the School’s beginnings, but all that is yet only prologue to what is to come, as generations of future students find the “ongoingness” of their own development enriched by the “ongoingness” of Shakespeare’s ever-developing craft, as they are exposed to it. And who knows: maybe sometime, sooner or later, a group of intrepid St. Markers will accept the challenge of Shakespeare’s prose and verse, and we’ll see yet another Shakespearean production on the St. Mark’s stage.

After all, once we have gathered “all our company here” then “the play’s the thing!”

Richard E. “Nick” Noble, SM & SS 1976, is currently Communications Manager, Editor, and School Historian at St. Mark’s. He is the author of The Echo of Their Voices: 150 Years of St. Mark’s School (2015).


Footnotes

[1] Winston Churchill, who in 1953 received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values,” once described his own inability to master Latin and Greek in the traditional British public school curriculum as a blessing. “I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys,” he would write. “They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English. We were considered such dunces that we could learn only English. Mr. Somervell—a delightful man, to whom my debt is great—was charged with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most disregarded thing—namely, to write mere English … Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence—which is a noble thing. And when in years my schoolfellows who had won prizes and distinction for writing such beautiful Latin poetry and pithy Greek epigrams had to come down again to common English, to earn their living or earn their way, I did not feel myself at any disadvantage.” (Churchill, My Early Life: 1874-1904). It was John F. Kennedy who would later say that Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

[2] Henry Norman Hudson and St. Mark’s founder Joseph Burnett had known each other since the 1840s, when both had been members of the Church of the Advent, an Episcopal parish in Boston. In fact, Dr. Hudson’s Shakespeare: His Life, Art, and Characters was dedicated to his “great friend, Dr. Joseph Burnett.”

[3] Best known in the United States and around the world for his career-defining title role in the non-Shakespearean play Richelieu.

[4] Edwin Booth was the older brother of actor John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

[5] Full disclosure: W.H.L. Edwards was this author’s great grandfather. After attending Williams College, he returned to St. Mark’s to coach football for one season. He eventually became an attorney in New York.

[6] Lita Kean Haack ’73 would go on to become the first Southborough School alumna to serve as a Trustee of St. Mark’s. Her daughter—Alexandra ’05– attended St. Mark’s. Lita, will, however, always be “my Titania.”


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