Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 627. Wednesday, 6 October 1993.
From: Blair Kelly III <
Date: Monday, 4 Oct 1993 22:15:35 -0400
Subject: Shakespeare Reading Groups
My thanks to all the members of SHAKSPER who sent me references about
Shakespeare reading groups. I finally got down the other weekend to
the local university library and was able to find some of them.
The book "One Touch of Shakespeare" by Fran Teague and John Velz
(excellently indexed!) gave me the reference to "The Shakespeare
Society of Philadelphia" in the Shakespeare Quarterly (1952). I found
this to be an excellent article and learned that the Shakespeare
Society of Philadelphia claims to be the oldest Shakespeare Society in
continuous existence, dating back to 1861. As Georgianna Ziegler has
mentioned, this group is still in existence and has a restricted
membership list. If some kind person would send me their current
secretary's address, I will make sure that the Washington Shakespeare
Reading Group sends them fraternal regards come the Bard's birthday. I
would also appreciate any more recent references on this Society.
My thanks also to Fran Teague who sent me a copy by post of her May
1977 Shakespeare Newsletter article "A 19th Century Shakespeare
Reading Club", which nicely summarized the discussion about reading
groups mentioned in "One Touch of Shakespeare". Around 1878,
Zanesville, Ohio had a Shakespeare Reading Club, one of whose founders
was a relative of President Fillmore.
I had less luck finding much about the British Empire Shakespeare
Society. I did find a reference to the Society in the book "Nothing to
Repent: The Life of Hesketh Pearson" by Ian Hunter. Pearson was
secretary around 1912. Pearson's autobiography "Hesketh Pearson by
Himself" was not at the this university library, although I found a
reference to it at another library that I hope to visit soon. What I
would really like is an article about the British Empire Shakespeare
Society similar to the one I found for the Shakespeare Society of
Philadelphia. If anyone knows of such or runs across any other
references, please let me know.
Now for some addresses and contact persons for the active reading
groups with which I am familiar.
The Cheltenham Shakespeare Society, Cheltenham (Gloucester), England
meets approximately fortnightly from fall through spring, and welcomes
new members. I found out about the group by their notice in the
Cheltenham Town Library. They meet at various members' houses. Some
current members are Allan and Rhoda Bloome, phone (94) 29970, and Mrs.
Betty Webley, phone (0242) 515452. If anyone contacts them, please
kindly remember me to them.
The Washington Shakespeare Reading Group meets approximately
fortnightly throughout the year. Meetings are held in the basement of
the Palisades Community Church, 5200 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington,
D.C. New members are welcome. The phone (202) 966-7929 should reach
the church office which will know our current schedule. (Or you may
contact me by email,
[Hardy - how about putting these two references in the SHAKSPER
If any member of SHAKSPER will be in the DC area in the near future,
the Washington Shakespeare Reading Group's upcoming readings (which
begin promptly at 7:30 pm) are:
Friday October 8 Much Ado About Nothing
Saturday October 23 Henry V
And if any member of SHAKSPER knows of any other active reading groups,
please let me know.
Blair Kelly III