The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0408 Friday, 25 February 2000.
Date: Friday, 25 Feb 2000 08:20:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Shakespeare as Bard?
A colleague asked a question I thought I could answer in seconds, but
I'm at a loss. He's working on a dissertation on the figure of the bard
in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and asked me when
Shakespeare was first called "the bard" (or "the bard of Avon," perhaps
through interference with Jonson's "sweet swan").
I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea. I know "Bardolatry" is Shaw's
coinage, but the origin of Shakespeare as bard escapes me. I see from
the OED that in 1766, the Life of Quin refers to "our immortal bard
Shakespeare" (s.v. volatileness), and that Garrick in 1769 (I assume for
the Jubilee) says "the bard of all bards was a Warwickshire bard." Does
anyone know whether it has a prehistory?