William Shakespeare and the English language


This video says about itself:

Shakespeare – The History of English (3/10)

1 July 2011

Frpm daily The Independent in Britain:

These are all the words that William Shakespeare is credited with inventing

by Evan Bartlett

24 August 2015

Despite passing away nearly four centuries ago, William Shakespeare has left an indelible mark on the English language.

The likes of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth have seen Shakespeare regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.

While those plays are still widely read and celebrated, the Bard has arguably left a far greater legacy in all the words and phrases that he is credited with inventing, or at least first popularising through his work.

Here is a list of 117 words credited to Shakespeare (just try and having a conservation without using any of them):

  • academe
  • accused
  • addiction
  • advertising
  • amazement
  • arouse
  • assassination
  • arch-villain
  • backing
  • bandit
  • barefaced
  • beached
  • bedazzle
  • bedroom
  • besmirch
  • bet
  • birthplace
  • blanket
  • bloodstained
  • blushing
  • bump
  • buzzer
  • caked
  • cater
  • champion
  • cheap
  • circumstantial
  • cold-blooded
  • compromise
  • countless
  • courtship
  • critic
  • dauntless
  • dawn
  • deafening
  • discontent
  • dishearten
  • drugged
  • dwindle
  • elbow
  • embrace
  • epileptic
  • equivocal
  • excitement
  • exposure
  • eyeball
  • fashionable
  • fixture
  • flawed
  • frugal
  • generous
  • gloomy
  • gnarled
  • go-between
  • gossip
  • green-eyed
  • grovel
  • gust
  • hint
  • hobnob
  • honey-tongued
  • hurried
  • impartial
  • impede
  • inauspicious
  • invulnerable
  • jaded
  • label
  • lacklustre
  • laughable
  • lonely
  • lower
  • luggage
  • lustrous
  • madcap
  • majestic
  • marketable
  • metamorphise
  • mimic
  • monumental
  • moonbeam
  • mountaineer
  • negotiate
  • nimble-footed
  • noiseless
  • obscene
  • obsequiously
  • ode
  • olympian
  • outbreak
  • panders
  • pedant
  • premeditated
  • puking
  • radiance
  • rant
  • remorseless
  • sanctimonious
  • savagery
  • scuffle
  • secure
  • skim milk
  • submerge
  • summit
  • swagger
  • time-honoured
  • torture
  • tranquil
  • undress
  • unearthly
  • unreal
  • varied
  • vaulting
  • vulnerable
  • well-bred
  • worthless
  • zany

Citations for where the majority of these words can be found in Shakespeare’s plays can be seen here.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s satire of Conservative prime minister censored


This video from Canada says about itself:

Protesters impersonate Mike Duffy, Stephen Harper outside Duffy trial

12 August 2015

Two protesters dressed as Mike Duffy and Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood outside the courthouse Wednesday holding a cheque for $90,000 dollars, a reference to the money Harper‘s former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright paid Duffy – allegedly without the PM’s knowledge.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Hair today, gone tomorrow: Margaret Atwood in Canada censorship row

Author’s satirical piece on prime minister Stephen Harper’s hair is removed within hours of publication on National Post website: ‘Did I just get censored?’

Oliver Laughland

Sunday 23 August 2015 15.26 BST

She is a prize-winning author who has conjured vivid dystopian futures, but on Friday Margaret Atwood found herself at the centre of a somewhat mundane censorship debate in the present.

The acclaimed author penned a satirical column lambasting Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s hair, which has become an unusual talking point in the lead up to the general election in October.

Hours after publication on the National Post website, the piece was removed. Senior newspaper staff later said “the necessary fact checking had not been completed”.

“Um, did I just get censored? For my flighty little caper on Hair?” Atwood tweeted after #Hairgate began trending on Twitter.

Throughout the election campaign, the Canadian Conservative party has attacked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as inexperienced and lacking in policy focus. It has also mocked him simply for having “nice hair”. Trudeau has hit back through advertising, arguing Harper is struggling to talk about anything else.

Atwood’s piece argued the entire debate had trivialised the election. “Hair, an election issue? Really?” she wrote, before going on to poke fun at Harper.

“Of the three national male leaders, which one travels with a personal grooming assistant – lavishly paid for in whole or in part by you, gentle taxpayer – so that none of his hairs will ever be out of place … Hint: Initials are SH.”

The column was eventually republished by the National Post, with three sentences, which made reference to Harper’s political donations and a recent travel expenses scandal, removed.

The edits appeared to outrage the author even more – Atwood said the piece had been submitted nine days before it was published.

“Which of my facts were Wrong? What are the alternate facts, presumably Right? Cite sources please,” she tweeted at the National Post on Saturday, after thanking readers for the flurry of puns mocking the episode, which had erupted on Twitter throughout the day.

Canada’s Conservatives boast mighty war chest but corruption scandal looms. Stephen Harper’s ruling party has maintained campaign spending advantage before October vote, but a senator’s expenses trial could yet derail Conservatives: here.

Canada’s prime minister wants to make it harder for people to vote against him, by Caroline Konrad. Stephen Harper, who won by an uncomfortably small margin in the last election, has passed laws that may keep voters who oppose him from the polls: here.

British author Doris Lessing spied on by secret police


This video is called Re-Reading Doris Lessing‘s ‘The Golden Notebook’: Ten Years Later.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

MI5 spied on Doris Lessing for 20 years, declassified documents reveal

Newly released and redacted British intelligence files refer to author from early 1940s to long after her break from communist party in 1956

Richard Norton-Taylor

Friday 21 August 2015 00.01 BST

MI5 targeted the Nobel prize-winning author Doris Lessing for 20 years, listening to her phone conversations, opening her mail and closely monitoring her movements, previously top secret files reveal. The files show the extent to which MI5, helped by the Met police special branch, spied on the writer, her friends and associates, long after she abandoned communism, disgusted by the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956.

MI5 was concerned about her continuing fierce opposition to colonialism, the files, released at the National Archives on Friday, make clear.

Lessing first came to MI5’s notice in the early 1940s in Southern Rhodesia when, as Doris Tayler, she married Gottfried Lessing, a communist activist and leading figure in the Left Book Club. …

From British daily The Independent, quoting MI5:

One memo to London said: “The general tone of the club is reported to be very left, and it is stated that most topics of discussion there usually end up in anti-British, anti-capital and anti-imperialist vapourings.”

The BBC quotes MI5 that it was ‘a club “patronised by persons with foreign accents”‘ Gottfried Lessing, Doris’ husband, was a refugee from nazi Germany of Jewish ancestry, so probably spoke English with a German accent.

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

She kept his surname when the marriage ended and she left Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where she was brought up, and moved to Britain in 1949.

MI5 stepped up its spying on her when, in the course of its permanent bugging of the British Communist party’s headquarters in King Street, Covent Garden, her name (initially misheard as Lacey) came up in a conversation.

From British daily The Independent, quoting MI5:

One 1951 report in her Security Service personal file said: “Doris Lessing has been described as certainly pro-Communist although it is doubtful if she is a party member. Her Rhodesian background has brought out in her a deep hatred of the colour bar which has now reached the point of fanaticism. In this way her Communist sympathies have been increased.”

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

In 1952, MI6 passed to MI5 what it called “character sketches” of members of a visit to Moscow by a number of British authors, the files released on Friday reveal. Under the name Miss Doris Lessing, it wrote: “Her communist sympathies have been fanned almost to the point of fanaticism owing to her upbringing in Rhodesia, which has brought out in her a deep hatred of the colour bar.”

MI6 added: “Colonial exploitation is her pet theme and she has now nearly become as irresponsible in her statements as … saying that everything black is wonderful and that all men and all things white are vicious.”

… In 1956, Special Branch informed MI5 that Lessing, whom it described as “of plump build”, had moved into a flat in Warwick Road, London SW5. “Her flat is frequently visited by persons of various nationality,” it reported, “including Americans, Indians, Chinese and Negroes.” The report added: “It is possible that the flat is being used for immoral purposes.”

But 1956 proved tumultuous for Lessing. She was banned from South Africa and Rhodesia.

From British daily The Independent:

Lessing, who was expelled from South Africa during the trip after an alert to the apartheid country’s police force from London, was also followed onto a flight back to Britain and observed to be writing in a large black notebook which her tail considered suspicious because the author covered what she had written each time someone came past.

An attempt to find the notebook in her luggage upon her return to London airport was abandoned because of fears it would alert Lessing to MI5’s scrutiny.

While the author, who died in 2013 aged 94, maintained her radical politics throughout her life, her MI5 file reveals nothing to suggest she was an active threat to national security.

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

Then came Moscow’s violent suppression of the Hungarian uprising. MI5 reported a fraught meeting at the communist party headquarters where Lessing agreed to sign a letter exposing “the grave crimes and abuses of the USSR and the recent revolt of workers and intellectuals against the pseudo Communist bureaucracies and police systems”. …

Lessing, an MI5 file notes, resigned from the Communist party and rejected an appeal from party officials to change her mind.

Early the following year, 1957, an MI5 source described Lessing as “disgusted with the Russian action in Hungary”, and attacking the attitude of the British communist party as “hopeless and gutless”. The same source described her as “an attractive, forceful, dangerous, woman, ruthless if need be”. …

MI5 continued to monitor Lessing’s movements, speeches and writing, and eagerly passed titbits on to the South African police. MI5 officers make clear they chose not to believe that she had “broken completely” with the Communist party, as one file puts it. In 1960, a Special Branch officer told MI5 she attended an “inaugural discussion” of the anti-war group, the Committee of 100, at Friends’ House on the Euston Road, London.

In November 1962, six years after she left the Communist party, an MI5 officer wrote, in a file stamped “secret and personal”: “She is known to have retained extreme leftwing views and she takes an interest in African affairs as an avowed opponent of racial discrimination. In more recent years, she has associated herself with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

This is the last entry in the intelligence files on her released on Friday, two years after her death. Official weeders have taken out some pages and passages, partly to protect the name of informants. They may be released at a later date.

In 2007, aged 88, Lessing, who made no secret of her political views, became the oldest winner of the Nobel prize for literature. She died in November 2013, aged 94.

The files released on Friday reveal that MI5 also kept a close watch on prominent figures of the left who were never members of the Communist party. They include the brothers David and Martin Ennals: the former became social services secretary in Callaghan’s 1976 Labour government and was later ennobled, the latter became general secretary of the National Council of Civil Liberties, a founder member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and secretary general of Amnesty International.

An anxious Foreign Office diplomat wrote shortly after the end of the second world war to Roger Hollis, who later became head of MI5, asking about the pair. MI5 replied that its files on the Ennals brothers had been “in great demand recently”. MI5 was concerned that UN groups, in which it said both brothers were involved, might be infiltrated by the Communist party. MI5 noted that Martin was “well known to Special Branch for his activities in the Anti-Apartheid Movement”.

The MI5 files contain extracts of Harold Laski’s private correspondence that were intercepted because it was worried about his alleged communist connections. His private communications were intercepted, though MI5 reported to the Home Office in 1933 that he was “not a Communist”. Laski was chairman of the Labour party at the time of its landslide victory in the 1945 general election.

British poetry against government policies


This video from England says about itself:

Coleridge Lectures 2015: Andrew Kelly

17 April 2015

Andrew Kelly: Animals ‘in the Fraternity of universal Nature’

In his utopian community Pantisocracy, Coleridge believed that animals were to be brothers and sisters ‘in the Fraternity of universal Nature’. Animal rights and animal welfare were debated widely amongst the Romantics and remain controversial issues today. Andrew Kelly looks at the views of the Romantics and current campaigns for animals.

Part of Coleridge Lectures 2015: Radical Green. In association with Bristol 2015 European Green Capital and Cabot Institute.

By Jody Porter in Britain:

New Boots and Pantisocracies

Thursday 13th August 2015

Jody Porter talks to ANDY JACKSON and W N HERBERT about the success of their post-election poetry project

THE next few weeks will see a radical web-based poetry project reach its conclusion, with the posting of the final poems out of a planned 100 on the New Boots and Pantisocracies website.

The project is curated by poets W N Herbert and Andy Jackson and takes the theme of “the first 100 days,” which has become something of a post-election meme in recent years.

The website has published poems initially reflecting on the post-election political landscape before moving on to document the state of British society in the last few months since the tumultuous general election. Poets involved include George Szirtes, Helen Mort, Ian McMillan, Roddy Lumsden, Sheenagh Pugh and Sean O’Brien, each one responding to what the curators describe as ”the new unrealpolitik.”

The name of the project brings together the concept of the pantisocracy (where all govern equally) as proposed by 18th-century poets Coleridge and Southey, with the 1977 Ian Dury LP New Boots and Panties, a quintessentially British record, rich in blue collar poetry and musical variation.

This music video from Ireland is called Ian Dury & The Blockheads / Blockheads “Live” in Belfast 03/02/79.

W N Herbert says: “The idea for the blog sprang from an online exchange between myself and my publisher Andy Ching.

The phrase just arose, and the way it bounced Dury’s ripe knowingness off Southey and Coleridge’s early idealism suddenly seemed to make sense of our current bewilderment. It was, we realised, one of those rare spontaneous puns you look again at and think, ‘What can I do with that?’”

Jackson says of the project: “There was a sense of disbelief after the election result came in. A Tory majority without the limited restraints placed on it by its former coalition partners spelt bad news for the arts, education, health, welfare and many other areas traditionally sacrificed to austerity. Poets associated with the project have responded in various ways, looking at the benefits system, human rights legislation, TTIP, Scottish independence and many other topics.”

Co-curator Herbert added: “there’s plenty of anger and bewilderment, but these are lines of poetry rather than unwavering expressions of a party line, and their energy comes from a collision of the verbal with the visceral, a recharging of language even as it is being emptied by our political masters and their envious opposites.”

The initial aim — 100 poems in 100 days — has been a success, and the curators are considering the next steps. Herbert explains: “The plan is to take New Boots into the live arena, organising readings of contributors as we’ve done with previous projects. The other part of the plan is, we can now reveal, to continue past the 100 days as long as the contributors’ political and poetical will is there and until everyone interested in writing something has done so.” Readers can therefore expect an incendiary mix of heads-up poetry in a town near them in the near future.

Jackson concludes: “Poetry has taken a stand in a way that it is rarely afforded the chance to — not just via a few isolated voices on lonely hillsides and street corners, but collectively and loudly. We hope that this project demonstrates that the radical art of the polemic in poetic form still thrives, and that poetry has a place in both reflecting society and politics, and rejecting it where it cannot accept the way things are.”

New Boots and Pantisocracies can be viewed here.

Did William Shakespeare smoke marihuana?


This video from Britain is called Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman. BBC Documentary 2015.

If William Shakespeare did indeed smoke marihuana, then he was lucky not to live in South Carolina in the USA in 2015 …

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Was William Shakespeare high when he penned his plays?

Pipes with cannabis residue were found in the Bard’s garden

Francis Thackeray

Saturday 08 August 2015

State-of-the-art forensic technology from South Africa has been used to try and unravel the mystery of what was smoked in tobacco pipes found in the Stratford-upon-Avon garden of William Shakespeare.

Residue from clay tobacco pipes more than 400 years old from the playwright’s garden were analysed in Pretoria using a sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry.

Chemicals from pipe bowls and stems which had been excavated from Shakespeare‘s garden and adjacent areas were identified and quantified during the forensic study. The artefacts for the study were on loan from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The gas technique is very sensitive to residues that can be preserved in pipes even if they had been smoked 400 years ago.

What were they smoking?

There were several kinds of tobacco in the 17th century, including the North American Nicotiana (from which we get nicotine), and cocaine (Erythroxylum), which is obtained from Peruvian coca leaves.

It has been claimed that Sir Francis Drake may have brought coca leaves to England after his visit to Peru, just as Sir Walter Raleigh had brought “tobacco leaves” (Nicotiana) from Virginia in North America.

In a recent issue of a Country Life magazine, Mark Griffiths has stimulated great interest in John Gerard’s Herbal, published in 1597 as a botanical book which includes engraved images of several people in the frontispiece. One of them (cited as “The Fourth Man”) is identified by Griffiths as William Shakespeare, but this identification is questionable.

Possibly, the engraving represents Sir Francis Drake, who knew Gerard.

Gerard’s Herbal refers to various kinds of “tobacco” introduced to Europe by Drake and Raleigh in the days of Shakespeare in Elizabethan England.

There certainly is a link between Drake and plants from the New World, notably corn, the potato and “tobacco”. Furthermore, one can associate Raleigh with the introduction of “tobacco” to Europe from North America (notably in the context of the tobacco plant called Nicotiana, from Virginia and elsewhere).

What we found

There was unquestionable evidence for the smoking of coca leaves in early 17th century England, based on chemical evidence from two pipes in the Stratford-upon-Avon area.

Neither of the pipes with cocaine came from Shakepeare’s garden. But four of the pipes with cannabis did.

Results of this study (including 24 pipe fragments) indicated cannabis in eight samples, nicotine in at least one sample, and in two samples definite evidence for Peruvian cocaine from coca leaves.

Shakespeare may have been aware of the deleterious effects of cocaine as a strange compound. Possibly, he preferred cannabis as a weed with mind-stimulating properties.

These suggestions are based on the following literary indications. In Sonnet 76, Shakespeare writes about “invention in a noted weed”. This can be interpreted to mean that Shakespeare was willing to use “weed” (cannabis as a kind of tobacco) for creative writing (“invention”).

In the same sonnet it appears that he would prefer not to be associated with “compounds strange”, which can be interpreted, at least potentially, to mean “strange drugs” (possibly cocaine).

Sonnet 76 may relate to complex wordplay relating in part to drugs (compounds and “weed”), and in part to a style of writing, associated with clothing (“weeds”) and literary compounds (words combined to form one, as in the case of the word “Philsides” from Philip Sidney).

Was Shakespeare high?

Chemical analyses of residues in early 17th-century clay “tobacco pipes” have confirmed that a diversity of plants was smoked in Europe. Literary analyses and chemical science can be mutually beneficial, bringing the arts and the sciences together in an effort to better understand Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

This has also begged the question whether the plays of Shakespeare were performed in Elizabethan England in a smoke-filled haze?

One can well imagine the scenario in which Shakespeare performed his plays in the court of Queen Elizabeth, in the company of Drake, Raleigh and others who smoked clay pipes filled with “tobacco”.

**

This piece is based on an article published in the South African Journal of Science in July 2015.

Francis Thackeray is Phillip Tobias Chair in Palaeoanthropology, Evolutionary Studies Institute at University of the Witwatersrand.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, a critical review


Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman

By Sandy English in the USA:

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman: More of a moneymaking than a literary event?

3 August 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, New York: HarperCollins, 2015, 278 pp.

Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set a Watchman, has sold over a million copies in the United States since its release two weeks ago. It is currently at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The book, or what readers imagine or hope it to be, has clearly struck a chord.

Lee, now 89, is the author of one other novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. That book is set in 1930s Alabama during the Jim Crow segregation era. The novel tells the story of Atticus Finch, a white, small-town lawyer, who defends a black man against the charge of raping a white woman.

His daughter, Jean Louise, narrates a compelling tale about the life of the Finches and the inhabitants of the small town of Maycomb. What runs through Atticus, Jean Louise (known by her nickname, Scout) and her elder brother Jem is a feeling for equality and fair play and a generally democratic sensibility.

Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird Scout (who is eight when the books opens) and Jem learn from their father and their own experiences to treat people with a sense of empathy and justice. This includes the poor and illiterate, the mentally disabled and nonconformists, but especially the deeply oppressed African Americans in the town.

The novel was published at the height of the Civil Rights movement, and became an immediate bestseller. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. More significantly, the book was identified in the public’s mind with the struggle by millions of African Americans for justice against segregation and racism in the South.

Producer Alan Pakula and Harper Lee on set of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962

Producer Alan Pakula and Harper Lee on set of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962

The fictional Atticus Finch demonstrated to a whole generation what it meant to be willing to endure, in defense of decency and fairness, threats to one’s reputation, life and even the well-being of one’s family.

Furthermore, To Kill A Mockingbird came as something of a moral release or revival to a society battered by the McCarthyite anticommunist witch-hunts and years of blacklisting, “naming names” and frame-ups such as that of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953. The informer and the capitulator had become American social types that were all too familiar.

Egalitarian sentiment had awakened with the mass struggle against Jim Crow in the South. Millions were ready by 1960 to read about those who stood up to prejudice and racism.

At the same time, Lee’s novel, although no doubt written with complete sincerity, only went so far, or perhaps only could go so far. The political climate in America presumably had something to do with the fact that the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird was a middle class, or by the standards of the South at the time, an upper middle class lawyer.

Nevertheless, Lee’s work expresses the genuine opposition to inequality that is a part of American life, including in the South. It is a deeply satisfying work that argues, through the eyes and experience of children, for more compassionate and humane behavior and attitudes. It still resonates as a simple, powerful novel that speaks in well-constructed images and appeals to the senses.

Over the last five and a half decades, the work has sold over 40 million copies. It has become part of many American middle-school and high-school curriculums and inspires countless youth to see the defense of equality as a moral principle and a human virtue. The story of Atticus Finch has even inspired many young people over the years to become lawyers and to fight for justice to prevail. For years many parents have named their sons after him.

The 1962 film adaptation of Lee’s novel with Gregory Peck (for which he won an Academy Award), directed by Robert Mulligan, produced by Alan Pakula and with a screenplay by Horton Foote, is almost as popular as the novel and an honest work of art in its own right.

Harper Lee never published another novel after To Kill a Mockingbird, until now, and generally avoided the limelight. She stopped doing interviews in 1964, complaining that journalists asked the same questions over and over again. She also refused to write an introduction to the novel, observing, “Mockingbird still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble.”

It is easy to see why a new novel about Atticus and his family was so eagerly anticipated. It brings back to the stage, or so readers hoped, the figure of the principled lawyer. And 2015, as a great many people would undoubtedly agree, is a time when such a figure is needed in both literature and life.

Fifty-five years after Lee’s first book was published American society is riven by a much deeper social inequality than was the case in 1960. While a layer of upper middle class African Americans has prospered and made its mark in politics, conditions for every section of the working class have deteriorated sharply. The gap between the super-rich and the mass of the population has never been greater. Where is the literary or film character who will address that question?

Unease and anger about social inequality are ubiquitous in every part of the United States, but find no recognition in official media or political life.

In many ways, the political or moral climate is worse today than at the height of the McCarthy period. Academics and “intellectuals” line up to serve the Pentagon, the CIA and other murderous government agencies. Revelations of massive NSA spying, an essential ingredient of a police state, fail to disturb the sleep of the ex-liberal middle class, scandalously wealthy and desirous of protecting every penny.

Fighters for justice and equality are maligned, imprisoned and hounded by the political establishment. However, the widespread popularity of figures such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is an indication that millions of people are revolted by this climate. Atticus Finch could not return too soon.

The circumstances around the discovery of Go Set a Watchman are murky. Harper Lee is suffering from the after-effects of a stroke and is partially blind and deaf. She is wheelchair-bound and confined to an assisted living facility in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama (on which Maycomb was modeled) and has limited access to her friends, much less journalists. The writer’s life-long business agent, her older sister, Alice, died last year. It was soon after that the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman surfaced.

HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has spared no effort to publicize the book, with a massive public relations campaign, including a pre-release of the first chapter.

While nothing definitive can be said about the origins of the new book’s manuscript, it seems clear that the prospect of making a good deal of money had something to do with the sudden appearance of the novel. HarperCollins has released almost no information on its provenance.

When Harper Lee submitted an early draft of To Kill Mockingbird in 1957 to the publishing house of J.B. Lippincott, it was considered unpublishable. Lee reworked the manuscript over the next three years with Tay Hohoff, an editor at the firm, apparently producing a number of drafts.

“After a couple of false starts, the story-line, interplay of characters, and fall of emphasis grew clearer, and with each revision—there were many minor changes as the story grew in strength and in her own vision of it—the true stature of the novel became evident,” wrote Hohoff, who died in 1974. What other changes Lee made in the complex process of writing and rewriting are unknown.

The “new” novel—or early draft of an old novel—takes place when an adult Jean Louise returns to Maycomb from New York City. She must deal with a young man who wants her to marry him and settle down in Maycomb. Her brother is dead and we meet characters familiar from To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, some critics have noted that the new work seems to imply a familiarly with the first book.

She encounters a town in the throes of the Civil Rights struggle, and discovers that her fiancée and her father, Atticus, have lined up with the Citizens Council (a respectable version of the Ku Klux Klan). She is physically ill when she discovers all this. The climax of the novel takes place in a confrontation between father and daughter.

Atticus defends his presence at a meeting of the Maycomb County Citizens’ Council as a way of gathering information, but, we learn, he holds racist views about blacks. “Do you want Negros by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

Phrases like this, and racial slurs, have caused consternation and disappointment among some readers and critics. Atticus Finch turns out to be a bigot after all. But Finch is a fictional character. Lee created him one way in this first draft, and thought better of it later on. The book is not genuinely a sequel, about the same Finch growing older and more reactionary; it is a distinct work, with a different, perhaps less mature approach and set of problems.

For her own artistic and ideological reasons, Lee shifted her own indignation at racism and injustice from the adult Jean Louise in Go Set a Watchman (whose response to the remark of Atticus above is, “They’re people, aren’t they? We were quite willing to import them when they made money for us”) to the middle-aged Atticus, and through him, to his children, in To Kill a Mockingbird. And her decision seems to have been the proper and more convincing one.

Lee’s Go Set A Watchman is a much less compelling work than To Kill a Mockingbird. Jean Louise offers her defense of black people’s rights in long, expository remarks and speeches. The book lacks spontaneity for the most part, and gets bogged down in the not so intriguing issue of her relationship with her boyfriend.

Flashbacks to childhood have some of the original impact of To Kill a Mockingbird, but on the whole, the book is not a finished work of art. While literary researchers, critics and biographers will no doubt benefit, the novel has been marketed by a publishing conglomerate under false and opportunist pretenses and adds little to our understanding of the period, the place … or the individual who stands on principle.

See also here.