Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Bard of Avon Turns 445

Happy Approximate Birthday, Shakespeare! Celebrate with a sonnet on my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer page, and read about the 1610 painting that just might be the Bard of Avon’s portrait. Or, stay here and read James Fenimore Cooper, the American author who laid the groundwork for us and . . . occasionally wrote like an 18th century British barrister.
At the sound of the tread of the noble horse ridden by the traveller, the mistress of the farm-house he was passing at the time might be seen cautiously opening the door of the building to examine the stranger; and perhaps, with an averted face, communicating the result of her observations to her husband, who, in the rear of the building, was prepared to seek, if necessary, his ordinary place of concealment in the adjacent woods. The valley was situated about mid-way in the length of the county, and was sufficiently near to both armies to make the restitution of stolen goods no uncommon occurrence in that vicinity. It is true, the same articles were not always regained; but a summary substitute was generally resorted to, in the absence of legal justice, which restored to the loser the amount of his loss, and frequently with no inconsiderable addition for the temporary use of his property. In short, the law was momentarily extinct in that particular district, and justice was administered subject to the bias of personal interests, and the passions of the strongest. —James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy (1821)

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