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Thomas Bowdler
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Doctor
    (July 11, 1754-February 24, 1825)
    Born in Bath, England, United Kingdom
    British physician and editor
    Published 'The Family Shakespeare' (1807), intended to be more appropriate for 19th century women and children than the original plays
    Also published an expurgated version of Edward Gibbon's 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
    Eponym for the verb 'bowdlerize'
    According to some biographies, he gave up medicine because he could not stand the sight of blood.
    He lived off a family inheritance.
    In removing 'objectionable' passages from Shakespeare, he completely altered the nature of characters like Hamlet and Falstaff.
    Particularly disreputable characters, like the prostitute Doll Tearsheet in Henry IV, were eliminated completely.
    Much of the first edition of 'Family Shakespeare' was actually prepared by his sister Harriet, who had to go uncredited, since otherwise she would be admitting that she understood the racier passages.
    Other biographies indicate that he left medicine after suffering a debilitating fever that left him in chronically poor health.
    He was an advocate of prison reform.
    He was a good chess player.
    He at least avoided altering Shakespeare's plays by adding to them (unlike the poet laureate who tacked on a happy ending to 'King Lear').

Credit: C. Fishel


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