For what reason? Why? "Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore are thou, Romeo?"--Daniel Lyons's Dictionary of the English Language, 1897
Death of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825),
whose Family Shakespeare (1807), while not the first modern attempt at literary expurgation, loosed a flood of such cleansings during the nineteenth century. Perhaps the original "bowdlerizer" was the Scotsman Alan Ramsay, who in 1724 cleaned up a collection of his own poems. By 1850 seven censored versions of the Bard's plays had been published, and by 1900 nearly fifty were in circulation. Even Lewis Carroll had planned one not long before his death in 1898. In several such editions, large sections of Romeo and Juliet were snipped out, including most of the nurse's lines, leaving what was referred to as an "elegant extract." Victorian do-gooders believed these condensations represented moral progress over their coarser predecessors, including Shakespeare himself. Among other classics to undergo scrutiny and excision were Robinson Crusoe in 1826 and Tom Jones in 1896. Jane Austen avoided censorship by rewording a single reference to "bastards" for the 1813 edtion of her novel Sense and Sensibility.