Shakespeare Diva - Alycia Smith-Howard
PUBLISHED: 08:48 08 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:44 20 February 2013
Warwickshire Life is delighted to welcome Alycia Smith-Howard, our new regular columnist to these pages. <br/><br/>This month: The eagle has landed
My father was an infinitely sensible man. As a barrister and subsequent high court judge, common sense was more than a philosophy; it was a way of life. By contrast, it seemed my mission often unwittingly was to challenge his more staid opinions.
Apart from one very sad orange hair incident, and some rather unfortunate fashion and boyfriend choices in my mid- to late-teens, the one thing that grieved my father most was the fact I have never been a woman of property.
My father loathed the way my career as a roaming Shakespeare scholar took me galloping about the globe. To him, my chosen occupation was only slightly better than being in the circus.
What will you have to show for yourself at the end of it all, young lady? Nothing. Just a rent receipt. Why cant you see that that theres nothing safer than houses? he would say from behind his newspaper.
The fact that I had just landed in Manhattan, to teach Shakespeare studies at one of Americas leading universities, was immaterial. Also immaterial was the fact that New York City was, and is, one of the most expensive locales in the universe; where few, if any, without the surname Astor, Morgan or Rockefeller, stand a chance of actually owning property. These arguments did nothing to alter my fathers opinion of my choices or prospects.
How I wish that he could see me now that I have finally become a woman of property. He would be delighted that I am finally settled, and have a place to call my own. It would no doubt amuse him that my new home is here in Warwickshire, the land of Shakespeare. Warwickshire, Englands England, is the Britain we Americans imagine in our most Anglophilic fantasies. Fantasies nourished by a steady diet of Miss Marple, The Vicar of Dibley, any Jane Austen film, and countless other British imports presented in heavy rotation on Americas educational network, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). Creating a space for myself here has long been my dream.
History is now and England T.S. Eliot. Like so many literary-minded and undeniably Anglophilic Americans before me, I felt the pull of English soil early on. My fate was sealed as a graduate student, studying in Stratford-upon-Avon, in my early twenties. The following diary excerpt reveals an irrepressible romanticism for this green and pleasant land bordering on the excessively Eliotian:
Mornings in Warwickshire glisten with color and crystalline light. How many see these days in their glory, and see not the magical glow? How many race through their paces, unaware of the sheer specialness of their world? And we, with our outside eyes drink in all we can, intoxicated with the view. But, could one day, this landscape become our own? Can we consume until we have had our fill? How happy I would be to remain here in this fantastic world! 4th November 1991.
It has taken time, tides and tempests to bring this wish to fulfillment. Still, I have got here in the end. I am sure my father, my favourite fellow Anglophile, is happy to see me settled, and that my zany Shakespeare thing has finally paid off.
Alycia Smith-Howard is a leading Shakespeare scholar, author and historian. She is a guest lecturer with The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. She is the author of several books, including Studio Shakespeare: The Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place (Ashgate, 2006), which was selected for the Victoria & Albert Museums Essential Shakespeare Reading List. Before relocating from New York City to Warwickshire in August 2008, she was a Fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington DC, USA), and an Assistant Professor of Shakespeare Studies at New York University (Manhattan, USA). She lives in the village of Barford, with her husband, Mark, and their exceedingly well-travelled dog, Lucy, and cat, Lily.