This fall, the ESU was proud to host the inaugural lectures of two Wrench speakers at our Headquarters in New York City: Roger Pringle, Director Emeritus of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Lord Ian Strathcarron, author of Innocence and War: Mark Twain's Holy Land Revisited.
Named in honor of the English-Speaking Union's founder, the Evelyn Wrench Speaker Program sends eight eminent British and American speakers across the country each year to the ESU Branches who host their presentations. Wrench speakers address topics relating to current events, history, language and literature, art and architecture, and travel. Regional tours of Wrench speakers are underwritten by the ESU National Headquarters and planned and in cooperation with the Branches.
In October, ESU New York welcomed Evelyn Wrench Speaker Roger Pringle for a fascinating lecture titled, Americans, Shakespeare and Stratford. With interesting and amusing descriptions, Mr. Pringle evoked the varied reactions of the many important political and literary figures who made pilgrimages to Shakespeare's birthplace, placing their visits in historical and political context.
The first Americans of note to make their way to Stratford included such illustrious figures as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Describing their tours, Mr. Pringle gave insightful commentary on the historical evolution of tourism and the new methods of transportation that made it possible to travel for pleasure. He also elaborated on the creation of relics and the development of legends around the site of William Shakespeare's birth, which served to enhance the demi-god status of the man who wrote with such poetic genius.
Mr. Pringle closed with a thoughtful discussion of how Americans have strengthened the historic preservation of Stratford. He put particular emphasis on the special relationship between America and Britain and its tie-in with the ESU mission .
After leaving New York, Mr. Pringle continued his tour by visiting several southern Branches of the ESU, including Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jackson and Nashville.
This November, Lord Ian Strathcarron, pictured right, launched his Evelyn Wrench Speaker Tour at the ESU in New York City, charming audiences with an account of his travels through the Middle East and his resulting book, Innocence and War; Mark Twain's Holy Land Revisited.
In 1867, the Daily Alta California commissioned Mark Twain to cover the story of the world's first luxury cruise, a six month round tour to the Holy Land from New York. The resulting book, The Innocents Abroad, was his best-selling book during his lifetime and is still in print today. In 2010, Lord Strathcarron retraced Twain's original route through what is now Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the West Bank/Palestine and wrote his own account of the experience, which he titled Innocence and War: Mark Twain's Holy Land Revisited.
Using photographs, video and excerpts from both novels, Lord Strathcarron adeptly transitioned between Mark Twain's time and our own, painting a lively picture of the world both men explored by ship: Twain from the decks of the Quaker City, Strathcarron from his home and floating office, the Vasco da Gama. From colorful interactions with local governments to pilgrimages to sites of historical and religious significance, journeying in the Holy Land is certainly never dull!
Lord Strathcarron will travel to ESU Branches in Denver, Portland, Seattle, San Fransisco, Hawaii, Desert (Palm Springs), Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Tuscon in April 2013.
For more information about the Evelyn Wrench Speaker Program, please click here.