The reason why we are all here this evening is that we are content to believe that Shakespeare was born on 23rd April, 1564. We all love a century, and four centuries we love even more; so this has struck us all, without serious question, as a good moment to honour him. In coming together to do so, we follow-though perhaps more sedately-the example of earlier generations. I do not know whether the publishers of the Third Folio in 1664 were inspired by a rudimentary centennial piety, though they were true to type in some respects, since they obscured the canon of Shakespeare's work with a number of falsely attributed plays. A century later (in fact five years late, since the opportunities of 1764 were frittered away) the most famous of all the celebrations brought Garrick to Stratford, and the proportion of nonsense was higher but gayer. Milton had formerly observed that Shakespeare did not need the labour of an age in piled stones, but Garrick, in his Ode, disagreed:
To what blest genius of the isle Shall gratitude her tribute pay, Decree the festive day, Erect the statue, and devote the pile?