The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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They Should Have Stuck With Ezraville

Posted by thedarwinexception on March 3, 2007

So I went to the Wead Library again today – this time to research the name of our little village – why Malone? I haven’t heard of any buildings or institutions in town named Malone, or any famous families named “Malone”, and since I had read that the village was originally called “Harrison”, after Richard Harrison, who surveyed the area in 1801, I wondered how we got to be called “Malone”.

What I found surprised me a great deal. Apparently, the village was originally called “Harrison”, after the original surveyor, although at that time the settlement along the Salmon river, what would now be “downtown”, was just called “the center”. In 1808 Mr. Harrison, whose son, Francis L. Harrison lived at Harrison Hall, one of the beautiful “painted lady” style houses that still stands on Webster Street, changed the town’s name to “Ezraville” in tribute to a friend, Ezra L’Homedieu. Then, in 1812, he chose to honor another friend, Edmund Malone, a famous Shakespeare scholar.

Edmund Malone (1741–1812) was the greatest early editor of Shakespeare’s works, the first historian of early English drama, the biographer of Shakespeare, Dryden and Reynolds, and a relentless exposer of literary fraud and forgery. His dedication to discovering the facts of literary history through manuscripts and early editions laid the foundations for the scholar’s code and the modern study of literature. Yet he was also a gregarious man, attracting many friends and enemies among his contemporaries. He was born in Dublin, the son of Edmond Malone, MP of the Irish House of Commons and judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and was called to the Irish bar in 1767. The death of his father in 1774 assured him an income, and he went to London, where he frequented literary and artistic circles. He frequently visited Samuel Johnson and was of great assistance to James Boswell in revising and proofreading his Life, four of the later editions of which he annotated. He was friendly with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and sat for a portrait now in the National Portrait Gallery. At the time of his death, Malone was at work on a new octavo edition of Shakespeare, and he left his material to James Boswell the younger; the result was the edition of 1821 generally known as the Third Variorum edition in twenty-one volumes. Lord Sunderlin (1738-1816), his elder brother and executor, presented the larger part of Malone’s splendid collection of books, including dramatic varieties, to the Bodleian Library, which afterwards bought many of his manuscript notes and his literary correspondence. The British Museum also owns some of his letters and his annotated copy of Johnson’s Dictionary.

Is that bizarre? Who would have thought that a town that bears the name of a great scholar, as a tribute to the man, has no bookstore. Nor a stage to present the Shakespearean plays he spent his life studying.

I think it’s a damned shame. And I think we should change the name of the town again – this time to “Foxworthy” – at least we have the redneck games to honor the guy. Better than what we do for Mr. Malone.

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One Response to “They Should Have Stuck With Ezraville”

  1. Veronique said

    I am really enjoying the small town history nuggets (“now with extra vitamins!”) you’re researching.

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