This society was the Glasgow branch of the larger British Empire Shakespeare Society that was founded by Greta Morritt (actress) in 1901. According to The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, she founded the society ‘to promote Shakespeare’s works throughout the Empire by co-ordinating reading circles, dramatic readings, and costume recitals. It published an official gazette 1915–39’ (Susan Brock, ‘British Empire Shakespeare Society’, The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)).
The 1911-1912 Glasgow Post Office directory gives the objects of and subscription fees for the Glasgow society:
‘ (1) To promote greater familiarity with Shakespeare’s works among all classes throughout the British Empire by organizing Dramatic Readings and acting scenes from Shakespeare’s Plays, and by lectures on his life and work. (2) To help the rising generation not only to study Shakespeare’s plays but to love them. Life Membership, £5. Yearly Subscription, 5s.’
(‘The British Empire Shakespeare Society’, ‘Artistic, Literary, and Scientific Institutions’, Post Office Glasgow Directory for 1911-1912… (Glasgow: Aird & Coghill, 1911), p. 1821)
The society’s listing in the Post Office directory for 1914-1915 shows that the annual subscription had gone up to 6s. The rather high annual subscription (as compared to 2s 6d, the average for other literary societies during this period) would suggest that this society was most likely composed of mostly middle-class members.
Date of Existence
Source of Information
1. ‘Programme of the British Empire Shakespeare Society, Glasgow Branch, featuring [John/Joseph] MacDonagh as Publius and Trebonius in the ‘Julius Caesar’ recital of scenes, 1906 Oct. 19.’ (NLI, Thomas MacDonagh Family Papers, 1848-1966, MS 44, 343/1/2);
2. ‘The British Empire Shakespeare Society’, ‘Artistic, Literary, and Scientific Institutions’, Post Office Glasgow Directory for 1911-1912… (Glasgow: Aird & Coghill, 1911), p. 1821;
3. ‘The British Empire Shakespeare Society. Glasgow Branch’, ‘Artistic, Literary, and Scientific Institutions’, Post Office Glasgow Directory for 1914-1915… (Glasgow: Aird & Coghill, 1914), p. 1837;
4. British Empire Shakespeare Society. Glasgow Branch (Dramatic Circle) 1929-1933. Minute Book (UGSC, Ref. code: GB 247 STA Mn 91; Call no: STA Mn 91)
University of Glasgow Special Collections (UGSC)
National Library of Ireland (NLI)
(See Source of Information, and below for Glasgow Post Office directories)
The Glasgow Post Office directories are available at the Mitchell Library and the National Library of Scotland. Digitised copies are available through the NLS website: https://www.nls.uk/family-history/directories/post-office/index.cfm?place=Glasgow