The Cloud-Capped Towers

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Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a highly literary architect, who appears to have valued Shakespeare for the architectural pictures he conjured up, and also as a moral teacher. He had a deep knowledge of Shakespeare’s work, quoting (and misquoting) it often, notably in his Royal Academy lectures. His fascination with Shakespeare is evident both in his library and in the Shakespearian references throughout his house-museum, the most obvious being the Shakespeare Recess, a shrine to the bard on the staircase. The four essays in this volume look at the influence of Shakespeare on Soane’s architecture, against the wider background of the 18th-century Shakespearean revival; at Soane as a "bardolator" and bibliophile and at contemporary performance and theater-going, with a particular focus on the plays seen by Soane and his wife Eliza. The essays are illustrated by a number of illustrations in full color, the majority drawn from Soane’s own collection. This book was published to coincide with an exhibition with the same title shown at Sir John Soane’s Museum as part of the nationwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare in 2016.


Dr. Stephanie Coane is Senior Librarian, College Library, Eton College and Honorary Librarian to Sir John Soane’s Museum. Emmeline Leary is an independent scholar. Dr Frances Sands is Curator of Drawings and Books at Sir John Soane’s Museum. Alison Shell is a professor in the Department of English, University College London.