Writers, musicians, and artists have read Shakespeare's plays and poems for inspiration for the last four hundred years. Characters from A Winter's Tale, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Cymbeleine, Macbeth, and King Lear, make appearances in manuscripts in the hands of the composer Guiseppe Verdi, the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the authors of the classic works Little Women, Winnie-the-Pooh, Treasure Island, and Middlemarch (Louisa May Alcott, A. A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, and George Eliot).
This "Partridge and Cooper's Patent Improved Metallic Book" contains 172 pages of quotations in the hand of George Eliot, compiled in preparation for her novel Middlemarch. One of two Eliot notebooks at the Folger, it includes extracts from the works of dozens of poets, dramatists, historians, literary critics, philosophers, and mythologists. Eliot began the notebook in August 1868 and finished it near the end of 1871, at the same time that the first of eight bi-monthly volumes of Middlemarch was published in London. The opening shown here, headed "Fine declamation," includes quotations from Milton and Shakespeare.