Book Stories: Promised End

Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass;
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why, then she lives.
Is this the promised end?

(King Lear Act 5, Scene 3)

Every book has its story. We will feature some of the stories behind our books in future posts. In this one, we tell the story behind Promised End: The Last Scene of King Lear, by Sherman Hawkins, with Seth C. Hawkins, Katherine L. Hawkins and Daniel H. Hawkins.

Promised End is very much a family affair. Retired Professor Sherman Hawkins taught English for many years at Princeton, Rochester and Wesleyan University, where he served as Kenan Professor of the Humanities. A widely respected Shakespeare scholar and teacher, he was also a frequent stage actor. Notably, the famously challenging role of King Lear book-ended his academic career, with a first performance at Princeton University in 1959, early in his first academic post at Princeton, and with the Gamut Theatre Group in Harrisburg, PA, in 2006 after his retirement.

In 2012, the three children of Sherman Hawkins, Seth, Katherine and Daniel, found a completed manuscript; a written repository of decades of their father’s research, previously only shared through his various teachings, documented by their mother. Despite a number of distinguished journal papers over the years, Professor Hawkins had never published his research and insights, particularly around the final, cathartic scene of King Lear, as a book. Seth, Katherine and Daniel, wanted to share their father’s passion and scholarly expertise with the world. After a little persuasion, and various drafts, Promised End was ready to submit as a book, which was sent to Cambridge Scholars Publishing early in 2019. Dr Seth Hawkins, a physician and academic at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, acted as corresponding author. Seth’s accompanying note to the proposal stated: “The Cambridge Scholars statements to authors makes us think this is truly perfect publishing house for this project…it remains a compelling piece of work that we think offers very important contributions to the field, and is in need of a publisher with a commitment to more marginalized voices.”

This led us to a 4th of July conference call to the Hawkins family, just ahead of the book’s publication, to find out a bit more of the detail behind this family collaboration. Seth, Katherine and Daniel, all pursuing careers related to the Humanities, described learning from their father as “a joy and a privilege”. Each sibling had been taught by the professor throughout their lives, from home-schooling and university lectures to, they fondly recall, being “dragged to the dining room table” to discuss literature. Katherine, who herself has a Master’s in Shakespearean studies, says her father influenced their perspective of the relationships between ideas and language. Whilst a medical practitioner by trade, Seth’s love of the humanities informs his own work, referring to ‘patient-centred care’ and asserting that lessons from the social sciences can and should help drive medicine. Daniel, a musician, is studying for a PhD in Musicology at Cornell.

Sherman described having been brought up on Romance novels. His interest in Shakespeare began when, as a junior in high school, his teacher, a well-remembered Ms Newcombe, introduced him to four of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Sherman’s life took him from an undergraduate degree at Harvard, through a period of military service, and to a scholarship to Oxford, including a reminiscence about telephoning J.R.R. Tolkien, who was a Fellow at Merton College at the time. While he was working on the themes of this book throughout his teaching career, it was the Harrisburg production in 2006 in which Professor Hawkins acted again as Lear that really compelled him to write the book. So although some of the ideas date back many years – Seth Hawkins stated that part of the work is derived from a lecture his father gave at Princeton in the late 1950s – the book writing properly began in 2006.

We are very much looking forward to the publication of Promised End, as we know are the Hawkins family. We will leave the last words of the story of this book to Dr Seth Hawkins:

“We can’t express enough how delighted we are with the opportunity to work with Cambridge Scholars, how welcoming the whole team has been, and how ‘author-centered’ our experience has been. I know for my Dad, despite a meteorically successful career as a Shakespearean, he had reconciled himself to the fact that his work would not ever be shared in book form. To see that be proven wrong has, as he himself has said, been ‘life-changing’. Thank you for being in the business not only of publishing books, but of changing lives.”


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