Critical accounts of the Family Shakespeare have often focused on Thomas Bowdler's inability to successfully amend Measure for Measure, and his substitution of Kemble's Covent Garden script in its place. In fact, Bowdler struggled over the course of several editions of the project to 'Bowdlerize' that comedy; and only by looking at the Family Shakespeare over the course of these several editions can we recognize the full extent of that endeavor. In the course of making changes to that play, he revealed a more fundamental conflict within the design of his project of creating a family edition, a conflict that his own critical remarks could not fully account for. As this essay argues, rather than merely censor Shakespeare, Bowdler sought to reconcile a longing for a perceived oral culture of literary social coteries (represented by Johnson), with a genuine acceptance of the plays as carefully and judiciously edited printed texts.