Massey on  Shakspeare's Sonnets (14)

Home Up Biography Poetry Prose Reviews News Reports Miscellanea Main Index Site Search
 


 

-XXVII-

SHAKSPEARE AND BACON.

(continued)

    In his preface to the Interpretation of Nature, Bacon tells us that he was fitted for nothing "so well as for the study of truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things."  That is, he was competent to apply the comparative method of science as the process for ascertaining the truth, and "for nothing so well" as that.  Bacon as an interrogator of nature was one of the inquisitors and torturers for the truth.

    Shakspeare was an interpreter of truth; an unveiler of beauty with a loving heart and gentle hand.  Bacon's process of setting forth acquired truth was antipodal to Shakspeare's.  He builds up the skeleton, so to say, and then clothes it externally.  Shakspeare's creation is unfolded from the embryo, and developed like a living organism from within.  Bacon was no great lover of poetry, qua poetry; he was neither the friend nor the companion of poets, excepting Ben Jonson, who was in his employ.  His knowledge of English poetry seems limited to that of Shakspeare.  The explanation of this exceptional acquaintanceship may be found in his personal relationship to Essex, and in the friendship of Southampton, Essex' most intimate friend, for Shakspeare!  This would suffice to call Bacon's attention to the man whose work he studied at the theatre and pillaged in the printed plays, but whose name he never even whispered to posterity.

    Another note of difference!  Troilus and Cressida we may call the most Baconian of Shakspeare's works.  The one in which he might have taken counsel for once with Nicole Machiavelli.  But this drama, which is most like Bacon in its worldly kind of wisdom and want of heart, is the least like Shakspeare of all that he ever wrote!  The true Shakspearean wisdom is blithe.  It can laugh with an unwrinkled brow; the Baconian has a look of furrowed reflectiveness on the forehead, and if not exactly bitter in the mouth, it lacks the "honey tongue" of Shakspeare's.

    It is true that Shakspeare shows signs of legal knowledge, and there is at times a legal logic in his thought, and a fondness for legal terms and expressions in his language.  This he has in common with Bacon, the lawyer.  But for this one thing in common with Bacon, Shakspeare, the great Poet, has qualities incomparable and peerless, that Bacon had not in common with him!  Legal knowledge can be acquired, but the great poet must be born with original gifts and faculties inherited straight from nature; such as the great lawyer never set out with, and could not possibly acquire.  Shakspeare shares one hemisphere of the mental world with Bacon, who does not share the other half with Shakspeare.  Bacon was a born lawyer, conceived as such by his precise, cautious, methodical, masterful, law-giving mother.  He was a lawyer by nature, a law-reformer, a codifier, and interpreter of the law whether natural or forensic!  Law was as much his province as that of the great dramatist was the GNOSIS of human life.  When he turned from his legal studies to Nature at large his attention was attracted to experimental philosophy and the operations of law in physics.  But it may be said with all certitude, that he had less of poetry than Shakspeare had of law!

    When Bacon was sixty years of age, Ben Jonson salutes him on his birthday, and portrays the man as a picture of gravity—"Son of the grave, wise keeper of the seal," who was sealed from birth as the destined heir to the Chancellorship, begotten, born, and bred to be a judge!  Elsewhere he describes him as the great orator, and speaks of his supremacy here as the "Greatness that was only proper to himself!"  And, as Ben says aptly, "There cannot be one colour of the mind and another of the wit.  If the mind be staid, grave, and composed, the wit is so,"—as Bacon's undoubtedly was!  These words follow Ben's eulogium of Bacon's greatness of character and work.  Nothing could more correctly measure the mind and manners of the man—"staid, grave, composed," and most capacious in his calmness.  But the wit in Shakspeare's plays is not so; it is of an entirely different nature, and has neither the colour nor the limitation of the Baconian mind, which is so profoundly, so inherently, so typically unlike the Shakspearean.

    Francis Bacon, his mark, may be read through all his writings.  He was ancient in formality from an early age, a true continuation, of his precise, quaint, methodical mother.  The one man most himself of all the Elizabethans who could not have disguised himself effectually with the dramatic mask under any name whatsoever!  He never lost sight of himself; whereas Shakspeare's greatness lay in his Protean power of getting or going out of himself!

    There is music in the march of Bacon's prose.  In reading the Novum Organum we are "at a solemn music," stately and sustained.  But the range is limited to the hymn-tune, the anthem, or chorale; sacred music in the dissenters' sense, when compared with Shakspeare's vivacity and infinite variety.  The majesty is somewhat automatic; the rhythms are laboured.  The writer certainly was not master of "all numbers" even in prose.  The effect is plainly powerful as that of many voices in unison.  It is the law set to music, the measured music of well-ordered prose, not the spontaneous, many-voiced music of great poetry.  We know Shakspeare's work equally well and are able to distinguish it, not only from Bacon's, but from all other work whatsoever.  No Shakspearean worthy of the name could mistake his writing for that of any verse or prose-writer of his or any other time, nor long accept any other writing that might be palmed off under his name.  And just as we can recognize the work, so is it possible to see the worker in the work, read his visage in his mind and recognize the man—at least to the extent of knowing the man behind the mask is not Bacon.

    Bacon may assume the purple of royalty in prose, but Shakspeare is all purple within, as Alexander said of Antipater.  Bacon's style is gravid with the weight of thought, but it does not soar on wings of language like Shakspeare's.  Bacon is somewhat slow and ponderous, a little pragmatical, and shows a conscious pride in his gravity.  He was the real author of Johnsonese English.

    So far as I am able to gauge their work or comprehend their characters, no two natures were ever less alike fundamentally, or more distinctly unlike, than these of Bacon and Shakspeare, except in their fondness for antitheta.  From the lowest root to the topmost twig of their genius, they start asunder with all their growth and stand apart with all their height and amplitude, having the innermost, the largest, the loftiest unlikeness!  They lean so widely apart; there can be no parallel.  The likeness on the surface is mainly the result of Shakspeare's influence on Bacon.  The true mental complexion of the two was as different as that of the weevil, coloured brown with the books it fed on, and the caterpillar that is green with the life of living leaves.  Bacon was born as the bookworm in a library.  Shakspeare as the chrysalis out of doors in the country.

    When they took wing, the flowers they settled on, the facts they fed on, were found in two widely different worlds!  And the mental "feed" supplied by these two minds has all the difference that there is between the green grass, juicy with the sap of life, and the hay that is made from it when dead and dry!

    The mind of Bacon had no such depth of rootage in the life of the people, no such heritage by direct descent in that storage of the past, which formed the richest part in the soil of the present for Shakspeare, not only in the saved-up-in-an-old-stocking-sort-of-housewife-kind-of-wisdom—not only the lore that was then un-mined for and not yet gathered up in books, but the soil itself was radically different from that which gave birth to Bacon.

    Of all great spirits that have found expression in literary form, the writer of Shakspeare's Plays, Poems, and Sonnets was the livest, quickest, and most quintessential; compared with him Bacon was in every way a man of far lower vitality.  He has no such pulse of intense life, no such heart, no such divinely humane good-humour.  His heat is not radiant, his life is not ruddy, his sympathy has no such wide-armed, far-reaching, human embrace.  Compare what he has written about women, of married love and of children, with Shakspeare's loveliest delineations of love and womankind, and see the difference.

    Early in life Bacon was a sick and ailing man; a querulous sufferer from gout and ague all through the prime of his years.  He writes to Lady Paulett in 1593 of his "long, languishing infirmity;" and his work manifests no such health and hey-day of high spirits, no such fertilizing influence as that which Shakspeare sheds around like vernal heaven the whole world over.  Bacon's own description of his lack of health and want of time is fatally conclusive against his being the writer of thirty-six dramas!  He tells us in the Novum Organum that he was "the one man amongst his contemporaries who had been the most engaged in public business"—that was in politics, not poetry; in State and Legal affairs, not theatrical; and he says he has not been "strong in health"—which, as he observes, "causes a great loss of time."  Even his weakness of moral fibre had a physical basis!

    Shakspeare was altogether the manlier and the radically nobler man.  His works reflect the image of a supreme manliness, whether the character be the Noble, Gentle, or Simple.  Bacon was an obsequious Courtier, who practised those arts of adulation and shaven and shorn emasculation that Shakspeare held in abhorrence, and for which he felt the most virile kind of scorn!  In presence of Royalty and in his dedications to a thing so base as Buckingham, Bacon would bow with so much obeisance, and lout it so lowly in his voluntary poor-devilism, that, like the devout but dilapidated woman in the Greek story, he exposed the nakedness of his hinder parts to the derision of his contemporaries and the pity of posterity.  He made an idol, a divinity, of that shoddy Solomon, King James!

    Shakspeare, according to John Davies, made fun of him, and staged him as a royal fool!  Shakspeare makes Falstaff say he would as lief be a hangman as a hanger-on in Court!  He carried the countryman's contempt for liveried flunkies into the highest intellectual court, and every word he uttered against all parasitic favourites and fulsome flatterers is a cordial condemnation and a repudiation of Francis Bacon's being the writer of the plays, or of the same intellectual kith and kin as the writer.  Bacon was the man who thought that Latin was the only language for immortality, and he tells us how his "labours are now most set" to have his works translated out of our transitory tongue "by the help of some good pens which forsake me not," to be secure against the time when modern languages should "play bankrupts with books."  "And since I have lost much time with this aye, I would be glad if God would give me leave to recover it with posterity."  He left his works to Latin and his name to foreign nations for PERMANENT preservation.

    On the other hand, English was good enough for "our fellow" Shakspeare!  He had no fear lest literature might not live and last without his seeking refuge in the ark of a dead language.  And he alone is the man who sufficed of himself to make our English tongue immortal!  Bacon thought the wheel of time was on the down-grade.  He who only caught a glimpse of the true beginning fancied he saw the coming end.  Shakspeare never troubled about beginning or end—he did his work, and simply was, and is, and ever shall be—like still Eternity itself!

    In conclusion, I do not think this anti-Shakspearean delusion is strong enough to constitute a snare; there need be no fear lest the disease should become hereditary.  The dose of facts here presented should of itself suffice if taken at an early stage.  With Mr. Donnelly's book the great delusion has become drivelling in its phase of impotent dotage.  The "Great Cryptogram" is just an unfinished intellectual Forgery that stops short of furnishing the absolute and final proof for a criminal conviction!

    To repeat Shakspeare's own figure, Mr. Donnelly has reared "the fabric of his folly whose foundation is piled upon his faith," and not upon the rock of fact.  He began by putting in a false bottom for his building; one that was far too infirm for any true basis.  He assumed that the peculiarities of printing in the first folio—the use of italics, capitals, brackets, and hyphens—not only denoted a purpose, but were intentionally employed as signs of a secret cipher.  Whereas they never had and never could have had the significance he assumes.  They were used faute de mieux, and therefore NOT from any choice in the matter.  Scarcity and mixture of types, together with the ignorance and indifference of compositors, will account for the main peculiarities of the printing.  These irregularities likewise appear in certain of the Quartos, and in the works of other writers, where it is not pretended they refer to any hidden cipher.

    It has been conclusively shown by the author of Corrigenda and Explanation's of the Text of Shakspeare, a practical printer of fifty years' standing, that when one type ran short the printers used another.  They also eked out with italic type that was not used on any principle. "In the first signature (of 12 pp.) there are forty-eight italic capitals of a smaller body, and there are others of a wrong font.  Both capital and small 'w' ran out, and double 'v' was used instead.  Small 'K' was also exhausted." [159]  In two pages of italics used for Ben Jonson's tributary lines, there is but one italic capital of the right body used throughout, that being in the word Malice, eleventh line.

    This being literally the state of the case, it was the blindest folly to build on so false a foundation, or to make a mystery of meaning out of that which only demanded a very simple explanation.  The cipher-narratives are based upon a false belief that has made him blind to the true interpretation of historic facts.  They are but the re-constituted forms of his pre-extant belief.  He has asserted his national privilege to do as he "damn pleases" with the English language, with Shakspeare, with the Plays, with History, with figures and reckonings, in attaining his impotent results.  He has put certain portions of the Plays to "the question," and racked them with a torture calculated to make them confess anything that was wanted, but he has neither established nor disestablished anything.

    The name of Shakspeare is got out of "Jack" and "Peere," "Shakst" and "Peer," and also out of "Sphere"(1) and "Jack" (2).  The name of Marlowe is got out of "More" and "Low"; Cecil out of "Says Ill" and "Seas Ill"; the word "Aunt" is made up from "And" and "It"; and the name of "Sir Thomas Lucy" has to be remembered from the disjointed "Loose," "See," "to, amiss, Sir;" just as a joker might print the author of the cipher's name as Done-a-lie! or, as the Scotch would render it, Done-a-lee.  "A smack on his back" is turned into a "Smock on his back" as a make-shift.  The effect of thus racking the text is ghastly as it would be to make a dead man grin and wink at you by the application of galvanism.  He selected certain words for his cipher on account of their rarity, and others because of their frequent recurrence.  He combines syllables in the most arbitrary and outrageous manner.  Some of the cipher-narratives are based upon passages in the plays which are perverted to his own use, and the English of them is destroyed in the course of conversion, as already illustrated in the narrative from 2 King Henry IV.  This is to play the fool with his own riddle, and to fling away all pretext for keeping the law and rule of any cipher.

    At one time the Plays are written for the cipher, and the Shakspearean Muse had to dance in the fetters of all its figures.  Mr. Donnelly says, "We owe many of the finest gems of thought in the Plays to the dire necessities of the great Cryptologist, who, driven to straits by the cipher, fell back upon the vast resources of his crowded mind, and invented sentences that would bring the patchwork of words before him into coherent order" (p. 754).  At others the cipher is invented for the Plays, and has to be inserted many years afterwards, when the Plays were left to posterity horribly disfigured, with not an error corrected.  We see how the narratives demanded his cipher; one cipher necessitated many ciphers; the numerous ciphers needed a free hand and the nimblest swiftness in manipulating, adding, or subtracting.  If one figure would not fit, another must be found.  There was a theologian once who tried to apply the number of the Beast in a case where the letters only yielded the numeral value of 665, and who proclaimed his belief that the missing one had been subtracted by Anti-Christ.  But when Mr. Donnelly is one short he adds one to make his total, and does not show his warrant or offer any reason why.  He employs root-numbers, the basis of which he dare not or does not reveal, and supplements these with modifying numbers according to his need.  He runs up and down the columns, begins where he pleases, and ends where he is compelled to.  He will count upward or downward, begin with a first column or the second, count the word with a hyphen, or one without as a hyphenated word.  There is no more fixity in his figures than in those of a sandy desert.  He employs a perplexing phantasmagoria of formulæ, a continual dissolving view of changing figures.  Naïvely enough he speaks of the "formula changing as we work" (p. 812); and it does so in such a way that nothing can be definitely fixed, although the latitude is insured for making something out of anything.  He is done for wherever the wriggling can be stopped.  His factors are discredited by this continual change of cipher-figures, which points to the figures being adjusted to the positions of the words.  The ciphers are discredited by the hundred makeshifts adopted in place of the right words which would be necessary for proving the cipher to be true.  And both the ciphers and their narratives are finally discredited by the results attained, as well as by the processes adopted for attaining the results.

    It has been shown that Mr. Donnelly had tampered with Shakspeare's text in 2 Henry IV. to make out one of his cipher-narratives.  In the Flight of the Actors he gave a passage as follows—". . . .her grace was furious, and hath sent out a body of twenty well-horsed soldiers to ride as posts to look for Shakspeare."  Now, the word "horsed" is indicated by Mr. Donnelly to be the 455th word on the second column of p. 75 of the Histories in the Folio of 1623, stage directions and words in brackets being kept out of the count.  But the 455th word in that column is "houre" and not "horsed," and this entirely mars the cipher sentence.  How does Mr. Donnelly come by the word "horsed"?  It is the third word of the sixteenth line of Northumberland's magnificent speech on hearing of the death of his son Hotspur which is in question—see 2 Henry IV. I. i., according to most editions, and sc. ii, of the Folio (which calls the Induction sc. i.).  It commences thus—

"For this I shall have time enough to mourn,
 In poison there is physic," &c.

And, taking it up at 1. 15—

"Now bind my brows with iron; and approach
 The ragged'st houre that time and spite dare bring
 To frown upon the enraged Northumberland."

Of course to substitute "horsed" for "houre" (i.e. hour) in the above passage is preposterous. [160]  This has now been smuggled out of sight, but with no explanation.  There is other evidence to show that its author has read his cipher into the Plays.

    A discovery was made a few years since in a register at Worcester that William Shakspeare was married to Anne Whately.  This was undoubtedly an error of the scribe.  The original marriage document is extant, which shows that Shakspeare married Anne Hathaway.  But the cipher is made to support the false inference drawn from the Worcester document.  Now the inevitable conclusion is, that a cipher which tells lies to one's face in this way is not to be trusted out of sight!

    Mr. Donnelly declares that the cipher of itself demonstrated its own reality by revealing to him the fact that Henry VIII. once captured the French town of Guinegate, which fact was entirely unknown to him at the time.  He has been challenged to show the process for attaining the result by rational and consistent rules.  This has not been done.

    If the Great Cryptogram had been a demonstrable reality and a patent or patentable fact of which Mr. Donnelly had taken absolute possession, it would at least have been completely communicable, and it could not have needed one volume of dirt to be flung at Shakspeare, and another of dust to be cast in the eyes of his readers, before the cipher was to be unfolded.

    And, finally, if such a cipher as is proclaimed were actually demonstrated to be extant for all to see in the Folio edition of the Plays; if it could be established past question for a fact that Bacon had concealed it there; that would only prove him to be the author of the cipher thus surreptitiously inserted, not the writer of the Plays.  The inevitable solution would be that Bacon had played the villain, and after stealing from the works at first had finally tried to foist himself into the author's place by a plot that has no parallel; a specimen of recondite devilry that has no match, and succeeded perfectly in doing a "deed without a name."  But it would never prove that he wrote the Plays and poems of William Shakspeare.  And the proposition is as infamous a slander on Bacon as on Shakspeare, therefore doubly damnable.  But the Great Cryptogram remains unfinished AFTER ALL.  Instead of reaching to the root of the matter, it only leads and leaves us up a tree which offers a thousand branches for further pursuit or a final escape of the thing pursued.

    The stupendous culmination of all the credulity attains its climax at last in the fact that the alleged cipher does not state that Bacon wrote the Plays, Poems, and Sonnets of Shakspeare!

    Mr. Donnelly has ridiculously failed even in RAISING A QUESTION as to Shakspeare's authorship on any ground of evidence whatever.  Consequently the Cryptogram suffers a complete collapse, and all its ciphers must end in nought.  So far as the work does go, I look upon it as a series of tentative experiments upon human credulity, commencing with the author's own; a woof of delusion woven upon a warp of illusion; an abortion that must be accorded phenomenal pre-eminence amongst the monstrosities of literary mania.  But

If Delia Bacon gave the abortion breath,
Ignatius Donnelly will be its death.

There is nothing for it now but to fulfil what Falstaff threatened, and "tickle his Catastrophe."

    We have a class of people who are known to English humour as the "MoonRakers."  Metaphorically speaking, these are people who do not see a fact so plain as the luminous orb in heaven, but will go dredging after the image of it reflected in their own village pond.  Mr. Donnelly is an old moon-raker.  He has previously dredged the Atlantic ocean in search of the "Lost Atlantis," being misled by a reflection from the astronomical mythology to seek for it as a geological reality.

    He repeated his error in Ragnarock by again mistaking mythical matters for mundane.  And now the moon-rakers have turned their attention to this reflection of Shakspeare that is seen shimmering in the writings of Bacon, or, as they apprehend it, the image of Bacon in the writings of Shakspeare; they have been very busy dredging and trying to land the delusive likeness; and there's the real moon in heaven all the while, high overhead, laughing in all its glory at their poor futile efforts to rake out of the water this wavering, mocking, deluding; drowned reflection of that lofty, large, and lasting intellectual light.

_____________________
 
-XXVIII-

THE MAN SHAKSPEARE

AND

HIS PRIVATE FRIENDS.

 

"What is your Substance? whereof are you made,
     That millions of strange Shadows on you tend?
 Since every one hath, every one, one Shade,
     And you, but one, can every Shadow lend!"

 

    THIS is the tri-centennial year in which we celebrate the famous defeat of the Invincible Spanish Armada; and in proudly glancing back to the period when our little country lived thus greatly, we shall find few pictures so attractive in the long gallery of the past as that of England in the time of "Good Queen Bess," the "Gloriana" of Spenser's Faery Queen; she who moves amongst the fine spirits of her day all smilingly surrounded with the strength of a mighty people, that lift her up, in their love and worship, a whole heaven above them.

    But it is not Queen Bess who is the most important personage of her era in our eyes to-day.

    In that Elizabethan group of glory there is one bright particular star which shines out large and luminous above the rest.  This we look up to with never- ceasing wonder and delight.  There are many near it, but not one that comes second to it.  We should like to get a little nigher and look a little closer into the face of it; if we only had a glass to draw down the star of Shakspeare sufficiently near so that we might make out the human features, amid the dazzle of his intellectual light.  How few of all who ever read his works, or make use of his name, have any adequate, or even shapable, conception of the Man Shakspeare.  He who, of all poets, comes the nearest home to us with his myriad touches of nature, yet seems the most remote from us in his own mortal personality.  And still we stand looking up at that lustrous orb on tiptoe with longing, and want to see his "visage in his mind."

    We know that somewhere at the centre lives the spirit of all the brightness, however lost in light.  Throbs of real human life, pulses of pleasure and thrills of pain, first made the rays well forth and radiate with all his radiance, and still shoot out each sparkle of splendour and every gleam of grace.  Shakspeare's own life—Shakspeare Himself, must be at the heart of it all. Shakspeare Himself, not Bacon, nor another. Although a miracle of a man, and, as a creative artist, just the nearest to an earthly representative of that Creator or Evolver who may be everywhere felt in his works, but is nowhere visible, yet he was a man, and one of the most intensely human that ever walked our world.  Thackeray has pleasantly remarked that he would have liked to black the shoes of William Shakspeare, just to have looked up into his face.  And what would we not give if we could only get one of those accurate sun-pictures, so common now-a-days, a carte of his visit to our earth?  Just to look on the face of him who is so far ahead of all other poets that we measure our greatest writers not by their distance from us so much as by their nearness to him.  Just to see, in human form, that glorious dome of thought which overarched the "highest heaven of invention" in Shakspeare's brow—the eyes deep with life; the lines of the face that tell how far the waves of emotion have reached and wasted; the ripe, cordial mouth, with its lurking quips of humour in the corners; the rich health of spirit and body, touched and tempered with a stately reserve; and all the vital activities of temperament crowned with a great thoughtful calm.  So, at least, we think of him.  So we picture him.  Yet there is nothing more likely than that we should be considerably disappointed with his personal appearance if it were possible for us to meet Shakspeare in the streets of Stratford, and could look upon him as he lived, aged about fifty.  To us he is all immortal now.  We might be looking for the halo, and the garland, and the singing-robes about him, with the lyre in his hands perhaps, or maybe the wings at his shoulders; whereas we should probably meet with a man of business, weather-worn, with wise wrinkles round his eyes, with a hat set firmly on his fine forehead.  Good sound boots on his feet—not sandals.  And he, instead of being rapt away in a fit of inspiration, or "booing" his poetry like Wordsworth, might be carrying samples of corn, and devoutly meditating the price current, or congratulating himself on having sold out his shares the year before the Globe theatre was burned down, as we know he did.  If we were told that this was the man, he would hardly be OUR Shakspeare.  And so we should still have to seek in his works for the most elusive Protean spirit that ever played bo-peep with us from behind the mask of matter in the human form.

    It has been asserted by the obtuse critic and uncongenial commentator, Steevens; that all we know with any degree of certainty concerning Shakspeare is that he "was born at Stratford-on-Avon, married and had children there, went to London, where he commenced actor and wrote poems and plays, returned to Stratford, made his will, died, and was buried."  Indeed, we have dwelt so long and so loudly on the little we know about Shakspeare personally, that certain foolish people have taken it into their heads to think we might never know the difference if somebody else were put in his place and proclaimed to be the writer of his plays.  But Steevens wrote a century ago, when there were no such collections of material extant as Halliwell-Phillipps' Outlines, and Dr. Ingleby's Centurie of Prayse.  Still, the recorded facts of Shakspeare's life are few, and the documents are very scarce.  We have not the personal data ready at hand for making a life-length portrait, finished in every feature, and clothed in the vesture of an ample biography.  We have not got our Shakspeare to bring him home in any such familiar way.  The Protean spirit has eluded our grasp in his outer life almost as effectually as he does in his works.  We can at most move round about him at a distance, and make out his features according to our mental vision—to which love may have added something of its precious seeing—and grasp the skirts of his human personality here and there, in accordance with contemporary fact, and the characteristics reflected unconsciously by his Plays and Poems.

    It is my present object to try briefly to get at the man himself, and make out his features so far as our means will allow, by extracting what spirit of Shakspeare we can from his works, taking advantage of the fresh data to be derived from the present reading of the Sonnets, and clothing that spirit as best we may; a trait of human personality, a tint of human colour, a touch of real life, being of more value for my purpose than all the husks of Antiquarianism, although I have also browsed amongst these long and hungrily.  In retelling or re-touching an old story, my plea is that I adduce fresh evidence, present novel facts, and bring new witnesses into the Court of Criticism.  Therefore I ask for another hearing.  Over three centuries have passed since the little child opened its eyes on the low ceiling and bare walls of the poor birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon, to grow up into that immortal godsend of a man whom we call William Shakspeare.  In all this long procession of years we meet with no other such face looking out on us; the eyes rainy or sunny with the tears and laughters of all time!  No other such genius has come to transfigure English literature.  All this while the world has been getting hints of what the man Shakspeare was, and how infinitely wonderful and precious was the work he did; how richly ennobling to us was the legacy of his life.  Innumerable writers have thrown what light they could upon his page to help the world on its way, but, as Coleridge has said, "No comprehension has yet been able to draw the line of circumscription round this mighty mind so as to say to Itself, 'I have seen the whole.'"  In Ben Jonson's words—

                           "Nothing but the round
Large clasp of Nature such a wit can bound."

Still one cannot agree with Goethe's declaration that everything said of Shakspeare is inadequate.  Any true thing said truly is adequate in virtue of its being true, and a good many true things have been said amongst the many that may not be actually true.  Nor shall we soon grow weary of any true thing said concerning Shakspeare.

    That Spanish Emperor who fancied he could have improved the plan of creation if he had only been consulted, would hardly have managed to better the time, the place, and circumstances of Shakspeare's birth.  It seems supremely fit that his birthplace should have been in the heart of England!  The world could not have been more ripe, or England more ready—the stage of the national life more nobly peopled—the scenes more fittingly draped—than they were for his reception.  It was the very quickening-time of a loftier national life—a time when souls were made in earnest, and life grew quick within and large without.  The full-statured spirit of the nation had just found its sea-legs and waved its wings full-feathered on the wind.  The new spirit of adventure was just beginning to get daringly afloat, to show that the little Island was the natural home of the kings of the sea.

    Into a mixed, multiform, many-coloured world was William Shakspeare born, three hundred years ago.  Old times and an ancient faith had been passing away—like the leaves of Autumn wearing their richest glory of colour—and every rent of ruin and chink of old decay were all in flower with the new life.  Shakspeare's England was picturesque to look upon, as is our woodland at the time of the year when Winter still reigns in the bare dark boughs above, and the young Spring is coming up in a mist of leafy green and a burst of song birds below.  In the year of Shakspeare's birth we find that the sum of two shillings was paid by the corporation for defacing an image of the ancient faith in the chapel at Stratford.  The cucking stool was still a real terror for wives of a termagant tongue.  Fellows sat up all night in the stocks, on the village green, making the darkness hideous with their drunken ribaldry.  Troops of strolling players wandered the country through, and won a merrier welcome than did the Wandering Friars who preceded them of old.  The citizens of London were still in the habit of going forth on the 1st of May to gather the hawthorn bloom, and "get some green," as Chaucer has it, in the village of Charing; and the violets grew where the effigy of Nelson now stands mast-headed on that terrible monument of his in Trafalgar Square.  English lasses would wash their faces in the May-dew, and join the lads in a game of hotcockles or barley-break.  The fires of Smithfield had only just smouldered down, leaving a smoke in the souls of men that was sure to burst forth into a nobler, intenser flame of freer national life; and fiercely in the minds of Englishmen there burned the memory of "bloody Mary."  The spirit of a new time had entered the land, to take shape in a proud array of great deeds, and a literature unparagoned; such as should place this England of ours side by side if not high above either Greece or Rome.  The stage of political life was crowded with splendid forms in sumptuous attire; heroes, statesmen, poets, sea-kings, magnificent men, with women to match!  Heroes who, like Drake, won their victories with such a dashing dare-devilry; and others who won and wore their glory with a Philip Sidney's grace!  A rare group of men and women who came as courtiers into the presence of Elizabeth, looking as though they had just walked through a shower of jewels; and spread their braveries as in the very sun of pageantry.

    Into such a mixed, multiform, many-coloured, magnificent time was William Shakspeare born, April 23rd, 1564.  His father came of the fine old yeoman class who clung to the bit of soil which their families had cultivated for ages, and who were ready to fight for it in the day of England's need.  This was the breed of men that served their country so well as the Bowmen of Cressy and the Billmen of Agincourt.  One gets an idea that Shakspeare's father was a man who had seen better days, but who was gradually sinking in the world, and losing his hold of his little bit of landed possession.  He seems dispirited, and the burden of his family is too much for him.  His circumstances declined from 1571—somewhat rapidly.  He had held the highest office at Stratford, and entertained both parsons and players at his house, and been liberal in his gifts to the poor.  We learn that in the year 1552 he was certainly doing business as a glover, and in 1556 he brought an action against Henry Field for unjustly detaining eighteen quarters of barley, which looks as though he were then a maltster or farmer.  In 1565 he was chosen an alderman; in 1569 he was high-bailiff, and thenceforward bears the title of magister.  In 1571-2 he was chief alderman.  In 1579 he is styled a yeoman.  He was in pretty good circumstances when the Poet was born, having a small landed estate near Stratford and some property in the town.  It appears as though he met with a great and sudden reverse of fortune about the year 1578, whereby he became no longer worshipful; what or how we are unable to conjecture.  In 1587 we find him in prison for debt, and in 1592 we find his name in a list of persons who, it is supposed, were afraid to go to church on account of debt, and for fear of process, or being served with a summons.

    When the boy Shakspeare was five years of age, his father, as high-bailiff, entertained the players.  This is the earliest notice we have of theatrical performances in the town.  And in all likelihood the child caught his first glimpse in the Stratford Guildhall of that fairy realm in which he was to become the mightiest magician that ever waved the enchanter's wand, and, as the trumpet sounded for the third time and the dramatic vision was unveiled, we may imagine how the yearnings of a new life stirred within him, and he would be dreamingly drawn toward those rare creatures that seemed to have no touch of common earthiness as they walked so radiant in such a world of wonder.  It would be an event, indeed—that first sight of the Players!

    It is curious to notice, as we are searching for facts respecting the life of Shakspeare, that in the year 1558 it is recorded, as if in smiling mockery of our endeavours, that Shakspeare's father was fined fourpence for not keeping his gutters clean!  And again he is fined twelvepence for the same reason.

    It is pleasant to know that Shakspeare could have his fair share of a mother's tenderness, and was not compelled too early to fall into the ranks by his father's side and fight the grim battle against poverty, with childhood's small hands and weary feet.

    Shakspeare's mother was Mary Arden, youngest daughter of Robert Arden of Wilmecote, the Wincote where Marian Hacket chalked up the score of fourteen pence behind the door against that good customer of hers, Christopher Sly, old Sly's son of Burton-Heath.  By the bye, the name of Arden or Ardern is taken to mean the wooded height, but that derivation does not go back far enough.  Ard, Art, or Old is the ancient word for the height, but Erne or Ern means an eagle.  Therefore Arderne, whence Arden, denoted the high place of the eagle.  That Shakspeare should descend from the eagle's perch is prettily appropriate!  The old British word for wood, i.e. cuit or cote, enters into the name of Wilmecote.

    Nearness to Nature we may look on as the great desideratum for the nurture of a national poet, and this was secured to Shakspeare.  He came of good healthy yeoman blood, he belonged to a race that has always been heartily national, and clung to their bit of soil from generation to generation—ploughed a good deal of their life into it, and fought for it, too, in the day of their country's need.  No doubt Nature stores up much health and freshness of feeling, love of green things, and songs of birds and quiet appreciation of all out-of-door sights and sounds in men like these—carefully hoarding it until one day it all finds expression, and the long and slowly-gathered hereditary result breaks into immortal flower, when, in the fulness of time, the Burns or Shakspeare is born.

    Very little is known of the childhood of our supremest Englishman.  There is no reason to doubt that he was educated at the Free School, Stratford, until his father was compelled to take him away to help him in the business at home.  Maybe the boy became an assistant, or what we should now call a pupil teacher; and this would afford some foundation for the tradition which makes a country schoolmaster of him.  As Dogberry has it, "to write and read comes by nature," and no doubt Shakspeare found it so—in his case.  He had the gift recognized by Dogberry.  We know fairly well what his little book-learning was.  A live lad like him would be reading Ovid and Cicero in Latin, and one or two of the Greek writers by the time he was in his teens.  There was no such range of reading then as we have now, but the few books were often better read, and these got more out of the reader.  That is the truest education which gets most out of the reader rather than out of the book!  There can be no doubt the boy was an adept, "epopt and perfect" in the education that had to be acquired freely out of doors.  His acquaintanceship with external nature was at first hand and first-rate.  Nature wrote her own book over again in his mind, and richly stored his memory for future use.

    As a boy he knew the colours and patterns of all the birds' eggs by robbing the nests; the number of legs on the caterpillar by counting them; the red-tailed humble-bee by taking its bag of honey.  Fortunately apples were plentiful, or a few orchards might have suffered.  He knew them all—Bitter-sweetings, Pippins, Leathercoats, Pomewaters, Warden-pies, Russets, and Apple-Johns.  His knowledge of animals and insects, their appearance, their works and ways, was derived directly from nature.  He was remarkably well versed in wild flowers, and they always blossom in their proper season.  He did not seek his botany in books.  His was the living letter of Nature's own font.

    When he went to London, it was from the heart of the country, with the country at the heart of him, and all the pictures photographed in colours and in lustres all alive.  Hence the country magic of his sylvan scenes.  Hence the country-born and country-bred who listen to certain of his Plays and passages of poetry in London will look on the stage with loving eyes, filled by the spring from an overflowing heart that is far away in the country, the child-heart in the nature of the woman or man to whom he will bring back the long-past life of the country transfigured and glorified.  The illusion is no longer theatrical, the magic is real as that of nature.  No other poet was ever such a countryman in town.

    But if we are to suppose that Shakspeare was of the trade or profession that he seems to have known most about we shall be puzzled indeed, for he seems to have known something of everything—not only what men were, but all they could do.  If his name had been John instead of Will we should at once have identified him as the popular Jack-of-all-trades, only, in his case, he seems to have been Master of all.  He was an all-round hand!  Some of his Plays are full of physic, and they say he was a doctor.  Others, again, with some of his Sonnets, are full of law, and not office-sweepings either.  One thinks he must have been a sailor.  Another tells you he had all the shepherd's fondness for young lambs.  Another claims him as a brother gardener.  It has even been conjectured that he knew something of the baking business, because he speaks of an offering being "unmixed with seconds," that is, inferior flour.  Another infers that he was a butcher from the passage, "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we may"—the butchers being accustomed to buy their skewers rough-hewn, and it took a clever man to shape their ends.  The butcher was compelled to be his own divinity.  Possibly Willie never got so far in the butchering-line as the sharpening of skewers.  The truth no doubt is, that the boy helped his father in the business, which may have included tending the sheep on their bit of land; killing the sheep and selling the meat; dealing in the wool that grew on the sheep, and even selling the gloves made from the wool.  A man in the position of Shakspeare's father generally tries to live in a small way by a multiplicity of means.

    It must be confessed that in the "making out" of Shakspeare we continually vouch for more than is warranted or needed.  This was more especially so in the earlier estimates, when the object was to magnify and make the most of him as a phenomenon.  The very matter-of-fact, dry-as-dust writer will as widely misinterpret the testimony at times as the most fantastical.  Thus Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, who expressly limits himself to furnishing a complete collection of well-known facts, cannot resist the temptation to suggest that Shakspeare's wife was a sufferer from mental derangement!  Even the anti-Shakspearean attempt on the life and works of Shakspeare may have the effect of causing us to look still more closely to our foundations in fact, and to make us more wary of vouching for too much.  We all do it, more or less, in the process of externalizing our idea of Shakspeare.  But a Judge like Lord Campbell ought to have known better, or been more judicial than to assert that Sonnet 46 "is so intensely legal in its language and imagery, that without a considerable knowledge of English forensic procedure it cannot be fully understood." [161]  But is that so?—

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war,
How to divide the conquest of thy sight;
Mine eye my heart thy picture's sight would bar,
My heart mine eye the freedom of that right:
My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie,
(A closet never pierced with crystal eyes,)
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
And says in him thy fair appearance lies:
To 'cide this title is impannellèd
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart;
And by their verdict is determined
The clear eye's moiety, and the dear heart's part:
    As thus; mine eye's due is thine outward part,
    And my heart's right thine inward love of heart.

    Surely it does not demand a lawyer, not to say a profound one, to read the imagery of empanelling a jury, the plea for the plaintiff, the reply for the defendant, followed by the verdict?  And that is all the law there is in the Sonnet.  Moreover, the proceedings are not in their proper order, for the plea and defence are both made before the jury is empanelled to give the verdict, which is not altogether lawyer-like.  That Shakspeare ever served an apprenticeship to the law I do not suppose.  To say that he has a wider acquaintance with law—uses legal forms and phrases more freely and unerringly than any other poet, is only to say that we are speaking of Shakspeare in one of the many departments of knowledge where, as a poet, he is unparalleled; he is not a whit more wonderful in this than in so many other things.  I think he obtained his insight through a personal connection with some live spirit of a friend, who could throw a light into the dark intricacies and cobwebbed corners of the law, rather than from any dead drudgery in an attorney's office.  Nor have we far to seek for such a possible friend.  There was Greene, the attorney, a Stratford man, and a cousin of the Poet, whose brain and books may have been at his service, and Shakspeare was the man who could make more use of other men's knowledge than they could themselves.  The worst of it for the theory of his having been an attorney's clerk is, that it will not account for his insight into Law.  My own notion is that there was some traditional right of property in the family that had an influence on the mind of young Shakspeare, which led to his looking up the law and poring over books belonging to his cousin Greene, the lawyer, such as the Law of Real Property, and the Crown Circuit Companion.  His law-terms chiefly apply to Tenure and the transfer of Real Estate, such as fee-simple, reversion, remainder, forfeiture, fine, and recovery, double voucher, fee-farms entail, capable of inheriting, &c.  According to the will of her father, Mary Arden was to receive all his land in Wilmecote called Ashbies, together with the crops it produced.  Then it is noticeable that in the motto chosen for the Shakspeare Coat-of-Arms he asserts a claim, Non sans droict, not without right; which corresponds in character to the assertive motto of his first poem.

    In the summer of 1575, when Shakspeare was eleven years old, there were brave doings and princely pageants at Kenilworth, where the Earl of Leicester gave royal entertainment to Queen Elizabeth.  The superb affair was kept up for eighteen days, and as a whet to the sight-seeing, there were three hundred and twenty hogsheads of beer drunk on that occasion.  Was the boy Shakspeare present at those princely pleasures of Kenilworth?  I think he was; and a vision of it comes over his memory in a certain Midsummer Night's Dream!  That is his dramatic way of telling us he was there.  When our Shakspeare was sixteen years of age, there was a William Shakspeare drowned at Stratford in the river Avon.  Now this fact offers a rare chance for the anti-Shakspeareans.  They should complete their case by coming forward boldly and swearing that that was our William Shakspeare who was drowned, and there was an end of him once for all.  For he could not be the author of his own works if he was drowned in 1580 at the early age of sixteen years.  Nothing short of proving some such alibi can ever establish their theory, and I make them a present of this suggestion.  Never will they get such another!

    There has been a little too much anxiety perhaps to invest our Shakspeare's youth with the halo of bourgeois respectability.  Some have even doubted or denied the tradition of his poaching, which he himself has warranted true in the opening scene of the Merry Wives of Windsor, where he makes fun of the Lucy coat of arms and the significance of the name.  "The dozen white louses do become an old coat well.  It is a familiar beast to man, and signifies love."  Poaching has done good service in its time, if only in sending many a stout fellow to help found our other Englands on the southern side of the world.  It is more than likely that it may have sent Shakspeare to found new empires on the stage.

    One feels that there is a considerable basis of truth in the traditions which have reached us, telling that the young Shakspeare was somewhat wild, and joined with other young fellows, and let his spirits overflow at times in their boisterous country way.  Hence we hear of the drinking bouts and poaching freaks.  We may depend on it there was nothing prim and priggish about Willie Shakspeare; for "Willie" he would be to his youthful companions as well as to his "play-fellows" of later days!  Not that there was any great harm in his frolics, only they may have been too expensive for the father's position.   He may not have been able to afford what the youth was spending with a lavish hand.  Possibly he kept the worst as long as he could from his son's knowledge.  Suddenly there came a change.  The young man looked on life with more serious eyes.  He would see his father, as it were, coming down the hill, beaten and broken spirited, as he was mounting full of hope and exulting vigour.  He would have sad thoughts, such as gradually steadied the wild spirits within him, and make resolves that we know he fulfilled as soon as possible in after-life.  Gentle Willie would not be without self-reproach if he was in the least a cause of his father's declining fortunes.  This thought we may surmise was one of the strongest incentives to that prudence which became proverbial in after years; and one of the quickest feelings working within him, as he strove so strenuously to make his father a gentleman, was that he had once helped to make him poor.  It may be a worthless fancy, but I cannot help thinking that our Poet's great thrift and his undoubted grip in money matters had such an unselfish awakenment.

    At eighteen years of age our William Shakspeare was married to Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a yeoman at Shottery (or at Temple Grafton).

    We read in the Hebrew Mythos that Eve was formed from one of the ribs of Adam, which was taken from him during a deep sleep.  In like manner other Eves have been created by the hand of love during a deep sleep of the soul, and the waking has not been always so delightful as that of Adam, who, according to the poet's fancy, found his wife waiting for him in Eden with all her comeliness fresh from the Creator's hand.

"Grace in her steps and heaven in her eye;
 In all her gestures dignity and love."

Their waking has been rather more like Titania's when the glamour was gone from her eyes.  And it has been surmised that Shakspeare's was a case of this kind—that he threw the auroral hues of his dawning imagination round Anne Hathaway, and married before he knew where he was.  There is nothing known, however, to give colour to this theory, which is derived from reading the Sonnets as personal to Shakspeare himself.  Certainly, she was some eight years older than he was, and he has in his works left a warning against others going and doing as he did—so at least the critics say; more especially Mr. Grant White, who grows positively vixenish against poor Anne Hathaway for marrying Will Shakspeare.  If Mr. White could have had his way, Shakspeare would never have had his; and if Mr. White had had his Will, poor Anne certainly would not have got hers!  He thinks the second-best bed too good for her.  He contends that if Shakspeare had loved and honoured his wife, he would not have written those passages, which must have been "gall and wormwood to his soul."  That is good argument then that he did love her, and that they were not quite so bitter to him.  Surely it is the more mean and unmanly to suppose that he wrote them because he did not love and honour his wife!  It is sad indeed to learn that Anne Hathaway brought the Poet to such "sorrow and shame," as Mr. White says is frequently expressed in the Plays and the Sonnets.  This Critic takes the matter of Anne's age so much to heart, that one would be glad to suggest any source of consolation.  Possibly Mrs. William Shakspeare may have been one of those fine healthy Englishwomen—I have a sovereign sample in my mind's eye now—in whose presence we never think of age or reckon years; whose tender spring is followed by a long and glorious summer, an autumn fruitful and golden.  These do not attain their perfection in April; they ripen longer and hoard up a maturer fragrance for the fall o' the year, a mellower sweetness for the winter, and about mid-season they often pause, wearing the bud, flower, and fruit of human beauty all at once.  Possibly her ripened perfections or fuller flower might be a ground of equality in such a pair.  Possibly the lusty Shakspeare was a man of larger growth than usual, maturer for his years than most young men, and a mate for any woman considerably older than himself!

    But there really is no reason to suppose he ran away from his home because he disliked his wife, or that he was not fond of her.  She is said to have been eminently beautiful, and she was fond of him; according to tradition, she begged to be laid in the same grave with him.  Some of the autobiographists have hunted for Shrews in the early Plays.  But to what end, when in the same play the sweet character of Luciana is present to equate with her shrewish sister?

    At one time Shakspeare writes:—

"Prosperity's the very bond of love,
 Whose fresh complexion and whose heart together
 Affliction alters."

Whilst at another he affirms that

                                  "Love is not love,
 Which alters when it alteration finds.
 Love's not Time's fool, though, rosy lips and cheeks
 Within his bending sickle's compass come;
 Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
 But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

Both sentiments are spoken in character; they are strictly in keeping and dramatically true in their place, but it would be idle to apply either to Shakspeare as a test of his own personality.  For a man who was miserably married he is a somewhat enthusiastic advocate for early marriage in his first Sonnets, and in his very early Play of Love's Labour's Lost.  But if we were to found upon a character or a text or two we should soon have as many interpretations of Shakspeare as there are contending sects of Christians.  I rather think we shall get nearer to young Will Shakspeare and Anne Hathaway in the Lover's Complaint than in the Sonnets.  In this poem the Poet is audibly making fun of their own early troubles.  There is a pleasant exaggeration throughout, both in his description of her and her description of him.  The humour is very pawky.  Some people, he suggests, might have thought her old in her ancient large straw-bonnet, or hat.  But he assures us, Time had not cut down all that youth began, nor had youth quite left her; some of her beauty yet peeped through the lattice of age!  The lady is anxious for us to think that she is old in sorrow, not in years.  The description of him is pointed by the author with the most provoking slyness, and used in her defence for the loss of her "White Stole."  There is the subtle Shakspearean smile at human nature's frailties in the suggestion of Stanza 23, that in like circumstances we seldom let the by-past perils of others stand in our future way.  Whatsoever the object of this poem, and to whomsoever it was written, we have here the most life-like portrait of Shakspeare extant, drawn by himself under the freest, happiest condition for insuring a true likeness—that is, whilst humorously pretending to look at himself through the eyes of Anne Hathaway, under circumstances the most sentimental.  A more perfect portrait was never finished.  The frolic life looks out of the eyes, the red is ripe on the cheek, the maiden manhood soft on the chin, the breath moist on the lip that has the glow of the garnet, the bonny smile that "gilded his deceit" so bewitchingly.  He is—

"One by Nature's outwards so commended,
 That maiden eyes stack over all his face;
 Love lacked a dwelling and made him her place,
 And when in his fair parts she did abide,
 She was new-lodged and newly Deified.

"His browny locks did hang in crooked curls,
 And every light occasion of the wind
 Upon his lips their silken parcel burls;
 Each eye that saw him did enchant the mind,
 For on his visage was in little drawn,
 What largeness thinks in paradise was sawn.

"Small show of man was yet upon his chin;
 His phœnix-down began but to appear,
 Like unshorn velvet, on that termless skin,
 Whose bare out-bragged the web it seemed to wear,
 Yet showed his visage by that cost more dear;
 And nice affection wavering, stood in doubt,
 If best were as it was, or best without."

The very hair, in shape and hue, that Shakspeare must have had when young, to judge by the bust and the description of it as left, coloured from life!  The inner man, too, was beauteous as the outer.

"His qualities were beauteous as his form,
 For maiden-tongued he was and thereof free."

Gentle he was until greatly moved, and then his spirit was a storm personified—but only such a storm

"As oft twixt May and April is to see,
 When winds breathe sweet, unruly though they be."

He was universally beloved, and what a winning tongue he had!—

"So on the tip of his subduing tongue,
 All kinds of arguments and questions deep,
 All replication prompt and reason strong,
 For his advantage still did wake and sleep,
 To make the weeper laugh, the laugher weep."

And he was such an actor too!—

"He had the dialect and different skill,
 Catching all passions in his craft at will;
 In him a plenitude of subtle matter,
 Applied to Cautills, all strange forms receives,
 Of burning blushes, or of weeping water,
 Or swooning paleness; and he takes and leaves,
 In either's aptness, as it best deceives,
 To blush at speeches rank, to weep at woes,
 Or to turn white and swoon at tragic shows."

And to think

"What a hell of witchcraft lay
 In the small orb of one particular tear,"

when wept by him!  Poor Anne!  No marvel that

                                   "My woeful self—
 What with his Art in Youth, and Youth in art—
 Threw my affections in his charmèd power;
 Reserved the stalk, and gave him all the flower." [162]

    We learn by the 16th Stanza that he was also a capital rider; much admired when he followed the bounds across country with a daring dash, or came cantering over to Shottery with a lover's sideling grace.

    Who can doubt that this is "Will. Shakspeare," the handsome young fellow of splendid capacity, so shaped and graced by nature as to innocently play the very devil with the hearts of the Warwickshire lasses?  The poem is founded on a circumstance that preceded the marriage of the Poet and Anne Hathaway; the "lover" being one who hath wept away a jewel in her tears, and who is described as older than her sweetheart.  His own gifts and graces are purposely made the most of in humouring the necessities of poor Anne's case—the helplessness of his own.  These things which she points to in extenuation also serve him for excuse, as if he said, "being so handsome and so clever, how can I help being so beloved and run after?  You see, it is not my fault!"  This smiling mood has given free play to his pencil, and the poem brings us nearer to the radiant personal humour of the man than all his Plays, especially that story of the Nun—

His "parts had power to charm a sacred Nun"—

a lady whose beauty made the young nobles of the Court dote on her, who was wooed by the loftiest in the land, but kept them all at a distance, and retired into a nunnery, to "spend her living in eternal love."  Yet, pardon him for telling it; he confesses the fact with an im-"pudency so rosy!"  No sooner had she set eyes on him, by accident, than she too fell in love.  In a moment had "religious love put out religion's eye."  I think this a glorious outbreak of his spirit of fun!

    If I am right then in my conjecture that "gentle Willie" was the beguiling lover of this forlorn lady of the "Complaint," we shall find a remark of his to the point on which I have touched.  In reply to some of the charges brought against him, he says,

"All my offences that abroad you see,
 Are errors of the blood; none of the mind."

    Another supposition obtains that he left Stratford on account of his propensities for deer-stealing.  I can only say, if he did taste Sir Thomas Lucy's venison, I hope he liked it.  There has been enough talk about it.  And I trust that

                                                     "Finer or fatter,
 Ne'er ranged in a park, or smoked in a platter."

    But he did not need Sir Thomas Lucy's deer to drive him forth into the world in search of a living.  His own dear had just presented him with a brace of twins.  And at this hint of his "better half," he no doubt thought it was quite time to look out for better quarters.  He may have remarked on this overproduction, "Anne hath a way I like not."  And then they said he did not like Anne Hathaway.  The stories about his being a link boy, and holding horses at the theatre door, are foolish on the face of them.  He was not a boy when he first went to London, but a man of twenty-one, and most likely a fine lusty fellow.

    In all probability our Poet went to London to be a player.  He must have been a born actor; a dramatist, in that shape, before he became one in writing.  This was the constitution of his nature; the very mould of his mind.  The strongest proof to me that the Lover's Lament is personal to Shakspeare, is the description of his exquisite art and abundant subtlety as an actor.  His tendency and inclination, if not his capability as such, must have been known to some of his fellow-townsmen, and he would easily secure a good introduction to the Blackfriars theatre, from some player who had visited Stratford.  Or he may have been the servitor of a townsman of his own, and entered as a kind of theatrical apprentice.  Having obtained his admission to the theatre, we lose sight of him for four years.  He began as a Player, and not as a poetizer, or we should have heard more about him personally.  As a Player, he was just the man to feel supremely happy in making a living, and something over, by work he loved to do; just the man of business to felicitate himself on the good fortune that enabled him to be the Player and Playwright both, which doubled his chance for making the most of both arts of which he was a master.  A false reading of the Sonnets has left a thick film over the eyes of many who might otherwise have had a clear and clean conception of his character.  It has discoloured and distempered their vision for life.

    It is from a false view of the Sonnets that it has been supposed he lived his tragedies before he wrote them.  It is in natures of the Byronic kind that the amount of force heaving below images itself permanently above in a mountain of visible personality.  Shakspeare's truer image would be the ocean that can mould mountains into shape, yet keep its own level; and grow clear and calm as ever, with all heaven smiling in its depths, after the wildest storm, the most heart-breaking Tragedy.

    His was not one of your "suffering souls."  These are wrung and pinched, gnarled and knotted into a more emphatic form of personality than he wears for us.  He could not sing about himself in a miserable mood.  He was not one of the subjective brood of poets, who find their inspiration in such a source.  Unlike Byron, who wrote most eloquently about himself, largeness of sympathy with others, rather than intensity of sympathy with self, was Shakspeare's nobler poetic motive!  His soul was not self-reflecting.  He was not a good listener to self.  To adapt the words of Montaigne, he could not "put his ear close by himself, and hold his breath to listen."  This is provable by means of his Poems and Plays, and I have now demonstrated how the same man wrote the Sonnets.  He could keep a calm "sough"; convert his surplus steam into force; consume his own smoke, make his devil laugh and draw for him.  He gathered all the sunshine he could and ripened on it, and his spirit enlarged and mellowed in content.  HE was happy whether the marriage was so or not.

    This, however, we may safely infer; his circumstances were not very flourishing at first, or we should hardly hear of his father being in prison for debt, where we find him in 1587, when Shakspeare had been in London two years.  His strong sense of family pride would have prevented such a thing if possible.  We hear of him again in 1589, when he has been four years in London, and, if apocryphally, it must be near the mark.

    Mr. Browning tells us there are two points in the adventure of the diver—

"One—when, a Beggar, he prepares to plunge!
 One—when, a Prince, he rises with his pearl!"

Our Poet had now made his plunge, and emerged into daylight once more.  If we could have asked him what he had grasped in the gloom, he might probably have told us a handful of mud, having experienced the worst of his theatrical life.  He had become a player and a playwright for the Blackfriars theatre.  But he had also found his pearl.  They had set him to vamp up old plays, put flesh on skeletons, and adapt new ones; and he had discovered that he also could make as well as mend.  During this time he had been working, invisible to us, at the foundations of his future fame; like the trees and plants in the night-time he had been clutching his rootage out of sight.  There was nothing sudden in his rise, he did not attain the height per saltum, but by climbing that was gradual and persistent.  He was an indefatigable worker from first to last, and had the infinite capacity for taking pains, which great genius implies, as well as the "right happy and copious industry" described by Webster.  Shakspeare was no spontaneous generation of nature or ready-made result.  He had to be built up as well as born.  He had to build himself up by catching hold, as the ape developed hands.  He caught hold of everything that would serve, and had the force to mount two steps at a time.

    In reply to those who are advocates for his having had a period of sturm und drang, nothing can be more instructive than to note the masterly ease and divine good-humour with which he mimics and mocks the affectations of the time in his early drama of Love's Labour's Lost, and typically plays off the country mother-wit against the current artificialities of the courtiers.  Note also the symptoms shown in an early play like the Two Gentlemen of Verona, the gentlemanly quietude and perfect ease which give the grace to good bearing and manners.  The young man Shakspeare is "all there," but with no strain of effort to appear more than nature warrants for the time being.  He does not try to attract notice by being loud; has no tiptoeing to look taller.  He is a master thus far.  His work culminates according to its range, and he has the happiness of present attainment.  The rest is left to future growth.  All in good time, he seems to say with his pleasant smile.

    His first rising into recognition is sun-like, with the mists about him; the mists of malice formed by the breath of envy.  As Chaucer has it—

"The sun looks ruddy and brode
 Through the misty vapours of morrowning,
 And the dew as silver shining
 Upon the green and sotè grass!"

The earlier writers for the stage are jealous and disgusted that a mere player, a factotum for the theatre, should enter the arena with "college pens" and gowned classical scholars.  But for these mists, and for the visible blinking of the little lights at the glory of a great sunrise, we should not know when or where the new orb was first visible on the horizon.

    These personalities serve for ever to identify Shakspeare in person as the writer of the Plays, who was known as such by all his contemporaries, whether enemies or friends.

    The earliest of all allusions to Shakspeare as a Playwright is probably made by Greene in his Perimedes, 1588, when he girds at some novice who tickles the public with self-love, and who is described as one that sets the fag-end of scholarship in an English blank verse.  This might be aimed at Marlowe so far as the blank verse goes.  But Marlowe was a Master of Arts, and he belonged at the time to the Greene clique.  Besides which, the "end of scholarship," the tailend or leavings, points to the man of a "little country grammar knowledge" who was jibed at by Nash in a passage already quoted (p. 50).  Again, in his epistle prefixed to Greene's Menaphon, Nash also speaks of those "who think to outbrave better pens with the swelling bombast of blank verse."  Later, in 1592, Greene says the new man "supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute JONANNES FAC-TOTUM, is in his own conceit the only Shakscene in a country."  Thus we have the blank verse of Shakspeare aimed at thrice over by his opponents.  It was this new power manifested in blank verse that constituted the disturbing element in the minds of Nash and Greene.  They recognized the strength of that in which they were the weakest.

    It is evident from these references to Shakspeare that he had a period of blank verse preceding the rhyming Plays.  He must have done considerable work before he wrote original dramas.  This work was applied to the English Chronicles, some of those which had already been turned into Plays.  In doing this early work our Poet wrought in conscious rivalry with Marlowe, who was his one great successful competitor at the opposition theatre.  In Marlowe's rude resounding work he got a glimpse of the freedom and force of blank verse.  In this way we may assume that Titus Andronicus was retouched, and so became mixed up with Shakspeare's early Plays.

    In his Pierce Pennilesse Nash admits that it would have delighted brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to think that after two hundred years in the tomb, he should triumph again upon the stage before ten thousand spectators (at several times), as Nash says, he having counted the houses!  This resurrection was the result of Shakspeare's infusion of his new spirit into the old bones of the history.

    Greene points to Shakspeare as the re-writer of the third part of Henry VI., when he quotes from that play to identify him by means of the line which he parodies for the purpose.  Shakspeare had written, "O Tiger's heart wrapt in a ,woman's hide." This is echoed by Greene in his "Tiger's heart wrapt, in a Player's hide!" who certainly aimed at Shakspeare as the writer of the line.  And as Shakspeare is charged with filching their feathers, that points to the historic Plays, which he had partly re-written, such as the second and third parts of Henry VI., founded on the two old histories that were pre-extant.  Meanwhile he turns from the Chronicles to try his hand at more literary and poetical Plays, like the Errors and Love's Labour's Lost.  The Errors is undoubtedly an early Play (about 1590), and it contains much easy-going, graceful blank-verse.  It is not great for Shakspeare, but must have been amazing enough to Greene as the production of a professed Player, who supposed he was able to "bombast, out a blank verse" with any of them!  And here once more we can identify Greene identifying Shakspeare by making use of his imagery for the purpose.   Antipholus of Ephesus says—

"Well, I'll break in; Go, borrow me a crow."

 Dromio replies—

"A crow without a feather; Master, mean you so?
 For a fish without a fin, there's a fowl without a feather:
 If a crow help us in, sirrah, we'll pluck a crow together."

    Greene takes up the "Crow without a feather," and applies the image to the player, whom he calls "an upstart crow beautified in our feathers."

    Shakspeare did not remain so silent under these attacks as is commonly assumed.  To Greene's description of him as a crow "beautified in our feathers," with his "Tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide!"  Shakspeare mockingly retorts—

"Seems he a dove, (gentle Willie!) his feathers are but borrowed!
 For he's disposèd as the hateful raven (or upstart crow).
 Is he a lamb? his skin is surely lent him,
 For he's inclinèd as the ravenous wolves."

    The false feathers are again referred to in Hamlet—"Would not this, Sir, and a forest of feathers (if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk (i.e. break faith) with me), with two Provençal roses on my razed shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of Players?"  "That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; 'beautified' is a vile phrase," he says in the same play; and "Beautified in our feathers" was Greene's phrase.  Shakspeare, having been charged with purloining the feathers of those who were learned, makes a reference to this in the Sonnet already quoted, where he tells Southampton that his patronage has "added feathers to the Learned's wing!"  That is, the patron and friend has given back the feathers which he, the Poet, had been charged with stealing from them, and has thus restored far more than his Poet borrowed.  Plainly enough this indicates the way in which Shakspeare took his place in the Blackfriars company, and also contains a smiling allusion to Greene's charge as to the manner of feathering his nest there.

    There is more, however, in Hamlet's words than this making fun of the "feathers"; something covertly concealed under the rose that no one has yet espied.  If we look intently we shall see the snake stir beneath the flowers; a subtle snake of irony with the most wicked glitter in its eye!

    Reference is frequently made by the Elizabethan dramatists to the devil hiding his cloven hoof under a rose stuck on the shoe.  Webster alludes to it in his White Devil

                                  "Why 'tis the Devil!
I know him by a great rose he wears on 's shoe,
To hide his cloven foot."

And Ben Jonson has a character, "Fitzdottrel," in The Devil is an Ass, who has long been desirous of meeting with Satan; so long that he begins to think there is no devil at all but what the painters have made.  On suddenly seeing "Pug" he is startled into fearing that his great wish may be at last realized, and he exclaims—

           "fore hell, my heart was at my mouth,
Till I had viewed his shoes well; for those Roses
Were big enough to hide a cloven hoof!"

Hamlet's remark assuredly glances at this legend of the devil hiding his cloven hoof under the rose.  The Poet has a double intention in making such an allusion.  On the surface it may be interpreted as pointing to the trick played on the King and Court, by Hamlet's having so cunningly used the players for his purpose in touching upon the matter of the murder—thus hiding the cloven hoof in the buskin.  But it goes deeper, and means more.  It is the private laugh about the "feathers" continued.  The Poet is still jesting at the consternation and amazement which his presence and his success had created amongst his learned rivals, and the outcry they made, as though the very devil had broken loose in the theatre, and was hiding his cloven foot in a player's shoe!

    Again, in this same play he pokes fun at Master Nash!  He has taken the identical subject treated by Marlowe and Nash in their Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the purpose of mocking the rant and bombast of these learned writers, the speech chosen, most probably, being the work of Nash.  "One speech in it I chiefly loved," says Hamlet, "'twas Æneas' tale to Dido; and thereabout of it, especially where he speaks of Priam's slaughter."  He then proceeds to outdo the said speech, which in Dido begins—

"At which the frantic Queen leap'd on his face,
 And in his eyelids hanging by the nails,
 A little while prolonged her husband's life;"—

the, "frantic Queen" is turned into the "mobled Queen," and in both speeches poor old Priam is struck down with the wind of Pyrrhus' sword.

    It was not Shakspeare's way to get into a passion and turn pamphleteer.  Being a great dramatist, he could put all he had to say into his Plays, or rather, as he was essentially an actor, he staged and played his opponents in character.  They soon found that this was a fellow who could play the fool at their own expense, and make fools of them for the public; who could exhibit them as his puppets, and pull the strings at his pleasure for the profit of the players; set all the gods in the gallery grinning at them by showing up their likenesses; whelming them with his wit, deluging them with his overflowing humour, and drowning them and their outcries in the floods of his own merriment and laughter.  In short, they discovered that they had caught a Tartar who could "take them off."

    Nash had inveighed against his monstrous ignorance in 1590 (see p. 50), and in the next play and next year he writes—

"Oh, thou monster Ignorance, how deformed dost thou look!"

Nash hadl written—

"Oh, this Learning! what a thing it is!"

This is mimicked by Shakspeare in his

"Oh, this Woodcock! what an Ass it is!"

    After what they had said about their learning and his lack of it, he must have meant a double entendre, or had the dual consciousness when he wrote, "William is become a good scholar!" (1599), and the boy was being put through his "little Latin."

    A prolonged reply to Nash can be detected in Love's Labour's Lost, a play that runs over with his ridicule of the affectation-mongers.  In this I hold the character of the little Moth (= Mote) to be meant for Torn Nash.  For these reasons, Nash was known by the name of "Young Juvenal," and Moth is introduced as "My tender Juvenal," and is said to be a "most acute Juvenal!"  He was the author of Pierce Pennilesse, and his Pennyworth of Wit is glanced at when Moth tells Armado that he purchased his experience by his "penny of observation."  Costard says to him, "Your pennyworth is good." "What's the price of this inkle?"  "A penny?"  "No!  I'll give you a remuneration."  "An I had but one penny in the world thou should'st have it to buy gingerbread."  "Thou halfpenny purse of wit, thou pigeon-egg of discretion."  Nash had said of some one whom he supposed had been a lawyer's clerk, and who could scarcely "Latinize his neck-verse," that "if you intreat him fair in a frosty Morning he will afford you whole Hamlets—I should say handfuls of tragical speeches."

    This infinitesimal joke is annotated when Costard calls Moth that "Handful of Wit!  Ah, heavens! it is a most pathetical nit.  I marvel, thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus."  Shakspeare had no learning, but Costard says to Moth, "Thou hast it ad dunghill, at thy fingers' ends."  "Oh, I smell false Latin; dunghill for unguem," Holofernes remarks, as if Shakspeare were retorting on the Hamlets for handfuls.  Moth is set to do in the play what Nash attempted out of it, that is, to perform the part of Hercules and scotch the snake.  But it ends in failure and inextinguishable fun. "An excellent device!  If any of the audience hiss you may cry, 'Well done, Hercules; now thou crushest the snake!"'  Shakspeare gets out his magnifying-glass to see the mote with.  Here he begins to betray his own size.  He takes up Tom Nash in his hand as Gulliver might the Liliputian, and then with a great hearty laugh he sets the mite to play the part of Hercules in strangling the snakes, saying, "Great Hercules is presented by this imp!"  Half the fun of a play like this depended on recognizing the originals of certain characters in real life.  Greene probably escaped being stricken by a sunstroke of Shakspeare's humour through dying just in time, after giving his runaway knock at the stage-door of the Shakescene's theatre.
 

    But the most amusing of Shakspeare's personal retorts are those relating to old John Davies of Hereford, he who wrote the epigram of Drusus, his deere Deer-hunting. [163]

    More than once did Davies dare to gnarr at his heels, or do what was still worse—pat him on the back.

   In 1603 he wrote of the Players—

"Players, I love ye, and your quality,
 As ye are men, that pass time not abused:
 And some [164] I love for painting, poesy,
 And say fell Fortune cannot be excused,
 That hath for better uses you refused:
 Wit, Courage, good shape, good parts, and all good,
 As long as all these goods are no worse used,
 And though the stage doth stain pure gentle blood,
 Yet generous ye are in mind and mood" (p. 215). [165]

    In 1609 he printed these lines—

"Some followed her by acting all men's parts,
 These on a stage she raised (in scorn) to fall:
 And made them Mirrors by their acting Arts,
 Wherein men saw their faults, though ne'er so small:
 Yet some she guerdoned not, to their deserts;
 But, other some, were but ill action all;
 Who while they acted ill, ill stayed behind,
 (By custom of their manners) in their mind" (p. 208). [166]

Also to our English Terence, Mr. Will Shakespeare (about  1611)—

"Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing,
 Hadst thou not played some, kingly parts in sport,
 Thou hadst been a companion for a king;
 And, been a king among the meaner sort.
 Some others rail; but, rail as they think fit,
 Thou hast no railing, but, a reigning wit:
     And honesty thou sow'st, which they do reap;
     So, to increase their stock which they do keep." [167]

I am of opinion that Davies' Epigram on the Player as English Æsop was aimed at Shakspeare—

"I came to English Æsop on a tide,
 As he lay tired (as tired) before the play;
 I came unto him in his flood of pride;
 He then was king and thought I should obey.
 And so I did, for with all reverence, I
 As to my sovereign (though to him unknown)
 Did him approach; but lo! he cast his eye,
 As if therein I had presumption shown.
 I like a subject (with submiss regard)
 Did him salute; yet he regreeted me
 But with a nod, because his speech he spared
 For lords and knights that came his grace to see."

He did but mark "my feigned fawnings with a nod!" says Davies.  Thus Davies describes Shakspeare, praises him, flatters him, calls him "Good Will"; he pities him for being a player, and says that but for his tendency to rail at and make game of people, more especially of kings, he might have been the companion of a king!  But he has played the fool to his own detriment.  Davies claims to know him so well in his Microcosmos!  This the Poet resents!  This he replies to.

    In the person of Menenius in Coriolanus Shakspeare smites him thus—"I am known to be a humorous patrician, and one that loves a cup of hot wine with not a drop of allaying Tiber in it; said to be something imperfect, in favouring the thirst complaint: hasty, and tinder-like, upon too trivial motion.  What I think I utter; and spend my malice in my breath, &c. . . . If you see this in the 'Map of my Microcosm,' follows it that I am known well enough too?  What harm can your bisson conspectuities glean out of this character, if I be known well enough too?"  Not only does Shakspeare take him by the beard to smite him thus and give him, as Hood says, two black eyes for being blind, but he has pluralized the old schoolmaster for the pleasure of thrashing him double.  "I cannot say your worships have delivered the matter well, when I find the ass in compound with the major part of your syllables, and though I must be content to bear with those that say you are reverend grave men, yet they lie deadly that tell you you have good faces.  You know neither me, yourselves, nor anything!"  Our Poet had a double reason for his retort.  He resents what Davies had said of the stage as well as of himself and Burbage.  He speaks for the Company in general.  He says in effect—"You have sat in judgment, you ridiculous old ass, but you have not handled the matter wisely or well.  And as for the railing that we are charged with, why, our very priests must become mockers if they shall encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are.  When you speak best unto the purpose it is not worth the wagging of your beard."

 
    It will not be easy to detect any dramatic motive in these replies of Menenius; there was no sufficient cause in the words of the Tribunes: they had not drawn the map of his Microcosm; had not characterized him at all, but merely remarked, "you are well enough known too!"  Neither was there any hint in Plutarch.  No one can, I think, compare what Davies wrote of our Poet in his three different poems with this outburst of Menenius' without seeing that the Poet has here expressed the personal annoyance of himself and fellows.  We may, perhaps, take it as a slight additional indication of Shakspeare's having John Davies in mind that nearly the next words spoken by Menenius on hearing that Coriolanus is returning home are, "Take my cap, Jupiter, and I thank thee;" and poor John had, in lines already quoted, greeted Southampton on his release from the Tower, with the words, "Southampton, up thy cap to heaven fling!"  In his Paper's Complaint, which is full of tortured conceits, chiefly personal to himself, Davies says of Shakspeare—

"Another (ah, Lord help me!) vilifies
 With art of love, and how to subtilize,
 Making lewd Venus, with eternal lines,
 To tie Adonis to her love's designs.
 Fine whit is shed therein, but finer 'twere
 If not attired in such baudy gear."

    This is immediately followed by allusions to the paper war between Nash and Harvey, and to the writings of Greene.

    Again he writes in his Scourge of Folly—

"And oh, that ever any should record
 And Chronicle the Sedges of a Lord!"

Not sieges of castles and towns, he explains, but sedges of a vile kind.  This Chronicle containing the "Sedges of a Lord" is obviously the Taming of the Shrew, with its induction in which "A Lord" is the chief character, and his jest at the expense of Christopher Sly is the low pastime called by Davies the "Sedges of a Lord."  This is sufficient to identify Davies hitting at and replying to Shakspeare.  And it is in this same poem he complains that he has suffered a great permanent injury from some playwright who has publicly put him to confusion and shame, and he regrets that

"Poets, if they last, can hurt with ease
 (Incurably) their foes which them displease."

    Again, he says, "a great torment in the life to come is due to those that can and will take such immortal revenge for any mortal injury."  He tells us that he penned his Scourge of Folly because he had been "disgraced with fell disasters."  He does not here allude to Ben Jonson's Time Vindicated, for that is dated 1623, the Scourge of Folly appearing in 1611.  It has been absurdly suggested that Davies is complaining of Shakspeare's having burlesqued him in his Sonnets, as the rival poet, whom I show to be Marlowe.  But it is in a Chronicle, i.e. a play, in which his injuries were made historical.  Hamlet calls the Players the "Chronicles" of the time.  "This sport well carried shall be Chronicled,"—made a play of—says Helena to Hermia.  Besides, this Chronicler is one who has "Chronicled the Sedges of a Lord," and consequently he is the author of the Taming of the Shrew.  Moreover, he is one who "confounds grave matters of State" with "plays of puppets," and he has made a puppet of poor John!  Davies cries—

                                                             "Alas!
That e'er this dotard made me such an ass,
    .    .    .    . and that in such a thing
We call a Chronicle, so on me bring
A world of shame.    A shame upon them all
That make mine injuries historical,
To wear out time; that ever, without end,
My shame may last, without some one it mend.
And if a senseless creature, as I am,
And so am made by those whom thus I blame,
My judgment give, from those that know it well,
His notes for art and judgment doth excel,
Well fare thee, man of art, and world of wit,
That by supremest mercy livest yet!
"  [168]

    This sounds very like the maundering of one of Shakspeare's Dogberry-kind of characters, but there is important matter in it, as we shall see.

    Davies' position was an uneasy one; he tries to balance himself first on one leg, then on the other.  He wants to say something cutting about Shakspeare all the while, and so the Players are "Nature's zanies; Fortune's spite;" and "railers" against the State.  On the other hand, Shakspeare has been graced by Royalty, and is an intimate friend of the young Earl of Pembroke, for whose amusement probably Davies had been made such game of, and who was pestered continually by Davies' inflated fatuous effusions.  And so, in spite of his attacks, he protests his love for the poets—

"Yea, those I love, that in too earnest game
 (A little spleen), did me no little shame."

The fact remains that he has been made an ass of in a stage-play obviously by Shakspeare, whom he refers to as the

          "Man of art, and world of wit,
That by supremest mercy livest yet
."

    My explanation of this is, that John Davies had been pilloried, staged, propertied, and made the most amazing ass of in the character of Malvolio, in the play of Twefth Night—"For Monsieur Malvolio, let me alone with him: if I do not gull him into a nayword, and make him a common recreation, do not think I have wit enough to lie straight in my bed."  Shakspeare did not bite his lip there for nothing!  We are "railers" and "zanies," are we?  "I protest," says Malvolio, "I take these wise men that crow so at these set kind of fools, no better than the fools' zanies!"  No envious allusion, let us hope, on account of the Poet's noble patrons who "spent their time in seeing plays."  To be sure, Davies' lines happened to be charged with that feeling.  And what a blithe-spirited, sweet-blooded reply this draws from the happy, cordial heart of the man himself—"O, you are sick of self-love, Malvolio, and taste with a distempered appetite.  To be generous, guiltless, and of a free disposition, is to take those things for birdbolts that you deem cannon bullets.  There is no slander in an allowed fool, though he do nothing but rail; nor no railing in a known discreet man, though he do nothing but reprove."  I will only remark here that the fool in the play cannot be the "known discreet man," but we may divine who was.

    John Davies was a schoolmaster. He published a book named the Writing-master.  He was a wonderful caligraphist.  Nicholas Deeble calls him "thrice-famoused for rarity."  He challenged all England to contest the palm for penmanship, and one of his admirers challenged the whole world on his behalf.  He appears to have taught one half the nobility to write, and on the strength of that to have solicited the other half to read his writings.  Next, Davies was the great master of writing on parchment, i.e. sheepskin; the "niggardly, rascally sheepbiter;" the great professor of caligraphy,—

"I think we do know the sweet Roman hand."

We saw how, with the air of a connoisseur, he studied the shape of my lady's letters.  "These be her very C's, her U's, and her T"s; and thus makes she her great P's."  "Her C's, her U's, and her T's; WHY THAT?" asks Sir Andrew.  "Ah, mocker, that's the dog's" profession.  Then, he "looks like a pedant that keeps a school i' the church."  No doubt of it: he was a schoolmaster; and he puts himself into the trick of singularity, as we know John Davies did.

    Davies was a Puritan.  As such he made his feeble, foolish attacks on the Players, and got stripped and whipped for his pains.  "But, dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall he no more cakes and ale?"  "Marry, Sir, sometimes he is a kind of Puritan!  The devil a Puritan that he is, or anything constantly but a time-pleaser—an affectioned ass, that cons state without book and utters it by great swarths; the best persuaded of himself, so crammed as he thinks with excellences, that it is his ground of faith that all that look on him love."  Only those who know Davies from his writings, and have watched him as he stands before the mirror of himself in his dedications and other maunderings, "Practising behaviour to his own shadow," Malvolio-like, can judge how true the delineation is.  Hero we have the "affectioned ass" that Davies says the dotard, Malvolio, had made of him.  Then Davies complains that the chronicler, or playwright, had spotted him with a "medley of motley livery."  Nothing could more surely characterize the dress in which the goose got his dressing—yellow-stockinged, and cross-gartered most villainously—and was fooled, as threatened, "black and blue."  Thus was Davies made the "most notorious geck and gull that e'er invention played on;" thus the

                    "Lucrece knife
With bloodless stroke"

was driven home; "the impressure her Lucrece, with which she uses to seal"; and if he was not phlebotomized by the stroke, he was Bottom-ized all over; his ass-hood made permanent for ever.

    Why should Shakspeare have done this? He will tell us—

                                         "Myself and Toby
 Set this device against Malvolio here,
 Upon some stubborn and uncourteous parts
 We had conceived against him.
 How with a sportful malice it was followed,
 May rather pluck on laughter than revenge;
 If that the injuries be justly weighed
 That have on both sides past."

    But how do the dates tally?  I know of no book published by Davies with a date previous to the year 1602—Wit's Pilgrimage having no date—in which year, according to Manningham's Diary, Twelfth Night was performed.  But, as Mr. Halliwell has said, Davies' poems may, in either case, have been written year's before publication; some of his Epigrams appeared with Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Elegies in 1596-7; and we know that Davies bewails the difficulty he had in getting his poems printed.  The Scourge of Folly consists of various pieces, written during many years.  Davies was educated at Oxford, and was a hanger-on of the Pembroke family.  He wrote a poem on the death of Herbert's father, and says, "My friend did die, and so would God might I."  This brings him very near to Herbert in the only accountable way, and explains the familiarity of Davies' early dedications.  As tutor, with Puritan pretensions, he would warn the young Earl against Shakspeare and the Players, for he was unboundedly liberal with his advice.  In this way many things might come to Shakspeare's eyes and ears long before they were made public, for we know with what "favour" Herbert "prosecuted" our Poet.  The young lord could not help making fun of his own absurd, "peculiar John," as Davies signed himself when "double-bound to W.," and that in concert with Shakspeare, and then be generous enough to help him to get his pitiable endeavours to appear witty and wise shown up in print as fun-provoking follies.  Shakspeare knew better than we do what Davies may have written and said previous to 1602, but I have quoted enough, I think, from Davies for him to stand self-identified as Malvolio.

    We are told (Centurie of Prayse, p. 49) that Dr. Nicholson thinks "there is no character in Shakspeare which, in various ways, so well stands for Jonson" as Malvolio.  But Ben was no Puritan.  He writes in Eastward Hoe—"Your only smooth skin to make vellum is your Puritan's skin; they be the smoothest and sleekest knaves in a country."  And surely Ben was no sworn enemy to cakes and ale, or even canary wine!  Ben had too robust and assertive a self esteem to become the foolish gull of his own vanity.  Ben was a lusty asserter of himself rather than a self-worshipper.  He boasted mostly of his work.  His was not the Malvolian fatuity of conceit.  He did not simper simiously.

    Malvolio is a Puritan and a pious prig at that.  He is virulently virtuous, he is a zealous foe to all good fellowship, and laughing and "daffing."  The happiness of others makes his bile rise bitter in the mouth.  What possible likeness to Malvolio can any one see in the man who lavished his laudation so abundantly upon his contemporaries, that forty may be seen feeding as one upon his over-plenteous praise of them?  Prythee, think no more of that!

    I still hold to my opinion, expressed in 1866, that we owe to Gabriel Harvey the earliest worthy word in recognition of Shakspeare's dawning genius.  In September 1592 Gabriel Harvey took up the cudgels on behalf of himself and his family who had been attacked and outrageously abused by the Greene "set," and replied to "Woeful Greene and beggarly Pierce Pennilesse, as it were a Grasshopper and a Cricket, two pretty Musicians but silly creatures; the Grasshopper imaged would be nothing less than a Green Dragon, and the Cricket malcontented the only Unicorn of the Muses."  The letters are "especially touching parties abused by Robert Greene—incidentally of divers excellent persons, and some matters of note."  In the third of these we have what I judge to be the most appreciative of all contemporary notices of Shakspeare: the only intimation that any one then living had caught the splendid sparkle of the jewel that was yet to "lighten all the isle."  Harvey is partly pleading, partly expostulating with Nash.  I speak, he says, to a Poet, but "good sweet orator, BE a divine Poet indeed."  He urges him to employ his golden talent to honour virtue and valour with "heroical cantos," as "noble Sir Philip Sidney and gentle Maister Spenser have done, with immortal fame."  He is pleading for more nature in poetry.  "Right Artificiality," he urges, "is not mad-brained, or ridiculous, or absurd, or blasphemous, or monstrous; but deep-conceited, but pleasurable, but delicate, but exquisite, but gracious, but admirable."  He points out what he considers the finest models, the truest poetry of the past, and, turning to the Elizabethan time, he names some dear lovers of the Muses whom he admires and cordially recommends, making mention of Spenser, Watson, Daniel, Nash and others.  These he thanks affectionately for their studious endeavours to polish and enrich their native tongue. He tells the poets of the day that he appreciates their elegant fancy, their excellent wit, their classical learning, their efforts to snatch a grace from the antique, but he has discovered the bird of a new dawn, with a burst of music fresh from the heart of Nature, and its prelusive warblings have made his spirits dance within him.  He will not call this new Poet by name, because, were he to say what he feels, he would be suspected of exaggeration, over-praise, or unworthy motive.  But he says it is the "sweetest and divinest Muse that ever sang in English or other language!"

    Now this cannot be either Spenser or Sidney; these he has named.  It cannot be Drayton, for it is a new man, and this is a plea for a new Poet, one of those whom Greene has abused.  The writer is bespeaking the attention of Poets and Critics, more especially of Thomas Nash, to the writings of this new Poet, who is not Nash himself, and he pleads with those who flatter themselves on being learned not to sneer at or neglect this

"...fine handiwork of Nature and excellenter Art combined.  Gentle minds and flourishing wits were infinitely to blame if they should not also, for curious imitation, propose unto themselves such fair types of refined and engraced eloquence.  The right novice of pregnant and aspiring conceit will not outskip any precious gem of invention, or any beautiful flower of elocution that may richly adorn or gallantly bedeck the trim garland of his budding style.  I speak generally to every springing wit; but more especially to a few, and at this instant singularly to one (Nash) whom I salute with a hundred blessings, and entreat, with as many prayers, to love them that love all good wits, and hate none, but the Devil and his incarnate imps notoriously professed."

This is a reply to the petulance and bitterness of Greene, and his friend, the "byting satyrist."  It is addressed to Thomas Nash, who, it must be remembered, was Shakspeare's "old sweet enemy"; about the earliest to sneer at the player who was gradually becoming a Poet, in his Anatomie of Absurditie, printed in 1590, two years before he was pelted with the wild and stupid abuse of the Groat's-worth of Wit—in which, if Nash had no hand, we have only too true a reflex of his spirit.  If Nash and Greene aimed at Shakspeare in their attacks, assuredly it is Shakspeare whom Gabriel Harvey defends.  In effect Harvey replies to Nash, "You are infinitely to blame in the course you are pursuing with regard to this new writer.  Do not, I beseech you, wilfully blind your eyes to so much beauty."  This he does in a gentle, conciliatory spirit, not wishing to stir up strife.  "Love them that love all good wits," he says, "and hate none."

    Never did I assume or suppose that the "worst of the four" spoken of by Harvey was meant for Shakspeare. I never inferred that Shakspeare was the man whom Harvey did salute "with a hundred blessings and as many prayers." I said it was Nash. Nor do I see how Dr. Ingleby could have fallen into his error, when Harvey was so obviously addressing Nash! But I see no need for Dr. Ingleby to throw away the child with the water it was washed in by Mr. Simpson. [169]  It appears to me that Dr. Ingleby, having mixed up Nash with the new Poet, who is only alluded to incidentally, has made a further mistake in adopting Mr. Simpson's explanation as conclusive against Harvey's making any reference whatever to Shakspeare.

    It is but Mr. Simpson's inference that this great rising Poet was one of the Harveys, because Gabriel only mentions the family of four, when limiting or directing his reply to the one particular book, Greene's Quip for an Upstart Courtier.  Harvey, however, in his Letters was writing "especially touching parties abused by Robert Greene, incidentally of divers excellent persons, and some matters of note."  And this advertisement covers the whole ground necessary to include Shakspeare, who had been badly abused by Greene and Nash, and therefore is not to be excluded from Harvey's defence, if he does still more expressly champion the four persons, who were his father and the three Harvey brothers.  Taking the Harvey family to be those who were especially abused by Greene, there yet remain the "divers excellent persons" who are alluded to incidentally; and my contention still is, that Shakspeare is one, and the chief one, of these persons incidentally alluded to.  He uses the very language of Chettle, "Myself have seen his demeanour no less civil than he excellent in the quality he possesses."  There is no collision between Nash as the person saluted with the "hundred blessings," and Shakspeare as the "sweetest and divinest Muse that ever sang in English."  These latter words were not meant for Nash, they do not go with the others, but have to be care fully distinguished from them.  Nash did not take them to himself—he knew that he was not the great unnamed when he wrote in Strange News—"To make me a small seeming amends for the injuries thou hast done me, thou reckonest me up amongst the dear loves and professed sons of the Muses, Edmund Spenser, A. Fraunce T. Watson S. Daniel.  With a hundred blessings and many prayers thou intreatest me to love thee.  Content thyself; I will not."

    Harvey was "only referring to the Quip," says Mr. Simpson.  But that is a gross mistake.  He is also replying to Beggarly Pierce Pennilesse, who had made at least two attacks on Shakspeare before 1592.  I still maintain that the "Sweetest and divinest Muse that ever sang in English," which is left nameless by Harvey, was that of Shakspeare, the then known author of the Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, and the Two Gentlemen of Verona—the man abused by Nash and Greene,—and not one of the brothers Harvey.  Possibly Harvey was acquainted with the Venus and Adonis, then forthcoming, and with the early Sonnets, then in MS., written for the young Earl of Southampton whom the Doctor knew, and whose patronage of Shakspeare would undoubtedly weigh with Harvey.

    Thus to Harvey belongs the honour of first proclaiming the sunrise.  Others may have perceived the orient colours, but this writer first said it was so, and cried aloud the new dawn in English Poetry—had the intuition necessary for seeing that the nature of Shakspeare's work was incomparably higher than all the Art of the Classical School, and uttered his feeling with a forthright, frank honesty, in a strain so lofty, that it found no echo in that age until Ben Jonson gave the rebound in his noble lines to Shakspeare's memory.  But Jonson then stood in the after-glow that followed the sunset.  Harvey penned his eulogy in the light of the early sunrise.  He pointed out the first springing beams, and called upon all who were true worshippers of the sacred fire.  He alone dared to speak such a lusty panegyric of the new Poet's natural graces, and exalt his art above that of his most learned rivals with their fantastic conceits, their euphuistic follies, and "Aretinish mountains of huge exaggeration."  He alone called upon those who were decrying Shakspeare so coarsely, to study his works; this he did in words which have the heart-warmth of personal friendship trying to make friends for a friend out of the bitterest enemies: words which were snarled at viciously by Nash.

   
This early recognition of Shakspeare arises out of the old quarrel of Learning versus the natural brain, which appears and reappears in all we hear of Shakspeare's literary life.  In this quarrel Nash made the first onset, continued the battle along with the Greene clique, until awed into silence by the majestic rise and dilation of Shakspeare's genius, or forced to lay his hand on his mouth because, as Chettle confessed, "divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty and his facetious grace in writing, that approves his Art."  And because some influence had been brought to bear on Nash to make him so quickly follow the Groat's-worth of Wit with a Private "Epistle to the Printer" prefixed to the second edition of his Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Divell (1592), in which he repudiates having had anything to do with Greene's pamphlet.

    Jonson spoke the last word in this quarrel, then grown kindly, when he said that Shakspeare had little Latin and less Greek.  We should prefer to think the anecdote true that tells of Shakspeare's reply to Jonson, it looks so representative.  It is said our Poet was godfather to one of Ben's children.  After the christening Ben found him in a deep study, and asked him what he was thinking about.  He replied that he had been considering what would be the most fitting gift for him to bestow on his god-child, and he had resolved at last.  "I pry thee what?" says the father.  "I'faith, Ben," (fancy the rare smile of our gentle Willie!) "I'll e'en give him a dowzen good Lattin spoones, and thou shalt translate them."

    In Marston's Scourge of Villanie, satire 11, entitled "Humours," there is a description which most unmistakably points to Shakspeare, and no one else—

"Luscus, what's plaid to-day? Faith, now I know
 I set thy lips abroach, from whence doth flow
 Naught but pure Juliet and Romeo!

 Say who acts best?   Drusus or Roscio?
 Now I hare him, that nere of ought did speak,
 But when of Playes or Players he did treat—
 Hath made a  Commonplace-Book out of Playes,
 And speaks in print
: at least what ere he saies
 Is warranted by curtain plaudites,
 If ere you heard him
courting Lesbia's eyes!
 Say (courteous Sir), speaks he not movingly,
 
From out some new pathetique Tragedy?
 He writes, he rails, he jests, he courts, (what not?)
 And all from out his huge, long-scrapèd stock
 Of well-penned Playes
."

Marston had in a previous satire (the 7th) parodied the exclamation of Richard in "A Man! a Man! a Kingdom for a Man!"  And in this he repeats the expressions and parodies the speech of Capulet when calling upon his company for a dance—

"A hall! a hall! give room, and foot it, girls.
 More light, ye knaves," &c.

Capulet had previously said—

"At my poor house, look to behold this night
 Earth-treading stars,"

This Marston mocks thus—

                                       "A hall! a hall!
 Room for the spheres, the orbs celestiall
 Will dance Kemp's jigge; they'll revel with neat jumps;
 A worthy Poet hath put on their pumps."

This will show how visibly Shakspeare was in the writer's mind.  Next "Roscius" was a name by which Burbage was everywhere known: he was called by that name in his lifetime, and Camden uses it in chronicling the player's death.  Then we have Shakspeare coupled with him as "Drusus," either after the eloquent Roman Tribune or some character in a play now lost.  The two are named together as the chief men of the company that played Romeo and Juliet.  So these two, Shakspeare and Burbage, are afterwards named together by John Davies in his Microcosmos.  Shakspeare is also identified by the allusion to Romeo and Juliet.  This Luscus is a worshipper of the new dramatic poet, who speaks so movingly from out each new pathetic tragedy.  He talks of little else than Shakspeare, and is infected by the ebullient passion of this wonderful drama that has taken the town by storm.  At the mention of a theatre, Shakspeare's is first in the satirist's mind, and at the mention of plays he says, "Now, I know you are off! nothing goes down with you but Shakspeare's play; you can talk of nothing but Shakspeare."  This notice is intensely interesting.  It is the gird of an envious rival, who pays unwilling tribute to our Poet's increasing popularity, and at the same time gives us the most perfect little sketch of the man and his manners, as Marston saw him!  He has marked his reticence in such company as that of Playwrights and Players; only speaking upon what to them would be the subject of subjects; and he feels well enough that he has never got at him.  Now, he says, "I have him who is so difficult to get at."  He is known also as a great maker of extracts; he keeps a Common-place book filled from out his huge long-accumulating stock of plays.  So that he has been a diligent collector of dramas, a maker of notes, and a great student of his special art.  It has been his custom to copy the best things he met with into his scrap-book.  The satirist almost repeats Greene's Johannes Fac-totum in his description of our Poet's varied ability, his aptness in doing many things with as much earnestness as though each were the one thing he came into this world to do.  He writes, he rails, he jests, he courts (what not?).  And all—this is how the malevolent rival accounts for the abounding genius!—and all from out his collection of plays and the scraps hoarded in his common-place book.  Marston's Satyres were published in 1598, and this is evidently written at the moment when Romeo and Juliet is in the height of its success.  It is the new pathetic tragedy of these lines.  Also, the image of the love-poet courting Lesbia's eyes is obviously suggested by the balcony scene of this play.

    It is curious, too, that he should ask which of the two is the better actor—Shakspeare or Burbage? "He speaks in print" reminds us of Hamlet's speech to the players.  According to this witness, it would look as though the Poet had there figured himself for us somewhat as his contemporaries saw him amongst his own company of players.  It makes one wonder how much he had to do personally with the great acting of Burbage in moulding such an embodiment of his own conceptions, and inspiring the player when spirit sharpened spirit and face kindled face.  He was six years older than Burbage and the great Master of his Art.  Of course, Marston's notice is meant to be satirical, although he wriggles in vain to raise a smile at his subject.  This writer has another mean "gird" at our Poet in his What you Will (Act II. sc. i.)—

"Ha! he mounts Chirall on the wings of fame,
 A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
 Look thee, I speak play scraps!"

which still further helps to identify Shakspeare by a double allusion.

    The reader may now see how exceedingly probable is the suggestion (p. 101) that Marston does allude to the Sonnets written by Shakspeare for Southampton, when, after speaking of Roscio's (Burbage's) verses, he says that "absolute Castilio had furnished himself in like manner in order that he might pay court to his mistress."  Marston says of Shakspeare, "He writes, he rails, he jests, he COURTS (what not?)."

    There is no need to repeat the reasons previously given for rejecting the belief that Spenser's well-known description in his Teares of the Muses was meant for Shakspeare.  Here the representation is so according to our present view of the Poet that it has been caught at and identified.  But we may safely say that no man living in 1590 (the year in which the poem was printed, possibly for the second time) ever saw Shakspeare as the "man whom Nature's self had made to mock herself, and truth to imitate."

    The lines in Colin Clout's come home again, supposed to point out our Poet, are in every way more likely—

"And there, though last not least, is Ætion;
     A gentler Shepherd may no-where be found;
 Whose Muse, full of high thoughts' invention,
     Doth, like himself, heroically sound."

These suit the Poet's name, his nature, and his histories.

    We get a side-glimpse, and can to some extent gauge how far Shakspeare was known to his contemporaries generally in the year 1600, by turning over the pages of England's Parnassus, in the Heliconia.  Here we come upon numerous quotations from the Lucrece and Venus and Adonis, but the extracts from the Plays are most insignificant.  Yet at the time mentioned he had in all probability produced some twenty of his dramas, including the Midsummer Night's Dream, Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, with other fine works of his early and middle periods.

    A breath of the passionate fragrance of the last-named love-drama had reached beyond the stage.  But how could the editor make so few extracts from such a mine of wealth, and snatch no more from its "dark of diamonds"?  He is in search of illustrations for given subjects, each of which Shakspeare has enriched with pictures surpassing those of all other writers.  He possesses taste enough to quote many of the choicest passages from Spenser's poetry.  The inference is inevitable that the Poet and the poetry revealed to us in Shakspeare's Plays were unknown to Robert Allot, and possibly he only quoted at second-hand.  A Playwright was not looked upon as a Poet so much as a Worker for the Stage.  Plays were not considered literature proper or belles lettres until Shakspeare made them so.  They were written for a purpose and paid for.  The Plays of Shakspeare were the property of the theatre.  Spenser was the great Apollo of his age.  He had the true mythological touch and classical tread.  Accordingly, the Heliconia contains nearly four hundred quotations from Spenser and only ninety-six from Shakspeare; these mainly from his two poems.

    Webster, in his Dedication to the White Devil, speaks of the "right happy and copious industry of Master Shakspeare," but he names him after Chapman and Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher.

    It was impossible for Shakspeare's contemporaries to divine what there was in his works as we know them.  They could not help hearing of his dramatic successes, and would often feel these to be unaccountable.

    The early poems were well known, and some of the Sonnets were in circulation, but no one could predicate from these the stupendous genius that orbed out and reached its full circle in Lear, and the other great Tragedies.

    He was better known, however, within the Theatre, and there Ben Jonson, being himself a player and playwright, got the truest glimpse of Shakspeare's mental stature.  But if Jonson had really understood what Shakspeare had done for the stage, for dramatic poetry, for English Literature, how could he afterwards boast that he himself would yet "raise the despised head of Poetry; stripping her out of those rotten and base rags wherewith the times have adulterated her form, and restore her to her primitive use and majesty, and render her worthy to be embraced and kissed of all the great and master spirits of the world"?  This, after Shakspeare had found Poetry on the stage the slave of drudgery, the menial of the mob, and taken her by the hand, like his own Marina, and led her forth apparelled in all freshness of the spring; fairer to look on than the "evening air, clad in the beauty of ten thousand stars," and made her the nursing mother of children strong and splendid; set her on a throne and crowned her as a queen whose subjects are wide humanity, whose realm is the world.

    Ben's mind was hardly of a kind to jump with that of Shakspeare in its largest leaps.  He was the genuine prototype of the critical kind that has yet a few living specimens in those persons who still persist in looking upon Shakspeare as a writer far too redundant in expression.  They appear to think the foliage waving above too lusty and large for the sustaining rootage below.  They have a feeling that Shakspeare was a Poet marvellously endowed by Nature, but deficient in Art, the truth being, that what they mean by Art is the smack of consciousness in the finish left so apparent that the poetry is, as it were, stereotyped, and the finish gives to it a kind of metallic face; smooth to the touch, and flattering to a certain critical sense.

    They like their poetry to be fossilized and wear a recognizable pattern.  Whereas Shakspeare's is all alive, and illuminated from within; as full of Nature in a book as the flowers are in the field.

    The secret which, in Shakspeare, is unfathomable can be found out in the works of more self-conscious men.  In them Nature is subordinate to Art.  But this is not the greatest Art; it is the lesser Art, made more striking because there is less Nature.

    His is not the serene art of Sophocles; it does not always smile severely on the surface.  Then he has—

"Such miracles performed in play,
 Such letting Nature have its way!"

and the Nature is so boundless, we have to traverse such an infinity of suggestiveness, that it is not easy for us to beat the bounds.  But the Art of Shakspeare transcends all other Art in kind as much as the inscrutable beauty of soul transcends the apparent beauty of form and feature; and his judgment is as sure as his genius is capacious.  Judge him not by Greek Drama or French Art, but accept the conditions under which he wrought, the national nature with which he dealt, and he has reached the pure simplicity of uttermost perfection fifty times over to any other Poet's once!  In all Shakspeare's great Plays his Art, his mastery of materials, is even more consummate, though less apparent, than that of Milton, and it holds the infinitely larger system of human world and starry brood of mind in its wider revolutions, with as safe a tug of gravitation.  It is the testimony of all the greatest and most modest men that the longer they read his works, the more reasons they find to admire his marvellous wisdom, and his transcendent intuition in all mysteries of Law as well as knowledge of life.

    Harvey's lusty réveille and Ben Jonson's eulogy notwithstanding, it is quite demonstrable that Shakspeare's contemporaries had no adequate conception of what manner of man or majesty of mind were amongst them.  We know him better than they did!  He came upon the stage of his century like the merest lighter of a theatre.  He kindled there such a splendour and jetted such "brave fire" as the world never before saw.  He did his work so quietly, greeted his fellows so pleasantly, and retired so silently, that the men whose faces now shine for us, chiefly from his reflected light, did not notice him sufficiently to tell us what he was like; did not see that this man Shakspeare had come to bring a new soul into the land—that here was the spontaneous effort of the national spirit to assert itself in our literature, and stand forth free from the old Greek tyranny which might otherwise have continued to crush our drama, as it seems to have crippled our sculpture to this day—that in these plays all the rills of language and knowledge running from other lands were to be merged and made one in this great ocean of English life.  Not one of them saw clearly as we do that whereas Homer was the poet of Greece, and Dante the poet of Italy, this gentle Willie Shakspeare, player and playwright, was destined to be the Poet of the World!

    His real glory was unguessed at!  They could have given him no assurance of the "all-hail hereafter"; the lofty expansion of his fame that now fills the proud round of the great Globe Theatre of our earth.  His future was beyond the range of prophecy.  How could they dream of the imperial way in which the Player should ascend his throne, to set the wide round ringing whose vast arch reverberates his voice from side to side, whilst wave on wave, age after age, the pæan of applause is caught up and continued and rolled on for ever by the passing Generations?

    I often think that one reason why he left no profounder personal impression on them was because he was so much of a good fellow in general; his nature was so commonly human and fitting all round, as to seem to them nothing remarkable in particular.  They failed to penetrate the mask of his modesty.  His greatness of soul was not of a kind to puff out mere personal peculiarities, or manners "high fantastical."  He did not take his seat in a crowding company with the bodily bulge of big Ben, or tread on their toes with the vast weight of his "mountain belly" and hodman's shoulders, nor come in contact with them as Ben would, with the full force of his hard head and "rocky face."  Shakspeare's personal influence was not of the sort that is so palpably felt at all times, and often most politely acknowledged.  He must have moved amongst them more like an Immortal invisible in the humanity.  There was room in his serene and spacious soul for the whole of his stage-contemporaries to sit at feast.  His influence embraced them, lifted them out of themselves, floated them up from earth; and while their veins ran quicksilver, and the life within them lightened, they would shout with Matheo, "Do we not fly high?"  Are we not amazingly clever fellows?—How little they knew what they owed to the mighty one in their midst!  How little could they gauge the virtue of his presence which wrapped them in a diviner ether!  When we breathe in a larger life, and a ruddier health from the atmosphere that surrounds us and sets us swimming in a sea of heart's-ease, we seldom pause to estimate how much in weight the atmosphere presses to the square inch!  So was it with the personal influence of Shakspeare upon his fellows.  They felt the exaltation, the invisible radiation of health, the flowing humanity that filled their felicity to the brim; but did not think of the weight of greatness that he brought to bear on every square inch of them.  The Spirit of the Age sat in their midst, but it moved them so naturally they forgot to note its personal features, and he was not the man to be flashing his immortal jewel in their eyes on purpose to call attention to it.

    Big Ben took care to bequeath his body as well as his mind to us.  We know how much flesh he carried.  We know his love of good eating and strong drink; his self-assertiveness and lust of power.  We know that he required a high tide of drink before he could launch himself and get well afloat, and that amongst the Elizabethan song birds he was named, after his beloved liquor, a "Canary" bird.  One cannot help fancying that Shakspeare, as he sat quietly listening to Ben's brag, got many a hint for the fattening and glorifying of his own Falstaff.  How different it is with our Poet!  We get no glimpse of him in his cups.  The names they give him, however, are significant.  They call him the "gentle Willie," the "beloved," the "honey-tongued."  Fuller's description produces an impression that Ben Jonson was no match for Shakspeare in mental quickness when they met in their wit-combats at the 'Mermaid.'  Ben carried most in sight; Shakspeare more out of sight.  For the rest, there is not much to show us what the man Shakspeare was, or to tell us that his fellows knew what he was.  But their silence is full of meaning.  It tells that he was not an extraordinary man in the vulgar sense, which means something peculiar, and startling at first sight.  He must have been too complete a man to be marked out by that which implies incompleteness—some special faculty held up for wonder, and half picked out by disparity on the other side; as the valley's depth becomes a portion of the mountain's height.  There was nothing of this about Shakspeare.  And his completeness, his ripeness all round, his level height, his serenity, would all tend to hide his greatness from them.  They can tell us the shape of Greene's beard, which he "cherished continually, without cutting; a jolly long red peak, like the spire of a steeple, whereat a man might hang a jewel, it was so sharp and pendant," his "continual shifting of lodgings;" the nasal sound of Ben Jonson's voice, and his face "punched full of eyelet-holes like the lid of a warming-pan."  But they tell us nothing in this kind about Shakspeare, man or manner, and this tells us much.

    We know they thought him a man of sweetest temper and readiest wit, honest and frank, of an open and free nature, very gentle and lovable, and as social a good fellow as ever lived.  And, indeed, he must have been the best of all good fellows that ever was so wise a man.  Like other fixed stars he could twinkle.  He could make merry with those roystering madcaps at the 'Mermaid,' who heard the "chimes at midnight" but did not heed them, and he could preserve the eternal rights of his own soul, and keep sacred its brooding solitude.  He could be the tricksy spirit of mad whim and waggery; one of the sprightliest maskers at the carnival of high spirits, and then go home majestic in his serious mood as he had been glorious in his gladness, and brood over what he had seen of life, and put forth those loveliest creations of his which seem to have unfolded in the still and balmy night-time when men slept, and the flowers in his soul's garden were fed with the purest dews of heaven.

    Ben Jonson certainly knew his greatest contemporary best, and his unstinted praise is all the more precious for his criticism.  I have before now spoken too grudgingly of Ben, having, like others, been unduly influenced by the often asserted ill-feeling said to have been shown by him toward Shakspeare.  It does seem as though you have only to repeat a lie often to get it confirmed with the world in general as a truth.  I ought to have relied more on the spirit of his poem.  He has left us the noblest lines ever written on Shakspeare; in these we have the very finest, fullest, frankest recognition of the master-spirit of imagination.  Ben's nature never mellowed into a manly modesty like that of Shakspeare's, nor did he ever bask in the smiles of popular favour or the golden sunshine of pecuniary success as did his overtowering and victorious contemporary, but, in recognizing Shakspeare as a writer too great for rivalry, he actually reaches a kindred greatness.

    Speaking of Jonson's eulogy, Dr. Ingleby has remarked, "One could wish that Ben had said all this in Shakspeare's lifetime."  Nay, but think how the kindliest remembrance of the man came over him, and overcame all rival memories, and how the likeness of Ben becomes truly self-glorified whilst he is passing under Shakspeare's shadow, from which he suffered permanent eclipse!  Nor do I think the likeness in the well-known tributary lines presents the only personal impression of Shakspeare left by Ben Jonson.  If it had not been for the persistent endeavour to prove Shakspeare a lawyer, and too confidently assumed that the character, or rather the name, of Ovid, in the Poetaster (produced at Shakspeare's theatre, 1601), was intended for Shakspeare, it would have been seen that it is in the character of "Virgil" that Jonson has rendered the nature of the man, the quality of his learning, the affluence of his poetry, the height at which the Poet himself stood above his work, in the truest, best likeness of Shakspeare extant:—

     "Horace.   I judge him of a rectified spirit,
 (By many revolutions of discourse
 In his bright reason's influence) refined
 From all the tartarous moods of common men:
 Bearing the nature and similitude
 Of a right heavenly body: most severe
 In fashion and collection of himself,
 And then as clear and confident as Jove
.
     Gal.   And yet so chaste and tender is his ear,
 In suffering any syllable to pass,
 That he thinks may become the honoured name
 Of issue to his so-examined self,  [170]
 That all the lasting fruits of his full merit,
 In his own poems, he doth still distaste;
 As if his mind's piece, which he strove to paint,
 Could not with fleshly pencils have her right.
     Tib.   But to approve his works of sovereign worth,
 This observation, methinks, more than serves,
 And is not vulgar.   That which he hath writ
 Is with such judgment laboured, and distilled
 Through all the needful uses of our lives,
 That could a man remember but his lines,
 He should not touch at any serious point
 But he might breathe his spirit out of him
.
     Cæsar.   You mean, he might repeat part of his works,
 As fit for any conference he can use?
     Tib.   True, royal Cæsar.
     Cæsar.   Worthily observed;
 And a most worthy virtue in his works.
 What thinks material Horace of his learning?
     Horace.   His learning savours not the school-like gloss
 That most consists in echoing words and terms,
 And soonest wins a man an empty name:
 Nor any long or far-fetched circumstance
 Wrapped in the various generalities of Art,
 But a direct and analytic sum
 Of all the worth and first effects of Arts.
 And for his poesy, 'tis so rammed with life,
 That it shall gather strength of life with being,
 And live hereafter more admired than now. "—Act V. sc. i.

[Next page]

________________________________

 

Footnotes.

[159.](page 399)  'Corrigenda and Explanations, by George Gould. Virtue & Co.

[160.](page  401)  J. E. Smith in Daily Telegraph.

[161.](page 409)  Shakspeare's Legal Acquirements, p. 102.

[162.](page 413)  Thus prettily anticipating an illustration in Burns' Bonny Doon!

[163.](page 420)   Dr. C. M. Ingleby remarks on this (Centurie of Prayse, p. 67)—"Here too we find Burbage and Shakspeare associated as they were by Marston and by Davies."  Marston, however, only does so if we identify Drusus with Shakspeare!  That being admitted, there is less force in an objection made by the same writer, p. 28, where he says "Roscio was a sobriquet of Burbage, which convinces Mr. Gerald Massey that John Davies' epigram 'Of Drusus his deere Deere-hunting' (No. 50 in the Scourge of Folly) was meant to allude to Shakspeare's escapade at Charlecote or Fulbroke.  To help his case, however, Mr. Massey has to omit the epigram and to alter the title."  Not exactly so.  It is true I used the phrase deer-stealing as my own in place of Davies' deere-hunting, but I expressly said that "the contents" of the epigram "could not be applied to Shakspeare," and that there, was "more likelihood in the title.  I took it that Drusus was meant for Shakspeare by Davies as well as by Marston, and Dr. Ingleby wanted to take it so, and at the same time leave it too, in order that he might score a point against me.

The critic well may sigh, "Ah, me!
How perfect should a censor be."

[164.](page 420)   W. S. R. B.

[165.](page 420)   Microcosmos; The Discovery of the Little World, with the Government thereof, 1603.  Reprinted by Rev. A. B. Grosart, in the Chertsey Worthies Library, 1878.

[166.](page 421)   The Civile Warres of Death and Fortune (being the "Second Tale" in the volume of which "Humours Heav'n on Earth" is the first). 1609.  Reprinted by Rev. A. B. Grosart in the Chertsey Worthies Library, 1876.

[167.](page 421)   The Scourge. of Folly, consisting of Satyricall Epigramms and others, &c.  About 1611.  Reprinted by Rev. A. B. Grosart, in the Chertsey Worthies Library, Davies' Works, p. 26.

[168.](page 423)
  In condensing here there is no garbling of the meaning.

[169.](page 427)  Shakspere Allusion Books.  Postscript to general Introduction, by C. M. Ingleby, LL.D.

[170.](page 435)

                                       "Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue; even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well-turnèd and true-filèd lines."—B
EN JONSON.

 



[Home] [Up] [Biography] [Poetry] [Prose] [Reviews] [News Reports] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk