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proposition at hand, as the explanation of a given phenomenon, when the negative or the doubt compels one to launch out for himself, in search of new positions-this, alone, might serve to account for this result, at a time when criticism, as yet, was not; when the predominant mental habit, on all ordinary questions, was still that of passive acceptance, and the most extraordinary excitements, on questions of the most momentous interest, could only rouse the public mind to assume, temporarily, any other attitude.
And the impression which these works produced, even in their first imperfect mode of exhibition, was already so profound and extraordinary, as to give to all the circumstances of their attributed origin a blaze of notoriety, tending to enhance this positive force in the tradition. Propounded as a fact, not as a theory, its very boldness-its startling improbability—was made at once to contribute to its strength; covering, beforehand, the whole ground of attack. The wonderful origin of these works was, from the first, the predominant point in the impression they made—the prominent marvel in those marvels, around which all the new wonders, that the later criticism evolved, still continued to arrange themselves.
For the discoveries of this criticism had yet no tendency to suggest any new belief on this point. In the face of all that new appreciation of the works themselves, which was involved in them, the story of that wondrous origin could still maintain its footing;-through all the ramifications of this criticism, it still grew and inwound itself, not without vital limitation, however, to the criticism thus entangled. But these new discoveries involved, for a time, conclusions altogether in keeping with the tradition.
This new force in literature, for which books contained no precedent-this new manifestation of creative energy, with its self-sustained vitalities; with its inexhaustible prodigality, mocking nature herself; with its new grasp of the whole circuit of human aims and activities;this force, so unlike anything that scholasticism or art had ever before produced, though it came, in fact, with the sweep of all the ages-moved with all their slow accumulation-could not account for itself to those critics, as anything but a new and mystic manifestation of nature -a new upwelling of the occult vital
forces, underlying our phenomenal existence-invading the historic order with one capricious leap, laughing at history, telling the laboring ages that their sweat and blood had been in vain.
And the tradition at hand was entirely in harmony with this conception. For, to this superhuman genius, bringing with it its own laws and intuitions from some outlying region of life, not subject to our natural conditions, and not to be included in our "philosophy," the differences between man and man, natural or acquired, would, of course, seem trivial. What could any culture, or any merely natural endowment accomplish, that would furnish the required explanation of this result? And, by way of defining itself as an agency wholly supernal, was it not, in fact, necessary that it should select, as its organ, one in whom the natural conditions of the highest intellectual manifestations were obviously, even grossly, wanting?
With this theory of it, no one need find it strange that it should pass in its selection those grand old cities, where learning sat enthroned with all her timehonored array of means and appliances for the development of mental resource -where the genius of England had hitherto been accomplished for all its triumphs-and that it should pass the lofty centres of church and state, and the crowded haunts of professional life, where the mental activities of the time were gathered to its conflicts; where, in hourly collision, each strong individuality was printing itself upon a thousand others, and taking in turn from all their impress; where, in the thick coming change of that "time-bettering age," in its crowding multiplicities, and varieties, and oppositions, life grew warm, and in the old the new was stirring, and in the many, the one; where wit, and philosophy, and fancy, and humor, in the thickest onsets of the hour, were learning to veil, in courtly phrase, in double and triple meanings, in crowding complexities of conceits and unimagined subtleties of form, the freedoms that the time had nurtured; where genius flashed up from all her hidden sources, and the soul of the age-"the mind reflecting ages past"-was collecting itself, and ready, even then, to leap forth, "not for an age, but for all time."
And, indeed, was it not fitting that this new inspiration, which was to reveal the latent forces of nature, and her scorn of
conditions-fastening her contempt for all time upon the pride of human culture at its height was it not fitting, that it should select this moment of all others, and this locality, that it might pass by that very centre of historical influences, which the court of Elizabeth then made, that it might involve in its perpetual eclipse that immortal group of heroes, and statesmen, and scholars, and wits, and poets, with its enthroned king of thought, taking all the past for his inheritance, and claiming the minds of men in all futurity, as the scene and limit of his dominion? Yes, even hehe, whose thought would grasp the whole, and keep his grasp on it perpetualspeaks to us still out of that cloud of mockery that fell upon him, when "Great Nature" passed him by-even him with his immortal longings, with his world-wide aims, with his new mastery of her secrets, too, and his new sovereignty over her, to drop her crown of immortality-lit with the finest essence of that which makes his own page immortal-on the brow of the pet horseboy at Blackfriars-the wit and good fellow of the London link-holders, the menial attaché and elevé of the playhouse-the future actor, and joint proprietor, of the New Theatre on the Bankside.
Who quarrels with this movement? Who does not find it fitting and pleasant enough? Let the "thrice three muses" go into mourning as deep as they will for this desertion-as desertion it was-for we all know that to the last hour of his life, this fellow cared never a farthing for them, but only for his gains at their hands;-let learning hide as she best may, her baffled head in this disgracewho cares?-who does not rather laugh with great creating nature in her triumph?
At least, who would be willing to admit, for a moment, that there was one in all that cotemporary circle of accomplished scholars, and men of vast and varied genius, capable of writing these plays; and who feels the least difficulty in supposing that "this player here," as Hamlet terms him-the whole force of that outburst of scorn ineffable bearing on the word, and on that which it represented to him-who doubts that this player is most abundantly and superabundantly competent to it?
Now that the deer-stealing fire has gone out of him, now that this youthful
impulse has been taught its conventional social limits, sobered into the mild, sagacious, witty "Mr. Shakespeare of the Globe," distinguished for the successful management of his own fortunes, for his upright dealings with his neighbors, too, and his facetious grace in writing," patronized by men of rank, who include his theatre among their instrumentalities for affecting the popular mind, and whose relations to him are, in fact, indentical with those which Hamlet sustains to the players of his piece, what is to hinder this Mr. Shakespeare -the man who keeps the theatre on the Bankside-from working himself into a frenzy when he likes, and scribbling out unconsciously Lears, and Macbeths, and Hamlets, merely as the necessary dialogue to the spectacles he professionally exhibits; ay, and what is to hinder his boiling his kettle with the manuscripts, too, when he has done with them, if he chooses?
What it would be madness to suppose the most magnificently endowed men of that wondrous age could accomplishits real men, those who have left their lives in it, woven in its web throughout-what it would be madness to suppose these men, who are but men, and known as such, could accomplish, this Mr. Shakespeare, actor and manager, of whom no one knows anything else, shall be able to do for you in "the twinkling of an eye," without so much as knowing it, and there shall be no words about it.
And are not the obscurities that involve his life, so impenetrably in fact, the true Shakespearean element? In the boundless sea of negations which surrounds that play-house centre, surely he can unroll himself to any length, or gather himself into any shape or attitude, which the criticism in hand may call for. There is nothing to bring up against him, with one's theories. For, here in this daylight of our modern criticism, in its noontide glare, has he not contrived to hide himself in the profoundest depths of that stuff that myths are made of? Who shall come in competition with him here? Who shall dive into the bottom of that sea to pluck his drowned honors from him?
Take, one by one, the splendid men of this Elizabethan age, and set them down with a Hamlet to write, and you will say beforehand, such an one can not do it, nor such an one,-nor he,
with that profoundest insight and determination of his which taught him to put physical nature to the question that he inight wring from her her secrets; but humanity, human nature, of course, had none worth noting for him;-oh no; he, with his infinite wit and invention, with his worlds of covert humor, with his driest prose, pressed, bursting with Shakspearean beauty, he could not do it; nor he, with his Shakspearean acquaintance with life, with his Shakespearean knowledge of men under all the differing social conditions, at home and abroad, by land and by sea, with his world-wide experiences of nature and fortune, with the rush and outbreak of his fiery mind kindling and darting through all his time; he, with his Shakespearean grace and freedom, with his versatile and profound acquirements, with his large, genial, generous, prodigal, Shakespearean soul that would comprehend all, and ally itself with all, he could not do it; neither of these men, nor both of them together, nor all the wits of the age together :—but this Mr. Shakespeare of the Globe, this mild, respectable, obliging man, this "Johannes Factotum" (as a cotemporary calls him, laughing at the idea of his undertaking “a blank verse,") is there any difficulty here? Oh no! None in the world: for, in the impenetrable obscurity of that illimitable green-room of his, "by the mass, he is anything, and he can do anything and that roundly too,"
Is it wonderful? And is not that what we like in it? Would you make a man of him? With this miraculous inspiration of his, would you ask anything else of him? Do you not see that you touch the Shakespearean essence, with a question as to motives, and possibilities? Would he be Shakespeare still, if he should permit you to hamper him with conditions? What is the meaning of that word, then? And will you not leave him to us? Shall we have no Shakespeare? Have not we scholars enough, and wits enough, and men, of every other kind of genius, enough, --but have we many Shakespeares ?that you should wish to run this one through with your questions, this one, great, glorious, infinite impossibility, that has had us in its arms, all our lives from the beginning. If you dissolve him do you not dissolve us with him? If you take him to pieces, do you not undo us, also?
Ah, surely we did not need this master spirit of our race to tell us that there is that in the foundation of this human soul, "that loves to apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends," nay, that there is an infinity in it, that finds her ordinances too straight, that will leap from them when it can, and shake the head at her. And have we not all lived once in regions full of people that were never compelled to give an account of themselves in any of these matters? And when, precisely, did we pass that charmed line, beyond which these phantoms cannot come? When was the word definitively spoken which told us that the childhood of the race was done, or that its grown-up children were to have henceforth no conjurors? Who yet has heard the crowing of that cock, "at whose warning, whether in earth or air, the extravagant and erring spirit hies to his confine?" The nuts, indeed, are all cracked long ago, whence of old the fairy princess, in her coach and six, drove out so freely with all her regal retinue, to crown the hero's fortunes; and the rusty lamp, that once filled the dim hut of poverty with eastern splendors, has lost its capabilities. But, when our youth robbed us of these. had it not marvels and impossibilities of its own to replace them with, yet more magical; and surely, manhood itself, the soberest maturity, can not yet be without these substitutes; and it is nature's own voice and outcry that we hear whenever one of them is taken from us.
Let him alone! We have lecturers enough and professors enough already. Let him alone! We will keep this one mighty conjuror, still, even in the place where men most do congregate, and nobody shall stir a hair on his impossible old head, or trouble him with a question. He shall stand there still, pulling interminable splendors out of places they never could have been in; that is the charm of it; he shall stand there rubbing those few sickly play-house manuscripts of his, or a few old, musty play-house novels, and wringing from them the very wine of all our life, showering from their greasy folds the gems and gold of all the ages! He shall stand there spreading, in the twinkling of an eye, for a single night in a dirty theatre, "to complete a purchase that he has a mind to," the feasts of the immortal gods; and before our lips can, by any chance, have reached even the edge of
those cups, that open down into infinity, when the show has served his purpose, he shall whisk it all away again, and leave no wreck behind, except by accident; and none shall remonstrate, or say to him, "wherefore?" He shall stand there, still, for us all—the magician; nature's one, complete, incontestible, gorgeous triumph over the impossibilities of reason.
For the primary Shakspearean condition involves at present, not merely the accidental absence of those external means of intellectual enlargement and perfection, whereby the long arts of the ages are made to bring to the individual mind their last results, multiplying its single forces with the life of all;-but it requires also, the absence of all personal intellectual tastes, aims, and pursuits; it requires that this man shall be below all other men, in his sordid incapacity for appreciating intellectual values; it requires that he shall be able, not merely to witness the performance of these plays, not merely to hear them and read them for himself, but to compose them; it requires him to be able to compose the Tempest, and Othello, and Macbeth, without suspecting that there is anything of permanent interest in them-anything that will outlast the spectacle of the hour.
The art of writing had been already in use, twenty-five centuries in Europe, and a Shakespeare, one would think, might have been able to form some conception of its value and applications; the art of printing had been in use on the continent a century and a half, and it was already darting through every civilized corner of it, and through England, too, no uncertain intimations of its historic purport-intimations significant enough "to make bold power look pale" already-and one would think a Shakespeare might have understood its mes
sage. But no! This very spokesman
of the new era it ushers in, trusted with this legacy of the new-born times; this man, whom we all so look up to, and reverence, with that inalienable treasure of ours in his hands, which even Ben Jonson knew was not for him, "nor for an age-but for all time," why this Jack Cade that he is must needs take
us back three thousand years with it, and land us at the gates of Ilium! The arts of humanity and history, as they stood when Troy was burned, must save this treasure for us, and be our means of access to it! He will leave this work of his, into which the ends of the world have come to be inwrought for all the future, he will leave it where Homer left his, on the lips of the mouthing "rhapsodists!"
Apparently, indeed, he will be careful to teach these " robustious, periwigpated fellows" their proper relations to him. He will industriously instruct them how to pronounce his dialogue, so as to give the immediate effect intended; controlling even the gesticulations, insisting on the stops, ruling out utterly the town-crier's emphasis; and, above all, protesting, with a true author's jealousy, against interpolation or any meddling with his text. Indeed, the directions to the players, which he puts into the mouth of Hamlet-involving, as they do, not merely the nice sensibility of the artist, and his nervous, instinctive, esthetic, acquaintance with his art, but a thorough scientific knowledge of its principles-these directions would have led us to infer that he would, at least, know enough of the value of his own works to avail himself of the printing press, for their preservation, and not only that, they would have led us to expect from him a most exquisitely careful revision of his proofs. But how is it? He destroys, we are given to understand, the manuscripts of his unpublished plays, and we owe to accident, and to no care of his whatever, his works as they have come to us. Did ever the human mind debase itself to the possibility of receiving such nonsense as this, on any subject, before?*
He had those manuscripts! had those originals which publishers and scholars would give millions now to purchase a glimpse of; he had the original Hamlet, with its last finish; he had the original Lear, with his own final readings; he had them all-all, pointed, emphasized, directed, as they came from the gods; he had them all, all finished as the critic of "Hamlet" and "Midsummer Night's
Though the editors of the first folio profess to have access to these very papers, and boast of being able to bring out an absolutely faultless edition, to take the place of those stolen and surreptitious copies then in circulation, the edition which is actually produced, in connection with this announcement, is itself found to be full of verbal errors, and is supposed, by later editors, to have been derived from no better source than its predecessors.
Dream" must have finished them; and he left us to wear out our youth, and squander our lifetime, in poring over and setting right the old, garbled copies of the play-house! He had those manuscripts, and the printing-press had been at its work a hundred years when he was born, but he was not ashamed to leave the best wits and scholars of all succeeding ages, with Pope and Johnson at their head, to exhaust their ingenuity, and sour their dispositions, and to waste their golden hours, year after year, in groping after and guessing out his hidden meanings!
He had those manuscripts! In the name of that sovereign reason, whose name he dares to take upon his lips so often, what did he do with them? Did he wantonly destroy them? No! Ah, no! he did not care enough for them to take that trouble. No, he did not do that! That would not have been in keeping with the character of this most respectable impersonation of the Genius of the British Isle, as it stands set up for us at present to worship. Some worthy, domestic, private, economic use, doubtless, they were put to. For, is not he a private, economical, practical man -this Shakespeare of ours-with no stuff and nonsense about him-a plain, true-blooded Englishman, who minds his own business, and leaves other people to take care of theirs? Is not this our Shakespeare? Is it not the boast of England, that he is just that, and nothing else? "What did he do with them?" He gave them to his cook, or Dr. Hale put up potions for his patients in them, or Judith, poor Judith—who signified her relationship to the author of "Lear," and the "Tempest," and her right to the glory of the name he left her, by the very extraordinary kind of "mark" which she affixes to legal instruments-poor Judith may have curled her hair to the day of her death with them, without dreaming of any harm. "What did he do with them?" And whose business is it? Weren't they his own? If he chose to burn them up, or put them to some private use, had not he a perfect right to do it?
No! Traitor and miscreant! No! What did you do with them? You have skulked this question long enough. You will have to account for them. You will have to tell us what you did with them. The awakening ages will put you on
the stand, and you will not leave it until you answer the question, “What did you do with them?"
And yet, do not the critics dare to boast to us, that he did compose these works for his own private, particular ends only? Do they not tell us, as if it were a thing to be proud of, and “a thing to thank God on," with uplifted eyes, and speechless admiration points, that he did " die, and leave the world no copy?" But who is it that insists so much, so strangely, so repetitiously, upon the wrong to humanity, the fraud done to nature, when the individual fails to render in his account to time of all that nature gives him? Who is it that writes, obscurely, indeed, so many sonnets, only to ring the changes on this very subject, singing out, point by point, not the Platonic theory, but his own fresh and beautiful study of great nature's law, and his own new and scientific doctrine of conservation and advancement? And who is it that writes, unconsciously, no doubt, and without its ever occurring to him that it was going to be printed, or to be read by any one?
"Thyself and thy belongings Are not thine own so proper, as to waste Thyself upon thy virtues, them on thee."
For here is the preacher of another doctrine, which puts the good that is private and particular where the sovereignty that is in nature puts it:
"Heaven doth with us, as we with torches do; Not light them for themselves. For if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike
But to fine issues, and nature never lends
Truly the man who writes in this style, with such poetic iteration, might put in Hamlet's plea, when his critics accuse him of unconsciousness:
"Bring me to the test And I the matter will reword; which madness Would gambol from."
What infirmity of blindness is it, then, that we charge upon this "god of our idolatry!" And what new race of Cali-bans are we, that we should be called upon to worship this monstrous incongruity-this Trinculo-this impersonated moral worthlessness? Oh, stu