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The love of theft would consequently be unnatural in such a man, and it would be stepping beyond the bounds of nature in any writer to attribute it to him, while it would be perfectly natural in a rogue; while the love of honesty would be just as unnatural in the latter, as the love of deception in the former. All feelings and propensities, therefore, are perfectly natural, provided they suit the general character of the person to whom they are ascribed. If Shakspeare, then, has not painted refined feelings, we must not suppose, for a moment, that his delineations of the heart are less natural or correct. He has painted human nature in it's deeper and bolder shades, such as it came from the hand of it's Creator. He has presented to us the marked and masculine features which it assumes in it's original formation, or at least before the traces of this original structure are softened and shaded over by the gloss of art and the influence of cultivation. I would not, however, maintain, that he is always natural in the expressions which he puts into the mouths of his characters. Strained or affected sentiments will never become those who are not represented to us as affected characters; and yet nothing is more common with Shakspeare. When Prospero tells Miranda, in the "Tempest," how he and she, when a child, were driven out of Milan, she exclaims,

"Alack for pity!

I not remembering how I cried out then,
Will cry it o'er again; it is a hint
That wrings mine eyes to it."

If Miranda could not be moved to tears by the circumstance of her banishment, it is unnatural to suppose, that she would weep, merely because she forgot it; but if it was her banishment that made her weep, her tears ought not to be attributed to a different cause. Numerous instances of this kind are to be met with in Shakspeare, and it can only be accounted for by that passion for effect which was common to all the writers of his age. Shakspeare, indeed, could paint nothing well that did not require strong colouring. Where the softer affections were to be described, he had neither the tenderness nor the sweetness that could give them appropriate expression. He

abounded in feeling, but they were the feelings of an ardent and vigorous nature, not the love-sick emotions of an Eloisa or a Sappho. But though he was unsuccessful in delineating the tender feelings and affections, yet he was equally unsuccessful wherever feeling was not concerned. In simple narration he is heavy, tedious, and uninteresting, because there is nothing to urge him forward. He is always great on a great occasion; but where the occasion does not inspire him, he is clumsy and unskilful. This must have solely arisen from his want of acquired learning. The stores from which he drew his portraits of the human heart, in all it's disguises, existed in his own mind; but when the heart was not the subject of his description, he had no interna! monitor to consult with; and his acquaintance with general literature was too limited to afford him that information without which no genius could embellish an abstract or general subject with which it had no previous acquaintance. He was always sure of grasping nature, where nature only was to be described; but when his subject led him to observations unconnected with her operations, he labours unsuccessfully. Dr. Johnson therefore observes, with great justice, that whenever he attempts to display his learning, "he seldom escapes without the pity or resentment of his reader." Shakspeare, in fact, was only acquainted with the history of the human heart, the appearances of external nature, and the influence of these appearances on the human mind; but this knowledge he acquired from his own feelings, and simple observation. He knew therefore only how the heart is affected by general nature, for he was but indifferently acquainted with the particular manners of particular nations, because this required an extent of reading, and an exercise of memory, with which he did not choose to burthen himself. Where nature, then, was the subject of his pen, no man excelled him ; where she was not, no man was more affected or ridiculous. Pope was not, therefore, wrong, when he said, that

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royal; which arose from his ignorance of Roman manners, and his little intercourse with kings and princes. So far as they acted like mankind in general, he described them faithfully; but wherein they differed from the generality of mankind he did not exactly know, because mere genius could not furnish him with the information. Reading alone could remedy this defect, and Shakspeare was always too full of his own thoughts to seek for information from the knowledge of others: a knowledge which, at best, could only supply him with facts, and not with ideas. He was, indeed, well acquainted with the local habits of his own countrymen, and with the phraseology of mechanics, artizans and sailors; and if he were not, all the powers of human genius would never have enabled him to describe them so correctly; for as local babits and manners do not arise from the general operations of nature in the human breast, they can only be known by actual experience. Hence it is that he failed in describing Roman manners. He is not justifiable, however, in having neglected to make himself intimately acquainted with them before he attempted his “Coriolanus,” and “ Julius Cæsar;" for without this acquaintance, inspiration alone could enable him to describe them faithfully. Dr. Johnson, indeed, endeavours to defend him, on this head, against the censure of the critics. Shakspeare," he says, “always makes nature triumph over accident. His story requires Romans or Kings; but he thinks only on men." This, in my opinion, is a weak defence. Nature cannot triumph over accident, because men will always act differently in different situations. A Roman will always act like a Roman, and differently, not only from an Englishman, but from a native of any other country, in all the minor and indifferent circumstances of life. He is the creature of particular and local habits and influences; and these habits and influences become a second nature, of which he cannot divest himself, because he is unacquainted with any other. It is only when he is called upon by a principle of action, founded in human nature antecedent to habit and local influences, that he will act like an Englishman or a Spaniard. An honest Roman dis

dains to tell an untruth, because he knows it is beneath the dignity of man: so does the honest Turk or Russian; and so do honest men of all nations. He relieves the distressed, and so do they. He stands up in defence of his country, if it be unjustly invaded, and so do they : but in all the indifferent circumstances of life, where choice and not duty urges him to action, he yields to the general character, peculiar genius, and national temper of his countrymen; and here he will be generally found to differ from the Englishman, the Spaniard, and the natives of all other countries; and he who describes him acting or talking in a style that is foreign to his national manners, violates nature, and only renders him a subject of ridicule to every one who is well acquainted with them. The same observation applies to kings and senators; and therefore, though Dr. Johson defends Shakspeare in going into the senate-house in search of a buffoon, I cannot help thinking, that he might have sought for him elsewhere with more propriety. In all cases, however, where Shakspeare bas failed, we can trace his failure, not to the want of genius, but to the want of that information and judgment which the most elevated genius can never acquire by it's own inherent or unaided energies.

No critic will ever take a proper view of the genius of Shakspeare, who defends either his acquired learning, or the delicacy of his sentiments. In each of these he is remarkably deficient, and this deficiency has led him into many violations of fidelity and purity. These violations, however, are blindly defended by those who will not admit either that his knowledge was confined, or his sentiments coarse and indelicate. Such admissions they think would argue poverty of genius; as if genius necessarily implied knowledge and delicacy of feeling. M. Schlegel, whose lectures on dramatic literature are in high repute, not only in this country but on the continent, is one, among the many critics, who defends the grossest absurdities in Shakspeare, sooner than admit either his want of learning or his want of taste. Shakspeare, in his play of "As You Like It," transfers the lions and serpents of the torrid zone, and the shepherdesses of Arcadia to the forest of

Ardennes; in which M. Schlegel says he was justified, "because the design and import of his picture required them." This defence is erroneous. The poet, indeed, is at liberty to create what he pleases, to plant imaginary forests with imaginary lions, serpents, shepherdesses, or what other beings he pleases; but though he enjoys the most unrestricted license, while he describes creations that exist only in his own mind, yet when he comes to describe real existence and real objects, with which we are ourselves presumed to be as well acquainted as he is, he must not shock our feelings by relations, which we know not to be merely exaggerated but absolutely false, unless it appear from the context or spirit of his work that such relations are ironically introduced, and that he was perfectly well acquainted at the time with the blunders which he was committing. No poetic license, therefore, save irony alone, or an affectation of ignorance, would justify a poet in placing St. Paul's in Bristol, and St. Peter's in London. Shakspeare is equally unjustifiable, in describing Bohemia surrounded by the sea, and M. Schlegel in vindicating his propriety in doing so. But how can M. Schlegel, or any of his admirers, suppose, for a moment, that to admit his ignorance of geography, or his anachronisms, is to impeach his genius, and to diminish the lustre of his fame. Genius and learning are not necessarily connected; nor have we the least reason to doubt, that greater geniuses have lived and died in ignorance not only of geography and chronology, but of all the arts and sciences, than either Shakspeare, Homer, or Milton.

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste it's sweetness on the desart air."

It is certain, that not more than onetwentieth of mankind receive a liberal education; and without such an education, or at least some approach to it, genius must necessarily remain dorInant and unnoticed. It is, however, morally improbable, that one twentieth of mankind should possess more genius and original powers of mind than the remaining nineteen twentieths,

though it is only in the former that it can make it's appearance. Ignorance of facts is, therefore, no proof either of genius, or of it's absence; because, without reading and application, this knowledge is equally inaccessible to the man of genius and the dunce. Let us not, then, profess either to admire or defend such errors in Shakspeare as arose from his limited knowledge. His fame rests on too firm a basis to be in the least affected by them; for it is absurd to suppose that a knowledge of geography or chronology is any test of genius, as the greatest dunce may be acquainted with both, if he will take the trouble. Shakspeare derives his fame and immortality, not from that species of knowledge which can be communicated by instruction, but from that knowledge which no instruction can impart. All that is excellent in him must be sought for in the originality of his thoughts, the depth of his observations on human nature, the power which he displays in tracing shades and variations of character, and in pursuing incipient passions through all the modifications which they assume, under the endless diversity of circumstances and situations, and which contribute to retard or accelerate their original tendency, and natural momentum.

Delicacy of feeling is more nearly allied to genius than acquired knowledge, and therefore it may be more difficult to vindicate Shakspeare against the censure of those who upbraid him with grossness of manner, and who maintain, that in all his dramatic works, there is neither softness of handling, nor refinement of sentiment. His admirers, instead of attempting to account for the cause of his deficiency in this respect, flatly deny the charge. On what authority they do so, I must confess myself ignorant; for I could never discover in Shakspeare one passage that can be called softly elegant, delicately refined, or exquisitely tender. These characters of poetic excellence are too feminine for his genius; and perhaps it may be said with equal truth, that they were too feminine for the genius of Homer. Strength, dignity, energy, sublimity, and beauty, are the characteristic features of both, In Homer, however, there is more animation, in Shakspeare more truth.:

Homer viewed the bright side of to him who is always governed by human nature, and therefore all his reason, fitness, propriety, etiquette, characters may be said to he heroes. and so forth; while genius is the However various and diversified are characteristic of strong and ardent the feelings which he excites in the feelings, which disdain to consult human breast, there is one common reason even when it seems to be character impressed upon them all; governed by it's precepts. The writer namely, vivacity, ardour, and enthu- of genius writes as he feels, not as siasm; so that, as Pope justly ob- reason dictates to him; though the serves, no man of a truly poetical sentiments which his feelings suggest spirit is master of himself, while he to him are often found to be in acreads him." This is not the cha- cordance with reason. It is, howracter of the emotions which Shak- ever, with his feelings alone that be speare calls forth. Instead of con- holds secret council, and therefore fining himself to the bright side of he cares not whether reason assent human nature, he viewed it on all or dissent from the sentiments which sides; or, in other words, he viewed they impart. A writer who consults human nature as he found it to ex- reason alone is generally correct, so ist: he turned it inside out, and far as he proceeds, but if he attempt therefore may be said to have sifted it to probe the inmost recesses of the to the bottom, and to have painted it heart, he must not carry reason along without colouring or disguise. Ardour with him; for she knows nothing of and enthusiasm, consequently, are the heart, or it's affections. It is not the feelings which he excites, but from his own feelings alone, and not wonder, astonishment, and venera- from the abstract deductions of reation. We are surprised when we find son, that he can derive this knowourselves admitted into the secret ledge. A great tragic writer, therecouncils of the heart, and when the fore, has nothing to do with reason, springs and motives of human ac- for reason neither inclines us to mirth tions are disclosed to our view; and or laughter: she tells us what she therefore, though Shakspeare fre- knows, not what she feels, and therequently makes us laugh at the fol- fore we listen to her with unconcern. lies of mankind, yet we are serious It is only feeling and passion that even in our mirth; and proceed with rouses the soul, and transports her secret awe through all the mazes and with all the emotions by which labyrinths of human nature. It is in they are themselves actuated; but this wonderful developement of the that delicacy of sentiment which is human heart that the genius of Shak- the offspring of reason and polished speare properly consisted, not in the manners, is a weak instrument in the tenderness and delicacy of feelings. hands of the tragic poet, who wishes His sentiments, indeed, were strictly to make us sympathize with the formoral and religious; but his genius tunes or misfortunes of his characters. was too stubborn to bend to the soft-"Men fit to disturb the peace of the ness and elegance of refined deli- world, and rule it when 'tis wildest," cacy. It is, however, a great mis- says Mr. Knight, are the proper take to suppose, that delicacy and materials for tragedy." and therefore genius are necessarily allied; for those who lay such important stress there is little of it to be found in on Shakspeare's want of delicacy and Milton, and still less in Homer; nor refinement, seem to me very impercan it possibly exist but in culti- fectly acquainted with the true nature vated society. Hence it is, that of dramatic genius. So far, therefore, Virgil has more delicacy than either from defending, with some critics, the Homer, Milton, or Shakspeare, be- delicacy of Shakespeare's sentiments, cause he lived in a polished and I maintain that those who censure refined age; but I doubt whether him for the want of it, are indirectly, this acquired delicacy did not curb though unconsciously, advocating the the natural impetuosity of his ge- pre-eminence of that genius which nius; for Horace, who is still more they seek to decry. In conclusion, delicate and refined than Virgil, has I shall observe with Schlegel, that also less vigour of sentiment, and less "that censorious spirit which scents' sublimity of conception The fact is, out impurity in every sally of a bold that delicacy of feeling belongs only and vivacious description, is at best


but an ambiguous criterion of purity of morals; and there is frequently concealed under his hypocrisy, the consciousness of an impure imagination."

But though Shakspeare wants the refined language of delicate sentiment, he never violates the moral sanctity or dignity of human nature. Even in his coarsest expressions, there is nothing that countenances immorality or vice, while a deep sense of virtue and religion is upheld throughout; for even when he makes us laugh, and relaxes us from the severity of witnessing the superior energies and virtues of the soul called into action, the powerful impulse of the latter still remain, and fortify the heart against the transient influence of wit and revelry, till the stronger charms of energetic virtue are again renewed. We never depart, therefore, from witnessing his plays with any levity, nor inconstancy of feeling. We never find our hearts balancing between the seductive allurements of vice, and the more potent influence of virtuous emotions. He makes us laugh, it is true, nor does he always address us with the polish of a courtier, but we see the honesty of his "intention through the bluntness of his manner; we excuse him because it is his way; we know he makes us laugh only because he thinks there is no harm in laughing, and that virtue is not in the least endangered by a smile. He addresses himself not to the effeminately delicate, the fastidiously austere, or the affectedly dig. nified; for he knew that the drama is intended for those only who can feel and give expression to their feelings, not for those platonic thinkers who look on a play like so many philosophic sages, watching the result of an experiment in physics. He therefore studies to make us feel, not to make us think; or rather he studies to make us feel so strongly that we shall forget to think. The plays of Shakspeare, therefore, are calculated to triumph over philosophy itself, while the plays of other writers are only calculated to convert us into philosophers. He hurries us along through the deep, awful, and interesting scenes which he discloses to our view: the passions which he pourtrays in his characters take possession of ourselves, and we are so powerfully influenced by them,

that we seem desirous of realizing those prospects of which they are in pursuit. Other dramatic writers, on the contrary, address the understanding more than the passions, not in general because they think this the right course, but because they can pursue no other, because they are unacquainted with the human heart, and those instruments by which it is most powerfully agitated; in a word, because they do not feel themselves, and consequently have no feelings to communicate to others. Unable to make us feel, they necessarily make us reason; for he who is not moved by what passes before him, either begins to reflect on the cause of this want of emotion, and consequently to criticise the play, or otherwise, he directs his thoughts to some other subject of contemplation, for the mind cannot be at rest, and where the feelings are not powerfully engaged, the intellectual faculties are necessarily in action. While Shakspeare therefore hurries us along the tide of feeling and of passion, other writers leave us to our own thoughts; so that with them we are philosophers or critics, but with him we are mere men, subject to all the frailties of our nature, and to all the impetuosity of our passions; and we rejoice to find it so. For it is to become men once more that we visit the theatre, knowing that it is here only those original sympathies of the heart, which the indurating tenor of life represses and controuls, can assume a momentary existence, and convince us that we are still men, and take an interest in every thing connected with our species. Homo sum: humani nihil, a me alienum puto.

From the closest view which we can take of the genius of Shakspeare, it will invariably appear, then, that all his faults and deviations from propriety, originated not from the want of genius, but from it's luxuriant redundancy. The writer who abounds in thought and sentiment, has infinitely more difficulty in reducing them to order than he who is limited to a few; but this dfficulty is greatly encreased when a writer has no models to copy after, and is obliged to pursue the impulse and tendency of his own genius. Vast conceptions are not so easily embodied in the texture of language as limited and contrasted

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