Page images

forms, instead of moulding and subjecting it to Our theory then is, that the true soluthe law of their minds. It is therefore the tion of the Shakspeare problem is to be tyrant, not the servant of their thoughts. But found in the character of Hamlet. We with Shakspeare, language became as soft and limber as water at the fountain. He was its

can best account for his ability to make master, and in his mind it obeyed no laws, for himself “the one Proteus of the fire and it knew none, but his. Without shape or color the flood,” by considering him to be in himof its own, it assumed under his plastic hand self an unideal Hamlet-one whom everythe precise shape and color of his thoughts. thing made to think, and who was so full Words have obeyed some others from convenience, they obeyed him from necessity. He is and so lofty and pure in heart, that he

of reflection, so all-grasping in perception, the true Adam of English literature: both things and words beard and came at his call, the former could never be moulded by the world into to receive names, the latter to be given to them.

a desperate earnest creature, could never He is enough of himself to immortalize the attain to a set of opinions, but remained obEnglish tongue; he has made it as imperisha- serving like a boy, even after he had grown ble and almost as inimitable as the Greek. through and settled most of the great quesWell might Wordsworth say,

tions of government and morals that agitate • We must be free,'" &c.

the world in general. In short, he was a We regret that Mr. Hudson should have man who lived in meditation, and who, used Coleridge so freely without making whenever his mind was at repose, was not an acknowledgment, since it will enable cogitating of darling purposes, nor feed“some people,” who are nothing if not ing himself with vanity, but rather occucavilling, to cower from his downright pied with thick-coming ideas, and broodblows, under the imputation of plagiarism, ing pleasurably over innumerable unutterand thereby elude the happy possibility able thoughts. He was one who, like of having nonsense fairly cudgelled out of Hamlet, hid himself from himself so comtheir brains. That our author does not pletely that he was never assured of his intend to be a plagiarist, will be evident to own character, and only knew himself as rall candid persons who read his book ; but one of those melancholy spirits with whom we shall not undertake to defend him for the devil is “very potent." They had not such an extension of the ordinary privilege defined thinking in his time, and got so of quotation as he has here introduced, into the roots of it, but that a man might even though the chapter thus served up lead a reflective life without knowing it, be one which all students must be pre- indeed perchance his very prince has more sumed to have almost by heart. There are to answer for in this respect than has ever several other instances of the kind in his been suspected; he is so noble a gentlelectures, for which the expression in his man that all scholars naturally take a pride dedication of a strong desire to add “the in imitating him, and hence he


have interest of novelty to any notions so old contributed to encourage that lofty reserve and true, that they are in danger of being which is congenial to pure contemplation, forgotten,” is not a sufficient

and which is always an attribute of the Where opinions were so literally copied, most intellectual characters in our English the authorities should have been cited, as poetry and fiction. in legal decisions.

Pure spiritual greatness is never in any But to return :—The view of Coleridge age or time readily yielded its proper place. in the extract above given, arrives at the The world asks for those rough and ready same distinction with that we were about instruments, learning and intellectual trainto propose, in considering Shakspeare as ing. It will not believe, on his unsupone rapt in contemplation and speaking ported authority, that one man sees or entirely to himself, while Milton is full of | feels more than another; the old can say an earnest purpose, and addresses the to the young, “We know and you world. It is very presumptuous to specu- but the wise cannot (if they have to live late on a subject which has been made so by them) take that liberty with the foolish. clear by one of the most profound critics The growth of Shakspeare's genius must that ever wrote, yet as our view may help have forced him continually into a more some readers to the better understanding and more learned class than that in which of his, we shall not withhold it.

his youth had been passed. To sustain


do not,

If we

his position, he must have made up in imagination, the experience of five years of quickness what he lacked in training, and married life with a wife so much his senior hence have literally “lived upon his wils," must have been a most happy circumstance in every sense of the word. This placed for him; the theatre was not then the

pure him in unusual relations with his associ- place it is now. But all these circumates. They loved him: they thought he stances which gathered around to preserve had “an excellent fancy, brave notions, him, left him still more and more to his and gentle expressions ;" but they did not natural custom of reflection. He was alone; think of teaching him to look upon his wit the learning he acquired he got himself, as a virtue, and so to admire it and turn it and he shows us how fond he must have wrong side out.

been of study. His soul was proud and Thus he went on, thinking and thinking, lofty, far within-unseen by himself. He after his own fashion, in a universe of his felt a princely gentleman; and it was a own, where there was as much variety as constant habit with him to consider seriin the universe around, so much indeed ously or for pleasure the characters of that it was enough for him to observe and other men and the doings of life. He repicture it, without attempting to recon studied his art with infinite power of selfcile contradictions, or to discover and pro- compulsion; he meant to be a great poet, pagate universal laws. He had business and knew when he was one. But in the to attend to, money to earn, jovial com secret life of his spirit, he dwelt apart, far pany to keep, and he could not afford time above his art, far above all passions, (for to be a philosopher, except in that sense in he could not have feigned them so well had which every great artist is one. he rot been master of them,) far above the could open his heart and dissect him, the opinions of men, in “clear dream and great purposes of his life would be found, solemn vision,” like one over whom we apprehend, very plain, simple and

s his immortality business-like. As for his writing, he prob Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave, ably thought well of it; but if he could

A presence which is not to be put by.” be called up and questioned, it is like he

He was one who debated with himself would tell us truly that it cost him, with all whether this majestical roof, fretted with his affluence, a world of labor, and that nothing stood in his way so much as his “ vil golden fire, were so indeed, or only a foul lainous melancholy.” He probably valued whether man were the paragon of animals,

and pestilent congregation of vapors; himself upon his study, upon what he had or only the quintessence of dust; and so acquired and done, and upon his friends busy was his mind with such inquiries and and patrons. In the society he enjoyed,

with there was little danger of a man's reaching that state of unhealthy conceit which it

“All thoughts, all passions, all delights, has been the fashion with “some people”

Whatever stirs this mortal frame," to affirm of him. A man who was in the that, beyond the common cares of life, he habit of often drinking too much sack with dwelt in this abstract region—not a proud Ben Jonson, was not likely to become a man, but one of a most lofty nature-a self-idolator.

royal muser. So entirely natural and It was this very position, which isolated spontaneous was this reflectiveness, and so him while it kept him active, which com- absorbing, that it took in all objects, pelled him to write in the midst of a busy thoughts, and emotions, not more without world, that no doubt contributed, with than within, even to the very life of the other circumstances, to preserve healthful soul, or the primary consciousness ; renso rare and sensitive a soul. His very early dering him a complete mirror of all that marriage was also fortunate for him and us. came within his ken, himself included. Being eight years older than he, it is prob- How very elevated must have been his able Anne Hathaway was in some sort actual soul who could concentrate the his teacher; his going up to London nat- multitudinous image through the lens of urally enough separated them. Thrown art, and send it upon the world in burning alone into the city at the age of twenty rays of poetry! It was as if he superinthree, a sensitive boy, full of intellect and tended himself and all the world from


heavenly throne; not indifferently, but in in respect of his quick sail. But in the verity sympathy, like a God.

of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great What innate imaginative power it must article ; and his infusion of such dearth and require to exist at such a sublime elevation, semblable is his mirror ; and, who else would

rareness, as, to make true diction of him, his we ordinary mortals can form no proper trace him, bis umbrage, nothing more.” idea. Consider a moment that every man is objective to himself, and wishes to think And we might say the same of all of well of himself. Conceited persons may Shakspeare's characters. It is not the carry it high, to be sure, but there is a

mind's first wish to have them “divided secret misgiving with them, and time gene- inventorily;" whenever they are spoken rally causes it to grow. Most peope who of, we prefer that they should be simmix with the world, have somewhere with ply referred to as persons perfecily well in a pretty fair estimate of themselves, known. We do not enjoy a walk in the fields though often it is probably not agreeable any the more for having the name of each to contemplate it, and they find it not de particular flower pointed out to us. And sirable to be true to it. But great artists besides, let one consider how difficult it is are certainly not afraid to look at them to give an estimate of characters which selves in their hours of labor.

affect us as individuals ; even in real life we When Shakspeare was at work upon a are obliged to keep very much in the genplay, it is evident he was living in a very erals; such an one is a good soul, high region—removed from com other is a "gentleman," another, “Lord mon life, and where, to speak philosophi- Saxby, man of six foot ten,” (his portrait is cally, he imaged himself to his conscious- in the prints of foxhunts,) or « conversation ness, as a being almost purely composed Brown,-four-bottle man at the Treasury of consciousness-controlling faculties; that Board, with whom the father of my friend is, using the nomenclature of Coleridge, Gay was probably acquainted." Cousin his secondary imagination, which is “an Feenix gives individuals, such as they are, echo of the primary, co-existing with the as vividly as though he went into their conscious will,” was so strong that it biographies. He sees the salient point, nearly identified itself with the primary, and flashes the man upon us with a word. which is “the repetition in the finite mind

So it should be in the most elaborate analof the eternal act of creation in the infinite ysis. Mr. Hudson has little of this power, I am.” One step further would have made and hence, along with much in these lechim a creature of inspiration.

tures that shows true and delicate insight, Milton gained this region also, but not there is a great expense of wit, which, by the same path. He was upborne, not though honestly exercised, is not collected by a rapt contemplation, but by the fervor in burning foci, but leaves the impression of emotion. He rose on the wings of of a world of good things, pleasant in the music, the sense of power giving birth to reading, and altogether wholesome, yet greater power, and bearing the passionate wanting in the attractive and adhesive old man so out of himself that he too quality which would make them fasten became godlike, in that the primary “I themselves upon the mind. Still, with a am” was almost lost in its echo, the state class of readers who are comparatively assumed under the guidance of the con unpracticed, both in the study of Shakscious will. Shakspeare was a mortal speare and in thinking, they must be of infiraised to the skies; within the soul of nite service. They have an awakening influMilton an angel had been drawn down. ence, which, if encouraged, may lead many

Mr. Hudson must answer for this discus- readers to the joy of peace in believing; sion. In general such definement is not while they quench sentimentalism, they very interesting or profitable. It were foster the habit of that free-thinking which best to let Shakspeare remain Shak- is based on Christianity, knowledge and speare-nothing other. For our own part, common sense. Hamlet's mock definition of Laertes would But without a wit as active as Mr. Hudbe all-sufficient for the father of them both : son's, we should fall short with him and “ To divide him inventorily, would dizzy the

not excel with him in going into a minute arithmetic of memory; and yet but raw neither, 1 examination of his views of particular

characters. Let it suffice that in general | performances should be found small, I trust his perceptions are true: had he more the smallness of my promises will not be forpoetry in him, with no less wit, we should gotten. At all events, let me entreat you for have liked better what we now like well

your own sakes not to transfer the feebleness of

my efforts to the account of my subject: and I and our remarks would probably have shall deem myself fortunate if, small as I am, savored more of the warmth of advocacy the greatness of my load do not crush me into than of the coolness of deliberation. less even than my usual dimensions."

The sentence reminds us, both in sound and sense, not to conclude our article This is well enough in its way, yet it is without admonishing our author for some anything but good writing; it is simply of his liberties with language. He has point-making. No man can write in such thought proper to be almost as antithetical a fashion without knowing that he is odd, as the Euphuists whom Shakspeare de- and without meaning to be so; and a lighted to ridcule :-e. g. a few sentences: writer who practices such fire-works must

not expect to acquire the sounding flow

of natural fervor. "Accordingly his poetry is instinctively philo- wit and a humorist, but he must not be

He may be good as a sophical and his philosophy instinctively poet allowed to consider himself a good writer. ical; histories come from him like creations, and creations like pure histories. In a word,

There is no worse habit, both for its his creative and perceptive faculties are con monotony and its effect upon a writer's stantly playing into each other's hands and mind, than this constructing antitheses and perfecting each other's work; and it is hard to pointed sentences. It breaks up thinking tell whether he carries more of imagination into mote-catching, and gives a see-saw into the regions of truth or more of truth into motion to style that drowses perception the regions of imagination.”

in the reader. “ The lord and the tinker (Sly) are the two extremes of society; so much so, indeed, that

We trust there are few readers who they well-nigh meet round on the other side, as would not consider it an insult to their extremes are apt to do. There is just about as good sense for us to go into an explanation much gold in the one character as in the other; how we can be pleased with such things only in the lord it is all on the outside, in the for what they are, and still so decidedly shape of gilding; in the tinker it is all in the object to them, as characterizing a style.

, a it doubtful which be more ludicrous or the more

Nor is it necessary, we believe, that our dignified, the ennui which drives the one to author should be very severely treated for seek sport in duping a sot, or the sottishness what there is reason to suppose he has which makes the other dupable into the belief emotion enough to outgrow. Only—let of his being a lord."

no one imitate him. He has prepared these " On the whole, it is not easy to decide pellets of wit for “some people,” and has whether the poet hath conferred the greater therewith exterminated that class, so that favor upon us by writing this play, (Comedy of Errors,) or by writing no more like it.”

we can go on now, without thinking of, or * Now, to say that Shakspeare's age was a writing at or for them. But they that are rude age, that it was without true culture, in well need no physician ; and there is no the best sense of the term, is about as magnifi- reason why we should be made to swallow cent a piece of historical misrepresentation as any more antithetical pills, though ever so can easily be found. It is one of the instances well disguised with saucy wit. $9 common in modern times, wherein people

Mr. Hudson has now a right to take adhave presumed their fathers to have been in the dark, because they have themselves got into the vantage of the position he as a literary dark respecting their fathers.”

man has honestly acquired, and to go on ** In bringing my teaspoon to this Niagara, laboring for truth, not in his original sphere, (the tragedies,) I trust I am not ignorant on as one unknown to the public, but in that which side the danger lies: I have not forgot to which he has raised himself by being a ten, and shall not forget, that he who can look the sun in the face with undazzled eye bas tices several years with success in inferior

successful writer. As a lawyer who pracsome reason to distrust his sight. Wherefore, in regard to this part of the course, I can only

cases ought, as he goes on, to take the resay, I dare neither refuse to try nor hope to sponsibility of more important ones, leaving succeed; I cannot expect to do much, and the others to younger men; or, as a phywill not despair to do something; and if my sician, after having experience in prolonging

the lives of poor patients, ought gradually But how very capable our author is of to esteem it his place to take the care of taking place among the best writers, both those whose health is of more importance as having skill with language and true eleto society; so should a man of letters, vation, may be seen by the following :when he has got through his justice court and dispensary practice, carry into a “We see Cordelia only in the relation of higher walk of his profession the qualities daughter, and scarcely see her even there ; yet that have sustained him through the una

we know what she is or would be throughout voidable 'rudimental exercises, and dare well as if we had seen her in them all. She

the whole circle of human relations, just as from his attained eminence another and is just such a creature, like some we may have loftier flight. Many passages in these known, as it makes one feel safer and happier lectures show that their author, would he to live in the same town with; to walk the but attempt it, has the power to master a

same streets that she walks in ; to kneel in the fine rhetorical style, and thus to elevate

same church where she hath knelt: such an the reader instead of addressing him at his one, the knowledge of whose being in the same

house with us renders our room more comfortaown level. He is never very free from ble, our outlook more beautiful ; puts peace mannerism or stiffness, (his dedication is into our pillow, and a soft religious life and joy horribly nice,) but yet he shows in many into our thoughts; makes the night calmer, and passages the ability to command an im- the day cheerfuler, the air softer and balmier pressive eloquence. The following, though about us : at thought of whom the objects that marred by the tendency to antithesis, is were looking black upon us brighten up into

smiles; the consciousness of whose presence very beautiful:

brings consecration of the place and sanctifica

tion of the feelings; and the knowing of whom “ The truth is, the ages of Pericles, of Au- regenerates and purifies the heart, because she gustus, and of Leo, all together, can hardly can be truly known only in proportion as the show so much wealth of genius and of culture heart is pure. And finally, Cordelia, so rich in as the single age of Elizabeth. It was, so to mild, sweet, gentle austerities, belongs to that speak, a perfect volcanic eruption of every order class of beings, of whom there are probably of talent, of every degree of intellectual excel

more to be found than there are to find them, lence. Or rather, it was the Sabbath of Chris-who seem born to give happiness or something tendom, when the fierce stormful elements of better than happiness to others, and yet to know mediæval chaos first appeared in a beautiful little of it themselves: unless, peradventure, and beneficent creation, and the genius of they have the unseen and unprized gift of sharmodern civilization, resting from his long la- | ing the happiness they create ; so that while they bors, first smiled upon the works of his hands.

seem no less pitiable, they really are no less Uniting faith without superstition, and philosoenviable, than admirable." phy without skepticism, it seems to have had all the grace of art without stiffness, all the This is rhetorical and antithetical, but it sincerity of youth without its ignorance, and all feels natural-truly eloquent-eloquent in the enthusiasm of chivalry without its extrava

spite of the handy-dandy fashion of tossing

A writer whose of preparation, this bursting forth of the bloom the thought to and fro. and perfume which had been accumulating for perceptions are so true, and who seems to ages, had neither the twilight rudeness nor the have so much genuine emotion, ought to midday sultriness, but simply the morning fresh- be held very strictly to task for his affectaness of modern civilization; the freshness, too, of tion and bad habits. He ought to be a morning sparkling with dews and vocal songs, commanded, “more in sorrow than in as if the star-beams of the preceding night had been fashioning themselves into music and anger,” or rather entreated, in the love of gems; a morning crowned with all the bright- truth and for his own sake, to strive after ness, yet free from all the languor of the day what he seems so able to reach, a simple which hath since followed."

free eloquence that would enable his heart and mind to have their


influence The antitheses here do not seem studied, upon his fellow-countrymen. and the flow of expression harmonizes with Perhaps it will be thought unfair, as it the thought. Though extremely arti- is certainly unusual, to criticise an author ficial in structure, the paragraph has there for what he ought to be, when we have fore a poetic effect. The style seems to given him so much praise for what he is. have been formed by art acting under the But Mr. Hudson, from the delightful manimpulse of emotion.

ner in which he has accomplished his mis

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »