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Title: A Dish of Orts : Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare
Author: MacDonald, George, 1824-1905
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Dish of Orts : Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare" ***




Since printing throughout the title _Orts_, a doubt has arisen in my
mind as to its fitting the nature of the volume. It could hardly,
however, be imagined that I associate the idea of _worthlessness_ with
the work contained in it. No one would insult his readers by offering
them what he counted valueless scraps, and telling them they were such.
These papers, those two even which were caught in the net of the
ready-writer from extempore utterance, whatever their merits in
themselves; are the results of by no means trifling labour. So much a
man _ought_ to be able to say for his work. And hence I might defend, if
not quite justify my title--for they are but fragmentary presentments of
larger meditation. My friends at least will accept them as such, whether
they like their collective title or not.

The title of the last is not quite suitable. It is that of the religious
newspaper which reported the sermon. I noted the fact too late for
correction. It ought to be _True Greatness_.

The paper on _The Fantastic Imagination_ had its origin in the repeated
request of readers for an explanation of things in certain shorter
stories I had written. It forms the preface to an American edition of my
so-called Fairy Tales.


EDENBRIDGE, KENT. _August 5, 1893._

















[Footnote: 1867.]

There are in whose notion education would seem to consist in the
production of a certain repose through the development of this and that
faculty, and the depression, if not eradication, of this and that other
faculty. But if mere repose were the end in view, an unsparing
depression of all the faculties would be the surest means of approaching
it, provided always the animal instincts could be depressed likewise,
or, better still, kept in a state of constant repletion. Happily,
however, for the human race, it possesses in the passion of hunger even,
a more immediate saviour than in the wisest selection and treatment of
its faculties. For repose is not the end of education; its end is a
noble unrest, an ever renewed awaking from the dead, a ceaseless
questioning of the past for the interpretation of the future, an urging
on of the motions of life, which had better far be accelerated into
fever, than retarded into lethargy.

By those who consider a balanced repose the end of culture, the
imagination must necessarily be regarded as the one faculty before all
others to be suppressed. "Are there not facts?" say they. "Why forsake
them for fancies? Is there not that which, may be _known_? Why forsake
it for inventions? What God hath made, into that let man inquire."

We answer: To inquire into what God has made is the main function of the
imagination. It is aroused by facts, is nourished by facts; seeks for
higher and yet higher laws in those facts; but refuses to regard science
as the sole interpreter of nature, or the laws of science as the only
region of discovery.

We must begin with a definition of the word _imagination_, or rather
some description of the faculty to which we give the name.

The word itself means an _imaging_ or a making of likenesses. The
imagination is that faculty which gives form to thought--not necessarily
uttered form, but form capable of being uttered in shape or in sound, or
in any mode upon which the senses can lay hold. It is, therefore, that
faculty in man which is likest to the prime operation of the power of
God, and has, therefore, been called the _creative_ faculty, and its
exercise _creation_. _Poet_ means _maker_. We must not forget, however,
that between creator and poet lies the one unpassable gulf which
distinguishes--far be it from us to say _divides_--all that is God's
from all that is man's; a gulf teeming with infinite revelations, but a
gulf over which no man can pass to find out God, although God needs not
to pass over it to find man; the gulf between that which calls, and that
which is thus called into being; between that which makes in its own
image and that which is made in that image. It is better to keep the
word _creation_ for that calling out of nothing which is the imagination
of God; except it be as an occasional symbolic expression, whose daring
is fully recognized, of the likeness of man's work to the work of his
maker. The necessary unlikeness between the creator and the created
holds within it the equally necessary likeness of the thing made to him
who makes it, and so of the work of the made to the work of the maker.
When therefore, refusing to employ the word _creation_ of the work of
man, we yet use the word _imagination_ of the work of God, we cannot be
said to dare at all. It is only to give the name of man's faculty to
that power after which and by which it was fashioned. The imagination of
man is made in the image of the imagination of God. Everything of man
must have been of God first; and it will help much towards our
understanding of the imagination and its functions in man if we first
succeed in regarding aright the imagination of God, in which the
imagination of man lives and moves and has its being.

As to _what_ thought is in the mind of God ere it takes form, or what
the form is to him ere he utters it; in a word, what the consciousness
of God is in either case, all we can say is, that our consciousness in
the resembling conditions must, afar off, resemble his. But when we come
to consider the acts embodying the Divine thought (if indeed thought and
act be not with him one and the same), then we enter a region of large
difference. We discover at once, for instance, that where a man would
make a machine, or a picture, or a book, God makes the man that makes
the book, or the picture, or the machine. Would God give us a drama? He
makes a Shakespere. Or would he construct a drama more immediately his
own? He begins with the building of the stage itself, and that stage is
a world--a universe of worlds. He makes the actors, and they do not
act,--they _are_ their part. He utters them into the visible to work out
their life--his drama. When he would have an epic, he sends a thinking
hero into his drama, and the epic is the soliloquy of his Hamlet.
Instead of writing his lyrics, he sets his birds and his maidens
a-singing. All the processes of the ages are God's science; all the flow
of history is his poetry. His sculpture is not in marble, but in living
and speech-giving forms, which pass away, not to yield place to those
that come after, but to be perfected in a nobler studio. What he has
done remains, although it vanishes; and he never either forgets what he
has once done, or does it even once again. As the thoughts move in the
mind of a man, so move the worlds of men and women in the mind of God,
and make no confusion there, for there they had their birth, the
offspring of his imagination. Man is but a thought of God.

If we now consider the so-called creative faculty in man, we shall find
that in no _primary_ sense is this faculty creative. Indeed, a man is
rather _being thought_ than _thinking_, when a new thought arises in his
mind. He knew it not till he found it there, therefore he could not even
have sent for it. He did not create it, else how could it be the
surprise that it was when it arose? He may, indeed, in rare instances
foresee that something is coming, and make ready the place for its
birth; but that is the utmost relation of consciousness and will he can
bear to the dawning idea. Leaving this aside, however, and turning to
the _embodiment_ or revelation of thought, we shall find that a man no
more _creates_ the forms by which he would reveal his thoughts, than he
creates those thoughts themselves.

For what are the forms by means of which a man may reveal his thoughts?
Are they not those of nature? But although he is created in the closest
sympathy with these forms, yet even these forms are not born in his
mind. What springs there is the perception that this or that form is
already an expression of this or that phase of thought or of feeling.
For the world around him is an outward figuration of the condition of
his mind; an inexhaustible storehouse of forms whence he may choose
exponents--the crystal pitchers that shall protect his thought and not
need to be broken that the light may break forth. The meanings are in
those forms already, else they could be no garment of unveiling. God has
made the world that it should thus serve his creature, developing in the
service that imagination whose necessity it meets. The man has but to
light the lamp within the form: his imagination is the light, it is not
the form. Straightway the shining thought makes the form visible, and
becomes itself visible through the form. [Footnote: We would not be
understood to say that the man works consciously even in this.
Oftentimes, if not always, the vision arises in the mind, thought and
form together.]

In illustration of what we mean, take a passage from the poet Shelley.

In his poem _Adonais_, written upon the death of Keats, representing
death as the revealer of secrets, he says:--

  "The one remains; the many change and pass;
    Heaven's light for ever shines; earth's shadows fly;
  Life, like a dome of many coloured glass,
    Stains the white radiance of eternity,
  Until death tramples it to fragments."

This is a new embodiment, certainly, whence he who gains not, for the
moment at least, a loftier feeling of death, must be dull either of
heart or of understanding. But has Shelley created this figure, or only
put together its parts according to the harmony of truths already
embodied in each of the parts? For first he takes the inventions of his
fellow-men, in glass, in colour, in dome: with these he represents life
as finite though elevated, and as an analysis although a lovely one.
Next he presents eternity as the dome of the sky above this dome of
coloured glass--the sky having ever been regarded as the true symbol of
eternity. This portion of the figure he enriches by the attribution of
whiteness, or unity and radiance. And last, he shows us Death as the
destroying revealer, walking aloft through, the upper region, treading
out this life-bubble of colours, that the man may look beyond it and
behold the true, the uncoloured, the all-coloured.

But although the human imagination has no choice but to make use of the
forms already prepared for it, its operation is the same as that of the
divine inasmuch as it does put thought into form. And if it be to man
what creation is to God, we must expect to find it operative in every
sphere of human activity. Such is, indeed, the fact, and that to a far
greater extent than is commonly supposed.

The sovereignty of the imagination, for instance, over the region of
poetry will hardly, in the present day at least, be questioned; but not
every one is prepared to be told that the imagination has had nearly as
much to do with the making of our language as with "Macbeth" or the
"Paradise Lost." The half of our language is the work of the

For how shall two agree together what name they shall give to a thought
or a feeling. How shall the one show the other that which is invisible?
True, he can unveil the mind's construction in the face--that living
eternally changeful symbol which God has hung in front of the unseen
spirit--but that without words reaches only to the expression of present
feeling. To attempt to employ it alone for the conveyance of the
intellectual or the historical would constantly mislead; while the
expression of feeling itself would be misinterpreted, especially with
regard to cause and object: the dumb show would be worse than dumb.

But let a man become aware of some new movement within him. Loneliness
comes with it, for he would share his mind with his friend, and he
cannot; he is shut up in speechlessness. Thus

  He _may_ live a man forbid
  Weary seven nights nine times nine,

or the first moment of his perplexity may be that of his release. Gazing
about him in pain, he suddenly beholds the material form of his
immaterial condition. There stands his thought! God thought it before
him, and put its picture there ready for him when he wanted it. Or, to
express the thing more prosaically, the man cannot look around him long
without perceiving some form, aspect, or movement of nature, some
relation between its forms, or between such and himself which resembles
the state or motion within him. This he seizes as the symbol, as the
garment or body of his invisible thought, presents it to his friend, and
his friend understands him. Every word so employed with a new meaning is
henceforth, in its new character, born of the spirit and not of the
flesh, born of the imagination and not of the understanding, and is
henceforth submitted to new laws of growth and modification.

"Thinkest thou," says Carlyle in "Past and Present," "there were no
poets till Dan Chaucer? No heart burning with a thought which it could
not hold, and had no word for; and needed to shape and coin a word
for--what thou callest a metaphor, trope, or the like? For every word we
have there was such a man and poet. The coldest word was once a glowing
new metaphor and bold questionable originality. Thy very ATTENTION, does
it not mean an _attentio_, a STRETCHING-TO? Fancy that act of the mind,
which all were conscious of, which none had yet named,--when this new
poet first felt bound and driven to name it. His questionable
originality and new glowing metaphor was found adoptable, intelligible,
and remains our name for it to this day."

All words, then, belonging to the inner world of the mind, are of the
imagination, are originally poetic words. The better, however, any such
word is fitted for the needs of humanity, the sooner it loses its poetic
aspect by commonness of use. It ceases to be heard as a symbol, and
appears only as a sign. Thus thousands of words which were originally
poetic words owing their existence to the imagination, lose their
vitality, and harden into mummies of prose. Not merely in literature
does poetry come first, and prose afterwards, but poetry is the source
of all the language that belongs to the inner world, whether it be of
passion or of metaphysics, of psychology or of aspiration. No poetry
comes by the elevation of prose; but the half of prose comes by the
"massing into the common clay" of thousands of winged words, whence,
like the lovely shells of by-gone ages, one is occasionally disinterred
by some lover of speech, and held up to the light to show the play of
colour in its manifold laminations.

For the world is--allow us the homely figure--the human being turned
inside out. All that moves in the mind is symbolized in Nature. Or, to
use another more philosophical, and certainly not less poetic figure,
the world is a sensuous analysis of humanity, and hence an inexhaustible
wardrobe for the clothing of human thought. Take any word expressive of
emotion--take the word _emotion_ itself--and you will find that its
primary meaning is of the outer world. In the swaying of the woods, in
the unrest of the "wavy plain," the imagination saw the picture of a
well-known condition of the human mind; and hence the word _emotion_.
[Footnote: This passage contains only a repetition of what is far better
said in the preceding extract from Carlyle, but it was written before we
had read (if reviewers may be allowed to confess such ignorance) the
book from which that extract is taken.]

But while the imagination of man has thus the divine function of putting
thought into form, it has a duty altogether human, which is paramount to
that function--the duty, namely, which springs from his immediate
relation to the Father, that of following and finding out the divine
imagination in whose image it was made. To do this, the man must watch
its signs, its manifestations. He must contemplate what the Hebrew poets
call the works of His hands.

"But to follow those is the province of the intellect, not of the
imagination."--We will leave out of the question at present that poetic
interpretation of the works of Nature with which the intellect has
almost nothing, and the imagination almost everything, to do. It is
unnecessary to insist that the higher being of a flower even is
dependent for its reception upon the human imagination; that science may
pull the snowdrop to shreds, but cannot find out the idea of suffering
hope and pale confident submission, for the sake of which that darling
of the spring looks out of heaven, namely, God's heart, upon us his
wiser and more sinful children; for if there be any truth in this region
of things acknowledged at all, it will be at the same time acknowledged
that that region belongs to the imagination. We confine ourselves to
that questioning of the works of God which is called the province of

"Shall, then, the human intellect," we ask, "come into readier contact
with the divine imagination than that human imagination?" The work of
the Higher must be discovered by the search of the Lower in degree which
is yet similar in kind. Let us not be supposed to exclude the intellect
from a share in every highest office. Man is not divided when the
manifestations of his life are distinguished. The intellect "is all in
every part." There were no imagination without intellect, however much
it may appear that intellect can exist without imagination. What we mean
to insist upon is, that in finding out the works of God, the Intellect
must labour, workman-like, under the direction of the architect,
Imagination. Herein, too, we proceed in the hope to show how much more
than is commonly supposed the imagination has to do with human
endeavour; how large a share it has in the work that is done under the

"But how can the imagination have anything to do with science? That
region, at least, is governed by fixed laws."

"True," we answer. "But how much do we know of these laws? How much of
science already belongs to the region of the ascertained--in other
words, has been conquered by the intellect? We will not now dispute,
your vindication of the _ascertained_ from the intrusion of the
imagination; but we do claim for it all the undiscovered, all the
unexplored." "Ah, well! There it can do little harm. There let it run
riot if you will." "No," we reply. "Licence is not what we claim when we
assert the duty of the imagination to be that of following and finding
out the work that God maketh. Her part is to understand God ere she
attempts to utter man. Where is the room for being fanciful or riotous
here? It is only the ill-bred, that is, the uncultivated imagination
that will amuse itself where it ought to worship and work."

"But the facts of Nature are to be discovered only by observation and
experiment." True. But how does the man of science come to think of his
experiments? Does observation reach to the non-present, the possible,
the yet unconceived? Even if it showed you the experiments which _ought_
to be made, will observation reveal to you the experiments which _might_
be made? And who can tell of which kind is the one that carries in its
bosom the secret of the law you seek? We yield you your facts. The laws
we claim for the prophetic imagination. "He hath set the world _in_
man's heart," not in his understanding. And the heart must open the door
to the understanding. It is the far-seeing imagination which beholds
what might be a form of things, and says to the intellect: "Try whether
that may not be the form of these things;" which beholds or invents _a_
harmonious relation of parts and operations, and sends the intellect to
find out whether that be not _the_ harmonious relation of them--that is,
the law of the phenomenon it contemplates. Nay, the poetic relations
themselves in the phenomenon may suggest to the imagination the law that
rules its scientific life. Yea, more than this: we dare to claim for the
true, childlike, humble imagination, such an inward oneness with the
laws of the universe that it possesses in itself an insight into the
very nature of things.

Lord Bacon tells us that a prudent question is the half of knowledge.
Whence comes this prudent question? we repeat. And we answer, From the
imagination. It is the imagination that suggests in what direction to
make the new inquiry--which, should it cast no immediate light on the
answer sought, can yet hardly fail to be a step towards final discovery.
Every experiment has its origin in hypothesis; without the scaffolding
of hypothesis, the house of science could never arise. And the
construction of any hypothesis whatever is the work of the imagination.
The man who cannot invent will never discover. The imagination often
gets a glimpse of the law itself long before it is or can be
_ascertained_ to be a law. [Footnote: This paper was already written
when, happening to mention the present subject to a mathematical friend,
a lecturer at one of the universities, he gave us a corroborative
instance. He had lately _guessed_ that a certain algebraic process could
be shortened exceedingly if the method which his imagination suggested
should prove to be a true one--that is, an algebraic law. He put it to
the test of experiment--committed the verification, that is, into the
hands of his intellect--and found the method true. It has since been
accepted by the Royal Society.

Noteworthy illustration we have lately found in the record of the
experiences of an Edinburgh detective, an Irishman of the name of
McLevy. That the service of the imagination in the solution of the
problems peculiar to his calling is well known to him, we could adduce
many proofs. He recognizes its function in the construction of the
theory which shall unite this and that hint into an organic whole, and
he expressly sets forth the need of a theory before facts can be

"I would wait for my 'idea'.... I never did any good without mine....
Chance never smiled on me unless I poked her some way; so that my
'notion,' after all, has been in the getting of it my own work only
perfected by a higher hand."

"On leaving the shop I went direct to Prince's Street,--of course with
an idea in my mind; and somehow I have always been contented with one
idea when I could not get another; and the advantage of sticking by one
is, that the other don't jostle it and turn you about in a circle when
you should go in a straight line." (Footnote: Since quoting the above I
have learned that the book referred to is unworthy of confidence. But
let it stand as illustration where it cannot be proof.)]

The region belonging to the pure intellect is straitened: the
imagination labours to extend its territories, to give it room. She
sweeps across the borders, searching out new lands into which she may
guide her plodding brother. The imagination is the light which redeems
from the darkness for the eyes of the understanding. Novalis says, "The
imagination is the stuff of the intellect"--affords, that is, the
material upon which the intellect works. And Bacon, in his "Advancement
of Learning," fully recognizes this its office, corresponding to the
foresight of God in this, that it beholds afar off. And he says:
"Imagination is much akin to miracle-working faith." [Footnote: We are
sorry we cannot verify this quotation, for which we are indebted to Mr.
Oldbuck the Antiquary, in the novel of that ilk. There is, however,
little room for doubt that it is sufficiently correct.]

In the scientific region of her duty of which we speak, the Imagination
cannot have her perfect work; this belongs to another and higher sphere
than that of intellectual truth--that, namely, of full-globed humanity,
operating in which she gives birth to poetry--truth in beauty. But her
function in the complete sphere of our nature, will, at the same time,
influence her more limited operation in the sections that belong to
science. Coleridge says that no one but a poet will make any further
_great_ discoveries in mathematics; and Bacon says that "wonder," that
faculty of the mind especially attendant on the child-like imagination,
"is the seed of knowledge." The influence of the poetic upon the
scientific imagination is, for instance, especially present in the
construction of an invisible whole from the hints afforded by a visible
part; where the needs of the part, its uselessness, its broken
relations, are the only guides to a multiplex harmony, completeness, and
end, which is the whole. From a little bone, worn with ages of death,
older than the man can think, his scientific imagination dashed with the
poetic, calls up the form, size, habits, periods, belonging to an animal
never beheld by human eyes, even to the mingling contrasts of scales and
wings, of feathers and hair. Through the combined lenses of science and
imagination, we look back into ancient times, so dreadful in their
incompleteness, that it may well have been the task of seraphic faith,
as well as of cherubic imagination, to behold in the wallowing
monstrosities of the terror-teeming earth, the prospective, quiet,
age-long labour of God preparing the world with all its humble, graceful
service for his unborn Man. The imagination of the poet, on the other
hand, dashed with the imagination of the man of science, revealed to
Goethe the prophecy of the flower in the leaf. No other than an artistic
imagination, however, fulfilled of science, could have attained to the
discovery of the fact that the leaf is the imperfect flower.

When we turn to history, however, we find probably the greatest
operative sphere of the intellectuo-constructive imagination. To
discover its laws; the cycles in which events return, with the reasons
of their return, recognizing them notwithstanding metamorphosis; to
perceive the vital motions of this spiritual body of mankind; to learn
from its facts the rule of God; to construct from a succession of broken
indications a whole accordant with human nature; to approach a scheme of
the forces at work, the passions overwhelming or upheaving, the
aspirations securely upraising, the selfishnesses debasing and
crumbling, with the vital interworking of the whole; to illuminate all
from the analogy with individual life, and from the predominant phases
of individual character which are taken as the mind of the people--this
is the province of the imagination. Without her influence no process of
recording events can develop into a history. As truly might that be
called the description of a volcano which occupied itself with a
delineation of the shapes assumed by the smoke expelled from the
mountain's burning bosom. What history becomes under the full sway of
the imagination may be seen in the "History of the French Revolution,"
by Thomas Carlyle, at once a true picture, a philosophical revelation, a
noble poem.

There is a wonderful passage about _Time_ in Shakespere's "Rape of
Lucrece," which shows how he understood history. The passage is really
about history, and not about time; for time itself does nothing--not
even "blot old books and alter their contents." It is the forces at work
in time that produce all the changes; and they are history. We quote for
the sake of one line chiefly, but the whole stanza is pertinent.

  "Time's glory is to calm contending kings,
  To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light,
  To stamp the seal of time in aged things,
  To wake the morn and sentinel the night,
  _To wrong the wronger till he render right;_
  To ruinate proud buildings with thy hours,
  And smear with dust their glittering golden towers."

_To wrong the wronger till he render right._ Here is a historical cycle
worthy of the imagination of Shakespere, yea, worthy of the creative
imagination of our God--the God who made the Shakespere with the
imagination, as well as evolved the history from the laws which that
imagination followed and found out.

In full instance we would refer our readers to Shakespere's historical
plays; and, as a side-illustration, to the fact that he repeatedly
represents his greatest characters, when at the point of death, as
relieving their overcharged minds by prophecy. Such prophecy is the
result of the light of imagination, cleared of all distorting dimness by
the vanishing of earthly hopes and desires, cast upon the facts of
experience. Such prophecy is the perfect working of the historical

In the interpretation of individual life, the same principles hold; and
nowhere can the imagination be more healthily and rewardingly occupied
than in endeavouring to construct the life of an individual out of the
fragments which are all that can reach us of the history of even the
noblest of our race. How this will apply to the reading of the gospel
story we leave to the earnest thought of our readers.

We now pass to one more sphere in which the student imagination works in
glad freedom--the sphere which is understood to belong more immediately
to the poet.

We have already said that the forms of Nature (by which word _forms_ we
mean any of those conditions of Nature which affect the senses of man)
are so many approximate representations of the mental conditions of
humanity. The outward, commonly called the material, is _informed_ by,
or has form in virtue of, the inward or immaterial--in a word, the
thought. The forms of Nature are the representations of human thought in
virtue of their being the embodiment of God's thought. As such,
therefore, they can be read and used to any depth, shallow or profound.
Men of all ages and all developments have discovered in them the means
of expression; and the men of ages to come, before us in every path
along which we are now striving, must likewise find such means in those
forms, unfolding with their unfolding necessities. The man, then, who,
in harmony with nature, attempts the discovery of more of her meanings,
is just searching out the things of God. The deepest of these are far
too simple for us to understand as yet. But let our imagination
interpretive reveal to us one severed significance of one of her parts,
and such is the harmony of the whole, that all the realm of Nature is
open to us henceforth--not without labour--and in time. Upon the man who
can understand the human meaning of the snowdrop, of the primrose, or of
the daisy, the life of the earth blossoming into the cosmical flower of
a perfect moment will one day seize, possessing him with its prophetic
hope, arousing his conscience with the vision of the "rest that
remaineth," and stirring up the aspiration to enter into that rest:

  "Thine is the tranquil hour, purpureal Eve!
  But long as godlike wish, or hope divine,
  Informs my spirit, ne'er can I believe
  That this magnificence is wholly thine!
  --From worlds not quickened by the sun
  A portion of the gift is won;
  An intermingling of Heaven's pomp is spread
  On ground which British shepherds tread!"

Even the careless curve of a frozen cloud across the blue will calm some
troubled thoughts, may slay some selfish thoughts. And what shall be
said of such gorgeous shows as the scarlet poppies in the green corn,
the likest we have to those lilies of the field which spoke to the
Saviour himself of the care of God, and rejoiced His eyes with the glory
of their God-devised array? From such visions as these the imagination
reaps the best fruits of the earth, for the sake of which all the
science involved in its construction, is the inferior, yet willing and
beautiful support.

From what we have now advanced, will it not then appear that, on the
whole, the name given by our Norman ancestors is more fitting for the
man who moves in these regions than the name given by the Greeks? Is not
the _Poet_, the _Maker_, a less suitable name for him than the
_Trouvère_, the _Finder_? At least, must not the faculty that finds
precede the faculty that utters?

But is there nothing to be said of the function of the imagination from
the Greek side of the question? Does it possess no creative faculty? Has
it no originating power?

Certainly it would be a poor description of the Imagination which
omitted the one element especially present to the mind that invented the
word _Poet_.--It can present us with new thought-forms--new, that is, as
revelations of thought. It has created none of the material that goes to
make these forms. Nor does it work upon raw material. But it takes forms
already existing, and gathers them about a thought so much higher than
they, that it can group and subordinate and harmonize them into a whole
which shall represent, unveil that thought. [Footnote: Just so Spenser
describes the process of the embodiment of a human soul in his Platonic
"Hymn in Honour of Beauty."

  "She frames her house in which she will be placed
  Fit for herself....
  And the gross matter by a sovereign might
  Tempers so trim....
  For of the soul the body form doth take;
  For soul is form, and doth the body make."]

The nature of this process we will illustrate by an examination of the
well-known _Bugle Song_ in Tennyson's "Princess."

First of all, there is the new music of the song, which does not even
remind one of the music of any other. The rhythm, rhyme, melody, harmony
are all an embodiment in sound, as distinguished from word, of what can
be so embodied--the _feeling_ of the poem, which goes before, and
prepares the way for the following thought--tunes the heart into a
receptive harmony. Then comes the new arrangement of thought and figure
whereby the meaning contained is presented as it never was before. We
give a sort of paraphrastical synopsis of the poem, which, partly in
virtue of its disagreeableness, will enable the lovers of the song to
return to it with an increase of pleasure.

The glory of midsummer mid-day upon mountain, lake, and ruin. Give
nature a voice for her gladness. Blow, bugle.

Nature answers with dying echoes, sinking in the midst of her splendour
into a sad silence.

Not so with human nature. The echoes of the word of truth gather volume
and richness from every soul that re-echoes it to brother and sister

With poets the _fashion_ has been to contrast the stability and
rejuvenescence of nature with the evanescence and unreturning decay of

  "Yet soon reviving plants and flowers, anew shall deck the plain;
  The woods shall hear the voice of Spring, and flourish green again.
  But man forsakes this earthly scene, ah! never to return:
  Shall any following Spring revive the ashes of the urn?"

But our poet vindicates the eternal in humanity:--

  "O Love, they die in yon rich sky,
     They faint on hill or field or river:
      Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
        And grow for ever and for ever.
  Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying;
  And answer, echoes, answer, Dying, dying, dying."

Is not this a new form to the thought--a form which makes us feel the
truth of it afresh? And every new embodiment of a known truth must be a
new and wider revelation. No man is capable of seeing for himself the
whole of any truth: he needs it echoed back to him from every soul in
the universe; and still its centre is hid in the Father of Lights. In so
far, then, as either form or thought is new, we may grant the use of the
word Creation, modified according to our previous definitions.

This operation of the imagination in choosing, gathering, and vitally
combining the material of a new revelation, may be well illustrated from
a certain employment of the poetic faculty in which our greatest poets
have delighted. Perceiving truth half hidden and half revealed in the
slow speech and stammering tongue of men who have gone before them, they
have taken up the unfinished form and completed it; they have, as it
were, rescued the soul of meaning from its prison of uninformed crudity,
where it sat like the Prince in the "Arabian Nights," half man, half
marble; they have set it free in its own form, in a shape, namely, which
it could "through every part impress." Shakespere's keen eye suggested
many such a rescue from the tomb--of a tale drearily told--a tale which
no one now would read save for the glorified form in which he has
re-embodied its true contents. And from Tennyson we can produce one
specimen small enough for our use, which, a mere chip from the great
marble re-embodying the old legend of Arthur's death, may, like the hand
of Achilles holding his spear in the crowded picture,

  "Stand for the whole to be imagined."

In the "History of Prince Arthur," when Sir Bedivere returns after
hiding Excalibur the first time, the king asks him what he has seen, and
he answers--

  "Sir, I saw nothing but waves and wind."

The second time, to the same question, he answers--

  "Sir, I saw nothing but the water[1] wap, and the waves wan."

[Footnote 1: The word _wap_ is plain enough; the word _wan_ we cannot
satisfy ourselves about. Had it been used with regard to the water, it
might have been worth remarking that _wan_, meaning dark, gloomy,
turbid, is a common adjective to a river in the old Scotch ballad. And
it might be an adjective here; but that is not likely, seeing it is
conjoined with the verb _wap_. The Anglo-Saxon _wanian_, to decrease,
might be the root-word, perhaps, (in the sense of _to ebb_,) if this
water had been the sea and not a lake. But possibly the meaning is, "I
heard the water _whoop_ or _wail aloud_" (from _Wópan_); and "the waves
_whine_ or _bewail_" (from _Wánian_ to lament). But even then the two
verbs would seem to predicate of transposed subjects.]

This answer Tennyson has expanded into the well-known lines--

  "I heard the ripple washing in the reeds,
  And the wild water lapping on the crag;"

slightly varied, for the other occasion, into--

  "I heard the water lapping on the crag,
  And the long ripple washing in the reeds."

But, as to this matter of _creation_, is there, after all, I ask yet,
any genuine sense in which a man may be said to create his own
thought-forms? Allowing that a new combination of forms already existing
might be called creation, is the man, after all, the author of this new
combination? Did he, with his will and his knowledge, proceed wittingly,
consciously, to construct a form which should embody his thought? Or did
this form arise within him without will or effort of his--vivid if not
clear--certain if not outlined? Ruskin (and better authority we do not
know) will assert the latter, and we think he is right: though perhaps
he would insist more upon the absolute perfection of the vision than we
are quite prepared to do. Such embodiments are not the result of the
man's intention, or of the operation of his conscious nature. His
feeling is that they are given to him; that from the vast unknown, where
time and space are not, they suddenly appear in luminous writing upon
the wall of his consciousness. Can it be correct, then, to say that he
created them? Nothing less so, as it seems to us. But can we not say
that they are the creation of the unconscious portion of his nature?
Yes, provided we can understand that that which is the individual, the
man, can know, and not know that it knows, can create and yet be
ignorant that virtue has gone out of it. From that unknown region we
grant they come, but not by its own blind working. Nor, even were it so,
could any amount of such production, where no will was concerned, be
dignified with the name of creation. But God sits in that chamber of our
being in which the candle of our consciousness goes out in darkness, and
sends forth from thence wonderful gifts into the light of that
understanding which is His candle. Our hope lies in no most perfect
mechanism even of the spirit, but in the wisdom wherein we live and move
and have our being. Thence we hope for endless forms of beauty informed
of truth. If the dark portion of our own being were the origin of our
imaginations, we might well fear the apparition of such monsters as
would be generated in the sickness of a decay which could never
feel--only declare--a slow return towards primeval chaos. But the Maker
is our Light.

One word more, ere we turn to consider the culture of this noblest
faculty, which we might well call the creative, did we not see a
something in God for which we would humbly keep our mighty word:--the
fact that there is always more in a work of art--which is the highest
human result of the embodying imagination--than the producer himself
perceived while he produced it, seems to us a strong reason for
attributing to it a larger origin than the man alone--for saying at the
last, that the inspiration of the Almighty shaped its ends.

We return now to the class which, from the first, we supposed hostile to
the imagination and its functions generally. Those belonging to it will
now say: "It was to no imagination such as you have been setting forth
that we were opposed, but to those wild fancies and vague reveries in
which young people indulge, to the damage and loss of the real in the
world around them."

"And," we insist, "you would rectify the matter by smothering the young
monster at once--because he has wings, and, young to their use, flutters
them about in a way discomposing to your nerves, and destructive to
those notions of propriety of which this creature--you stop not to
inquire whether angel or pterodactyle--has not yet learned even the
existence. Or, if it is only the creature's vagaries of which you
disapprove, why speak of them as _the_ exercise of the imagination? As
well speak of religion as the mother of cruelty because religion has
given more occasion of cruelty, as of all dishonesty and devilry, than
any other object of human interest. Are we not to worship, because our
forefathers burned and stabbed for religion? It is more religion we
want. It is more imagination we need. Be assured that these are but the
first vital motions of that whose results, at least in the region of
science, you are more than willing to accept." That evil may spring from
the imagination, as from everything except the perfect love of God,
cannot be denied. But infinitely worse evils would be the result of its
absence. Selfishness, avarice, sensuality, cruelty, would flourish
tenfold; and the power of Satan would be well established ere some
children had begun to choose. Those who would quell the apparently
lawless tossing of the spirit, called the youthful imagination, would
suppress all that is to grow out of it. They fear the enthusiasm they
never felt; and instead of cherishing this divine thing, instead of
giving it room and air for healthful growth, they would crush
and confine it--with but one result of their victorious
endeavours--imposthume, fever, and corruption. And the disastrous
consequences would soon appear in the intellect likewise which they
worship. Kill that whence spring the crude fancies and wild day-dreams
of the young, and you will never lead them beyond dull facts--dull
because their relations to each other, and the one life that works in
them all, must remain undiscovered. Whoever would have his children
avoid this arid region will do well to allow no teacher to approach
them--not even of mathematics--who has no imagination.

"But although good results may appear in a few from the indulgence of
the imagination, how will it be with the many?"

We answer that the antidote to indulgence is development, not restraint,
and that such is the duty of the wise servant of Him who made the

"But will most girls, for instance, rise to those useful uses of the
imagination? Are they not more likely to exercise it in building castles
in the air to the neglect of houses on the earth? And as the world
affords such poor scope for the ideal, will not this habit breed vain
desires and vain regrets? Is it not better, therefore, to keep to that
which is known, and leave the rest?"

"Is the world so poor?" we ask in return. The less reason, then, to be
satisfied with it; the more reason to rise above it, into the region of
the true, of the eternal, of things as God thinks them. This outward
world is but a passing vision of the persistent true. We shall not live
in it always. We are dwellers in a divine universe where no desires are
in vain, if only they be large enough. Not even in this world do all
disappointments breed only vain regrets. [Footnote:
  "We will grieve not, rather find
  Strength in what remains behind;
  In the primal sympathy
  Which, having been, must ever be;
  In the soothing thoughts that spring
  Out of human suffering;
  In the faith that looks through death,
  In years that bring the philosophic mind."]

And as to keeping to that which is known and leaving the rest--how many
affairs of this world are so well-defined, so capable of being clearly
understood, as not to leave large spaces of uncertainty, whose very
correlate faculty is the imagination? Indeed it must, in most things,
work after some fashion, filling the gaps after some possible plan,
before action can even begin. In very truth, a wise imagination, which
is the presence of the spirit of God, is the best guide that man or
woman can have; for it is not the things we see the most clearly that
influence us the most powerfully; undefined, yet vivid visions of
something beyond, something which eye has not seen nor ear heard, have
far more influence than any logical sequences whereby the same things
may be demonstrated to the intellect. It is the nature of the thing, not
the clearness of its outline, that determines its operation. We live by
faith, and not by sight. Put the question to our mathematicians--only be
sure the question reaches them--whether they would part with the
well-defined perfection of their diagrams, or the dim, strange, possibly
half-obliterated characters woven in the web of their being; their
science, in short, or their poetry; their certainties, or their hopes;
their consciousness of knowledge, or their vague sense of that which
cannot be known absolutely: will they hold by their craft or by their
inspirations, by their intellects or their imaginations? If they say the
former in each alternative, I shall yet doubt whether the objects of the
choice are actually before them, and with equal presentation.

What can be known must be known severely; but is there, therefore, no
faculty for those infinite lands of uncertainty lying all about the
sphere hollowed out of the dark by the glimmering lamp of our knowledge?
Are they not the natural property of the imagination? there, _for_ it,
that it may have room to grow? there, that the man may learn to imagine
greatly like God who made him, himself discovering their mysteries, in
virtue of his following and worshipping imagination?

All that has been said, then, tends to enforce the culture of the
imagination. But the strongest argument of all remains behind. For, if
the whole power of pedantry should rise against her, the imagination
will yet work; and if not for good, then for evil; if not for truth,
then for falsehood; if not for life, then for death; the evil
alternative becoming the more likely from the unnatural treatment she
has experienced from those who ought to have fostered her. The power
that might have gone forth in conceiving the noblest forms of action, in
realizing the lives of the true-hearted, the self-forgetting, will go
forth in building airy castles of vain ambition, of boundless riches, of
unearned admiration. The imagination that might be devising how to make
home blessed or to help the poor neighbour, will be absorbed in the
invention of the new dress, or worse, in devising the means of procuring
it. For, if she be not occupied with the beautiful, she will be occupied
by the pleasant; that which goes not out to worship, will remain at home
to be sensual. Cultivate the mere intellect as you may, it will never
reduce the passions: the imagination, seeking the ideal in everything,
will elevate them to their true and noble service. Seek not that your
sons and your daughters should not see visions, should not dream dreams;
seek that they should see true visions, that they should dream noble
dreams. Such out-going of the imagination is one with aspiration, and
will do more to elevate above what is low and vile than all possible
inculcations of morality. Nor can religion herself ever rise up into her
own calm home, her crystal shrine, when one of her wings, one of the
twain with which she flies, is thus broken or paralyzed.

  "The universe is infinitely wide,
  And conquering Reason, if self-glorified,
  Can nowhere move uncrossed by some new wall
  Or gulf of mystery, which thou alone,
  Imaginative Faith! canst overleap,
  In progress towards the fount of love."

The danger that lies in the repression of the imagination may be well
illustrated from the play of "Macbeth." The imagination of the hero (in
him a powerful faculty), representing how the deed would appear to
others, and so representing its true nature to himself, was his great
impediment on the path to crime. Nor would he have succeeded in reaching
it, had he not gone to his wife for help--sought refuge from his
troublesome imagination with her. She, possessing far less of the
faculty, and having dealt more destructively with what she had, took his
hand, and led him to the deed. From her imagination, again, she for her
part takes refuge in unbelief and denial, declaring to herself and her
husband that there is no reality in its representations; that there is
no reality in anything beyond the present effect it produces on the mind
upon which it operates; that intellect and courage are equal to any,
even an evil emergency; and that no harm will come to those who can rule
themselves according to their own will. Still, however, finding her
imagination, and yet more that of her husband, troublesome, she effects
a marvellous combination of materialism and idealism, and asserts that
things are not, cannot be, and shall not be more or other than people
choose to think them. She says,--

              "These deeds must not be thought
  After these ways; so, it will make us mad."

               "The sleeping and the dead
  Are but as pictures."

But she had over-estimated the power of her will, and under-estimated
that of her imagination. Her will was the one thing in her that was bad,
without root or support in the universe, while her imagination was the
voice of God himself out of her own unknown being. The choice of no man
or woman can long determine how or what he or she shall think of things.
Lady Macbeth's imagination would not be repressed beyond its appointed
period--a time determined by laws of her being over which she had no
control. It arose, at length, as from the dead, overshadowing her with
all the blackness of her crime. The woman who drank strong drink that
she might murder, dared not sleep without a light by her bed; rose and
walked in the night, a sleepless spirit in a sleeping body, rubbing the
spotted hand of her dreams, which, often as water had cleared it of the
deed, yet smelt so in her sleeping nostrils, that all the perfumes of
Arabia would not sweeten it. Thus her long down-trodden imagination rose
and took vengeance, even through those senses which she had thought to
subordinate to her wicked will.

But all this is of the imagination itself, and fitter, therefore, for
illustration than for argument. Let us come to facts.--Dr. Pritchard,
lately executed for murder, had no lack of that invention, which is, as
it were, the intellect of the imagination--its lowest form. One of the
clergymen who, at his own request, attended the prisoner, went through
indescribable horrors in the vain endeavour to induce the man simply to
cease from lying: one invention after another followed the most earnest
asseverations of truth. The effect produced upon us by this clergyman's
report of his experience was a moral dismay, such as we had never felt
with regard to human being, and drew from us the exclamation, "The man
could have had no imagination." The reply was, "None whatever." Never
seeking true or high things, caring only for appearances, and,
therefore, for inventions, he had left his imagination all undeveloped,
and when it represented his own inner condition to him, had repressed it
until it was nearly destroyed, and what remained of it was set on fire
of hell. [Footnote: One of the best weekly papers in London, evidently
as much in ignorance of the man as of the facts of the case, spoke of
Dr. MacLeod as having been engaged in "white-washing the murderer for
heaven." So far is this from a true representation, that Dr. MacLeod
actually refused to pray with him, telling him that if there was a hell
to go to, he must go to it.]

Man is "the roof and crown of things." He is the world, and more.
Therefore the chief scope of his imagination, next to God who made him,
will he the world in relation to his own life therein. Will he do better
or worse in it if this imagination, touched to fine issues and having
free scope, present him with noble pictures of relationship and duty, of
possible elevation of character and attainable justice of behaviour, of
friendship and of love; and, above all, of all these in that life to
understand which as a whole, must ever be the loftiest aspiration of
this noblest power of humanity? Will a woman lead a more or a less
troubled life that the sights and sounds of nature break through the
crust of gathering anxiety, and remind her of the peace of the lilies
and the well-being of the birds of the air? Or will life be less
interesting to her, that the lives of her neighbours, instead of passing
like shadows upon a wall, assume a consistent wholeness, forming
themselves into stories and phases of life? Will she not hereby love
more and talk less? Or will she be more unlikely to make a good
match----? But here we arrest ourselves in bewilderment over the word
_good_, and seek to re-arrange our thoughts. If what mothers mean by a
_good_ match, is the alliance of a man of position and means--or let
them throw intellect, manners, and personal advantages into the same
scale--if this be all, then we grant the daughter of cultivated
imagination may not be manageable, will probably be obstinate. "We hope
she will be obstinate enough. [Footnote: Let women who feel the wrongs
of their kind teach women to be high-minded in their relation to men,
and they will do more for the social elevation of women, and the
establishment of their rights, whatever those rights may be, than by any
amount of intellectual development or assertion of equality. Nor, if
they are other than mere partisans, will they refuse the attempt because
in its success men will, after all, be equal, if not greater gainers, if
only thereby they should be "feelingly persuaded" what they are.] But
will the girl be less likely to marry a _gentleman_, in the grand old
meaning of the sixteenth century? when it was no irreverence to call our

  "The first true gentleman that ever breathed;"

or in that of the fourteenth?--when Chaucer teaching "whom is worthy to
be called gentill," writes thus:--

  "The first stocke was full of rightwisnes,
  Trewe of his worde, sober, pitous and free,
  Clene of his goste, and loved besinesse,
  Against the vice of slouth in honeste;
  And but his heire love vertue as did he,
  He is not gentill though he rich seme,
  All weare he miter, crowne, or diademe."

Will she be less likely to marry one who honours women, and for their
sakes, as well as his own, honours himself? Or to speak from what many
would regard as the mother's side of the question--will the girl be more
likely, because of such a culture of her imagination, to refuse the
wise, true-hearted, generous rich man, and fall in love with the
talking, verse-making fool, _because_ he is poor, as if that were a
virtue for which he had striven? The highest imagination and the
lowliest common sense are always on one side.

For the end of imagination is _harmony_. A right imagination, being the
reflex of the creation, will fall in with the divine order of things as
the highest form of its own operation; "will tune its instrument here at
the door" to the divine harmonies within; will be content alone with
growth towards the divine idea, which includes all that is beautiful in
the imperfect imaginations of men; will know that every deviation from
that growth is downward; and will therefore send the man forth from its
loftiest representations to do the commonest duty of the most wearisome
calling in a hearty and hopeful spirit. This is the work of the right
imagination; and towards this work every imagination, in proportion to
the rightness that is in it, will tend. The reveries even of the wise
man will make him stronger for his work; his dreaming as well as his
thinking will render him sorry for past failure, and hopeful of future

To come now to the culture of the imagination. Its development is one of
the main ends of the divine education of life with all its efforts and
experiences. Therefore the first and essential means for its culture
must be an ordering of our life towards harmony with its ideal in the
mind of God. As he that is willing to do the will of the Father, shall
know of the doctrine, so, we doubt not, he that will do the will of THE
POET, shall behold the Beautiful. For all is God's; and the man who is
growing into harmony with His will, is growing into harmony with
himself; all the hidden glories of his being are coming out into the
light of humble consciousness; so that at the last he shall be a pure
microcosm, faithfully reflecting, after his manner, the mighty
macrocosm. We believe, therefore, that nothing will do so much for the
intellect or the imagination as _being good_--we do not mean after any
formula or any creed, but simply after the faith of Him who did the will
of his Father in heaven.

But if we speak of direct means for the culture of the imagination, the
whole is comprised in two words--food and exercise. If you want strong
arms, take animal food, and row. Feed your imagination with food
convenient for it, and exercise it, not in the contortions of the
acrobat, but in the movements of the gymnast. And first for the food.

Goethe has told us that the way to develop the aesthetic faculty is to
have constantly before our eyes, that is, in the room we most frequent,
some work of the best attainable art. This will teach us to refuse the
evil and choose the good. It will plant itself in our minds and become
our counsellor. Involuntarily, unconsciously, we shall compare with its
perfection everything that comes before us for judgment. Now, although
no better advice could be given, it involves one danger, that of
narrowness. And not easily, in dread of this danger, would one change
his tutor, and so procure variety of instruction. But in the culture of
the imagination, books, although not the only, are the readiest means of
supplying the food convenient for it, and a hundred books may be had
where even one work of art of the right sort is unattainable, seeing
such must be of some size as well as of thorough excellence. And in
variety alone is safety from the danger of the convenient food becoming
the inconvenient model.

Let us suppose, then, that one who himself justly estimates the
imagination is anxious to develop its operation in his child. No doubt
the best beginning, especially if the child be young, is an acquaintance
with nature, in which let him be encouraged to observe vital phenomena,
to put things together, to speculate from what he sees to what he does
not see. But let earnest care be taken that upon no matter shall he go
on talking foolishly. Let him be as fanciful as he may, but let him not,
even in his fancy, sin against fancy's sense; for fancy has its laws as
certainly as the most ordinary business of life. When he is silly, let
him know it and be ashamed.

But where this association with nature is but occasionally possible,
recourse must be had to literature. In books, we not only have store of
all results of the imagination, but in them, as in her workshop, we may
behold her embodying before our very eyes, in music of speech, in wonder
of words, till her work, like a golden dish set with shining jewels, and
adorned by the hands of the cunning workmen, stands finished before us.
In this kind, then, the best must be set before the learner, that he may
eat and not be satisfied; for the finest products of the imagination are
of the best nourishment for the beginnings of that imagination. And the
mind of the teacher must mediate between the work of art and the mind of
the pupil, bringing them together in the vital contact of intelligence;
directing the observation to the lines of expression, the points of
force; and helping the mind to repose upon the whole, so that no
separable beauties shall lead to a neglect of the scope--that is the
shape or form complete. And ever he must seek to _show_ excellence
rather than talk about it, giving the thing itself, that it may grow
into the mind, and not a eulogy of his own upon the thing; isolating the
point worthy of remark rather than making many remarks upon the point.

Especially must he endeavour to show the spiritual scaffolding or
skeleton of any work of art; those main ideas upon which the shape is
constructed, and around which the rest group as ministering

But he will not, therefore, pass over that intellectual structure
without which the other could not be manifested. He will not forget the
builder while he admires the architect. While he dwells with delight on
the relation of the peculiar arch to the meaning of the whole cathedral,
he will not think it needless to explain the principles on which it is
constructed, or even how those principles are carried out in actual
process. Neither yet will the tracery of its windows, the foliage of its
crockets, or the fretting of its mouldings be forgotten. Every beauty
will have its word, only all beauties will be subordinated to the final
beauty--that is, the unity of the whole.

Thus doing, he shall perform the true office of friendship. He will
introduce his pupil into the society which he himself prizes most,
surrounding him with the genial presence of the high-minded, that this
good company may work its own kind in him who frequents it.

But he will likewise seek to turn him aside from such company, whether
of books or of men, as might tend to lower his reverence, his choice, or
his standard. He will, therefore, discourage indiscriminate reading, and
that worse than waste which consists in skimming the books of a
circulating library. He knows that if a book is worth reading at all, it
is worth reading well; and that, if it is not worth reading, it is only
to the most accomplished reader that it _can_ be worth skimming. He will
seek to make him discern, not merely between the good and the evil, but
between the good and the not so good. And this not for the sake of
sharpening the intellect, still less of generating that
self-satisfaction which is the closest attendant upon criticism, but for
the sake of choosing the best path and the best companions upon it. A
spirit of criticism for the sake of distinguishing only, or, far worse,
for the sake of having one's opinion ready upon demand, is not merely
repulsive to all true thinkers, but is, in itself, destructive of all
thinking. A spirit of criticism for the sake of the truth--a spirit that
does not start from its chamber at every noise, but waits till its
presence is desired--cannot, indeed, garnish the house, but can sweep it
clean. Were there enough of such wise criticism, there would be ten
times the study of the best writers of the past, and perhaps one-tenth
of the admiration for the ephemeral productions of the day. A gathered
mountain of misplaced worships would be swept into the sea by the study
of one good book; and while what was good in an inferior book would
still be admired, the relative position of the book would be altered and
its influence lessened.

Speaking of true learning, Lord Bacon says: "It taketh away vain
admiration of anything, _which is the root of all weakness_."

The right teacher would have his pupil easy to please, but ill to
satisfy; ready to enjoy, unready to embrace; keen to discover beauty,
slow to say, "Here I will dwell."

But he will not confine his instructions to the region of art. He will
encourage him to read history with an eye eager for the dawning figure
of the past. He will especially show him that a great part of the Bible
is only thus to be understood; and that the constant and consistent way
of God, to be discovered in it, is in fact the key to all history.

In the history of individuals, as well, he will try to show him how to
put sign and token together, constructing not indeed a whole, but a
probable suggestion of the whole.

And, again, while showing him the reflex of nature in the poets, he will
not be satisfied without sending him to Nature herself; urging him in
country rambles to keep open eyes for the sweet fashionings and
blendings of her operation around him; and in city walks to watch the
"human face divine."

Once more: he will point out to him the essential difference between
reverie and thought; between dreaming and imagining. He will teach him
not to mistake fancy, either in himself or in others for imagination,
and to beware of hunting after resemblances that carry with them no

Such training is not solely fitted for the possible development of
artistic faculty. Few, in this world, will ever be able to utter what
they feel. Fewer still will be able to utter it in forms of their own.
Nor is it necessary that there should be many such. But it is necessary
that all should feel. It is necessary that all should understand and
imagine the good; that all should begin, at least, to follow and find
out God.

"The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to
find it out," says Solomon. "As if," remarks Bacon on the passage,
"according to the innocent play of children, the Divine Majesty took
delight to hide his works, to the end to have them found out; and as if
kings could not obtain a greater honour than to be God's playfellows in
that game."

One more quotation from the book of Ecclesiastes, setting forth both the
necessity we are under to imagine, and the comfort that our imagining
cannot outstrip God's making.

"I have seen the travail which God hath given to the sons of men to be
exercised in it. He hath made everything beautiful in his time; also he
hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work
that God maketh from the beginning to the end."

Thus to be playfellows with God in this game, the little ones may gather
their daisies and follow their painted moths; the child of the kingdom
may pore upon the lilies of the field, and gather faith as the birds of
the air their food from the leafless hawthorn, ruddy with the stores God
has laid up for them; and the man of science

      "May sit and rightly spell
  Of every star that heaven doth shew,
  And every herb that sips the dew;
  Till old experience do attain
  To something like prophetic strain."


[Footnote: 1880.]

"I wish I had thought to watch when God was making me!" said a child
once to his mother. "Only," he added, "I was not made till I was
finished, so I couldn't." We cannot recall whence we came, nor tell how
we began to be. We know approximately how far back we can remember, but
have no idea how far back we may not have forgotten. Certainly we knew
once much that we have forgotten now. My own earliest definable memory
is of a great funeral of one of the Dukes of Gordon, when I was between
two and three years of age. Surely my first knowledge was not of death.
I must have known much and many things before, although that seems my
earliest memory. As in what we foolishly call maturity, so in the dawn
of consciousness, both before and after it has begun to be buttressed
with _self_-consciousness, each succeeding consciousness dims--often
obliterates--that which went before, and with regard to our past as well
as our future, imagination and faith must step into the place vacated of
knowledge. We are aware, and we know that we are aware, but when or how
we began to be aware, is wrapt in a mist that deepens on the one side
into deepest night, and on the other brightens into the full assurance
of existence. Looking back we can but dream, looking forward we lose
ourselves in speculation; but we may both speculate and dream, for all
speculation is not false, and all dreaming is not of the unreal. What
may we fairly imagine as to the inward condition of the child before the
first moment of which his memory affords him testimony?

It is one, I venture to say, of absolute, though, no doubt, largely
negative faith. Neither memory of pain that is past, nor apprehension of
pain to come, once arises to give him the smallest concern. In some way,
doubtless very vague, for his being itself is a border-land of awful
mystery, he is aware of being surrounded, enfolded with an atmosphere of
love; the sky over him is his mother's face; the earth that nourishes
him is his mother's bosom. The source, the sustentation, the defence of
his being, the endless mediation betwixt his needs and the things that
supply them, are all one. There is no type so near the highest idea of
relation to a God, as that of the child to his mother. Her face is God,
her bosom Nature, her arms are Providence--all love--one love--to him an
undivided bliss.

The region beyond him he regards from this vantage-ground of
unquestioned security. There things may come and go, rise and vanish--he
neither desires nor bemoans them. Change may grow swift, its swiftness
grow fierce, and pass into storm: to him storm is calm; his haven is
secure; his rest cannot be broken: he is accountable for nothing, knows
no responsibility. Conscience is not yet awake, and there is no
conflict. His waking is full of sleep, yet his very being is enough for

But all the time his mother lives in the hope of his growth. In the
present babe, her heart broods over the coming boy--the unknown marvel
closed in the visible germ. Let mothers lament as they will over the
change from childhood to maturity, which of them would not grow weary of
nursing for ever a child in whom no live law of growth kept unfolding an
infinite change! The child knows nothing of growth--desires none--but
grows. Within him is the force of a power he can no more resist than the
peach can refuse to swell and grow ruddy in the sun. By slow,
inappreciable, indivisible accretion and outfolding, he is lifted,
floated, drifted on towards the face of the awful mirror in which he
must encounter his first foe--must front himself.

By degrees he has learned that the world is around, and not within
him--that he is apart, and that is apart; from consciousness he passes
to self-consciousness. This is a second birth, for now a higher life
begins. When a man not only lives, but knows that he lives, then first
the possibility of a real life commences. By _real life_, I mean life
which has a share in its own existence.

For now, towards the world around him--the world that is not his mother,
and, actively at least, neither loves him nor ministers to him, reveal
themselves certain relations, initiated by fancies, desires,
preferences, that arise within himself--reasonable or not matters
little:--founded in reason, they can in no case be _devoid_ of reason.
Every object concerned in these relations presents itself to the man as
lovely, desirable, good, or ugly, hateful, bad; and through these
relations, obscure and imperfect, and to a being weighted with a strong
faculty for mistake, begins to be revealed the existence and force of
Being other and higher than his own, recognized as _Will_, and first of
all in its opposition to his desires. Thereupon begins the strife
without which there never was, and, I presume, never can be, any growth,
any progress; and the first result is what I may call the third birth of
the human being.

The first opposing glance of the mother wakes in the child not only
answering opposition, which is as the rudimentary sac of his own coming
will, but a new something, to which for long he needs no name, so
natural does it seem, so entirely a portion of his being, even when most
he refuses to listen to and obey it. This new something--we call it
_Conscience_--sides with his mother, and causes its presence and
judgment to be felt not only before but after the event, so that he soon
comes to know that it is well with him or ill with him as he obeys or
disobeys it. And now he not only knows, not only knows that he knows,
but knows he knows that he knows--knows that he is self-conscious--that
he has a conscience. With the first sense of resistance to it, the power
above him has drawn nearer, and the deepest within him has declared
itself on the side of the highest without him. At one and the same
moment, the heaven of his childhood has, as it were, receded and come
nigher. He has run from under it, but it claims him. It is farther, yet
closer--immeasurably closer: he feels on his being the grasp and hold of
his mother's. Through the higher individuality he becomes aware of his
own. Through the assertion of his mother's will, his own begins to
awake. He becomes conscious of himself as capable of action--of doing or
of not doing; his responsibility has begun.

He slips from her lap; he travels from chair to chair; he puts his
circle round the room; he dares to cross the threshold; he braves the
precipice of the stair; he takes the greatest step that, according to
George Herbert, is possible to man--that out of doors, changing the
house for the universe; he runs from flower to flower in the garden;
crosses the road; wanders, is lost, is found again. His powers expand,
his activity increases; he goes to school, and meets other boys like
himself; new objects of strife are discovered, new elements of strife
developed; new desires are born, fresh impulses urge. The old heaven,
the face and will of his mother, recede farther and farther; a world of
men, which he foolishly thinks a nobler as it is a larger world, draws
him, claims him. More or less he yields. The example and influence of
such as seem to him more than his mother like himself, grow strong upon
him. His conscience speaks louder. And here, even at this early point in
his history, what I might call his fourth birth _may_ begin to take
place: I mean the birth in him of the Will--the real Will--not the
pseudo-will, which is the mere Desire, swayed of impulse, selfishness,
or one of many a miserable motive. When the man, listening to his
conscience, wills and does the right, irrespective of inclination as of
consequence, then is the man free, the universe open before him. He is
born from above. To him conscience needs never speak aloud, needs never
speak twice; to him her voice never grows less powerful, for he never
neglects what she commands. And when he becomes aware that he can will
his will, that God has given him a share in essential life, in the
causation of his own being, then is he a man indeed. I say, even here
this birth may begin; but with most it takes years not a few to complete
it. For, the power of the mother having waned, the power of the
neighbour is waxing. If the boy be of common clay, that is, of clay
willing to accept dishonour, this power of the neighbour over him will
increase and increase, till individuality shall have vanished from him,
and what his friends, what society, what the trade or the profession
say, will be to him the rule of life. With such, however, I have to do
no more than with the deaf dead, who sleep too deep for words to reach

My typical child of man is not of such. He is capable not of being
influenced merely, but of influencing--and first of all of influencing
himself; of taking a share in his own making; of determining actively,
not by mere passivity, what he shall be and become; for he never ceases
to pay at least a little heed, however poor and intermittent, to the
voice of his conscience, and to-day he pays more heed than he did

Long ere now the joy of space, of room, has laid hold upon him--the more
powerfully if he inhabit a wild and broken region. The human animal
delights in motion and change, motions of his members even violent, and
swiftest changes of place. It is as if he would lay hold of the infinite
by ceaseless abandonment and choice of a never-abiding stand-point, as
if he would lay hold of strength by the consciousness of the strength he
has. He is full of unrest. He must know what lies on the farther shore
of every river, see how the world looks from every hill: _What is
behind? What is beyond?_ is his constant cry. To learn, to gather into
himself, is his longing. Nor do many years pass thus, it may be not many
months, ere the world begins to come alive around him. He begins to feel
that the stars are strange, that the moon is sad, that the sunrise is
mighty. He begins to see in them all the something men call beauty. He
will lie on the sunny bank and gaze into the blue heaven till his soul
seems to float abroad and mingle with the infinite made visible, with
the boundless condensed into colour and shape. The rush of the water
through the still twilight, under the faint gleam of the exhausted west,
makes in his ears a melody he is almost aware he cannot understand.
Dissatisfied with his emotions he desires a deeper waking, longs for a
greater beauty, is troubled with the stirring in his bosom of an unknown
ideal of Nature. Nor is it an ideal of Nature alone that is forming
within him. A far more precious thing, a human ideal namely, is in his
soul, gathering to itself shape and consistency. The wind that at night
fills him with sadness--he cannot tell why, in the daytime haunts him
like a wild consciousness of strength which has neither difficulty nor
danger enough to spend itself upon. He would be a champion of the weak,
a friend to the great; for both he would fight--a merciless foe to every
oppressor of his kind. He would be rich that he might help, strong that
he might rescue, brave--that he counts himself already, for he has not
proved his own weakness. In the first encounter he fails, and the bitter
cup of shame and confusion of face, wholesome and saving, is handed him
from the well of life. He is not yet capable of understanding that one
such as he, filled with the glory and not the duty of victory, could not
but fail, and therefore ought to fail; but his dismay and chagrin are
soothed by the forgetfulness the days and nights bring, gently wiping
out the sins that are past, that the young life may have a fresh chance,
as we say, and begin again unburdened by the weight of a too much
present failure.

And now, probably at school, or in the first months of his college-life,
a new phase of experience begins. He has wandered over the border of
what is commonly called science, and the marvel of facts multitudinous,
strung upon the golden threads of law, has laid hold upon him. His
intellect is seized and possessed by a new spirit. For a time knowledge
is pride; the mere consciousness of knowing is the reward of its labour;
the ever recurring, ever passing contact of mind with a new fact is a
joy full of excitement, and promises an endless delight. But ever the
thing that is known sinks into insignificance, save as a step of the
endless stair on which he is climbing--whither he knows not; the unknown
draws him; the new fact touches his mind, flames up in the contact, and
drops dark, a mere fact, on the heap below. Even the grandeur of law as
law, so far from adding fresh consciousness to his life, causes it no
small suffering and loss. For at the entrance of Science, nobly and
gracefully as she bears herself, young Poetry shrinks back startled,
dismayed. Poetry is true as Science, and Science is holy as Poetry; but
young Poetry is timid and Science is fearless, and bears with her a
colder atmosphere than the other has yet learned to brave. It is not
that Madam Science shows any antagonism to Lady Poetry; but the
atmosphere and plane on which alone they can meet as friends who
understand each other, is the mind and heart of the sage, not of the
boy. The youth gazes on the face of Science, cold, clear, beautiful;
then, turning, looks for his friend--but, alas! Poetry has fled. With a
great pang at the heart he rushes abroad to find her, but descries only
the rainbow glimmer of her skirt on the far horizon. At night, in his
dreams, she returns, but never for a season may he look on her face of
loveliness. What, alas! have evaporation, caloric, atmosphere,
refraction, the prism, and the second planet of our system, to do with
"sad Hesper o'er the buried sun?" From quantitative analysis how shall
he turn again to "the rime of the ancient mariner," and "the moving
moon" that "went up the sky, and nowhere did abide"? From his window he
gazes across the sands to the mightily troubled ocean: "What is the
storm to me any more!" he cries; "it is but the clashing of countless
water-drops!" He finds relief in the discovery that, the moment you
place man in the midst of it, the clashing of water-drops becomes a
storm, terrible to heart and brain: human thought and feeling, hope,
fear, love, sacrifice, make the motions of nature alive with mystery and
the shadows of destiny. The relief, however, is but partial, and may be
but temporary; for what if this mingling of man and Nature in the mind
of man be but the casting of a coloured shadow over her cold
indifference? What if she means nothing--never was meant to mean
anything! What if in truth "we receive but what we give, and in our life
alone doth Nature live!" What if the language of metaphysics as well as
of poetry be drawn, not from Nature at all, but from human fancy
concerning her!

At length, from the unknown, whence himself he came, appears an angel to
deliver him from this horror--this stony look--ah, God! of soulless law.
The woman is on her way whose part it is to meet him with a life other
than his own, at once the complement of his, and the visible presentment
of that in it which is beyond his own understanding. The enchantment of
what we specially call _love_ is upon him--a deceiving glamour, say
some, showing what is not, an opening of the eyes, say others, revealing
that of which a man had not been aware: men will still be divided into
those who believe that the horses of fire and the chariots of fire are
ever present at their need of them, and those who class the prophet and
the drunkard in the same category as the fools of their own fancies. But
what this love is, he who thinks he knows least understands. Let foolish
maidens and vulgar youths simper and jest over it as they please, it is
one of the most potent mysteries of the living God. The man who can love
a woman and remain a lover of his wretched self, is fit only to be cast
out with the broken potsherds of the city, as one in whom the very salt
has lost its savour. With this love in his heart, a man puts on at least
the vision robes of the seer, if not the singing robes of the poet. Be
he the paltriest human animal that ever breathed, for the time, and in
his degree, he rises above himself. His nature so far clarifies itself,
that here and there a truth of the great world will penetrate, sorely
dimmed, through the fog-laden, self-shadowed atmosphere of his
microcosm. For the time, I repeat, he is not a lover only, but something
of a friend, with a reflex touch of his own far-off childhood. To the
youth of my history, in the light of his love--a light that passes
outward from the eyes of the lover--the world grows alive again, yea
radiant as an infinite face. He sees the flowers as he saw them in
boyhood, recovering from an illness of all the winter, only they have a
yet deeper glow, a yet fresher delight, a yet more unspeakable soul. He
becomes pitiful over them, and not willingly breaks their stems, to hurt
the life he more than half believes they share with him. He cannot think
anything created only for him, any more than only for itself. Nature is
no longer a mere contention of forces, whose heaven and whose hell in
one is the dull peace of an equilibrium; but a struggle, through
splendour of colour, graciousness of form, and evasive vitality of
motion and sound, after an utterance hard to find, and never found but
marred by the imperfection of the small and weak that would embody and
set forth the great and mighty. The waving of the tree-tops is the
billowy movement of a hidden delight. The sun lifts his head with intent
to be glorious. No day lasts too long, no night comes too soon: the
twilight is woven of shadowy arms that draw the loving to the bosom of
the Night. In the woman, the infinite after which he thirsts is given
him for his own.

Man's occupation with himself turns his eyes from the great life beyond
his threshold: when love awakes, he forgets himself for a time, and many
a glimpse of strange truth finds its way through his windows, blocked no
longer by the shadow of himself. He may now catch even a glimpse of the
possibilities of his own being--may dimly perceive for a moment the
image after which he was made. But alas! too soon, self, radiant of
darkness, awakes; every window becomes opaque with shadow, and the man
is again a prisoner. For it is not the highest word alone that the cares
of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things
entering in, choke, and render unfruitful. Waking from the divine
vision, if that can be called waking which is indeed dying into the
common day, the common man regards it straightway as a foolish dream;
the wise man believes in it still, holds fast by the memory of the
vanished glory, and looks to have it one day again a present portion of
the light of his life. He knows that, because of the imperfection and
dulness and weakness of his nature, after every vision follow the
inclosing clouds, with the threat of an ever during dark; knows that,
even if the vision could tarry, it were not well, for the sake of that
which must yet be done with him, yet be made of him, that it should
tarry. But the youth whose history I am following is not like the
former, nor as yet like the latter.

From whatever cause, then, whether of fault, of natural law, or of
supernal will, the flush that seemed to promise the dawn of an eternal
day, shrinks and fades, though, with him, like the lagging skirt of the
sunset in the northern west, it does not vanish, but travels on, a
withered pilgrim, all the night, at the long last to rise the aureole of
the eternal Aurora. And now new paths entice him--or old paths opening
fresh horizons. With stronger thews and keener nerves he turns again to
the visible around him. The changelessness amid change, the law amid
seeming disorder, the unity amid units, draws him again. He begins to
descry the indwelling poetry of science. The untiring forces at work in
measurable yet inconceivable spaces of time and room, fill his soul with
an awe that threatens to uncreate him with a sense of littleness; while,
on the other side, the grandeur of their operations fills him with such
an informing glory, the mere presence of the mighty facts, that he no
more thinks of himself, but in humility is great, and knows it not. Rapt
spectator, seer entranced under the magic wand of Science, he beholds
the billions of billions of miles of incandescent vapour begin a slow,
scarce perceptible revolution, gradually grow swift, and gather an awful
speed. He sees the vapour, as it whirls, condensing through slow
eternities to a plastic fluidity. He notes ring after ring part from the
circumference of the mass, break, rush together into a globe, and the
glowing ball keep on through space with the speed of its parent bulk. It
cools and still cools and condenses, but still fiercely glows.
Presently--after tens of thousands of years is the creative
_presently_--arises fierce contention betwixt the glowing heart and its
accompanying atmosphere. The latter invades the former with antagonistic
element. He listens in his soul, and hears the rush of ever descending
torrent rains, with the continuous roaring shock of their evanishment in
vapour--to turn again to water in the higher regions, and again rush to
the attack upon the citadel of fire. He beholds the slow victory of the
water at last, and the great globe, now glooming in a cloak of darkness,
covered with a wildly boiling sea--not boiling by figure of speech,
under contending forces of wind and tide, but boiling high as the hills
to come, with veritable heat. He sees the rise of the wrinkles we call
hills and mountains, and from their sides the avalanches of water to the
lower levels. He sees race after race of living things appear, as the
earth becomes, for each new and higher kind, a passing home; and he
watches the succession of terrible convulsions dividing kind from kind,
until at length the kind he calls his own arrives. Endless are the
visions of material grandeur unfathomable, awaked in his soul by the
bare facts of external existence.

But soon comes a change. So far as he can see or learn, all the motion,
all the seeming dance, is but a rush for death, a panic flight into the
moveless silence. The summer wind, the tropic tornado, the softest tide,
the fiercest storm, are alike the tumultuous conflict of forces,
rushing, and fighting as they rush, into the arms of eternal negation.
On and on they hurry--down and down, to a cold stirless solidity, where
wind blows not, water flows not, where the seas are not merely tideless
and beat no shores, but frozen cleave with frozen roots to their gulfy
basin. All things are on the steep-sloping path to final evanishment,
uncreation, non-existence. He is filled with horror--not so much of the
dreary end, as at the weary hopelessness of the path thitherward. Then a
dim light breaks upon him, and with it a faint hope revives, for he
seems to see in all the forms of life, innumerably varied, a spirit
rushing upward from death--a something in escape from the terror of the
downward cataract, of the rest that knows not peace. "Is it not," he
asks, "the soaring of the silver dove of life from its potsherd-bed--the
heavenward flight of some higher and incorruptible thing? Is not
vitality, revealed in growth, itself an unending resurrection?"

The vision also of the oneness of the universe, ever reappearing through
the vapours of question, helps to keep hope alive in him. To find, for
instance, the law of the relation of the arrangements of the leaves on
differing plants, correspond to the law of the relative distances of the
planets in approach to their central sun, wakes in him that hope of a
central Will, which alone can justify one ecstatic throb at any seeming
loveliness of the universe. For without the hope of such a centre,
delight is unreason--a mockery not such as the skeleton at the Egyptian
feast, but such rather as a crowned corpse at a feast of skeletons. Life
without the higher glory of the unspeakable, the atmosphere of a God, is
not life, is not worth living. He would rather cease to be, than walk
the dull level of the commonplace--than live the unideal of men in whose
company he can take no pleasure--men who are as of a lower race, whom he
fain would lift, who will not rise, but for whom as for himself he would
cherish the hope they do their best to kill. Those who seem to him
great, recognize the unseen--believe the roots of science to be therein
hid--regard the bringing forth into sight of the things that are
invisible as the end of all Art and every art--judge the true leader of
men to be him who leads them closer to the essential facts of their
being. Alas for his love and his hope, alas for himself, if the visible
should exist for its own sake only!--if the face of a flower means
nothing--appeals to no region beyond the scope of the science that would
unveil its growth. He cannot believe that its structure exists for the
sake of its laws; that would be to build for the sake of its joints a
scaffold where no house was to stand. Those who put their faith in
Science are trying to live in the scaffold of the house invisible.

He finds harbour and comfort at times in the written poetry of his
fellows. He delights in analyzing and grasping the thought that informs
the utterance. For a moment, the fine figure, the delicate phrase, make
him jubilant and strong; but the jubilation and the strength soon pass,
for it is not any of the _forms_, even of the thought-forms of truth
that can give rest to his soul.

History attracts him little, for he is not able to discover by its
records the operation of principles yielding hope for his race. Such
there may be, but he does not find them. What hope for the rising wave
that knows in its rise only its doom to sink, and at length be dashed on
the low shore of annihilation?

But the time would fail me to follow the doubling of the soul coursed by
the hounds of Death, or to set down the forms innumerable in which the
golden Haemony springs in its path,

                             Of sovran use
  'Gainst all enchantments, mildew blast, or damp.

And now the shadows are beginning to lengthen towards the night, which,
whether there be a following morn or no, is the night, and spreads out
the wings of darkness. And still as it approaches the more aware grows
the man of a want that differs from any feeling I have already sought to
describe--a sense of insecurity, in no wise the same as the doubt of
life beyond the grave--a need more profound even than that which cries
for a living Nature. And now he plainly knows, that, all his life, like
a conscious duty unfulfilled, this sense has haunted his path, ever and
anon descending and clinging, a cold mist, about his heart. What if this
lack was indeed the root of every other anxiety! Now freshly revived,
this sense of not having, of something, he knows not what, for lack of
which his being is in pain at its own incompleteness, never leaves him
more. And with it the terror has returned and grows, lest there should
be no Unseen Power, as his fathers believed, and his mother taught him,
filling all things and _meaning_ all things,--no Power with whom, in his
last extremity, awaits him a final refuge. With the quickening doubt
falls a tenfold blight on the world of poetry, both that in Nature and
that in books. Far worse than that early chill which the assertions of
science concerning what it knows, cast upon his inexperienced soul, is
now the shivering death which its pretended denials concerning what it
knows not, send through all his vital frame. The soul departs from the
face of beauty, when the eye begins to doubt if there be any soul behind
it; and now the man feels like one I knew, affected with a strange
disease, who saw in the living face always the face of a corpse. What
can the world be to him who lives for thought, if there be no supreme
and perfect Thought,--none but such poor struggles after thought as he
finds in himself? Take the eternal thought from the heart of things, no
longer can any beauty be real, no more can shape, motion, aspect of
nature have significance in itself, or sympathy with human soul. At best
and most the beauty he thought he saw was but the projected perfection
of his own being, and from himself as the crown and summit of things,
the soul of the man shrinks with horror: it is the more imperfect being
who knows the least his incompleteness, and for whom, seeing so little
beyond himself, it is easiest to imagine himself the heart and apex of
things, and rejoice in the fancy. The killing power of a godless science
returns upon him with tenfold force. The ocean-tempest is once more a
mere clashing of innumerable water-drops; the green and amber sadness of
the evening sky is a mockery of sorrow; his own soul and its sadness is
a mockery of himself. There is nothing in the sadness, nothing in the
mockery. To tell him as comfort, that in his own thought lives the
meaning if nowhere else, is mockery worst of all; for if there be no
truth in them, if these things be no embodiment, to make them serve as
such is to put a candle in a death's-head to light the dying through the
place of tombs. To his former foolish fancy a primrose might preach a
childlike trust; the untoiling lilies might from their field cast seeds
of a higher growth into his troubled heart; now they are no better than
the colour the painter leaves behind him on the doorpost of his
workshop, when, the day's labour over, he wipes his brush on it ere he
depart for the night. The look in the eyes of his dog, happy in that he
is short-lived, is one of infinite sadness. All graciousness must
henceforth be a sorrow: it has to go with the sunsets. That a thing must
cease takes from it the joy of even an aeonian endurance--for its _kind_
is mortal; it belongs to the nature of things that cannot live. The
sorrow is not so much that it shall perish as that it could not
live--that it is not in its nature a real, that is, an eternal thing.
His children are shadows--their life a dance, a sickness, a corruption.
The very element of unselfishness, which, however feeble and beclouded
it may be, yet exists in all love, in giving life its only dignity adds
to its sorrow. Nowhere at the root of things is love--it is only a
something that came after, some sort of fungous excrescence in the
hearts of men grown helplessly superior to their origin. Law, nothing
but cold, impassive, material law, is the root of things--lifeless
happily, so not knowing itself, else were it a demon instead of a
creative nothing. Endeavour is paralyzed in him. "Work for posterity,"
says he of the skyless philosophy; answers the man, "How can I work
without hope? Little heart have I to labour, where labour is so little
help. What can I do for my children that would render their life less
hopeless than my own! Give me all you would secure for them, and my life
would be to me but the worse mockery. The true end of labour would be,
to lessen the number doomed to breathe the breath of this despair."

Straightway he developes another and a deeper mood. He turns and regards
himself. Suspicion or sudden insight has directed the look. And there,
in himself, he discovers such imperfection, such wrong, such shame, such
weakness, as cause him to cry out, "It were well I should cease! Why
should I mourn after life? Where were the good of prolonging it in a
being like me? 'What should such fellows as I do crawling between heaven
and earth!'" Such insights, when they come, the seers do their best, in
general, to obscure; suspicion of themselves they regard as a monster,
and would stifle. They resent the waking of such doubt. Any attempt at
the raising in them of their buried best they regard as an offence
against intercourse. A man takes his social life in his hand who dares
it. Few therefore understand the judgment of Hamlet upon himself; the
common reader is so incapable of imagining he could mean it of his own
general character as a man, that he attributes the utterance to shame
for the postponement of a vengeance, which indeed he must have been such
as his critic to be capable of performing upon no better proof than he
had yet had. When the man whose unfolding I would now represent, regards
even his dearest love, he finds it such a poor, selfish, low-lived
thing, that in his heart he shames himself before his children and his
friends. How little labour, how little watching, how little pain has he
endured for their sakes! He reads of great things in this kind, but in
himself he does not find them. How often has he not been wrongfully
displeased--wrathful with the innocent! How often has he not hurt a
heart more tender than his own! Has he ever once been faithful to the
height of his ideal? Is his life on the whole a thing to regard with
complacency, or to be troubled exceedingly concerning? Beyond him rise
and spread infinite seeming possibilities--height beyond height, glory
beyond glory, each rooted in and rising from his conscious being, but
alas! where is any hope of ascending them? These hills of peace, "in a
season of calm weather," seem to surround and infold him, as a land in
which he could dwell at ease and at home: surely among them lies the
place of his birth!--while against their purity and grandeur the being
of his consciousness shows miserable--dark, weak, and undefined--a
shadow that would fain be substance--a dream that would gladly be born
into the light of reality. But alas if the whole thing be only in
himself--if the vision be a dream of nothing, a revelation of lies, the
outcome of that which, helplessly existent, is yet not created,
therefore cannot create--if not the whole thing only be a dream of the
impotent, but the impotent be himself but a dream--a dream of his own--a
self-dreamed dream--with no master of dreams to whom to cry! Where then
the cherished hope of one day atoning for his wrongs to those who loved
him!--they are nowhere--vanished for ever, upmingled and dissolved in
the primeval darkness! If truth be but the hollow of a sphere, ah, never
shall he cast himself before them, to tell them that now at last, after
long years of revealing separation, he knows himself and them, and that
now the love of them is a part of his very being--to implore their
forgiveness on the ground that he hates, despises, contemns, and scorns
the self that showed them less than absolute love and devotion! Never
thus shall he lay his being bare to their eyes of love! They do not even
rest, for they do not and will not know it. There is no voice nor
hearing in them, and how can there be in him any heart to live! The one
comfort left him is, that, unable to follow them, he shall yet die and
cease, and fare as they--go also nowhither!

To a man under the dismay of existence dissociated from power, unrooted
in, unshadowed by a creating Will, who is Love, the Father of Man--to
him who knows not being and God together, the idea of death--a death
that knows no reviving, must be, and ought to be the blessedest thought
left him. "O land of shadows!" well may such a one cry! "land where the
shadows love to ecstatic self-loss, yet forget, and love no more! land
of sorrows and despairs, that sink the soul into a deeper Tophet than
death has ever sounded! broken kaleidoscope! shaken camera! promiser,
speaking truth to the ear, but lying to the sense! land where the heart
of my friend is sorrowful as my heart--the more sorrowful that I have
been but a poor and far-off friend! land where sin is strong and
righteousness faint! where love dreams mightily and walks abroad so
feeble! land where the face of my father is dust, and the hand of my
mother will never more caress! where my children will spend a few years
of like trouble to mine, and then drop from the dream into the no-dream!
gladly, O land of sickliest shadows--gladly, that is, with what power of
gladness is in me, I take my leave of thee! Welcome the cold,
pain-soothing embrace of immortal Death! Hideous are his looks, but I
love him better than Life: he is true, and will not deceive us. Nay, he
only is our saviour, setting us free from the tyranny of the false that
ought to be true, and sets us longing in vain."

But through all the man's doubts, fears, and perplexities, a certain
whisper, say rather, an uncertain rumour, a vague legendary murmur, has
been at the same time about, rather than in, his ears--never ceasing to
haunt his air, although hitherto he has hardly heeded it. He knows it
has come down the ages, and that some in every age have been more or
less influenced by a varied acceptance of it. Upon those, however, with
whom he has chiefly associated, it has made no impression beyond that of
a remarkable legend. It is the story of a man, represented as at least
greater, stronger, and better than any other man. With the hero of this
tale he has had a constantly recurring, though altogether undefined
suspicion that he has something to do. It is strongest, though not even
then strong, at such times when he is most aware of evil and
imperfection in himself. Betwixt the two, the idea of this man and his
knowledge of himself, seems to lie, dim-shadowy, some imperative duty.
He knows that the whole matter concerning the man is commemorated in
many of the oldest institutions of his country, but up to this time he
has shrunk from the demands which, by a kind of spiritual insight, he
foresaw would follow, were he once to admit certain things to be true.
He has, however, known some and read of more who by their faith in the
man conquered all anxiety, doubt, and fear, lived pure, and died in
gladsome hope. On the other hand, it seems to him that the faith which
was once easy has now become almost an impossibility. And what is it he
is called upon to believe? One says one thing, another another. Much
that is asserted is simply unworthy of belief, and the foundation of the
whole has in his eyes something of the look of a cunningly devised
fable. Even should it be true, it cannot help him, he thinks, for it
does not even touch the things that make his woe: the God the tale
presents is not the being whose very existence can alone be his cure.

But he meets one who says to him, "Have you then come to your time of
life, and not yet ceased to accept hearsay as ground of action--for
there is action in abstaining as well as in doing? Suppose the man in
question to have taken all possible pains to be understood, does it
follow of necessity that he is now or ever was fairly represented by the
bulk of his followers? With such a moral distance between him and them,
is it possible?"

"But the whole thing has from first to last a strange aspect!" our
thinker replies.

"As to the _last_ that is not yet come. And as to its _aspect_, its
reality must be such as human eye could never convey to reading heart.
Every human idea of it _must_ be more or less wrong. And yet perhaps the
truer the aspect the stranger it would be. But is it not just with
ordinary things you are dissatisfied? And should not therefore the very
strangeness of these to you little better than rumours incline you to
examine the object of them? Will you assert that nothing strange can
have to do with human affairs? Much that was once scarce credible is now
so ordinary that men have grown stupid to the wonder inherent in it.
Nothing around you serves your need: try what is at least of another
class of phenomena. What if the things rumoured belong to a _more_
natural order than these, lie nearer the roots of your dissatisfied
existence, and look strange only because you have hitherto been living
in the outer court, not in the _penetralia_ of life? The rumour has been
vital enough to float down the ages, emerging from every storm: why not
see for yourself what may be in it? So powerful an influence on human
history, surely there will be found in it signs by which to determine
whether the man understood himself and his message, or owed his apparent
greatness to the deluded worship of his followers! That he has always
had foolish followers none will deny, and none but a fool would judge
any leader from such a fact. Wisdom as well as folly will serve a fool's
purpose; he turns all into folly. I say nothing now of my own
conclusions, because what you imagine my opinions are as hateful to me
as to you disagreeable and foolish."

So says the friend; the man hears, takes up the old story, and says to
himself, "Let me see then what I can see!"

I will not follow him through the many shadows and slow dawns by which
at length he arrives at this much: A man claiming to be the Son of God
says he has come to be the light of men; says, "Come to me, and I will
give you rest;" says, "Follow me, and you shall find my Father; to know
him is the one thing you cannot do without, for it is eternal life." He
has learned from the reported words of the man, and from the man himself
as in the tale presented, that the bliss of his conscious being is his
Father; that his one delight is to do the will of that Father--the only
thing in his eyes worthy of being done, or worth having done; that he
would make men blessed with his own blessedness; that the cry of
creation, the cry of humanity shall be answered into the deepest soul of
desire; that less than the divine mode of existence, the godlike way of
being, can satisfy no man, that is, make him content with his
consciousness; that not this world only, but the whole universe is the
inheritance of those who consent to be the children of their Father in
heaven, who put forth the power of their will to be of the same sort as
he; that to as many as receive him he gives power to become the sons of
God; that they shall be partakers of the divine nature, of the divine
joy, of the divine power--shall have whatever they desire, shall know no
fear, shall love perfectly, and shall never die; that these things are
beyond the grasp of the knowing ones of the world, and to them the
message will be a scorn; but that the time will come when its truth
shall be apparent, to some in confusion of face, to others in joy
unspeakable; only that we must beware of judging, for many that are
first shall be last, and there are last that shall be first.

To find himself in such conscious as well as vital relation with the
source of his being, with a Will by which his own will exists, with a
Consciousness by and through which he is conscious, would indeed be the
end of all the man's ills! nor can he imagine any other, not to say
better way, in which his sorrows could be met, understood and
annihilated. For the ills that oppress him are both within him and
without, and over each kind he is powerless. If the message were but a
true one! If indeed this man knew what he talked of! But if there should
be help for man from anywhere beyond him, some _one_ might know it
first, and may not this be the one? And if the message be so great, so
perfect as this man asserts, then only a perfect, an eternal man, at
home in the bosom of the Father, could know, or bring, or tell it.
According to the tale, it had been from the first the intent of the
Father to reveal himself to man as man, for without the knowledge of the
Father after man's own modes of being, he could not grow to real
manhood. The grander the whole idea, the more likely is it to be what it
claims to be! and if not high as the heavens above the earth, beyond us
yet within our reach, it is not for us, it cannot be true. Fact or not,
the existence of a God such as Christ, a God who is a good man
infinitely, is the only idea containing hope enough for man! If such a
God has come to be known, marvel must surround the first news at least
of the revelation of him. Because of its marvel, shall men find it in
reason to turn from the gracious rumour of what, if it be true, must be
the event of all events? And could marvel be lovelier than the marvel
reported? But the humble men of heart alone can believe in the
high--they alone can perceive, they alone can embrace grandeur. Humility
is essential greatness, the inside of grandeur.

Something of such truths the man glimmeringly sees. But in his mind
awake, thereupon, endless doubts and questions. What if the whole idea
of his mission was a deception born of the very goodness of the man?
What if the whole matter was the invention of men pretending themselves
the followers of such a man? What if it was a little truth greatly
exaggerated? Only, be it what it may, less than its full idea would not
be enough for the wants and sorrows that weaken and weigh him down!

He passes through many a thorny thicket of inquiry; gathers evidence
upon evidence; reasons upon the goodness of the men who wrote: they
might be deceived, but they dared not invent; holds with himself a
thousand arguments, historical, psychical, metaphysical--which for their
setting-forth would require volumes; hears many an opposing, many a
scoffing word from men "who surely know, else would they speak?" and
finds himself much where he was before. But at least he is haunting the
possible borders of discovery, while those who turn their backs upon the
idea are divided from him by a great gulf--it may be of moral
difference. To him there is still a grand auroral hope about the idea,
and it still draws him; the others, taking the thing from merest report
of opinion, look anywhere but thitherward. He who would not trust his
best friend to set forth his views of life, accepts the random
judgements of unknown others for a sufficing disposal of what the
highest of the race have regarded as a veritable revelation from the
Father of men. He sees in it therefore nothing but folly; for what he
takes for the thing nowhere meets his nature. Our searcher at least
holds open the door for the hearing of what voice may come to him from
the region invisible: if there be truth there, he is where it will find

As he continues to read and reflect, the perception gradually grows
clear in him, that, if there be truth in the matter, he must, first of
all, and beyond all things else, give his best heed to the reported
words of the man himself--to what he says, not what is said about him,
valuable as that may afterwards prove to be. And he finds that
concerning these words of his, the man says, or at least plainly
implies, that only the obedient, childlike soul can understand them. It
follows that the judgement of no man who does not obey can be received
concerning them or the speaker of them--that, for instance, a man who
hates his enemy, who tells lies, who thinks to serve God and Mammon,
whether he call himself a Christian or no, has not the right of an
opinion concerning the Master or his words--at least in the eyes of the
Master, however it may be in his own. This is in the very nature of
things: obedience alone places a man in the position in which he can see
so as to judge that which is above him. In respect of great truths
investigation goes for little, speculation for nothing; if a man would
know them, he must obey them. Their nature is such that the only door
into them is obedience. And the truth-seeker perceives--which allows
him no loophole of escape from life--that what things the Son of Man
requires of him, are either such as his conscience backs for just, or
such as seem too great, too high for any man. But if there be help for
him, it must be a help that recognizes the highest in him, and urges him
to its use. Help cannot come to one made in the image of God, save in
the obedient effort of what life and power are in him, for God is
action. In such effort alone is it possible for need to encounter help.
It is the upstretched that meets the downstretched hand. He alone who
obeys can with confidence pray--to him alone does an answer seem a thing
that may come. And should anything spoken by the Son of Man seem to the
seeker unreasonable, he feels in the rest such a majesty of duty as
compels him to judge with regard to the other, that he has not yet
perceived its true nature, or its true relation to life.

And now comes the crisis: if here the man sets himself honestly to do
the thing the Son of Man tells him, he so, and so first, sets out
positively upon the path which, if there be truth in these things, will
conduct him to a knowledge of the whole matter; not until then is he a
disciple. If the message be a true one, the condition of the knowledge
of its truth is not only reasonable but an unavoidable necessity. If
there be help for him, how otherways should it draw nigh? He has to be
assured of the highest truth of his being: there can be no other
assurance than that to be gained thus, and thus alone; for not only by
obedience does a man come into such contact with truth as to know what
it is, and in regard to truth knowledge and belief are one. That things
which cannot appear save to the eye capable of seeing them, that things
which cannot be recognized save by the mind of a certain development,
should be examined by eye incapable, and pronounced upon by mind
undeveloped, is absurd. The deliverance the message offers is a change
such that the man shall _be_ the rightness of which he talked: while his
soul is not a hungered, athirst, aglow, a groaning after
righteousness--that is, longing to be himself honest and upright, it is
an absurdity that he should judge concerning the way to this rightness,
seeing that, while he walks not in it, he is and shall be a dishonest
man: he knows not whither it leads and how can he know the way! What he
_can_ judge of is, his duty at a given moment--and that not in the
abstract, but as something to be by him _done_, neither more, nor less,
nor other than _done_. Thus judging and doing, he makes the only
possible step nearer to righteousness and righteous judgement; doing
otherwise, he becomes the more unrighteous, the more blind. For the man
who knows not God, whether he believes there is a God or not, there can
be, I repeat, no judgement of things pertaining to God. To our supposed
searcher, then, the crowning word of the Son of Man is this, "If any man
is willing to do the will of the Father, he shall know of the doctrine,
whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

Having thus accompanied my type to the borders of liberty, my task for
the present is over. The rest let him who reads prove for himself.
Obedience alone can convince. To convince without obedience I would take
no bootless labour; it would be but a gain for hell. If any man call
these things foolishness, his judgement is to me insignificant. If any
man say he is open to conviction, I answer him he can have none but on
the condition, by the means of obedience. If a man say, "The thing is
not interesting to me," I ask him, "Are you following your conscience?
By that, and not by the interest you take or do not take in a thing,
shall you be judged. Nor will anything be said to you, or of you, in
that day, whatever _that day_ mean, of which your conscience will not
echo every syllable."

Oneness with God is the sole truth of humanity. Life parted from its
causative life would be no life; it would at best be but a barrack of
corruption, an outpost of annihilation. In proportion as the union is
incomplete, the derived life is imperfect. And no man can be one with
neighbour, child, dearest, except as he is one with his origin; and he
fails of his perfection so long as there is one being in the universe he
could not love.

Of all men he is bound to hold his face like a flint in witness of this
truth who owes everything that makes for eternal good, to the belief
that at the heart of things and causing them to be, at the centre of
monad, of world, of protoplastic mass, of loving dog, and of man most
cruel, is an absolute, perfect love; and that in the man Christ Jesus
this love is with us men to take us home. To nothing else do I for one
owe any grasp upon life. In this I see the setting right of all things.
To the man who believes in the Son of God, poetry returns in a mighty
wave; history unrolls itself in harmony; science shows crowned with its
own aureole of holiness. There is no enlivener of the imagination, no
enabler of the judgment, no strengthener of the intellect, to compare
with the belief in a live Ideal, at the heart of all personality, as of
every law. If there be no such live Ideal, then a falsehood can do more
for the race than the facts of its being; then an unreality is needful
for the development of the man in all that is real, in all that is in
the highest sense true; then falsehood is greater than fact, and an idol
necessary for lack of a God. They who deny cannot, in the nature of
things, know what they deny. When one sees a chaos begin to put on the
shape of an ordered world, he will hardly be persuaded it is by the
power of a foolish notion bred in a diseased fancy.

Let the man then who would rise to the height of his being, be persuaded
to test the Truth by the deed--the highest and only test that can be
applied to the loftiest of all assertions. To every man I say, "Do the
truth you know, and you shall learn the truth you need to know."


[Footnote: 1864.]

All England knows that this year (1864) is the three hundredth since
Shakspere was born. The strong probability is likewise that this month
of April is that in which he first saw the earthly light. On the
twenty-sixth of April he was baptized. Whether he was born on the
twenty-third, to which effect there may once have been a tradition, we
do not know; but though there is nothing to corroborate that statement,
there are two facts which would incline us to believe it if we could:
the one that he _died_ on the twenty-third of April, thus, as it were,
completing a cycle; and the other that the twenty-third of April is St.
George's Day. If there is no harm in indulging in a little fanciful
sentiment about such a grand fact, we should say that certainly it was
_St. George for merry England_ when Shakspere was born. But had St.
George been the best saint in the calendar--which we have little enough
ground for supposing he was--it would better suit our subject to say
that the Highest was thinking of his England when he sent Shakspere into
it, to be a strength, a wonder, and a gladness to the nations of his

But if we write thus about Shakspere, influenced only by the fashion of
the day, we shall be much in the condition of those _fashionable_
architects who with their vain praises built the tombs of the prophets,
while they had no regard to the lessons they taught. We hope to be able
to show that we have good grounds for our rejoicing in the birth of that
child whom after-years placed highest on the rocky steep of Art, up
which so many of those who combine feeling and thought are always

First, however, let us look at some of the more powerful of the
influences into the midst of which he was born. For a child is born into
the womb of the time, which indeed enclosed and fed him before he was
born. Not the least subtle and potent of those influences which tend to
the education of the child (in the true sense of the word _education_)
are those which are brought to bear upon him _through_ the mind, heart,
judgement of his parents. We mean that those powers which have operated
strongly upon them, have a certain concentrated operation, both
antenatal and psychological, as well as educational and spiritual, upon
the child. Now Shakspere was born in the sixth year of Queen Elizabeth.
He was the eldest son, but the third child. His father and mother must
have been married not later than the year 1557, two years after Cranmer
was burned at the stake, one of the two hundred who thus perished in
that time of pain, resulting in the firm establishment of a reformation
which, like all other changes for the better, could not be verified and
secured without some form or other of the _trial by fire_. Events such
as then took place in every part of the country could not fail to make a
strong impression upon all thinking people, especially as it was not
those of high position only who were thus called upon to bear witness to
their beliefs. John Shakspere and Mary Arden were in all likelihood
themselves of the Protestant party; and although, as far as we know,
they were never in any especial danger of being denounced, the whole of
the circumstances must have tended to produce in them individually, what
seems to have been characteristic of the age in which they lived,
earnestness. In times such as those, people are compelled to think.

And here an interesting question occurs: Was it in part to his mother
that Shakspere was indebted for that profound knowledge of the Bible
which is so evident in his writings? A good many copies of the
Scriptures must have been by this time, in one translation or another,
scattered over the country. [Footnote: And it seems to us probable that
this diffusion of the Bible, did more to rouse the slumbering literary
power of England, than any influences of foreign literature whatever.]
No doubt the word was precious in those days, and hard to buy; but there
might have been a copy, notwithstanding, in the house of John Shakspere,
and it is possible that it was from his mother's lips that the boy first
heard the Scripture tales. We have called his acquaintance with
Scripture _profound_, and one peculiar way in which it manifests itself
will bear out the assertion; for frequently it is the very spirit and
essential aroma of the passage that he reproduces, without making any
use of the words themselves. There are passages in his writings which we
could not have understood but for some acquaintance with the New
Testament. We will produce a few specimens of the kind we mean,
confining ourselves to one play, "Macbeth."

Just mentioning the phrase, "temple-haunting martlet" (act i. scene 6),
as including in it a reference to the verse, "Yea, the sparrow hath
found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay
her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts," we pass to the following
passage, for which we do not believe there is any explanation but that
suggested to us by the passage of Scripture to be cited.

Macbeth, on his way to murder Duncan, says,--

                  "Thou sure and firm-set earth,
  Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
  Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
  And take the present horror from the time
  Which now suits with it."

What is meant by the last two lines? It seems to us to be just another
form of the words, "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be
revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye
have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye
have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the
house-tops." Of course we do not mean that Macbeth is represented as
having this passage in his mind, but that Shakspere had the feeling of
it when he wrote thus. What Macbeth means is, "Earth, do not hear me in
the dark, which is suitable to the present horror, lest the very stones
prate about it in the daylight, which is not suitable to such things;
thus taking 'the present horror _from_ the time which now suits with

Again, in the only piece of humour in the play--if that should be called
humour which, taken in its relation to the consciousness of the
principal characters, is as terrible as anything in the piece--the
porter ends off his fantastic soliloquy, in which he personates the
porter of hell-gate, with the words, "But this place is too cold for
hell: I'll devil-porter it no further. I had thought to have let in some
of all professions, that go the primrose way to the everlasting
bonfire." Now what else had the writer in his mind but the verse from
the Sermon on the Mount, "For wide is the gate, and broad is the way,
that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat"?

It may be objected that such passages as these, being of the most
commonly quoted, imply no profound acquaintance with Scripture, such as
we have said Shakspere possessed. But no amount of knowledge of the
_words_ of the Bible would be sufficient to justify the use of the word
_profound_. What is remarkable in the employment of these passages, is
not merely that they are so present to his mind that they come up for
use in the most exciting moments of composition, but that he embodies
the spirit of them in such a new form as reveals to minds saturated and
deadened with the _sound_ of the words, the very visual image and
spiritual meaning involved in them. "_The primrose way!_" And to what?

We will confine ourselves to one passage more:--

  Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above
  Put on their instruments."

In the end of the 14th chapter of the Revelation we have the words,
"Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap;
for the harvest of the earth is ripe." We suspect that Shakspere wrote,
ripe _to_ shaking.

The instances to which we have confined ourselves do not by any means
belong to the most evident kind of proof that might be adduced of
Shakspere's acquaintance with Scripture. The subject, in its ordinary
aspect, has been elsewhere treated with far more fulness than our design
would permit us to indulge in, even if it had not been done already. Our
object has been to bring forward a few passages which seem to us to
breathe the very spirit of individual passages in sacred writ, without
direct use of the words themselves; and, of course, in such a case we
can only appeal to the (no doubt) very various degrees of conviction
which they may rouse in the minds of our readers.

But there is one singular correspondence in another _almost_ literal
quotation from the Gospel, which is to us wonderfully interesting. We
are told that the words "eye of a needle," in the passage about a rich
man entering the kingdom of heaven, mean the small side entrance in a
city gate. Now, in "Richard II," act v. scene 5, _Richard_ quotes the
passage thus:--

  "It is as hard to come as for a camel
  To thread the postern of a needle's eye;"

showing that either the imagination of Shakspere suggested the real
explanation, or he had taken pains to acquaint himself with the
significance of the simile. We can hardly say that the correspondence
might be _merely_ fortuitous; because, at the least, Shakspere looked
for and found a suitable figure to associate with the words _eye of a
needle_, and so fell upon the real explanation; except, indeed, he had
no particular significance in using the word that meant a _little_ gate,
instead of a word meaning any kind of entrance, which, with him, seems

We have not by any means proven that Shakspere's acquaintance with the
Scriptures had an early date in his history; but certainly the Bible
must have had a great influence upon him who was the highest
representative mind of the time, its influence on the general
development of the nation being unquestionable. This, therefore, seeing
the Bible itself was just dawning full upon the country while Shakspere
was becoming capable of understanding it, seems the suitable sequence in
which to take notice of that influence, and of some of those passages in
his works which testify to it.

But, besides _the_ Bible, every nation has _a_ Bible, or at least _an_
Old Testament, in its own history; and that Shakspere paid especial
attention to this, is no matter of conjecture. We suspect his mode of
writing historical plays is more after the fashion of the Bible
histories than that of most writers of history. Indeed, the development
and consequences of character and conduct are clear to those that read
his histories with open eyes. Now, in his childhood Shakspere may have
had some special incentive to the study of history springing out of the
fact that his mother's grandfather had been "groom of the chamber to
Henry VII.," while there is sufficient testimony that a further removed
ancestor of his father, as well, had stood high in the favour of the
same monarch. Therefore the history of the troublous times of the
preceding century, which were brought to a close by the usurpation of
Henry VII., would naturally be a subject of talk in the quiet household,
where books and amusements such as now occupy our boys, were scarce or
wanting altogether. The proximity of such a past of strife and
commotion, crowded with eventful change, must have formed a background
full of the material of excitement to an age which lived in the midst of
a peculiarly exciting history of its own.

Perhaps the chief intellectual characteristic of the age of Elizabeth
was _activity_; this activity accounting even for much that is
objectionable in its literature. Now this activity must have been
growing in the people throughout the fifteenth century; the wars of the
Roses, although they stifled literature, so that it had, as it were, to
be born again in the beginning of the following century, being, after
all, but as the "eager strife" of the shadow-leaves above the "genuine
life" of the grass,--

         "And the mute repose
  Of sweetly breathing flowers."

But when peace had fallen on the land, it would seem as if the impulse
to action springing from strife still operated, as the waves will go on
raving upon the shore after the wind has ceased, and found one outlet,
amongst others, in literature, and peculiarly in dramatic literature.
Peace, rendered yet more intense by the cessation of the cries of the
tormentors, and the groans of the noble army of suffering martyrs, made,
as it were, a kind of vacuum; and into that vacuum burst up the
torrent-springs of a thousand souls--the thoughts that were no longer
repressed--in the history of the past and the Utopian speculation on the
future; in noble theology, capable statesmanship, and science at once
brilliant and profound; in the voyage of discovery, and the change of
the swan-like merchantman into a very fire-drake of war for the defence
of the threatened shores; in the first brave speech of the Puritan in
Elizabeth's Parliament, the first murmurs of the voice of liberty, soon
to thunder throughout the land; in the naturalizing of foreign genius by
translation, and the invention, or at least adoption, of a new and
transcendent rhythm; in the song, in the epic, in the drama.

So much for the general. Let us now, following the course of his life,
recall, in a few sentences, some of the chief events which must have
impressed the all-open mind of Shakspere in the earlier portion of his

Perhaps it would not be going back too far to begin with the Massacre of
Paris, which took place when he was eight years old. It caused so much
horror in England, that it is not absurd to suppose that some black rays
from the deed of darkness may have fallen on the mind of such a child as

In strong contrast with the foregoing is the next event to which we
shall refer.

When he was eleven years old, Leicester gave the Queen that magnificent
reception at Kenilworth which is so well known from its memorials in our
literature. It has been suggested as probable, with quite enough of
likelihood to justify a conjecture, that Shakspere may have been present
at the dramatic representations then so gorgeously accumulated before
her Majesty. If such was the fact, it is easy to imagine what an
influence the shows must have had on the mind of the young dramatic
genius, at a time when, happily, the critical faculty is not by any
means so fully awake as are the receptive and exultant faculties, and
when what the nature chiefly needs is excitement to growth, without
which all pruning, the most artistic, is useless, as having nothing to
operate upon.

When he was fifteen years old, Sir Thomas North's translation of
Plutarch (through the French) was first published. Any reader who has
compared one of Shakspere's Roman plays with the corresponding life in
Plutarch, will not be surprised that we should mention this as one of
those events which must have been of paramount influence upon Shakspere.
It is not likely that he became acquainted with the large folio with its
medallion portraits first placed singly, and then repeated side by side
for comparison, as soon as it made its appearance, but as we cannot tell
when he began to read it, it seems as well to place it in the order its
publication would assign to it. Besides, it evidently took such a hold
of the man, that it is most probable his acquaintance with it began at a
very early period of his history. Indeed, it seems to us to have been
one of the most powerful aids to the development of that perception and
discrimination of character with which he was gifted to such a
remarkable degree. Nor would it be any derogation from the originality
of his genius to say, that in a very pregnant sense he must have been a
disciple of Plutarch. In those plays founded on Plutarch's stories he
picked out every dramatic point, and occasionally employed the very
phrases of North's nervous, graphic, and characteristic English. He
seems to have felt that it was an honour to his work to embody in it the
words of Plutarch himself, as he knew them first. From him he seems
especially to have learned how to bring out the points of a character,
by putting one man over against another, and remarking wherein they
resembled each other and wherein they differed; after which fashion, in
other plays as well as those, he partly arranged his dramatic

Not long after he went to London, when he was twenty-two, the death of
Sir Philip Sidney at the age of thirty-two, must have had its
unavoidable influence on him, seeing all Europe was in mourning for the
death of its model, almost ideal man. In England the general mourning,
both in the court and the city, which lasted for months, is supposed by
Dr. Zouch to have been the first instance of the kind; that is, for the
death of a private person. Renowned over the civilized world for
everything for which a man could be renowned, his literary fame must
have had a considerable share in the impression his death would make on
such a man as Shakspere. For although none of his works were published
till after his death, the first within a few months of that event, his
fame as a writer was widely spread in private, and report of the same
could hardly fail to reach one who, although he had probably no friends
of rank as yet, kept such keen open ears for all that was going on
around him. But whether or not he had heard of the literary greatness of
Sir Philip before his death, the "Arcadia," which was first published
four years after his death (1590), and which in eight years had reached
the third edition--with another still in Scotland the following
year--must have been full of interest to Shakspere. This book is very
different indeed from the ordinary impression of it which most minds
have received through the confident incapacity of the critics of last
century. Few books have been published more fruitful in the results and
causes of thought, more sparkling with fancy, more evidently the outcome
of rich and noble habit, than this "Arcadia" of Philip Sidney. That
Shakspere read it, is sufficiently evident from the fact that from it he
has taken the secondary but still important plots in two of his plays.

Although we are anticipating, it is better to mention here another book,
published in the same year, namely, 1590, when Shakspere was
six-and-twenty: the first three books of Spenser's "Faery Queen." Of its
reception and character it is needless here to say anything further
than, of the latter, that nowadays the depths of its teaching, heartily
prized as that was by no less a man than Milton, are seldom explored.
But it would be a labour of months to set out the known and imagined
sources of the knowledge and spiritual pabulum of the man who laid every
mental region so under contribution, that he has been claimed by almost
every profession as having been at one time or another a student of its
peculiar science, so marvellously in him was the power of assimilation
combined with that of reproduction.

To go back a little: in 1587, when he was three-and-twenty, Mary Queen
of Scots was executed. In the following year came that mighty victory of
England, and her allies the winds and the waters, over the towering
pride of the Spanish Armada. Out from the coasts, like the birds from
their cliffs to defend their young, flew the little navy, many of the
vessels only able to carry a few guns; and fighting, fire-ships and
tempest left this island,--

  "This precious stone set in the silver sea,"

still a "blessed plot," with an accumulated obligation to liberty which
can only be paid by helping others to be free; and when she utterly
forgets which, her doom is sealed, as surely as that of the old empires
which passed away in their self-indulgence and wickedness.

When Shakspere was about thirty-two, Sir Walter Raleigh published his
glowing account of Guiana, which instantly provided the English mind
with an earthly paradise or fairy-land. Raleigh himself seems to have
been too full of his own reports for us to be able to suppose that he
either invented or disbelieved them; especially when he represents the
heavenly country to which, in expectation of his execution, he is
looking forward, after the fashion of those regions of the wonderful

  "Then the blessed Paths wee'l travel,
  Strow'd with Rubies thick as gravel;
  Sealings of Diamonds, Saphire floors,
  High walls of Coral, and Pearly Bowers."

Such were some of the influences which widened the region of thought,
and excited the productive power, in the minds of the time. After this
period there were fewer of such in Shakspere's life; and if there had
been more of them they would have been of less import as to their
operation on a mind more fully formed and more capable of choosing its
own influences. Let us now give a backward glance at the history of the
art which Shakspere chose as the means of easing his own mind of that
wealth which, like the gold and the silver, has a moth and rust of its
own, except it be kept in use by being sent out for the good of our

It was a mighty gain for the language and the people when, in the middle
of the fourteenth century, by permission of the Pope, the miracle-plays,
most probably hitherto represented in Norman-French, as Mr. Collier
supposes, began to be represented in English. Most likely there had been
dramatic representations of a sort from the very earliest period of the
nation's history; for, to begin with the lowest form, at what time would
there not, for the delight of listeners, have been the imitation of
animal sounds, such as the drama of the conversation between an
attacking poodle and a fiercely repellent puss? Through innumerable
gradations of childhood would the art grow before it attained the first
formal embodiment in such plays as those, so-called, of miracles,
consisting just of Scripture stories, both canonical and apocryphal,
dramatized after the rudest fashion. Regarded from the height which the
art had reached two hundred and fifty years after, "how dwarfed a growth
of cold and night" do these miracle-plays show themselves! But at a time
when there was no printing, little preaching, and Latin prayers, we
cannot help thinking that, grotesque and ill-imagined as they are, they
must have been of unspeakable value for the instruction of a people
whose spiritual digestion was not of a sort to be injured by the
presence of a quite abnormal quantity of husk and saw-dust in their
food. And occasionally we find verses of true poetic feeling, such as
the following, in "The Fall of Man:"--

  _Deus._ Adam, that with myn handys I made,
        Where art thou now? What hast thou wrought?

  _Adam._ A! lord, for synne oure floures do ffade,
        I here thi voys, but I se the nought;

implying that the separation between God and man, although it had
destroyed the beatific vision, was not yet so complete as to make the
creature deaf to the voice of his Maker. Nor are the words of Eve, with
which she begs her husband, in her shame and remorse, to strangle her,
odd and quaint as they are, without an almost overpowering pathos:--

  "Now stomble we on stalk and ston;
  My wyt awey is fro me gon:
  Wrythe on to my necke bon
    With, hardnesse of thin honde."

To this Adam commences his reply with the verses,--

  "Wyff, thi wytt is not wurthe a rosche.
  Leve woman, turn thi thought."

And this portion of the general representation ends with these verses,
spoken by Eve:--

  "Alas! that ever we wrought this synne.
  Oure bodely sustenauns for to wynne,
  Ye must delve and I xal spynne,
    In care to ledyn oure lyff."

In connexion with these plays, one of the contemplations most
interesting to us is, the contrast between them and the places in which
they were occasionally represented. For though the scaffolds on which
they were shown were usually erected in market-places or churchyards,
sometimes they rose in the great churches, and the plays were
represented with the aid of ecclesiastics. Here, then, we have the rude
beginnings of the dramatic art, in which the devil is the unfortunate
buffoon, giving occasion to the most exuberant laughter of the
people--here is this rude boyhood, if we may so say, of the one art,
roofed in with the perfection of another, of architecture; a perfection
which now we can only imitate at our best: below, the clumsy contrivance
and the vulgar jest; above, the solemn heaven of uplifted arches, their
mysterious glooms ringing with the delight of the multitude: the play of
children enclosed in the heart of prayer aspiring in stone. But it was
not by any means all laughter; and so much, nearer than architecture is
the drama to the ordinary human heart, that we cannot help thinking
these grotesque representations did far more to arouse the inward life
and conscience of the people than all the glory into which the
out-working spirit of the monks had compelled the stubborn stone to
bourgeon and blossom.

But although, no doubt, there was some kind of growth going on in the
drama even during the dreary fifteenth century, we must not suppose that
it was by any regular and steady progression that it arrived at the
grandeur of the Elizabethan perfection. It was rather as if a dry,
knotty, uncouth, but vigorous plant suddenly opened out its inward life
in a flower of surpassing splendour and loveliness. When the
representation of real historical persons in the miracle-plays gave way
before the introduction of unreal allegorical personages, and the
miracle-play was almost driven from the stage by the "play of morals" as
it was called, there was certainly no great advance made in dramatic
representation. The chief advantage gained was room for more variety;
while in some important respects these plays fell off from the merits of
the preceding kind. Indeed, any attempt to teach morals allegorically
must lack that vivifying fire of faith working in the poorest
representations of a history which the people heartily believed and
loved. Nor when we come to examine the favourite amusement of later
royalty, do we find that the interludes brought forward in the pauses of
the banquets of Henry VIII. have a claim to any refinement upon those
old miracle-plays. They have gained in facility and wit; they have lost
in poetry. They have lost pathos too, and have gathered grossness. In
the comedies which soon appear, there is far more of fun than of art;
and although the historical play had existed for some time, and the
streams of learning from the inns of court had flowed in to swell that
of the drama, it is not before the appearance of Shakspere that we find
any _whole_ of artistic or poetic value. And this brings us to another
branch of the subject, of which it seems to us that the importance has
never been duly acknowledged. We refer to the use, if not invention, of
_blank verse_ in England, and its application to the purposes of the
drama. It seems to us that in any contemplation of Shakspere and his
times, the consideration of these points ought not to be omitted.

We have in the present day one grand master of blank verse, the Poet
Laureate. But where would he have been if Milton had not gone before
him; or if the verse amidst which he works like an informing spirit had
not existed at all? No doubt he might have invented it himself; but how
different would the result have been from the verse which he will now
leave behind him to lie side by side for comparison with that of the
master of the epic! All thanks then to Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey!
who, if, dying on the scaffold at the early age of thirty, he has left
no poetry in itself of much value, yet so wrote that he refined the
poetic usages of the language, and, above all, was the first who ever
made blank verse in English. He used it in translating the second and
fourth books of Virgil's "Aeneid." This translation he probably wrote
not long before his execution, which took place in 1547, seventeen years
before the birth of Shakspere. There are passages of excellence in the
work, and very rarely does a verse quite fail. But, as might be
expected, it is somewhat stiff, and, as it were, stunted in sound;
partly from the fact that the lines are too much divided, where
_distinction_ would have been sufficient. It would have been strange,
indeed, if he had at once made a free use of a rhythm which every
boy-poet now thinks he can do what he pleases with, but of which only a
few ever learn the real scope and capabilities. Besides, the difficulty
was increased by the fact that the nearest approach to it in measure was
the heroic couplet, so well known in our language, although scarce one
who has used it has come up to the variousness of its modelling in the
hands of Chaucer, with whose writings Surrey was of course familiar. But
various as is its melody in Chaucer, the fact of there being always an
anticipation of the perfecting of a rhyme at the end of the couplet
would make one accustomed to heroic verse ready to introduce a
rhythmical fall and kind of close at the end of every blank verse in
trying to write that measure for the first time. Still, as we say, there
is good verse in Surrey's translation. Take the following lines for a
specimen, in which the fault just mentioned is scarcely perceptible.
Mercury is the subject of them.

  "His golden wings he knits, which him transport,
  With a light wind above the earth and seas;
  And then with him his wand he took, whereby
  He calls from hell pale ghosts.
         *       *       *       *       *
  "By power whereof he drives the winds away,
  And passeth eke amid the troubled clouds,
  Till in his flight he 'gan descry the top
  And the steep flanks of rocky Atlas' hill
  That with his crown sustains the welkin up;
  Whose head, forgrown with pine, circled alway
  With misty clouds, is beaten with wind and storm;
  His shoulders spread with snow; and from his chin
  The springs descend; his beard frozen with ice.
  Here Mercury with equal shining wings
  First touched."

In all comparative criticism justice demands that he who began any mode
should not be compared with those who follow only on the ground of
absolute merit in the productions themselves; for while he may be
inferior in regard to quality, he stands on a height, as the inventor,
to which they, as imitators, can never ascend, although they may climb
other and loftier heights, through the example he has set them. It is
doubtful, however, whether Surrey himself invented this verse, or only
followed the lead of some poet of Italy or Spain; in both which
countries it is said that blank verse had been used before Surrey wrote
English in that measure.

Here then we have the low beginnings of blank verse. It was nearly a
hundred and twenty years before Milton took it up, and, while it served
him well, glorified it; nor are we aware of any poem of worth written in
that measure between. Here, of course, we speak of the epic form of the
verse, which, as being uttered _ore rotundo_, is necessarily of
considerable difference from the form it assumes in the drama.

Let us now glance for a moment at the forms of composition in use for
dramatic purposes before blank verse came into favour with play-writers.
The nature of the verse employed in the miracle-plays will be
sufficiently seen from the short specimens already given. These plays
were made up of carefully measured and varied lines, with correct and
superabundant rhymes, and no marked lack of melody or rhythm. But as far
as we have made acquaintance with the moral and other rhymed plays which
followed, there was a great falling off in these respects. They are in
great measure composed of long, irregular lines, with a kind of
rhythmical progress rather than rhythm in them. They are exceedingly
difficult to read musically, at least to one of our day. Here are a few
verses of the sort, from the dramatic poem, rather than drama, called
somewhat improperly "The Moral Play of God's Promises," by John Bale,
who died the year before Shakspere was born. It is the first in
Dodsley's collection. The verses have some poetic merit. The rhythm will
be allowed to be difficult at least. The verses are arranged in stanzas,
of which we give two. In most plays the verses are arranged in rhyming
couplets only.

  _Pater Coelestis._

  I have with fearcenesse mankynde oft tymes corrected,
  And agayne, I have allured hym by swete promes.
  I have sent sore plages, when he hath me neglected,
  And then by and by, most comfortable swetnes.
  To wynne hym to grace, bothe mercye and ryghteousnes
  I have exercysed, yet wyll he not amende.
  Shall I now lose hym, or shall I him defende?

  In hys most myschefe, most hygh grace will I sende,
  To overcome hym by favoure, if it may be.
  With hys abusyons no longar wyll I contende,
  But now accomplysh my first wyll and decre.
  My worde beynge flesh, from hens shall set hym fre,
  Hym teachynge a waye of perfyght ryhteousnesse,
  That he shall not nede to perysh in hys weaknesse.

To our ears, at least, the older miracle-plays were greatly superior. It
is interesting to find, however, in this apparently popular mode of
"building the rhyme"--certainly not the _lofty_ rhyme, for no such
crumbling foundation could carry any height of superstructure--the
elements of the most popular rhythm of the present day; a rhythm
admitting of any number of syllables in the line, from four up to
twelve, or even more, and demanding only that there shall be not more
than four accented syllables in the line. A song written with any spirit
in this measure has, other things _not_ being quite equal, yet almost a
certainty of becoming more popular than one written in any other
measure. Most of Barry Cornwall's and Mrs. Heman's songs are written in
it. Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel," Coleridge's "Christabel,"
Byron's "Siege of Corinth," Shelley's "Sensitive Plant," are examples of
the rhythm. Spenser is the first who has made good use of it. One of the
months in the "Shepherd's Calendar" is composed in it. We quote a few
lines from this poem, to show at once the kind we mean:--

  "No marvel, Thenot, if thou can bear
  Cheerfully the winter's wrathful cheer;
  For age and winter accord full nigh;
  This chill, that cold; this crooked, that wry;
  And as the lowering weather looks down,
  So seemest thou like Good Friday to frown:
  But my flowering youth is foe to frost;
  My ship unwont in storms to be tost."

We can trace it slightly in Sir Thomas Wyatt, and we think in others who
preceded Spenser. There is no sign of it in Chaucer. But we judge it to
be the essential rhythm of Anglo-Saxon poetry, which will quite
harmonize with, if it cannot explain, the fact of its being the most
popular measure still. Shakspere makes a little use of it in one, if not
in more, of his plays, though it there partakes of the irregular
character of that of the older plays which he is imitating. But we
suspect the clowns of the authorship of some of the rhymes, "speaking
more than was set down for them," evidently no uncommon offence.

Prose was likewise in use for the drama at an early period.

But we must now regard the application of blank verse to the use of the
drama. And in this part of our subject we owe most to the investigations
of Mr. Collier, than whom no one has done more to merit our gratitude
for such aids. It is universally acknowledged that "Ferrex and Porrex"
was the first drama in blank verse. But it was never represented on the
public stage. It was the joint production of Thomas Sackville,
afterwards Lord Buckhurst and Earl of Dorset, and Thomas Norton, both
gentlemen of the Inner Temple, by the members of which it was played
before the Queen at Whitehall in 1561, three years before Shakspere was
born. As to its merits, the impression left by it upon our minds is such
that, although the verse is decent, and in some respects irreproachable,
we think the time spent in reading it must be all but lost to any but
those who must verify to themselves their literary profession; a
profession which, like all other professions, involves a good deal of
disagreeable duty. We spare our readers all quotation, there being no
occasion to show what blank verse of the commonest description is. But
we beg to be allowed to state that this drama by no means represents the
poetic powers of Thomas Sackville. For although we cannot agree with
Hallam's general criticism, either for or against Sackville, and
although we admire Spenser, we hope, as much as that writer could have
admired him, we yet venture to say that not only may some of Sackville's
personifications "fairly be compared with some of the most poetical
passages in Spenser," but that there is in this kind in Sackville a
strength and simplicity of representation which surpasses that of
Spenser in passages in which the latter probably imitated the former. We
refer to the allegorical personages in Sackville's "Induction to the
Mirrour of Magistrates," and in Spenser's description of the "House of

Mr. Collier judges that the play in blank verse first represented on the
public stage was the "Tamburlaine" of Christopher Marlowe, and that it
was acted before 1587, at which date Shakspere would be twenty-three.
This was followed by other and better plays by the same author. Although
we cannot say much for the dramatic art of Marlowe, he has far surpassed
every one that went before him in dramatic _poetry_. The passages that
might worthily be quoted from Marlowe's writings for the sake of their
poetry are innumerable, notwithstanding that there are many others which
occupy a border land between poetry and bombast, and are such that it is
to us impossible to say to which class they rather belong. Of course it
is easy for a critic to gain the credit of common-sense at the same time
that he saves himself the trouble of doing what he too frequently shows
himself incapable of doing to any good purpose--we mean _thinking_--by
classing all such passages together as bombastical nonsense; but even in
the matter of poetry and bombast, a wise reader will recognize that
extremes so entirely meet, without being in the least identical, that
they are capable of a sort of chemico-literary admixture, if not of
combination. Goethe himself need not have been ashamed to have written
one or two of the scenes in Marlowe's "Faust;" not that we mean to imply
that they in the least resemble Goethe's handiwork. His verse is, for
dramatic purposes, far inferior to Shakspere's; but it was a great
matter for Shakspere that Marlowe preceded him, and helped to prepare to
his hand the tools and fashions he needed. The provision of blank verse
for Shakspere's use seems to us worthy of being called providential,
even in a system in which we cannot believe that there is any chance.
For as the stage itself is elevated a few feet above the ordinary level,
because it is the scene of a _representation_, just so the speech of the
drama, dealing not with unreal but with ideal persons, the fool being a
worthy fool, and the villain a worthy villain, needs to be elevated some
tones above that of ordinary life, which is generally flavoured with so
much of the _commonplace_. Now the commonplace has no place at all in
the drama of Shakspere, which fact at once elevates it above the tone of
ordinary life. And so the mode of the speech must be elevated as well;
therefore from prose into blank verse. If we go beyond this, we cease to
be natural for the stage as well as life; and the result is that kind of
composition well enough known in Shakspere's time, which he ridicules in
the recitations of the player in "Hamlet," about _Priam_ and _Hecuba_.
We could show the very passages of the play-writer Nash which Shakspere
imitates in these. To use another figure, Shakspere, in the same play,
instructs the players "to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature." Now
every one must have felt that somehow there is a difference between the
appearance of any object or group of objects immediately presented to
the eye, and the appearance of the same object or objects in a mirror.
Nature herself is not the same in the mirror held up to her. Everything
changes sides in this representation; and the room which is an ordinary,
well-known, homely room, gains something of the strange and poetic when
regarded in the mirror over the fire. Now for this representation, for
this mirror-reflection on the stage, blank verse is just the suitable
glass to receive the silvering of the genius-mind behind it.

But if Shakspere had had to sit down and make his tools first, and then
quarry his stone and fell his timber for the building of his house,
instead of finding everything ready to his hand for dressing his stone
already hewn, for sawing and carving the timber already in logs and
planks beside him, no doubt his house would have been built; but can we
with any reason suppose that it would have proved such "a lordly
pleasure-house"? Not even Shakspere could do without his poor little
brothers who preceded him, and, like the goblins and gnomes of the
drama, got everything out of the bowels of the dark earth, ready for the
master, whom it would have been a shame to see working in the gloom and
the dust instead of in the open eye of the day. Nor is anything so
helpful to the true development of power as the possibility of free
action for as much of the power as is already operative. This room for
free action was provided by blank verse.

Yet when Shakspere came first upon the scene of dramatic labour, he had
to serve his private apprenticeship, to which the apprenticeship of the
age in the drama, had led up. He had to act first of all. Driven to
London and the drama by an irresistible impulse, when the choice of some
profession was necessary to make him independent of his father, seeing
he was himself, though very young, a married man, the first form in
which the impulse to the drama would naturally show itself in him would
be the desire to act; for the outside relations would first operate. As
to the degree of merit he possessed as an actor we have but scanty means
of judging; for afterwards, in his own plays, he never took the best
characters, having written them for his friend Richard Burbage. Possibly
the dramatic impulse was sufficiently appeased by the writing of the
play, and he desired no further satisfaction from personal
representation; although the amount of study spent upon the higher
department of the art might have been more than sufficient to render him
unrivalled as well in the presentation of his own conceptions. But the
dramatic spring, having once broken the upper surface, would scoop out a
deeper and deeper well for itself to play in, and the actor would soon
begin to work upon the parts he had himself to study for presentation.
It being found that he greatly bettered his own parts, those of others
would be submitted to him, and at length whole plays committed to his
revision, of which kind there may be several in the collection of his
works. If the feather-end of his pen is just traceable in "Titus
Andronicus," the point of it is much more evident, and to as good
purpose as Beaumont or Fletcher could have used his to, at the best, in
"Pericles, Prince of Tyre." Nor would it be long before he would submit
one of his own plays for approbation; and then the whole of his dramatic
career lies open before him, with every possible advantage for
perfecting the work, for the undertaking of which he was better
qualified by nature than probably any other man whosoever; for he knew
everything about acting, practically--about the play-house and its
capabilities, about stage necessities, about the personal endowments and
individual qualifications of each of the company--so that, when he was
writing a play, he could distribute the parts before they even appeared
upon paper, and write for each actor with the very living form of the
ideal person present "in his mind's eye," and often to his bodily sight;
so that the actual came in aid of the ideal, as it always does if the
ideal be genuine, and the loftiest conceptions proved the truest to
visible nature.

This close relation of Shakspere to the actual leads us to a general and
remarkable fact, which again will lead us back to Shakspere. All the
great writers of Queen Elizabeth's time were men of affairs; they were
not literary men merely, in the general acceptation of the word at
present. Hooker was a hard-working, sheep-keeping, cradle-rocking pastor
of a country parish. Bacon's legal duties were innumerable before he
became Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor. Raleigh was soldier, sailor,
adventurer, courtier, politician, discoverer: indeed, it is to his
imprisonment that we are indebted for much the most ambitious of his
literary undertakings, "The History of the World," a work which for
simple majesty of subject and style is hardly to be surpassed in prose.
Sidney, at the age of three-and-twenty, received the highest praise for
the management of a secret embassy to the Emperor of Germany; took the
deepest and most active interest in the political affairs of his
country; would have sailed with Sir Francis Drake for South American
discovery; and might probably have been king of poor Poland, if the
queen had not been too selfish or wise to spare him. The whole of his
literary productions was the work of his spare hours. Spenser himself,
who was, except Shakspere, the most purely a literary man of them all,
was at one time Secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland, and, later in
life, Sheriff of Cork. Nor is the remark true only of the writers of
Elizabeth's period, or of the country of England.

It seems to us one of the greatest advantages that can befall a poet, to
be drawn out of his study, and still more out of the chamber of imagery
in his own thoughts, to behold and speculate upon the embodiment of
Divine thoughts and purposes in men and their affairs around him. Now
Shakspere had no public appointment, but he reaped all the advantage
which such could have given him, and more, from the perfection of his
dramatic position. It was not with making plays alone that he had to do;
but, himself an actor, himself in a great measure the owner of more than
one theatre, with a little realm far more difficult to rule than many a
kingdom--a company, namely, of actors--although possibly less difficult
from the fact that they were only men and boys; with the pecuniary
affairs of the management likewise under his supervision--he must have
found, in the relations and necessities of his own profession, not
merely enough of the actual to keep him real in his representations, but
almost sufficient opportunity for his one great study, that of mankind,
independently of social and friendly relations, which in his case were
of the widest and deepest.

But Shakspere had not business relations merely: he was a man of
business. There is a common blunder manifested, both in theory on the
one side, and in practice on the other, which the life of Shakspere sets
full in the light. The theory is, that genius is a sort of abnormal
development of the imagination, to the detriment and loss of the
practical powers, and that a genius is therefore a kind of incapable,
incompetent being, as far as worldly matters are concerned. The most
complete refutation of this notion lies in the fact that the greatest
genius the world has known was a successful man in common affairs. While
his genius grew in strength, fervour, and executive power, his worldly
condition rose as well; he became a man of importance in the eyes of his
townspeople, by whom he would not have been honoured if he had not made
money; and he purchased landed property in his native place with the
results of his management of his theatres.

The practical blunder lies in the notion cherished occasionally by young
people ambitious of literary distinction, that in the pursuit of such
things they must be content with the poverty to which the world dooms
its greatest men; accepting their very poverty as an additional proof of
their own genius. If this means that the poet is not to make money his
object, it means well: no man should. But if it means either that the
world is unkind, or that the poet is not to "gather up the fragments,
that nothing be lost," it means ill. Shakspere did not make haste to be
rich. He neither blamed, courted, nor neglected the world: he was
friendly with it. He _could_ not have pinched and scraped; but neither
did he waste or neglect his worldly substance, which is God's gift too.
Many immense fortunes have been made, not by absolute dishonesty, but in
ways to which a man of genius ought to be yet more ashamed than another
to condescend; but it does not therefore follow that if a man of genius
will do honest work he will not make a fair livelihood by it, which for
all good results of intellect and heart is better than a great fortune.
But then Shakspere began with doing what he could. He did not consent to
starve until the world should recognize his genius, or grumble against
the blindness of the nation in not seeing what it was impossible it
should see before it was fairly set forth. He began at once to supply
something which the world wanted; for it wants many an honest thing. He
went on the stage and acted, and so gained power to reveal the genius
which he possessed; and the world, in its possible measure, was not slow
to recognize it. Many a young fellow who has entered life with the one
ambition of being a poet, has failed because he did not perceive that it
is better to be a man than to be a poet, that it is his first duty to
get an honest living by doing some honest work that he can do, and for
which there is a demand, although it may not be the most pleasant
employment. Time would have shown whether he was meant to be a poet or
not; and if he had been no poet he would have been no beggar; and if he
had turned out a poet, it would have been partly in virtue of that
experience of life and truth, gained in his case in the struggle for
bread, without which, gained somehow, a man may be a sweet dreamer, but
can be no strong maker, no poet. In a word, here is _the_ Englishman of
genius, beginning life with nothing, and dying, not rich, but easy and
honoured; and this by doing what no one else could do, writing dramas in
which the outward grandeur or beauty is but an exponent of the inward
worth; hiding pearls for the wise even within the jewelled play of the
variegated bubbles of fancy, which he blew while he wrought, for the
innocent delight of his thoughtless brothers and sisters. Wherever the
rainbow of Shakspere's genius stands, there lies, indeed, at the foot of
its glorious arch, a golden key, which will open the secret doors of
truth, and admit the humble seeker into the presence of Wisdom, who,
having cried in the streets in vain, sits at home and waits for him who
will come to find her. And Shakspere had cakes and ale, although he was

But what do we know about the character of Shakspere? How can we tell
the inner life of a man who has uttered himself in dramas, in which of
course it is impossible that he should ever speak in his own person? No
doubt he may speak his own sentiments through the mouths of many of his
persons; but how are we to know in what cases he does so?--At least we
may assert, as a self-evident negative, that a passage treating of a
wide question put into the mouth of a person despised and rebuked by the
best characters in the play, is not likely to contain any cautiously
formed and cherished opinion of the dramatist. At first sight this may
seem almost a truism; but we have only to remind our readers that one of
the passages oftenest quoted with admiration, and indeed separately
printed and illuminated, is "The Seven Ages of Man," a passage full of
inhuman contempt for humanity and unbelief in its destiny, in which not
one of the seven ages is allowed to pass over its poor sad stage without
a sneer; and that this passage is given by Shakspere to the _blasé_
sensualist _Jaques_ in "As You Like it," a man who, the good and wise
_Duke_ says, has been as vile as it is possible for man to be, so vile
that it would be an additional sin in him to rebuke sin; a man who never
was capable of seeing what is good in any man, and hates men's vices
_because_ he hates themselves, seeing in them only the reflex of his own
disgust. Shakspere knew better than to say that all the world is a
stage, and all the men and women merely players. He had been a player
himself, but only on the stage: _Jaques_ had been a player where he
ought to have been a true man. The whole of his account of human life is
contradicted and exposed at once by the entrance, the very moment when
he has finished his wicked burlesque, of _Orlando_, the young master,
carrying _Adam_, the old servant, upon his back. The song that
immediately follows, sings true: "Most friendship is feigning, most
loving mere folly." But between the _all_ of _Jaques_ and the _most_ of
the song, there is just the difference between earth and hell.--Of
course, both from a literary and dramatic point of view, "The Seven
Ages" is perfect.

Now let us make one positive statement to balance the other: that
wherever we find, in the mouth of a noble character, not stock
sentiments of stage virtue, but appreciation of a truth which it needs
deep thought and experience united with love of truth, to discover or
verify for one's self, especially if the truth be of a sort which most
men will fail not merely to recognize as a truth, but to understand at
all, because the understanding of it depends on the foregoing spiritual
perception--then we think we may receive the passage as an expression of
the inner soul of the writer. He must have seen it before he could have
said it; and to see such a truth is to love it; or rather, love of truth
in the general must have preceded and enabled to the discovery of it.
Such a passage is the speech of the _Duke_, opening the second act of
the play just referred to, "As You Like it." The lesson it contains is,
that the well-being of a man cannot be secured except he partakes of the
ills of life, "the penalty of Adam." And it seems to us strange that the
excellent editors of the Cambridge edition, now in the course of
publication--a great boon to all students of Shakspere--should not have
perceived that the original reading, that of the folios, is the right

  "Here feel we _not_ the penalty of Adam?"

which, with the point of interrogation supplied, furnishes the true
meaning of the whole passage; namely, that the penalty of Adam is just
what makes the "wood more free from peril than the envious court,"
teaching each "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to

But Shakspere, although everywhere felt, is nowhere seen in his plays.
He is too true an artist to show his own face from behind the play of
life with which he fills his stage. What we can find of him there we
must find by regarding the whole, and allowing the spiritual essence of
the whole to find its way to our brain, and thence to our heart. The
student of Shakspere becomes imbued with the idea of his character. It
exhales from his writings. And when we have found the main drift of any
play--the grand rounding of the whole--then by that we may interpret
individual passages. It is alone in their relation to the whole that we
can do them full justice, and in their relation to the whole that we
discover the mind of the master.

But we have another source of more direct enlightenment as to Shakspere
himself. We only say more _direct_, not more certain or extended
enlightenment. We have one collection of poems in which he speaks in his
own person and of himself. Of course we refer to his sonnets. Though
these occupy, with their presentation of himself, such a small relative
space, they yet admirably round and complete, to our eyes, the circle of
his individuality. In them and the plays the common saying--one of the
truest--that extremes meet, is verified. No man is complete in whom
there are no extremes, or in whom those extremes do not meet. Now the
very individuality of Shakspere, judged by his dramas alone, has been
declared nonexistent; while in the sonnets he manifests some of the
deepest phases of a healthy self-consciousness. We do not intend to
enter into the still unsettled question as to whether these sonnets were
addressed to a man or a woman. We have scarcely a doubt left on the
question ourselves, as will be seen from the argument we found on our
conviction. We cannot say we feel much interest in the other question,
_If a man, what man?_ A few placed at the end, arranged as they have
come down to us, are beyond doubt addressed to a woman. But the
difference in tone between these and the others we think very
remarkable. Possibly at the time they were written--most of them early
in his life, as it appears to us, although they were not published till
the year 1609, when he was forty-five years of age, Meres referring to
them in the year 1598, eleven years before, as known "among his private
friends"--he had not known such women as he knew afterwards, and hence
the true devotion of his soul is given to a friend of his own sex.
Gervinus, whose lectures on Shakspere, profound and lofty to a degree
unattempted by any other interpreter, we are glad to find have been done
into a suitable English translation, under the superintendence of the
author himself--Gervinus says somewhere in them that, as Shakspere lived
and wrote, his ideal of womanhood grew nobler and purer. Certainly the
woman to whom the last few of these sonnets are addressed was neither
noble nor pure. We think, in this matter at least, they record one of
his early experiences.

We shall briefly indicate what we find in these sonnets about the man
himself, and shall commence with what is least pleasing and of least

We must confess, then, that, probably soon after he came first to
London, he, then a married man, had an intrigue with a married woman, of
which there are indications that he was afterwards deeply ashamed. One
little incident seems curiously traceable: that he had given her a set
of tablets which his friend had given him; and the sonnet in which he
excuses himself to his friend for having done so, seems to us the only
piece of special pleading, and therefore ungenuine expression, in the
whole. This friend, to whom the rest of the sonnets are addressed, made
the acquaintance of this woman, and both were false to Shakspere. Even
Shakspere could not keep the love of a worthless woman. So much the
better for him; but it is a sad story at best. Yet even in this
environment of evil we see the nobility of the man, and his real self.
The sonnets in which he mourns his friend's falsehood, forgives him, and
even finds excuses for him, that he may not lose his own love of him,
are, to our minds, amongst the most beautiful, as they are the most
profound. Of these are the 33rd and 34th. Nor does he stop here, but
proceeds in the following, the 35th, to comfort his friend in his grief
for his offence, even accusing himself of offence in having made more
excuse for his fault than the fault needed! But to leave this part of
his history, which, as far as we know, stands alone, and yet cannot with
truth be passed by, any more than the story of the crime of David,
though in this case there is no comparison to be made between the two
further than the primary fact, let us look at the one reality which,
from a spiritual point of view, independently of the literary beauties
of these poems, causes them to stand all but alone in literature. We
mean what has been unavoidably touched upon already, the devotion of his
friendship. We have said this makes the poems stand _all but alone_; for
we ought to be better able to understand these poems of Shakspere, from
the fact that in our day has appeared the only other poem which is like
these, and which casts back a light upon them.

  "Yet turn thee to the doubtful shore,
    Where thy first form was made a man:
    I loved thee, spirit, and love; nor can
  The soul of Shakspeare love thee more."

So sings the Poet of our day, in the loftiest of his poems--"In
Memoriam"--addressing the spirit of his vanished friend. In the midst of
his song arises the thought of _the Poet_ of all time, who loved his
friend too, and would have lost him in a way far worse than death, had
not his love been too strong even for that death, alone ghastly, which
threatened to cut the golden chain that bound them, and part them by the
gulf impassable. Tennyson's friend had never wronged him; and to the
divineness of Shakspere's love is added that of forgiveness. Such love
as this between man and man is rare, and therefore to the mind which is
in itself no way rare, incredible, because unintelligible. But though
all the commonest things are very divine, yet divine individuality is
and will be a rare thing at any given period on the earth. Faith, in its
ideal sense, will always be hard to find on the earth. But perhaps this
kind of affection between man and man may, as Coleridge indicates in his
"Table Talk," have been more common in the reigns of Elizabeth and James
than it is now. There is a certain dread of the demonstrative in the
present day, which may, perhaps, be carried into regions where it is out
of place, and hinder the development of a devotion which must be real,
and grand, and divine, if one man such as Shakspere or Tennyson has ever
felt it. If one has felt it, humanity may claim it. And surely He who is
_the_ Son of man has verified the claim. We believe there are indeed few
of us who know what _to love our neighbour as ourselves_ means; but when
we find a man here and there in the course of centuries who does, we may
take this man as the prophet of coming good for his race, his prophecy
being himself.

But next to the interest of knowing that a man could love so well, comes
the association of this fact with his art. He who could look abroad upon
men, and understand them all--who stood, as it were, in the wide-open
gates of his palace, and admitted with welcome every one who came in
sight--had in the inner places of that palace one chamber in which he
met his friend, and in which his whole soul went forth to understand the
soul of his friend. The man to whom nothing in humanity was common or
unclean; in whom the most remarkable of his artistic morals is
fair-play; who fills our hearts with a saintly love for _Cordelia_ and
an admiration of _Sir John Falstaff_ the lost gentleman, mournful even
in the height of our laughter; who could make an _Autolycus_ and a
_Macbeth_ both human, and an _Ariel_ and a _Puck_ neither human--this is
the man who loved best. And we believe that this depth of capacity for
loving lay at the root of all his knowledge of men and women, and all
his dramatic pre-eminence. The heart is more intelligent than the
intellect. Well says the poet Matthew Raydon, who has hardly left
anything behind him but the lamentation over Sir Philip Sidney in which
the lines occur,--

  "He that hath love and judgment too
  Sees more than any other do."

Simply, we believe that this, not this only, but this more than any
other endowment, made Shakspere the artist he was, in providing him all
the material of humanity to work upon, and keeping him to the true
spirit of its use. Love looking forth upon strife, understood it all.
Love is the true revealer of secrets, because it makes one with the
object regarded.

"But," say some impatient readers, "when shall we have done with
Shakspere? There is no end to this writing about him." It will be a bad
day for England when we have done with Shakspere; for that will imply,
along with the loss of him, that we are no longer capable of
understanding him. Should that time ever come, Heaven grant the
generation which does not understand him at least the grace to keep its
pens off him, which will by no means follow as a necessary consequence
of the non-intelligence! But the writing about Shakspere which has been
hitherto so plentiful must do good just in proportion as it directs
attention to him and gives aid to the understanding of him. And while
the utterances of to-day pass away, the children of to-morrow are born,
and require a new utterance for their fresh need from those who, having
gone before, have already tasted life and Shakspere, and can give some
little help to further progress than their own, by telling the following
generation what they have found. Suppose that this cry had been raised
last century, after good Dr. Johnson had ceased to produce to the eyes
of men the facts about his own incapacity which he presumed to be
criticisms of Shakspere, where would our aids be now to the
understanding of the dramatist? Our own conviction is, when we reflect
with how much labour we have deepened our knowledge of him, and thereby
found in him _the best_--for the best lies not on the surface for the
careless reader--our own conviction is, that not half has been done that
ought to be done to help young people at least to understand the master
mind of their country. Few among them can ever give the attention or
work to it that we have given; but much may be done with judicious aid.
And a profound knowledge of their greatest writer would do more than
almost anything else to bind together as Englishmen, in a true and
unselfish way, the hearts of the coming generations; for his works are
our country in a convex magic mirror.

When a man finds that every time he reads a book not only does some
obscurity melt away, but deeper depths, which he had not before seen,
dawn upon him, he is not likely to think that the time for ceasing to
write about the book has come. And certainly in Shakspere, as in all
true artistic work, as in nature herself, the depths are not to be
revealed utterly; while every new generation needs a new aid towards
discovering itself and its own thoughts in these forms of the past. And
of all that read about Shakspere there are few whom more than one or two
utterances have reached. The speech or the writing must go forth to find
the soil for the growth of its kernel of truth. We shall, therefore,
with the full consciousness that perhaps more has been already said and
written about Shakspere than about any other writer, yet venture to add
to the mass by a few general remarks.

And first we would remind our readers of the marvel of the combination
in Shakspere of such a high degree of two faculties, one of which is
generally altogether inferior to the other: the faculties of reception
and production. Rarely do we find that great receptive power, brought
into operation either by reading or by observation, is combined with
originality of thought. Some hungers are quite satisfied by taking in
what others have thought and felt and done. By the assimilation of this
food many minds grow and prosper; but other minds feed far more upon
what rises from their own depths; in the answers they are compelled to
provide to the questions that come unsought; in the theories they cannot
help constructing for the inclusion in one whole of the various facts
around them, which seem at first sight to strive with each other like
the atoms of a chaos; in the examination of those impulses of hidden
origin which at one time indicate a height of being far above the
thinker's present condition, at another a gulf of evil into which he may
possibly fall. But in Shakspere the two powers of beholding and
originating meet like the rejoining halves of a sphere. A man who thinks
his own thoughts much, will often walk through London streets and see
nothing. In the man who observes only, every passing object mirrors
itself in its prominent peculiarities, having a kind of harmony with all
the rest, but arouses no magician from the inner chamber to charm and
chain its image to his purpose. In Shakspere, on the contrary, every
outer form of humanity and nature spoke to that ever-moving,
self-vindicating--we had almost said, and in a sense it would be true,
self-generating--humanity within him. The sound of any action without
him, struck in him just the chord which, in motion in him, would have
produced a similar action. When anything was done, he felt as if he were
doing it--perception and origination conjoining in one consciousness.

But to this gift was united the gift of utterance, or representation.
Many a man both receives and generates who, somehow, cannot represent.
Nothing is more disappointing sometimes than our first experience of the
artistic attempts of a man who has roused our expectations by a social
display of familiarity with, and command over, the subjects of
conversation. Have we not sometimes found that when such a one sought to
give vital or artistic form to these thoughts, so that they might not be
born and die in the same moment upon his lips, but might _exist_, a
poor, weak, faded _simulacrum_ alone was the result? Now Shakspere was a
great talker, who enraptured the listeners, and was himself so rapt in
his speech that he could scarcely come to a close; but when he was alone
with his art, then and then only did he rise to the height of his great
argument, and all the talk was but as the fallen mortar and stony chips
lying about the walls of the great temple of his drama.

But, along with all this wealth of artistic speech, an artistic virtue
of an opposite nature becomes remarkable: his reticence. How often might
he not say fine things, particularly poetic things, when he does not,
because it would not suit the character or the time! How many delicate
points are there not in his plays which we only discover after many
readings, because he will not put a single tone of success into the flow
of natural utterance, to draw our attention to the triumph of the
author, and jar with the all-important reality of his production!
Wherever an author obtrudes his own self-importance, an unreality is the
consequence, of a nature similar to that which we feel in the old moral
plays, when historical and allegorical personages, such as _Julius
Caesar_ and _Charity_, for instance, are introduced at the same time on
the same stage, acting in the same story. Shakspere never points to any
stroke of his own wit or art. We may find it or not: there it is, and no
matter if no one see it!

Much has been disputed about the degree of consciousness of his own art
possessed by Shakspere: whether he did it by a grand yet blind impulse,
or whether he knew what he wanted to do, and knowingly used the means to
arrive at that end. Now we cannot here enter upon the question; but we
would recommend any of our readers who are interested in it not to
attempt to make up their minds upon it before considering a passage in
another of his poems, which may throw some light on the subject for
them. It is the description of a painting, contained in "The Rape of
Lucrece," towards the end of the poem. Its very minuteness involves the
expression of principles, and reveals that, in relation to an art not
his own, he could hold principles of execution, and indicate perfection
of finish, which, to say the least, must proceed from a general capacity
for art, and therefore might find an equally conscious operation in his
own peculiar province of it. For our own part, we think that his results
are a perfect combination of the results of consciousness and
unconsciousness; consciousness where the arrangements of the play,
outside the region of inspiration, required the care of the wakeful
intellect; unconsciousness where the subject itself bore him aloft on
the wings of its own creative delight.

There is another manifestation of his power which will astonish those
who consider it. It is this: that, while he was able to go down to the
simple and grand realities of human nature, which are all tragic; and
while, therefore, he must rejoice most in such contemplations of human
nature as find fit outlet in a "Hamlet," a "Lear," a "Timon," or an
"Othello," the tragedies of Doubt, Ingratitude, and Love, he can yet,
when he chooses, float on the very surface of human nature, as in
"Love's Labour's Lost," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Comedy of
Errors," "The Taming of the Shrew;" or he can descend half way as it
were, and there remain suspended in the characters and feelings of
ordinary nice people, who, interesting enough to meet in society, have
neither received that development, nor are placed in those
circumstances, which admit of the highest and simplest poetic treatment.
In these he will bring out the ordinary noble or the ordinary vicious.
Of this nature are most of his comedies, in which he gives an ideal
representation of common social life, and steers perfectly clear of what
in such relations and surroundings would be _heroics_. Look how steadily
he keeps the noble-minded youth _Orlando_ in this middle region; and
look how the best comes out at last in the wayward and _recalcitrant_
and _bizarre_, but honest and true natures of _Beatrice_ and _Benedick_;
and this without any untruth to the nature of comedy, although the
circumstances border on the tragic. When he wants to give the deeper
affairs of the heart, he throws the whole at once out of the social
circle with its multiform restraints. As in "Hamlet" the stage on which
the whole is acted is really the heart of _Hamlet_, so he makes his
visible stage as it were, slope off into the misty infinite, with a
grey, starless heaven overhead, and Hades open beneath his feet. Hence
young people brought up in the country understand the tragedies far
sooner than they can comprehend the comedies. It needs acquaintance with
society and social ways to clear up the latter.

The remarks we have made on "Hamlet" by way of illustration, lead us to
point out how Shakspere prepares, in some of his plays, a stage suitable
for all the representation. In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" the place
which gives tone to the whole is a midnight wood in the first flush and
youthful delight of summer. In "As You Like it" it is a daylight wood in
spring, full of morning freshness, with a cold wind now and then blowing
through the half-clothed boughs. In "The Tempest" it is a solitary
island, circled by the mysterious sea-horizon, over which what may come
who can tell?--a place where the magician may work his will, and have
all nature at the beck of his superior knowledge.

The only writer who would have had a chance of rivalling Shakspere in
his own walk, if he had been born in the same period of English history,
is Chaucer. He has the same gift of individualizing the general, and
idealizing the portrait. But the best of the dramatic writers of
Shakspere's time, in their desire of dramatic individualization, forget
the modifying multiformity belonging to individual humanity. In their
anxiety to present a _character_, they take, as it were, a human mould,
label it with a certain peculiarity, and then fill in speeches and forms
according to the label. Thus the indications of character, of
peculiarity, so predominate, the whole is so much of one colour, that
the result resembles one of those allegorical personifications in which,
as much as possible, everything human is eliminated except what belongs
to the peculiarity, the personification. How different is it with
Shakspere's representations! He knows that no human being ever was like
that. He makes his most peculiar characters speak very much like other
people; and it is only over the whole that their peculiarities manifest
themselves with indubitable plainness. The one apparent exception is
_Jaques_, in "As You Like it." But there we must remember that Shakspere
is representing a man who so chooses to represent himself. He is a man
_in his humour_, or his own peculiar and chosen affectation. _Jaques_ is
the writer of his own part; for with him "all the world's a stage, and
all the men and women," himself first, "merely players." We have his
own presentation of himself, not, first of all, as he is, but as he
chooses to be taken. Of course his real self does come out in it, for no
man can seem altogether other than he is; and besides, the _Duke_, who
sees quite through him, rebukes him in the manner already referred to;
but it is his affectation that gives him the unnatural peculiarity of
his modes and speeches. He wishes them to be such.

There is, then, for every one of Shakspere's characters the firm ground
of humanity, upon which the weeds, as well as the flowers, glorious or
fantastic, as the case may be, show themselves. His more heroic persons
are the most profoundly human. Nor are his villains unhuman, although
inhuman enough. Compared with Marlowe's Jew, _Shylock_ is a terrible
_man_ beside a dreary _monster_, and, as far as logic and the _lex
talionis_ go, has the best of the argument. It is the strength of human
nature itself that makes crime strong. Wickedness could have no power of
itself: it lives by the perverted powers of good. And so great is
Shakspere's sympathy with _Shylock_ even, in the hard and unjust doom
that overtakes him, that he dismisses him with some of the spare
sympathies of the more tender-hearted of his spectators. Nowhere is the
justice of genius more plain than in Shakspere's utter freedom from
party-spirit, even with regard to his own creations. Each character
shall set itself forth from its own point of view, and only in the
choice and scope of the whole shall the judgment of the poet be beheld.
He never allows his opinion to come out to the damaging of the
individual's own self-presentation. He knows well that for the worst
something can be said, and that a feeling of justice and his own right
will be strong in the mind of a man who is yet swayed by perfect
selfishness. Therefore the false man is not discoverable in his speech,
not merely because the villain will talk as like a true man as he may,
but because seldom is the villainy clear to the villain's own mind. It
is impossible for us to determine whether, in their fierce bandying of
the lie, _Bolingbroke_ or _Norfolk_ spoke the truth. Doubtless each
believed the other to be the villain that he called him. And Shakspere
has no desire or need to act the historian in the decision of that
question. He leaves his reader in full sympathy with the perplexity of
_Richard_; as puzzled, in fact, as if he had been present at the
interrupted combat.

If every writer could write up to his own best, we should have far less
to marvel at in Shakspere. It is in great measure the wealth of
Shakspere's suggestions, giving him abundance of the best to choose
from, that lifts him so high above those who, having felt the
inspiration of a good idea, are forced to go on writing, constructing,
carpentering, with dreary handicraft, before the exhausted faculty has
recovered sufficiently to generate another. And then comes in the
unerring choice of the best of those suggestions. Yet if any one wishes
to see what variety of the same kind of thoughts he could produce, let
him examine the treatment of the same business in different plays; as,
for instance, the way in which instigation to a crime is managed in
"Macbeth," where _Macbeth_ tempts the two murderers to kill _Banquo_; in
"King John," when _the King_ tempts _Hubert_ to kill _Arthur_; in "The
Tempest," when _Antonio_ tempts _Sebastian_ to kill _Alonzo_; in "As You
Like it," when _Oliver_ instigates _Charles_ to kill _Orlando_; and in
"Hamlet," where _Claudius_ urges _Laertes_ to the murder of _Hamlet_.

He shows no anxiety about being original. When a man is full of his work
he forgets himself. In his desire to produce a good play he lays hold
upon any material that offers itself. He will even take a bad play and
make a good one of it. One of the most remarkable discoveries to the
student of Shakspere is the hide-bound poverty of some of the stories,
which, informed by his life-power; become forms of strength, richness,
and grace. He does what the _Spirit_ in "Comus" says the music he heard
might do,--

              "create a soul
  Under the ribs of death;"

and then death is straightway "clothed upon." And nowhere is the
refining operation of his genius more evident than in the purification
of these stories. Characters and incidents which would have been honey
and nuts to Beaumont and Fletcher are, notwithstanding their dramatic
recommendations, entirely remodelled by him. The fair _Ophelia_ is, in
the old tale, a common woman, and _Hamlet's_ mistress; while the policy
of the _Lady of Belmont_, who in the old story occupies the place for
which he invented the lovely _Portia_, upon which policy the whole story
turns, is such that it is as unfit to set forth in our pages as it was
unfit for Shakspere's purposes of art. His noble art refuses to work
upon base matter. He sees at once the capabilities of a tale, but he
will not use it except he may do with it what he pleases.

If we might here offer some assistance to the young student who wants to
help himself, we would suggest that to follow, in a measure, Plutarch's
fashion of comparison, will be the most helpful guide to the
understanding of the poet. Let the reader take any two characters, and
putting them side by side, look first for differences, and then for
resemblances between them, with the causes of each; or let him make a
wider attempt, and setting two plays one over against the other, compare
or contrast them, and see what will be the result. Let him, for
instance, take the two characters _Hamlet_ and _Brutus_, and compare
their beginnings and endings, the resemblances in their characters, the
differences in their conduct, the likeness and unlikeness of what was
required of them, the circumstances in which action was demanded of
each, the helps or hindrances each had to the working out of the problem
of his life, the way in which each encounters the supernatural, or any
other question that may suggest itself in reading either of the plays,
ending off with the main lesson taught in each; and he will be
astonished to find, if he has not already discovered it, what a rich
mine of intellectual and spiritual wealth is laid open to his delighted
eyes. Perhaps not the least valuable end to be so gained is, that the
young Englishman, who wants to be delivered from any temptation to think
himself the centre around which the universe revolves, will be aided in
his endeavours after honourable humility by looking up to the man who
towers, like Saul, head and shoulders above his brethren, and seeing
that he is humble, may learn to leave it to the pismire to be angry, to
the earwig to be conceited, and to the spider to insist on his own

But to return to the main course of our observations. The dramas of
Shakspere are so natural, that this, the greatest praise that can be
given them, is the ground of one of the difficulties felt by the young
student in estimating them. The very simplicity of Shakspere's art seems
to throw him out of any known groove of judgment. When he hears one say,
"_Look at this, and admire_," he feels inclined to rejoin, "Why, he only
says in the simplest way what the thing must have been. It is as plain
as daylight." Yes, to the reader; and because Shakspere wrote it. But
there were a thousand wrong ways of doing it: Shakspere took the one
right way. It is he who has made it plain in art, whatever it was before
in nature; and most likely the very simplicity of it in nature was
scarcely observed before he saw it and represented it. And is it not the
glory of art to attain this simplicity? for simplicity is the end of all
things--all manners, all morals, all religion. To say that the thing
could not have been done otherwise, is just to say that you forget the
art in beholding its object, that you forget the mirror because you see
nature reflected in the mirror. Any one can see the moon in Lord Rosse's
telescope; but who made the reflector? And let the student try to
express anything in prose or in verse, in painting or in modelling, just
as it is. No man knows till he has made many attempts, how hard to reach
is this simplicity of art. And the greater the success, the fewer are
the signs of the labour expended. Simplicity is art's perfection.

But so natural are all his plays, and the great tragedies to which we
would now refer in particular, amongst the rest, that it may appear to
some, at first sight, that Shakspere could not have constructed them
after any moral plan, could have had no lesson of his own to teach in
them, seeing they bear no marks of individual intent, in that they
depart nowhere from, nature, the construction of the play itself going
straight on like a history. The directness of his plays springs in part
from the fact that it is humanity and not circumstance that Shakspere
respects. Circumstance he uses only for the setting forth of humanity;
and for the plot of circumstance, so much in favour with Ben Jonson, and
others of his contemporaries, he cares nothing. As to their looking too
natural to have any design in them, we are not of those who believe that
it is unlike nature to have a design and a result. If the proof of a
high aim is to be what the critics used to call _poetic justice_, a kind
of justice that one would gladly find more of in grocers' and
linen-drapers' shops, but can as well spare from a poem, then we must
say that he has not always a high end: the wicked man is not tortured,
nor is the good man smothered in bank-notes and rose-leaves. Even when
he shows the outward ruin and death that comes upon Macbeth at last, it
is only as an unavoidable little consequence, following in the wake of
the mighty vengeance of nature, even of God, that Macbeth cannot say
_Amen_; that Macbeth can sleep no more; that Macbeth is "cabined
cribbed, confined, bound in to saucy doubts and fears;" that his very
brain is a charnel-house, whence arise the ghosts of his own murders,
till he envies the very dead the rest to which his hand has sent them.
That immediate and eternal vengeance upon crime, and that inner reward
of well-doing, never fail in nature or in Shakspere, appear as such a
matter of course that they hardly look like design either in nature or
in the mirror which he holds up to her. The secret is that, in the
ideal, habit and design are one.

Most authors seem anxious to round off and finish everything in full
sight. Most of Shakspere's tragedies compel our thoughts to follow their
_persons_ across the bourn. They need, as Jean Paul says, a piece of the
next world painted in to complete the picture, And this is surely
nature: but it need not therefore be no design. What could be done with
Hamlet, but send him into a region where he has some chance of finding
his difficulties solved; where he will know that his reverence for God,
which was the sole stay left him in the flood of human worthlessness,
has not been in vain; that the skies are not "a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapours;" that there are noble women, though his mother
was false and Ophelia weak; and that there are noble men, although his
uncle and Laertes were villains and his old companions traitors? If
Hamlet is not to die, the whole of the play must perish under the
accusation that the hero of it is left at last with only a superadded
misery, a fresh demand for action, namely, to rule a worthless people,
as they seem to him, when action has for him become impossible; that he
has to live on, forsaken even of death, which will not come though the
cup of misery is at the brim.

But a high end may be gained in this world, and the vision into the
world beyond so justified, as in King Lear. The passionate, impulsive,
unreasoning old king certainly must have given his wicked daughters
occasion enough of making the charges to which their avarice urged them.
He had learned very little by his life of kingship. He was but a boy
with grey hair. He had had no inner experiences. And so all the
development of manhood and age has to be crowded into the few remaining
weeks of his life. His own folly and blindness supply the occasion. And
before the few weeks are gone, he has passed through all the stages of a
fever of indignation and wrath, ending in a madness from which love
redeems him; he has learned that a king is nothing if the man is
nothing; that a king ought to care for those who cannot help themselves;
that love has not its origin or grounds in favours flowing from royal
resource and munificence, and yet that love is the one thing worth
living for, which gained, it is time to die. And now that he has the
experience that life can give, has become a child in simplicity of heart
and judgment, he cannot lose his daughter again; who, likewise, has
learned the one thing she needed, as far as her father was concerned, a
little more excusing tenderness. In the same play it cannot be by chance
that at its commencement Gloucester speaks with the utmost carelessness
and _off-hand_ wit about the parentage of his natural son Edmund, but
finds at last that this son is his ruin.

Edgar, the true son, says to Edmund, after having righteously dealt him
his death-wound,--

  "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
  Make instruments to scourge us:
  The dark and vicious place where thee he got
  Cost him his eyes."

To which the dying and convicted villain replies,--

          "Thou hast spoken right; 'tis true:
  The wheel is come full circle; I am here."

Could anything be put more plainly than the moral lesson in this?

It would be easy to produce examples of fine design from his comedies as
well; as for instance, from "Much Ado about Nothing:" the two who are
made to fall in love with each other, by being each severally assured of
possessing the love of the other, Beatrice and Benedick, are shown
beforehand to have a strong inclination towards each other, manifested
in their continual squabbling after a good-humoured fashion; but not all
this is sufficient to make them heartily in love, until they find out
the nobility of each other's character in their behaviour about the
calumniated Hero; and the author takes care they shall not be married
without a previous acquaintance with the trick that has been played upon
them. Indeed we think the remark, that Shakspere never leaves any of his
characters the same at the end of a play as he took them up at the
beginning, will be found to be true. They are better or worse, wiser or
more irretrievably foolish. The historical plays would illustrate the
remark as well as any.

But of all the terrible plays we are inclined to think "Timon" the most
terrible, and to doubt whether justice has been done to the finish and
completeness of it. At the same time we are inclined to think that it
was printed (first in the first folio, 1623, seven years after
Shakspere's death) from a copy, corrected by the author, but not
_written fair_, and containing consequent mistakes. The same account
might belong to others of the plays, but more evidently perhaps belongs
to the "Timon." The idea of making the generous spendthrift, whose old
idolaters had forsaken him because the idol had no more to give, into
the high-priest of the Temple of Mammon, dispensing the gold which he
hated and despised, that it might be a curse to the race which he had
learned to hate and despise as well; and the way in which Shakspere
discloses the depths of Timon's wound, by bringing him into comparison
with one who hates men by profession and humour--are as powerful as
anything to be found even in Shakspere.

We are very willing to believe that "Julius Caesar" was one of his
latest plays; for certainly it is the play in which he has represented a
hero in the high and true sense. _Brutus_ is this hero, of course; a
hero because he will do what he sees to be right, independently of
personal feeling or personal advantage. Nor does his attempt fail from
any overweening or blindness, in himself. Had he known that the various
papers thrown in his way, were the concoctions of _Cassius_, he would
not have made the mistake of supposing that the Romans longed for
freedom, and therefore would be ready to defend it. As it was, he
attempted to liberate a people which did not feel its slavery. He failed
for others, but not for himself; for his truth was such that everybody
was true to him. Unlike Jaques with his seven acts of the burlesque of
human life, Brutus says at the last,--

  My heart doth joy, that yet, in all my life,
  I found no man but he was true to me."

Of course all this is in Plutarch. But it is easy to see with what
relish Shakspere takes it up, setting forth all the aids in himself and
in others which Brutus had to being a hero, and thus making the
representation as credible as possible.

We must heartily confess that no amount of genius alone will make a man
a good man; that genius only shows the right way--drives no man to walk
in it. But there is surely some moral scent in us to let us know whether
a man only cares for good from an artistic point of view, or whether he
admires and loves good. This admiration and love cannot be _prominently_
set forth by any dramatist true to his art; but it must come out over
the whole. His predilections must show themselves in the scope of his
artistic life, in the things and subjects he chooses, and the way in
which he represents them. Notwithstanding Uncle Toby and Maria, who will
venture to say that Sterne was noble or virtuous, when he looks over the
whole that he has written? But in Shakspere there is no suspicion of a
cloven foot. Everywhere he is on the side of virtue and of truth. Many
small arguments, with great cumulative force, might be adduced to this

For ourselves we cannot easily believe that the calmness of his art
could be so unvarying except he exercised it with a good conscience;
that he could have kept looking out upon the world around him with the
untroubled regard necessary for seeing all things as they are, except
there had been peace in his house at home; that he could have known all
men as he did, and failed to know himself. We can understand the
co-existence of any degree of partial or excited genius with evil ways,
but we cannot understand the existence of such calm and universal
genius, wrought out in his works, except in association with all that is
noblest in human nature. Nor is it other than on the side of the
argument for his rectitude that he never forces rectitude upon the
attention of others. The strong impression left upon our minds is, that
however Shakspere may have strayed in the early portion of his life in
London, he was not only an upright and noble man for the main part, but
a repentant man, and a man whose life was influenced by the truths of

Much is now said about a memorial to Shakspere. The best and only true
memorial is no doubt that described in Milton's poem on this very
subject: the living and ever-changing monument of human admiration,
expressed in the faces and forms of those absorbed in the reading of his
works. But if the external monument might be such as to foster the
constant reproduction of the inward monument of love and admiration,
then, indeed, it might be well to raise one; and with this object in
view let us venture to propose one mode which we think would favour the
attainment of it.

Let a Gothic hall of the fourteenth century be built; such a hall as
would be more in the imagination of Shakspere than any of the
architecture of his own time. Let all the copies that can be procured of
every early edition of his works, singly or collectively, be stored in
this hall. Let a copy of every other edition ever printed be procured
and deposited. Let every book or treatise that can be found, good, bad,
or indifferent, written about Shakspere or any of his works, be likewise
collected for the Shakspere library. Let a special place be allotted to
the shameless corruptions of his plays that have been produced as
improvements upon them, some of which, to the disgrace of England, still
partially occupy the stage instead of what Shakspere wrote. Let one
department contain every work of whatever sort that tends to direct
elucidation of his meaning, chiefly those of the dramatic writers who
preceded him and closely followed him. Let the windows be filled with
stained glass, representing the popular sports of his own time and the
times of his English histories. Let a small museum be attached,
containing all procurable antiquities that are referred to in his plays,
along with first editions, if possible, of the best books that came out
in his time, and were probably read by him. Let the whole thus as much
as possible represent his time. Let a marble statue in the midst do the
best that English art can accomplish for the representation of the
vanished man; and let copies, if not the originals, of the several
portraits be safely shrined for the occasional beholding of the
multitude. Let the perpetuity of care necessary for this monument be
secured by endowment; and let it be for the use of the public, by means
of a reading-room fitted for the comfort of all who choose to avail
themselves of these facilities for a true acquaintance with our greatest
artist. Let there likewise be a simple and moderately-sized theatre
attached, not for regular, but occasional use; to be employed for the
representation of Shakspere's plays _only_, and allowed free of expense
for amateur or other representations of them for charitable purposes.
But within a certain cycle of years--if, indeed, it would be too much to
expect that out of the London play-goers a sufficient number would be
found to justify the representation of all the plays of Shakspere once
in the season--let the whole of Shakspere's plays be acted in the best
manner possible to the managers for the time being.

The very existence of such a theatre would be a noble protest of the
highest kind against the sort of play, chiefly translated and adapted
from the French, which infests our boards, the low tone of which, even
where it is not decidedly immoral, does more harm than any amount of the
rough, honest plain-spokenness of Shakspere, as judged by our more
fastidious, if not always purer manners. The representation of such
plays forms the real ground of objection to theatre-going. We believe
that other objections, which may be equally urged against large
assemblies of any sort, are not really grounded upon such an amount of
objectionable fact as good people often suppose. At all events it is not
against the drama itself, but its concomitants, its avoidable
concomitants, that such objections are, or ought to be, felt and
directed. The dramatic impulse, as well as all other impulses of our
nature, are from the Maker.

A monument like this would help to change a blind enthusiasm and a
_dilettante_-talk into knowledge, reverence, and study; and surely this
would be the true way to honour the memory of the man who appeals to
posterity by no mighty deeds of worldly prowess, but has left behind him
food for heart, brain, and conscience, on which the generations will
feed till the end of time. It would be the one true and natural mode of
perpetuating his fame in kind; helping him to do more of that for which
he was born, and because of which we humbly desire to do him honour, as
the years flow farther away from the time when, at the age of fifty-two,
he left the world a richer legacy of the results of intellectual labour
than any other labourer in literature has ever done. It would be to
raise a monument to his mind more than to his person.

But to honour Shakspere in the best way we must not gaze upon some grand
memorial of his fame, we must not talk largely of his wonderful doings,
we must not even behold the representation of his works on the stage,
invaluable aid as that is to the right understanding of what he has
written; but we must, by close, silent, patient study, enter into an
understanding with the spirit of the departed poet-sage, and thus let
his own words be the necromantic spell that raises the dead, and brings
us into communion with that man who knew what was in men more than any
other mere man ever did. Well was it for Shakspere that he was humble;
else on what a desolate pinnacle of companionless solitude must he have
stood! Where was he to find his peers? To most thoughtful minds it is a
terrible fancy to suppose that there were no greater human being than
themselves. From the terror of such a _truth_ Shakspere's love for men
preserved him. He did not think about himself so much as he thought
about them. Had he been a self-student alone, or chiefly, could he ever
have written those dramas? We close with the repetition of this truth:
that the love of our kind is the one key to the knowledge of humanity
and of ourselves. And have we not sacred authority for concluding that
he who loves his brother is the more able and the more likely to love
Him who made him and his brother also, and then told them that love is
the fulfilling of the law?


[Footnote: 1863.]

  Who taught you this?
  I learn'd it out of women's faces.

_Winter's Tale_, Act ii. scene 1.

One occasionally hears the remark, that the commentators upon Shakspere
find far more in Shakspere than Shakspere ever intended to express.
Taking this assertion as it stands, it may be freely granted, not only
of Shakspere, but of every writer of genius. But if it be intended by
it, that nothing can _exist_ in any work of art beyond what the writer
was conscious of while in the act of producing it, so much of its scope
is false.

No artist can have such a claim to the high title of _creator_, as that
he invents for himself the forms, by means of which he produces his new
result; and all the forms of man and nature which he modifies and
combines to make a new region in his world of art, have their own
original life and meaning. The laws likewise of their various
combinations are natural laws, harmonious with each other. While,
therefore, the artist employs many or few of their original aspects for
his immediate purpose, he does not and cannot thereby deprive them of
the many more which are essential to their vitality, and the vitality
likewise of his presentation of them, although they form only the
background from which his peculiar use of them stands out. The objects
presented must therefore fall, to the eye of the observant reader, into
many different combinations and harmonies of operation and result, which
are indubitably there, whether the writer saw them or not. These latent
combinations and relations will be numerous and true, in proportion to
the scope and the truth of the representation; and the greater the
number of meanings, harmonious with each other, which any work of art
presents, the greater claim it has to be considered a work of genius. It
must, therefore, be granted, and that joyfully, that there may be
meanings in Shakspere's writings which Shakspere himself did not see,
and to which therefore his art, as art, does not point.

But the probability, notwithstanding, must surely be allowed as well,
that, in great artists, the amount of conscious art will bear some
proportion to the amount of unconscious truth: the visible volcanic
light will bear a true relation to the hidden fire of the globe; so that
it will not seem likely that, in such a writer as Shakspere, we should
find many indications of present and operative _art_, of which he was
himself unaware. Some truths may be revealed through him, which he
himself knew only potentially; but it is not likely that marks of work,
bearing upon the results of the play, should be fortuitous, or that the
work thus indicated should be unconscious work. A stroke of the mallet
may be more effective than the sculptor had hoped; but it was intended.
In the drama it is easier to discover individual marks of the chisel,
than in the marble whence all signs of such are removed: in the drama
the lines themselves fall into the general finish, without necessary
obliteration as lines: Still, the reader cannot help being fearful,
lest, not as regards truth only, but as regards art as well, he be
sometimes clothing the idol of his intellect with the weavings of his
fancy. My conviction is, that it is the very consummateness of
Shakspere's art, that exposes his work to the doubt that springs from
loving anxiety for his honour; the dramatist, like the sculptor,
avoiding every avoidable hint of the process, in order to render the
result a vital whole. But, fortunately, we are not left to argue
entirely from probabilities. He has himself given us a peep into his
studio--let me call it _workshop_, as more comprehensive.

It is not, of course, in the shape of _literary_ criticism, that we
should expect to meet such a revelation; for to use art even
consciously, and to regard it as an object of contemplation, or to
theorize about it, are two very different mental operations. The
productive and critical faculties are rarely found in equal combination;
and even where they are, they cannot operate equally in regard to the
same object. There is a perfect satisfaction in producing, which does
not demand a re-presentation to the critical faculty. In other words,
the criticism which a great writer brings to bear upon his own work, is
from within, regarding it upon the hidden side, namely, in relation to
his own idea; whereas criticism, commonly understood, has reference to
the side turned to the public gaze. Neither could we expect one so
prolific as Shakspere to find time for the criticism of the works of
other men, except in such moments of relaxation as those in which the
friends at the Mermaid Tavern sat silent beneath the flow of his wisdom
and humour, or made the street ring with the overflow of their own

But if the artist proceed to speculate upon the nature or productions of
another art than his own, we may then expect the principles upon which
he operates in his own, to take outward and visible form--a form
modified by the difference of the art to which he now applies them. In
one of Shakspere's poems, we have the description of an imagined
production of a sister-art--that of Painting--a description so brilliant
that the light reflected from the poet-picture illumines the art of the
Poet himself, revealing the principles which he held with regard to
representative art generally, and suggesting many thoughts with regard
to detail and harmony, finish, pregnancy, and scope. This description is
found in "The Rape of Lucrece." Apology will hardly be necessary for
making a long quotation, seeing that, besides the convenience it will
afford of easy reference to the ground of my argument, one of the
greatest helps which even the artist can give to us, is to isolate
peculiar beauties, and so compel us to perceive them.

Lucrece has sent a messenger to beg the immediate presence of her
husband. Awaiting his return, and worn out with weeping, she looks about
for some variation of her misery.


  At last she calls to mind where hangs a piece
    Of skilful painting, made for Priam's Troy;
  Before the which is drawn the power of Greece,
    For Helen's rape the city to destroy,
    Threatening cloud-kissing Ilion with annoy;
  Which the conceited painter drew so proud,
  As heaven, it seemed, to kiss the turrets, bowed.


  A thousand lamentable objects there,
    In scorn of Nature, Art gave lifeless life:
  Many a dry drop seemed a weeping tear,
    Shed for the slaughtered husband by the wife;
    The red blood reeked, to show the painter's strife.
  And dying eyes gleamed forth their ashy lights,
  Like dying coals burnt out in tedious nights.


  There might you see the labouring pioneer
    Begrimed with sweat, and smeared all with dust;
  And, from the towers of Troy there would appear
    The very eyes of men through loopholes thrust,
    Gazing upon the Greeks with little lust:
  Such sweet observance in this work was had,
  That one might see those far-off eyes look sad.


  In great commanders, grace and majesty
    You might behold, triumphing in their faces;
  In youth, quick bearing and dexterity;
    And here and there the painter interlaces
    Pale cowards, marching on with trembling paces,
  Which heartless peasants did so well resemble,
  That one would swear he saw them quake and tremble.


  In Ajax and Ulysses, O what art
    Of physiognomy might one behold!
  The face of either ciphered either's heart;
    Their face their manners most expressly told:
    In Ajax' eyes blunt rage and rigour rolled;
  But the mild glance that sly Ulysses lent
  Showed deep regard, and smiling government.


  There pleading might you see grave Nestor stand,
    As 'twere encouraging the Greeks to fight;
  Making such sober action with his hand,
    That it beguiled attention, charmed the sight;
    In speech, it seemed his beard, all silver-white,
  Wagged up and down, and from his lips did fly
  Thin winding breath, which purled up to the sky.


  About him were a press of gaping faces,
    Which seemed to swallow up his sound advice;
  All jointly listening, but with several graces,
    As if some mermaid did their ears entice;
    Some high, some low, the painter was so nice.
  The scalps of many, almost hid behind,
  To jump up higher seemed, to mock the mind.


  Here one man's hand leaned on another's head,
    His nose being shadowed by his neighbour's ear;
  Here one, being thronged, bears back, all bollen and red;
    Another, smothered, seems to pelt and swear;
    And in their rage such signs of rage they bear,
  As, but for loss of Nestor's golden words,
  It seemed they would debate with angry swords.


  For much imaginary work was there;
    Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind,
  That for Achilles' image stood his spear,
    Griped in an armed hand; himself behind
    Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind:
  A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head,
  Stood for the whole to be imagined.


  And, from the walls of strong-besieged Troy,
    When their brave hope, bold Hector, marched to field,
  Stood many Trojan mothers, sharing joy
    To see their youthful sons bright weapons wield,
    And to their hope they such odd action yield;
  That through their light joy seemed to appear,
  Like bright things stained, a kind of heavy fear.


  And from the strond of Dardan, where they fought,
    To Simois' reedy banks, the red blood ran;
  Whose waves to imitate the battle sought,
    With swelling ridges; and their ranks began
    To break upon the galled shore, and then
  Retire again, till, meeting greater ranks,
  They join, and shoot their foam at Simois' banks.

The oftener I read these verses, amongst the very earliest compositions
of Shakspere, I am the more impressed with the carefulness with which he
represents the _work_ of the picture--"shows the strife of the painter."
The most natural thought to follow in sequence is: How like his own art!

The scope and variety of the whole picture, in which mass is effected by
the accumulation of individuality; in which, on the one hand, Troy
stands as the impersonation of the aim and object of the whole; and on
the other, the Simois flows in foaming rivalry of the strife of
men,--the pictorial form of that sympathy of nature with human effort
and passion, which he so often introduces in his plays,--is like nothing
else so much as one of the works of his own art. But to take a portion
as a more condensed representation of his art in combining all varieties
into one harmonious whole: his genius is like the oratory of Nestor as
described by its effects in the seventh and eighth stanzas. Every
variety of attitude and countenance and action is harmonized by the
influence which is at once the occasion of debate, and the charm which
restrains by the fear of its own loss: the eloquence and the listening
form the one bond of the unruly mass. So the dramatic genius that
harmonizes his play, is visible only in its effects; so ethereal in its
own essence that it refuses to be submitted to the analysis of the ruder
intellect, it is like the words of Nestor, for which in the picture
there stands but "thin winding breath which purled up to the sky." Take,
for an instance of this, the reconciling power by which, in the
mysterious midnight of the summer-wood, he brings together in one
harmony the graceful passions of childish elves, and the fierce passions
of men and women, with the ludicrous reflection of those passions in the
little convex mirror of the artisan's drama; while the mischievous Puck
revels in things that fall out preposterously, and the Elf-Queen is in
love with ass-headed Bottom, from the hollows of whose long hairy
ears--strange bouquet-holders--bloom and breathe the musk-roses, the
characteristic odour-founts of the play; and the philosophy of the
unbelieving Theseus, with the candour of Hippolyta, lifts the whole into
relation with the realities of human life. Or take, as another instance,
the pretended madman Edgar, the court-fool, and the rugged old king
going grandly mad, sheltered in one hut, and lapped in the roar of a

My object, then, in respect to this poem, is to produce, from many
instances, a few examples of the metamorphosis of such excellences as he
describes in the picture, into the corresponding forms of the drama; in
the hope that it will not then be necessary to urge the probability that
the presence of those artistic virtues in his own practice, upon which
he expatiates in his representation of another man's art, were
accompanied by the corresponding consciousness--that, namely, of the
artist as differing from that of the critic, its objects being regarded
from the concave side of the hammered relief. If this probability be
granted, I would, from it, advance to a higher and far more important
conclusion--how unlikely it is that if the writer was conscious of such
fitnesses, he should be unconscious of those grand embodiments of truth,
which are indubitably present in his plays, whether he knew it or not.
This portion of my argument will be strengthened by an instance to show
that Shakspere was himself quite at home in the contemplation of such

Let me adduce, then, some of those corresponding embodiments in words
instead of in forms; in which colours yield to tones, lines to phrases.
I will begin with the lowest kind, in which the art has to do with
matters so small, that it is difficult to believe that _unconscious_ art
could have any relation to them. They can hardly have proceeded directly
from the great inspiration of the whole. Their very minuteness is an
argument for their presence to the poet's consciousness; while
belonging, as they do, only to the _construction_ of the play, no such
independent existence can be accorded to them, as to _truths_, which,
being in themselves realities, _are_ there, whether Shakspere saw them
or not. If he did not intend them, the most that can be said for them
is, that such is the naturalness of Shakspere's representations, that
there is room in his plays, as in life, for those wonderful coincidences
which are reducible to no law.

Perhaps every one of the examples I adduce will be found open to
dispute. This is a kind in which direct proof can have no share; nor
should I have dared thus to combine them in argument, but for the ninth
stanza of those quoted above, to which I beg my readers to revert. Its
_imaginary work_ means--work hinted at, and then left to the imagination
of the reader. Of course, in dramatic representation, such work must
exist on a great scale; but the minute particularization of the "conceit
deceitful" in the rest of the stanza, will surely justify us in thinking
it possible that Shakspere intended many, if not all, of the _little_
fitnesses which a careful reader discovers in his plays. That such are
not oftener discovered comes from this: that, like life itself, he so
blends into vital beauty, that there are no salient points. To use a
homely simile: he is not like the barn-door fowl, that always runs out
cackling when she has laid an egg; and often when she has not. In the
tone of an ordinary drama, you may know when something is coming; and
the tone itself declares--_I have done it_. But Shakspere will not spoil
his art to show his art. It is there, and does its part: that is enough.
If you can discover it, good and well; if not, pass on, and take what
you can find. He can afford not to be fathomed for every little pearl
that lies at the bottom of his ocean. If I succeed in showing that such
art may exist where it is not readily discovered, this may give some
additional probability to its existence in places where it is harder to
isolate and define.

To produce a few instances, then:

In "Much Ado about Nothing," seeing the very nature of the play is
expressed in its name, is it not likely that Shakspere named the two
constables, Dogberry (_a poisonous berry_) and Verjuice (_the juice of
crab-apples_); those names having absolutely nothing to do with the
stupid innocuousness of their characters, and so corresponding to their
way of turning things upside down, and saying the very opposite of what
they mean?

In the same play we find Margaret objecting to her mistress's wearing a
certain rebato (_a large plaited ruff_), on the morning of her wedding:
may not this be intended to relate to the fact that Margaret had dressed
in her mistress's clothes the night before? She might have rumpled or
soiled it, and so feared discovery.

In "King Henry IV.," Part I., we find, in the last scene, that the
Prince kills Hotspur. This is not recorded in history: the conqueror of
Percy is unknown. Had it been a fact, history would certainly have
recorded it; and the silence of history in regard to a deed of such
mark, is equivalent to its contradiction. But Shakspere requires, for
his play's sake, to identify the slayer of Hotspur with his rival the
Prince. Yet Shakspere will not contradict history, even in its silence.
What is he to do? He will account for history _not knowing_ the
fact.--Falstaff claiming the honour, the Prince says to him:

  "For my part, if a lie may do thee grace,
  I'll gild it with the happiest terms I have;"

revealing thus the magnificence of his own character, in his readiness,
for the sake of his friend, to part with his chief renown. But the
Historic Muse could not believe that fat Jack Falstaff had killed
Hotspur, and therefore she would not record the claim.

In the second part of the same play, act i. scene 2, we find Falstaff
toweringly indignant with Mr. Dombledon, the silk mercer, that he will
stand upon security with a gentleman for a short cloak and slops of
satin. In the first scene of the second act, the hostess mentions that
Sir John is going to dine with Master Smooth, the silkman. Foiled with
Mr. Dombledon, he has already made himself so agreeable to Master
Smooth, that he is "indited to dinner" with him. This is, by the bye, as
to the action of the play; but as to the character of Sir John, is it

  "Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind"--_kinned--natural_?

The _conceit deceitful_ in the painting, is the imagination that means
more than its says. So the words of the speakers in the play, stand for
more than the speakers mean. They are _Shakspere's_ in their relation to
his whole. To Achilles, his spear is but his spear: to the painter and
his company, the spear of Achilles stands for Achilles himself.

Coleridge remarks upon _James Gurney_, in "King John:" "How individual
and comical he is with the four words allowed to his dramatic life!"
These words are those with which he answers the Bastard's request to
leave the room. He has been lingering with all the inquisitiveness and
privilege of an old servant; when Faulconbridge says: "James Gurney,
wilt thou give us leave a while?" with strained politeness. With marked
condescension to the request of the second son, whom he has known and
served from infancy, James Gurney replies: "Good leave, good Philip;"
giving occasion to Faulconbridge to show his ambition, and scorn of his
present standing, in the contempt with which he treats even the
Christian name he is so soon to exchange with his surname for _Sir
Richard_ and _Plantagenet; Philip_ being the name for a sparrow in those
days, when ladies made pets of them. Surely in these words of the
serving-man, we have an outcome of the same art by which

  "A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head,
  Stood for the whole to be imagined."

In the "Winter's Tale," act iv. scene 3, Perdita, dressed with unwonted
gaiety at the festival of the sheep-shearing, is astonished at finding
herself talking in full strains of poetic verse. She says, half-ashamed:

  "Methinks I play as I have seen them do
  In Whitsun pastorals: sure, this robe of mine
  Does change my disposition!"

She does not mean this seriously. But the robe has more to do with it
than she thinks. Her passion for Florizel is the warmth that sets the
springs of her thoughts free, and they flow with the grace belonging to
a princess-nature; but it is the robe that opens the door of her speech,
and, by elevating her consciousness of herself, betrays her into what is
only natural to her, but seems to her, on reflection, inconsistent with
her low birth and poor education. This instance, however, involves far
higher elements than any of the examples I have given before, and
naturally leads to a much more important class of illustrations.

In "Macbeth," act ii. scene 4, why is the old man, who has nothing to do
with the conduct of the play, introduced?--That, in conversation with
Rosse, he may, as an old man, bear testimony to the exceptionally
terrific nature of that storm, which, we find--from the words of Banquo:

  "There's husbandry in heaven:
  Their candles are all out,"--

had begun to gather, before supper was over in the castle. This storm is
the sympathetic horror of Nature at the breaking open of the Lord's
anointed temple--horror in which the animal creation partakes, for the
horses of Duncan, "the minions of their race," and therefore the most
sensitive of their sensitive race, tear each other to pieces in the
wildness of their horror. Consider along with this a foregoing portion
of the second scene in the same act. Macbeth, having joined his wife
after the murder, says:

          "Who lies i' the second chamber?

  "_Lady M._        Donalbain.
         *       *       *       *       *
          "There are two lodged together."

These two, Macbeth says, woke each other--the one laughing, the other
crying _murder_. Then they said their prayers and went to sleep
again.--I used to think that the natural companion of Donalbain would be
Malcolm, his brother; and that the two brothers woke in horror from the
proximity of their father's murderer who was just passing the door. A
friend objected to this, that, had they been together, Malcolm, being
the elder, would have been mentioned rather than Donalbain. Accept this
objection, and we find a yet more delicate significance: the _presence_
operated differently on the two, one bursting out in a laugh, the other
crying _murder_; but both were in terror when they awoke, and dared not
sleep till they had said their prayers. His sons, his horses, the
elements themselves, are shaken by one unconscious sympathy with the
murdered king.

Associate with this the end of the third scene of the fourth act of
"Julius Caesar;" where we find that the attendants of Brutus all cry out
in their sleep, as the ghost of Caesar leaves their master's tent. This
outcry is not given in Plutarch.

To return to "Macbeth:" Why is the doctor of medicine introduced in the
scene at the English court? He has nothing to do with the progress of
the play itself, any more than the old man already alluded to.--He is
introduced for a precisely similar reason.--As a doctor, he is the best
testimony that could be adduced to the fact, that the English King
Edward the Confessor, is a fountain of health to his people, gifted for
his goodness with the sacred privilege of curing _The King's Evil_, by
the touch of his holy hands. The English King himself is thus
introduced, for the sake of contrast with the Scotch King, who is a
raging bear amongst his subjects.

In the "Winter's Tale," to which he gives the name because of the
altogether extraordinary character of the occurrences (referring to it
in the play itself, in the words: "_a sad tale's best for winter: I have
one of sprites and goblins_") Antigonus has a remarkable dream or
vision, in which Hermione appears to him, and commands the exposure of
her child in a place to all appearance the most unsuitable and
dangerous. Convinced of the reality of the vision, Antigonus obeys; and
the whole marvellous result depends upon this obedience. Therefore the
vision must be intended for a genuine one. But how could it be such, if
Hermione was not dead, as, from her appearance to him, Antigonus firmly
believed she was? I should feel this to be an objection to the art of
the play, but for the following answer:--At the time she appeared to
him, she was still lying in that deathlike swoon, into which she fell
when the news of the loss of her son reached her as she stood before the
judgment-seat of her husband, at a time when she ought not to have been
out of her chamber.

Note likewise, in the first scene of the second act of the same play,
the changefulness of Hermione's mood with regard to her boy, as
indicative of her condition at the time. If we do not regard this fact,
we shall think the words introduced only for the sake of filling up the
business of the play.

In "Twelfth Night," both ladies make the first advances in love. Is it
not worthy of notice that one of them has lost her brother, and that the
other believes she has lost hers? In this respect, they may be placed
with Phoebe, in "As You Like It," who, having suddenly lost her love by
the discovery that its object was a woman, immediately and heartily
accepts the devotion of her rejected lover, Silvius. Along with these
may be classed Romeo, who, rejected and, as he believes, inconsolable,
falls in love with Juliet the moment he sees her. That his love for
Rosaline, however, was but a kind of _calf-love_ compared with his love
for Juliet, may be found indicated in the differing tones of his speech
under the differing conditions. Compare what he says in his conversation
with Benvolio, in the first scene of the first act, with any of his many
speeches afterwards, and, while _conceit_ will be found prominent enough
in both, the one will be found to be ruled by the fancy, the other by
the imagination.

In this same play, there is another similar point which I should like to
notice. In Arthur Brook's story, from which Shakspere took his, there is
no mention of any communication from Lady Capulet to Juliet of their
intention of marrying her to Count Paris. Why does Shakspere insert
this?--to explain her falling in love with Romeo so suddenly. Her mother
has set her mind moving in that direction. She has never seen Paris. She
is looking about her, wondering which may be he, and whether she shall
be able to like him, when she meets the love-filled eyes of Romeo fixed
upon her, and is at once overcome. What a significant speech is that
given to Paulina in the "Winter's Tale," act v. scene 1: "How? Not
women?" Paulina is a thorough partisan, siding with women against men,
and strengthened in this by the treatment her mistress has received from
her husband. One has just said to her, that, if Perdita would begin a
sect, she might "make proselytes of who she bid but follow." "How? Not
women?" Paulina rejoins. Having received assurance that "women will love
her," she has no more to say.

I had the following explanation of a line in "Twelfth Night" from a
stranger I met in an old book-shop:--Malvolio, having built his castle
in the air, proceeds to inhabit it. Describing his own behaviour in a
supposed case, he says (act ii. scene 5): "I frown the while; and
perchance, wind up my watch, or play with my some rich jewel"--A dash
ought to come after _my_. Malvolio was about to say _chain_; but
remembering that his chain was the badge of his office of steward, and
therefore of his servitude, he alters the word to "_some rich jewel_"
uttered with pretended carelessness.

In "Hamlet," act iii. scene 1, did not Shakspere intend the passionate
soliloquy of Ophelia--a soliloquy which no maiden knowing that she was
overheard would have uttered,--coupled with the words of her father:

              "How now, Ophelia?
  You need not tell us what lord Hamlet said,
  We heard it all;"--

to indicate that, weak as Ophelia was, she was not false enough to be
accomplice in any plot for betraying Hamlet to her father and the King?
They had remained behind the arras, and had not gone out as she must
have supposed.

Next, let me request my reader to refer once more to the poem; and
having considered the physiognomy of Ajax and Ulysses, as described in
the fifth stanza, to turn then to the play of "Troilus and Cressida,"
and there contemplate that description as metamorphosed into the higher
form of revelation in speech. Then, if he will associate the general
principles in that stanza with the third, especially the last two lines,
I will apply this to the character of Lady Macbeth.

Of course, Shakspere does not mean that one regarding that portion of
the picture alone, could see the eyes looking sad; but that the _sweet
observance_ of the whole so roused the imagination that it supplied what
distance had concealed, keeping the far-off likewise in sweet observance
with the whole: the rest pointed that way.--In a manner something like
this are we conducted to a right understanding of the character of Lady
Macbeth. First put together these her utterances:

  "You do unbend your noble strength, to think
    So brainsickly of things."

                             "Get some water,
  And wash this filthy witness from your hands."

                             "The sleeping and the dead
  Are but as pictures."

  "A little water clears us of this deed."

                             "When all's done,
  You look but on a stool."

  "You lack the season of all natures, sleep."--

Had these passages stood in the play unmodified by others, we might have
judged from them that Shakspere intended to represent Lady Macbeth as an
utter materialist, believing in nothing beyond the immediate
communications of the senses. But when we find them associated with such
passages as these--

                 "Memory, the warder of the brain,
  Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
  A limbeck only;"

                         "Had he not resembled
  My father as he slept, I had done't;

                  "These deeds must not be thought
  After these ways; so, it will make us mad;"--

then we find that our former theory will not do, for here are deeper and
broader foundations to build upon. We discover that Lady Macbeth was an
unbeliever _morally_, and so found it necessary to keep down all
imagination, which is the upheaving of that inward world whose very
being she would have annihilated. Yet out of this world arose at last
the phantom of her slain self, and possessing her sleeping frame, sent
it out to wander in the night, and rub its distressed and blood-stained
hands in vain. For, as in this same "Rape of Lucrece,"

             "the soul's fair temple is defaced;
  To whose weak ruins muster troops of cares,
  To ask the spotted princess how she fares."

But when so many lines of delineation meet, and run into, and correct
one another, assuming such a natural and vital form, that there is no
_making of a point_ anywhere; and the woman is shown after no theory,
but according to the natural laws of human declension, we feel that the
only way to account for the perfection of the representation is to say
that, given a shadow, Shakspere had the power to place himself so, that
that shadow became his own--was the correct representation as shadow, of
his form coming between it and the sunlight. And this is the highest
dramatic gift that a man can possess. But we feel at the same time, that
this is, in the main, not so much art as inspiration. There would be, in
all probability, a great mingling of conscious art with the inspiration;
but the lines of the former being lost in the general glow of the
latter, we may be left where we were as to any certainty about the
artistic consciousness of Shakspere. I will now therefore attempt to
give a few plainer instances of such _sweet observance_ in his own work
as he would have admired in a painting.

First, then, I would request my reader to think how comparatively seldom
Shakspere uses poetry in his plays. The whole play is a poem in the
highest sense; but truth forbids him to make it the rule for his
characters to speak poetically. Their speech is poetic in relation to
the whole and the end, not in relation to the speaker, or in the
immediate utterance. And even although their speech is immediately
poetic, in this sense, that every character is idealized; yet it is
idealized _after its kind_; and poetry certainly would not be the ideal
speech of most of the characters. This granted, let us look at the
exceptions: we shall find that such passages not only glow with poetic
loveliness and fervour, but are very jewels of _sweet observance_, whose
setting allows them their force as lawful, and their prominence as
natural. I will mention a few of such.

In "Julius Caesar," act i. scene 3, we are inclined to think the way
_Casca_ speaks, quite inconsistent with the "sour fashion" which
_Cassius_ very justly attributes to him; till we remember that he is
speaking in the midst of an almost supernatural thunder-storm: the
hidden electricity of the man's nature comes out in poetic forms and
words, in response to the wild outburst of the overcharged heavens and

Shakspere invariably makes the dying speak poetically, and generally
prophetically, recognizing the identity of the poetic and prophetic
moods, in their highest development, and the justice that gives them the
same name. Even _Sir John_, poor ruined gentleman, _babbles of green
fields_. Every one knows that the passage is disputed: I believe that if
this be not the restoration of the original reading, Shakspere himself
would justify it, and wish that he had so written it.

_Romeo_ and _Juliet_ talk poetry as a matter of course.

In "King John," act v. scenes 4 and 5, see how differently the dying
_Melun_ and the living and victorious _Lewis_ regard the same sunset:


  . . . . . this night, whose black contagious breath
  Already smokes about the burning crest
  Of the old, feeble, and day-wearied sun.


  The sun in heaven, methought, was loath to set;
  But stayed, and made the western welkin blush,
  When the English measured backward their own ground.

The exquisite duet between _Lorenzo_ and _Jessica_, in the opening of
the fifth act of "The Merchant of Venice," finds for its subject the
circumstances that produce the mood--the lovely night and the crescent
moon--which first make them talk poetry, then call for music, and next
speculate upon its nature.

Let us turn now to some instances of sweet observance in other kinds.

There is observance, more true than sweet, in the character of
_Jacques_, in "As You Like It:" the fault-finder in age was the
fault-doer in youth and manhood. _Jacques_ patronizing the fool, is one
of the rarest shows of self-ignorance.

In the same play, when _Rosalind_ hears that _Orlando_ is in the wood,
she cries out, "Alas the day! what shall I do with my doublet and hose?"
And when _Orlando_ asks her, "Where dwell you, pretty youth?" she
answers, tripping in her rôle, "Here in the skirts of the forest, like
fringe upon a petticoat."

In the second part of "King Henry IV.," act iv. scene 3, _Falstaff_ says
of _Prince John_: "Good faith, this same young sober-blooded boy doth
not love me; nor a man cannot make him laugh;--but that's no marvel: he
drinks no wine." This is the _Prince John_ who betrays the insurgents
afterwards by the falsest of quibbles, and gains his revenge through
their good faith.

In "King Henry IV," act i. scene 2, _Poins_ does not say _Falstaff_ is a
coward like the other two; but only--"If he fight longer than he sees
reason, I'll forswear arms." Associate this with _Falstaff's_ soliloquy
about _honour_ in the same play, act v. scene 1, and the true character
of his courage or cowardice--for it may bear either name--comes out.

Is there not conscious art in representing the hospitable face of the
castle of _Macbeth_, bearing on it a homely welcome in the multitude of
the nests of _the temple-haunting martlet_ (Psalm lxxxiv. 3), just as
_Lady Macbeth_, the fiend-soul of the house, steps from the door, like
the speech of the building, with her falsely smiled welcome? Is there
not _observance_ in it?

But the production of such instances might be endless, as the work of
Shakspere is infinite. I confine myself to two more, taken from "The
Merchant of Venice."

Shakspere requires a character capable of the magnificent devotion of
friendship which the old story attributes to _Antonio_. He therefore
introduces us to a man sober even to sadness, thoughtful even to
melancholy. The first words of the play unveil this characteristic. He
holds "the world but as the world,"--

  "A stage where every man must play a part,
  And mine a sad one."

The cause of this sadness we are left to conjecture. _Antonio_ himself
professes not to know. But such a disposition, even if it be not
occasioned by any definite event or object, will generally associate
itself with one; and when _Antonio_ is accused of being in love, he
repels the accusation with only a sad "Fie! fie!" This, and his whole
character, seem to me to point to an old but ever cherished grief.

Into the original story upon which this play is founded, Shakspere has,
among other variations, introduced the story of _Jessica_ and _Lorenzo_,
apparently altogether of his own invention. What was his object in doing
so? Surely there were characters and interests enough already!--It seems
to me that Shakspere doubted whether the Jew would have actually
proceeded to carry out his fell design against _Antonio_, upon the
original ground of his hatred, without the further incitement to revenge
afforded by another passion, second only to his love of gold--his
affection for his daughter; for in the Jew having reference to his own
property, it had risen to a passion. Shakspere therefore invents her,
that he may send a dog of a Christian to steal her, and, yet worse, to
tempt her to steal her father's stones and ducats. I suspect Shakspere
sends the old villain off the stage at the last with more of the pity of
the audience than any of the other dramatists of the time would have
ventured to rouse, had they been capable of doing so. I suspect he is
the only human Jew of the English drama up to that time.

I have now arrived at the last and most important stage of my argument.
It is this: If Shakspere was so well aware of the artistic relations of
the parts of his drama, is it likely that the grand meanings involved in
the whole were unperceived by him, and conveyed to us without any
intention on his part--had their origin only in the fact that he dealt
with human nature so truly, that his representations must involve
whatever lessons human life itself involves?

Is there no intention, for instance, in placing _Prospero_, who forsook
the duties of his dukedom for the study of magic, in a desert island,
with just three subjects; one, a monster below humanity; the second, a
creature etherealized beyond it; and the third a complete embodiment of
human perfection? Is it not that he may learn how to rule, and, having
learned, return, by the aid of his magic wisely directed, to the home
and duties from which exclusive devotion to that magic had driven him?

In "Julius Caesar," the death of _Brutus_, while following as the
consequence of his murder of _Caesar_, is yet as much distinguished in
character from that death, as the character of _Brutus_ is different
from that of _Caesar_. _Caesar's_ last words were _Et tu Brute? Brutus_,
when resolved to lay violent hands on himself, takes leave of his
friends with these words:

  My heart doth joy, that yet, in all my life,
  I found no man, but he was true to me."

Here Shakspere did not invent. He found both speeches in Plutarch. But
how unerring his choice!

Is the final catastrophe in "Hamlet" such, because Shakspere could do no
better?--It is: he could do no better than the best. Where but in the
regions beyond could such questionings as _Hamlet's_ be put to rest? It
would have been a fine thing indeed for the most nobly perplexed of
thinkers to be left--his love in the grave; the memory of his father a
torment, of his mother a blot; with innocent blood on his innocent
hands, and but half understood by his best friend--to ascend in desolate
dreariness the contemptible height of the degraded throne, and shine the
first in a drunken court!

Before bringing forward my last instance, I will direct the attention of
my readers to a passage, in another play, in which the lesson of the
play I am about to speak of, is _directly_ taught: the first speech in
the second act of "As You Like It," might be made a text for the
exposition of the whole play of "King Lear."

The banished duke is seeking to bring his courtiers to regard their
exile as a part of their moral training. I am aware that I point the
passage differently, while I revert to the old text.

                     "Are not these woods
  More free from peril than the envious court?
  Here feel we not the penalty of Adam--
  The season's difference, as the icy fang,
  And churlish chiding of the winter's wind?
  Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
  Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say--
  This is no flattery; these are counsellors
  That feelingly persuade me what I am.
  Sweet are the uses of adversity."

The line _Here feel we not the penalty of Adam?_ has given rise to much
perplexity. The expounders of Shakspere do not believe he can mean that
the uses of adversity are really sweet. But the duke sees that _the
penalty_ of Adam is what makes the _woods more free from peril than the
envious court;_ that this penalty is in fact the best blessing, for it
_feelingly persuades_ man _what_ he is; and to know what we are, to have
no false judgments of ourselves, he considers so sweet, that to be thus
taught, the _churlish chiding of the winter's wind_ is well endured.

Now let us turn to _Lear_. We find in him an old man with a large
heart, hungry for love, and yet not knowing what love is; an old man as
ignorant as a child in all matters of high import; with a temper so
unsubdued, and therefore so unkingly, that he storms because his dinner
is not ready by the clock of his hunger; a child, in short, in
everything but his grey hairs and wrinkled face, but his failing,
instead of growing, strength. If a life end so, let the success of that
life be otherwise what it may, it is a wretched and unworthy end. But
let _Lear_ be blown by the winds and beaten by the rains of heaven, till
he pities "poor naked wretches;" till he feels that he has "ta'en too
little care of" such; till pomp no longer conceals from him what "a
poor, bare, forked animal" he is; and the old king has risen higher in
the real social scale--the scale of that country to which he is
bound--far higher than he stood while he still held his kingdom
undivided to his thankless daughters. Then let him learn at last that
"love is the only good in the world;" let him find his _Cordelia_, and
plot with her how they will in their dungeon _singing like birds i' the
cage_, and, dwelling in the secret place of peace, look abroad on the
world like _God's spies_; and then let the generous great old heart
swell till it breaks at last--not with rage and hate and vengeance, but
with love; and all is well: it is time the man should go to overtake his
daughter; henceforth to dwell with her in the home of the true, the
eternal, the unchangeable. All his suffering came from his own fault;
but from the suffering has sprung another crop, not of evil but of good;
the seeds of which had lain unfruitful in the soil, but were brought
within the blessed influences of the air of heaven by the sharp tortures
of the ploughshare of ill.


[Footnote: 1875]

          'Tis bitter cold,
  And I am sick at heart.

The ghost in "Hamlet" is as faithfully treated as any character in the
play. Next to Hamlet himself, he is to me the most interesting person of
the drama. The rumour of his appearance is wrapped in the larger rumour
of war. Loud preparations for uncertain attack fill the ears of "the
subject of the land." The state is troubled. The new king has hardly
compassed his election before his marriage with his brother's widow
swathes the court in the dust-cloud of shame, which the merriment of its
forced revelry can do little to dispel. A feeling is in the moral air to
which the words of Francisco, the only words of significance he utters,
give the key: "'Tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart." Into the
frosty air, the pallid moonlight, the drunken shouts of Claudius and his
court, the bellowing of the cannon from the rampart for the enlargement
of the insane clamour that it may beat the drum of its own disgrace at
the portals of heaven, glides the silent prisoner of hell, no longer a
king of the day walking about his halls, "the observed of all
observers," but a thrall of the night, wandering between the bell and
the cock, like a jailer on each side of him. A poet tells the tale of
the king who lost his garments and ceased to be a king: here is the king
who has lost his body, and in the eyes of his court has ceased to be a
man. Is the cold of the earth's night pleasant to him after the purging
fire? What crimes had the honest ghost committed in his days of nature?
He calls them foul crimes! Could such be his? Only who can tell how a
ghost, with his doubled experience, may think of this thing or that? The
ghost and the fire may between them distinctly recognize that as a foul
crime which the man and the court regarded as a weakness at worst, and
indeed in a king laudable.

Alas, poor ghost! Around the house he flits, shifting and shadowy, over
the ground he once paced in ringing armour--armed still, but his very
armour a shadow! It cannot keep out the arrow of the cock's cry, and the
heart that pierces is no shadow. Where now is the loaded axe with which,
in angry dispute, he smote the ice at his feet that cracked to the blow?
Where is the arm that heaved the axe? Wasting in the marble maw of the
sepulchre, and the arm he carries now--I know not what it can do, but it
cannot slay his murderer. For that he seeks his son's. Doubtless his new
ethereal form has its capacities and privileges. It can shift its garb
at will; can appear in mail or night-gown, unaided of armourer or
tailor; can pass through Hades-gates or chamber-door with equal ease;
can work in the ground like mole or pioneer, and let its voice be heard
from the cellarage. But there is one to whom it cannot appear, one whom
the ghost can see, but to whom he cannot show himself. She has built a
doorless, windowless wall between them, and sees the husband of her
youth no more. Outside her heart--that is the night in which he wanders,
while the palace-windows are flaring, and the low wind throbs to the
wassail shouts: within, his murderer sits by the wife of his bosom, and
in the orchard the spilt poison is yet gnawing at the roots of the

Twice has the ghost grown out of the night upon the eyes of the
sentinels. With solemn march, slow and stately, three times each night,
has he walked by them; they, jellied with fear, have uttered no
challenge. They seek Horatio, who the third night speaks to him as a
scholar can. To the first challenge he makes no answer, but stalks away;
to the second,

  It lifted up its head, and did address
  Itself to motion, like as it would speak;

but the gaoler cock calls him, and the kingly shape

          started like a guilty thing
  Upon a fearful summons;

and then

          shrunk in haste away,
  And vanished from our sight.

Ah, that summons! at which majesty welks and shrivels, the king and
soldier starts and cowers, and, armour and all, withers from the air!

But why has he not spoken before? why not now ere the cock could claim
him? He cannot trust the men. His court has forsaken his memory--crowds
with as eager discontent about the mildewed ear as ever about his
wholesome brother, and how should he trust mere sentinels? There is but
one who will heed his tale. A word to any other would but defeat his
intent. Out of the multitude of courtiers and subjects, in all the land
of Denmark, there is but one whom he can trust--his student-son. Him he
has not yet found--the condition of a ghost involving strange

Or did the horror of the men at the sight of him wound and repel him?
Does the sense of regal dignity, not yet exhausted for all the fasting
in fires, unite with that of grievous humiliation to make him shun their

But Horatio--why does the ghost not answer him ere the time of the cock
is come? Does he fold the cloak of indignation around him because his
son's friend has addressed him as an intruder on the night, an usurper
of the form that is his own? The companions of the speaker take note
that he is offended and stalks away.

Much has the kingly ghost to endure in his attempt to re-open relations
with the world he has left: when he has overcome his wrath and returns,
that moment Horatio again insults him, calling him an illusion. But this
time he will bear it, and opens his mouth to speak. It is too late; the
cock is awake, and he must go. Then alas for the buried majesty of
Denmark! with upheaved halberts they strike at the shadow, and would
stop it if they might--usage so grossly unfitting that they are
instantly ashamed of it themselves, recognizing the offence in the
majesty of the offended. But he is already gone. The proud, angry king
has found himself but a thing of nothing to his body-guard--for he has
lost the body which was their guard. Still, not even yet has he learned
how little it lies in the power of an honest ghost to gain credit for
himself or his tale! His very privileges are against him.

All this time his son is consuming his heart in the knowledge of a
mother capable of so soon and so utterly forgetting such a husband, and
in pity and sorrow for the dead father who has had such a wife. He is
thirty years of age, an obedient, honourable son--a man of thought, of
faith, of aspiration. Him now the ghost seeks, his heart burning like a
coal with the sense of unendurable wrong. He is seeking the one drop
that can fall cooling on that heart--the sympathy, the answering rage
and grief of his boy. But when at length he finds him, the generous,
loving father has to see that son tremble like an aspen-leaf in his
doubtful presence. He has exposed himself to the shame of eyes and the
indignities of dullness, that he may pour the pent torrent of his wrongs
into his ears, but his disfranchisement from the flesh tells against him
even with his son: the young Hamlet is doubtful of the identity of the
apparition with his father. After all the burning words of the phantom,
the spirit he has seen may yet be a devil; the devil has power to assume
a pleasing shape, and is perhaps taking advantage of his melancholy to
damn him.

Armed in the complete steel of a suit well known to the eyes of the
sentinels, visionary none the less, with useless truncheon in hand,
resuming the memory of old martial habits, but with quiet countenance,
more in sorrow than in anger, troubled--not now with the thought of the
hell-day to which he must sleepless return, but with that unceasing ache
at the heart, which ever, as often as he is released into the cooling
air of the upper world, draws him back to the region of his
wrongs--where having fallen asleep in his orchard, in sacred security
and old custom, suddenly, by cruel assault, he was flung into Hades,
where horror upon horror awaited him--worst horror of all, the knowledge
of his wife!--armed he comes, in shadowy armour but how real sorrow!
Still it is not pity he seeks from his son: he needs it not--he can
endure. There is no weakness in the ghost. It is but to the imperfect
human sense that he is shadowy. To himself he knows his doom his
deliverance; that the hell in which he finds himself shall endure but
until it has burnt up the hell he has found within him--until the evil
he was and is capable of shall have dropped from him into the lake of
fire; he nerves himself to bear. And the cry of revenge that comes from
the sorrowful lips is the cry of a king and a Dane rather than of a
wronged man. It is for public justice and not individual vengeance he
calls. He cannot endure that the royal bed of Denmark should be a couch
for luxury and damned incest. To stay this he would bring the murderer
to justice. There is a worse wrong, for which he seeks no revenge: it
involves his wife; and there comes in love, and love knows no amends but
amendment, seeks only the repentance tenfold more needful to the wronger
than the wronged. It is not alone the father's care for the human nature
of his son that warns him to take no measures against his mother; it is
the husband's tenderness also for her who once lay in his bosom. The
murdered brother, the dethroned king, the dishonoured husband, the
tormented sinner, is yet a gentle ghost. Has suffering already begun to
make him, like Prometheus, wise?

But to measure the gentleness, the forgiveness, the tenderness of the
ghost, we must well understand his wrongs. The murder is plain; but
there is that which went before and is worse, yet is not so plain to
every eye that reads the story. There is that without which the murder
had never been, and which, therefore, is a cause of all the wrong. For
listen to what the ghost reveals when at length he has withdrawn his son
that he may speak with him alone, and Hamlet has forestalled the
disclosure of the murderer:

  "Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
  With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,
  (O wicked wit and gifts that have the power
  So to seduce!) won to his shameful lust
  The will of my most seeming virtuous queen:
  Oh, Hamlet, what a falling off was there!
  From me, whose love was of that dignity
  That it went hand in hand even with the vow
  I made to her in marriage, and to decline
  Upon a wretch, whose natural gifts were poor
  To those of mine!
  But virtue--as it never will be moved
  Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
  So lust, though to a radiant angel linked,
  Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
  And prey on garbage."

Reading this passage, can any one doubt that the ghost charges his late
wife with adultery, as the root of all his woes? It is true that,
obedient to the ghost's injunctions, as well as his own filial
instincts, Hamlet accuses his mother of no more than was patent to all
the world; but unless we suppose the ghost misinformed or mistaken, we
must accept this charge. And had Gertrude not yielded to the witchcraft
of Claudius' wit, Claudius would never have murdered Hamlet. Through her
his life was dishonoured, and his death violent and premature: unhuzled,
disappointed, unaneled, he woke to the air--not of his orchard-blossoms,
but of a prison-house, the lightest word of whose terrors would freeze
the blood of the listener. What few men can say, he could--that his love
to his wife had kept even step with the vow he made to her in marriage;
and his son says of him--

              "so loving to my mother
  That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
  Visit her face too roughly;"

and this was her return! Yet is it thus he charges his son concerning

  "But howsoever thou pursu'st this act,
  Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
  Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven,
  And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
  To prick and sting her."

And may we not suppose it to be for her sake in part that the ghost
insists, with fourfold repetition, upon a sword-sworn oath to silence
from Horatio and Marcellus?

Only once again does he show himself--not now in armour upon the walls,
but in his gown and in his wife's closet.

Ever since his first appearance, that is, all the time filling the
interval between the first and second acts, we may presume him to have
haunted the palace unseen, waiting what his son would do. But the task
has been more difficult than either had supposed. The ambassadors have
gone to Norway and returned; but Hamlet has done nothing. Probably he
has had no opportunity; certainly he has had no clear vision of duty.
But now all through the second and third acts, together occupying, it
must be remembered, only one day, something seems imminent. The play has
been acted, and Hamlet has gained some assurance, yet the one chance
presented of killing the king--at his prayers--he has refused. He is now
in his mother's closet, whose eyes he has turned into her very soul.
There, and then, the ghost once more appears--come, he says, to whet his
son's almost blunted purpose. But, as I have said, he does not know all
the disadvantages of one who, having forsaken the world, has yet
business therein to which he would persuade; he does not know how hard
it is for a man to give credence to a ghost; how thoroughly he is
justified in delay, and the demand for more perfect proof. He does not
know what good reasons his son has had for uncertainty, or how much
natural and righteous doubt has had to do with what he takes for the
blunting of his purpose. Neither does he know how much more tender his
son's conscience is than his own, or how necessary it is to him to be
sure before he acts. As little perhaps does he understand how hateful to
Hamlet is the task laid upon him--the killing of one wretched villain in
the midst of a corrupt and contemptible court, one of a world of whose
women his mother may be the type!

Whatever the main object of the ghost's appearance, he has spoken but a
few words concerning the matter between him and Hamlet, when he turns
abruptly from it to plead with his son for his wife. The ghost sees and
mistakes the terror of her looks; imagines that, either from some
feeling of his presence, or from the power of Hamlet's words, her
conscience is thoroughly roused, and that her vision, her conception of
the facts, is now more than she can bear. She and her fighting soul are
at odds. She is a kingdom divided against itself. He fears the
consequences. He would not have her go mad. He would not have her die
yet. Even while ready to start at the summons of that hell to which she
has sold him, he forgets his vengeance on her seducer in his desire to
comfort her. He dares not, if he could, manifest himself to her: what
word of consolation could she hear from his lips? Is not the thought of
him her one despair? He turns to his son for help: he cannot console his
wife; his son must take his place. Alas! even now he thinks better of
her than she deserves; for it is only the fancy of her son's madness
that is terrifying her: he gazes on the apparition of which she sees
nothing, and from his looks she anticipates an ungovernable outbreak.

  "But look; amazement on thy mother sits!
  Oh; step between her and her fighting soul
  Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.
  Speak to her, Hamlet."

The call to his son to soothe his wicked mother is the ghost's last
utterance. For a few moments, sadly regardful of the two, he
stands--while his son seeks in vain to reveal to his mother the presence
of his father--a few moments of piteous action, all but ruining the
remnant of his son's sorely-harassed self-possession--his whole concern
his wife's distress, and neither his own doom nor his son's duty; then,
as if lost in despair at the impassable gulf betwixt them, revealed by
her utter incapacity for even the imagination of his proximity, he turns
away, and steals out at the portal. Or perhaps he has heard the black
cock crow, and is wanted beneath: his turn has come.

Will the fires ever cleanse _her_? Will his love ever lift him above the
pain of its loss? Will eternity ever be bliss, ever be endurable to poor
_King Hamlet?_

Alas! even the memory of the poor ghost is insulted. Night after night
on the stage his effigy appears--cadaverous, sepulchral--no longer as
Shakspere must have represented him, aerial, shadowy, gracious, the thin
corporeal husk of an eternal--shall I say ineffaceable?--sorrow! It is
no hollow monotone that can rightly upbear such words as his, but a
sound mingled of distance and wind in the pine-tops, of agony and love,
of horror and hope and loss and judgment--a voice of endless and
sweetest inflection, yet with a shuddering echo in it as from the caves
of memory, on whose walls, are written the eternal blazon that must not
be to ears of flesh and blood. The spirit that can assume form at will
must surely be able to bend that form to completest and most delicate
expression, and the part of the ghost in the play offers work worthy of
the highest artist. The would-be actor takes from it vitality and
motion, endowing it instead with the rigidity of death, as if the soul
had resumed its cast-off garment, the stiffened and mouldy corpse--whose
frozen deadness it could ill model to the utterance of its lively will!


[Footnote: 1865]

By Polish I mean a certain well-known and immediately recognizable
condition of surface. But I must request my reader to consider well what
this condition really is. For the definition of it appears to us to be,
that condition of surface which allows the inner structure of the
material to manifest itself. Polish is, as it were, a translucent skin,
in which the life of the inorganic comes to the surface, as in the
animal skin the animal life. Once clothed in this, the inner glories of
the marble rock, of the jasper, of the porphyry, leave the darkness
behind, and glow into the day. From the heart of the agate the mossy
landscape comes dreaming out. From the depth of the green chrysolite
looks up the eye of its gold. The "goings on of life" hidden for ages
under the rough bark of the patient forest-trees, are brought to light;
the rings of lovely shadow which the creature went on making in the
dark, as the oyster its opaline laminations, and its tree-pearls of
beautiful knots, where a beneficent disease has broken the geometrical
perfection of its structure, gloom out in their infinite variousness.

Nor are the revelations of polish confined to things having variety in
their internal construction; they operate equally in things of
homogeneous structure. It is the polished ebony or jet which gives the
true blank, the material darkness. It is the polished steel that shines
keen and remorseless and cold, like that human justice whose symbol it
is. And in the polished diamond the distinctive purity is most evident;
while from it, I presume, will the light absorbed from the sun gleam
forth on the dark most plentifully.

But the mere fact that the end of polish is revelation, can hardly be
worth setting forth except for some ulterior object, some further
revelation in the fact itself.--I wish to show that in the symbolic use
of the word the same truth is involved, or, if not involved, at least
suggested. But let me first make another remark on the preceding
definition of the word.

There is no denying that the first notion suggested by the word polish
is that of smoothness, which will indeed be the sole idea associated
with it before we begin to contemplate the matter. But when we consider
what things are chosen to be "clothed upon" with this smoothness, then
we find that the smoothness is scarcely desired for its own sake, and
remember besides that in many materials and situations it is elaborately
avoided. We find that here it is sought because of its faculty of
enabling other things to show themselves--to come to the surface.

I proceed then to examine how far my pregnant interpretation of the word
will apply to its figurative use in two cases--_Polish of Style_, and
_Polish of Manners_. The two might be treated together, seeing that
_Style_ may be called the manners of intellectual utterance, and
_Manners_ the style of social utterance; but it is more convenient to
treat them separately.

I will begin with the Polish of Style.

It will be seen at once that if the notion of polish be limited to that
of smoothness, there can be little to say on the matter, and nothing
worthy of being said. For mere smoothness is no more a desirable quality
in a style than it is in a country or a countenance; and its pursuit
will result at length in the gain of the monotonous and the loss of the
melodious and harmonious. But it is only upon worthless material that
polish can be _mere_ smoothness; and where the material is not valuable,
polish can be nothing but smoothness. No amount of polish in a style can
render the production of value, except there be in it embodied thought
thereby revealed; and the labour of the polish is lost. Let us then take
the fuller meaning of polish, and see how it will apply to style.

If it applies, then Polish of Style will imply the approximately
complete revelation of the thought. It will be the removal of everything
that can interfere between the thought of the speaker and the mind of
the hearer. True polish in marble or in speech reveals inlying
realities, and, in the latter at least, mere smoothness, either of sound
or of meaning, is not worthy of the name. The most polished style will
be that which most immediately and most truly flashes the meaning
embodied in the utterance upon the mind of the listener or reader.

"Will you then," I imagine a reader objecting, "admit of no ornament in

"Assuredly," I answer, "I would admit of no ornament whatever."

But let me explain what I mean by ornament. I mean anything stuck in or
on, like a spangle, because it is pretty in itself, although it reveals
nothing. Not one such ornament can belong to a polished style. It is
paint, not polish. And if this is not what my questioner means by
_ornament_, my answer must then be read according to the differences in
his definition of the word. What I have said has not the least
application to the natural forms of beauty which thought assumes in
speech. Between such beauty and such ornament there lies the same
difference as between the overflow of life in the hair, and the dressing
of that loveliest of utterances in grease and gold.

For, when I say that polish is the removal of everything that comes
between thought and thinking, it must not be supposed that in my idea
thought is only of the intellect, and therefore that all forms but bare
intellectual forms are of the nature of ornament. As well might one say
that the only essential portion of the human form is the bones. And
every human thought is in a sense a human being, has as necessarily its
muscles of motion, its skin of beauty, its blood of feeling, as its
skeleton of logic. For complete utterance, music itself in its right
proportions, sometimes clear and strong, as in rhymed harmonies,
sometimes veiled and dim, as in the prose compositions of the masters of
speech, is as necessary as correctness of logic, and common sense in
construction. I should have said _conveyance_ rather than utterance; for
there may be utterance such as to relieve the mind of the speaker with
more or less of fancied communication, while the conveyance of thought
may be little or none; as in the speaking with tongues of the infant
Church, to which the lovely babblement of our children has probably more
than a figurative resemblance, relieving their own minds, but, the
interpreter not yet at his post, neither instructing nor misleading any
one. But as the object of grown-up speech must in the main be the
conveyance of thought, and not the mere utterance, everything in the
style of that speech which interposes between the mental eyes and the
thought embodied in the speech, must be polished away, that the
indwelling life may manifest itself.

What, then (for now we must come to the practical), is the kind of thing
to be polished away in order that the hidden may be revealed?

All words that can be dismissed without loss; for all such more or less
obscure the meaning upon which they gather. The first step towards the
polishing of most styles is to strike out--polish off--the useless words
and phrases. It is wonderful with how many fewer words most things could
be said that are said; while the degree of certainty and rapidity with
which an idea is conveyed would generally be found to be in an inverse
ratio to the number of words employed.

All ornaments so called--the nose and lip jewels of style--the tattooing
of the speech; all similes that, although true, give no additional
insight into the meaning; everything that is only pretty and not
beautiful; all mere sparkle as of jewels that lose their own beauty by
being set in the grandeur of statues or the dignity of monumental stone,
must be ruthlessly polished away.

All utterances which, however they may add to the amount of thought,
distract the mind, and confuse its observation of the main idea, the
essence or life of the book or paper, must be diligently refused. In the
manuscript of _Comus_ there exists, cancelled but legible, a passage of
which I have the best authority for saying that it would have made the
poetic fame of any writer. But the grand old self-denier struck it out
of the opening speech because that would be more polished without
it--because the _Attendant Spirit_ would say more immediately and
exclusively, and therefore more completely, what he had to say, without
it.--All this applies much more widely and deeply in the region of art;
but I am at present dealing with the surface of style, not with the
round of result.

I have one instance at hand, however, belonging to this region, than
which I could scarcely produce a more apt illustration of my thesis. One
of the greatest of living painters, walking with a friend through the
late Exhibition of Art-Treasures at Manchester, came upon Albert Dürer's
_Melancholia_. After looking at it for a moment, he told his friend that
now for the first time he understood it, and proceeded to set forth what
he saw in it. It was a very early impression, and the delicacy of the
lines was so much the greater. He had never seen such a perfect
impression before, and had never perceived the intent and scope of the
engraving. The mere removal of accidental thickness and furriness in the
lines of the drawing enabled him to see into the meaning of that
wonderful production. The polish brought it to the surface. Or, what
amounts to the same thing for my argument, the dulling of the surface
had concealed it even from his experienced eyes.

In fine, and more generally, all cause whatever of obscurity must be
polished away. There may lie in the matter itself a darkness of colour
and texture which no amount of polishing can render clear or even vivid;
the thoughts themselves may be hard to think, and difficulty must not be
confounded with obscurity. The former belongs to the thoughts
themselves; the latter to the mode of their embodiment. All cause of
obscurity in this must, I say, be removed. Such may lie even in the
region of grammar, or in the mere arrangement of a sentence. And while,
as I have said, no ornament is to be allowed, so all roughnesses, which
irritate the mental ear, and so far incapacitate it for receiving a true
impression of the meaning from the words, must be carefully reduced. For
the true music of a sentence, belonging as it does to the essence of the
thought itself, is the herald which goes before to prepare the mind for
the following thought, calming the surface of the intellect to a
mirror-like reflection of the image about to fall upon it. But syllables
that hang heavy on the tongue and grate harsh upon the ear are the
trumpet of discord rousing to unconscious opposition and conscious

And now the consideration of the Polish of Manners will lead us to some
yet more important reflections. Here again I must admit that the
ordinary use of the phrase is analogous to that of the preceding; but
its relations lead us deep into realities. For as diamond alone can
polish diamond, so men alone can polish men; and hence it is that it was
first by living in a city ([Greek: polis], _polis_) that men--

  "rubbed each other's angles down,"

and became _polished_. And while a certain amount of ease with regard to
ourselves and of consideration with regard to others is everywhere
necessary to a man's passing as a gentleman--all unevenness of behaviour
resulting either from shyness or self-consciousness (in the shape of
awkwardness), or from overweening or selfishness (in the shape of
rudeness), having to be polished away--true human polish must go further
than this. Its respects are not confined to the manners of the ball-room
or the dinner-table, of the club or the exchange, but wherever a man may
rejoice with them that rejoice or weep with them that weep, he must
remain one and the same, as polished to the tiller of the soil as to the
leader of the fashion.

But how will the figure of material polish aid us any further? How can
it be said that Polish of Manners is a revelation of that which is
within, a calling up to the surface of the hidden loveliness of the
material? For do we not know that courtesy may cover contempt; that
smiles themselves may hide hate; that one who will place you at his
right hand when in want of your inferior aid, may scarce acknowledge
your presence when his necessity has gone by? And how then can polished
manners be a revelation of what is within? Are they not the result of
putting on rather than of taking off? Are they not paint and varnish
rather than polish?

I must yield the answer to each of these questions; protesting, however,
that with such polish I have nothing to do; for these manners are
confessedly false. But even where least able to mislead, they are, with
corresponding courtesy, accepted as outward signs of an inward grace.
Hence even such, by the nature of their falsehood, support my position.
For in what forms are the colours of the paint laid upon the surface of
the material? Is it not in as near imitations of the real right human
feelings about oneself and others as the necessarily imperfect knowledge
of such an artist can produce? He will not encounter the labour of
polishing, for he does not believe in the divine depths of his own
nature: he paints, and calls the varnish polish.

"But why talk of polish with reference to such a character, seeing that
no amount of polishing can bring to the surface what is not there? No
polishing of sandstone will reveal the mottling of marble. For it is
sandstone, crumbling and gritty--not noble in any way."

Is it so then? Can such be the real nature of the man? And can polish
reach nothing deeper in him than such? May not this selfishness be
polished away, revealing true colour and harmony beneath? Was not the
man made in the image of God? Or, if you say that man lost that image,
did not a new process of creation begin from the point of that loss, a
process of re-creation in him in whom all shall be made alive, which,
although so far from being completed yet, can never be checked? If we
cut away deep enough at the rough block of our nature, shall we not
arrive at some likeness of that true man who, the apostle says, dwells
in us--the hope of glory? He informs us--that is, forms us from within.

Dr. Donne (who knew less than any other writer in the English language
what Polish of Style means) recognizes this divine polishing to the
full. He says in a poem called "The Cross:"--

  As perchance carvers do not faces make,
  But that away, which hid them there, do take,
  Let Crosses so take what hid Christ in thee,
  And be his Image, or not his, but He.

This is no doubt a higher figure than that of _polish_, but it is of the
same kind, revealing the same truth. It recognizes the fact that the
divine nature lies at the root of the human nature, and that the polish
which lets that spiritual nature shine out in the simplicity of heavenly
childhood, is the true Polish of Manners of which all merely social
refinements are a poor imitation.--Whence Coleridge says that nothing
but religion can make a man a gentleman.--And when these harmonies of
our nature come to the surface, we shall be indeed "lively stones," fit
for building into the great temple of the universe, and echoing the
music of creation. Dr. Donne recognizes, besides, the notable fact that
_crosses_ or afflictions are the polishing powers by means of which the
beautiful realities of human nature are brought to the surface. One can
tell at once by the peculiar loveliness of certain persons that they
have suffered.

But, to look for a moment less profoundly into the matter, have we not
known those whose best never could get to the surface just from the lack
of polish?--persons who, if they could only reveal the kindness of
their nature, would make men believe in human nature, but in whom some
roughness of awkwardness or of shyness prevents the true self from
appearing? Even the dread of seeming to claim a good deed or to
patronize a fellow-man will sometimes spoil the last touch of tenderness
which would have been the final polish of the act of giving, and would
have revealed infinite depths of human devotion. For let the truth out,
and it will be seen to be true.

Simplicity is the end of all Polish, as of all Art, Culture, Morals,
Religion, and Life. The Lord our God is one Lord, and we and our
brothers and sisters are one Humanity, one Body of the Head.

Now to the practical: what are we to do for the polish of our manners?

Just what I have said we must do for the polish of our style. Take off;
do not put on. Polish away this rudeness, that awkwardness. Correct
everything self-assertive, which includes nine tenths of all vulgarity.
Imitate no one's behaviour; that is to paint. Do not think about
yourself; that is to varnish. Put what is wrong right, and what is in
you will show itself in harmonious behaviour.

But no one can go far in this track without discovering that true polish
reaches much deeper; that the outward exists but for the sake of the
inward; and that the manners, as they depend on the morals, must be
forgotten in the morals of which they are but the revelation. Look at
the high-shouldered, ungainly child in the corner: his mother tells him
to go to his book, and he wants to go to his play. Regard the swollen
lips, the skin tightened over the nose, the distortion of his shape, the
angularity of his whole appearance. Yet he is not an awkward child by
nature. Look at him again the moment after he has given in and kissed
his mother. His shoulders have dropped to their place; his limbs are
free from the fetters that bound them; his motions are graceful, and the
one blends harmoniously with the other. He is no longer thinking of
himself. He has given up his own way. The true childhood comes to the
surface, and you see what the boy is meant to be always. Look at the
jerkiness of the conceited man. Look at the quiet _fluency_ of motion in
the modest man. Look how anger itself which forgets self, which is
unhating and righteous, will elevate the carriage and ennoble the

But how far can the same rule of _omission_ or _rejection_ be applied
with safety to this deeper character--the manners of the spirit?

It seems to me that in morals too the main thing is to avoid doing
wrong; for then the active spirit of life in us will drive us on to the
right. But on such a momentous question I would not be dogmatic. Only as
far as regards the feelings I would say: it is of no use to try to make
ourselves feel thus or thus. Let us fight with our wrong feelings; let
us polish away the rough ugly distortions of feeling. Then the real and
the good will come of themselves. Or rather, to keep to my figure, they
will then show themselves of themselves as the natural home-produce, the
indwelling facts of our deepest--that is, our divine nature.

Here I find that I am sinking through my subject into another and
deeper--a truth, namely, which should, however, be the foundation of all
our building, the background of all our representations: that Life is at
work in us--the sacred Spirit of God travailing in us. That Spirit has
gained one end of his labour--at which he can begin to do yet more for
us--when he has brought us to beg for the help which he has been giving
us all the time.

I have been regarding infinite things through the medium of one limited
figure, knowing that figures with all their suggestions and relations
could not reveal them utterly. But so far as they go, these thoughts
raised by the word Polish and its figurative uses appear to me to be
most true.


[Footnote: 1853.]

Goethe says:--

  "Poems are painted window panes.
  If one looks from the square into the church,
  Dusk and dimness are his gains--
  Sir Philistine is left in the lurch!
  The sight, so seen, may well enrage him,
  Nor anything henceforth assuage him.

  "But come just inside what conceals;
  Cross the holy threshold quite--
  All at once 'tis rainbow-bright,
  Device and story flash to light,
  A gracious splendour truth reveals.
  This to God's children is full measure,
  It edifies and gives you pleasure!"

This is true concerning every form in which truth is embodied, whether
it be sight or sound, geometric diagram or scientific formula.
Unintelligible, it may be dismal enough, regarded from the outside;
prismatic in its revelation of truth from within. Such is the world
itself, as beheld by the speculative eye; a thing of disorder,
obscurity, and sadness: only the child-like heart, to which the door
into the divine idea is thrown open, can understand somewhat the secret
of the Almighty. In human things it is particularly true of art, in
which the fundamental idea seems to be the revelation of the true
through the beautiful. But of all the arts it is most applicable to
poetry; for the others have more that is beautiful on the outside; can
give pleasure to the senses by the form of the marble, the hues of the
painting, or the sweet sounds of the music, although the heart may never
perceive the meaning that lies within. But poetry, except its rhythmic
melody, and its scattered gleams of material imagery, for which few care
that love it not for its own sake, has no attraction on the outside to
entice the passer to enter and partake of its truth. It is inwards that
its colours shine, within that its forms move, and the sound of its holy
organ cannot be heard from without.

Now, if one has been able to reach the heart of a poem, answering to
Goethe's parabolic description; or even to discover a loop-hole, through
which, from an opposite point, the glories of its stained windows are
visible; it is well that he should seek to make others partakers in his
pleasure and profit. Some who might not find out for themselves, would
yet be evermore grateful to him who led them to the point of vision.
Surely if a man would help his fellow-men, he can do so far more
effectually by exhibiting truth than exposing error, by unveiling beauty
than by a critical dissection of deformity. From the very nature of the
things it must be so. Let the true and good destroy their opposites. It
is only by the good and beautiful that the evil and ugly are known. It
is the light that makes manifest.

The poem "Christmas Eve," by Robert Browning, with the accompanying poem
"Easter Day," seems not to have attracted much notice from the readers
of poetry, although highly prized by a few. This is, perhaps, to be
attributed, in a great measure, to what many would call a considerable
degree of obscurity. But obscurity is the appearance which to a first
glance may be presented either by profundity or carelessness of thought.
To some, obscurity itself is attractive, from the hope that worthiness
is the cause of it. To apply a test similar to that by which Pascal
tries the Koran and the Scriptures: what is the character of those
portions, the meaning of which is plain? Are they wise or foolish? If
the former, the presumption is that the obscurity of other parts is
caused not by opacity, but profundity. But some will object,
notwithstanding, that a writer ought to make himself plain to his
readers; nay, that if he has a clear idea himself, he must be able to
express that idea clearly. But for communion of thought, two minds, not
one, are necessary. The fault may lie in him that receives or in him
that gives, or it may be in neither. For how can the result of much
thought, the idea which for mouths has been shaping itself in the mind
of one man, be at once received by another mind to which it comes a
stranger and unexpected? The reader has no right to complain of so
caused obscurity. Nor is that form of expression, which is most easily
understood at first sight, necessarily the best. It will not, therefore,
continue to move; nor will it gather force and influence with more
intimate acquaintance. Here Goethe's little parable, as he calls it, is
peculiarly applicable. But, indeed, if after all a writer is obscure,
the man who has spent most labour in seeking to enter into his thoughts,
will be the least likely to complain of his obscurity; and they who have
the least difficulty in understanding a writer, are frequently those who
understand him the least.

To those to whom the religion of Christ has been the law of liberty; who
by that door have entered into the universe of God, and have begun to
feel a growing delight in all the manifestations of God, it is cause of
much joy to find that, whatever may be the position taken by men of
science, or by those in whom the intellect predominates, with regard to
the Christian religion, men of genius, at least, in virtue of what is
child-like in their nature, are, in the present time, plainly
manifesting deep devotion to Christ. There are exceptions, certainly;
but even in those, there are symptoms of feelings which, one can hardly
help thinking, tend towards him, and will one day flame forth in
conscious worship. A mind that recognizes any of the multitudinous
meanings of the revelation of God, in the world of sounds, and forms,
and colours, cannot be blind to the higher manifestation of God in
common humanity; nor to him in whom is hid the key to the whole, the
First-born of the creation of God, in whose heart lies, as yet but
partially developed, the kingdom of heaven, which is the redemption of
the earth. The mind that delights in that which is lofty and great,
which feels there is something higher than self, will undoubtedly be
drawn towards Christ; and they, who at first looked on him as a great
prophet, came at length to perceive that he was the radiation of the
Father's glory, the likeness of his unseen being.

A description of the poem may, perhaps, both induce to the reading of
it, and contribute to its easier comprehension while being perused. On a
stormy Christmas Eve, the poet, or rather the seer (for the whole must
be regarded as a poetic vision), is compelled to take refuge in the
"lath and plaster entry" of a little chapel, belonging to a congregation
of Calvinistic Methodists, who are at the time assembling for worship.
Wonderful in its reality is the description of various of the flock that
pass him as they enter the chapel, from

                     "the many-tattered
  Little old-faced, peaking sister-turned-mother
  Of the sickly babe she tried to smother
  Somehow up, with its spotted face,
  From the cold, on her breast, the one warm place:"

to the "shoemaker's lad;" whom he follows, determined not to endure the
inquisition of their looks any longer, into the chapel. The humour of
the whole scene within is excellent. The stifling closeness, both of the
atmosphere and of the sermon, the wonderful content of the audience, the
"old fat woman," who

                    "purred with pleasure,
  And thumb round thumb went twirling faster,
  While she, to his periods keeping measure,
  Maternally devoured the pastor;"

are represented by a few rapid touches that bring certain points of the
reality almost unpleasantly near. At length, unable to endure it longer,
he rushes out into the air. Objection may, probably, be made to the
mingling of the humorous, even the ridiculous, with the serious; at
least, in a work of art like this, where they must be brought into such
close proximity. But are not these things as closely connected in the
world as they can be in any representation of it? Surely there are few
who have never had occasion to attempt to reconcile the thought of the
two in their own minds. Nor can there be anything human that is not, in
some connexion or other, admissible into art. The widest idea of art
must comprehend all things. A work of this kind must, like God's world,
in which he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, be taken as a
whole and in regard to its design. The requisition is, that everything
introduced have a relation to the adjacent parts and to the whole
suitable to the design. Here the thing is real, is true, is human; a
thing to be thought about. It has its place amongst other phenomena,
with which, however apparently incongruous, it is yet vitally connected

A coolness and delight visit us, on turning over the page and commencing
to read the description of sky, and moon, and clouds, which greet him
outside the chapel. It is as a vision of the vision-bearing world
itself, in one of its fine, though not, at first, one of its rarest
moods. And here a short digression to notice like feelings in unlike
dresses, one thought differently expressed will, perhaps, be pardoned.
The moon is prevented from shining out by the "blocks" of cloud "built
up in the west:"--

  "And the empty other half of the sky
  Seemed in its silence as if it knew
  What, any moment, might look through
  A chance-gap in that fortress massy."

Old Henry Vaughan says of the "Dawning:"--

  "The whole Creation shakes off night,
  And for thy shadow looks the Light;
  Stars now vanish without number,
  Sleepie Planets set and slumber,
  The pursie Clouds disband and scatter,
  _All expect some sudden matter_."

Calmness settles down on his mind. He walks on, thinking of the scene he
had left, and the sermon he had heard. In the latter he sees the good
and the bad intimately mingled; and is convinced that the chief benefit
derived from it is a reproducing of former impressions. The thought
crosses him, in how many places and how many different forms the same
thing takes place, "a convincing" of the "convinced;" and he rejoices in
the contrast which his church presents to these; for in the church of
Nature his love to God, assurance of God's love to him, and confidence
in the design of God regarding him, commenced. While exulting in God and
the knowledge of Him to be attained hereafter, he is favoured with a
sight of a glorious moon-rainbow, which elevates his worship to ecstasy.
During which--

  "All at once I looked up with terror--
  He was there.
  He himself with His human air,
  On the narrow pathway, just before:
  I saw the back of Him, no more--
  He had left the chapel, then, as I.
  I forgot all about the sky.
  No face: only the sight
  Of a sweepy garment, vast and white,
  With a hem that I could recognize.
  I felt terror, no surprise:
  My mind filled with the cataract,
  At one bound, of the mighty fact.
  I remembered, He did say
  Doubtless, that, to this world's end,
  Where two or three should meet and pray,
  He would be in the midst, their friend:
  Certainly He was there with them.
  And my pulses leaped for joy
  Of the golden thought without alloy,
  That I saw His very vesture's hem.
  Then rushed the blood back, cold and clear,
  With a fresh enhancing shiver of fear."

Praying for forgiveness wherein he has sinned, and prostrate in
adoration before the form of Christ, he is "caught up in the whirl and
drift" of his vesture, and carried along with him over the earth.

Stopping at length at the entrance of St. Peter's in Rome, he remains
outside, while the form disappears within. He is able, however, to see
all that goes on, in the crowded, hushed interior. It is high mass. He
has been carried at once from the little chapel to the opposite
aesthetic pole. From the entry, where--

  "The flame of the single tallow candle
  In the cracked square lanthorn I stood under
  Shot its blue lip at me,"

  "This miraculous dome of God--
                This colonnade
  With arms wide open to embrace
  The entry of the human race
  To the breast of.... what is it, yon building,
  Ablaze in front, all paint and gilding,
  With marble for brick, and stones of price
  For garniture of the edifice?"

to "those fountains"--

  "Growing up eternally
  Each to a musical water-tree,
  Whose blossoms drop, a glittering boon,
  Before my eyes, in the light of the moon,
  To the granite lavers underneath;"

from the singing of the chapel to the organ self-restrained, that "holds
his breath and grovels latent," while expecting the elevation of the
Host. Christ is within; he is left without. Reflecting on the matter, he
thinks his Lord would not require him to go in, though he himself
entered, because there was a way to reach him there. By-and-by, however,
his heart awakes and declares that Love goes beyond error with them, and
if the Intellect be kept down, yet Love is the oppressor; so next time
he resolves to enter and praise along with them. The passage commencing,
"Oh, love of those first Christian days!" describing Love's victory over
Intellect, is very fine.

Again he is caught up and carried along as before. This time halt is
made at the door of a college in a German town, in which the class-room
of one of the professors is open for lecture this Christmas Eve. It is,
intellectually considered, the opposite pole to both the Methodist
chapel and the Roman Basilica. The poet enters, fearful of losing the
society of "any that call themselves his friends." He describes the
assembled company, and the entrance of "the hawk-nosed, high-cheek-boned
professor," of part of whose Christmas Eve's discourse he proceeds to
give the substance. The professor takes it for granted that "plainly no
such life was liveable," and goes on to inquire what explanation of the
phenomena of the life of Christ it were best to adopt. Not that it
mattered much, "so the idea be left the same." Taking the popular story,
for convenience sake, and separating all extraneous matter from it, he
found that Christ was simply a good man, with an honest, true heart;
whose disciples thought him divine; and whose doctrine, though quite
mistaken by those who received and published it, "had yet a meaning
quite as respectable." Here the poet takes advantage of a pause to leave
him; reflecting that though the air may be poisoned by the sects, yet
here "the critic leaves no air to poison." His meditations and arguments
following, are among the most valuable passages in the book. The
professor, notwithstanding the idea of Christ has by him been exhausted
of all that is peculiar to it, yet recommends him to the veneration and
worship of his hearers, "rather than all who went before him, and all
who ever followed after." But why? says the poet. For his intellect,

  "Which tells me simply what was told
  (If mere morality, bereft
  Of the God in Christ, be all that's left)
  Elsewhere by voices manifold?"

with which must be combined the fact that this intellect of his did not
save him from making the "important stumble," of saying that he and God
were one. "But his followers misunderstood him," says the objector.
Perhaps so; but "the stumbling-block, his speech, who laid it?" Well
then, is it on the score of his goodness that he should rule his race?

                  "You pledge
  Your fealty to such rule? What, all--
  From Heavenly John and Attic Paul,
  And that brave weather-battered Peter,
  Whose stout faith only stood completer
  For buffets, sinning to be pardoned,
  As the more his hands hauled nets, they hardened--
  All, down to you, the man of men,
  Professing here at Göttingen,
  Compose Christ's flock! So, you and I
  Are sheep of a good man! And why?"

Did Christ _invent_ goodness? or did he only demonstrate that of which
the common conscience was judge?

                  "I would decree
  Worship for such mere demonstration
  And simple work of nomenclature,
  Only the day I praised, not Nature,
  But Harvey, for the circulation."

The worst man, says the poet, _knows_ more than the best man _does_. God
in Christ appeared to men to help them to _do_, to awaken the life
within them.

  "Morality to the uttermost,
  Supreme in Christ as we all confess,
  Why need _we_ prove would avail no jot
  To make Him God, if God he were not?
  What is the point where Himself lays stress?
  Does the precept run, 'Believe in good,
  In justice, truth, now understood
  For the first time?'--or, 'Believe in ME,
  Who lived and died, yet essentially
  Am Lord of life'? Whoever can take
  The same to his heart, and for mere love's sake
  Conceive of the love,--that man obtains
  A new truth; no conviction gains
  Of an old one only, made intense
  By a fresh appeal to his faded sense."

In this lies the most direct practical argument with regard to what is
commonly called the Divinity of Christ. Here is a man whom those that
magnify him the least confess to be a good man, the best of men. He
_says_, "I and the Father are one." Will an earnest heart, knowing this,
be likely to draw back, or will it draw nearer to behold the great
sight? Will not such a heart feel: "A good man like this would not have
said so, were it not so. In all probability the great truth of God lies
behind this veil." The reality of Christ's nature is not to be proved by
argument. He must be beheld. The manifestation of Him must "gravitate
inwards" on the soul. It is by looking that one can know. As a
mathematical theorem is to be proved only by the demonstration of that
theorem itself, not by talking _about_ it; so Christ must prove himself
to the human soul through being beheld. The only proof of Christ's
divinity is his humanity. Because his humanity is not comprehended, his
divinity is doubted; and while the former is uncomprehended, an assent
to the latter is of little avail. For a man to theorize theologically in
any form, while he has not so apprehended Christ, or to neglect the
gazing on him for the attempt to substantiate to himself any form of
belief respecting him, is to bring on himself, in a matter of divine
import, such errors as the expounders of nature in old time brought on
themselves, when they speculated on what a thing must be, instead of
observing what it was; this _must be_ having for its foundation not
self-evident truth, but notions whose chief strength lay in their
preconception. There are thoughts and feelings that cannot be called up
in the mind by any power of will or force of imagination; which, being
spiritual, must arise in the soul when in its highest spiritual
condition; when the mind, indeed, like a smooth lake, reflects only
heavenly images. A steadfast regarding of Him will produce this calm,
and His will be the heavenly form reflected from the mental depth.

But to return to the poem. The fact that Christ remains inside, leads
the poet to reflect, in the spirit of Him who found all the good in men
he could, neglecting no point of contact which presented itself, whether
there was anything at this lecture with which he could sympathize; and
he finds that the heart of the professor does something to rescue him
from the error of his brain. In his brain, even, "if Love's dead there,
it has left a ghost." For when the natural deduction from his argument
would be that our faith

  "Be swept forthwith to its natural dust-hole,--
  He bids us, when we least expect it,
  Take back our faith--if it be not just whole,
  Yet a pearl indeed, as his tests affect it,
  Which fact pays the damage done rewardingly,
  So, prize we our dust and ashes accordingly!"

Love as well as learning being necessary to the understanding of the New
Testament, it is to the poet matter of regret that "loveless learning"
should leave its proper work, and make such havoc in that which belongs
not to it. But while he sits "talking with his mind," his mood begins to
degenerate from sympathy with that which is good to indifference towards
all forms, and he feels inclined to rest quietly in the enjoyment of his
own religious confidence, and trouble himself in no wise about the faith
of his neighbours; for doubtless all are partakers of the central light,
though variously refracted by the varied translucency of the mental

  "'Twas the horrible storm began afresh!
  The black night caught me in his mesh,
  Whirled me up, and flung me prone!
  I was left on the college-step alone.
  I looked, and far there, ever fleeting
  Far, far away, the receding gesture,
  And looming of the lessening vesture,
  Swept forward from my stupid hand,
  While I watched my foolish heart expand
  In the lazy glow of benevolence
  O'er the various modes of man's belief.
  I sprang up with fear's vehemence.
  --Needs must there be one way, our chief
  Best way of worship: let me strive
  To find it, and when found, contrive
  My fellows also take their share.
  This constitutes my earthly care:
  God's is above it and distinct!"

The symbolism in the former part of this extract is grand. As soon as he
ceases to look practically on the phenomena with which he is surrounded,
he is enveloped in storm and darkness, and sees only in the far distance
the disappearing skirt of his Lord's garment. God's care is over all, he
goes on to say; I must do _my part_. If I look speculatively on the
world, there is nothing but dimness and mystery. If I look practically
on it,

  "No mere mote's-breadth, but teems immense
  With witnessings of Providence."

And whether the world which I seek to help censures or praises me--that
is nothing to me. My life--how is it with me?

  "Soul of mine, hadst thou caught and held
  By the hem of the vesture....
                  And I caught
  At the flying robe, and, unrepelled,
  Was lapped again in its folds full-fraught
  With warmth and wonder and delight,
  God's mercy being infinite.
  And scarce had the words escaped my tongue,
  When, at a passionate bound, I sprung
  Out of the wandering world of rain,
  Into the little chapel again."

Had he dreamed? how then could he report of the sermon and the preacher?
of which and of whom he proceeds to give a very external account. But
correcting himself--

  "Ha! Is God mocked, as He asks?
  Shall I take on me to change his tasks,
  And dare, despatched to a river-head
  For a simple draught of the element,
  Neglect the thing for which He sent,
  And return with another thing instead!
  Saying .... 'Because the water found
  Welling up from underground,
  Is mingled with the taints of earth,
  While Thou, I know, dost laugh at dearth,
  And couldest, at a word, convulse
  The world with the leap of its river-pulse,--
  Therefore I turned from the oozings muddy,
  And bring thee a chalice I found, instead.
  See the brave veins in the breccia ruddy!
  One would suppose that the marble bled.
  What matters the water? A hope I have nursed,
  That the waterless cup will quench my thirst.'
  --Better have knelt at the poorest stream
  That trickles in pain from the straitest rift!
  For the less or the more is all God's gift,
  Who blocks up or breaks wide the granite seam.
  And here, is there water or not, to drink?"

He comes to the conclusion, that the best for him is that mode of
worship which partakes the least of human forms, and brings him nearest
to the spiritual; and, while expressing good wishes for the Pope and the

  "Meantime, in the still recurring fear
  Lest myself, at unawares, be found,
  While attacking the choice of my neighbours round,
  Without my own made--I choose here!"

He therefore joins heartily in the hymn which is sung by the
congregation of the little chapel at the close of their worship. And
this concludes the poem.

What is the central point from which this poem can be regarded? It does
not seem to be very hard to find. Novalis has said: "Die Philosophie ist
eigentlich Heimweh, ein Trieb überall zu Hause zu sein." (Philosophy is
really home-sickness, an impulse to be at home everywhere.) The life of
a man here, if life it be, and not the vain image of what might be a
life, is a continual attempt to find his place, his centre of
recipiency, and active agency. He wants to know where he is, and where
he ought to be and can be; for, rightly considered, the position a man
ought to occupy is the only one he truly _can_ occupy. It is a climbing
and striving to reach that point of vision where the multiplex crossings
and apparent intertwistings of the lines of fact and feeling and duty
shall manifest themselves as a regular and symmetrical design. A
contradiction, or a thing unrelated, is foreign and painful to him, even
as the rocky particle in the gelatinous substance of the oyster; and,
like the latter, he can only rid himself of it by encasing it in the
pearl-like enclosure of faith; believing that hidden there lies the
necessity for a higher theory of the universe than has yet been
generated in his soul. The quest for this home-centre, in the man who
has faith, is calm and ceaseless; in the man whose faith is weak, it is
stormy and intermittent. Unhappy is that man, of necessity, whose
perceptions are keener than his faith is strong. Everywhere Nature
herself is putting strange questions to him; the human world is full of
dismay and confusion; his own conscience is bewildered by contradictory
appearances; all which may well happen to the man whose eye is not yet
single, whose heart is not yet pure. He is not at home; his soul is
astray amid people of a strange speech and a stammering tongue. But the
faithful man is led onward; in the stillness that his confidence
produces arise the bright images of truth; and visions of God, which are
only beheld in solitary places, are granted to his soul.

  "O struggling with the darkness all the night,
  And visited all night by troops of stars!"

What is true of the whole, is true of its parts. In all the relations of
life, in all the parts of the great whole of existence, the true man is
ever seeking his home. This poem seems to show us such a quest. "Here I
am in the midst of many who belong to the same family. They differ in
education, in habits, in forms of thought; but they are called by the
same name. What position with regard to them am I to assume? I am a
Christian; how am I to live in relation to Christians?" Such seems to be
something like the poet's thought. What central position can he gain,
which, while it answers best the necessities of his own soul with regard
to God, will enable him to feel himself connected with the whole
Christian world, and to sympathize with all; so that he may not be
alone, but one of the whole. Certainly the position necessary for both
requirements is one and the same. He that is isolated from his brethren,
loses one of the greatest helps to draw near to God. Now, in this time,
which is so peculiarly transitional, this is a question of no little
import for all who, while they gladly forsake old, or rather _modern_,
theories, for what is to them a more full development of Christianity as
well as a return to the fountain-head, yet seek to be saved from the
danger of losing sympathy with those who are content with what they are
compelled to abandon. Seeing much in the common modes of thought and
belief that is inconsistent with Christianity, and even opposed to it,
they yet cannot but see likewise in many of them a power of spiritual
good; which, though not dependent on the peculiar mode, is yet
enveloped, if not embodied, in that mode.

  "Ask, else, these ruins of humanity,
  This flesh worn out to rags and tatters,
  This soul at struggle with insanity,
  Who thence take comfort, can I doubt,
  Which an empire gained, were a loss without."

The love of God is the soul of Christianity. Christ is the body of that
truth. The love of God is the creating and redeeming, the forming and
satisfying power of the universe. The love of God is that which kills
evil and glorifies goodness. It is the safety of the great whole. It is
the home-atmosphere of all life. Well does the poet of the "Christmas
Eve" say:--

  "The loving worm within its clod,
  Were diviner than a loveless God
  Amid his worlds, I will dare to say."

Surely then, inasmuch as man is made in the image of God nothing less
than a love in the image of God's love, all-embracing, quietly excusing,
heartily commending, can constitute the blessedness of man; a love not
insensible to that which is foreign to it, but overcoming it with good.
Where man loves in his kind, even as God loves in His kind, then man is
saved, then he has reached the unseen and eternal. But if, besides the
necessity to love that lies in a man, there be likewise in the man whom
he ought to love something in common with him, then the law of love has
increased force. If that point of sympathy lies at the centre of the
being of each, and if these centres are brought into contact, then the
circles of their being will be, if not coincident, yet concentric. We
must wait patiently for the completion of God's great harmony, and
meantime love everywhere and as we can.

But the great lesson which this poem teaches, and which is taught more
directly in the "Easter Day" (forming part of the same volume), is that
the business of a man's life is to be a Christian. A man has to do with
God first; in Him only can he find the unity and harmony he seeks. To be
one with Him is to be at the centre of things. If one acknowledges that
God has revealed himself in Christ; that God has recognized man as his
family, by appearing among them in their form; surely that very
acknowledgment carries with it the admission that man's chief concern is
with this revelation. What does God say and mean, teach and manifest,
herein? If this world is God's making, and he is present in all nature;
if he rules all things and is present in all history; if the soul of man
is in his image, with all its circles of thought and multiplicity of
forms; and if for man it be not enough to be rooted in God, but he must
likewise lay hold on God; then surely no question, in whatever
direction, can be truly answered, save by him who stands at the side of
Christ. The doings of God cannot be understood, save by him who has the
mind of Christ, which is the mind of God. All things must be strange to
one who sympathizes not with the thought of the Maker, who understands
not the design of the Artist. Where is he to begin? What light has he by
which to classify? How will he bring order out of this apparent
confusion, when the order is higher than his thought; when the confusion
to him is _caused_ by the order's being greater than he can comprehend?
Because he stands outside and not within, he sees an entangled maze of
forces, where there is in truth an intertwining dance of harmony. There
is for no one any solution of the world's mystery, or of any part of its
mystery, except he be able to say with our poet:--

  "I have looked to Thee from the beginning,
  Straight up to Thee through all the world,
  Which, like an idle scroll, lay furled
  To nothingness on either side:
  And since the time Thou wast descried,
  Spite of the weak heart, so have I
  Lived ever, and so fain would die,
  Living and dying, Thee before!"

Christianity is not the ornament, or even complement, of life; it is its
necessity; it is life itself glorified into God's ideal.

Dr. Chalmers, from considering the minuteness of the directions given to
Moses for the making of the tabernacle, was led to think that he himself
was wrong in attending too little to the "_petite morale_" of dress.
Will this be excuse enough for occupying a few sentences with the
rhyming of this poem? Certainly the rhymes of a poem form no small part
of its artistic existence. Probably there is a deeper meaning in this
part of the poetic art than has yet been made clear to poet's mind. In
this poem the rhymes have their share in its humorous charm. The
writer's power of using double and triple rhymes is remarkable, and the
effect is often pleasing, even where they are used in the more solemn
parts of the poem. Take the lines:--

  "No! love which, on earth, amid all the shows of it,
  Has ever been seen the sole good of life in it,
  The love, ever growing there, spite of the strife in it,
  Shall arise, made perfect, from death's repose of it."

A poem is a thing not for the understanding or heart only, but likewise
for the ear; or, rather, for the understanding and heart through the
ear. The best poem is best set forth when best read. If, then, there be
rhymes which, when read aloud, do, by their composition of words,
prevent the understanding from laying hold on the separate words, while
the ear lays hold on the rhymes, the perfection of the art must here be
lost sight of, notwithstanding the completeness which the rhyming
manifests on close examination. For instance, in "_equipt yours,"
"Scriptures;" "Manchester," "haunches stir_;" or "_affirm any,"
"Germany_;" where two words rhyme with one word. But there are very few
of them that are objectionable on account of this difficulty and
necessity of rapid analysis.

One of the most wonderful things in the poem is, that so much of
argument is expressed in a species of verse, which one might be
inclined, at first sight, to think the least fitted for embodying it.
But, in fact, the same amount of argument in any other kind of verse
would, in all likelihood, have been intolerably dull as a work of art.
Here the verse is full of life and vigour, flagging never. Where, in
several parts, the exact meaning is difficult to reach, this results
chiefly from the dramatic rapidity and condensation of the thoughts. The
argumentative power is indeed wonderful; the arguments themselves
powerful in their simplicity, and embodied in words of admirable force.
The poem is full of pathos and humour; full of beauty and grandeur,
earnestness and truth.


[Footnote: "Essays on some of
the Forms of Literature." By T.T. Lynch, Author of "Theophilus Trinal."

Schoppe, the satiric chorus of Jean Paul's romance of Titan, makes his
appearance at a certain masked ball, carrying in front of him a glass
case, in which the ball is remasked, repeated, and again reflected in a
mirror behind, by a set of puppets, ludicrously aping the apery of the
courtiers, whose whole life and outward manifestation was but a
body-mask mechanically moved with the semblance of real life and action.
The court simulates reality. The masks are a multiform mockery at their
own unreality, and as such are regarded by Schoppe, who takes them off
with the utmost ridicule in his masked puppet-show, which, with its
reflection in the mirror, is again indefinitely multiplied in the
many-sided reflector of Schoppe's, or of Richter's, or of the reader's
own imagination. The successive retreating and beholding in this scene
is suggested to the reviewer by the fact that the last of these essays
by Mr. Lynch is devoted in part to reviews. So that the reviews review
books,--Mr. Lynch reviews the reviews, and the present Reviewer finds
himself (somewhat presumptuously, it may be) attempting to review Mr.
Lynch. In this, however, his office must be very different from that of
Schoppe (for there is a deeper and more real correspondence between the
position of the showman and the reviewer than that outward resemblance
which first caused the one to suggest the other). The latter's office,
in the present instance, was, by mockery, to destroy the false, the very
involution of the satire adding to the strength of the ridicule. His
glass case was simply a review uttered by shapes and wires instead of
words and handwriting. And the work of the true critic must sometimes be
to condemn, and, as far as his strength can reach, utterly to destroy
the false,--scorching and withering its seeming beauty, till it is
reduced to its essence and original groundwork of dust and ashes. It is
only, however, when it wears the form of beauty which is the garment of
truth, and so, like the Erl-maidens, has power to bewitch, that it is
worth the notice and attack of the critic. Many forms of error, perhaps
most, are better left alone to die of their own weakness, for the
galvanic battery of criticism only helps to perpetuate their ghastly
life. The highest work of the critic, however, must surely be to direct
attention to the true, in whatever form it may have found utterance. But
on this let us hear Mr. Lynch himself in the last of these four lectures
which were delivered by him at the Royal Institution, Manchester, and
are now before us in the form of a book:--

"The kritikos, the discerner, if he is ever saying to us, This is not
gold; and never, This is; is either very humbly useful, or very
perverse, or very unfortunate. This is not gold, he says. Thank you, we
reply, we perceived as much. And this is not, he adds. True, we answer,
but we see gold grains glittering out of its rude, dark mass. Well, at
least, this is not, he proceeds. Perverse man! we retort, are you
seeking what is not gold? We are inquiring for what is, and unfortunate
indeed are we if, born into a world of Nature, and of Spirit once so
rich, we are born but to find that it has spent or has lost all its
wealth. Unhappy man would he be, who, walking his garden, should scent
only the earthy savour of leaves dead or dying, never perceiving, and
that afar off, the heavenly odour of roses fresh to-day from the Maker's
hands. The discerning by spiritual aroma may lead to discernment by the
eye, and to that careful scrutiny, and thence greater knowledge, of
which the eye is instrument and minister."

And again:--

"The critic criticized, if dealt with in the worst fashion of his own
class, must be pronounced a mere monster, 'seeking whom he may devour;'
and, therefore, to be hunted and slain as speedily as possible, and
stuffed for the museum, where he may be regarded with due horror, but in
safety. But if dealt with after the best fashion of his class, a very
honourable and beneficent office is assigned him, and he is warned
only--though zealously--against its perversions. A judicial chair in the
kingdom of human thought, filled by a man of true integrity,
comprehensiveness, and delicacy of spirit, is a seat of terror and
praise, whose powers are at once most fostering to whatever is good,
most repressive of whatever is evil.... The critic, in his office of
censurer, has need so much to controvert, expose, and punish, because of
the abundance of literary faults; and as there is a right and a wrong
side in warfare, so there will be in criticism. And as when soldiers are
numerous, there will be not a few who are only tolerable, if even that,
so of critics. But then the critic is more than the censurer; and in his
higher and happier aspect appears before us and serves us, as the
discoverer, the vindicator, and the eulogist of excellence."

But resisting the temptation to quote further from Mr. Lynch's book on
this matter of Criticism, which seemed the natural point of contact by
which the Reviewer could lay hold on the book, he would pass on with the
remark that his duty in the present instance is of the nobler and better
sort--nobler and better, that is, with regard to the object, for duty in
the man remains ever the same--namely, the exposition of excellence, and
not of its opposite. Mr. Lynch is a man of true insight and large heart,
who has already done good in the world, and will do more; although,
possibly, he belongs rather to the last class of writers described by
himself, in the extract I am about to give from this same essay, than to
any of the preceding:--

"Some of the best books are written avowedly, or with evident
consciousness of the fact, for the select public that is constituted by
minds of the deeper class, or minds the more advanced of their time.
Such books may have but a restricted circulation and limited esteem in
their own day, and may afterwards extend both their fame and the circle
of their readers. Others of the best books, written with a pathos and a
power that may be universally felt, appeal at once to the common
humanity of the world, and get a response marvellously strong and
immediate. An ordinary human eye and heart, whose glances are true,
whose pulses healthy, will fit us to say of much that we read--This is
good, that is poor. But only the educated eye and the experienced heart
will fit us to judge of what relates to matters veiled from ordinary
observation, and belonging to the profounder region of human thought and
emotion. Powers, however, that the few only possess, may be required to
paint what everybody can see, so that everybody shall say, How
beautiful! how like! And powers adequate to do this in the finest manner
will be often adequate to do much more--may produce, indeed, books or
pictures, whose singular merit only the few shall perceive, and the many
for awhile deny, and books or pictures which, while they give an
immediate and pure pleasure to the common eye, shall give a far fuller
and finer pleasure to that eye that is the organ of a deeper and more
cultivated soul. There are, too, men of _peculiar_ powers, rare and
fine, who can never hope to please the large public, at least of their
own age, but whose writings are a heart's ease and heart's joy to the
select few, and serve such as a cup of heavenly comfort for the earth's
journey, and a lamp of heavenly light for the shadows of the way."

One other extract from the general remarks on Books in this essay, and
we will turn to another:--

"In all our estimation of the various qualities of books, if it be true
that our reading assists our life, it is true also that our life assists
our reading. If we let our spirit talk to us in undistracted moments--if
we commune with friendly, serious Nature, face to face, often--if we
pursue honourable aims in a steady progress--if we learn how a man's
best work falls below his thought, yet how still his failure prompts a
tenderer love of his thought--if we live in sincere, frank relations
with some few friends, joying in their joy, hearing the tale and sharing
the pain of their grief, and in frequent interchange of honest,
household sensibility--if we look about us on character, marking
distinctly what we can see, and feeling the prompting of a hundred
questions concerning what is out of our ken:--if we live thus, we shall
be good readers and critics of books, and improving ones."

The second and third of these essays are on Biography and Fiction
respectively and principally; treating, however, of collateral subjects
as well. Deep is the relation between the life shadowed forth in a
biography, and the life in a man's brain which he shadows forth in a
fiction--when that fiction is of the highest order, and written in love,
is beheld even by the writer himself with reverence. Delightful, surely,
it must be; yes, awful too, to read to-day the embodiment of a man's
noblest thought, to follow the hero of his creation through his
temptations, contests, and victories, in a world which likewise is--

  "All made out of the carver's brain;"

and to-morrow to read the biography of this same writer. What of his own
ideal has he realized? Where can the life-fountain be detected within
him which found issue to the world's light and air, in this ideal self?
Shall God's fiction, which is man's reality, fall short of man's
fiction? Shall a man be less than what he can conceive and utter? Surely
it will not, cannot end thus. If a man live at all in harmony with the
great laws of being--if he will permit the working out of God's idea in
him, he must one day arrive at something greater than what now he can
project and behold. Yet, in biography, we do not so often find traces of
those struggles depicted in the loftier fiction. One reason may be that
the contest is often entirely within, and so a man may have won his
spiritual freedom without any outward token directly significant of the
victory; except, if he be an artist, such expression as it finds in
fiction, whether the fiction be in marble, or in sweet harmonies, or in
ink. Nor can we determine the true significance of any living act; for
being ourselves within the compass of the life-mystery, we cannot hold
it at arm's length from us and look at its lines of configuration. Nor
of a life can we in any measure determine the success by what we behold
of it. It is to us at best but a truncated spire, whose want of
completion may be the greater because of the breadth of its base, and
its slow taper, indicating the lofty height to which it is intended to
aspire. The idea of our own life is more than we can embrace. It is not
ours, but God's, and fades away into the infinite. Our comprehension is
finite; we ourselves infinite. We can only trust in God and do the
truth; then, and then only, is our life safe, and sure both of
continuance and development.

But the reviewer perhaps too often merely steals his author's text and
writes upon it; or, like a man who lies in bed thinking about a dream
till its folds enwrap him and he sinks into the midst of its visions, he
forgets his position of beholding, and passes from observation into
spontaneous utterance. What says our author about "biography,
autobiography, and history?" This lecture has pleased the reviewer most
of the four. Reading it in a lonely place, under a tree, with wide
fields and slopes around, it produced on his mind the two effects which
perhaps Mr. Lynch would most wish it should produce--namely, first, a
longing to lead a more true and noble life; and, secondly, a desire to
read more biography. Nor can he but hope that it must produce the same
effect on every earnest reader, on every one whose own biography would
not be altogether a blank in what regards the individual will and
spiritual aim.

"In meditative hours, when we blend despair of ourself with complaint of
the world, the biography of a man successful in this great business of
living is as the visit of an angel sent to strengthen us. Give the
soldier his sword, the farmer his plough, the carpenter his hammer and
nails, the manufacturer his machines, the merchant his stores, and the
scholar his books; these are but implements; the man is more than his
work or tools. How far has he fulfilled the law of his being, and
attained its desire? Is his life a whole; the days as threads and as
touches; the life, the well-woven garment, the well-painted picture?
Which of two sacrifices has he offered--the one so acceptable to the
powers of dark worlds, the other so acceptable to powers of bright
ones--that of soul to body, or that of body to soul? Has he slain what
was holiest in him to obtain gifts from Fashion or Mammon? Or has he, in
days so arduous, so assiduous, that they are like a noble army of
martyrs, made burnt-offering of what was secondary, throwing into the
flames the salt of true moral energy and the incense of cordial
affections? We want the work to show us by its parts, its mass, its
form, the qualities of the man, and to see that the man is perfected
through his work as well as the work finished by his effort."

Perhaps the highest moral height which a man can reach, and at the same
time the most difficult of attainment, is the willingness to be
_nothing_ relatively, so that he attain that positive excellence which
the original conditions of his being render not merely possible, but
imperative. It is nothing to a man to be greater or less than
another--to be esteemed or otherwise by the public or private world in
which he moves. Does he, or does he not, behold, and love, and live, the
unchangeable, the essential, the divine? This he can only do according
as God hath made him. He can behold and understand God in the least
degree, as well as in the greatest, only by the godlike within him; and
he that loves thus the good and great, has no room, no thought, no
necessity for comparison and difference. The truth satisfies him. He
lives in its absoluteness. God makes the glow-worm as well as the star;
the light in both is divine. If mine be an earth-star to gladden the
wayside, I must cultivate humbly and rejoicingly its green earth-glow,
and not seek to blanch it to the whiteness of the stars that lie in the
fields of blue. For to deny God in my own being is to cease to behold
him in any. God and man can meet only by the man's becoming that which
God meant him to be. Then he enters into the house of life, which is
greater than the house of fame. It is better to be a child in a green
field than a knight of many orders in a state ceremonial.

"One biography may help conjecture or satisfy reason concerning the
story of a thousand unrecorded lives. And how few even of the deserving
among the multitude can deserve, as 'dear sons of memory,' to be shrined
in the public heart. Few of us die unwept, but most of us unwritten. We
shall find a grave--less certainly a tombstone--and with much less
likelihood a biographer. Those 'bright particular' stars that at evening
look towards us from afar, yet still are individual in the distance, are
at clearest times but about a thousand; but the milky lustre that runs
through mid heaven is composed of a million million lights, which are
not the less separate because seen undistinguishably. Absorbed, not
lost, in the multitude of the unrecorded, our private dear ones make
part in this mild, blissful shining of the 'general assembly,' the great
congregation of the skies. Thus the past is aglow with the unwritten,
the nameless. The leaders, sons of fame, conspicuous in lustre, eminent
in place; these are the few, whose great individuality burns with
distinct, starry light through the dark of ages. Such stars, without the
starry way, would not teach us the vastness of heaven; and the 'way,'
without these, were not sufficient to gladden and glorify the night with
pomp of Hierarchical Ascents of Domination."

There are many passages in this essay with which the reviewer would be
glad to enrich his notice of the book, but limitation of space, and
perhaps justice to the essay itself, which ought to be read in its own
completeness, forbid. Mr. Lynch looks to the heart of the matter, and
makes one put the question--"Would not a biography written by Mr. Lynch
himself be a valuable addition to this kind of literature?" His would
not be an interesting account of outward events and relationships and
progress, nor even a succession of revelations of inward conditions, but
we should expect to find ourselves elevated by him to a point of view
from which the life of the man would assume an artistic individuality,
as it were an isolation of existence; for the supposed author could not
choose for his regard any biography for which this would be impossible;
or in which the reticulated nerves of purpose did not combine the whole,
with more or less of success, into a true and remarkable unity. One
passage more from this essay,--

"Biography, then, makes life known to us as more wealthy in character,
and much more remarkable in its every-day stories, than we had deemed
it. Another good it does us is this. It introduces us to some of our
most agreeable and stimulative friendships. People may be more
beneficially intimate with one they never saw than even with a neighbour
or brother. Many a solitary, puzzled, incommunicative person, has found
society provided, his riddle read, and his heart's secret, that longed
and strove for utterance, outspoken for him in a biography. And both a
love purer than any yet entertained may be originated, and a pure but
ungratified love already existing, find an object, by the visit of a
biography. In actual life you see your friend to-day, and will see him
again to-morrow or next year; but in the dear book, you have your friend
and all his experiences at once and ever. He is with you wholly, and may
be with you at any time. He lives for you, and has already died for you,
to give finish to the meaning, fulness, and sanctity, to the comfort of
his days. He is mysteriously above as well as before you, by this fact,
that he has died. Thus your intimate is your superior, your solace, but
your support, too, and an example of the victory to which he calls you.
His end, or her end, is our own in view, and the flagging spirit
revives. We see the goal, and gird our loins anew for the race. Or,
speaking of things minor, there is fresh prospect of the game, there is
companionship in the hunt, and spirit for the winning. Such biography,
too, is a mirror in which we see ourselves; and we see that we may trim
or adorn, or that the plain signs of our deficient health or ill-ruled
temper may set us to look for, and to use the means of improvement. But
such a mirror is as a water one; in which first you may see your face,
and which then becomes for you a bath to wash away the stains you see,
and to offer its pure, cool stream as a restorative and cosmetic for
your wrinkles and pallors. And what a pleasure there will be sometimes
as we peruse a biography, in finding another who is so like
ourself--saying the same things, feeling the same dreads, and shames, and
flutterings; hampered and harassed much as poor self is. Then, the
escapes of such a friend give us hope of deliverance for ourself; and
his better, or if not better, yet rewarded, patience, freshens our eye
and sinews, and puts a staff into our hand. And certain seals of
impossibility that we had put on this stone, and on that, beneath which
our hopes lay buried, are by this biography, as by a visiting angel,
effectually broken, and our hopes arise again. Our view of life becomes
more complete because we see the whole of his, or of hers. We view life,
too, in a more composed, tender way. Wavering faith, in its chosen
determining principles, is confirmed. In quiet comparison of ourselves
with one of our own class, or one who has made the mark for which we are
striving, we are shamed to have done no better, and stirred to attempt
former things again, or fresh ones in a stronger and more patient

It is, indeed, well with him who has found a friend whose spirit touches
his own and illuminates it.

  "I missed him when the sun began to bend;
  I found him not when I had lost his rim;
  With many tears I went in search of him,
  Climbing high mountains which did still ascend,
  And gave me echoes when I called my friend;
  Through cities vast and charnel-houses grim,
  And high cathedrals where the light was dim;
  Through books, and arts, and works without an end--
  But found him not, the friend whom I had lost.
  And yet I found him, as I found the lark,
  A sound in fields I heard but could not mark;
  I found him nearest when I missed him most,
  I found him in my heart, a life in frost,
  A light I knew not till my soul was dark."

Next to possessing a true, wise, and victorious friend seated by your
fireside, it is blessed to have the spirit of such a friend
embodied--for spirit can assume any embodiment--on your bookshelves. But
in the latter case the friendship is all on one side. For full
friendship your friend must love you, and know that you love him. Surely
these biographies are not merely spiritual links connecting us in the
truest manner with past times and vanished minds, and thus producing
strong half friendships. Are they not likewise links connecting us with
a future, wherein these souls shall dawn upon ours, rising again from
the death of the past into the life of our knowledge and love? Are not
these biographies letters of introduction, forwarded, but not yet
followed by him whom they introduce, for whose step we listen, and whose
voice we long to hear; and whom we shall yet meet somewhere in the
Infinite? Shall I not one day, "somewhere, somehow," clasp the large
hand of Novalis, and, gazing on his face, compare his features with
those of Saint John?

The essay on light literature must be left to the spontaneous
appreciation of those who are already acquainted with this book, or who
may be induced, by the representations here made, to become acquainted
with it. Before proceeding to notice the first essay in the little
volume, namely, that on Poetry, its subject suggests the fact of the
publication of a second edition of the Memorials of Theophilus Trinal,
by the same author, a portion of which consists of interspersed poems.
These are of true poetic worth; and although in some cases wanting in
rhythmic melody, yet in most of these cases they possess a wild and
peculiar rhythm of their own. The reviewer knows of some whose hearts
this book has made glad, and doubtless there are many such.

The essay on Poetry is itself poetic throughout in its expression. And
how else shall Poetry be described than by Poetry? What form shall
embrace and define the highest? Must it not be self-descriptive as
self-existent? For what man is to this planet, what the eye is to man
himself, Poetry is to Literature. Yet one can hardly help wishing that
the poetic forms in this Essay were fewer and less minute, and the whole
a little more scientific; though it is a question how far we have a
right to ask for this. As you open it, however, the pages seem
absolutely to sparkle, as if strewn with diamond sparks. It is no dull,
metallic, surface lustre, but a shining from within, as well as from the
superficies. Still one cannot deny that fancy is too prominent in Mr.
Lynch's writings. It is true that his Fancy is the fairy attendant on
his Imagination, which latter uses the former for her own higher ends;
and that there is little or no _mere_ fancy to be found in his books;
for if you look below the surface-form you find a truth. But it were to
be desired that the Truth clothed herself always in the living forms of
Imagination, and thus walked forth amongst her worshippers, looking on
them from living eyes, rather than that she should show herself through
the windows of fancy. Sometimes there may be an offence against taste,
as in page 20; sometimes an image may be expanded too much, and
sometimes the very exuberance of imaginative fancy (if the combination
be correct) may lead to an association of images that suggests
incongruity. Still the essay is abundantly beautiful and true. The
poetical quotations are not isolated, or exposed to view as specimens,
but are worked into the web of the prose like the flowers in the damask,
and do their part in the evolution of the continuous thought.

"If poetry, as light from the heart of God, is for our heart, that we
may brighten and distinguish individual things; if it is to transfigure
for us the round, dusk world as by an inner radiance; if it is to
present human life and history as Rembrandt pictures, in which darkness
serves and glorifies light; if, like light, formless in its essence, all
things shapen towards the perfection of their forms under its influence;
if, entering as through crevices in single beams, it makes dimmest
places cheerful and sacred with its golden touch: then must the heart of
the Poet in which this true light shineth be as a hospice on the
mountain pathways of the world, and his verse must be the lamp seen from
far that burns to tell us where bread and shelter, drink, fire, and
companionship, may be found; and he himself should have the
mountaineer's hardiness and resolution. From the heart as source, to the
heart in influence, Poetry comes. The inward, the upward, and the
onward, whether we speak of an individual or a nation, may not be
separated in our consideration. Deep and sacred imaginative meditations
are needed for the true earthward as well as for the heavenward progress
of men and peoples. And Poetry, whether old or new, streaming from the
heart moved by the powerful spirit of love, has influence on the heart
public and individual, and thence on the manners, laws, and institutions
of nations. If Poesy visit the length and breadth of a country after
years unfruitfully dull, coming like a showery fertilizing wind after
drought, the corners and the valley-hidings are visited too, and these
perhaps she now visits first, as these sometimes she has visited only.
For miles and for miles, the public corn, the bread of the nation's
life, is bettered; and in our own endeared spot, the roses, delight of
our individual eye and sense, yield us more prosperingly their colour
and their fragrance. For the universal sunshine which brightens a
thousand cities, beautifies ten thousand homesteads, and rejoices ten
times ten thousand hearts. And as rains in the mid season renew for
awhile the faded greenness of spring; and trees in fervent summers, when
their foliage has deepened or fully fixed its hue, bedeck themselves
through the fervency with bright midsummer shoots; so, by Poetry are the
youthful hues of the soul renewed, and truths that have long stood
full-foliaged in our minds, are by its fine influences empowered to put
forth fresh shoots. Thus age, which is a necessity for the body, may be
warded off as a disease from the soul, and we may be like the old man in
Chaucer, who had nothing hoary about him but his hairs--

  "'Though I be hoor I fare as doth a tree
  That blosmeth er the fruit ywoxen be,
  The blosmy tree n' is neither drie ne ded:
  I feel me nowhere hoor, but on my head.
  Min herte and all my limmes ben as grene
  As laurel through the yere is for to sene.'"

Hear our author again as to the calling of the poet:--

"To unite earthly love and celestial--'true to the kindred points of
heaven and home;' to reconcile time and eternity; to draw presage of
joy's victory from the delight of the secret honey dropping from the
clefts of rocky sorrow; _to harmonize our instinctive longings for the
definite and the infinite, in the ideal Perfect_; to read creation as a
human book of the heart, both plain and mystical, and divinely written:
such is the office fulfilled by best-loved poets. Their ladder of
celestial ascent must be fixed on its base, earth, if its top is to
securely rest on heaven."

Beautifully, too, does he describe the birth of Poetry; though one may
doubt its correctness, at least if attributed to the highest kind of

"When words of felt truth were first spoken by the first pair, in love
of their garden, their God, and one another, and these words were with
joyful surprise felt to be in their form and glow answerable to the
happy thought uttered; then Poetry sprang. And when the first Father and
first Mother, settling their soul upon its thought, found that thought
brighten; and when from it, as thus they mused, like branchlets from a
branch, or flowerets from their bud, other thoughts came, ranging
themselves by the exerted, yet painlessly exerted, power of the soul, in
an order felt to be beautiful, and of a sound pleasant in utterance to
ear and soul; being withal, through the sweetness of their impression on
the heart, fixed for memory's frequentest recurrence; then was the
world's first poem composed, and in the joyful flutter of a heart that
had thus become a maker, the maker of a 'thing of beauty,' like in
beauty even unto God's heaven, and trees, and flowers, the secret of
Poesy shone tremulously forth."

Whether this be so or not, the highest poetic feeling of which we are
now conscious springs not from the beholding of perfected beauty, but
from the mute sympathy which the creation with all its children
manifests with us in the groaning and travailing which looketh for the
sonship. Because of our need and aspiration, the snowdrop gives birth in
our hearts to a loftier spiritual and poetic feeling, than the rose most
complete in form, colour, and odour. The rose is of Paradise--the
snowdrop is of the striving, hoping, longing Earth. Perhaps our highest
poetry is the expression of our aspirations in the sympathetic forms of
visible nature. Nor is this merely a longing for a restored Paradise;
for even in the ordinary history of men, no man or woman that has fallen
can be restored to the position formerly occupied. Such must rise to a
yet higher place, whence they can behold their former standing far
beneath their feet. They must be restored by attaining something better
than they ever possessed before, or not at all. If the law be a
weariness, we must escape it by being filled with the spirit, for not
otherwise can we fulfil the law than by being above the law. There is
for us no escape, save as the Poet counsels us:--

  "Is thy strait horizon dreary?
  Is thy foolish fancy chill?
  Change the feet that have grown weary,
  For the wings that never will.
  Burst the flesh and live the spirit;
  Haunt the beautiful and far;
  Thou hast all things to inherit,
  And a soul for every star."

But the Reviewer must hasten to take leave, though unwillingly, of this
pleasing, earnest, and profitable book. Perhaps it could be wished that
the writer helped his readers a little more into the channel of his
thought; made it easier for them to see the direction in which he is
leading them; called out to them, "Come up hither," before he said, "I
will show you a thing." But the Reviewer says this with deference; and
takes his leave with the hope that Mr. Lynch will be listened to for two
good reasons: first, that he speaks the truth; last, that he has already
suffered for the Truth's sake.


[Footnote: By J. Rutherfurd Russell, M.D.]

In this volume, Dr. Russell has not merely aimed at the production of a
book that might be serviceable to the Faculty, by which the history of
its own art is not at all sufficiently studied, but has aspired to the
far more difficult success of writing a history of medicine which shall
be readable to all who care for true history--that history, namely, in
which not merely growth and change are represented, but the secret
supplies and influences as well, which minister to the one and occasion
the other. If the difficulty has been greater (although with his
evidently wide sympathies and keen insight into humanity we doubt if it
has), the success is the more honourable; for a success it certainly is.
The partially biographical plan on which he has constructed his work has
no doubt aided in the accomplishment of this purpose; for it is much
easier to present the subject in its human relations, when its history
is given in connexion with the lives of those who were most immediately
associated with it. But it would be a great mistake to conclude from
this, that it is the less a history of the art itself; for no art or
science has life in itself, apart from the minds which foresee,
discover, and verify it. Whatever point in its progress it may have
reached, it will there remain until a new man appears, whose new
questions shall illicit new replies from nature--replies which are the
essential food of the science, by which it lives, grows, and makes
itself a history.

Nor must our readers suppose that because the book is readable, it is
therefore slight, either in material or construction. Much reading and
research have provided the material, while real thought and argument
have superintended the construction. Nor is it by any means without the
adornment that a poetic temperament and a keen sense of humour can

Naturally, the central life in the book is that of Lord Bacon, the man
who brought out of his treasures things both new and old. Up to him the
story gradually leads from the prehistoric times of Aesculapius, the
pathway first becoming plainly visible in the life and labours of
Hippocrates. His fine intellect and powers of acute observation afforded
the material necessary for the making of a true physician. The Greek
mind, partly, perhaps, from its artistic tendencies, seems to have been
peculiarly impatient of incomplete forms, and therefore, to have much
preferred the construction of a theory from the most shadowy material,
to the patient experiment and investigation necessary for the procuring
of the real substance; and Hippocrates, not knowing how to advance to a
theory by rational experiment, and too honest to invent one, assumes the
traditional theories, founded on the vaguest and most obtrusive
generalizations. Those which his experience taught him to reject, were
adopted and maintained by Galen and all who followed him for centuries,
the chief instance of progress being only the substitution by the
Arabians of some of the milder medicines now in use, for the terrible
and often fatal drugs employed by the Greek and Roman physicians. The
fanciful classification of diseases into four kinds--hot, cold, moist
and dry, with the corresponding arbitrary classification of remedies to
be administered by contraries, continued to be the only recognized
theory of medicine for many centuries after the Christian era.

But Lord Bacon, amongst other branches of knowledge which he considers
ill-followed, makes especial mention of medicine, which he would submit
to the same rules of observation and experiment laid down by him for the
advancement of learning in general. With regard to it, as with regard to
the discovery of all the higher laws of nature, he considers "that men
have made too untimely a departure, and too remote a recess from
particulars." Men have hurried to conclusions, and then argued from them
as from facts. Therefore let us have no traditional theories, and make
none for ourselves but such as are revealed in the form of laws to the
patient investigator, who has "straightened and held fast Proteus, that
he might be compelled to change his shapes," and so reveal his nature.
Hence one of the aspects in which Lord Bacon was compelled to appear was
that of a destroyer of what preceded. In this he resembled Cardan and
Paracelsus who went before him, and who like him pulled down, but could
not, like him, build up. He resembled them, however, in the possession
of another element of character, namely, that poetic imagination which
looks abroad into the regions of possibilities, and foresees or invents.
But in the case of the charlatan, the vaguest suggestions of his mind in
its favourite mood, is adopted as a theory all but proved, if not as a
direct revelation to the favoured individual; while the true thinker
seeks but an hypothesis corresponding in some measure to facts already
discovered, in order that he may have the suggestion of new experiments
and investigations in the course of his attempts to verify or disprove
the hypothesis. Lord Bacon considered hypothesis invaluable in the
discovery of truth, but he only used it as a board upon which to write
his questions to nature; or, to use another figure, hypothesis with him
is as the next stepping-stone in the swollen river, which he supposes to
be here or there, and so feels for with his staff. But it must be proved
before it be regarded as a law, and greatly corroborated before it be
even adopted as a theory. Cardan and Paracelsus were destroyers and
mystics only; they destroyed on the earth that they might build in the
air: Lord Bacon united both characters in the philosopher. He looked
abroad into the regions of the unknown, whence all knowledge comes; he
called wonder the seed of knowledge; but he would build nowhere but on
the earth--on the firm land of ascertained truth. That which kept him
right was his practical humanity. It was for the sake of delivering men
from the ills of life, by discovering the laws of the elements amidst
which that life must be led, that he laboured and thought. This object
kept him true, made him able to discover the very laws of discovery;
brought him so far into _rapport_ with the heart of nature herself,
that, like a physical prophet, his seeing could outspeed his knowing,
and behold a law--dimly, it is true, but yet behold it--long before his
intellect, which had to build bridges and find straw to make the bricks,
could dare to affirm its approach to the same conclusion. Truth to
humanity made him true to fact; and truth to fact made him true in

It was in this spirit of devotion to his kind that he said, "Therefore
here is the deficience which I find, that physicians have not ... set
down and delivered over certain experimental medicines for the cure of
particular diseases."

Dr. Russell's true insight into the relation of Lord Bacon to the
medical as well as to all science, has suggested the above remarks. What
our author chiefly desires is, that the same principles which made
medicine what it is, should be allowed to carry it yet further, and make
it what it ought to be, and must become. As he goes on to show, through
succeeding lives and theories, that just in proportion as these
principles have been followed--the principles of careful observation,
hypothesis, and experiment--have men made discoveries that have been
helpful to their fellow-men; while, on the other hand, the most
elaborate theories of the most popular physicians, which have owed their
birth to premature generalization and invention, have passed away, like
the crackling of thorns under a pot. Belonging to the latter class of
men, we have Stahl, Hoffman, Boerhaave, Cullen, and Brown; while to the
former belong Harvey, Sydenham, Jenner, and Hahnemann.

After the last name, there is no need to say that our author is a
homoeopath. Whatever may be our private opinion of the system, justice
requires that we should say at least that books such as these are quite
as open to refutation as to ridicule; for it is only a good argument
that is worth refuting by a better. But we fear there are few books on
this subject that treat of it with the calmness and fairness which would
incline an honest homoeopath to put them into the hands of one of the
opposite party as an exposition of his opinions. There is no excitement
in these pages. They are the work of a man of liberal education, of
refinement, and of truthfulness, with power to understand, and facility
to express; one of whose main objects is to vindicate for homoeopathy,
on the most rightful of all grounds--those on which alone science can
stand--on the ground, that is, of laws discovered by observation and
experiment--the place not only of a fact in the history of medicine, but
the right to be considered as one of the greatest advances towards the
establishment of a science of curing. Certainly if he and the rest of
its advocates should fail utterly in this, the heresy will yet have
established for itself a memorial in history, as one of the most
powerful illusions that have ever deceived both priests and people. But
the chief advantage which the system will derive from Dr. Russell's book
will spring, it seems to us, from his attempt--a successful one it must
be confessed--to prove _that homoeopathy is a development, and not a
mere reaction_; that it has its roots far down in the history of
science. The first mention of it in the book, however, is made for the
purpose of disavowing the claim, advanced by many homoeopathists, to
Hippocrates as one of their order. Not to mention the curious story
about Galen and the patient ill from an overdose of theriacum, who was
cured by another dose of the same substance, nor the ridicule of the
doctrine of contraries by Paracelsus and Van Helmont, nor the fact that
the _contraries_ of Boerhaave, by his own explanation, merely signify
whatever substances prove their contrariety to the disease by curing
it--to pass by these, we find one of the main objects of homoeopathy,
the discovery of specifics, insisted upon by Lord Bacon in his words
already quoted. Not that homoeopaths, while they depend upon specifics,
believe that there is any such thing as a specific for a disease--a
disease being as various as the individuality of the human beings whom
it may attack; but that an approximate specific may be found for every
well-defined stage in every individual disease; a disease having its
process of change, development, and decline, like a vegetable or animal
life. Besides an equally strong desire for specifics, and a determined
opposition to compound medicines, Boyle, who was born the year of
Bacon's death, and inherited the mantle of the great philosopher,
manifests a strong belief in the power of the infinitesimal dose.
Neither Bacon nor Boyle, however, were medical men by profession. But
Sydenham followed them, according to Dr. Russell, in their tendency
towards specifics. It is almost needless to mention Jenner's victory
over the small-pox as, in the eyes of the homoeopaths, a grand step in
the development of their system. It gives Dr. Russell an opportunity of
showing in a strong instance that the best discoveries for delivering
mankind from those ills even of which they are most sensible have been
received with derision, with more than bare unbelief. This is one of his
objects in the book, and while it is no proof whatever of the truth of
homoepathy, it shows at least that the opposition manifested to it is no
proof of its falsehood. This is enough; for it seeks to be tried on its
own merits; and its foes are bound to accord it this when it is
advocated in such an honest and dignified manner as in the book before

The need of man, in physics as well as in higher things, is the guide to
truth. With evils of any sort we need no further acquaintance than may
be gained in the endeavour to combat them. The discovery of what will
cure diseases seems the only natural mode of rising by generalization to
the discovery of the laws of cure and the nature of disease.

Those portions of the volume which discuss the influence of Christianity
on the healing art, likewise those relating to the different feelings
with which at different times in different countries physicians have
been regarded, are especially interesting.

The only portion of the book we should be inclined to find fault with,
as to the quality of the thought expended upon it, is the dissertation
in the second chapter on the [Greek: psuchae] and [Greek: pneuma]. We
doubt likewise whether the author gives the Archaeus of Van Helmont
quite fair play; but these are questions so purely theoretical that they
scarcely admit of discussion here. We rise from the perusal of the
book, whatever may be our feelings with regard to the truth or falsehood
of the system it advocates, with increased respect for the profession of
medicine, with enlarged hope for its future, and with a strong feeling
of the nobility conferred by the art upon every one of its practitioners
who is aware of the dignity of his calling.


[Footnote: Delivered extempore at Manchester.]

The history of the poetry of Wordsworth is a true reflex of the man
himself. The life of Wordsworth was not outwardly eventful, but his
inner life was full of conflict, discovery, and progress. His outward
life seems to have been so ordered by Providence as to favour the
development of the poetic life within. Educated in the country, and
spending most of his life in the society of nature, he was not subjected
to those violent external changes which have been the lot of some poets.
Perfectly fitted as he was to cope with the world, and to fight his way
to any desired position, he chose to retire from it, and in solitude to
work out what appeared to him to be the true destiny of his life.

The very element in which the mind of Wordsworth lived and moved was a
Christian pantheism. Allow me to explain the word. The poets of the Old
Testament speak of everything as being the work of God's hand:--We are
the "work of his hand;" "The world was made by him." But in the New
Testament there is a higher form used to express the relation in which
we stand to him--"We are his offspring;" not the work of his hand, but
the children that came forth from his heart. Our own poet Goldsmith,
with the high instinct of genius, speaks of God as having "loved us into
being." Now I think this is not only true with regard to man, but true
likewise with regard to the world in which we live. This world is not
merely a thing which God hath made, subjecting it to laws; but it is an
expression of the thought, the feeling, the heart of God himself. And so
it must be; because, if man be the child of God, would he not feel to be
out of his element if he lived in a world which came, not from the heart
of God, but only from his hand? This Christian pantheism, this belief
that God is in everything, and showing himself in everything, has been
much brought to the light by the poets of the past generation, and has
its influence still, I hope, upon the poets of the present. We are not
satisfied that the world should be a proof and varying indication of the
intellect of God. That was how Paley viewed it. He taught us to believe
there is a God from the mechanism of the world. But, allowing all the
argument to be quite correct, what does it prove? A mechanical God, and
nothing more.

Let us go further; and, looking at beauty, believe that God is the first
of artists; that he has put beauty into nature, knowing how it will
affect us, and intending that it should so affect us; that he has
embodied his own grand thoughts thus that we might see them and be glad.
Then, let us go further still, and believe that whatever we feel in the
highest moments of truth shining through beauty, whatever comes to our
souls as a power of life, is meant to be seen and felt by us, and to be
regarded not as the work of his hand, but as the flowing forth of his
heart, the flowing forth of his love of us, making us blessed in the
union of his heart and ours.

Now, Wordsworth is the high priest of nature thus regarded. He saw God
present everywhere; not always immediately, in his own form, it is true;
but whether he looked upon the awful mountain-peak, sky-encompassed with
loveliness, or upon the face of a little child, which is as it were eyes
in the face of nature--in all things he felt the solemn presence of the
Divine Spirit. By Keats this presence was recognized only as the spirit
of beauty; to Wordsworth, God, as the Spirit of Truth, was manifested
through the forms of the external world.

I have said that the life of Wordsworth was so ordered as to bring this
out of him, in the forms of _his_ art, to the ears of men. In childhood
even his conscience was partly developed through the influences of
nature upon him. He thus retrospectively describes this special
influence of nature:--

  One summer evening (led by her) I found
  A little boat, tied to a willow tree,
  Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
  Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in,
  Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth,
  And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
  Of mountain echoes did my boat move on,
  Leaving behind her still, on either side,
  Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
  Until they melted all into one track
  Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows
  Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
  With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
  Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
  The horizon's utmost boundary; far above
  Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
  She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
  I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
  And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
  Went heaving through the water like a swan;
  When, from behind that craggy steep, till then
  The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
  As if with voluntary power instinct,
  Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
  And, growing still in stature, the grim shape
  Towered up between me and the stars, and still
  For so it seemed, with purpose of its own,
  And measured motion like a living thing,
  Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
  And through the silent water stole my way
  Back to the covert of the willow tree;
  There in her mooring place I left my bark,
  And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
  And serious mood; but after I had seen
  That spectacle, for many days, my brain
  Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
  Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts
  There hung a darkness, call it solitude,
  Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
  Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
  Of sea, or sky, no colours of green fields;
  But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
  Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
  By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

Here we see that a fresh impulse was given to his life even in boyhood,
by the influence of nature. If we have had any similar experience, we
shall be able to enter into this feeling of Wordsworth's; if not, the
tale will be almost incredible.

One passage more I would refer to, as showing what Wordsworth felt with
regard to nature, in his youth; and the growth that took place in him in
consequence. Nature laid up in the storehouse of his mind and heart her
most beautiful and grand forms, whence they might be brought,
afterwards, to be put to the highest human service. I quote only a few
lines from that poem, deservedly a favourite with all the lovers of
Wordsworth, "Lines written above Tintern Abbey:"--

                    I cannot paint
  What then I was. The sounding cataract
  Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,
  The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
  Their colours and their forms, were then to me
  An appetite; a feeling and a love,
  That had no need of a remoter charm
  By thought supplied, nor any interest
  Unborrowed from the eye.--That time is past,
  And all its aching joys are now no more,
  And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
  Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
  Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
  Abundant recompense. For I have learned
  To look on nature, not as in the hour
  Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
  The still, sad music of humanity,
  Nor harsh, nor grating, though of ample power
  To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
  A presence that disturbs me with the joy
  Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
  Of something far more deeply interfused,
  Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
  And the round ocean, and the living air
  And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
  A motion and a spirit, that impels
  All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
  And rolls through all things.

In this little passage you see the growth of the influence of nature on
the mind of the poet. You observe, too, that nature passes into poetry;
that form is sublimed into speech. You see the result of the conjunction
of the mind of man, and the mind of God manifested in His works; spirit
coming to know the speech of spirit. The outflowing of spirit in nature
is received by the poet, and he utters again, in his form, what God has
already uttered in His. Wordsworth wished to give to man what he found
in nature. It was to him a power of good, a world of teaching, a
strength of life. He knew that nature was not his, and that his
enjoyment of nature was given to him that he might give it to man. It
was the birthright of man.

But what did Wordsworth find in nature? To begin with the lowest; he
found amusement in nature. Right amusement is a part of teaching; it is
the childish form of teaching, and if we can get this in nature, we get
something that lies near the root of good. In proof that Wordsworth
found this, I refer to a poem which you probably know well, "The Daisy."
The poet sits playing with the flower, and listening to the suggestions
that come to him of odd resemblances that this flower bears to other
things. He likens the daisy to--

  A little cyclops, with one eye
  Staring to threaten and defy,
  That thought comes next--and instantly
      The freak is over,
  The shape will vanish--and behold
  A silver shield with boss of gold,
  That spreads itself, some faëry bold
      In fight to cover!

Look at the last stanza, too, and you will see how close amusement may
lie to deep and earnest thought:--

  Bright _Flower_! for by that name at last
  When all my reveries are past,
  I call thee, and to that cleave fast,
          Sweet silent creature!
  That breath'st with me in sun and air,
  Do thou, as thou art wont, repair
  My heart with gladness, and a share
          Of thy meek nature!

But Wordsworth found also joy in nature, which is a better thing than
amusement, and consequently easier to be found. We can often have joy
where we can have no amusement,--

  I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills
  When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
  Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
  Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

         *       *       *       *       *

  The waves beside them danced; but they
    Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
  A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company:
  I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
  What Health the show to me had brought.

  "For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
  They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
  And then my heart with pleasure fills,
  And dances with the daffodils."

This is the joy of the eye, as far as that can be separated from the joy
of the whole nature; for his whole nature rejoiced in the joy of the
eye; but it was simply joy; there was no further teaching, no attempt to
go through this beauty and find the truth below it. We are not always to
be in that hungry, restless condition, even after truth itself. If we
keep our minds quiet and ready to receive truth, and _sometimes_ are
hungry for it, that is enough.

Going a step higher, you will find that he sometimes _draws_ a lesson
from nature, seeming almost to force a meaning from her. I do not object
to this, if he does not make too much of it as _existing_ in nature. It
is rather finding a meaning in nature that he brought to it. The meaning
exists, if not _there_. For illustration I refer to another poem.
Observe that Wordsworth found the lesson because he looked for it, and
_would_ find it.

  This Lawn, a carpet all alive
  With shadows flung from leaves--to strive
          In dance, amid a press
  Of sunshine, an apt emblem yields
  Of Worldlings revelling in the fields
          Of strenuous idleness.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Yet, spite of all this eager strife,
  This ceaseless play, the genuine life
          That serves the steadfast hours,
  Is in the grass beneath, that grows
  Unheeded, and the mute repose
          Of sweetly-breathing flowers.

Whether he forced this lesson from nature, or not, it is a good lesson,
teaching a great many things with regard to life and work.

Again, nature sometimes flashes a lesson on his mind; _gives_ it to
him--and when nature gives, we cannot but receive. As in this sonnet
composed during a storm,--

  One who was suffering tumult in his soul
  Yet failed to seek the sure relief of prayer,
  Went forth; his course surrendering to the care
  Of the fierce wind, while mid-day lightnings prowl
  Insiduously, untimely thunders growl;
  While trees, dim-seen, in frenzied numbers tear
  The lingering remnant of their yellow hair,
  And shivering wolves, surprised with darkness, howl
  As if the sun were not. He raised his eye
  Soul-smitten; for, that instant, did appear
  Large space (mid dreadful clouds) of purest sky,
  An azure disc--shield of Tranquillity;
  Invisible, unlooked-for, minister
  Of providential goodness ever nigh!

Observe that he was not looking for this; he had not thought of praying;
he was in such distress that it had benumbed the out-goings of his
spirit towards the source whence alone sure comfort comes. He went out
into the storm; and the uproar in the outer world was in harmony with
the tumult within his soul. Suddenly a clear space in the sky makes him
feel--he has no time to think about it--that there is a shield of
tranquillity spread over him. For was it not as it were an opening up
into that region where there are no storms; the regions of peace,
because the regions of love, and truth, and purity,--the home of God

There is yet a higher and more sustained influence exercised by nature,
and that takes effect when she puts a man into that mood or condition in
which thoughts come of themselves. That is perhaps the best thing that
can be done for us, the best at least that nature can do. It is
certainly higher than mere intellectual teaching. That nature did this
for Wordsworth is very clear; and it is easily intelligible. If the
world proceeded from the imagination of God, and man proceeded from the
love of God, it is easy to believe that that which proceeded from the
imagination of God should rouse the best thoughts in the mind of a being
who proceeded from the love of God. This I think is the relation between
man and the world. As an instance of what I mean, I refer to one of
Wordsworth's finest poems, which he classes under the head of "Evening
Voluntaries." It was composed upon an evening of extraordinary splendour
and beauty:--

  "Had this effulgence disappeared
  With flying haste, I might have sent,
  Among the speechless clouds, a look
  Of blank astonishment;
  But 'tis endued with power to stay,
  And sanctify one closing day,
  That frail Mortality may see--
  What is?--ah no, but what _can_, be!
  Time was when field and watery cove
  With modulated echoes rang,
  While choirs of fervent Angels sang
  Their vespers in the grove;
  Or, crowning, star-like, each some sovereign height,
  Warbled, for heaven above and earth below,
  Strains suitable to both. Such holy rite,
  Methinks, if audibly repeated now
  From hill or valley, could not move
  Sublimer transport, purer love,
  Than doth this silent spectacle--the gleam--
  The shadow--and the peace supreme!

  "No sound is uttered,--but a deep
    And solemn harmony pervades
  The hollow vale from steep to steep,
    And penetrates the glades.

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Wings at my shoulders seem to play;
  But, rooted here, I stand and gaze
  On those bright steps that heaven-ward raise
  Their practicable way.
  Come forth, ye drooping old men, look abroad,
  And see to what fair countries ye are bound!

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Dread Power! whom peace and calmness serve
  No less than Nature's threatening voice,
  From THEE, if I would swerve,
  Oh, let Thy grace remind me of the light
  Full early lost, and fruitlessly deplored;
  Which, at this moment, on my waking sight
  Appears to shine, by miracle restored;
  My soul, though yet confined to earth,
  Rejoices in a second birth!"

Picture the scene for yourselves; and observe how it moves in him the
sense of responsibility, and the prayer, that if he has in any matter
wandered from the right road, if he has forgotten the simplicity of
childhood in the toil of life, he may, from this time, remember the vow
that he now records--from this time to press on towards the things that
are unseen, but which are manifested through the things that are seen. I
refer you likewise to the poem "Resolution and Independence," commonly
called "The Leech Gatherer;" also to that grandest ode that has ever
been written, the "Ode on Immortality." You will find there, whatever
you may think of his theory, in the latter, sufficient proof that nature
was to him a divine teaching power. Do not suppose that I mean that man
can do without more teaching than nature's, or that a man with only
nature's teaching would have seen these things in nature. No, the soul
must be tuned to such things. Wordsworth could not have found such
things, had he not known something that was more definite and helpful to
him; but this known, then nature was full of teaching. When we
understand the Word of God, then we understand the works of God; when we
know the nature of an artist, we know his pictures; when we have known
and talked with the poet, we understand his poetry far better. To the
man of God, all nature will be but changeful reflections of the face of

Loving man as Wordsworth did, he was most anxious to give him this
teaching. How was he to do it? By poetry. Nature put into the crucible
of a loving heart becomes poetry. We cannot explain poetry
scientifically; because poetry is something beyond science. The poet may
be man of science, and the man of science may be a poet; but poetry
includes science, and the man who will advance science most, is the man
who, other qualifications being equal, has most of the poetic faculty in
him. Wordsworth defines poetry to be "the impassioned expression which
is on the face of science." Science has to do with the construction of
things. The casting of the granite ribs of the mighty earth, and all the
thousand operations that result in the manifestations on its surface,
this is the domain of science. But when there come the grass-bearing
meadows, the heaven-reared hills, the great streams that go ever
downward, the bubbling fountains that ever arise, the wind that wanders
amongst the leaves, and the odours that are wafted upon its wings; when
we have colour, and shape, and sound, then we have the material with
which poetry has to do. Science has to do with the underwork. For what
does this great central world exist, with its hidden winds and waters,
its upheavings and its downsinkings, its strong frame of rock, and its
heart of fire? What do they all exist for? Not for themselves surely,
but for the sake of this out-spreading world of beauty, that floats up,
as it were, to the surface of the shapeless region of force. Science has
to do with the one, and poetry with the other: poetry is "the
impassioned expression that is on the face of science." To illustrate it
still further. You are walking in the woods, and you find the first
primrose of the year. You feel almost as if you had found a child. You
know in yourself that you have found a new beauty and a new joy, though
you have seen it a thousand times before. It is a primrose. A little
flower that looks at me, thinks itself into my heart, and gives me a
pleasure distinct in itself, and which I feel as if I could not do
without. The impassioned expression on the face of this little outspread
flower is its childhood; it means trust, consciousness of protection,
faith, and hope. Science, in the person of the botanist, comes after
you, and pulls it to pieces to see its construction, and delights the
intellect; but the science itself is dead, and kills what it touches.
The flower exists not for it, but for the expression on its face, which
is its poetry,--that expression which you feel to mean a living thing;
that expression which makes you feel that this flower is, as it were,
just growing out of the heart of God. The intellect itself is but the
scaffolding for the uprearing of the spiritual nature.

It will make all this yet plainer, if you can suppose a human form to be
created without a soul in it. Divine science _has_ put it together, but
only for the sake of the outshining soul that shall cause it to live,
and move, and have a being of its own in God. When you see the face
lighted up with soul, when you recognize in it thought and feeling, joy
and love, then you know that here is the end for which it was made. Thus
you see the relation that poetry has to science; and you find that, to
speak in an apparent paradox, the surface is the deepest after all; for,
through the surface, for the sake of which all this building went on, we
have, as it were, a window into the depths of truth. There is not a form
that lives in the world, but is a window cloven through the blank
darkness of nothingness, to let us look into the heart, and feeling, and
nature of God. So the surface of things is the best and the deepest,
provided it is not mere surface, but the impassioned expression, for the
sake of which the science of God has thought and laboured.

Satisfied that this was the nature of poetry, and wanting to convey this
to the minds of his fellow-men, "What vehicle," Wordsworth may be
supposed to have asked himself, "shall I use? How shall I decide what
form of words to employ? Where am I to find the right language for
speaking such great things to men?" He saw that the poetry of the
eighteenth century (he was born in 1770) was not like nature at all, but
was an artificial thing, with no more originality in it than there would
be in a picture a hundred times copied, the copyists never reverting to
the original. You cannot look into this eighteenth century poetry,
excepting, of course, a great proportion of the poetry of Cowper and
Thompson, without being struck with the sort of agreement that nothing
should be said naturally. A certain set form and mode was employed for
saying things that ought never to have been said twice in the same way.
Wordsworth resolved to go back to the root of the thing, to the natural
simplicity of speech; he would have none of these stereotyped forms of
expression. "Where shall I find," said he, "the language that will be
simple and powerful?" And he came to the conclusion that the language of
the common people was the only language suitable for his purpose. Your
experience of the everyday language of the common people may be that it
is not poetical. True, but not even a poet can speak poetically in his
stupid moments. Wordsworth's idea was to take the language of the common
people in their uncommon moods, in their high and, consequently, simple
moods, when their minds are influenced by grief, hope, reverence,
worship, love; for then he believed he could get just the language
suitable for the poet. As far as that language will go, I think he was
right, if I may venture to give an opinion in support of Wordsworth. Of
course, there will occur necessities to the poet which would not be
comprehended in the language of a man whose thoughts had never moved in
the same directions, but the kind of language will be the right thing,
and I have heard such amongst the common people myself--language which
they did not know to be poetic, but which fell upon my ear and heart as
profoundly poetic both in its feeling and its form.

In attempting to carry out this theory, I am not prepared to say that
Wordsworth never transgressed his own self-imposed laws. But he adhered
to his theory to the last. A friend of the poet's told me that
Wordsworth had to him expressed his belief that he would be remembered
longest, not by his sonnets, as his friend thought, but by his lyrical
ballads, those for which he had been reviled and laughed at; the most by
critics who could not understand him, and who were unworthy to read what
he had written. As a proof of this let me read to you three verses,
composing a poem that was especially marked for derision:--

  She dwelt among the untrodden ways,
  Beside the springs of Dove;
  A maid whom there were none to praise,
  And very few to love.

  A violet by a mossy stone.
  Half hidden from the eye;
  Fair as a star, when only one
  Is shining in the sky.

  She lived unknown, and few could know
  When Lucy ceased to be;
  But she is in her grave, and Oh!
  The difference to me.

The last line was especially chosen as the object of ridicule; but I
think with most of us the feeling will be, that its very simplicity of
expression is overflowing in suggestion, it throws us back upon our own
experience; for, instead of trying to utter what he felt, he says in
those simple and common words, "You who have known anything of the kind,
will know what the difference to me is, and only you can know." "My
intention and desire," he says in one of his essays, "are that the
interest of the poem shall owe nothing to the circumstances; but that
the circumstances shall be made interesting by the thing itself." In
most novels, for instance, the attempt is made to interest us in
worthless, commonplace people, whom, if we had our choice, we would far
rather not meet at all, by surrounding them with peculiar and
extraordinary circumstances; but this is a low source of interest.
Wordsworth was determined to owe nothing to such an adventitious cause.
For illustration allow me to read that well-known little ballad, "The
Reverie of Poor Susan," and you will see how entirely it bears out what
he lays down as his theory. The scene is in London:--

  At the corner of Wood-street, when daylight appears,
  Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years;
  Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard,
  In the silence of morning, the song of the Bird.

  'Tis a note of enchantment: what ails her? She sees
  A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
  Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
  And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.

  Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
  Down which she so often has tripped with her pail;
  And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's,
  The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.

  She looks, and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,
  The mist and the river, the hill and the shade:
  The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
  And the colours have all passed away from her eyes!

Is any of the interest here owing to the circumstances? Is it not a very
common incident? But has he not treated it so that it is not
_commonplace_ in the least? We recognize in this girl just the feelings
we discover in ourselves, and acknowledge almost with tears her
sisterhood to us all.

I have tried to make you feel something of what Wordsworth attempts to
do, but I have not given you the best of his poems. Allow me to finish
by reading the closing portion of the _Prelude_, the poem that was
published after his death. It is addressed to Coleridge:--

  Oh! yet a few short years of useful life,
  And all will be complete, thy race be run,
  Thy monument of glory will be raised;
  Then, though (too weak to head the ways of truth)
  This age fall back to old idolatry,
  Though men return to servitude as fast
  As the tide ebbs, to ignominy and shame
  By nations sink together, we shall still
  Find solace--knowing what we have learnt to know--
  Rich in true happiness, if allowed to be
  Faithful alike in forwarding a day
  Of firmer trust, joint labourers in the work
  (Should Providence such grace to us vouchsafe)
  Of their deliverance, surely yet to come.
  Prophets of Nature, we to them will speak
  A lasting inspiration, sanctified
  By reason, blest by faith: what we have loved,
  Others will love, and we will teach them how;
  Instruct them how the mind of man becomes
  A thousand times more beautiful than the earth
  On which he dwells, above this frame of things
  (Which, 'mid all revolution in the hopes
  And fears of men, doth still remain unchanged)
  In beauty exalted, as it is itself
  Of quality and fabric more divine.


Whatever opinion may be held with regard to the relative position
occupied by Shelley as a poet, it will be granted by most of those who
have studied his writings, that they are of such an individual and
original kind, that he can neither be hidden in the shade, nor lost in
the brightness, of any other poet. No idea of his works could be
conveyed by instituting a comparison, for he does not sufficiently
resemble any other among English writers to make such a comparison

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place, near Horsham, in the
county of Sussex, on the 4th of August, 1792. He was the son of Timothy
Shelley, Esq., and grandson of Sir Bysshe Shelley, the first baronet.
His ancestors had long been large landed proprietors in Sussex.

As a child his habits were noticeable. He was especially fond of
rambling by moonlight, of inventing wonderful tales, of occupying
himself with strange, and sometimes dangerous, amusements. At the age of
thirteen he went to Eton. In this little world, that determined
opposition to whatever appeared to him an invasion of human rights and
liberty, which was afterwards the animating principle of most of his
writings, was first roused in the mind of Shelley. Were we not aware of
far keener distress which he afterwards endured from yet greater
injustice, we might suppose that the sufferings he had to bear from
placing himself in opposition to the custom of the school, by refusing
to fag, had made him morbidly sensitive on the point of liberty. At a
time, however, when freedom of speech, as indicating freedom of thought,
was especially obnoxious to established authorities; when no allowance
could be made on the score of youth, still less on that of individual
peculiarity, Shelley became a student at Oxford. He was then eighteen.
Devoted to metaphysical speculation, and especially fond of logical
discussion, he, in his first year, printed and distributed among the
authorities and members of his college a pamphlet, if that can be called
a pamphlet which consisted only of two pages, in which he opposed the
usual arguments for the existence of a Deity; arguments which, perhaps,
the most ardent believers have equally considered inconclusive. Whether
Shelley wrote this pamphlet as an embodiment of his own opinions, or
merely as a logical confutation of certain arguments, the mode of
procedure adopted with him was certainly not one which necessarily
resulted from the position of those to whose care the education of his
opinions was entrusted. Without waiting to be assured that he was the
author, and satisfying themselves with his refusal to answer when
questioned as to the authorship, they handed him his sentence of
expulsion, which had been already drawn up in due form.

About this time Shelley wrote, or commenced writing, _Queen Mab_, a poem
which he never published, although he distributed copies among his
friends. In after years he had such a low opinion of it in every
respect, that he regretted having printed it at all; and when an edition
of it was published without his consent, he applied to the Court of
Chancery for an injunction to suppress it.

Shelley's opinions in politics and theology, which he appears to have
been far more anxious to maintain than was consistent with the peace of
the household, were peculiarly obnoxious to his father, a man as
different from his son as it is possible to conceive; and his expulsion
from Oxford was soon followed by exile from his home. He went to London,
where, through his sisters, who were at school in the neighbourhood, he
made the acquaintence of Harriet West brook, whom he eloped with and
married, when he was nineteen and she sixteen years of age. It seems
doubtful whether the attachment between them was more than the result of
the reception accorded by the enthusiasm of the girl to the enthusiasm
of the youth, manifesting itself in wild talk about human rights, and
equally wild plans for their recovery and security. However this may be,
the result was unfortunate. They wandered about England, Scotland, and
Ireland, with frequent and sudden change of residence, for rather more
than two years. During this time Shelley gained the friendship of some
of the most eminent men of the age, of whom the one who exercised the
most influence upon his character and future history was William Godwin,
whose instructions and expostulations tended to reduce to solidity and
form the vague and extravagant opinions and projects of the youthful
reformer. Shortly after the commencement of the third year of their
married life, an estrangement of feeling, which had been gradually
widening between them, resulted in the final separation of the poet and
his wife. We are not informed as to the causes of this estrangement,
further than that it seems to have been owing, in a considerable degree,
to the influence of an elder sister of Mrs. Shelley, who domineered over
her, and whose presence became at last absolutely hateful to Shelley.
His wife returned to her father's house; where, apparently about three
years after, she committed suicide. There seems to have been no
immediate connection between this act and any conduct of Shelley. One of
his biographers informs us, that while they were living happily
together, suicide was with Mrs. Shelley a favourite subject of
speculation and conversation.

Shortly after his first wife's death, Shelley married the daughter of
William Godwin. He had lived with her almost from the date of the
separation, during which time they had twice visited Switzerland. In the
following year (1817), it was decreed in Chancery that Shelley was not a
proper person to take charge of his two children by his first wife, who
had lived with her till her death. The bill was filed in Chancery by
their grandfather, Mr. Westbrook. The effects of this proceeding upon
Shelley may be easily imagined. Perhaps he never recovered from them,
for they were not of a nature to pass away. During this year he resided
at Marlow, and wrote _The Revolt of Islam_, besides portions of other
poems; and the next year he left England, not to return. The state of
his health, for he had appeared to be in a consumption for some time,
and the fear lest his son, by his second wife, should be taken from him,
combined to induce him to take refuge in Italy from both impending
evils. At Lucca he began his _Prometheus_, and wrote _Julian and
Maddalo_. He moved from place to place in Italy, as he had done in his
own country. Their two children dying, they were for a time left
childless; but the loss of these grieved Shelley less than that of his
eldest two, who were taken from him by the hand of man. In 1819, Shelley
finished his _Prometheus Unbound_, writing the greater part at Rome, and
completing it at Florence. In this year also he wrote his tragedy, _The
Cenci_, which attracted more attention during his lifetime than any
other of his works. The _Ode to a Skylark_ was written at Leghorn in the
spring of 1820; and in August of the same year, the _Witch of Atlas_ was
written, near Pisa. In the following year Shelley and Byron met at Pisa.
They were a good deal together; but their friendship, although real,
does not appear to have been of a very profound nature; for though
unlikeness be one of the necessary elements of friendship, there are
kinds of unlikeness which will not harmonize. During all this time, he
was not only maligned by unknown enemies, and abused by anonymous
writers, but attempts of other kinds are said to have been made to
render his life as uncomfortable as possible. There are grounds,
however, for doubting whether Shelley was not subject to a kind of
monomania upon this and similar points. In 1821, he wrote his _Adonais_,
a monody on the death of Keats. Part of this poem had its origin in the
mistaken notion, that the illness and death of Keats were caused by a
brutal criticism of his _Endymion_, which appeared in the _Quarterly
Review_. The last verse of the _Adonais_ seems almost prophetic of his
own end. Passionately fond of boating, he and a friend of his, Mr.
Williams, united in constructing a boat of a peculiar build, a very fast
sailer, but difficult to manage. On the 8th of July, 1822, Shelley and
his friend Williams sailed from Leghorn for Lerici, on the Bay of
Spezia, near which lay his home for the time. A sudden squall came on,
and their boat disappeared. The bodies of the two friends were cast on
shore; and, according to quarantine regulations, were burned to ashes.
Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt, and Mr. Trelawney were present when the body of
Shelley was burned; so that his ashes were saved, and buried in the
Protestant burial-ground at Rome, near the grave of Keats, whose body
had been laid there in the spring of the preceding year. _Cor Cordium_
were the words inscribed by his widow on the tomb of the poet.

The character of Shelley has been sadly maligned. Whatever faults he may
have committed against society, they were not the result of sensuality.
One of his biographers, who was his companion at Oxford, and who does
not seem inclined to do him _more_ than justice, asserts that while
there his conduct was immaculate. The whole picture he gives of the
youth, makes it easy to believe this. To discuss the moral question
involved in one part of his history would be out of place here; but even
on the supposition that a man's conduct is altogether inexcusable in
individual instances, there is the more need that nothing but the truth
should be said concerning that, and other portions thereof. And whatever
society may have thought itself justified in making subject of
reprobation, it must be remembered that Shelley was under less
obligation to society than most men. Yet his heart seemed full of love
to his kind; and the distress which the oppression of others caused him,
was the source of much of that wild denunciation which exposed him to
the contempt and hatred of those who were rendered uncomfortable by his
unsparing and indiscriminate anathemas. In private, he was beloved by
all who knew him; a steady, generous, self-denying friend, not only to
those who moved in his own circle, but to all who were brought within
the reach of any aid he could bestow. To the poor he was a true and
laborious benefactor. That man must have been good to whom the heart of
his widow returns with such earnest devotion and thankfulness in the
recollection of the past, and such fond hope for the future, as are
manifested by Mrs. Shelley in those extracts from her private journal
given us by Lady Shelley.

As regards his religious opinions, one of the thoughts which most
strongly suggest themselves is,--how ill he must have been instructed in
the principles of Christianity! He says himself in a letter to Godwin,
"I have known no tutor or adviser (_not excepting my father_) from whose
lessons and suggestions I have not recoiled with disgust." So far is he
from being an opponent of Christianity properly so called, that one can
hardly help feeling what a Christian he would have been, could he but
have seen Christianity in any other way than through the traditional and
practical misrepresentations of it which surrounded him. All his attacks
on Christianity are, in reality, directed against evils to which the
true doctrines of Christianity are more opposed than those of Shelley
could possibly be. How far he was excusable in giving the name of
Christianity to what he might have seen to be only a miserable
perversion of it, is another question, and one which hardly admits of
discussion here. It was in the _name_ of Christianity, however, that the
worst injuries of which he had to complain were inflicted upon him.
Coming out of the cathedral at Pisa one day, [Footnote: From _Shelley
Memorials_, edited by Lady Shelley, which the writer of this paper has
principally followed in regard to the external facts of Shelley's
history.] Shelley warmly assented to a remark of Leigh Hunt, "that a
divine religion might be found out, if charity were really made the
principle of it instead of faith." Surely the founders of Christianity,
even when they magnified faith, intended thereby a spiritual condition,
of which the central principle is coincident with charity. Shelley's own
feelings towards others, as judged from his poetry, seem to be tinctured
with the very essence of Christianity. [Footnote: His _Essay on
Christianity_ is full of noble views, some of which are held at the
present day by some of the most earnest believers. At what time of his
life it was written we are not informed; but it seems such as would
insure his acceptance with any company of intelligent and devout
Unitarians.] He did not, at one time at least, believe that we could
know the source of our being; and seemed to take it as a self-evident
truth, that the Creator could not be like the creature. But it is unjust
to fix upon any utterance of opinion, and regard it as the religion of a
man who died in his thirtieth year, and whose habits of thinking were
such, that his opinions must have been in a state of constant change.
Coleridge says in a letter: "His (Shelley's) discussions, tending
towards atheism of a certain sort, would not have scared _me;_ for _me_
it would have been a semitransparent larva, soon to be sloughed, and
through which I should have seen the true _image_--the final
metamorphosis. Besides, I have ever thought that sort of atheism the
next best religion to Christianity; nor does the better faith I have
learned from Paul and John interfere with the cordial reverence I feel
for Benedict Spinoza."

Shelley's favourite study was metaphysics. The more impulse there is in
any direction, the more education and experience are necessary to
balance that impulse: one cannot help thinking that Shelley's _taste_
for exercises of this kind was developed more rapidly than the
corresponding _power_. His favourite physical studies were chemistry and
electricity. With these he occupied himself from his childhood;
apparently, however, with more delight in the experiments themselves,
than interest in the general conclusions to be arrived at by means of
them. In the embodiment of his metaphysical ideas in poetry, the
influence of these studies seems to show itself; for he uses forms which
appeal more to the outer senses than to the inward eye; and his similes
belong to the realm of the fancy, rather than the imagination: they lack
_vital_ resemblance. Logic had considerable attractions for him. To
geometry and mathematics he was quite indifferent. One of his
biographers states that "he was neglectful of flowers," because he had
no interest in botany; but one who derived such full delight from the
contemplation of their external forms, could hardly be expected to feel
very strongly the impulse to dissect them. He derived exceeding pleasure
from Greek literature, especially from the works of Plato.

Several little peculiarities in Shelley's tastes are worth mentioning,
because, although in themselves insignificant, they seem to correspond
with the nature of his poetry. Perhaps the most prominent of these was
his passion for boat-sailing. He could not pass any piece of water
without launching upon it a number of boats, constructed from what paper
he could find in his pockets. The fly-leaves of the books he was in the
way of carrying with him, for he was constantly reading, often went to
this end. He would watch the fate of these boats with the utmost
interest, till they sank or reached the opposite side. He was just as
fond of real boating, and that frequently of a dangerous kind; but it is
characteristic of him, that all the boats he describes in his poems are
of a fairy, fantastic sort, barely related to the boats which battle
with earthly winds and waves. Pistol-shooting was also a favourite
amusement. Fireworks, too, gave him great delight. Some of his habits
were likewise peculiar. He was remarkably abstemious, preferring bread
and raisins to anything else in the way of eating, and very seldom
drinking anything stronger than water. Honey was a favourite luxury with
him. While at college, his biographer Hogg says he was in the habit,
during the evening, of going to sleep on the rug, close to a blazing
fire, heat seeming never to have other than a beneficial effect upon
him. After sleeping some hours, he would awake perfectly restored, and
continue actively occupied till far into the morning. His whole
movements are represented as rapid, hurried, and uncertain. He would
appear and disappear suddenly and unexpectedly; forget appointments;
burst into wild laughter, heedless of his situation, whenever anything
struck him as peculiarly ludicrous. His changes of residence were most
numerous, and frequently made with so much haste that whole little
libraries were left behind, and often lost. He was very fond of
children, and used to make humorous efforts to induce them to disclose
to him the still-remembered secrets of their pre-existence. He seemed to
have a peculiar attraction towards mystery, and was ready to believe in
a hidden secret, where no one else would have thought of one. His room,
while he was at college, was in a state of indescribable confusion. Not
only were all sorts of personal necessaries mingled with books and
philosophical instruments, but things belonging to one department of
service were not unfrequently pressed into the slavery of another. He
dressed well but carelessly. In person he was tall, slender, and
stooping; awkward in gait, but in manners a thorough gentleman. His
complexion was delicate; his head, face, and features, remarkably small;
the last not very regular, but in expression, both intellectual and
moral, wonderfully beautiful. His eyes were deep blue, "of a wild,
strange beauty;" his forehead high and white; his hair dark brown,
curling, long, and bushy. His appearance in later life is described as
singularly combining the appearances of premature age and prolonged

The only art in which his taste appears to have been developed was
poetry. Even in his poetry, taken as a whole, the artistic element is
not generally very manifest. His earliest verses (none of which are
included in his collected works) can hardly be said to be good in any
sense. He seems in these to have chosen poetry as a fitting material for
the embodiment of his ardent, hopeful, indignant thoughts and feelings,
but, provided he can say what he wants to say, does not seem to
care much about _how_ he says it. Indeed, there is too much of
this throughout his works; for if the _utterance_, instead of
the _conveyance_ of thought, were the object pursued in art, of
course not merely imperfection of language, but absolute external
unintelligibility, would be admissible. But his art constantly increases
with his sense of its necessity; so that the _Cenci_, which is the last
work of any pretension that he wrote, is decidedly the most artistic of
all. There are beautiful passages in _Queen Mab_, but it is the work of
a boy-poet; and as it was all but repudiated by himself, it is not
necessary to remark further upon it. _The Revolt of Islam_ is a poem of
twelve cantos, in the Spenserian stanza; but in all respects except the
arrangement of lines and rimes, his stanza, in common with all other
imitations of the Spenserian, has little or nothing of the spirit or
individuality of the original. The poem is dedicated to the cause of
freedom, and records the efforts, successes, defeats, and final
triumphant death of two inspired champions of liberty--a youth and
maiden. The adventures are marvellous, not intended to be within the
bounds of probability, scarcely of possibility. There are very noble
sentiments and fine passages throughout the poem. Now and then there is
grandeur. But the absence of art is too evident in the fact that the
meaning is often obscure; an obscurity not unfrequently occasioned by
the difficulty of the stanza, which is the most difficult mode of
composition in English, except the rigid sonnet. The words and forms he
employs to express thought seem sometimes mechanical devices for that
purpose, rather than an utterance which suggested itself naturally to a
mind where the thought was vitally present. The words are more a
_clothing_ for the thought than an _embodiment_ of it. They do not lie
near enough to the thing which is intended to be represented by them. It
is, however, but just to remark, that some of the obscurity is owing to
the fact, that, even with Mrs. Shelley's superintendence, the works have
not yet been satisfactorily edited, or at least not conducted through
the press with sufficient care. [Footnote: This statement is no longer

_The Cenci_ is a very powerful tragedy, but unfitted for public
representation by the horrible nature of the historical facts upon which
it is founded. In the execution of it, however, Shelley has kept very
much nearer to nature than in any other of his works. He has rigidly
adhered to his perception of artistic propriety in respect to the
dramatic utterance. It may be doubted whether there is sufficient
difference between the modes of speech of the different actors in the
tragedy, but it is quite possible to individualize speech far too
minutely for probable nature; and in this respect, at least, Shelley has
not erred. Perhaps the action of the whole is a little hurried, and a
central moment of awful repose and fearful anticipation might add to the
force of the tragedy. The scenes also might, perhaps, have been
constructed so as to suggest more of evolution; but the central point of
horror is most powerfully and delicately handled. You see a possible
spiritual horror yet behind, more frightful than all that has gone
before. The whole drama, indeed, is constructed around, not a prominent
point, but a dim, infinitely-withdrawn, underground perspective of
dismay and agony. Perhaps it detracts a little from our interest in the
Lady Beatrice, that after all she should wish to live, and should seek
to preserve her life by a denial of her crime. She, however, evidently
justifies the denial to herself on the ground that, the deed being
absolutely right, although regarded as most criminal by her judges, the
only way to get true justice is to deny the fact, which, there being no
guilt, she might consider as only a verbal lie. Her very purity of
conscience enables her to utter this with the most absolute innocence of
look, and word, and tone. This is probably a historical fact, and
Shelley had to make the best of it. In the drama there is great
tenderness, as well as terror; but for a full effect, one feels it
desirable to be brought better acquainted with the individuals than the
drama, from its want of graduation, permits. Shelley, however, was only
six-and-twenty when he wrote it. He must have been attracted to the
subject by its embodying the concentration of tyranny, lawlessness, and
brutality in old Cenci, as opposed to, and exercised upon, an ideal
loveliness and nobleness in the person of Beatrice.

But of all Shelley's works, the _Prometheus Unbound_ is that which
combines the greatest amount of individual power and peculiarity. There
is an airy grandeur about it, reminding one of the vast masses of cloud
scattered about in broken, yet magnificently suggestive forms, all over
the summer sky, after a thunderstorm. The fundamental ideas are grand;
the superstructure, in many parts, so ethereal, that one hardly knows
whether he is gazing on towers of solid masonry rendered dim and
unsubstantial by intervening vapour, or upon the golden turrets of
cloudland, themselves born of the mist which surrounds them with a halo
of glory. The beings of Greek, mythology are idealized and etherealized
by the new souls which he puts into them, making them think his thoughts
and say his words. In reading this, as in reading most of his poetry, we
feel that, unable to cope with the evils and wrongs of the world as it
and they are, he constructs a new universe, wherein he may rule
according to his will; and a good will in the main it is--good always in
intent, good generally in form and utterance. Of the wrongs which
Shelley endured from the collision and resulting conflict between his
lawless goodness and the lawful wickedness of those in authority, this
is one of the greatest,--that during the right period of pupillage, he
was driven from the place of learning, cast on his own mental resources
long before those resources were sufficient for his support, and
irritated against the purest embodiment of good by the harsh treatment
he received under its name. If that reverence which was far from wanting
to his nature, had been but presented, in the person of some guide to
his spiritual being, with an object worthy of its homage and trust, it
is probable that the yet free and noble result of Shelley's
individuality would have been presented to the world in a form which,
while it attracted still only the few, would not have repelled the many;
at least, not by such things as were merely accidental in their
association with his earnest desires and efforts for the well-being of

That which chiefly distinguishes Shelley from other writers is the
unequalled exuberance of his fancy. The reader, say for instance of that
fantastically brilliant poem, _The Witch of Atlas_, the work of three
days, is overwhelmed in a storm, as it were, of rainbow snow-flakes and
many-coloured lightnings, accompanied ever by "a low melodious thunder."
The evidences of pure imagination in his writings are unfrequent as
compared with those of fancy: there are not half the instances of the
direct embodiment of idea in form, that there are of the presentation of
strange resemblances between external things.

One of the finest short specimens of Shelley's peculiar mode is his _Ode
to the West Wind_, full of mysterious melody of thought and sound. But
of all his poems, the most popular, and deservedly so, is the _Skylark_.
Perhaps the _Cloud_ may contest it with the _Skylark_ in regard to
popular favour; but the _Cloud_, although full of beautiful words and
fantastic cloud-like images, is, after all, principally a work of the
fancy; while the _Skylark_, though even in it fancy predominates over
imagination in the visual images, forms, as a whole, a lovely, true,
individual work of art; a _lyric_ not unworthy of the _lark_, which
Mason apostrophizes as "sweet feathered lyric." The strain of sadness
which pervades it is only enough to make the song of the lark human.

In _The Sensitive Plant_, a poem full of the peculiarities of his
genius, tending through a wilderness of fanciful beauties to a thicket
of mystical speculation, one curious idiosyncrasy is more prominent than
in any other--curious, as belonging to the poet of beauty and
loveliness: it is the tendency to be fascinated by what is ugly and
revolting, so that he cannot withdraw his thoughts from it till he has
described it in language, powerful, it is true, and poetic, when
considered as to its fitness for the desired end, but, in force of these
very excellences in the means, nearly as revolting as the objects
themselves. Associated with this is the tendency to discover strangely
unpleasant likenesses between things; which likenesses he is not content
with seeing, but seems compelled, perhaps in order to get rid of them
himself, to force upon the observation of his reader. But the admirer of
Shelley is not pleased to find that one or two passages of this nature
have been omitted in some editions of his works.

Few men have been more misunderstood or misrepresented than Shelley.
Doubtless this has in part been his own fault, as Coleridge implies when
he writes to this effect of him: that his horror of hypocrisy made him
speak in such a wild way, that Southey (who was so much a man of forms
and proprieties) was quite misled, not merely in his estimate of his
worth, but in his judgment of his character. But setting aside this
consideration altogether, and regarding him merely as a poet, Shelley
has written verse which will last as long as English literature lasts;
valuable not only from its excellence, but from the peculiarity of its
excellence. To say nothing of his noble aims and hopes, Shelley will
always be admired for his sweet melodies, lovely pictures, and wild
prophetic imaginings. His indignant remonstrances, intermingled with
grand imprecations, burst in thunder from a heart overcharged with the
love of his kind, and roused to a keener sense of all oppression by the
wrongs which sought to overwhelm himself. But as he recedes further in
time, and men are able to see more truly the proportions of the man,
they will judge, that without having gained the rank of a great
reformer, Shelley had in him that element of wide sympathy and lofty
hope for his kind which is essential both to the _birth_ and the
subsequent _making_ of the greatest of poets.


[Footnote: Read in the Unitarian chapel, Essex-street, London, 1879.]

PHILIPPIANS iii. 15, 16.--Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be
thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal
even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let
us walk by that same.

This is the reading of the oldest manuscripts. The rest of the verse is
pretty clearly a not overwise marginal gloss that has crept into the

In its origin, opinion is the intellectual body, taken for utterance and
presentation by something necessarily larger than any intellect can
afford stuff sufficient for the embodiment of. To the man himself,
therefore, in whose mind it arose, an opinion will always represent and
recall the spirit whose form it is,--so long, at least, as the man
remains true to his better self. Hence, a man's opinion may be for him
invaluable, the needle of his moral compass, always pointing to the
truth whence it issued, and whose form it is. Nor is the man's opinion
of the less value to him that it may change. Nay, to be of true value,
it must have in it not only the possibility, but the necessity of
change: it must change in every man who is alive with that life which,
in the New Testament, is alone treated as life at all. For, if a man's
opinion be in no process of change whatever, it must be dead, valueless,
hurtful Opinion is the offspring of that which is itself born to grow;
which, being imperfect, must grow or die. Where opinion is growing, its
imperfections, however many and serious, will do but little hurt; where
it is not growing, these imperfections will further the decay and
corruption which must already have laid hold of the very heart of the
man. But it is plain in the world's history that what, at some given
stage of the same, was the embodiment in intellectual form of the
highest and deepest of which it was then spiritually capable, has often
and speedily become the source of the most frightful outrages upon
humanity. How is this? Because it has passed from the mind in which it
grew into another in which it did not grow, and has of necessity altered
its nature. Itself sprung from that which was deepest in the man, it
casts seeds which take root only in the intellectual understanding of
his neighbour; and these, springing up, produce flowers indeed which
look much the same to the eye, but fruit which is poison and
bitterness,--worst of it all, the false and arrogant notion that it is
duty to force the opinion upon the acceptance of others. But it is
because such men themselves hold with so poor a grasp the truth
underlying their forms that they are, in their self-sufficiency, so
ambitious of propagating the forms, making of themselves the worst
enemies of the truth of which they fancy themselves the champions. How
truly, in the case of all genuine teachers of men, shall a man's foes be
they of his own household! For of all the destroyers of the truth which
any man has preached, none have done it so effectually or so grievously
as his own followers. So many of them have received but the forms, and
know nothing of the truth which gave him those forms! They lay hold but
of the non-essential, the specially perishing in those forms; and these
aspects, doubly false and misleading in their crumbling disjunction,
they proceed to force upon the attention and reception of men, calling
that the truth which is at best but the draggled and useless fringe of
its earth-made garment. Opinions so held belong to the theology of
hell,--not necessarily altogether false in form, but false utterly in
heart and spirit. The opinion then that is hurtful is not that which is
formed in the depths, and from the honest necessities of a man's own
nature, but that which he has taken up at second hand, the study of
which has pleased his intellect; has perhaps subdued fears and mollified
distresses which ought rather to have grown and increased until they had
driven the man to the true physician; has puffed him up with a sense of
superiority as false as foolish, and placed in his hand a club with
which to subjugate his neighbour to his spiritual dictation. The true
man even, who aims at the perpetuation of his opinion, is rather
obstructing than aiding the course of that truth for the love of which
he holds his opinion; for truth is a living thing, opinion is a dead
thing, and transmitted opinion a deadening thing.

Let us look at St. Paul's feeling in this regard. And, in order that we
may deprive it of none of its force, let us note first the nature of the
truth which he had just been presenting to his disciples, when he
follows it with the words of my text:--

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of
all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the
law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness
which is of God by faith:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the
fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I
follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am
apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I
do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto
those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of
the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

St. Paul, then, had been declaring to the Philippians the idea upon
which, so far as it lay with him, his life was constructed, the thing
for which he lived, to which the whole conscious effort of his being was
directed,--namely, to be in his very nature one with Christ, to become
righteous as he is righteous; to die into his death, so that he should
no more hold the slightest personal relation to evil, but be alive in
every fibre to all that is pure, lovely, loving, beautiful, perfect. He
had been telling them that he spent himself in continuous effort to lay
hold upon that for the sake of which Christ had laid hold on him. This
he declares the sole thing worth living for: the hope of this, the hope
of becoming one with the living God, is that which keeps a glorious
consciousness awake in him, amidst all the unrest of a being not yet at
harmony with itself, and a laborious and persecuted life. It cannot
therefore be any shadow of indifference to the truth to which he has
borne this witness, that causes him to add, "If in anything ye be
otherwise minded." It is to him even the test of perfection, whether
they be thus minded or not; for, although a moment before, he has
declared himself short of the desired perfection, he now says, "Let as
many of us as are perfect be thus minded." There is here no room for
that unprofitable thing, bare logic: we must look through the shifting
rainbow of his words,--rather, we must gather all their tints together,
then turn our backs upon the rainbow, that we may see the glorious light
which is the soul of it. St. Paul is not that which he would be, which
he must be; but he, and all they who with him believe that the
perfection of Christ is the sole worthy effort of a man's life, are in
the region, though not yet at the centre, of perfection. They are, even
now, not indeed grasping, but in the grasp of, that perfection. He tells
them this is the one thing to mind, the one thing to go on desiring and
labouring for, with all the earnestness of a God-born existence; but, if
any one be at all otherwise minded,--that is, of a different
opinion,--what then? That it is of little or no consequence? No, verily;
but of such endless consequence that God will himself unveil to them the
truth of the matter. This is Paul's faith, not his opinion. Faith is
that by which a man lives inwardly, and orders his way outwardly. Faith
is the root, belief the tree, and opinion the foliage that falls and is
renewed with the seasons. Opinion is, at best, even the opinion of a
true man, but the cloak of his belief, which he may indeed cast to his
neighbour, but not with the truth inside it: that remains in his own
bosom, the oneness between him and his God. St. Paul knows well--who
better?--that by no argument, the best that logic itself can afford, can
a man be set right with the truth; that the spiritual perception which
comes of hungering contact with the living truth--a perception which is
in itself a being born again--can alone be the mediator between a man
and the truth. He knows that, even if he could pass his opinion over
bodily into the understanding of his neighbour, there would be little or
nothing gained thereby, for the man's spiritual condition would be just
what it was before. God must reveal, or nothing is known. And this,
through thousands of difficulties occasioned by the man himself, God is
ever and always doing his mighty best to effect.

See the grandeur of redeeming liberality in the Apostle. In his heart of
hearts he knows that salvation consists in nothing else than being one
with Christ; that the only life of every man is hid with Christ in God,
and to be found by no search anywhere else. He believes that for this
cause was he born into the world,--that he should give himself, heart
and soul, body and spirit, to him who came into the world that he might
bear witness to the truth. He believes that for the sake of this, and
nothing less,--anything more there cannot be,--was the world, with its
endless glories, created. Nay, more than all, he believes that for this
did the Lord, in whose cross, type and triumph of his self-abnegation,
he glories, come into the world, and live and die there. And yet, and
yet, he says, and says plainly, that a man thinking differently from all
this or at least, quite unprepared to make this whole-hearted profession
of faith, is yet his brother in Christ, in whom the knowledge of Christ
that he has will work and work, the new leaven casting out the old
leaven until he, too, in the revelation of the Father, shall come to the
perfect stature of the fulness of Christ. Meantime, Paul, the Apostle,
must show due reverence to the halting and dull disciple. He must and
will make no demand upon him on the grounds of what he, Paul, believes.
He is where he is, and God is his teacher. To his own Master,--that is,
Paul's Master, and not Paul,--he stands. He leaves him to the company of
his Master. "Leaves him?" No: that he does not; that he will never do,
any more than God will leave him. Still and ever will he hold him and
help him. But how help him, if he is not to press upon him his own
larger and deeper and wiser insights? The answer is ready: he will
press, not his opinion, not even the man's opinion, but the man's own
faith upon him. "O brother, beloved of the Father, walk in the
light,--in the light, that is, which is thine, not which is mine; in the
light which is given to thee, not to me: thou canst not walk by my
light, I cannot walk by thine: how should either walk except by the
light which is in him? O brother, what thou seest, that do; and what
thou seest not, that thou shalt see: God himself, the Father of Lights,
will show it to you." This, this is the condition of all growth,--that
whereto we have attained, we mind that same; for such, following the
manuscripts, at least the oldest, seems to me the Apostle's meaning.
Obedience is the one condition of progress, and he entreats them to
obey. If a man will but work that which is in him, will but make the
power of God his own, then is it well with him for evermore. Like his
Master, Paul urges to action, to the highest operation, therefore to the
highest condition of humanity. As Christ was the Son of his Father
because he did the will of the Father, so the Apostle would have them
the sons of the Father by doing the will of the Father. Whereto ye have
attained, walk by _that_.

But there is more involved in this utterance than the words themselves
will expressly carry. Next to his love to the Father and the Elder
Brother, the passion of Paul's life--I cannot call it less--is love to
all his brothers and sisters. Everything human is dear to him: he can
part with none of it. Division, separation, the breaking of the body of
Christ, is that which he cannot endure. The body of his flesh had once
been broken, that a grander body might be prepared for him: was it for
that body itself to tear itself asunder? With the whole energy of his
great heart, Paul clung to unity. He could clasp together with might and
main the body of his Master--the body that Master loved because it was a
spiritual body, with the life of his Father in it. And he knew well that
only by walking in the truth to which they had attained, could they ever
draw near to each other. Whereto we have attained, let us walk by that.

My honoured friends, if we are not practical, we are nothing. Now, the
one main fault in the Christian Church is separation, repulsion, recoil
between the component particles of the Lord's body. I will not, I do not
care to inquire who is more to blame than another in the evil fact. I
only care to insist that it is the duty of every individual man to be
innocent of the same. One main cause, perhaps I should say _the one_
cause of this deathly condition, is that whereto we had, we did not,
whereto we have attained, we do not walk by that. Ah, friend! do not now
think of thy neighbour. Do not applaud my opinion as just from what thou
hast seen around thee, but answer it from thy own being, thy own
behaviour. Dost thou ever feel thus toward thy neighbour,--"Yes, of
course, every man is my brother; but how can I be a brother to him so
long as he thinks me wrong in what I believe, and so long as I think he
wrongs in his opinions the dignity of the truth?" What, I return, has
the man no hand to grasp, no eyes into which yours may gaze far deeper
than your vaunted intellect can follow? Is there not, I ask, anything in
him to love? Who asks you to be of one opinion? It is the Lord who asks
you to be of one heart. Does the Lord love the man? Can the Lord love,
where there is nothing to love? Are you wiser than he, inasmuch as you
perceive impossibility where he has failed to discover it? Or will you
say, "Let the Lord love where he pleases: I will love where I please"?
or say, and imagine you yield, "Well, I suppose I must, and therefore I
will,--but with certain reservations, politely quiet in my own heart"?
Or wilt thou say none of all these things, but do them all, one after
the other, in the secret chambers of thy proud spirit? If you delight to
condemn, you are a wounder, a divider of the oneness of Christ. If you
pride yourself on your loftier vision, and are haughty to your
neighbour, you are yourself a division and have reason to ask: "Am I a
particle of the body at all?" The Master will deal with thee upon the
score. Let it humble thee to know that thy dearest opinion, the one thou
dost worship as if it, and not God, were thy Saviour, this very opinion
thou art doomed to change, for it cannot possibly be right, if it work
in thee for death and not for life.

Friends, you have done me the honour and the kindness to ask me to speak
to you. I will speak plainly. I come before you neither hiding anything
of my belief, nor foolishly imagining I can transfer my opinions into
your bosoms. If there is one rôle I hate, it is that of the
proselytizer. But shall I not come to you as a brother to brethren?
Shall I not use the privilege of your invitation and of the place in
which I stand, nay, must I not myself be obedient to the heavenly
vision, in urging you with all the power of my persuasion to set
yourselves afresh to _walk_ according to that to which you have
attained. So doing, whatever yet there is to learn, you shall learn it.
Thus doing, and thus only, can you draw nigh to the centre truth; thus
doing, and thus only, shall we draw nigh to each other, and become
brothers and sisters in Christ, caring for each other's honour and
righteousness and true well-being. It is to them that keep his
commandments that he and his Father will come to take up their abode
with them. Whether you or I have the larger share of the truth in that
which we hold, of this I am sure, that it is to them that keep his
commandments that it shall be given to eat of the Tree of Life. I
believe that Jesus is the eternal son of the eternal Father; that in him
the ideal humanity sat enthroned from all eternity; that as he is the
divine man, so is he the human God; that there was no taking of our
nature upon himself, but the showing of himself as he really was, and
that from evermore: these things, friends, I believe, though never would
I be guilty of what in me would be the irreverence of opening my mouth
in dispute upon them. Not for a moment would I endeavour by argument to
convince another of this, my opinion. If it be true, it is God's work to
show it, for logic cannot. But the more, and not the less, do I believe
that he, who is no respecter of persons, will, least of all, respect the
person of him who thinks to please him by respecting his person, calling
him, "Lord, Lord," and not doing the things that he tells him. Even if I
be right, friend, and thou wrong, to thee who doest his commandments
more faithfully than I, will the more abundant entrance be administered.
God grant that, when thou art admitted first, I may not be cast out, but
admitted to learn of thee that it is truth in the inward parts that he
requireth, and they that have that truth, and they alone, shall ever
know wisdom. Bear with me, friends, for I love and honour you. I seek
but to stir up your hearts, as I would daily stir up my own, to be true
to that which is deepest in us,--the voice and the will of the Father of
our spirits.

Friends, I have not said we are not to utter our opinions. I have only
said we are not to make those opinions the point of a fresh start, the
foundation of a new building, the groundwork of anything. They are not
to occupy us in our dealings with our brethren. Opinion is often the
very death of love. Love aright, and you will come to think aright; and
those who think aright must think the same. In the meantime, it matters
nothing. The thing that does matter is, that whereto we have attained,
by that we should walk. But, while we are not to insist upon our
opinions, which is only one way of insisting upon ourselves, however we
may cloak the fact from ourselves in the vain imagination of thereby
spreading the truth, we are bound by loftiest duty to spread the truth;
for that is the saving of men. Do you ask, How spread it, if we are not
to talk about it? Friends, I never said, Do not talk about the truth,
although I insist upon a better and the only indispensable way: let your
light shine. What I said before, and say again, is, Do not talk about
the lantern that holds the lamp, but make haste, uncover the light, and
let it shine. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your
good works,--I incline to the Vatican reading of _good things_,--and
glorify your Father who is in heaven. It is not, Let your good works
shine, but, Let your light shine. Let it be the genuine love of your
hearts, taking form in true deeds; not the doing of good deeds to prove
that your opinions are right. If ye are thus true, your very talk about
the truth will be a good work, a shining of the light that is in you. A
true smile is a good work, and may do much to reveal the Father who is
in heaven; but the smile that is put on for the sake of looking right,
or even for the sake of being right, will hardly reveal him, not being
like him. Men say that you are cold: if you fear it may be so, do not
think to make yourselves warm by putting on the cloak of this or that
fresh opinion; draw nearer to the central heat, the living humanity of
the Son of Man, that ye may have life in yourselves, so heat in
yourselves, so light in yourselves; understand him, obey him, then your
light will shine, and your warmth will warm. There is an infection, as
in evil, so in good. The better we are, the more will men glorify God.
If we trim our lamps so that we have light in our house, that light will
shine through our windows, and give light to those that are not in the
house. But remember, love of the light alone can trim the lamp. Had Love
trimmed Psyche's lamp, it had never dropped the scalding oil that scared
him from her.

The man who holds his opinion the most honestly ought to see the most
plainly that his opinion must change. It is impossible a man should hold
anything aright. How shall the created embrace the self-existent
Creator? That Creator, and he alone, is _the truth_: how, then, shall a
man embrace the truth? But to him who will live it,--to him, that is,
who walks by that to which he has attained,--the truth will reach down a
thousand true hands for his to grasp. We would not wish to enclose that
which we can do more than enclose,--live in, namely, as our home,
inherit, exult in,--the presence of the infinitely higher and better,
the heart of the living one. And, if we know that God himself is our
inheritance, why should we tremble even with hatred at the suggestion
that we may, that we must, change our opinions? If we held them aright,
we should know that nothing in them that is good can ever be lost; for
that is the true, whatever in them may be the false. It is only as they
help us toward God, that our opinions are worth a straw; and every
necessary change in them must be to more truth, to greater uplifting
power. Lord, change me as thou wilt, only do not send me away. That in
my opinions for which I really hold them, if I be a true man, will never
pass away; that which my evils and imperfections have, in the process of
embodying it, associated with the truth, must, thank God, perish and
fall. My opinions, as my life, as my love, I leave in the hands of him
who is my being. I commend my spirit to him of whom it came. Why, then,
that dislike to the very idea of such change, that dread of having to
accept the thing offered by those whom we count our opponents, which is
such a stumbling-block in the way in which we have to walk, such an
obstruction to our yet inevitable growth? It may be objected that no man
will hold his opinions with the needful earnestness, who can entertain
the idea of having to change them. But the very objection speaks
powerfully against such an overvaluing of opinion. For what is it but to
say that, in order to be wise, a man must consent to be a fool. Whatever
must be, a man must be able to look in the face. It is because we cleave
to our opinions rather than to the living God, because self and pride
interest themselves for their own vile sakes with that which belongs
only to the truth, that we become such fools of logic and temper that we
lie in the prison-houses of our own fancies, ideas, and experiences,
shut the doors and windows against the entrance of the free spirit, and
will not inherit the love of the Father.

Yet, for the help and comfort of even such a refuser as this, I would
say: Nothing which you reject can be such as it seems to you. For a
thing is either true or untrue: if it be untrue, it looks, so far like
itself that you reject it, and with it we have nothing more to do; but,
if it be true, the very fact that you reject it shows that to you it has
not appeared true,--has not appeared itself. The truth can never be even
beheld but by the man who accepts it: the thing, therefore, which you
reject, is not that which it seems to you, but a thing good, and
altogether beautiful, altogether fit for your gladsome embrace,--a thing
from which you would not turn away, did you see it as it is, but rush to
it, as Dante says, like the wild beast to his den,--so eager for the
refuge of home. No honest man holds a truth for the sake of that because
of which another honest man rejects it: how it may be with the
dishonest, I have no confidence in my judgment, and hope I am not bound
to understand.

Let us then, my friends, beware lest our opinions come between us and
our God, between us and our neighbour, between us and our better selves.
Let us be jealous that the human shall not obscure the divine. For we
are not _mere_ human: we, too, are divine; and there is no such
obliterator of the divine as the human that acts undivinely. The one
security against our opinions is to walk according to the truth which
they contain.

And if men seem to us unreasonable, opposers of that which to us is
plainly true, let us remember that we are not here to convince men, but
to let our light shine. Knowledge is not necessarily light; and it is
light, not knowledge, that we have to diffuse. The best thing we can do,
infinitely the best, indeed the only thing, that men may receive the
truth, is to be ourselves true. Beyond all doing of good is the being
good; for he that is good not only does good things, but all that he
does is good. Above all, let us be humble before the God of truth,
faithfully desiring of him that truth in the inward parts which alone
can enable us to walk according to that which we have attained. May the
God of peace give you his peace; may the love of Christ constrain you;
may the gift of the Holy Spirit be yours. Amen.


[Footnote: A spoken sermon.]

MATT. xx. 25--28--But Jesus called them unto him and said, Ye know that
the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that
are great exercise authority upon them. But it should not be so among
you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as
the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to
give his life a ransom for many.

How little this is believed! People think, if they think about it at
all, that this is very well in the church, but, as things go in the
world, it won't do. At least, their actions imply this, for every man is
struggling to get above the other. Every man would make his neighbour
his footstool that he may climb upon him to some throne of glory which
he has in his own mind. There is a continual jostling, and crowding, and
buzzing, and striving to get promotion. Of course there are known and
noble exceptions; but still, there it is. And yet we call ourselves
"Christians," and we are Christians, all of us, thus far, that the truth
is within reach of us all, that it has come nigh to us, talking to us at
our door, and even speaking in our hearts, and yet this is the way in
which we go on! The Lord said, "It shall not be so among you." Did he
mean only his twelve disciples? This was all that he had to say to them,
but--thanks be to him!--he says the same to every one of us now. "It
shall not be so among you: that is not the way in my kingdom." The
people of the world--the people who live in the world--will always think
it best to get up, to have less and less of service to do, more and more
of service done to them. The notion of rank in the world is like a
pyramid; the higher you go up, the fewer are there who have to serve
those above them, and who are served more than those underneath them.
All who are under serve those who are above, until you come to the apex,
and there stands some one who has to do no service, but whom all the
others have to serve. Something like that is the notion of position--of
social standing and rank. And if it be so in an intellectual way
even--to say nothing of mere bodily service--if any man works to a
position that others shall all look up to him and that he may have to
look up to nobody, he has just put himself precisely into the same
condition as the people of whom our Lord speaks--as those who exercise
dominion and authority, and really he thinks it a fine thing to be

But it is not so in the kingdom of heaven. The figure there is entirely
reversed. As you may see a pyramid reflected in the water, just so, in a
reversed way altogether, is the thing to be found in the kingdom of God.
It is in this way: the Son of Man lies at the inverted apex of the
pyramid; he upholds, and serves, and ministers unto all, and they who
would be high in his kingdom must go near to him at the bottom, to
uphold and minister to all that they may or can uphold and minister
unto. There is no other law of precedence, no other law of rank and
position in God's kingdom. And mind, that is _the_ kingdom. The other
kingdom passes away--it is a transitory, ephemeral, passing, bad thing,
and away it must go. It is only there on sufferance, because in the mind
of God even that which is bad ministers to that which is good; and when
the new kingdom is built the old kingdom shall pass away.

But the man who seeks this rank of which I have spoken, must be honest
to follow it. It will not do to say, "I want to be great, and therefore
I will serve." A man will not get at it so. He may begin so, but he will
soon find that that will not do. He must seek it for the truth's sake,
for the love of his fellows, for the worship of God, for the delight in
what is good. In the kingdom of heaven people do not think whether I am
promoted, or whether you are promoted. They are so absorbed in the
delight and glory of the goodness that is round about them, that they
learn not to think much about themselves. It is the bad that is in us
that makes us think about ourselves. It is necessary for us, because
there is bad in us, to think about ourselves, but as we go on we think
less and less about ourselves, until at last we are possessed with the
spirit of the truth, the spirit of the kingdom, and live in gladness and
in peace. We are prouder of our brothers and sisters than of ourselves;
we delight to look at them. God looks at us, and makes us what he
pleases, and this is what we must come to; there is no escape from it.

But the Lord says, that "the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto."
Was he not ministered unto then? Ah! he was ministered unto as never man
was, but he did not come for that. Even now we bring to him the
burnt-offerings of our very spirits, but he did not come for that. It
was to help us that he came. We are told, likewise, that he is the
express image of the Father. Then what he does, the Father must do; and
he says himself, when he is accused of breaking the Sabbath by doing
work on it, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Then this must be
God's way too, or else it could not have been Jesus's way. It is God's
way. Oh! do not think that God made us with his hands, and then turned
us out to find out our own way. Do not think of him as being always over
our heads, merely throwing over us a wide-spread benevolence. You can
imagine the tenderness of a mother's heart who takes her child even from
its beloved nurse to soothe and to minister to it, and that is like God;
that is God. His hand is not only over us, but recollect what David
said--"His hand was upon me." I wish we were all as good Christians as
David was. "Wherever I go," he said, "God is there--beneath me, before
me, his hand is upon me; if I go to sleep he is there; when I go down to
the dead he is there." Everywhere is God. The earth underneath us is his
hand upholding us. [Footnote: The waters are in the hollow of it.] Every
spring-fountain of gladness about us is his making and his delight. He
tends us and cares for us; he is close to us, breathing into our
nostrils the breath of life, and breathing into our spirit this thought
and that thought to make us look up and recognize the love and the care
around us. What a poor thing for the little baby would it be if it were
to be constantly tended thus tenderly and preciously by its mother, but
if it were never to open its eyes to look up and see her mother's face
bending over it. A poor thing all its tending would be without that. It
is for that that the other exists; it is by that that the other comes.
To recognize and know this loving-kindness, and to stand up in it strong
and glad; this is the ministration of God unto us. Do you ever think "I
could worship God if he was so-and-so?" Do you imagine that God is not
as good, as perfect, as absolutely all-in-all as your thoughts can
imagine? Aye, you cannot come up to it; do what you will you never will
come up to it. Use all the symbols that we have in nature, in human
relations, in the family--all our symbols of grace and tenderness, and
loving-kindness between man and man, and between man and woman, and
between woman and woman, but you can never come up to the thought of
what God's ministration is. When our Lord came he just let us see how
his Father was doing this always, he "came to give his life a ransom for
many." It was in giving his life a ransom for us that he died; that was
the consummation and crown of it all, but it was his life that he gave
for us--his whole being, his whole strength, his whole energy--not alone
his days of trouble and of toil, but deeper than that, he gave his whole
being for us; yea, he even went down to death for us.

But how are we to learn this ministration? I will tell you where it
begins. The most of us are forced to work; if you do not see that the
commonest things in life belong to the Christian scheme, the plan of
God, you have got to learn it. I say this is at the beginning. Most of
us have to work, and infinitely better is that for us than if we were
not forced to work, but not a very fine thing unless it goes to
something farther. We are forced to work; and what is our work? It is
doing something for other people always. It is doing; it is ministration
in some shape or other. All kind of work is a serving, but it may not be
always Christian service. No. Some of us only work for our wages; we
must have them. We starve, and deserve to starve, if we do not work to
get them. But we must go a little beyond that; yes, a very great way
beyond that. There is no honest work that one man does for another which
he may not do as unto the Lord and not unto men; in which he cannot do
right as he ought to do right. Thus, I say that the man who sees the
commonest thing in the world, recognizing it as part of the divine order
of things, the law by which the world goes, being the intention of God
that one man should be serviceable and useful to another--the man, I
say, who does a thing well because of this, and who tries to do it
better, is doing God service.

We talk of "divine service." It is a miserable name for a great thing.
It is not service, properly speaking, at all. When a boy comes to his
father and says, "May I do so and so for you?" or, rather, comes and
breaks out in some way, showing his love to his father--says, "May I
come and sit beside you? May I have some of your books? May I come and
be quiet a little in your room?" what would you think of that boy if he
went and said, "I have been doing my father a service." So with praying
to and thanking God, do you call that serving God? If it is not serving
yourselves it is worth nothing; if it is not the best condition you can
find yourselves in, you have to learn what it is yet. Not so; the work
you have to do to-morrow in the counting-house, in the shop, or wherever
you may be, is that by which you are to serve God. Do it with a high
regard, and then there is nothing mean in it; but there is everything
mean in it if you are pretending to please people when you only look for
your wages. It is mean then; but if you have regard to doing a thing
nobly, greatly, and truly, because it is the work that God has given you
to do, then you are doing the divine service.

Of course, this goes a great deal farther. We have endless opportunities
of showing ourselves neighbours to the man who comes near us. That is
the divine service; that is the reality of serving God. The others ought
to be your reward, if "reward" is a word that can be used in such a
relation at all. Go home and speak to God; nay, hold your tongue, and
quietly go to him in the secret recesses of your own heart, and know
that God is there. Say, "God has given me this work to do, and I am
doing it;" and that is your joy, that is your refuge, that is your going
to heaven. It is not service. The words "divine service," as they are
used, always move me to something of indignation. It is perfect
paganism; it is looking to please God by gathering together your
services,--something that is supposed to be service to him. He is
serving us for ever, and our Lord says, "If I have washed your feet, so
you ought to wash one another's feet." This will be the way in which to
minister for some.

But still, when we are beginning to learn this, some of us are looking
about us in a blind kind of way, thinking, "I wish I could serve God; I
do not know what to do! How is it to be begun? What is it at the root of
it? What shall I find out to do? Where is there something to do?"

Now, first of all, service is obedience, or it is nothing. This is what
I would gladly impress upon you; upon every young man who has come to
the point to be able to receive it. There is a tendency in us to think
that there is something degrading in obedience, something degrading in
service. According to the social judgment there is; according to the
judgment of the earth there is. Not so according to the judgment of
heaven, for God would only have us do the very thing he is doing
himself. You may see the tendency of this nowadays. There is scarcely a
young man who will speak of his "master." He feels as if there is
something that hurts his dignity in doing so. He does just what so many
theologians have done about God, who, instead of taking what our Lord
has given us, talk about God as "the Governor of the Universe." So a
young man talks about his master as "the governor;" nay, he even talks
of his own father in that way, and then you come in another region
altogether, and a worse one. I take these things as symptoms, mind. I
know habits may be picked up, when they get common, without any great
corresponding feeling; but a wrong habit tends always to a wrong
feeling, and if a man cannot learn to honour his father, so as to be
able to call him "father," I think one or the other of them is greatly
to blame, whether the father or the son I cannot say. I know there are
such parents that to tell their children that God is their "Father" is
no help to them, but the contrary. I heard of a lady just the other day
to whom, in trying to comfort her, some one said, "Remember God is your
Father." "Do not mention the name 'father' to me," she said. Ah! that
kind of fault does not lie in God, but in those who, not being like him,
cannot use the names aright which belong to him.

But now, as to this service, this obedience. Our Lord came to give his
life a ransom for the many, and to minister unto all in obedience to his
Father's will. We call him equal with God--at least, most of us here, I
suppose, do; of course we do not pretend to explain; we know that God is
greater than he, because he said so; but somehow, we can worship him
with our God, and we need not try to distinguish more than is necessary
about it. But do you think that he was less divine than the Father when
he was obedient? Observe his obedience to the will of his Father. He was
not the ruler there. He did not give the commands; he obeyed them. And
yet we say He is God! Ah, that is no difficulty to me. Obedience is as
divine in its essence as command; nay, it may be more divine in the
human being far; it cannot be more divine in God, but obedience is far
more divine in its essence with regard to humanity than command is. It
is not the ruling being who is most like God; it is the man who
ministers to his fellow, who is like God; and the man who will just
sternly and rigidly do what his master tells him--be that master what he
may--who is likest Christ in that one particular matter. Obedience is
the grandest thing in the world to begin with. Yes, and we shall end
with it too. I do not think the time will ever come when we shall not
have something to do, because we are told to do it without knowing why.
Those parents act most foolishly who wish to explain everything to their
children--most foolishly. No; teach your child to obey, and you give him
the most precious lesson that can be given to a child. Let him come to
that before you have had him long, to do what he is told, and you have
given him the plainest, first, and best lesson that you can give him. If
he never goes to school at all he had better have that lesson than all
the schooling in the world. Hence, when some people are accustomed to
glorify this age of ours as being so much better in everything than
those which went before, I look back to the times of chivalry, which we
regard now, almost, as a thing to laugh at, or a merry thing to make
jokes about; but I find that the one essential of chivalry was
obedience. It is recognized in our army still, but in those times it was
carried much farther. When a boy was seven years old he was sent into
another family, and put with another boy there to do what? To wait with
him upon the master and the mistress of the house, and to be taught, as
well, what few things they knew in those times in the way of
intellectual cultivation. But he also learned stern, strict obedience,
such as it was impossible for him to forget. Then, when he had been
there seven years, hard at work, standing behind the chair, and
ministering, he was advanced a step; and what was that step? He was made
an esquire. He had his armour given him; he had to watch his armour in
the chapel all night, laying it on the altar in silent devotion to God.
I do not say that all these things were carried out afterwards, but this
was the idea of them. He was an esquire, and what was the duty of an
esquire? More service; more important service. He still had to attend to
his master, the knight. He had to watch him; he had to groom his horse
for him; he had to see that his horse was sound; he had to clean his
armour for him; to see that every bolt, every rivet, every strap, every
buckle was sound, for the life of his master was in his hands. The
master, having to fight, must not be troubled with these things, and
therefore the squire had to attend to them. Then seven years after that
a more solemn ceremony is gone through, and the squire is made a knight;
but is he free of service then? No; he makes a solemn oath to help
everybody who needs help, especially women and children, and so he rides
out into the world to do the work of a true man. There was a grand and
essential idea of Christianity in that--no doubt wonderfully broken and
shattered, but not more so than the Christian church has been;
wonderfully broken and shattered, but still the essence of obedience;
and I say it is recognized in our army still, and in every army; and
where it is lost it is a terrible loss, and an army is worth nothing
without it. You remember that terrible story from the East, that fearful
death-charge, one of the grandest things in our history, although one of
the most blundering:--

  "Theirs not to make reply,
  Theirs not to reason why,
  Theirs but to do and die;
  Into the valley of death
       Rode the Six Hundred."

So with the Christian man; whatever meets him, obedience is the thing.
If he is told by his conscience, which is the candle of God within him,
that he must do a thing, why he must do it. He may tremble from head to
foot at having to do it, but he will tremble more if he turns his back.
You recollect how our old poet Spenser shows us the Knight of the Red
Cross, who is the knight of holiness, ill in body, diseased in mind,
without any of his armour on, attacked by a fearful giant. What does he
do? Run away? No, he has but time to catch up his sword, and, trembling
in every limb, he goes on to meet the giant; and that is the thing that
every Christian man must do. I cannot put it too strongly; it is
impossible. There is no escape from it. If death itself lies before us,
and we know it, there is nothing to be said; it is all to be done, and
then there is no loss; everything else is all lost unto God. Look at our
Lord. He gave his life to do the will of his Father, and on he went and
did it. Do you think it was easy for him--easier for him than it would
have been for us? Ah! the greater the man the more delicate and tender
his nature, and the more he shrinks from the opposition even of his
fellowmen, because he loves them. It was a terrible thing for Christ.
Even now and then, even in the little touches that come to us in the
scanty story (though enough) this breaks out. "We are told by John that
at the Last Supper He was troubled in spirit, and testified." And then
how he tries to comfort himself as soon as Judas has gone out to do the
thing which was to finish his great work: "Now is the Son of Man
glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God
shall also glorify him in himself." Then he adds,--just gathering up his
strength,--"I shall straightway glorify him." This was said to his
disciples, but I seem to see in it that some of it was said for himself.
This is the grand obedience! Oh, friends, this is a hard lesson to
learn. We find every day that it is a hard thing to teach. We are
continually grumbling because we cannot get the people about us, our
servants, our tradespeople, or whoever they may be, to do just what we
tell them. It makes half the misery in the world because they will have
something of their own in it against what they are told. But are we not
always doing the same thing? and ought we not to learn something of
forgiveness for them, and very much from the fact that we are just in
the same position? We only recognize in part that we are put here in
this world precisely to learn to be obedient. He who is our Lord and our
God went on being obedient all the time, and was obedient always; and I
say it is as divine for us to obey as it is for God to rule. As I have
said already, God is ministering the whole time. Now, do you want to
know how to minister? Begin by obeying. Obey every one who has a right
to command you; but above all, look to what our Lord has said, and find
out what he wants you to do out of what he left behind, and try whether
obedience to that will not give a consciousness of use, of ministering,
of being a part of the grand scheme and way of God in this world. In
fact, take your place in it as a vital portion of the divine kingdom,
or--to use a better figure than that--a vital portion of the Godhead.
Try it, and see whether obedience is not salvation; whether service is
not dignity; whether you will not feel in yourselves that you have begun
to be cleansed from your plague when you begin to say, "I will seek no
more to be above my fellows, but I will seek to minister to them, doing
my work in God's name for them."

  "Who sweeps a room as for Thy law,
  Makes that and the action fine."

Both the room and the action are good when done for God's sake. That is
dear old George Herbert's way of saying the same truth, for every man
has his own way of saying it. The gift of the Spirit of God to make you
think as God thinks, feel as God feels, judge as God judges, is just the
one thing that is promised. I do not know anything else that is promised
positively but that, and who dares pray for anything else with perfect
confidence? God will not give us what we pray for except it be good for
us, but that is one thing that we must have or perish. Therefore, let us
pray for that, and with the name of God dwelling in us--if this is not
true, the whole world is a heap of ruins--let us go forth and do this
service of God in ministering to our fellows, and so helping him in his
work of upholding, and glorifying and saving all.


That we have in English no word corresponding to the German _Mährchen_,
drives us to use the word _Fairytale_, regardless of the fact that the
tale may have nothing to do with any sort of fairy. The old use of the
word _Fairy_, by Spenser at least, might, however, well be adduced, were
justification or excuse necessary where _need must_.

Were I asked, what is a fairytale? I should reply, _Read Undine: that
is a fairytale; then read this and that as well, and you will see what
is a fairytale_. Were I further begged to describe the _fairytale_, or
define what it is, I would make answer, that I should as soon think of
describing the abstract human face, or stating what must go to
constitute a human being. A fairytale is just a fairytale, as a face is
just a face; and of all fairytales I know, I think _Undine_ the most

Many a man, however, who would not attempt to define _a man_, might
venture to say something as to what a man ought to be: even so much I
will not in this place venture with regard to the fairytale, for my long
past work in that kind might but poorly instance or illustrate my now
more matured judgment. I will but say some things helpful to the
reading, in right-minded fashion, of such fairytales as I would wish to
write, or care to read.

Some thinkers would feel sorely hampered if at liberty to use no forms
but such as existed in nature, or to invent nothing save in accordance
with the laws of the world of the senses; but it must not therefore be
imagined that they desire escape from the region of law. Nothing lawless
can show the least reason why it should exist, or could at best have
more than an appearance of life.

The natural world has its laws, and no man must interfere with them in
the way of presentment any more than in the way of use; but they
themselves may suggest laws of other kinds, and man may, if he pleases,
invent a little world of his own, with its own laws; for there is that
in him which delights in calling up new forms--which is the nearest,
perhaps, he can come to creation. When such forms are new embodiments of
old truths, we call them products of the Imagination; when they are mere
inventions, however lovely, I should call them the work of the Fancy: in
either case, Law has been diligently at work.

His world once invented, the highest law that comes next into play is,
that there shall be harmony between the laws by which the new world has
begun to exist; and in the process of his creation, the inventor must
hold by those laws. The moment he forgets one of them, he makes the
story, by its own postulates, incredible. To be able to live a moment in
an imagined world, we must see the laws of its existence obeyed. Those
broken, we fall out of it. The imagination in us, whose exercise is
essential to the most temporary submission to the imagination of
another, immediately, with the disappearance, of Law, ceases to act.
Suppose the gracious creatures of some childlike region of Fairyland
talking either cockney or Gascon! Would not the tale, however lovelily
begun, sink at once to the level of the Burlesque--of all forms of
literature the least worthy? A man's inventions may be stupid or clever,
but if he do not hold by the laws of them, or if he make one law jar
with another, he contradicts himself as an inventor, he is no artist. He
does not rightly consort his instruments, or he tunes them in different
keys. The mind of man is the product of live Law; it thinks by law, it
dwells in the midst of law, it gathers from law its growth; with law,
therefore, can it alone work to any result. Inharmonious, unconsorting
ideas will come to a man, but if he try to use one of such, his work
will grow dull, and he will drop it from mere lack of interest. Law is
the soil in which alone beauty will grow; beauty is the only stuff in
which Truth can be clothed; and you may, if you will, call Imagination
the tailor that cuts her garments to fit her, and Fancy his journeyman
that puts the pieces of them together, or perhaps at most embroiders
their button-holes. Obeying law, the maker works like his creator; not
obeying law, he is such a fool as heaps a pile of stones and calls it a

In the moral world it is different: there a man may clothe in new forms,
and for this employ his imagination freely, but he must invent nothing.
He may not, for any purpose, turn its laws upside down. He must not
meddle with the relations of live souls. The laws of the spirit of man
must hold, alike in this world and in any world he may invent. It were
no offence to suppose a world in which everything repelled instead of
attracted the things around it; it would be wicked to write a tale
representing a man it called good as always doing bad things, or a man
it called bad as always doing good things: the notion itself is
absolutely lawless. In physical things a man may invent; in moral things
he must obey--and take their laws with him into his invented world as

"You write as if a fairytale were a thing of importance: must it have a

It cannot help having some meaning; if it have proportion and harmony it
has vitality, and vitality is truth. The beauty may be plainer in it
than the truth, but without the truth the beauty could not be, and the
fairytale would give no delight. Everyone, however, who feels the story,
will read its meaning after his own nature and development: one man will
read one meaning in it, another will read another.

"If so, how am I to assure myself that I am not reading my own meaning
into it, but yours out of it?"

Why should you be so assured? It may be better that you should read your
meaning into it. That may be a higher operation of your intellect than
the mere reading of mine out of it: your meaning may be superior to

"Suppose my child ask me what the fairytale means, what am I to say?"

If you do not know what it means, what is easier than to say so? If you
do see a meaning in it, there it is for you to give him. A genuine work
of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will
mean. If my drawing, on the other hand, is so far from being a work of
art that it needs THIS IS A HORSE written under it, what can it matter
that neither you nor your child should know what it means? It is there
not so much to convey a meaning as to wake a meaning. If it do not even
wake an interest, throw it aside. A meaning may be there, but it is not
for you. If, again, you do not know a horse when you see it, the name
written under it will not serve you much. At all events, the business of
the painter is not to teach zoology.

But indeed your children are not likely to trouble you about the
meaning. They find what they are capable of finding, and more would be
too much. For my part, I do not write for children, but for the
childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.

A fairytale is not an allegory. There may be allegory in it, but it is
not an allegory. He must be an artist indeed who can, in any mode,
produce a strict allegory that is not a weariness to the spirit. An
allegory must be Mastery or Moorditch.

A fairytale, like a butterfly or a bee, helps itself on all sides, sips
at every wholesome flower, and spoils not one. The true fairytale is, to
my mind, very like the sonata. We all know that a sonata means
something; and where there is the faculty of talking with suitable
vagueness, and choosing metaphor sufficiently loose, mind may approach
mind, in the interpretation of a sonata, with the result of a more or
less contenting consciousness of sympathy. But if two or three men sat
down to write each what the sonata meant to him, what approximation to
definite idea would be the result? Little enough--and that little more
than needful. We should find it had roused related, if not identical,
feelings, but probably not one common thought. Has the sonata therefore
failed? Had it undertaken to convey, or ought it to be expected to
impart anything defined, anything notionally recognizable?

"But words are not music; words at least are meant and fitted to carry a
precise meaning!"

It is very seldom indeed that they carry the exact meaning of any user
of them! And if they can be so used as to convey definite meaning, it
does not follow that they ought never to carry anything else. Words are
live things that may be variously employed to various ends. They can
convey a scientific fact, or throw a shadow of her child's dream on the
heart of a mother. They are things to put together like the pieces of a
dissected map, or to arrange like the notes on a stave. Is the music in
them to go for nothing? It can hardly help the definiteness of a
meaning: is it therefore to be disregarded? They have length, and
breadth, and outline: have they nothing to do with depth? Have they only
to describe, never to impress? Has nothing any claim to their use but
the definite? The cause of a child's tears may be altogether
undefinable: has the mother therefore no antidote for his vague misery?
That may be strong in colour which has no evident outline. A fairytale,
a sonata, a gathering storm, a limitless night, seizes you and sweeps
you away: do you begin at once to wrestle with it and ask whence its
power over you, whither it is carrying you? The law of each is in the
mind of its composer; that law makes one man feel this way, another man
feel that way. To one the sonata is a world of odour and beauty, to
another of soothing only and sweetness. To one, the cloudy rendezvous is
a wild dance, with a terror at its heart; to another, a majestic march
of heavenly hosts, with Truth in their centre pointing their course, but
as yet restraining her voice. The greatest forces lie in the region of
the uncomprehended.

I will go farther.--The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to
rousing his conscience, is--not to give him things to think about, but
to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for
himself. The best Nature does for us is to work in us such moods in
which thoughts of high import arise. Does any aspect of Nature wake but
one thought? Does she ever suggest only one definite thing? Does she
make any two men in the same place at the same moment think the same
thing? Is she therefore a failure, because she is not definite? Is it
nothing that she rouses the something deeper than the understanding--the
power that underlies thoughts? Does she not set feeling, and so thinking
at work? Would it be better that she did this after one fashion and not
after many fashions? Nature is mood-engendering, thought-provoking: such
ought the sonata, such ought the fairytale to be.

"But a man may then imagine in your work what he pleases, what you never

Not what he pleases, but what he can. If he be not a true man, he will
draw evil out of the best; we need not mind how he treats any work of
art! If he be a true man, he will imagine true things; what matter
whether I meant them or not? They are there none the less that I cannot
claim putting them there! One difference between God's work and man's
is, that, while God's work cannot mean more than he meant, man's must
mean more than he meant. For in everything that God has made, there is
layer upon layer of ascending significance; also he expresses the same
thought in higher and higher kinds of that thought: it is God's things,
his embodied thoughts, which alone a man has to use, modified and
adapted to his own purposes, for the expression of his thoughts;
therefore he cannot help his words and figures falling into such
combinations in the mind of another as he had himself not foreseen, so
many are the thoughts allied to every other thought, so many are the
relations involved in every figure, so many the facts hinted in every
symbol. A man may well himself discover truth in what he wrote; for he
was dealing all the time with things that came from thoughts beyond his

"But surely you would explain your idea to one who asked you?"

I say again, if I cannot draw a horse, I will not write THIS IS A HORSE
under what I foolishly meant for one. Any key to a work of imagination
would be nearly, if not quite, as absurd. The tale is there, not to
hide, but to show: if it show nothing at your window, do not open your
door to it; leave it out in the cold. To ask me to explain, is to say,
"Roses! Boil them, or we won't have them!" My tales may not be roses,
but I will not boil them.

So long as I think my dog can bark, I will not sit up to bark for him.

If a writer's aim be logical conviction, he must spare no logical pains,
not merely to be understood, but to escape being misunderstood; where
his object is to move by suggestion, to cause to imagine, then let him
assail the soul of his reader as the wind assails an aeolian harp. If
there be music in my reader, I would gladly wake it. Let fairytale of
mine go for a firefly that now flashes, now is dark, but may flash
again. Caught in a hand which does not love its kind, it will turn to an
insignificant, ugly thing, that can neither flash nor fly.

The best way with music, I imagine, is not to bring the forces of our
intellect to bear upon it, but to be still and let it work on that part
of us for whose sake it exists. We spoil countless precious things by
intellectual greed. He who will be a man, and will not be a child,
must--he cannot help himself--become a little man, that is, a dwarf. He
will, however, need no consolation, for he is sure to think himself a
very large creature indeed.

If any strain of my "broken music" make a child's eyes flash, or his
mother's grow for a moment dim, my labour will not have been in vain.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Dish of Orts : Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare" ***

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