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´╗┐Title: Biographical Essays
Author: De Quincey, Thomas
Language: English
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The "Confessions of an English Opium Eater," and "Suspiria De
Profundis," form the first volume of this series of Mr. De
Quincey's Writings. A third volume will shortly be issued,
containing some of his most interesting papers contributed to the
English magazines.



Author of "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater," Etc. Etc.

[Endnote: 1]

William Shakspeare, the protagonist on the great arena of modern
poetry, and the glory of the human intellect, was born at
Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, in the year 1564,
and upon some day, not precisely ascertained, in the month of
April. It is certain that he was baptized on the 25th; and from
that fact, combined with some shadow of a tradition, Malone has
inferred that he was born on the 23d. There is doubtless, on the
one hand, no absolute necessity deducible from law or custom, as
either operated in those times, which obliges us to adopt such a
conclusion; for children might be baptized, and were baptized, at
various distances from their birth: yet, on the other hand, the 23d
is as likely to have been the day as any other; and more likely
than any earlier day, upon two arguments. First, because there was
probably a tradition floating in the seventeenth century, that
Shakspeare died upon his birthday: now it is beyond a doubt that he
died upon the 23d of April.

Secondly, because it is a reasonable presumption, that no parents,
living in a simple community, tenderly alive to the pieties of
household duty, and in an age still clinging reverentially to the
ceremonial ordinances of religion, would much delay the adoption of
their child into the great family of Christ. Considering the
extreme frailty of an infant's life during its two earliest years,
to delay would often be to disinherit the child of its Christian
privileges; privileges not the less eloquent to the feelings from
being profoundly mysterious, and, in the English church, forced not
only upon the attention, but even upon the eye of the most
thoughtless. According to the discipline of the English church, the
unbaptized are buried with "maimed rites," shorn of their
obsequies, and sternly denied that "sweet and solemn farewell," by
which otherwise the church expresses her final charity with all
men; and not only so, but they are even _locally_ separated
and sequestrated. Ground the most hallowed, and populous with
Christian burials of households,

  "That died in peace with one another.
  Father, sister, son, and brother,"

opens to receive the vilest malefactor; by which the church
symbolically expresses her maternal willingness to gather back into
her fold those even of her flock who have strayed from her by the
most memorable aberrations; and yet, with all this indulgence, she
banishes to unhallowed ground the innocent bodies of the
unbaptized. To them and to suicides she turns a face of wrath. With
this gloomy fact offered to the very external senses, it is
difficult to suppose that any parents would risk their own
reproaches, by putting the fulfilment of so grave a duty on the
hazard of a convulsion fit. The case of royal children is
different; their baptisms, it is true, were often delayed for weeks
but the household chaplains of the palace were always at hand,
night and day, to baptize them in the very agonies of death.
[Endnote: 3] We must presume, therefore, that William Shakspeare
was born on some day very little anterior to that of his baptism;
and the more so because the season of the year was lovely and
genial, the 23d of April in 1564, corresponding in fact with what
we now call the 3d of May, so that, whether the child was to be
carried abroad, or the clergyman to be summoned, no hindrance would
arise from the weather. One only argument has sometimes struck us
for supposing that the 22d might be the day, and not the 23d; which
is, that Shakspeare's sole granddaughter, Lady Barnard, was married
on the 22d of April, 1626, ten years exactly from the poet's death;
and the reason for choosing this day _might_ have had a reference to
her illustrious grandfather's birthday, which, there is good reason
for thinking, would be celebrated as a festival in the family for
generations. Still this choice _may_ have been an accident, or
governed merely by reason of convenience. And, on the whole, it is as
well perhaps to acquiesce in the old belief, that Shakspeare was born
and died on the 23d of April. We cannot do wrong if we drink to his
memory on both 22d and 23d.

On a first review of the circumstances, we have reason to feel no
little perplexity in finding the materials for a life of this
transcendent writer so meagre and so few; and amongst them the
larger part of doubtful authority. All the energy of curiosity
directed upon this subject, through a period of one hundred and
fifty years, (for so long it is since Betterton the actor began to
make researches,) has availed us little or nothing. Neither the
local traditions of his provincial birthplace, though sharing with
London through half a century the honor of his familiar presence,
nor the recollections of that brilliant literary circle with whom
he lived in the metropolis, have yielded much more than such an
outline of his history, as is oftentimes to be gathered from the
penurious records of a grave-stone. That he lived, and that he
died, and that he was "a little lower than the angels;"--these make
up pretty nearly the amount of our undisputed report. It may be
doubted, indeed, whether at this day we arc as accurately
acquainted with the life of Shakspeare as with that of Chaucer,
though divided from each other by an interval of two centuries, and
(what should have been more effectual towards oblivion) by the wars
of the two roses. And yet the traditional memory of a rural and a
sylvan region, such as Warwickshire at that time was, is usually
exact as well as tenacious; and, with respect to Shakspeare in
particular, we may presume it to have been full and circumstantial
through the generation succeeding to his own, not only from the
curiosity, and perhaps something of a scandalous interest, which
would pursue the motions of one living so large a part of his life
at a distance from his wife, but also from the final reverence and
honor which would settle upon the memory of a poet so predominently
successful; of one who, in a space of five and twenty years, after
running a bright career in the capital city of his native land, and
challenging notice from the throne, had retired with an ample
fortune, created by his personal efforts, and by labors purely

How are we to account, then, for that deluge, as if from Lethe,
which has swept away so entirely the traditional memorials of one
so illustrious? Such is the fatality of error which overclouds
every question connected with Shakspeare, that two of his principal
critics, Steevens and Malone, have endeavored to solve the
difficulty by cutting it with a falsehood. They deny in effect that
he _was_ illustrious in the century succeeding to his own, however
much he has since become so. We shall first produce their statements
in their own words, and we shall then briefly review them.

Steevens delivers _his_ opinion in the following terms: "How
little Shakspeare was once read, may be understood from Tate, who,
in his dedication to the altered play of King Lear, speaks of the
original as an obscure piece, recommended to his notice by a
friend; and the author of the Tatler, having occasion to quote a
few lines out of Macbeth, was content to receive them from
Davenant's alteration of that celebrated drama, in which almost
every original beauty is either awkwardly disguised or arbitrarily
omitted." Another critic, who cites this passage from Steevens,
pursues the hypothesis as follows: "In fifty years after his death,
Dryden mentions that he was then become _a little obsolete_.
In the beginning of the last century, Lord Shaftesbury complains of
his _rude unpolished style, and his antiquated phrase and
wit_. It is certain that, for nearly a hundred years after his
death, partly owing to the immediate revolution and rebellion, and
partly to the licentious taste encouraged in Charles II's time, and
perhaps partly to the incorrect state of his works, he was ALMOST
ENTIRELY NEGLECTED." This critic then goes on to quote with
approbation the opinion of Malone,--"that if he had been read,
admired, studied, and imitated, in the same degree as he is now,
the enthusiasm of some one or other of his admirers in the last age
would have induced him to make some inquiries concerning the
history of his theatrical career, and the anecdotes of his private
life." After which this enlightened writer re-affirms and clenches
the judgment he has quoted, by saying,--"His admirers, however,
_if he had admirers in that age_, possessed no portion of such

It may, perhaps, be an instructive lesson to young readers, if we
now show them, by a short sifting of these confident dogmatists,
how easy it is for a careless or a half-read man to circulate the
most absolute falsehoods under the semblance of truth; falsehoods
which impose upon himself as much as they do upon others. We
believe that not one word or illustration is uttered in the
sentences cited from these three critics, which is not
_virtually_ in the very teeth of the truth.

To begin with Mr. Nahum Tate. This poor grub of literature, if he
did really speak of Lear as "an _obscure_ piece, recommended
to his notice by a friend," of which we must be allowed to doubt,
was then uttering a conscious falsehood. It happens that Lear was
one of the few Shakspearian dramas which had kept the stage
unaltered. But it is easy to see a mercenary motive in such an
artifice as this. Mr. Nahum Tate is not of a class of whom it can
be safe to say that they are "well known:" they and their desperate
tricks are essentially obscure, and good reason he has to exult in
the felicity of such obscurity; for else this same vilest of
travesties, Mr. Nahum's Lear, would consecrate his name to
everlasting scorn. For himself, he belonged to the age of Dryden
rather than of Pope: he "flourished," if we can use such a phrase
of one who was always withering, about the era of the Revolution;
and his Lear, we believe, was arranged in the year 1682. But the
family to which he belongs is abundantly recorded in the Dunciad,
and his own name will be found amongst its catalogues of heroes.

With respect to _the author of the Tatler_, a very different
explanation is requisite. Steevens means the reader to understand
Addison; but it does not follow that the particular paper in
question was from his pen. Nothing, however, could be more natural
than to quote from the common form of the play as then in
possession of the stage. It was _there_, beyond a doubt, that
a fine gentleman living upon town, and not professing any deep
scholastic knowledge of literature, (a light in which we are always
to regard the writers of the Spectator, Guardian, &c.,) would be
likely to have learned anything he quoted from Macbeth. This we say
generally of the writers in those periodical papers; but, with
reference to Addison in particular, it is time to correct the
popular notion of his literary character, or at least to mark it by
severer lines of distinction. It is already pretty well known, that
Addison had no very intimate acquaintance with the literature of
his own country. It is known, also, that he did not think such an
acquaintance any ways essential to the character of an elegant
scholar and _litterateur_. Quite enough he found it, and more
than enough for the time he had to spare, if he could maintain a
tolerable familiarity with the foremost Latin poets, and a very
slender one indeed with the Grecian. _How_ slender, we can see
in his "Travels." Of modern authors, none as yet had been published
with notes, commentaries, or critical collations of the text; and,
accordingly, Addison looked upon all of them, except those few who
professed themselves followers in the retinue and equipage of the
ancients, as creatures of a lower race. Boileau, as a mere imitator
and propagator of Horace, he read, and probably little else amongst
the French classics. Hence it arose that he took upon himself to
speak sneeringly of Tasso. To this, which was a bold act for his
timid mind, he was emboldened by the countenance of Boileau. Of the
elder Italian authors, such as Ariosto, and, _a fortiori_,
Dante, be knew absolutely nothing. Passing to our own literature,
it is certain that Addison was profoundly ignorant of Chaucer and
of Spenser. Milton only,--and why? simply because he was a
brilliant scholar, and stands like a bridge between the Christian
literature and the Pagan,--Addison had read and esteemed. There was
also in the very constitution of Milton's mind, in the majestic
regularity and planetary solemnity of its _epic_ movements,
something which he could understand and appreciate. As to the
meteoric and incalculable eccentricities of the _dramatic_
mind, as it displayed itself in the heroic age of our drama,
amongst the Titans of 1590-1630, they confounded and overwhelmed

In particular, with regard to Shakspeare, we shall now proclaim a
discovery which we made some twenty years ago. We, like others,
from seeing frequent references to Shakspeare in the Spectator, had
acquiesced in the common belief, that although Addison was no doubt
profoundly unlearned in Shakspeare's language, and thoroughly
unable to do him justice, (and this we might well assume, since his
great rival Pope, who had expressly studied Shakspeare, was, after
all, so memorably deficient in the appropriate knowledge,)--yet,
that of course he had a vague popular knowledge of the mighty
poet's cardinal dramas. Accident only led us into a discovery of
our mistake. Twice or thrice we had observed, that if Shakspeare
were quoted, that paper turned out not to be Addison's; and at
length, by express examination, we ascertained the curious fact,
that Addison has never in one instance quoted or made any reference
to Shakspeare. But was this, as Steevens most disingenuously
pretends, to be taken as an exponent of the public feeling towards
Shakspeare? Was Addison's neglect representative of a general
neglect? If so, whence came Rowe's edition, Pope's, Theobald's, Sir
Thomas Hanmer's, Bishop Warburton's, all upon the heels of one
another? With such facts staring him in the face, how shameless
must be that critic who could, in support of such a thesis, refer
to " _the author of the Tatler_" contemporary with all these
editors. The truth is, Addison was well aware of Shakspeare's hold
on the popular mind; too well aware of it. The feeble constitution
of the poetic faculty, as existing in himself, forbade his
sympathizing with Shakspeare; the proportions were too colossal for
his delicate vision; and yet, as one who sought popularity himself,
he durst not shock what perhaps he viewed as a national prejudice.
Those who have happened, like ourselves, to see the effect of
passionate music and "deep-inwoven harmonics" upon the feeling of
an idiot, we may conceive what we mean. Such music does not utterly
revolt the idiot; on the contrary, it has a strange but a horrid
fascination for him; it alarms, irritates, disturbs, makes him
profoundly unhappy; and chiefly by unlocking imperfect glimpses of
thoughts and slumbering instincts, which it is for his peace to
have entirely obscured, because for him they can be revealed only
partially, and with the sad effect of throwing a baleful gleam upon
his blighted condition. Do we mean, then, to compare Addison with
an idiot? Not generally, by any means. Nobody can more sincerely
admire him where he was a man of real genius, viz., in his
delineations of character and manners, or in the exquisite
delicacies of his humor. But assuredly Addison, as a poet, was
amongst the sons of the feeble; and between the authors of Cato and
of King Lear there was a gulf never to be bridged over. [Endnote: 4]

But Dryden, we are told, pronounced Shakspeare already in his day
_"a little obsolete."_ Here now we have wilful, deliberate
falsehood. _Obsolete_, in Dryden's meaning, does not imply
that he was so with regard to his popularity, (the question then at
issue,) but with regard to his diction and choice of words. To cite
Dryden as a witness for any purpose against Shakspeare,--Dryden,
who of all men had the most ransacked wit and exhausted language in
celebrating the supremacy of Shakspeare's genius, does indeed
require as much shamelessness in feeling as mendacity in principle.

But then Lord Shaftesbury, who may be taken as half way between
Dryden and Pope, (Dryden died in 1700, Pope was then twelve years
old, and Lord S. wrote chiefly, we believe, between 1700 and 1710,)
"complains," it seems, "of his rude unpolished style, and his
antiquated phrase and wit." What if he does? Let the whole truth be
told, and then we shall see how much stress is to be laid upon such
a judgment. The second Lord Shaftesbury, the author of the
Characteristics, was the grandson of that famous political
agitator, the Chancellor Shaftesbury, who passed his whole life in
storms of his own creation. The second Lord Shaftesbury was a man
of crazy constitution, querulous from ill health, and had received
an eccentric education from his eccentric grandfather. He was
practised daily in _talking_ Latin, to which afterwards he
added a competent study of the Greek; and finally he became
unusually learned for his rank, but the most absolute and
undistinguishing pedant that perhaps literature has to show. He
sneers continually at the regular built academic pedant; but he
himself, though no academic, was essentially the very impersonation
of pedantry. No thought however beautiful, no image however
magnificent, could conciliate his praise as long as it was clothed
in English; but present him with the most trivial common-places in
Greek, and he unaffectedly fancied them divine; mistaking the
pleasurable sense of his own power in a difficult and rare
accomplishment for some peculiar force or beauty in the passage.
Such was the outline of his literary taste. And was it upon
Shakspeare only, or upon him chiefly, that he lavished his
pedantry? Far from it. He attacked Milton with no less fervor; he
attacked Dryden with a thousand times more. Jeremy Taylor he quoted
only to ridicule; and even Locke, the confidential friend of his
grandfather, he never alludes to without a sneer. As to Shakspeare,
so far from Lord Shaftesbury's censures arguing his deficient
reputation, the very fact of his noticing him at all proves his
enormous popularity; for upon system he noticed those only who
ruled the public taste. The insipidity of his objections to
Shakspeare may be judged from this, that he comments in a spirit of
absolute puerility upon the name _Desdemona_, as though
intentionally formed from the Greek word for _superstition_.
In fact, he had evidently read little beyond the list of names in
Shakspeare; yet there is proof enough that the irresistible beauty
of what little he _had_ read was too much for all his
pedantry, and startled him exceedingly; for ever afterwards he
speaks of Shakspeare as one who, with a little aid from Grecian
sources, really had something great and promising about him. As to
modern authors, neither this Lord Shaftesbury nor Addison read any
thing for the latter years of their lives but Bayle's Dictionary.
And most of the little scintillations of erudition, which may be
found in the notes to the Characteristics, and in the Essays of
Addison, are derived, almost without exception, and uniformly
without acknowledgment, from Bayle. [Endnote: 5]

Finally, with regard to the sweeping assertion, that "for nearly a
hundred years after his death Shakspeare was almost entirely
neglected," we shall meet this scandalous falsehood, by a rapid
view of his fortunes during the century in question. The tradition
has always been, that Shakspeare was honored by the especial notice
of Queen Elizabeth, as well as by that of James I. At one time we
were disposed to question the truth of this tradition; but that was
for want of having read attentively the lines of Ben Jonson to the
memory of Shakspeare, those generous lines which have so absurdly
been taxed with faint praise. Jonson could make no mistake on this
point; he, as one of Shakspeare's familiar companions, must have
witnessed at the very time, and accompanied with friendly sympathy,
every motion of royal favor towards Shakspeare. Now he, in words
which leave no room for doubt, exclaims,

  "Sweet swan of Avon, what a sight it were
  To see thee in our waters yet appear;
  And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
  _That so did take Eliza and our James."_

These princes, then, _were_ taken, were fascinated, with some
of Shakspeare's dramas. In Elizabeth the approbation would probably
be sincere. In James we can readily suppose it to have been
assumed; for he was a pedant in a different sense from Lord
Shaftesbury; not from undervaluing modern poetry, but from caring
little or nothing for any poetry, although he wrote about its
mechanic rules. Still the royal _imprimatur_ would be
influential and serviceable no less when offered hypocritically
than in full sincerity. Next let us consider, at the very moment of
Shakspeare's death, who were the leaders of the British youth, the
_principes juventutis_, in the two fields, equally important
to a great poet's fame, of rank and of genius. The Prince of Wales
and John Milton; the first being then about sixteen years old, the
other about eight. Now these two great powers, as we may call them,
these presiding stars over all that was English in thought and
action, were both impassioned admirers of Shakspeare. Each of them
counts for many thousands. The Prince of Wales [Endnote: 6] had
learned to appreciate Shakspeare, not originally from reading him,
but from witnessing the court representations of his plays at
Whitehall. Afterwards we know that he made Shakspeare his closet
companion, for he was reproached with doing so by Milton. And we
know also, from the just criticism pronounced upon the character
and diction of Caliban by one of Charles's confidential
counsellors, Lord Falkland, that the king's admiration of
Shakspeare had impressed a determination upon the court reading. As
to Milton, by double prejudices, puritanical and classical, his
mind had been preoccupied against the full impressions of
Shakspeare. And we know that there is such a thing as keeping the
sympathies of love and admiration in a dormant state, or state of
abeyance; an effort of self-conquest realized in more cases than
one by the ancient fathers, both Greek and Latin, with regard to
the profane classics. Intellectually they admired, and would not
belie their admiration; but they did not give their hearts
cordially, they did not abandon themselves to their natural
impulses. They averted their eyes and weaned their attention from
the dazzling object. Such, probably, was Milton's state of feeling
towards Shakspeare after 1642, when the theatres were suppressed,
and the fanatical fervor in its noontide heat. Yet even then he did
not belie his reverence intellectually for Shakspeare; and in his
younger days we know that he had spoken more enthusiastically of
Shakspeare, than he ever did again of any uninspired author. Not
only did he address a sonnet to his memory, in which he declares
that kings would wish to die, if by dying they could obtain such a
monument in the hearts of men; but he also speaks of him in his
_Il Penseroso_, as the tutelary genius of the English stage.
In this transmission of the torch (greek: lampadophoria) Dryden
succeeds to Milton; he was born nearly thirty years later; about
thirty years they were contemporaries; and by thirty years, or
nearly, Dryden survived his great leader. Dryden, in fact, lived
out the seventeenth century. And we have now arrived within nine
years of the era, when the critical editions started in hot
succession to one another. The names we have mentioned were the
great influential names of the century. But of inferior homage
there was no end. How came Betterton the actor, how came Davenant,
how came Rowe, or Pope, by their intense (if not always sound)
admiration for Shakspeare, unless they had found it fuming upwards
like incense to the Pagan deities in ancient times, from altars
erected at every turning upon all the paths of men?

But it is objected that inferior dramatists were sometimes
preferred to Shakspeare; and again, that vile travesties of
Shakspeare were preferred to the authentic dramas. As to the first
argument, let it be remembered, that if the saints of the chapel
are always in the same honor, because _there_ men are simply
discharging a duty, which once due will be due for ever; the saints
of the theatre, on the other hand, must bend to the local genius,
and to the very reasons for having a theatre at all. Men go thither
for amusement. This is the paramount purpose, and even acknowledged
merit or absolute superiority must give way to it. Does a man at
Paris expect to see Moliere reproduced in proportion to his
admitted precedency in the French drama? On the contrary, that very
precedency argues such a familiarization with his works, that those
who are in quest of relaxation will reasonably prefer any recent
drama to that which, having lost all its novelty, has lost much of
its excitement. We speak of ordinary minds; but in cases of
_public_ entertainments, deriving part of their power from
scenery and stage pomp, novelty is for all minds an essential
condition of attraction. Moreover, in some departments of the
comic, Beaumont and Fletcher, when writing in combination, really
had a freedom and breadth of manner which excels the comedy of
Shakspeare. As to the altered Shakspeare as taking precedency of
the genuine Shakspeare, no argument can be so frivolous. The public
were never allowed a choice; the great majority of an audience even
now cannot be expected to carry the real Shakspeare in their mind,
so as to pursue a comparison between that and the alteration. Their
comparisons must be exclusively amongst what they have
opportunities of seeing; that is, between the various pieces
presented to them by the managers of theatres. Further than this,
it is impossible for them to extend their office of judging and
collating; and the degenerate taste which substituted the caprices
of Davenant, the rants of Dryden, or the filth of Tate, for the
jewellery of Shakspeare, cannot with any justice be charged upon
the public, not one in a thousand of whom was furnished with any
means of comparing, but exclusively upon those (viz., theatrical
managers,) who had the very amplest. Yet even in excuse for
_them_ much may be said. The very length of some plays
compelled them to make alterations. The best of Shakspeare's
dramas, King Lear, is the least fitted for representation; and,
even for the vilest alteration, it ought in candor to be considered
that possession is nine points of the law. He who would not have
introduced, was often obliged to retain.

Finally, it is urged, that the small number of editions through
which Shakspeare passed in the seventeenth century, furnishes a
separate argument, and a conclusive one against his popularity. We
answer, that, considering the bulk of his plays collectively, the
editions were _not_ few. Compared with any known case, the
copies sold of Shakspeare were quite as many as could be expected
under the circumstances. Ten or fifteen times as much consideration
went to the purchase of one great folio like Shakspeare, as would
attend the purchase of a little volume like Waller or Donne.
Without reviews, or newspapers, or advertisements, to diffuse the
knowledge of books, the progress of literature was necessarily
slow, and its expansion narrow. But this is a topic which has
always been treated unfairly, not with regard to Shakspeare only,
but to Milton, as well as many others. The truth is, we have not
facts enough to guide us; for the number of editions often tells
nothing accurately as to the number of copies. With respect to
Shakspeare it is certain, that, had his masterpieces been gathered
into small volumes, Shakspeare would have had a most extensive
sale. As it was, there can be no doubt, that from his own
generation, throughout the seventeenth century, and until the
eighteenth began to accommodate, not any greater popularity in
_him_, but a greater taste for reading in the public, his fame
never ceased to be viewed as a national trophy of honor; and the
most illustrious men of the seventeenth century were no whit less
fervent in their admiration than those of the eighteenth and the
nineteenth, either as respected its strength and sincerity, or as
respected its open profession. [Endnote: 7]

It is therefore a false notion, that the general sympathy with the
merits of Shakspeare ever beat with a languid or intermitting
pulse. Undoubtedly, in times when the functions of critical
journals and of newspapers were not at hand to diffuse or to
strengthen the impressions which emanated from the capital, all
opinions must have travelled slowly into the provinces. But even
then, whilst the perfect organs of communication were wanting,
indirect substitutes were supplied by the necessities of the times,
or by the instincts of political zeal. Two channels especially lay
open between the great central organ of the national mind, and the
remotest provinces. Parliaments were occasionally summoned, (for
the judges' circuits were too brief to produce much effect,) and
during their longest suspensions, the nobility, with large
retinues, continually resorted to the court. But an intercourse
more constant and more comprehensive was maintained through the
agency of the two universities. Already, in the time of James I.,
the growing importance of the gentry, and the consequent birth of a
new interest in political questions, had begun to express itself at
Oxford, and still more so at Cambridge. Academic persons stationed
themselves as sentinels at London, for the purpose of watching the
court and the course of public affairs. These persons wrote
letters, like those of the celebrated Joseph Mede, which we find in
Ellis's Historical Collections, reporting to their
fellow-collegians all the novelties of public life as they arose,
or personally carried down such reports, and thus conducted the
general feelings at the centre into lesser centres, from which
again they were diffused into the ten thousand parishes of England;
for, (with a very few exceptions in favor of poor benefices, Welch
or Cumbrian,) every parish priest must unavoidably have spent his
three years at one or other of the English universities. And by
this mode of diffusion it is, that we can explain the strength with
which Shakspeare's thoughts and diction impressed themselves from a
very early period upon the national literature, and even more
generally upon the national thinking and conversation.[Endnote: 8]

The question, therefore, revolves upon us in threefold
difficulty--How, having stepped thus prematurely into this
inheritance of fame, leaping, as it were, thus abruptly into the
favor alike of princes and the enemies of princes, had it become
possible that in his native place, (honored still more in the final
testimonies of his preference when founding a family mansion,) such
a man's history, and the personal recollections which cling so
affectionately to the great intellectual potentates who have
recommended themselves by gracious manners, could so soon and so
utterly have been obliterated?

Malone, with childish irreflection, ascribes the loss of such
memorials to the want of enthusiasm in his admirers. Local
researches into private history had not then commenced. Such a
taste, often petty enough in its management, was the growth of
after ages. Else how came Spenser's life and fortunes to be so
utterly overwhelmed in oblivion? No poet of a high order could be
more popular.

The answer we believe to be this: Twenty-six years after
Shakspeare's death commenced the great parliamentary war. This it
was, and the local feuds arising to divide family from family,
brother from brother, upon which we must charge the extinction of
traditions and memorials, doubtless abundant up to that era. The
parliamentary contest, it will be said, did not last above three
years; the king's standard having been first raised at Nottingham
in August, 1642, and the battle of Naseby (which terminated the
open warfare) having been fought in June, 1645. Or even if we
extend its duration to the surrender of the last garrison, that war
terminated in the spring of 1646. And the brief explosions of
insurrection or of Scottish invasion, which occurred on subsequent
occasions, were all locally confined, and none came near to
Warwickshire, except the battle of Worcester, more than five years
after. This is true; but a short war will do much to efface recent
and merely personal memorials. And the following circumstances of
the war were even more important than the general fact.

First of all, the very mansion founded by Shakspeare became the
military headquarters for the queen in 1644, when marching from the
eastern coast of England to join the king in Oxford; and one such
special visitation would be likely to do more serious mischief in
the way of extinction, than many years of general warfare.
Secondly, as a fact, perhaps, equally important, Birmingham, the
chief town of Warwickshire, and the adjacent district, the seat of
our hardware manufactures, was the very focus of disaffection
towards the royal cause. Not only, therefore, would this whole
region suffer more from internal and spontaneous agitation, but it
would be the more frequently traversed vindictively from without,
and harassed by flying parties from Oxford, or others of the king's
garrisons. Thirdly, even apart from the political aspects of
Warwickshire, this county happens to be the central one of England,
as regards the roads between the north and south; and Birmingham
has long been the great central axis, [Endnote: 9] in which all
the radii from the four angles of England proper meet and
intersect. Mere accident, therefore, of local position, much more
when united with that avowed inveteracy of malignant feeling, which
was bitter enough to rouse a re-action of bitterness in the mind of
Lord Clarendon, would go far to account for the wreck of many
memorials relating to Shakspeare, as well as for the subversion of
that quiet and security for humble life, in which the traditional
memory finds its best _nidus_. Thus we obtain one solution,
and perhaps the main one, of the otherwise mysterious oblivion
which had swept away all traces of the mighty poet, by the time
when those quiet days revolved upon England, in which again the
solitary agent of learned research might roam in security from
house to house, gleaning those personal remembrances which, even in
the fury of civil strife, might long have lingered by the chimney
corner. But the fierce furnace of war had probably, by its
_local_ ravages, scorched this field of natural tradition, and
thinned the gleaner's inheritance by three parts out of four. This,
we repeat, may be one part of the solution to this difficult

And if another is still demanded, possibly it may be found in the
fact, hostile to the perfect consecration of Shakspeare's memory,
that after all he was a player. Many a coarse-minded country
gentleman, or village pastor, who would have held his town
glorified by the distinction of having sent forth a great judge or
an eminent bishop, might disdain to cherish the personal
recollections which surrounded one whom custom regarded as little
above a mountebank, and the illiberal law as a vagabond. The same
degrading appreciation attached both to the actor in plays and to
their author. The contemptuous appellation of "play-book," served
as readily to degrade the mighty volume which contained Lear and
Hamlet, as that of "play-actor," or "player-man," has always served
with the illiberal or the fanatical to dishonor the persons of
Roscius or of Garrick, of Talma or of Siddons. Nobody, indeed, was
better aware of this than the noble-minded Shakspeare; and
feelingly he has breathed forth in his sonnets this conscious
oppression under which he lay of public opinion, unfavorable by a
double title to his own pretensions; for, being both dramatic
author and dramatic performer, he found himself heir to a twofold
opprobrium, and at an era of English society when the weight of
that opprobrium was heaviest. In reality, there was at this period
a collision of forces acting in opposite directions upon the
estimation of the stage and scenical art, and therefore of all the
ministers in its equipage. Puritanism frowned upon these pursuits,
as ruinous to public morals; on the other hand, loyalty could not
but tolerate what was patronized by the sovereign; and it happened
that Elizabeth, James, and Charles I., were _all_ alike lovers
and promoters of theatrical amusements, which were indeed more
indispensable to the relief of court ceremony, and the monotony of
aulic pomp, than in any other region of life. This royal support,
and the consciousness that any brilliant success in these arts
implied an unusual share of natural endowments, did something in
mitigation of a scorn which must else have been intolerable to all
generous natures.

But whatever prejudice might thus operate against the perfect
sanctity of Shakspeare's posthumous reputation, it is certain that
the splendor of his worldly success must have done much to
obliterate that effect; his admirable colloquial talents a good
deal, and his gracious affability still more. The wonder,
therefore, will still remain, that Betterton, in less than a
century from his death, should have been able to glean so little.
And for the solution of this wonder, we must throw ourselves
chiefly upon the explanations we have made as to the parliamentary
war, and the local ravages of its progress in the very district, of
the very town, and the very house.

If further arguments are still wanted to explain this mysterious
abolition, we may refer the reader to the following succession of
disastrous events, by which it should seem that a perfect malice of
misfortune pursued the vestiges of the mighty poet's steps. In
1613, the Globe theatre, with which he had been so long connected,
was burned to the ground. Soon afterwards a great fire occurred in
Stratford; and next, (without counting upon the fire of London,
just fifty years after his death, which, however, would consume
many an important record from periods far more remote,) the house
of Ben Jonson, in which probably, as Mr. Campbell suggests, might
be parts of his correspondence, was also burned. Finally, there was
an old tradition that Lady Barnard, the sole grand-daughter of
Shakspeare, had carried off many of his papers from Stratford, and
these papers have never since been traced.

In many of the elder lives it has been asserted, that John
Shakspeare, the father of the poet, was a butcher, and in others
that he was a woolstapler. It is now settled beyond dispute that he
was a glover. This was his professed occupation in Stratford,
though it is certain that, with this leading trade, from which he
took his denomination, he combined some collateral pursuits; and it
is possible enough that, as openings offered, he may have meddled
with many. In that age, and in a provincial town, nothing like the
exquisite subdivision of labor was attempted which we now see
realized in the great cities of Christendom. And one trade is often
found to play into another with so much reciprocal advantage, that
even in our own days we do not much wonder at an enterprising man,
in country places, who combines several in his own person.
Accordingly, John Shakspeare is known to have united with his town
calling the rural and miscellaneous occupations of a farmer.

Meantime his avowed business stood upon a very different footing
from the same trade as it is exercised in modern times. Gloves were
in that age an article of dress more costly by much, and more
elaborately decorated, than in our own. They were a customary
present from some cities to the judges of assize, and to other
official persons; a custom of ancient standing, and in some places,
we believe, still subsisting; and in such cases it is reasonable to
suppose, that the gloves must originally have been more valuable
than the trivial modern article of the same name. So also, perhaps,
in their origin, of the gloves given at funerals. In reality,
whenever the simplicity of an age makes it difficult to renew the
parts of a wardrobe, except in capital towns of difficult access,
prudence suggests that such wares should be manufactured of more
durable materials; and, being so, they become obviously susceptible
of more lavish ornament. But it will not follow, from this
essential difference in the gloves of Shakspeare's age, that the
glover's occupation was more lucrative. Doubtless he sold more
costly gloves, and upon each pair had a larger profit, but for that
very reason he sold fewer. Two or three gentlemen "of worship" in
the neighborhood might occasionally require a pair of gloves, but
it is very doubtful whether any inhabitant of Stratford would ever
call for so mere a luxury.

The practical result, at all events, of John Shakspeare's various
pursuits, does not appear permanently to have met the demands of
his establishment, and in his maturer years there are indications
still surviving that he was under a cloud of embarrassment. He
certainly lost at one time his social position in the town of
Stratford; but there is a strong presumption, in _our_
construction of the case, that he finally retrieved it; and for
this retrieval of a station, which he had forfeited by personal
misfortunes or neglect, he was altogether indebted to the filial
piety of his immortal son.

Meantime the earlier years of the elder Shakspeare wore the aspect
of rising prosperity, however unsound might be the basis on which
it rested. There can be little doubt that William Shakspeare, from
his birth up to his tenth or perhaps his eleventh year, lived in
careless plenty, and saw nothing in his father's house but that
style of liberal house-keeping, which has ever distinguished the
upper yeomanry and the rural gentry of England. Probable enough it
is, that the resources for meeting this liberality were not
strictly commensurate with the family income, but were sometimes
allowed to entrench, by means of loans or mortgages, upon capital
funds. The stress upon the family finances was perhaps at times
severe; and that it was borne at all, must be imputed to the large
and even splendid portion which John Shakspeare received with his

This lady, for such she really was in an eminent sense, by birth as
well as by connections, bore the beautiful name of Mary Arden, a
name derived from the ancient forest district [Endnote: 10] of
the country; and doubtless she merits a more elaborate notice than
our slender materials will furnish. To have been _the mother of
Shakspeare, _--how august a title to the reverence of infinite
generations, and of centuries beyond the vision of prophecy. A
plausible hypothesis has been started in modern times, that the
facial structure, and that the intellectual conformation, may be
deduced more frequently from the corresponding characteristics in
the mother than in the father. It is certain that no very great man
has ever existed, but that his greatness has been rehearsed and
predicted in one or other of his parents. And it cannot be denied,
that in the most eminent men, where we have had the means of
pursuing the investigation, the mother has more frequently been
repeated and reproduced than the father. We have known cases where
the mother has furnished all the intellect, and the father all the
moral sensibility; upon which assumption, the wonder ceases that
_Cicero,_ Lord Chesterfield, and other brilliant men, who took
the utmost pains with their sons, should have failed so
conspicuously; for possibly the mothers had been women of excessive
and even exemplary stupidity. In the case of Shakspeare, each
parent, if we had any means of recovering their characteristics,
could not fail to furnish a study of the most profound interest;
and with regard to his mother in particular, if the modern
hypothesis be true, and if we are indeed to deduce from her the
stupendous intellect of her son, in that case she must have been a
benefactress to her husband's family, beyond the promises of fairy
land or the dreams of romance; for it is certain that to her
chiefly this family was also indebted for their worldly comfort.

Mary Arden was the youngest daughter and the heiress of Robert
Arden, of Wilmecote, Esq., in the county of Warwick. The family of
Arden was even then of great antiquity. About one century and a
quarter before the birth of William Shakspeare, a person bearing
the same name as his maternal grandfather had been returned by the
commissioners in their list of the Warwickshire gentry; he was
there styled Robert Arden, Esq., of Bromich. This was in 1433, or
the 12th year of Henry VI. In Henry VII.'s reign, the Ardens
received a grant of lands from the crown; and in 1568, four years
after the birth of William Shakspeare, Edward Arden, of the same
family, was sheriff of the county. Mary Arden was, therefore, a
young lady of excellent descent and connections, and an heiress of
considerable wealth. She brought to her husband, as her marriage
portion, the landed estate of Asbies, which, upon any just
valuation, must be considered as a handsome dowry for a woman of
her station. As this point has been contested, and as it goes a
great way towards determining the exact social position of the
poet's parents, let us be excused for sifting it a little more
narrowly than might else seem warranted by the proportions of our
present life. Every question which it can be reasonable to raise at
all, it must be reasonable to treat with at least so much of minute
research, as may justify the conclusions which it is made to

The estate of Asbies contained fifty acres of arable land, six of
meadow, and a right of commonage. What may we assume to have been
the value of its fee-simple? Malone, who allows the total fortune
of Mary Arden to have been 110L 13s 4d., is sure that the value of
Asbies could not have been more than one hundred pounds. But why?
Because, says he, the "average" rent of land at that time was no
more than three shillings per acre. This we deny; but upon that
assumption, the total yearly rent of fifty-six acres would be
exactly eight guineas. [Endnote: 11] And therefore, in assigning
the value of Asbies at one hundred pounds, it appears that Malone
must have estimated the land at no more than twelve years'
purchase, which would carry the value to 100L. 16s. "Even at this
estimate," as the latest annotator [Endnote: 12] on this subject
_justly_ observes, "Mary Arden's portion was a larger one than
was usually given to a landed gentleman's daughter." But this
writer objects to Malone's principle of valuation. "We find," says
he, "that John Shakspeare also farmed the meadow of Tugton,
containing sixteen acres, at the rate of eleven shillings per acre.
Now what proof has Mr. Malone adduced, that the acres of Asbies
were not as valuable as those of Tugton? And if they were so, the
former estate must have been worth between three and four hundred
pounds." In the main drift of his objections we concur with Mr.
Campbell. But as they are liable to some criticism, let us clear
the ground of all plausible cavils, and then see what will be the
result. Malone, had he been alive, would probably have answered,
that Tugton was a farm specially privileged by nature; and that if
any man contended for so unusual a rent as eleven shillings an acre
for land not known to him, the _onus probandi_ would lie upon
_him_. Be it so; eleven shillings is certainly above the
ordinary level of rent, but three shillings is below it. We
contend, that for tolerably good land, situated advantageously,
that is, with a ready access to good markets and good fairs, such
as those of Coventry, Birmingham, Gloucester, Worcester,
Shrewsbury,. &c., one noble might be assumed as the annual rent;
and that in such situations twenty years' purchase was not a
valuation, even in Elizabeth's reign, very unusual. Let us,
however, assume the rent at only five shillings, and land at
sixteen years' purchase. Upon this basis, the rent would be 14L,
and the value of the fee simple 224L. Now, if it were required to
equate that sum with its present value, a very operose [Endnote:
13] calculation might be requisite. But contenting ourselves with
the gross method of making such equations between 1560 and the
current century, that is, multiplying by five, we shall find the
capital value of the estate to be eleven hundred and twenty pounds,
whilst the annual rent would be exactly seventy. But if the estate
had been sold, and the purchase-money lent upon mortgage, (the only
safe mode of investing money at that time,) the annual interest
would have reached 28L, equal to 140L of modern money; for
mortgages in Elizabeth's age readily produced ten per cent.

A woman who should bring at this day an annual income of 140L to a
provincial tradesman, living in a sort of _rus in urbe_,
according to the simple fashions of rustic life, would assuredly be
considered as an excellent match. And there can be little doubt
that Mary Arden's dowry it was which, for some ten or a dozen years
succeeding to his marriage, raised her husband to so much social
consideration in Stratford. In 1550 John Shakspeare is supposed to
have first settled in Stratford, having migrated from some other
part of Warwickshire. In 1557 he married Mary Arden; in 1565, the
year subsequent to the birth of his son William, his third child,
he was elected one of the aldermen; and in the year 1568 he became
first magistrate of the town, by the title of high bailiff. This
year we may assume to have been that in which the prosperity of
this family reached its zenith; for in this year it was, over and
above the presumptions furnished by his civic honors, that he
obtained a grant of arms from Clarencieux of the Heralds' College.
On this occasion he declared himself worth five hundred pounds
derived from his ancestors. And we really cannot understand the
right by which critics, living nearly three centuries from his
time, undertake to know his affairs better than himself, and to tax
him with either inaccuracy or falsehood. No man would be at leisure
to court heraldic honors, when he knew himself to be embarrassed,
or apprehended that he soon might be so. A man whose anxieties had
been fixed at all upon his daily livelihood would, by this chase
after the armorial honors of heraldry, have made himself a butt for
ridicule, such as no fortitude could enable him to sustain.

In 1568, therefore, when his son William would be moving through
his fifth year, John Shakspeare, (now honored by the designation of
_Master_,) would be found at times in the society of the
neighboring gentry. Ten years in advance of this period he was
already in difficulties. But there is no proof that these
difficulties had then reached a point of degradation, or of
memorable distress. The sole positive indications of his decaying
condition are, that in 1578 he received an exemption from the small
weekly assessment levied upon the aldermen of Stratford for the
relief of the poor; and that in the following year, 1579, he is
found enrolled amongst the defaulters in the payment of taxes. The
latter fact undoubtedly goes to prove that, like every man who is
falling back in the world, he was occasionally in arrears. Paying
taxes is not like the honors awarded or the processions regulated
by Clarencieux; no man is ambitious of precedency there; and if a
laggard pace in that duty is to be received as evidence of
pauperism, nine tenths of the English people might occasionally be
classed as paupers. With respect to his liberation from the weekly
assessment, that may bear a construction different from the one
which it has received. This payment, which could never have been
regarded as a burthen, not amounting to five pounds annually of our
present money, may have been held up as an exponent of wealth and
consideration; and John Shakspeare may have been required to resign
it as an honorable distinction, not suitable to the circumstances
of an embarrassed man. Finally, the fact of his being indebted to
Robert Sadler, a baker, in the sum of five pounds, and his being
under the necessity of bringing a friend as security for the
payment, proves nothing at all. There is not a town in Europe, in
which opulent men cannot be found that are backward in the payment
of their debts. And the probability is, that Master Sadler acted
like most people who, when they suppose a man to be going down in
the world, feel their respect for him sensibly decaying, and think
it wise to trample him under foot, provided only in that act of
trampling they can squeeze out of him their own individual debt.
Like that terrific chorus in Spohr's oratorio of St. Paul, _"
Stone him to death "_ is the cry of the selfish and the
illiberal amongst creditors, alike towards the just and the unjust
amongst debtors.

It was the wise and beautiful prayer of Agar, "Give me neither
poverty nor riches;" and, doubtless, for quiet, for peace, and the
_latentis semita vita_, that is the happiest dispensation.
But, perhaps, with a view to a school of discipline and of moral
fortitude, it might be a more salutary prayer, "Give me riches
_and_ poverty, and afterwards neither." For the transitional
state between riches and poverty will teach a lesson both as to the
baseness and the goodness of human nature, and will impress that
lesson with a searching force, such as no borrowed experience ever
can approach. Most probable it is that Shakspeare drew some of his
powerful scenes in the Timon of Athens, those which exhibit the
vileness of ingratitude and the impassioned frenzy of misanthropy,
from his personal recollections connected with the case of his own
father. Possibly, though a cloud of two hundred and seventy years
now veils it, this very Master Sadler, who was so urgent for his
five pounds, and who so little apprehended that he should be called
over the coals for it in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, may have
compensate for the portrait of that Lucullus who says of Timon:

"Alas, good lord! a noble gentleman 'tis, if he would not keep so
good a house. Many a time and often I have dined with him, and told
him on't; and come again to supper to him, of purpose to have him
spend less; and yet he would embrace no counsel, take no warning by
my coming. Every man has his fault, and honesty is his; I have told
him on't, but I could never get him from it."

For certain years, perhaps, John Shakspeare moved on in darkness
and sorrow:

  "His familiars from his buried fortunes
  Slunk all away; left their false vows with him,
  Like empty purses pick'd; and his poor self,
  A dedicated beggar to the air,
  With his disease of all-shunn'd poverty,
  Walk'd, like contempt, alone."

We, however, at this day, are chiefly interested in the case as it
bears upon the education and youthful happiness of the poet. Now if
we suppose that from 1568, the high noon of the family prosperity,
to 1578, the first year of their mature embarrassments, one half
the interval was passed in stationary sunshine, and the latter half
in the gradual twilight of declension, it will follow that the
young William had completed his tenth year before he heard the
first signals of distress; and for so long a period his education
would probably be conducted on as liberal a scale as the resources
of Stratford would allow. Through this earliest section of his life
he would undoubtedly rank as a gentleman's son, possibly as the
leader of his class, in Stratford. But what rank he held through
the next ten years, or, more generally, what was the standing in
society of Shakspeare until he had created a new station for
himself by his own exertions in the metropolis, is a question yet
unsettled, but which has been debated as keenly as if it had some
great dependencies. Upon this we shall observe, that could we by
possibility be called to settle beforehand what rank were best for
favoring the development of intellectual powers, the question might
wear a face of deep practical importance; but when the question is
simply as to a matter of fact, what _was_ the rank held by a
man whose intellectual development has long ago been completed,
this becomes a mere question of curiosity. The tree has fallen; it
is confessedly the noblest of all the forest; and we must therefore
conclude that the soil in which it flourished was either the best
possible, or, if not so, that any thing bad in its properties had
been disarmed and neutralized by the vital forces of the plant, or
by the benignity of nature. If any future Shakspeare were likely to
arise, it might be a problem of great interest to agitate, whether
the condition of a poor man or of a gentleman were best fitted to
nurse and stimulate his faculties. But for the actual Shakspeare,
since what he was he was, and since nothing greater can be
imagined, it is now become a matter of little moment whether his
course lay for fifteen or twenty years through the humilities of
absolute poverty, or through the chequered paths of gentry lying in
the shade. Whatever _was_, must, in this case at least, have
been the best, since it terminated in producing Shakspeare: and
thus far we must all be optimists.

Yet still, it will be urged, the curiosity is not illiberal which
would seek to ascertain the precise career through which Shakspeare
ran. This we readily concede; and we are anxious ourselves to
contribute any thing in our power to the settlement of a point so
obscure. What we have wished to protest against, is the spirit of
partisanship in which this question has too generally been
discussed. For, whilst some with a foolish affectation of plebeian
sympathies overwhelm us with the insipid commonplaces about birth
and ancient descent, as honors containing nothing meritorious, and
rush eagerly into an ostentatious exhibition of all the
circumstances which favor the notion of a humble station and humble
connections; others, with equal forgetfulness of true dignity,
plead with the intemperance and partiality of a legal advocate for
the pretensions of Shakspeare to the hereditary rank of gentleman.
Both parties violate the majesty of the subject. When we are
seeking for the sources of the Euphrates or the St. Lawrence, we
look for no proportions to the mighty volume of waters in that
particular summit amongst the chain of mountains which embosoms its
earliest fountains, nor are we shocked at the obscurity of these
fountains. Pursuing the career of Mahommed, or of any man who has
memorably impressed his own mind or agency upon the revolutions of
mankind, we feel solicitude about the circumstances which might
surround his cradle to be altogether unseasonable and impertinent.
Whether he were born in a hovel or a palace, whether he passed his
infancy in squalid poverty, or hedged around by the glittering
spears of bodyguards, as mere questions of fact may be interesting;
but, in the light of either accessories or counteragencies to the
native majesty of the subject, are trivial and below all
philosophic valuation. So with regard to the creator of Lear and
Hamlet, of Othello and Macbeth; to him from whose golden urns the
nations beyond the far Atlantic, the multitude of the isles, and the
generations unborn in Australian climes, even to the realms of the
rising sun (the greek: anatolai haedlioio,) must in every age
draw perennial streams of intellectual life, we feel that the
little accidents of birth and social condition are so unspeakably
below the grandeur of the theme, are so irrelevant and
disproportioned to the real interest at issue, so incommensurable
with any of its relations, that a biographer of Shakspeare at once
denounces himself as below his subject if he can entertain such a
question as seriously affecting the glory of the poet. In some
legends of saints, we find that they were born with a lambent
circle or golden aureola about their heads. This angelic coronet
shed light alike upon the chambers of a cottage or a palace, upon
the gloomy limits of a dungeon, or the vast expansion of a
cathedral; but the cottage, the palace, the dungeon, the cathedral,
were all equally incapable of adding one ray of color or one pencil
of light to the supernatural halo.

Having, therefore, thus pointedly guarded ourselves from
misconstruction, and consenting to entertain the question as one in
which we, the worshippers of Shakspeare, have an interest of
curiosity, but in which he, the object of our worship, has no
interest of glory, we proceed to state what appears to us the
result of the scanty facts surviving when collated with each other.

By his mother's side, Shakspeare was an authentic gentleman. By his
father's he would have stood in a more dubious position; but the
effect of municipal honors to raise and illustrate an equivocal
rank, has always been acknowledged under the popular tendencies of
our English political system. From the sort of lead, therefore,
which John Shakspeare took at one time amongst his fellow-townsmen,
and from his rank of first magistrate, we may presume that, about
the year 1568, he had placed himself at the head of the Stratford
community. Afterwards he continued for some years to descend from
this altitude; and the question is, at what point this gradual
degradation may be supposed to have settled. Now we shall avow it
as our opinion, that the composition of society in Stratford was
such that, even had the Shakspeare family maintained their
superiority, the main body of their daily associates must still
have been found amongst persons below the rank of gentry. The poet
must inevitably have mixed chiefly with mechanics and humble
tradesmen, for such people composed perhaps the total community.
But had there even been a gentry in Stratford, since they would
have marked the distinctions of their rank chiefly by greater
reserve of manners, it is probable that, after all, Shakspeare,
with his enormity of delight in exhibitions of human nature, would
have mostly cultivated that class of society in which the feelings
are more elementary and simple, in which the thoughts speak a
plainer language, and in which the restraints of factitious or
conventional decorum are exchanged for the restraints of mere
sexual decency. It is a noticeable fact to all who have looked upon
human life with an eye of strict attention, that the abstract image
of womanhood, in. its loveliness, its delicacy, and its modesty,
nowhere makes itself more impressive or more advantageously felt
than in the humblest cottages, because it is there brought into
immediate juxtaposition with the grossness of manners, and the
careless license of language incident to the fathers and brothers
of the house. And this is more especially true in a nation of
unaffected sexual gallantry, [Endnote: 14] such as the English and
the Gothic races in general; since, under the immunity which their
women enjoy from all servile labors of a coarse or out-of-doors
order, by as much lower as they descend in the scale of rank, by so
much more do they benefit under the force of contrast with the men
of their own level. A young man of that class, however noble in
appearance, is somewhat degraded in the eyes of women, by the
necessity which his indigence imposes of working under a master;
but a beautiful young woman, in the very poorest family, unless she
enters upon a life of domestic servitude, (in which case her labors
are light, suited to her sex, and withdrawn from the public eye,)
so long in fact as she stays under her father's roof, is as
perfectly her own mistress and _sui juris_ as the daughter of
an earl. This personal dignity, brought into stronger relief by the
mercenary employments of her male connections, and the feminine
gentleness of her voice and manners, exhibited under the same
advantages of contrast, oftentimes combine to make a young cottage
beauty as fascinating an object as any woman of any station.

Hence we may in part account for the great event of Shakspeare's
early manhood, his premature marriage. It has always been known, or
at least traditionally received for a fact, that Shakspeare had
married whilst yet a boy, and that his wife was unaccountably older
than himself. In the very earliest biographical sketch of the poet,
compiled by Rowe, from materials collected by Betterton the actor,
it was stated, (and that statement is now ascertained to have been
correct,) that he had married Anne Hathaway, "the daughter of a
substantial yeoman." Further than this nothing was known. But in
September, 1836, was published a very remarkable document, which
gives the assurance of law to the time and fact of this event, yet
still, unless collated with another record, does nothing to lessen
the mystery which had previously surrounded its circumstances. This
document consists of two parts; the first, and principal, according
to the logic of the case, though second according to the
arrangement, being a _license_ for the marriage of William
Shakspeare with Anne Hathaway, under the condition "of _once_
asking of the bannes of matrimony," that is, in effect, dispensing
with two out of the three customary askings; the second or
subordinate part of the document being a _bond_ entered into
by two sureties, viz.: Fulke Sandells and John Rychardson, both
described as _agricolae_ or yeomen, and both marksmen, (that
is, incapable of writing, and therefore subscribing by means of
_marks,_) for the payment of forty pounds sterling, in the
event of Shakspeare, yet a minor, and incapable of binding himself,
failing to fulfil the conditions of the license. In the bond, drawn
up in Latin, there is no mention of Shakspeare's name; but in the
license, which is altogether English, _his_ name, of course,
stands foremost; and as it may gratify the reader to see the very
words and orthography of the original, we here extract the
_operative_ part of this document, prefacing only, that the
license is attached by way of explanation to the bond. "The
condition of this obligation is suche, that if hereafter there
shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment, by reason of any
precontract, &c., but that Willm. Shagspere, one thone ptie," [on
the one party,] "and Anne Hathwey of Stratford, in the diocess of
Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together; and
in the same afterwards remaine and continew like man and wiffe.
And, moreover, if the said Willm. Shagspere do not proceed to
solemnization of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey, without the
consent of hir frinds;--then the said obligation" [viz., to pay
forty pounds]" to be voyd and of none effect, or els to stand &
abide in full force and vertue."

What are we to think of this document? Trepidation and anxiety are
written upon its face. The parties are not to be married by a
special license; not even by an ordinary license; in that case no
proclamation of banns, no public asking at all, would have been
requisite. Economical scruples are consulted; and yet the regular
movement of the marriage "through the bell-ropes" [Endnote: 15] is
disturbed. Economy, which retards the marriage, is here evidently
in collision with some opposite principle which precipitates it.
How is all this to be explained? Much light is afforded by the date
when illustrated by another document. The bond bears date on the
28th day of November, in the 25th year of our lady the queen, that
is, in 1582. Now the baptism of Shakspeare's eldest child, Susanna,
is registered on the 26th of May in the year following.

Suppose, therefore, that his marriage was solemnized on the 1st day
of December; it was barely possible that it could be earlier,
considering that the sureties, drinking, perhaps, at Worcester
throughout the 28th of November, would require the 29th, in so
dreary a season, for their return to Stratford; after which some
preparation might be requisite to the bride, since the marriage was
_not_ celebrated at Stratford. Next suppose the birth of Miss
Susanna to have occurred, like her father's, two days before her
baptism, viz., on the 24th of May. From December the 1st to May the
24th, both days inclusively, are one hundred and seventy-five days;
which, divided by seven, gives precisely twenty-five weeks, that is
to say, six months short by one week. Oh, fie, Miss Susanna, you
came rather before you were wanted.

Mr. Campbell's comment upon the affair is, that "_if_ this
was the case, "viz., if the baptism were really solemnized on the
26th of May," the poet's first child would _appear_ to have
been born only six months and eleven days after the bond was
entered into. "And he then concludes that, on this assumption,"
Miss Susanna Shakspeare came into the world a little prematurely."
But this is to doubt where there never was any ground for doubting;
the baptism was _certainly_ on the 26th of May; and, in the
next place, the calculation of six months and eleven days is
sustained by substituting lunar months for calendar, and then only
by supposing the marriage to have been celebrated on the very day
of subscribing the bond in Worcester, and the baptism to have been
coincident with the birth; of which suppositions the latter is
improbable, and the former, considering the situation of Worcester,

Strange it is, that, whilst all biographers have worked with so
much zeal upon the most barren dates or most baseless traditions in
the great poet's life, realizing in a manner the chimeras of
Laputa, and endeavoring "to extract sunbeams from cucumbers," such
a story with regard to such an event, no fiction of village
scandal, but involved in legal documents, a story so significant
and so eloquent to the intelligent, should formerly have been
dismissed without notice of any kind, and even now, after the
discovery of 1836, with nothing beyond a slight conjectural
insinuation. For our parts, we should have been the last amongst
the biographers to unearth any forgotten scandal, or, after so vast
a lapse of time, and when the grave had shut out all but charitable
thoughts, to point any moral censures at a simple case of natural
frailty, youthful precipitancy of passion, of all trespasses the
most venial, where the final intentions are honorable. But in this
case there seems to have been something more in motion than passion
or the ardor of youth. "I like not," says Parson Evans, (alluding
to Falstaff in masquerade,) "I like not when a woman has a great
peard; I spy a great peard under her muffler." Neither do we like
the spectacle of a mature young woman, five years past her
majority, wearing the semblance of having been led astray by a boy
who had still two years and a half to run of his minority.
Shakspeare himself, looking back on this part of his youthful
history from his maturest years, breathes forth pathetic counsels
against the errors into which his own inexperience had been
insnared. The disparity of years between himself and his wife he
notices in a beautiful scene of the Twelfth Night. The Duke Orsino,
observing the sensibility which the pretended Cesario had betrayed
on hearing some touching old snatches of a love strain, swears that
his beardless page must have felt the passion of love, which the
other admits. Upon this the dialogue proceeds thus:

  DUKE. What kind of woman is't?

  VIOLA. Of your complexion.

  DUKE. She is not worth thee then. What years?

  VIOLA. I' faith, About your years, my lord.

  DUKE. Too old, by heaven. _Let still the woman take
        An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
        So sways she level in her husband's heart._
        For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
        Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
        More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
        Than women's are.

  VIOLA. I think it well, my lord.

  DUKE. _Then let thy love be younger than thyself,
        Or thy affection cannot hold the bent;_
        For women are as roses, whose fair flower,
        Being once display'd, doth fall that very hour.

These counsels were uttered nearly twenty years after the event in
his own life, to which they probably look back; for this play is
supposed to have been written in Shakspeare's thirty-eighth year.
And we may read an earnestness in pressing the point as to the
_inverted_ disparity of years, which indicates pretty clearly
an appeal to the lessons of his personal experience. But his other
indiscretion, in having yielded so far to passion and opportunity
as to crop by prelibation, and before they were hallowed, those
flowers of paradise which belonged to his marriage day; this he
adverts to with even more solemnity of sorrow, and with more
pointed energy of moral reproof, in the very last drama which is
supposed to have proceeded from his pen, and therefore with the
force and sanctity of testamentary counsel. The Tempest is all but
ascertained to have been composed in 1611, that is, about five
years before the poet's death; and indeed could not have been
composed much earlier; for the very incident which suggested the
basis of the plot, and of the local scene, viz., the shipwreck of
Sir George Somers on the Bermudas, (which were in consequence
denominated the Somers' Islands,) did not occur until the year
1609. In the opening of the fourth act, Prospero formally betrothes
his daughter to Ferdinand; and in doing so he pays the prince a
well-merited compliment of having "worthily purchas'd" this rich
jewel, by the patience with which, for her sake, he had supported
harsh usage, and other painful circumstances of his trial. But, he
adds solemnly,

  "If thou dost break her virgin knot before
  All sanctimonious ceremonies may
  With full and holy rite be minister'd;"

in that case what would follow?

  "No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall,
  To make this contract grow; _but barren hate,
  Sour-ey'd disdain and discord, shall bestrew
  The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
  That you shall hate it both._ Therefore take heed,
  As Hymen's lamps shall light you."

The young prince assures him in reply, that no strength of
opportunity, concurring with the uttermost temptation, not

  "the murkiest den,
  The most opportune place, the strong'st suggestion
  Our worser genius can----,"

should ever prevail to lay asleep his jealousy of self-control, so
as to take any advantage of Miranda's innocence. And he adds an
argument for this abstinence, by way of reminding Prospero, that
not honor only, but even prudential care of his own happiness, is
interested in the observance of his promise. Any unhallowed
anticipation would, as he insinuates,

  "take away
  The edge of that day's celebration,
  When I shall think, or Phoebus' steeds are founder'd,
  Or night kept chain'd below;"

that is, when even the winged hours would seem to move too slowly.
Even thus Prospero is not quite satisfied. During his subsequent
dialogue with Ariel, we are to suppose that Ferdinand, in
conversing apart with Miranda, betrays more impassioned ardor than
the wise magician altogether approves. The prince's caresses have
not been unobserved; and thus Prospero renews his warning:

  "Look thou be true: do not give dalliance
  Too much the rein: the strongest oaths are straw
  To the fire i' the blood: be more abstemious,
  Or else--good night your vow."

The royal lover reassures him of his loyalty to his engagements;
and again the wise father, so honorably jealous for his daughter,
professes himself satisfied with the prince's pledges.

Now in all these emphatic warnings, uttering the language "of that
sad wisdom folly leaves behind," who can avoid reading, as in
subtle hieroglyphics, the secret record of Shakspeare's own nuptial
disappointments? We, indeed, that is, universal posterity through
every age, have reason to rejoice in these disappointments; for to
them, past all doubt, we are indebted for Shakspeare's subsequent
migration to London, and his public occupation, which, giving him a
deep pecuniary interest in the productions of his pen, such as no
other literary application of his powers could have approached in
that day, were eventually the means of drawing forth those divine
works which have survived their author for our everlasting benefit.

Our own reading and deciphering of the whole case is as follows.
The Shakspeares were a handsome family, both father and sons. This
we assume upon the following grounds: First, on the presumption
arising out of John Shakspeare's having won the favor of a young
heiress higher in rank than himself; secondly, on the presumption
involved in the fact of three amongst his four sons having gone
upon the stage, to which the most obvious (and perhaps in those
days a _sine qua non_) recommendation would be a good person
and a pleasing countenance; thirdly, on the direct evidence of
Aubrey, who assures us that William Shakspeare was a handsome and a
well-shaped man; fourthly, on the implicit evidence of the
Stratford monument, which exhibits a man of good figure and noble
countenance; fifthly, on the confirmation of this evidence by the
Chandos portrait, which exhibits noble features, illustrated by the
utmost sweetness of expression; sixthly, on the selection of
theatrical parts, which it is known that Shakspeare personated,
most of them being such as required some dignity of form, viz.,
kings, the athletic (though aged) follower of an athletic young
man, and supernatural beings. On these grounds, direct or
circumstantial, we believe ourselves warranted in assuming that
William Shakspeare was a handsome and even noble looking boy. Miss
Anne Hathaway had herself probably some personal attractions; and,
if an indigent girl, who looked for no pecuniary advantages, would
probably have been early sought in marriage. But as the daughter of
"a substantial yeoman," who would expect some fortune in his
daughter's suitors, she had, to speak coarsely, a little outlived
her market. Time she had none to lose. William Shakspeare pleased
her eye; and the gentleness of his nature made him an apt subject
for female blandishments, possibly for female arts. Without
imputing, however, to this Anne Hathaway any thing so hateful as a
settled plot for insnaring him, it was easy enough for a mature
woman, armed with such inevitable advantages of experience and of
self-possession, to draw onward a blushing novice; and, without
directly creating opportunities, to place him in the way of turning
to account such as naturally offered. Young boys are generally
flattered by the condescending notice of grown-up women; and
perhaps Shakspeare's own lines upon a similar situation, to a young
boy adorned with the same natural gifts as himself, may give us the
key to the result:

  "Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won;
  Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assail'd;
  And, when a woman woos, what woman's son
  Will sourly leave her till he have prevail'd?"

Once, indeed, entangled in such a pursuit, any person of manly
feelings would be sensible that he had no retreat; _that_
would be--to insult a woman, grievously to wound her sexual pride,
and to insure her lasting scorn and hatred. These were consequences
which the gentle-minded Shakspeare could not face. He pursued his
good fortunes, half perhaps in heedlessness, half in desperation,
until he was roused by the clamorous displeasure of her family upon
first discovering the situation of their kinswoman. For such a
situation there could be but one atonement, and that was hurried
forward by both parties; whilst, out of delicacy towards the bride,
the wedding was not celebrated in Stratford, (where the register
contains no notice of such an event); nor, as Malone imagined, in
Weston-upon-Avon, that being in the diocese of Gloucester; but in
some parish, as yet undiscovered, in the diocese of Worcester.

But now arose a serious question as to the future maintenance of
the young people. John Shakspeare was depressed in his
circumstances, and he had other children besides William, viz.,
three sons and a daughter. The elder lives have represented him as
burdened with ten; but this was an error, arising out of the
confusion between John Shakspeare the glover, and John Shakspeare a
shoemaker. This error has been thus far of use, that, by exposing
the fact of two John Shakspeares (not kinsmen) residing in
Stratford-upon-Avon, it has satisfactorily proved the name to be
amongst those which are locally indigenous to Warwickshire.
Meantime it is now ascertained that John Shakspeare the glover had
only eight children, viz., four daughters and four sons. The order
of their succession was this: Joan, Margaret, WILLIAM, Gilbert, a
second Joan, Anne, Richard, and Edmund. Three of the daughters,
viz., the two eldest of the family, Joan and Margaret, together
with Anne, died in childhood. All the rest attained mature ages,
and of these William was the eldest. This might give him some
advantage in his father's regard; but in a question of pecuniary
provision precedency amongst the children of an insolvent is nearly
nominal. For the present John Shakspeare could do little for his
son; and, under these circumstances, perhaps the father of Anne
Hathaway would come forward to assist the new-married couple. This
condition of dependency would furnish matter for painful feelings
and irritating words. The youthful husband, whose mind would be
expanding as rapidly as the leaves and blossoms of spring-time in
polar latitudes, would soon come to appreciate the sort of wiles by
which he had been caught. The female mind is quick, and almost
gifted with the power of witchcraft, to decipher what is passing in
the thoughts of familiar companions. Silent and forbearing as
William Shakspeare might be, Anne, his staid wife, would read his
secret reproaches; ill would she dissemble her wrath, and the less
so from the consciousness of having deserved them. It is no
uncommon case for women to feel anger in connection with one
subject, and to express it in connection with another; which other,
perhaps, (except as a serviceable mask,) would have been a matter
of indifference to their feelings. Anne would, therefore, reply to
those inevitable reproaches which her own sense must presume to be
lurking in her husband's heart, by others equally stinging, on his
inability to support his family, and on his obligations to her
father's purse. Shakspeare, we may be sure, would be ruminating
every hour on the means of his deliverance from so painful a
dependency; and at length, after four years' conjugal discord, he
would resolve upon that plan of solitary emigration to the
metropolis, which, at the same time that it released him from the
humiliation of domestic feuds, succeeded so splendidly for his
worldly prosperity, and with a train of consequences so vast for
all future ages.

Such, we are persuaded, was the real course of Shakspeare's
transition from school-boy pursuits to his public career. And upon
the known temperament of Shakspeare, his genial disposition to
enjoy life without disturbing his enjoyment by fretting anxieties,
we build the conclusion, that had his friends furnished him with
ampler funds, and had his marriage been well assorted or happy,
we--the world of posterity--should have lost the whole benefit and
delight which we have since reaped from his matchless faculties.
The motives which drove him _from_ Stratford are clear enough;
but what motives determined his course _to_ London, and
especially to the stage, still remains to be explained.
Stratford-upon-Avon, lying in the high road from London through
Oxford to Birmingham, (or more generally to the north,) had been
continually visited by some of the best comedians during
Shakspeare's childhood. One or two of the most respectable
metropolitan actors were natives of Stratford. These would be well
known to the elder Shakspeare. But, apart from that accident, it is
notorious that mere legal necessity and usage would compel all
companies of actors, upon coming into any town, to seek, in the
first place, from the chief magistrate, a license for opening a
theatre, and next, over and above this public sanction, to seek his
personal favor and patronage. As an alderman, therefore, but still
more whilst clothed with the official powers of chief magistrate,
the poet's father would have opportunities of doing essential
services to many persons connected with the London stage. The
conversation of comedians acquainted with books, fresh from the
keen and sparkling circles of the metropolis, and filled with racy
anecdotes of the court, as well as of public life generally, could
not but have been fascinating, by comparison with the stagnant
society of Stratford. Hospitalities on a liberal scale would be
offered to these men. Not impossibly this fact might be one
principal key to those dilapidations which the family estate had
suffered. These actors, on _their_ part, would retain a
grateful sense of the kindness they had received, and would seek to
repay it to John Shakspeare, now that he was depressed in his
fortunes, as opportunities might offer. His eldest son, growing up
a handsome young man, and beyond all doubt from his earliest days
of most splendid colloquial powers, (for assuredly of _him_ it
may be taken for granted),

  "Nec licuit populis parvum te, Nile, videre,"

would be often reproached in a friendly way for burying himself in
a country life. These overtures, prompted alike by gratitude to the
father, and a real selfish interest in the talents of the son,
would at length take a definite shape; and, upon, some clear
understanding as to the terms of such an arrangement, William
Shakspeare would at length, (about 1586, according to the received
account, that is, in the fifth year of his married life, and the
twenty-third or twenty-fourth of his age,) unaccompanied by wife or
children, translate himself to London. Later than 1586 it could not
well be; for already in 1589 it has been recently ascertained that
he held a share in the property of a leading theatre.

We must here stop to notice, and the reader will allow us to notice
with summary indignation, the slanderous and idle tale which
represents Shakspeare as having fled to London in the character of
a criminal, from the persecutions of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot.
This tale has long been propagated under two separate impulses.
Chiefly, perhaps, under the vulgar love of pointed and glaring
contrasts; the splendor of the man was in this instance brought
into a sort of epigrammatic antithesis with the humility of his
fortunes; secondly, under a baser impulse, the malicious pleasure
of seeing a great man degraded. Accordingly, as in the case of
Milton, [Endnote: 16] it has been affirmed that Shakspeare had
suffered corporal chastisement, in fact, (we abhor to utter such
words,) that he had been judicially whipped. Now, first of all, let
us mark the inconsistency of this tale. The poet was whipped, that
is, he was punished most disproportionately, and yet he fled to
avoid punishment. Next, we are informed that his offence was
deer-stealing, and from the park of Sir Thomas Lucy. And it has
been well ascertained that Sir Thomas had no deer, and had no park.
Moreover, deer-stealing was regarded by our ancestors exactly as
poaching is regarded by us. Deer ran wild in all the great forests;
and no offence was looked upon as so venial, none so compatible
with a noble Robin-Hood style of character, as this very trespass
upon what were regarded as _ferae naturae_, and not at all as
domestic property. But had it been otherwise, a trespass was not
punishable with whipping; nor had Sir Thomas Lucy the power to
irritate a whole community like Stratford-upon-Avon, by branding
with permanent disgrace a young man so closely connected with three
at least of the best families in the neighborhood. Besides, had
Shakspeare suffered any dishonor of that kind, the scandal would
infallibly have pursued him at his very heels to London; and in
that case Greene, who has left on record, in a posthumous work of
1592, his malicious feelings towards Shakspeare, could not have
failed to notice it. For, be it remembered, that a judicial
flagellation contains a twofold ignominy. Flagellation is
ignominious in its own nature, even though unjustly inflicted, and
by a ruffian; secondly, any judicial punishment is ignominous, even
though not wearing a shade of personal degradation. Now a judicial
flagellation includes both features of dishonor. And is it to be
imagined that an enemy, searching with the diligence of malice for
matter against Shakspeare, should have failed, six years after the
event, to hear of that very memorable disgrace which had exiled him
from Stratford, and was the very occasion of his first resorting to
London; or that a leading company of players in the metropolis,
_one of whom_, and a chief one, _was his own townsman_,
should cheerfully adopt into their society, as an honored partner,
a young man yet flagrant from the lash of the executioner or the

This tale is fabulous, and rotten to its core; yet even this does
less dishonor to Shakspeare's memory than the sequel attached to
it. A sort of scurrilous rondeau, consisting of nine lines, so
loathsome in its brutal stupidity, and so vulgar in its expression,
that we shall not pollute our pages by transcribing it, has been
imputed to Shakspeare ever since the days of the credulous Rowe.
The total point of this idiot's drivel consists in calling Sir
Thomas "an asse;" and well it justifies the poet's own remark, "Let
there be gall enough in thy ink, no matter though thou write with a
goose pen." Our own belief is, that these lines were a production
of Charles II.'s reign, and applied to a Sir Thomas Lucy, not very
far removed, if at all, from the age of him who first picked up the
pecious filth. The phrase "parliament _member_" we believe to
be quite unknown in the colloquial use of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

But, that we may rid ourselves once and for ever of this outrageous
calumny upon Shakspeare's memory, we shall pursue the story to its
final stage. Even Malone has been thoughtless enough to accredit
this closing chapter, which contains, in fact, such a superfetation
of folly as the annals of human dullness do not exceed. Let us
recapitulate the points of the story. A baronet, who has no deer
and no park, is supposed to persecute a poet for stealing these
aerial deer out of this aerial park, both lying in
_nephelococcygia_. The poet sleeps upon this wrong for
eighteen years; but at length, hearing that his persecutor is dead
and buried, he conceives bloody thoughts of revenge. And this
revenge he purposes to execute by picking a hole in his dead
enemy's coat-of-arms. Is this coat-of-arms, then, Sir Thomas
Lucy's? Why, no; Malone admits that it is not. For the poet,
suddenly recollecting that this ridicule would settle upon the son
of his enemy, selects another coat-of-arms, with which his dead
enemy never had any connection, and he spends his thunder and
lighting upon this irrelevant object; and, after all, the ridicule
itself lies in a Welchman's mispronouncing one single heraldic
term--a Welchman who mispronounces all words. The last act of the
poet's malice recalls to us a sort of jest-book story of an
Irishman, the vulgarity of which the reader will pardon in
consideration of its relevancy. The Irishman having lost a pair of
silk stockings, mentions to a friend that he has taken steps for
recovering them by an advertisement, offering a reward to the
finder. His friend objects that the costs of advertising, and the
reward, would eat out the full value of the silk stockings. But to
this the Irishman replies, with a knowing air, that he is not so
green as to have overlooked _that_; and that, to keep down the
reward, he had advertised the stockings as worsted. Not at all less
flagrant is the bull ascribed to Shakspeare, when he is made to
punish a dead man by personalities meant for his exclusive ear,
through his coat-of-arms, but at the same time, with the express
purpose of blunting and defeating the edge of his own scurrility,
is made to substitute for the real arms some others which had no
more relation to the dead enemy than they had to the poet himself.
This is the very sublime of folly, beyond which human dotage cannot

It is painful, indeed, and dishonorable to human nature, that
whenever men of vulgar habits and of poor education wish to impress
us with a feeling of respect for a man's talents, they are sure to
cite, by way of evidence, some gross instance of malignity. Power,
in their minds, is best illustrated by malice or by the infliction
of pain. To this unwelcome fact we have some evidence in the
wretched tale which we have just dismissed; and there is another of
the same description to be found in all lives of Shakspeare, which
we will expose to the contempt of the reader whilst we are in this
field of discussion, that we may not afterwards have to resume so
disgusting a subject.

This poet, who was a model of gracious benignity in his manners,
and of whom, amidst our general ignorance, thus much is perfectly
established, that the term _gentle_ was almost as generally
and by prescriptive right associated with his name as the affix of
_venerable_ with Bede, or _judicious_ with Hooker, is
alleged to have insulted a friend by an imaginary epitaph beginning
"_Ten in the Hundred_" and supposing him to be damned, yet
without wit enough (which surely the Stratford bellman could have
furnished) for devising any, even fanciful, reason for such a
supposition; upon which the comment of some foolish critic is," The
_sharpness of the satire_ is said to have stung the man so
much that he never forgave it. "We have heard of the sting in the
tail atoning for the brainless head; but in this doggerel the tail
is surely as stingless as the head is brainless. For, 1st, _Ten
in the Hundred_ could be no reproach in Shakspeare's time, any
more than to call a man _Three-and-a-half-per-cent_. in this
present year, 1838; except, indeed, amongst those foolish persons
who built their morality upon the Jewish ceremonial law. Shakspeare
himself took ten per cent. _2dly_, It happens that John Combe,
so far from being the object of the poet's scurrility, or viewing
the poet as an object of implacable resentment, was a Stratford
friend; that one of his family was affectionately remembered in
Shakspeare's will by the bequest of his sword; and that John Combe
himself recorded his perfect charity with Shakspeare by leaving him
a legacy of 5L sterling. And in this lies the key to the whole
story. For, _3dly_, The four lines were written and printed
before Shakspeare was born. The name Combe is a common one; and
some stupid fellow, who had seen the name in Shakspeare's will, and
happened also to have seen the lines in a collection of epigrams,
chose to connect the cases by attributing an identity to the two
John Combes, though at war with chronology.

Finally, there is another specimen of doggerel attributed to
Shakspeare, which is not equally unworthy of him, because not
equally malignant, but otherwise equally below his intellect, no
less than his scholarship; we mean the inscription on his
grave-stone. This, as a sort of _siste viator_ appeal to
future sextons, is worthy of the grave-digger or the parish-clerk,
who was probably its author. Or it may have been an antique
formula, like the vulgar record of ownership in books--

  "Anthony Timothy Dolthead's hook,
  God give him grace therein to look."

Thus far the matter is of little importance; and it might
have been supposed that malignity itself could hardly have imputed
such trash to Shakspeare. But when we find, even in this short
compass, scarcely wider than the posy of a ring, room found for
traducing the poet's memory, it becomes important to say, that the
leading sentiment, the horror expressed at any disturbance offered
to his bones, is not one to which Shakspeare could have attached
the slightest weight; far less could have outraged the sanctities
of place and subject, by affixing to any sentiment whatever (and,
according to the fiction of the case, his farewell sentiment) the
sanction of a curse.

Filial veneration and piety towards the memory of this great man,
have led us into a digression that might have been unseasonable in
any cause less weighty than one, having for its object to deliver
his honored name from a load of the most brutal malignity. Never
more, we hope and venture to believe, will any thoughtless
biographer impute to Shakspeare the asinine doggerel with which the
uncritical blundering of his earliest biographer has caused his
name to be dishonored. We now resume the thread of our biography.
The stream of history is centuries in working itself clear of any
calumny with which it has once been polluted.

Most readers will be aware of an old story, according to which
Shakspeare gained his livelihood for some time after coming to
London by holding the horses of those who rode to the play. This
legend is as idle as any one of those which we have just exposed.
No custom ever existed of riding on horseback to the play.
Gentlemen, who rode valuable horses, would assuredly not expose
them systematically to the injury of standing exposed to cold for
two or even four hours; and persons of inferior rank would not ride
on horseback in the town. Besides, had such a custom ever existed,
stables (or sheds at least) would soon have arisen to meet the
public wants; and in some of the dramatic sketches of the day,
which noticed every fashion as it arose, this would not have been
overlooked. The story is traced originally to Sir William Davenant.
Betterton the actor, who professed to have received it from him,
passed it onwards to Rowe, he to Pope, Pope to Bishop Newton, the
editor of Milton, and Newton to Dr. Johnson. This pedigree of the
fable, however, adds nothing to its credit, and multiplies the
chances of some mistake. Another fable, not much less absurd,
represents Shakspeare as having from the very first been borne upon
the establishment of the theatre, and so far contradicts the other
fable, but originally in the very humble character of
_call-boy_ or deputy prompter, whose business it was to summon
each performer according to his order of coming upon the stage.
This story, however, quite as much as the other, is irreconcileable
with the discovery recently made by Mr. Collier, that in 1589
Shakspeare was a shareholder in the important property of a
principal London theatre. It seems destined that all the undoubted
facts of Shakspeare's life should come to us through the channel of
legal documents, which are better evidence even than imperial
medals; whilst, on the other hand, all the fabulous anecdotes, not
having an attorney's seal to them, seem to have been the fictions
of the wonder maker. The plain presumption from the record of
Shakspeare's situation in 1589, coupled with the fact that his
first arrival in London was possibly not until 1587, but according
to the earliest account not before 1586, a space of time which
leaves but little room for any remarkable changes of situation,
seems to be, that, either in requital of services done to the
players by the poet's family, or in consideration of money advanced
by his father-in-law, or on account of Shakspeare's personal
accomplishments as an actor, and as an adapter of dramatic works to
the stage; for one of these reasons, or for all of them united,
William Shakspeare, about the 23d year of his age, was adopted into
the partnership of a respectable histrionic company, possessing a
first-rate theatre in the metropolis. If 1586 were the year in
which he came up to London, it seems probable enough that his
immediate motive to that step was the increasing distress of his
father; for in that year John Shakspeare resigned the office of
alderman. There is, however, a bare possibility that Shakspeare
might have gone to London about the time when he completed his
twenty-first year, that is, in the spring of 1585, but not earlier.
Nearly two years after the birth of his eldest daughter Susanna,
his wife lay in for a second and a _last_ time; but she then
brought her husband twins, a son and a daughter. These children
were baptized in February of the year 1585; so that Shakspeare's
whole family of three children were born and baptized two months
before he completed his majority. The twins were baptized by the
names of Hamnet and Judith, those being the names of two amongst
their sponsors, viz., Mr. Sadler and his wife. Hamnet, which is a
remarkable name in itself, becomes still more so from its
resemblance to the immortal name of Hamlet [Endnote: 17] the Dane;
it was, however, the real baptismal name of Mr. Sadler, a friend of
Shakspeare's, about fourteen years older than himself. Shakspeare's
son must then have been most interesting to his heart, both as a
twin child and as his only boy. He died in 1596, when he was about
eleven years old. Both daughters survived their father; both
married; both left issue, and thus gave a chance for continuing the
succession from the great poet. But all the four grandchildren died
without offspring.

Of Shakspeare personally, at least of Shakspeare the man, as
distinguished from the author, there remains little more to record.
Already in 1592, Greene, in his posthumous Groat's-worth of Wit,
had expressed the earliest vocation of Shakspeare in the following
sentence: "There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers;
in his own conceit the only _Shakscene_ in a country!" This
alludes to Shakspeare's office of recasting, and even recomposing,
dramatic works, so as to fit them for representation; and Master
Greene, it is probable, had suffered in his self-estimation, or in
his purse, by the alterations in some piece of his own, which the
duty of Shakspeare to the general interests of the theatre had
obliged him to make. In 1591 it has been supposed that Shakspeare
wrote his first drama, the Two Gentlemen of Verona; the least
characteristically marked of all his plays, and, with the exception
of Love's Labors Lost, the least interesting.

From this year, 1591 to that of 1611, are just twenty years, within
which space lie the whole dramatic creations of Shakspeare,
averaging nearly one for every six months. In 1611 was written the
Tempest, which is supposed to have been the last of all
Shakspeare's works. Even on that account, as Mr. Campbell feelingly
observes, it has "a sort of sacredness;" and it is a most
remarkable fact, and one calculated to make a man superstitious,
that in this play the great enchanter Prospero, in whom," _as if
conscious_, "says Mr. Campbell," _that this would be his last
work_, the poet has been _inspired to typify himself as_ a
wise, potent, and _benevolent magician_" of whom, indeed, as
of Shakspeare himself, it may be said, that "within that circle"
(the circle of his own art)" none durst tread but he, "solemnly and
for ever renounces his mysterious functions, symbolically breaks
his enchanter's wand, and declares that he will bury his books, his
science, and his secrets,

  "Deeper than did ever plummet sound."

Nay, it is even ominous, that in this play, and from the voice of
Prospero, issues that magnificent prophecy of the total destruction
which should one day swallow up

  "The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
  Yea all which it inherit."

And this prophecy is followed immediately by a most profound
ejaculation, gathering into one pathetic abstraction the total
philosophy of life:

  "We are such stuff
  As dreams are made of; and our little life
  Is rounded by a sleep;"

that is, in effect, our life is a little tract of feverish vigils,
surrounded and islanded by a shoreless ocean of sleep--sleep before
birth, sleep after death.

These remarkable passages were probably not undesigned; but if we
suppose them to have been thrown off without conscious notice of
their tendencies, then, according to the superstition of the
ancient Grecians, they would have been regarded as prefiguring
words, prompted by the secret genius that accompanies every man,
such as insure along with them their own accomplishment. With or
without intention, however, it is believed that Shakspeare wrote
nothing more after this exquisite romantic drama. With respect to
the remainder of his personal history, Dr. Drake and others have
supposed, that during the twenty years from 1591 to 1611, he
visited Stratford often, and latterly once a year.

In 1589 he had possessed some share in a theatre; in 1596 he had a
considerable share. Through Lord Southampton, as a surviving friend
of Lord Essex, who was viewed as the martyr to his Scottish
politics, there can be no doubt that Shakspeare had acquired the
favor of James I.; and accordingly, on the 29th of May, 1603, about
two months after the king's accession to the throne of England, a
patent was granted to the company of players who possessed the
Globe theatre; in which patent Shakspeare's name stands second.
This patent raised the company to the rank of his majesty's
servants, whereas previously they are supposed to have been simply
the servants of the Lord Chamberlain. Perhaps it was in grateful
acknowledgment of this royal favor that Shakspeare afterwards, in
1606, paid that sublime compliment to the house of Stuart, which is
involved in the vision shown to Macbeth. This vision is managed
with exquisite skill. It was impossible to display the whole series
of princes from Macbeth to James I.; but he beholds the posterity
of Banquo, one "gold-bound brow" succeeding to another, until he
comes to an eighth apparition of a Scottish king,

  "Who bears a glass
  Which shows him many more; and some he sees
  Who twofold balls and treble sceptres carry;"

thus bringing down without tedium the long succession to the very
person of James I., by the symbolic image of the two crowns united
on one head.

About the beginning of the century Shakspeare had become rich
enough to purchase the best house in Stratford, called _The Great
House_, which name he altered to _New Place_; and in 1602
he bought one hundred and seven acres adjacent to this house for a
sum (320L) corresponding to about 1500 guineas of modern money.
Malone thinks that he purchased the house as early as 1597; and it
is certain that about that time he was able to assist his father in
obtaining a renewed grant of arms from the Herald's College, and
therefore, of course, to re-establish his father's fortunes. Ten
years of well-directed industry, viz., from 1591 to 1601, and the
prosperity of the theatre in which he was a proprietor, had raised
him to affluence; and after another ten years, improved with the
same success, he was able to retire with an income of 300L, or
(according to the customary computations) in modern money of 1500L,
per annum. Shakspeare was in fact the first man of letters, Pope
the second, and Sir Walter Scott the third, who, in Great Britain,
has ever realized a large fortune by literature; or in Christendom,
if we except Voltaire, and two dubious cases in Italy. The four or
five latter years of his life Shakspeare passed in dignified ease,
in profound meditation, we may be sure, and in universal respect,
at his native town of Stratford; and there he died, on the 23d of
April, 1616. [Endnote: 18]

His daughter Susanna had been married on the 5th of June of the
year 1607, to Dr. John Hall, [Endnote: 19] a physician in
Stratford. The doctor died in November, 1635, aged sixty; his wife,
at the age of sixty-six, on July 11, 1640. They had one child, a
daughter, named Elizabeth, born in 1608, married April 22, 1626, to
Thomas Nashe, Esq., left a widow in 1647, and subsequently
remarried to Sir John Barnard; but this Lady Barnard, the sole
grand-daughter of the poet, had no children by either marriage. The
other daughter, Judith, on February 10, 1616, (about ten weeks
before her father's death,) married Mr. Thomas Quincy of Stratford,
by whom she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and Thomas. Judith
was about thirty-one years old at the time of her marriage; and
living just forty-six years afterwards, she died in February, 1662,
at the age of seventy-seven. Her three sons died without issue; and
thus, in the direct lineal descent, it is certain that no
representative has survived of this transcendent poet, the most
august amongst created intellects.

After this review of Shakspeare's life, it becomes our duty to take
a summary survey of his works, of his intellectual powers, and of
his station in literature, a station which is now irrevocably
settled, not so much (which happens in other cases) by a vast
overbalance of favorable suffrages, as by acclamation; not so much
by the _voices_ of those who admire him up to the verge of
idolatry, as by the _acts_ of those who everywhere seek for
his works among the primal necessities of life, demand them, and
crave them as they do their daily bread; not so much by eulogy
openly proclaiming itself, as by the silent homage recorded in the
endless multiplication of what he has bequeathed us; not so much by
his own compatriots, who, with regard to almost every other author,
[Endnote: 20] compose the total amount of his _effective_
audience, as by the unanimous "all hail!" of intellectual
Christendom; finally, not by the hasty partisanship of his own
generation, nor by the biassed judgment of an age trained in the
same modes of feeling and of thinking with himself,--but by the
solemn award of generation succeeding to generation, of one age
correcting the obliquities or peculiarities of another; by the
verdict of two hundred and thirty years, which have now elapsed
since the very _latest_ of his creations, or of two hundred
and forty-seven years if we date from the earliest; a verdict which
has been continually revived and re-opened, probed, searched,
vexed, by criticism in every spirit, from the most genial and
intelligent, down to the most malignant and scurrilously hostile
which feeble heads and great ignorance could suggest when
cooperating with impure hearts and narrow sensibilities; a verdict,
in short, sustained and countersigned by a longer series of
writers, many of them eminent for wit or learning, than were ever
before congregated upon any inquest relating to any author, be he
who he might, ancient [Endnote: 21] or modern, Pagan or Christian.
It was a most witty saying with respect to a piratical and knavish
publisher, who made a trade of insulting the memories of deceased
authors by forged writings, that he was "among the new terrors of
death." But in the gravest sense it may be affirmed of Shakspeare,
that he is among the modern luxuries of life; that life, in fact,
is a new thing, and one more to be coveted, since Shakspeare has
extended the domains of human consciousness, and pushed its dark
frontiers into regions not so much as dimly descried or even
suspected before his time, far less illuminated (as now they are)
by beauty and tropical luxuriance of life. For instance,--a single
instance, indeed one which in itself is a world of new revelation,
--the possible beauty of the female character had not been seen as
in a dream before Shakspeare called into perfect life the radiant
shapes of Desdemona, of Imogene, of Hermione, of Perdita, of
Ophelia, of Miranda, and many others. The Una of Spenser, earlier
by ten or fifteen years than most of these, was an idealized
portrait of female innocence and virgin purity, but too shadowy and
unreal for a dramatic reality. And as to the Grecian classics, let
not the reader imagine for an instant that any prototype in this
field of Shakspearian power can be looked for there. The
_Antigone_ and the _Electra_ of the tragic poets are the
two leading female characters that classical antiquity offers to
our respect, but assuredly not to our impassioned love, as
disciplined and exalted in the school of Shakspeare. They challenge
our admiration, severe, and even stern, as impersonations of filial
duty, cleaving to the steps of a desolate and afflicted old man; or
of sisterly affection, maintaining the rights of a brother under
circumstances of peril, of desertion, and consequently of perfect
self-reliance. Iphigenia, again, though not dramatically coming
before us in her own person, but according to the beautiful report
of a spectator, presents us with a fine statuesque model of heroic
fortitude, and of one whose young heart, even in the very agonies
of her cruel immolation, refused to forget, by a single indecorous
gesture, or so much as a moment's neglect of her own princely
descent, and that she herself was "a lady in the land." These are
fine marble groups, but they are not the warm breathing realities
of Shakspeare; there is "no speculation" in their cold marble eyes;
the breath of life is not in their nostrils; the fine pulses of
womanly sensibilities are not throbbing in their bosoms. And
besides this immeasurable difference between the cold moony
reflexes of life, as exhibited by the power of Grecian art, and the
true sunny life of Shakspeare, it must he observed that the
Antigones, &c. of the antique put forward but one single trait of
character, like the aloe with its single blossom. This solitary
feature is presented to us as an abstraction, and as an insulated
quality; whereas in Shakspeare all is presented in the
_concrete_; that is to say, not brought forward in relief, as
by some effort of an anatomical artist; but embodied and imbedded,
so to speak, as by the force of a creative nature, in the complex
system of a human life; a life in which all the elements move and
play simultaneously, and with something more than mere simultaneity
or co-existence, acting and re-acting each upon the other, nay,
even acting by each other and through each other. In Shakspeare's
characters is felt for ever a real _organic_ life, where each
is for the whole and in the whole, and where the whole is for each
and in each. They only are real incarnations.

The Greek poets could not exhibit any approximations to
_female_ character, without violating the truth of Grecian
life, and shocking the feelings of the audience. The drama with the
Greeks, as with us, though much less than with us, was a picture of
human life; and that which could not occur in life could not wisely
be exhibited on the stage. Now, in ancient Greece, women were
secluded from the society of men. The conventual sequestration of
the hareem, or female apartment [Endnote: 22] of the house, and
the Mahommedan consecration of its threshold against the ingress of
males, had been transplanted from Asia into Greece thousands of
years perhaps before either convents or Mahommed existed. Thus
barred from all open social intercourse, women could not develop or
express any character by word or action. Even to _have_ a
character, violated, to a Grecian mind, the ideal portrait of
feminine excellence; whence, perhaps, partly the too generic, too
little individualized, style of Grecian beauty. But prominently to
_express_ a character was impossible under the common tenor of
Grecian life, unless when high tragical catastrophes transcended
the decorums of that tenor, or for a brief interval raised the
curtain which veiled it. Hence the subordinate part which women
play upon the Greek stage in all but some half dozen cases. In the
paramount tragedy on that stage, the model tragedy, the (_OEdipus
Tyrannus_ of Sophocles), there is virtually no woman at all; for
Jocasta is a party to the story merely as the dead Laius or the
self-murdered Sphinx was a party, viz., by her contributions to the
fatalities of the event, not by anything she does or says
spontaneously. In fact, the Greek poet, if a wise poet, could not
address himself genially to a task in which he must begin by
shocking the sensibilities of his countrymen. And hence followed,
not only the dearth of female characters in the Grecian drama, but
also a second result still more favorable to the sense of a new
power evolved by Shakspeare. Whenever the common law of Grecian
life did give way, it was, as we have observed, to the suspending
force of some great convulsion or tragical catastrophe. This for a
moment (like an earthquake in a nunnery) would set at liberty even
the timid, fluttering Grecian women, those doves of the dove-cot,
and would call some of them into action. But which? Precisely those
of energetic and masculine minds; the timid and feminine would but
shrink the more from public gaze and from tumult. Thus it happened,
that such female characters as _were_ exhibited in Greece,
could not but be the harsh and the severe. If a gentle Ismene
appeared for a moment in contest with some energetic sister
Antigone, (and chiefly, perhaps, by way of drawing out the fiercer
character of that sister,) she was soon dismissed as unfit for
scenical effect. So that not only were female characters few, but,
moreover, of these few the majority were but repetitions of
masculine qualities in female persons. Female agency being seldom
summoned on the stage, except when it had received a sort of
special dispensation from its sexual character, by some terrific
convulsions of the house or the city, naturally it assumed the
style of action suited to these circumstances. And hence it arose,
that not woman as she differed from man, but woman as she resembled
man--woman, in short, seen under circumstances so dreadful as to
abolish the effect of sexual distinction, was the woman of the
Greek tragedy. [Endnote: 23] And hence generally arose for
Shakspeare the wider field, and the more astonishing by its perfect
novelty, when he first introduced female characters, not as mere
varieties or echoes of masculine characters, a Medea or
Clytemnestra, or a vindictive Hecuba, the mere tigress of the
tragic tiger, but female characters that had the appropriate beauty
of female nature; woman no longer grand, terrific, and repulsive,
but woman "after her kind"--the other hemisphere of the dramatic
world; woman, running through the vast gamut of womanly loveliness;
woman, as emancipated, exalted, ennobled, under a new law of
Christian morality; woman, the sister and coequal of man, no longer
his slave, his prisoner, and sometimes his rebel." It is a far cry
to Loch Awe; "and from the Athenian stage to the stage of
Shakspeare, it may be said, is a prodigious interval. True; but
prodigious as it is, there is really nothing between them. The
Roman stage, at least the tragic stage, as is well known, was put
out, as by an extinguisher, by the cruel amphitheatre, just as a
candle is made pale and ridiculous by daylight. Those who were
fresh from the real murders of the bloody amphitheatre regarded
with contempt the mimic murders of the stage. Stimulation too
coarse and too intense had its usual effect in making the
sensibilities callous. Christian emperors arose at length, who
abolished the amphitheatre in its bloodier features. But by that
time the genius of the tragic muse had long slept the sleep of
death. And that muse had no resurrection until the age of
Shakspeare. So that, notwithstanding a gulf of nineteen centuries
and upwards separates Shakspeare from Euripides, the last of the
surviving Greek tragedians, the one is still the nearest successor
of the other, just as Connaught and the islands in Clew Bay are
next neighbors to America, although three thousand watery columns,
each of a cubic mile in dimensions, divide them from each other.

A second reason, which lends an emphasis of novelty and effective
power to Shakspeare's female world, is a peculiar fact of contrast
which exists between that and his corresponding world of men. Let
us explain. The purpose and the intention of the Grecian stage was
not primarily to develop human _character_, whether in men or
in women: human _fates_ were its object; great tragic
situations under the mighty control of a vast cloudy destiny, dimly
descried at intervals, and brooding over human life by mysterious
agencies, and for mysterious ends. Man, no longer the
representative of an august _will_, man the passion-puppet of
fate, could not with any effect display what we call a character,
which is a distinction between man and man, emanating originally
from the will, and expressing its determinations, moving under the
large variety of human impulses. The will is the central pivot of
character; and this was obliterated, thwarted, cancelled, by the
dark fatalism which brooded over the Grecian stage. That
explanation will sufficiently clear up the reason why marked or
complex variety of character was slighted by the great principles
of the Greek tragedy. And every scholar who has studied that grand
drama of Greece with feeling,--that drama, so magnificent, so
regal, so stately,--and who has thoughtfully investigated its
principles, and its difference from the English drama, will
acknowledge that powerful and elaborate character, character, for
instance, that could employ the fiftieth part of that profound
analysis which has been applied to Hamlet, to Falstaff, to Lear, to
Othello, and applied by Mrs. Jamieson so admirably to the full
development of the Shakspearian heroines, would have been as much
wasted, nay, would have been defeated, and interrupted the blind
agencies of fate, just in the same way as it would injure the
shadowy grandeur of a ghost to individualize it too much. Milton's
angels are slightly touched, superficially touched, with
differences of character; but they are such differences, so simple
and general, as are just sufficient to rescue them from the
reproach applied to Virgil's "_fortemque Gyan, forlemque
Cloanthem;_" just sufficient to make them knowable apart. Pliny
speaks of painters who painted in one or two colors; and, as
respects the angelic characters, Milton does so; he is
_monochromatic_. So, and for reasons resting upon the same
ultimate philosophy, were the mighty architects of the Greek
tragedy. They also were monochromatic; they also, as to the
characters of their persons, painted in one color. And so far there
might have been the same novelty in Shakspeare's men as in his
women. There _might_ have been; but the reason why there is
_not_, must be sought in the fact, that History, the muse of
History, had there even been no such muse as Melpomene, would have
forced us into an acquaintance with human character. History, as
the representative of actual life, of real man, gives us powerful
delineations of character in its chief agents, that is, in men; and
therefore it is that Shakspeare, the absolute creator of female
character, was but the mightiest of all painters with regard to
male character. Take a single instance. The Antony of Shakspeare,
immortal for its execution, is found, after all, as regards the
primary conception, in history. Shakspeare's delineation is but the
expansion of the germ already preexisting, by way of scattered
fragments, in Cicero's Philippics, in Cicero's Letters, in Appian,
&c. But Cleopatra, equally fine, is a pure creation of art. The
situation and the scenic circumstances belong to history, but the
character belongs to Shakspeare.

In the great world, therefore, of woman, as the interpreter of the
shifting phases and the lunar varieties of that mighty changeable
planet, that lovely satellite of man, Shakspeare stands not the
first only, not the original only, but is yet the sole authentic
oracle of truth. Woman, therefore, the beauty of the female mind,
_this_ is one great field of his power. The supernatural
world, the world of apparitions, _that_ is another. For
reasons which it would be easy to give, reasons emanating from the
gross mythology of the ancients, no Grecian, [Endnote: 24] no
Roman, could have conceived a ghost. That shadowy conception, the
protesting apparition, the awful projection of the human
conscience, belongs to the Christian mind. And in all Christendom,
who, let us ask, who, who but Shakspeare has found the power for
effectually working this mysterious mode of being? In summoning
back to earth "the majesty of buried Denmark," how like an awful
necromancer does Shakspeare appear! All the pomps and grandeurs
which religion, which the grave, which the popular superstition had
gathered about the subject of apparitions, are here converted to
his purpose, and bend to one awful effect. The wormy grave brought
into antagonism with the scenting of the early dawn; the trumpet of
resurrection suggested, and again as an antagonist idea to the
crowing of the cock, (a bird ennobled in the Christian mythus by
the part he is made to play at the Crucifixion;) its starting "as a
guilty thing" placed in opposition to its majestic expression of
offended dignity when struck at by the partisans of the sentinels;
its awful allusions to the secrets of its prison-house; its
ubiquity, contrasted with its local presence; its aerial substance,
yet clothed in palpable armor; the heart-shaking solemnity of its
language, and the appropriate scenery of its haunt, viz., the
ramparts of a capital fortress, with no witnesses but a few
gentlemen mounting guard at the dead of night,--what a mist, what a
_mirage_ of vapor, is here accumulated, through which the
dreadful being in the centre looms upon us in far larger
proportions, than could have happened had it been insulated and
left naked of this circumstantial pomp! In the _Tempest_,
again, what new modes of life, preternatural, yet far as the poles
from the spiritualities of religion! Ariel in antithesis to
Caliban! What is most ethereal to what is most animal! A phantom of
air, an abstraction of the dawn and of vesper sun-lights, a
bodiless sylph on the one hand; on the other a gross carnal
monster, like the Miltonic Asmodai, "the fleshliest incubus" among
the fiends, and yet so far ennobled into interest by his
intellectual power, and by the grandeur of misanthropy! [Endnote:
25] In the _Midsummer-Night's Dream_, again, we have the old
traditional fairy, a lovely mode of preternatural life, remodified
by Shakspeare's eternal talisman. Oberon and Titania remind us at
first glance of Ariel. They approach, but how far they recede. They
are like--"like, but, oh, how different!" And in no other
exhibition of this dreamy population of the moonlight forests and
forest-lawns, are the circumstantial proprieties of fairy life so
exquisitely imagined, sustained, or expressed. The dialogue between
Oberon and Titania is, of itself, and taken separately from its
connection, one of the most delightful poetic scenes that
literature affords. The witches in Macbeth are another variety of
supernatural life, in which Shakspeare's power to enchant and to
disenchant are alike portentous. The circumstances of the blasted
heath, the army at a distance, the withered attire of the
mysterious hags, and the choral litanies of their fiendish Sabbath,
are as finely imagined in their kind as those which herald and
which surround the ghost in Hamlet. There we see the
_positive_ of Shakspeare's superior power. But now turn and
look to the _negative_. At a time when the trials of witches,
the royal book on demonology, and popular superstition (all so far
useful, as they prepared a basis of undoubting faith for the poet's
serious use of such agencies) had degraded and polluted the ideas
of these mysterious beings by many mean associations, Shakspeare
does not fear to employ them in high tragedy, (a tragedy moreover
which, though not the very greatest of his efforts as an
intellectual whole, nor as a struggle of passion, is _among_
the greatest in any view, and positively _the_ greatest for
scenical grandeur, and in that respect makes the nearest approach
of all English tragedies to the Grecian model;) he does not fear to
introduce, for the same appalling effect as that for which
Aeschylus introduced the Eumenides, a triad of old women,
concerning whom an English wit has remarked this grotesque
peculiarity in the popular creed of that day,--that although potent
over winds and storms, in league with powers of darkness, they yet
stood in awe of the constable,--yet relying on his own supreme
power to disenchant as well as to enchant, to create and to
uncreate, he mixes these women and their dark machineries with the
power of armies, with the agencies of kings, and the fortunes of
martial kingdoms. Such was the sovereignty of this poet, so mighty
its compass!

A third fund of Shakspeare's peculiar power lies in his teeming
fertility of fine thoughts and sentiments. From his works alone
might be gathered a golden bead-roll of thoughts the deepest,
subtilest, most pathetic, and yet most catholic and universally
intelligible; the most characteristic, also, and appropriate to the
particular person, the situation, and the case, yet, at the same
time, applicable to the circumstances of every human being, under
all the accidents of life, and all vicissitudes of fortune. But
this subject offers so vast a field of observation, it being so
eminently the prerogative of Shakspeare to have thought more finely
and more extensively than all other poets combined, that we cannot
wrong the dignity of such a theme by doing more, in our narrow
limits, than simply noticing it as one of the emblazonries upon
Shakspeare's shield.

Fourthly, we shall indicate (and, as in the last case,
_barely_ indicate, without attempting in so vast a field to
offer any inadequate illustrations) one mode of Shakspeare's
dramatic excellence, which hitherto has not attracted any special
or separate notice. We allude to the forms of life, and natural
human passion, as apparent in the structure of his dialogue. Among
the many defects and infirmities of the French and of the Italian
drama, indeed, we may say of the Greek, the dialogue proceeds
always by independent speeches, replying indeed to each other, but
never modified in its several openings by the momentary effect of
its several terminal forms immediately preceding. Now, in
Shakspeare, who first set an example of that most important
innovation, in all his impassioned dialogues, each reply or
rejoinder seems the mere rebound of the previous speech. Every form
of natural interruption, breaking through the restraints of
ceremony under the impulses of tempestuous passion; every form of
hasty interrogative, ardent reiteration when a question has been
evaded; every form of scornful repetition of the hostile words;
every impatient continuation of the hostile statement; in short,
all modes and formulae by which anger, hurry, fretfulness, scorn,
impatience, or excitement under any movement whatever, can disturb
or modify or dislocate the formal bookish style of commencement,
--these are as rife in Shakspeare's dialogue as in life itself; and
how much vivacity, how profound a verisimilitude, they add to the
scenic effect as an imitation of human passion and real life, we
need not say. A volume might be written illustrating the vast
varieties of Shakspeare's art and power in this one field of
improvement; another volume might be dedicated to the exposure of
the lifeless and unnatural result from the opposite practice in the
foreign stages of France and Italy. And we may truly say, that were
Shakspeare distinguished from them by this single feature of nature
and propriety, he would on that account alone have merited a great

The dramatic works of Shakspeare generally acknowledged to be
genuine consist of thirty-five pieces. The following is the
chronological order in which they are supposed to have been
written, according to Mr. Malone, as given in his second edition of
Shakspeare, and by Mr. George Chalmers in his Supplemental Apology
for the Believers in the Shakspeare Papers:

                                             Chalmers.  Malone.

   1. The Comedy of Errors,                    1591       1592
   2. Love's Labors Lost,                      1592       1594
   3. Romeo and Juliet,                        1592       1596
   4. Henry VI., the First Part,               1593       1589
   5. Henry VI., the Second Part,              1595       1591
   6. Henry VL, the Third Part,                1595       1591
   7. The Two Gentlemen of Verona,             1595       1591
   8. Richard III.,                            1596       1593
   9. Richard II,                              1596       1593
  10. The Merry Wives of Windsor,              1596       1601
  11. Henry IV., the First Part,               1597       1597
  12. Henry IV., the Second Part,              1597       1599
  13. Henry V.,                                1597       1599
  14. The Merchant of Venice,                  1597       1594
  15. Hamlet,                                  1598       1600
  16. King John,                               1598       1596
  17. A Midsummer-Night's Dream,               1598       1594
  18. The Taming of the Shrew,                 1599       1596
  19. All's Well that Ends Well,               1599       1606
  20. Much Ado about Nothing,                  1599       1600
  21. As you Like It,                          1602       1599
  22. Troilus and Cressida,                    1610       1602
  23. Timon of Athens,                         1611       1610
  24. The Winter's Tale,                       1601       1611
  25. Measure for Measure,                     1604       1603
  26. King Lear,                               1605       1605
  27. Cymbeline,                               1606       1609
  28. Macbeth,                                 1606       1606
  29. Julius Caesar,                           1607       1607
  30. Antony and Cleopatra,                    1608       1608
  31. Coriolanus,                              1619       1610
  32. The Tempest,                             1613       1611
  33. The Twelfth Night,                       1613       1607
  34. Henry VIII.,                             1613       1603
  35. Othello,                                 1614       1604

Pericles and Titus Andronicus, although inserted in all the late
editions of Shakspeare's Plays, are omitted in the above list, both
by Malone and Chalmers, as not being Shakspeare's.

The first edition of the Works was published in 1623, in a folio
volume, entitled Mr. William Shakspeare's Comedies, Histories, and
Tragedies. The second edition was published in 1632, the third in
1664, and the fourth in 1685, all in folio; but the edition of 1623
is considered the most authentic. Rowe published an edition in
seven vols. 8vo, in 1709. Editions were published by Pope, in six
vols. 4to, in 1725; by Warburton, in eight vols. 8vo, in 1747; by
Dr. Johnson, in eight vols. 8vo, in 1765; by Stevens, in four vols.
8vo, in 1766; by Malone, in ten vols. 8vo, in 1789; by Alexander
Chalmers, in nine vols. 8vo, in 1811; by Johnson and Stevens,
revised by Isaac Reed, in twenty-one vols. 8vo, in 1813; and the
Plays and Poems, with notes by Malone, were edited by James
Boswell, and published in twenty-one vols. 8vo, in 1821. Besides
these, numerous editions have been published from time to time.



Mr. Campbell, the latest editor of Shakspeare's dramatic works,
observes that "the poet's name has been variously written
Shax-peare, Shackspeare, Shakspeare, and Shakspere;" to which
varieties might be added Shagspere, from the Worcester Marriage
License, published in 1836. But the fact is, that by combining with
all the differences in spelling the first syllable, all those in
spelling the second, more than twenty-five distinct varieties of
the name may be expanded, (like an algebraic series,) for the
choice of the curious in mis-spelling. Above all things, those
varieties which arise from the intercalation of the middle _e,
_(that is, the _e_ immediately before the final syllable
_spear,_) can never be overlooked by those who remember, at
the opening of the Dunciad, the note upon this very question about
the orthography of Shakspeare's name, as also upon the other great
question about the title of the immortal Satire, Whether it ought
not to have been the Dunceiade, seeing that Dunce, its great author
and progenitor, cannot possibly dispense with the letter _e._
Meantime we must remark, that the first three of Mr. Campbell's
variations are mere caprices of the press; as is Shagspere; or,
more probably, this last euphonious variety arose out of the gross
clownish pronunciation of the two hiccuping _"marksmen"_ who
rode over to Worcester for the license; and one cannot forbear
laughing at the bishop's secretary for having been so misled by two
varlets, professedly incapable of signing their own names. The same
drunken villains had cut down the bride's name _Hathaway_ into
_Hathwey._ Finally, to treat the matter with seriousness,

Sir Frederick Madden has shown, in his recent letter to the Society
of Antiquaries, that the poet himself in all probability
_wrote_ the name uniformly _Shakspere._ Orthography, both
of proper names, of appellatives, and of words universally, was
very unsettled up to a period long subsequent to that of
Shakspeare. Still it must usually have happened that names written
variously and laxly by others, would be written uniformly by the
owners; especially by those owners who had occasion to sign their
names frequently, and by literary people, whose attention was
often, as well as consciously, directed to the proprieties of
spelling. _Shakspeare_ is now too familiar to the eye for any
alteration to be attempted; but it is pretty certain that Sir
Frederick Madden is right in stating the poet's own signature to
have been uniformly _Shakspere._ It is so written twice in the
course of his will, and it is so written on a blank leaf of
Florio's English translation of Montaigne's Essays; a book recently
discovered, and sold, on account of its autograph, for a hundred


But, as a proof that, even in the case of royal christenings, it
was not thought pious to "tempt God," as it were, by delay, Edward
VI., the only son of Henry VIII., was born on the 12th day of
October in the year 1537. And there was a delay on account of the
sponsors, since the birth was not in London. Yet how little that
delay was made, may be seen by this fact: The birth took place in
the dead of the night, the day was Friday; and yet, in spite of all
delay, the christening was most pompously celebrated on the
succeeding Monday. And Prince Arthur, the elder brother of Henry
VIII., was christened on the very next Sunday succeeding to his
birth, notwithstanding an inevitable delay, occasioned by the
distance of Lord Oxford, his godfather, and the excessive rains,
which prevented the earl being reached by couriers, or himself
reaching Winchester, without extraordinary exertions.


A great modern poet refers to this very case of music entering "the
mouldy chambers of the dull idiot's brain;" but in support of what
seems to us a baseless hypothesis.


Probably Addison's fear of the national feeling was a good deal
strengthened by his awe of Milton and of Dryden, both of whom had
expressed a homage towards Shakspeare which language cannot
transcend. Amongst his political friends also were many intense
admirers of Shakspeare.


He who is weak enough to kick and spurn his own native literature,
even if it were done with more knowledge than is shown by Lord
Shaftesbury, will usually be kicked and spurned in his turn; and
accordingly it has been often remarked, that the Characteristics
are unjustly neglected in our days. For Lord Shaftesbury, with all
his pedantry, was a man of great talents. Leibnitz had the sagacity
to see this through the mists of a translation.


Perhaps the most bitter political enemy of Charles I. will have the
candor to allow that, for a prince of those times, he was truly and
eminently accomplished. His knowledge of the arts was considerable;
and, as a patron of art, he stands foremost amongst all British
sovereigns to this hour. He said truly of himself, and wisely as to
the principle, that he understood English law as well as a
gentleman ought to understand it; meaning that an attorney's minute
knowledge of forms and technical niceties was illiberal. Speaking
of him as an author, we must remember that the _Eikon
Basilike_ is still unappropriated; that question is still open.
But supposing the king's claim negatived, still, in his controversy
with Henderson, in his negotiations at the Isle of Wight and
elsewhere, he discovered a power of argument, a learning, and a
strength of memory, which are truly admirable; whilst the whole of
his accomplishments are recommended by a modesty and a humility as
rare as they are unaffected.


The necessity of compression obliges us to omit many arguments and
references by which we could demonstrate the fact, that
Shakspeare's reputation was always in a progressive state; allowing
only for the interruption of about seventeen years, which this
poet, in common with all others, sustained, not so much from the
state of war, (which did not fully occupy four of those years,) as
from the triumph of a gloomy fanaticism. Deduct the twenty-three
years of the seventeenth century, which had elapsed before the
first folio appeared, to this space add seventeen years of
fanatical madness, during fourteen of which _all_ dramatic
entertainments were suppressed, the remainder is sixty years. And
surely the sale of four editions of a vast folio in that space of
time was an expression of an abiding interest. _No other poet,
except Spenser, continued to sell throughout the century_.
Besides, in arguing the case of a _dramatic_ poet, we must
bear in mind, that although readers of learned books might be
diffused over the face of the land, the readers of poetry would be
chiefly concentred in the metropolis; and such persons would have
no need to buy what they heard at the theatres. But then comes the
question, whether Shakspeare kept possession of the theatres. And
we are really humiliated by the gross want of sense which has been
shown, by Malone chiefly, but also by many others, in discussing
this question. From the Restoration to 1682, says Malone, no more
than four plays of Shakspeare's were performed by a principal
company in London. "Such was the lamentable taste of those times,
that the plays of Fletcher, Jonson, and Shirley, were much oftener
exhibited than those of our author." What cant is this! If that
taste were "lamentable," what are we to think of our own times,
when plays a thousand times below those of Fletcher, or even of
Shirley, continually displace Shakspeare? Shakspeare would himself
have exulted in finding that he gave way only to dramatists so
excellent. And, as we have before observed, both then and now, it
is the very familiarity with Shakspeare, which often banishes him
from audiences honestly in quest of relaxation and amusement.
Novelty is the very soul of such relaxation; but in our closets,
when we are _not_ unbending, when our minds are in a state of
tension from intellectual cravings, then it is that we resort to
Shakspeare; and oftentimes those who honor him most, like
ourselves, are the most impatient of seeing his divine scenes
disfigured by unequal representation, (good, perhaps, in a single
personation, bad in all the rest;) or to hear his divine thoughts
mangled in the recitation; or, (which is worst of all,) to hear
them dishonored and defeated by imperfect apprehension in the
audience, or by defective sympathy. Meantime, if one theatre played
only four of Shakspeare's dramas, another played at least seven.
But the grossest folly of Malone is, in fancying the numerous
alterations so many insults to Shakspeare, whereas they expressed
as much homage to his memory as if the unaltered dramas had been
retained. The substance _was_ retained. The changes were
merely concessions to the changing views of scenical propriety;
sometimes, no doubt, made with a simple view to the revolution
effected by Davenant at the Restoration, in bringing
_scenes_(in the painter's sense) upon the stage; sometimes
also with a view to the altered fashions of the audience during the
suspensions of the action, or perhaps to the introduction of
_after-pieces,_ by which, of course, the time was abridged for
the main performance. A volume might be written upon this subject.
Meantime let us never be told, that a poet was losing, or had lost
his ground, who found in his lowest depression, amongst his almost
idolatrous supporters, a great king distracted by civil wars, a
mighty republican poet distracted by puritanical fanaticism, the
greatest successor by far of that great poet, a papist and a
bigoted royalist, and finally, the leading actor of the century,
who gave and reflected the ruling impulses of his age.


One of the profoundest tests by which we can measure the
congeniality of an author with the national genius and temper, is
the degree in which his thoughts or his phrases interweave
themselves with our daily conversation, and pass into the currency
of the language. _Few French authors, if any, have imparted one
phrase to the colloquial idiom;_ with respect to Shakspeare, a
large dictionary might be made of such phrases as "win golden
opinions," "in my mind's eye," "patience on a monument,"
"o'erstep the modesty of nature," "more honor'd in the breach than
in the observance," "palmy state," "my poverty and not my will
consents, "and so forth, without end. This reinforcement of the
general language, by aids from the mintage of Shakspeare, had
already commenced in the seventeenth century.


In fact, by way of representing to himself the system or scheme of
the English roads, the reader has only to imagine one great letter
X, or a St. Andrew's cross, laid down from north to south, and
decussating at Birmingham. Even Coventry, which makes a slight
variation for one or two roads, and so far disturbs this
decussation, by shifting it eastwards, is still in Warwickshire.

NOTE 10.

And probably so called by some remote ancestor who had emigrated
from the forest of Ardennes, in the Netherlands, and _now_ for
ever memorable to English ears from its proximity to Waterloo.

NOTE 11.

Let not the reader impute to us the gross anachronism of making an
estimate for Shakspeare's days in a coin which did not exist until
a century, within a couple of years, after Shakspeare's birth, and
did not settle to the value of twenty-one shillings until a century
after his death. The nerve of such an anachronism would lie in
putting the estimate into a mouth of that age. And this is
precisely the blunder into which the foolish forger of Vortigern,
&c., has fallen. He does not indeed directly mention guineas; but
indirectly and virtually he does, by repeatedly giving us accounts
imputed to Shakspearian contemporaries, in which the sum total
amounts to 5L 5s.; or to 26L 5s.; or, again, to 17L 17s. 6d. A man
is careful to subscribe 14L 14s. and so forth. But how could such
amounts have arisen unless under a secret reference to guineas,
which were not in existence until Charles II.'s reign; and,
moreover, to guineas at their final settlement by law into
twenty-one shillings each, which did not take place until George I.
's reign.

NOTE 12.

Thomas Campbell, the poet, in his eloquent Remarks on the Life and
Writings of William Shakspeare, prefixed to a popular edition of
the poet's dramatic works. London, 1838.

NOTE 13.

After all the assistance given to such equations between different
times or different places by Sir George Shuckborough's tables, and
other similar investigations, it is still a very difficult problem,
complex, and, after all, merely tentative in the results, to assign
the true value in such cases; not only for the obvious reason, that
the powers of money have varied in different directions with regard
to different objects, and in different degrees where the direction
has on the whole continued the same, but because the very objects
to be taken into computation are so indeterminate, and vary so
much, not only as regards century and century, kingdom and kingdom,
but also, even in the same century and the same kingdom, as regards
rank and rank. That which is a mere necessary to one, is a
luxurious superfluity to another. And, in order to ascertain these
differences, it is an indispensable qualification to have studied
the habits and customs of the several classes concerned, together
with the variations of those habits and customs.

NOTE 14.

Never was the _esse quain videri_ in any point more strongly
discriminated than in this very point of gallantry to the female
sex, as between England and France. In France, the verbal homage to
woman is so excessive as to betray its real purpose, viz. that it
is a mask for secret contempt. In England, little is said; but, in
the mean time, we allow our sovereign ruler to be a woman; which in
France is impossible. Even that fact is of some importance, but
less so than what follows. In every country whatsoever, if any
principle has a deep root in the moral feelings of the people, we
may rely upon its showing itself, by a thousand evidences amongst
the very lowest ranks, and in their daily intercourse, and their
_undress_ manners. Now in England there is, and always has
been, a manly feeling, most widely diffused, of unwillingness to
see labors of a coarse order, or requiring muscular exertions,
thrown upon women. Pauperism, amongst other evil effects, has
sometimes locally disturbed this predominating sentiment of
Englishmen; but never at any time with such depth as to kill the
root of the old hereditary manliness. Sometimes at this day a
gentleman, either from carelessness, or from overruling force of
convenience, or from real defect of gallantry, will allow a female
servant to carry his portmanteau for him; though, after all, that
spectacle is a rare one. And everywhere women of all ages engage in
the pleasant, nay elegant, labors of the hay field; but in Great
Britain women are never suffered to mow, which is a most athletic
and exhausting labor, nor to load a cart, nor to drive a plough or
hold it. In France, on the other hand, before the Revolution, (at
which period the pseudo-homage, the lip-honor, was far more
ostentatiously professed towards the female sex than at present,) a
Frenchman of credit, and vouching for his statement by the whole
weight of his name and personal responsibility, (M Simond, now an
American citizen,) records the following abominable scene as one of
no uncommon occurrence. A woman was in some provinces yoked side by
side with an ass to the plough or the harrow; and M. Simond
protests that it excited no horror to see the driver distributing
his lashes impartially between the woman and her brute yoke-fellow.
So much for the wordy pomps of French gallantry. In England, we
trust, and we believe, that any man, caught in such a situation,
and in such an abuse of his power, (supposing the case, otherwise a
possible one,) would be killed on the spot.

NOTE 15.

Amongst people of humble rank in England, who only were ever asked
in church, until the new-fangled systems of marriage came up within
the last ten or fifteen years, during the currency of the three
Sundays on which the banns were proclaimed by the clergyman from
the reading desk, the young couple elect were said jocosely to Le
"hanging in the bell-ropes;" alluding perhaps to the joyous peal
contingent on the final completion of the marriage.

NOTE 16.

In a little memoir of Milton, which the author of this article drew
up some years ago for a public society, and which is printed in an
abridged shape, he took occasion to remark, that Dr. Johnson, who
was meanly anxious to revive this slander against Milton, as well
as some others, had supposed Milton himself to have this
flagellation in his mind, and indirectly to confess it, in one of
his Latin poems, where, speaking of Cambridge, and declaring that
he has no longer any pleasure in the thoughts of revisiting that
university, he says,

  "Nee duri libet usque minas preferre magislri,
  Coeteraque ingenio non subeunda meo."

This last line the malicious critic would translate--"And other
things insufferable to a man of my temper." But, as we then
observed, _ingenium_ is properly expressive of the
_intellectual _ constitution, whilst it is the _moral_
constitution that suffers degradation from personal
chastisement--the sense of honor, of personal dignity, of justice,
&c. _Indoles_ is the proper term for this latter idea; and in
using the word _ingenium,_ there cannot be a doubt that Milton
alluded to the dry scholastic disputations, which were shocking and
odious to his fine poetical genius. If, therefore, the vile story
is still to be kept up in order to dishonor a great man, at any
rate let it not in future be pretended that any countenance to such
a slander can be drawn from the confessions of the poet himself.

NOTE 17.

And singular enough it is, as well as interesting, that Shakspeare
had so entirely superseded to his own ear and memory the name
Hamnet by the dramatic name of Hamlet, that in writing his will, he
actually mis-spells the name of his friend Sadler, and calls him
Hamlet. His son, however, who should have familiarized the true
name to his ear, had then been dead for twenty years.

NOTE 18.

"I have heard that Mr. Shakspeare was a natural wit, without any
art at all. Hee frequented the plays all his younger time, but in
his elder days lived at Stanford, and supplied the stage with two
plays every year, and for it had an allowance so large, that he
spent at the rate of 1,000 guineas a-year, as I have heard.
Shakespeare, Dray ton, arid Ben Jonson, had a merie meeting, and it
seems drank too hard, for Shakespear died of a feavour there
contracted" (Diary of the Rev John Ward, A M Vicar of Stratford
upon Avon, extending from 1648 to 1679, p 183 Lond. 1839, 8vo)

NOTE 19.

It is naturally to be supposed that Dr Hall would attend the sick
bed of his father in law, and the discovery of this gentleman's
medical diary promised some gratification to our curiosity as to
the cause of Shakspeare's death. Unfortunately, it does not
commence until the year 1617.

NOTE 20.

An exception ought perhaps to be made for Sir Walter Scott and for
Cervantes, but with regard to all other writers, Dante, suppose, or
Anosto amongst Italians, Camoens amongst those of Portugal,
Schiller amongst Germans, however ably they may have been
naturalized in foreign languages, as all of those here mentioned
(excepting only Anosto) have in one part of their works been most
powerfully naturalized in English, it still remains true, (and the
very sale of the books is proof sufficient,) that an alien author
never does take root in the general sympathies out of his own
country, he takes his station in libraries, he is lead by the man
of learned leisure, he is known and valued by the refined and the
elegant, but he is not (what Shakspeare is for Germany and America)
in any proper sense a _popular_ favorite.

NOTE 21.

It will occur to many readers, that perhaps Homer may furnish the
sole exception to this sweeping assertion. Any _but_ Homer is
clearly and ludicrously below the level of the competition, but
even Homer "with his tail on," (as the Scottish Highlanders say of
then chieftains when belted by their ceremonial retinues,) musters
nothing like the force which _already_ follows Shakspeare, and
be it remembered, that Homer sleeps and has long slept as a subject
of criticism or commentary, while in Germany as well as England,
and _now even in France_, the gathering of wits to the vast
equipage of Shakspeare is advancing in an accelerated ratio. There
is, in fact, a great delusion current upon this subject.
Innumerable references to Homer, and brief critical remarks on
this or that pretension of Homer, this or that scene, this or that
passage, lie scattered over literature ancient and modern; but the
express works dedicated to the separate service of Homer are, after
all, not many. In Greek we have only the large Commentary of
Eustathius, and the Scholia of Didymus, &c.; in French little or
nothing before the prose translation of the seventeenth century,
which Pope esteemed "elegant, "and the skirmishings of Madame
Dacier, La Motte, &c.; in English, besides the various translations
and their prefaces, (which, by the way, began as early as 1555,)
nothing of much importance until the elaborate preface of Pope to
the Iliad, and his elaborate postscript to the Odyssey--nothing
certainly before that, and very little indeed since that, except
Wood's Essay on the Life and Genius of Homer. On the other hand, of
the books written in illustration or investigation of Shakspeare, a
very considerable library might be formed in England, and another
in Germany.

NOTE 22.

Apartment is here used, as the reader will observe, in its true and
continental acceptation, as a division or _compartment_ of a
house including many rooms; a suite of chambers, but a suite which
is partitioned off, (as in palaces,) not a single chamber; a sense
so commonly and so erroneously given to this word in England.

NOTE 23.

And hence, by parity of reason, under the opposite circumstances,
under the circumstances which, instead of abolishing, most
emphatically drew forth the sexual distinctions, viz., in the
_comic_ aspects of social intercourse, the reason that we see
no women on the Greek stage; the Greek Comedy, unless when it
affects the extravagant fun of farce, rejects women.

NOTE 24.

It may be thought, however, by some readers, that Aeschylus, in his
fine phantom of Darius, has approached the English ghost. As a
foreign ghost, we would wish (and we are sure that our excellent
readers would wish) to show every courtesy and attention to this
apparition of Darius. It has the advantage of being royal, an
advantage which it shares with the ghost of the royal Dane. Yet how
different, how removed by a total world, from that or any of
Shakspeare's ghosts! Take that of Banquo, for instance. How
shadowy, how unreal, yet how real! Darius is a mere state ghost--a
diplomatic ghost. But Banquo--he exists only for Macbeth; the
guests do not see him, yet how solemn, how real, how
heart--searching he is.

NOTE 25.

Caliban has not yet been thoroughly fathomed. For all Shakspeare's
great creations are like works of nature, subjects of unexhaustible
study. It was this character of whom Charles I. and some of his
ministers expressed such fervent admiration; and, among other
circumstances, most justly they admired the new language almost
with which he is endowed, for the purpose of expressing his
fiendish and yet carnal thoughts of hatred to his master. Caliban
is evidently not meant for scorn, but for abomination mixed with
fear and partial respect. He is purposely brought into contrast
with the drunken Trinculo and Stephano, with an advantageous
result. He is much more intellectual than either, uses a more
elevated language, not disfigured by vulgarisms, and is not liable
to the low passion for plunder as they are. He is mortal,
doubtless, as his "dam" (for Shakspeare will not call her mother)
Sycorax. But he inherits from her such qualities of power as a
witch could be supposed to bequeath. He trembles indeed before
Prospero; but that is, as we are to understand, through the moral
superiority of Prospero in Christian wisdom; for when he finds
himself in the presence of dissolute and unprincipled men, he rises
at once into the dignity of intellectual power.


Alexander Lexander Pope, the most brilliant of all wits who have at
period applied themselves to the poetic treatment of human manners,
to the selecting from the play of human character what is
picturesque, or the arresting what is fugitive, was born in the
city of London on the 21st day of May, in the memorable year 1688;
about six months, therefore, before the landing of the Prince of
Orange, and the opening of that great revolution which gave the
final ratification to all previous revolutions of that tempestuous
century. By the "city" of London the reader is to understand us as
speaking with technical accuracy of that district, which lies
within the ancient walls and the jurisdiction of the lord mayor.
The parents of Pope, there is good reason to think, were of "gentle
blood," which is the expression of the poet himself when describing
them in verse. His mother was so undoubtedly; and her illustrious
son, in speaking of her to Lord Harvey, at a time when any
exaggeration was open to an easy refutation, and writing in a
spirit most likely to provoke it, does not scruple to say, with a
tone of dignified haughtiness not unbecoming the situation of a
filial champion on behalf of an insulted mother, that by birth and
descent she was not below that young lady, (one of the two
beautiful Miss Lepels,) whom his lordship had selected from all the
choir of court beauties as the future mother of his children. Of
Pope's extraction and immediate lineage for a space of two
generations we know enough. Beyond that we know little. Of this
little a part is dubious; and what we are disposed to receive as
_not_ dubious, rests chiefly on his own authority. In the
prologue to his Satires, having occasion to notice the lampooners
of the times, who had represented his father as "a mechanic, a
hatter, a farmer, nay a bankrupt," he feels himself called upon to
state the truth about his parents; and naturally much more so at a
time when the low scurrilities of these obscure libellers had been
adopted, accredited, and diffused by persons so distinguished in
all points of personal accomplishment and rank as Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu and Lord Harvey: _"hard as thy heart"_ was one of the
lines in their joint pasquinade, _" hard as thy heart, and as thy
birth obscure."_ Accordingly he makes the following formal
statement: "Mr. Pope's father was of a gentleman's family in
Oxfordshire, the head of which was the Earl of Downe. His mother
was the daughter of William Turner, Esq., of York. She had three
brothers, one of whom was killed; another died in the service of
King Charles [meaning Charles I.]; the eldest, following his
fortunes, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left _her_
what estate remained after the sequestrations and forfeitures of
her family." The sequestrations here spoken of were those inflicted
by the commissioners for the parliament; and usually they levied a
fifth, or even two fifths, according to the apparent delinquency of
the parties. But in such cases two great differences arose in the
treatment of the royalists; first, that the report was colored
according to the interest which a man possessed, or other private
means for biassing the commissioners; secondly, that often, when
money could not be raised on mortgage to meet the sequestration, it
became necessary to sell a family estate suddenly, and. therefore
in those times at great loss; so that a nominal fifth might be
depressed by favor to a tenth, or raised by the necessity of
selling to a half. And hence might arise the small dowry of Mrs.
Pope, notwithstanding the family estate in Yorkshire had centred in
her person. But, by the way, we see from the fact of the eldest
brother having sought service in Spain, that Mrs. Pope was a
Papist; not, like her husband, by conversion, but by hereditary
faith. This account, as publicly thrown out in the way of challenge
by Pope, was, however, sneered at by a certain Mr. Pottinger of
those days, who, together with his absurd name, has been safely
transmitted to posterity in connection with this single feat of
having contradicted Alexander Pope. We read in a diary published by
the Microcosm," _Met a large hat, with a man under it_. "And
so, here, we cannot so properly say that Mr. Pottinger brings down
the contradiction to our times, as that the contradiction brings
down Mr. Pottinger." Cousin Pope, "said Pottinger," had made
himself out a fine pedigree, but he wondered where he got it. "And
he then goes on to plead in abatement of Pope's pretensions," that
an old maiden aunt, equally related," (that is, standing in the
same relation to himself and to the poet,) "a great genealogist, who
was always talking of her family, never mentioned this
circumstance." And again we are told, from another quarter, that
the Earl of Guildford, after express investigation of this matter,
"was sure that," amongst the descendants of the Earls of Downe,
"there was none of the name of Pope." How it was that Lord
Guildford came to have any connection with the affair, is not
stated by the biographers of Pope; but we have ascertained that, by
marriage with a female descendant from the Earls of Downe, he had
come into possession of their English estates.

Finally, though it is rather for the honor of the Earls of Downe
than of Pope to make out the connection, we must observe that Lord
Guildford's testimony, _if ever given at all_, is simply
negative; he had found no proofs of the connection, but he had not
found any proofs to destroy it; whilst, on the other hand, it ought
to be mentioned, though unaccountably overlooked by all previous
biographers, that one of Pope's anonymous enemies, who hated him
personally, but was apparently master of his family history, and
too honorable to belie his own convictions, expressly affirms of
his own authority, and without reference to any claim put forward
by Pope, that he was descended from a junior branch of the Downe
family. Which testimony has a double value; first, as corroborating
the probability of Pope's statement viewed in the light of a fact;
and, secondly, as corroborating that same statement viewed in the
light of a current story, true or false, and not as a disingenuous
fiction put forward by Pope to confute Lord Harvey.

It is probable to us, that the Popes, who had been originally
transplanted from England to Ireland, had in the person of some
cadet been re-transplanted to England; and that having in that way
been disconnected from all personal recognition, and all local
memorials of the capital house, by this sort of
_postliminium_, the junior branch had ceased to cherish the
honor of a descent which was now divided from all direct advantage.
At all events, the researches of Pope's biographers have not been
able to trace him farther back in the paternal line than to his
grandfather; and he (which is odd enough, considering the popery of
his descendants) was a clergyman of the established church in
Hampshire. This grandfather had two sons. Of the eldest nothing is
recorded beyond the three facts, that he went to Oxford, that he
died there, and that he spent the family estate. [Endnote: 2] The
younger son, whose name was Alexander, had been sent when young, in
some commercial character, to Lisbon; [Endnote: 3] and there it
was, in that centre of bigotry, that he became a sincere and most
disinterested Catholic. He returned to England; married a Catholic
young widow; and became the father of a second Alexander Pope,
_ultra Sauromatas notus et Antipodes._

By his own account to Spence, Pope learned "very early to read;"
and writing he taught himself "by copying, from printed books;"
all which seems to argue, that, as an only child, with an indolent
father and a most indulgent mother, he was not molested with much
schooling in his infancy. Only one adventure is recorded of his
childhood, viz., that he was attacked by a cow, thrown down, and
wounded in the throat.

Pope escaped this disagreeable kind of vaccination without serious
injury, and was not farther tormented by cows or schoolmasters
until he was about eight years old, when the family priest, that
is, we presume, the confessor of his parents, taught him, agreeably
to the Jesuit system, the rudiments of Greek and Latin
concurrently. This priest was named Banister; and his name is
frequently employed, together with other fictitious names, by way
of signature to the notes in the Dunciad, an artifice which was
adopted for the sake of giving a characteristic variety to the
notes, according to the tone required for the illustration of the
text. From his tuition Pope was at length dismissed to a Catholic
school at Twyford, near Winchester. The selection of a school in
this neighborhood, though certainly the choice of a Catholic family
was much limited, points apparently to the old Hampshire connection
of his father. Here an incident occurred which most powerfully
illustrates the original and constitutional determination to satire
of this irritable poet. He knew himself so accurately, that in
after times, half by way of boast, half of confession, he says,

  "But touch me, and no Minister so sore:
  Whoe'er offends, at some unlucky time
  Slides into verse and hitches in a rhyme,
  Sacred to ridicule his whole life long,
  And the sad burthen of some merry song."

Already, it seems, in childhood he had the same irresistible
instinct, victorious over the strongest sense of personal danger.
He wrote a bitter satire upon the presiding pedagogue, was brutally
punished for this youthful indiscretion, and indignantly removed by
his parents from the school. Mr. Roscoe speaks of Pope's personal
experience as necessarily unfavorable to public schools; but in
reality he knew nothing of public schools. All the establishments
for Papists were narrow, and suited to their political depression;
and his parents were too sincerely anxious for their son's
religious principles to risk the contagion of Protestant
association by sending him elsewhere.

From the scene [Endnote: 4] of his disgrace and illiberal
punishment, he passed, according to the received accounts, under
the tuition of several other masters in rapid succession. But it is
the less necessary to trouble the reader with their names, as Pope
himself assures us, that he learned nothing from any of them. To
Banister he had been indebted for such trivial elements of a
schoolboy's learning as he possessed at all, excepting those which
he had taught himself. And upon himself it was, and his own
admirable faculties, that he was now finally thrown for the rest of
his education, at an age so immature that many boys are then first
entering their academic career. Pope is supposed to have been
scarcely twelve years old when he assumed the office of
self-tuition, and bade farewell for ever to schools and tutors.

Such a phenomenon is at any rate striking. It is the more so, under
the circumstances which attended the plan, and under the results
which justified its execution. It seems, as regards the plan,
hardly less strange that prudent parents should have acquiesced in
a scheme of so much peril to his intellectual interests, than that
the son, as regards the execution, should have justified their
confidence by his final success. More especially this confidence
surprises us in the father. A doating mother might shut her eyes to
all remote evils in the present gratification to her affections;
but Pope's father was a man of sense and principle; he must have
weighed the risks besetting a boy left to his own intellectual
guidance; and to these risks he would allow the more weight from
his own conscious defect of scholarship and inability to guide or
even to accompany his son's studies. He could neither direct the
proper choice of studies; nor in any one study taken separately
could he suggest the proper choice of books.

The case we apprehend to have been this. Alexander Pope, the elder,
was a man of philosophical desires and unambitious character. Quiet
and seclusion and innocence of life,--these were what he affected
for himself; and that which had been found available for his own
happiness, he might reasonably wish for his son. The two hinges
upon which his plans may be supposed to have turned, were, first,
the political degradation of his sect; and, secondly, the fact that
his son was an only child. Had he been a Protestant, or had he,
though a Papist, been burthened with a large family of children, he
would doubtless have pursued a different course. But to him, and,
as he sincerely hoped, to his son, the strife after civil honors
was sternly barred. Apostasy only could lay it open. And, as the
sentiments of honor and duty in this point fell in with the vices
of his temperament, high principle concurring with his
constitutional love of ease, we need not wonder that he should
early retire from commerce with a very moderate competence, or that
he should suppose the same fortune sufficient for one who was to
stand in the same position. This son was from his birth deformed.
That made it probable that he might not marry. If he should, and
happened to have children, a small family would find an adequate
provision in the patrimonial funds; and a large one at the worst
could only throw him upon the same commercial exertions to which he
had been obliged himself. The Roman Catholics, indeed, were just
then situated as our modern Quakers are. Law to the one, as
conscience to the other, closed all modes of active employment
except that of commercial industry. Either his son, therefore,
would be a rustic recluse, or, like himself, he would be a

With such prospects, what need of an elaborate education? And where
was such an education to be sought? At the petty establishments of
the suffering Catholics, the instruction, as he had found
experimentally, was poor. At the great national establishments his
son would be a degraded person; one who was permanently repelled
from every arena of honor, and sometimes, as in cases of public
danger, was banished from the capital, deprived of his house, left
defenceless against common ruffians, and rendered liable to the
control of every village magistrate. To one in these circumstances
solitude was the wisest position, and the best qualification, for
that was an education that would furnish aids to solitary thought.
No need for brilliant accomplishments to him who must never display
them; forensic arts, pulpit erudition, senatorial eloquence,
academical accomplishments--these would be lost to one against whom
the courts, the pulpit, the senate, the universities, were closed.
Nay, by possibility worse than lost; they might prove so many
snares or positive bribes to apostasy. Plain English, therefore,
and the high thinking of his compatriot authors, might prove the
best provision for the mind of an English Papist destined to

Such are the considerations under which we read and interpret the
conduct of Pope's parents; and they lead us to regard as wise and
conscientious a scheme which, under ordinary circumstances, would
have been pitiably foolish. And be it remembered, that to these
considerations, derived exclusively from the civil circumstances of
the family, were superadded others derived from the astonishing
prematurity of the individual. That boy who could write at twelve
years of age the beautiful and touching stanzas on Solitude, might
well be trusted with the superintendence of his own studies. And
the stripling of sixteen, who could so far transcend in good sense
the accomplished statesmen or men of the world with whom he
afterwards corresponded, might challenge confidence for such a
choice of books as would best promote the development of his own

In reality, one so finely endowed as Alexander Pope, could not
easily lose his way in the most extensive or ill-digested library.
And though he tells Atterbury, that at one time he abused his
opportunities by reading controversial divinity, we may be sure
that his own native activities, and the elasticity of his mind,
would speedily recoil into a just equilibrium of study, under wider
and happier opportunities. Reading, indeed, for a person like Pope,
is rather valuable as a means of exciting his own energies, and of
feeding his own sensibilities, than for any direct acquisitions of
knowledge, or for any trains of systematic research. All men are
destined to devour much rubbish between the cradle and the grave;
and doubtless the man who is wisest in the choice of his books,
will have read many a page before he dies that a thoughtful review
would pronounce worthless. This is the fate of all men. But the
reading of Pope, as a general result or measure of his judicious
choice, is best justified in his writings. They show him well
furnished with whatsoever he wanted for matter or for
embellishment, for argument or illustration, for example and model,
or for direct and explicit imitation.

Possibly, as we have already suggested, within the range of English
literature Pope might have found all that he wanted. But variety
the widest has its uses; and, for the extension of his influence
with the polished classes amongst whom he lived, he did wisely to
add other languages; and a question has thus arisen with regard to
the extent of Pope's attainments as a self-taught linguist. A man,
or even a boy, of great originality, may happen to succeed best, in
working his own native mines of thought, by his unassisted
energies. Here it is granted that a tutor, a guide, or even a
companion, may be dispensed with, and even beneficially. But in the
case of foreign languages, in attaining this machinery of
literature, though anomalies even here do arise, and men there are,
like Joseph Scaliger, who form their own dictionaries and grammars
in the mere process of reading an unknown language, by far the
major part of students will lose their time by rejecting the aid of
tutors. As there has been much difference of opinion with regard to
Pope's skill in languages, we shall briefly collate and bring into
one focus the stray notices.

As to the French, Voltaire, who knew Pope personally, declared that
he "could hardly _read_ it, and spoke not one syllable of the
language." But perhaps Voltaire might dislike Pope? On the
contrary, he was acquainted with his works, and admired them to the
very level of their merits. Speaking of him _after death_ to
Frederick of Prussia, he prefers him to Horace and Boileau,
asserting that, by comparison with _them_,

  "Pope _approfondit_ ce qu'ils ont _effleura_.
  D'un esprit plus hardi, d'un pas plus assure,
  Il porta le flambeau dans l'abeme de l'otre;
  Et l'homme _avec lui seul_ apprit a se connoetre.
  L'art quelquefois frivole, et quelquefois divine,
  L'art des vers est dans Pope utile au genre humain."

This is not a wise account of Pope, for it does not abstract the
characteristic feature of his power; but it is a very kind one. And
of course Voltaire could not have meant any unkindness in denying
his knowledge of French. But he was certainly wrong. Pope, in
_his_ presence, would decline to speak or to read a language
of which the pronunciation was confessedly beyond him. Or, if he
did, the impression left would be still worse. In fact, no man ever
will pronounce or talk a language which he does not use, for some
part of every day, in the real intercourse of life. But that Pope
read French of an ordinary cast with fluency enough, is evident
from the extensive use which he made of Madame Dacier's labors on
the Iliad, and still more of La Valterie's prose translation of the
Iliad. Already in the year 1718, and long before his personal
knowledge of Voltaire, Pope had shown his accurate acquaintance
with some voluminous French authors, in a way which, we suspect,
was equally surprising and offensive to his noble correspondent.
The Duke of Buckingham [Endnote: 5] had addressed to Pope a
letter, containing some account of the controversy about Homer,
which had then been recently carried on in France between La Motte
and Madame Dacier. This account was delivered with an air of
teaching, which was very little in harmony with its excessive
shallowness. Pope, who sustained the part of pupil in this
interlude, replied in a manner that exhibited a knowledge of the
parties concerned in the controversy much superior to that of the
duke. In particular, he characterized the excellent notes upon
Horace of M. Dacier, the husband, in very just terms, as
distinguished from those of his conceited and half-learned wife;
and the whole reply of Pope seems very much as though he had been
playing off a mystification on his grace. Undoubtedly the pompous
duke felt that he had caught a Tartar. Now M. Dacier's Horace,
which, with the text, fills nine volumes, Pope could not have read
_except_ in French; for they are not even yet translated into
English. Besides, Pope read critically the French translations of
his own Essay on Man, Essay on Criticism, Rape of the Lock, &c. He
spoke of them as a critic; and it was at no time a fault of Pope's
to make false pretensions. All readers of Pope's Satires must also
recollect numerous proofs, that he had read Boileau with so much
feeling of his peculiar merit, that he has appropriated and
naturalized in English some of his best passages. Voltaire was,
therefore, certainly wrong.

Of Italian literature, meantime, Pope knew little or nothing; and
simply because he knew nothing of the language. Tasso, indeed, he
admired; and, which is singular, more than Ariosto. But we believe
that he had read him only in English; and it is certain that he
could not take up an Italian author, either in prose or verse, for
the unaffected amusement of his leisure.

Greek, we all know has been denied to Pope, ever since he
translated Homer, and chiefly in consequence of that translation.
This seems at first sight unfair, because criticism has not
succeeded in fixing upon Pope any errors of ignorance. His
deviations from Homer were uniformly the result of imperfect
sympathy with the naked simplicity of the antique, and therefore
wilful deviations, not (like those of his more pretending
competitors, Addison and Tickell) pure blunders of misapprehension.
But yet it is not inconsistent with this concession to Pope's
merits, that we must avow our belief in his thorough ignorance of
Greek when he first commenced his task. And to us it seems
astonishing that nobody should have adverted to that fact as a
sufficient solution, and in fact the only plausible solution, of
Pope's excessive depression of spirits in the earliest stage of his
labors. This depression, after he had once pledged himself to his
subscribers for the fulfilment of his task, arose from, and could
have arisen from nothing else than, his conscious ignorance of
Greek in connection with the solemn responsibilities he had assumed
in the face of a great nation. Nay, even countries as
presumptuously disdainful of tramontane literature as Italy took an
interest in this memorable undertaking. Bishop Berkeley found
Salvini reading it at Florence; and Madame Dacier even, who read
little but Greek, and certainly no English until then, condescended
to study it. Pope's dejection, therefore, or rather agitation (for
it impressed by sympathy a tumultuous character upon his dreams,
which lasted for years after the cause had ceased to operate) was
perfectly natural under the explanation we have given, but not
otherwise. And how did he surmount this unhappy self-distrust?
Paradoxical as it may sound, we will venture to say, that, with the
innumerable aids for interpreting Homer which even then existed, a
man sufficiently acquainted with Latin might make a translation
even critically exact. This Pope was not long in discovering. Other
alleviations of his labor concurred, and in a ratio daily

The same formulae were continually recurring, such as,

  _"But him answering, thus addressed the swift-footed Achilles;"_


  _"But him sternly beholding, thus spoke Agamemnon the king
    of men."_

Then, again, universally the Homeric Greek, from many causes, is
easy; and especially from these two:

1 _st_, The simplicity of the thought, which never gathers
into those perplexed knots of rhetorical condensation, which we
find in the dramatic poets of a higher civilization.

2 _dly_, From the constant hounds set to the expansion of the
thought by the form of the metre; an advantage of verse which makes
the poets so much easier to a beginner in the German language than
the illimitable weavers of prose. The line or the stanza reins up
the poet tightly to his theme, and will not suffer him to
expatiate. Gradually, therefore, Pope came to read the Homeric
Greek, but never accurately; nor did he ever read Eustathius
without aid from Latin. As to any knowledge of the Attic Greek, of
the Greek of the dramatists, the Greek of Plato, the Greek of
Demosthenes, Pope neither had it nor affected to have it. Indeed it
was no foible of Pope's, as we will repeat, to make claims which he
had not, or even to dwell ostentatiously upon those which he had.
And with respect to Greek in particular, there is a manuscript
letter in existence from Pope to a Mr. Bridges at Falham, which,
speaking of the original Homer, distinctly records the knowledge
which he had of his own "imperfectness in the language." Chapman, a
most spirited translator of Homer, probably had no very critical
skill in Greek; and Hobbes was, beyond all question, as poor a
Grecian as he was a doggerel translator; yet in this letter Pope
professes his willing submission to the "authority" of Chapman and
Hobbes, as superior to his own.

Finally, in _Latin_ Pope was a "considerable proficient," even
by the cautious testimony of Dr. Johnson; and in this language only
the doctor was an accomplished critic. If Pope had really the
proficiency here ascribed to him, he must have had it already in
his boyish years; for the translation from Statius, which is the
principal monument of his skill, was executed _before_ he was
fourteen. We have taken the trouble to throw a hasty glance over
it; and whilst we readily admit the extraordinary talent which it
shows, as do all the juvenile essays of Pope, we cannot allow that
it argues any accurate skill in Latin. The word Malea, as we have
seen noticed by some editor, he makes Malea; which in itself, as
the name was not of common occurrence, would not have been an error
worth noticing; but, taken in connection with the certainty that
Pope had the original line before him--

  "Arripit ex templo Maleae de valle resurgens,"

when not merely the scanning theoretically, but the
whole rhythm is practically, to the most obtuse ear, would be
annihilated by Pope's false quantity, is a blunder which serves to
show his utter ignorance of prosody. But, even as a version of the
sense, with every allowance for a poet's license of compression and
expansion, Pope's translation is defective, and argues an
occasional inability to construe the text. For instance, at the
council summoned by Jupiter, it is said that he at his first
entrance seats himself upon his starry throne, but not so the
inferior gods;

    "Nec protinus ausi
  Coelicolae, veniam donee pater ipse sedendi
  Tranquilla jubet esse manu."

In which passage there is a slight obscurity, from the ellipsis of
the word _sedere_, or _sese locare_; but the meaning is
evidently that the other gods did not presume to sit down
_protinus_, that is, in immediate succession to Jupiter, and
interpreting his example as a tacit license to do so, until, by a
gentle wave of his hand, the supreme father signifies his express
permission to take their seats. But Pope, manifestly unable to
extract any sense from the passage, translates thus:

  "At Jove's assent the deities around
  In solemn slate the consistory _crown'd_;"

where at once the whole picturesque solemnity of the celestial
ritual melts into the vaguest generalities. Again, at v. 178,
_ruptaeque vices_ is translated," _and all the ties of
nature broke_; "but by vices is indicated the alternate reign of
the two brothers, as ratified by mutual oaths, and subsequently
violated by Eteocles. Other mistakes might be cited, which seem to
prove that Pope, like most self-taught linguists, was a very
imperfect one. [Endnote: 6] Pope, in short, never rose to such a
point in classical literature as to read either Greek or Latin
authors without effort, and for his private amusement.

The result, therefore, of Pope's self-tuition appears to us,
considered in the light of an attempt to acquire certain
accomplishments of knowledge, a most complete failure. As a
linguist, he read no language with ease; none with pleasure to
himself; and none with so much accuracy as could have carried him
through the most popular author with a general independence on
interpreters. But, considered with a view to his particular
faculties and slumbering originality of power, which required
perhaps the stimulation of accident to arouse them effectually, we
are very much disposed to think that the very failure of his
education as an artificial training was a great advantage finally
for inclining his mind to throw itself, by way of indemnification,
upon its native powers. Had he attained, as with better tuition he
would have attained, distinguished excellence as a scholar, or as a
student of science, the chances are many that he would have settled
down into such studies as thousands could pursue not less
successfully than he; whilst as it was, the very dissatisfaction
which he could not but feel with his slender attainments, must have
given him a strong motive for cultivating those impulses of
original power which he felt continually stirring within him, and
which were vivified into trials of competition as often as any
distinguished excellence was introduced to his knowledge.

Pope's father, at the time of his birth, lived in Lombard Street;
[Endnote: 7] a street still familiar to the public eye, from its
adjacency to some of the chief metropolitan establishments, and to
the English ear possessing a degree of historical importance;
first, as the residence of those Lombards, or Milanese, who
affiliated our infant commerce to the matron splendors of the
Adriatic and the Mediterranean; next, as the central resort of
thrme jewellers, or "goldsmiths," as they were styled, who
performed all the functions of modern bankers from the period of
the parliamentary war to the rise of the Bank of England, that is,
for six years after the birth of Pope; and, lastly, as the seat,
until lately, of that vast Post Office, through which, for so long
a period, has passed the correspondence of all nations and
languages, upon a scale unknown to any other country. In this
street Alexander Pope the elder had a house, and a warehouse, we
presume, annexed, in which he conducted the wholesale business of a
linen merchant. As soon as he had made a moderate fortune he
retired from business, first to Kensington, and afterwards to
Binfield, in Windsor Forest. The period of this migration is not
assigned by any writer. It is probable that a prudent man would not
adopt it with any prospect of having more children. But this chance
might be considered as already extinguished at the birth of Pope;
for though his father had then only attained his forty-fourth year,
Mrs. Pope had completed her forty-eighth. It is probable, from the
interval of seven days which is said to have elapsed between Pope's
punishment and his removal from the school, that his parents were
then living at such a distance from him as to prevent his ready
communication with them, else we may be sure that Mrs. Pope would
have flown on the wings of love and wrath to the rescue of her
darling. Supposing, therefore, as we _do_ suppose, that Mr.
Bromley's school in London was the scene of his disgrace, it would
appear on this argument that his parents were then living in
Windsor Forest. And this hypothesis falls in with another anecdote
in Pope's life, which we know partly upon his own authority. He
tells Wycherley that he had seen Dryden, and barely seen him.
_Virgilium vidi tantum_. This is presumed to have been in
Will's Coffee-house, whither any person in search of Dryden would
of course resort; and it must have been before Pope was twelve
years old, for Dryden died in 1700. Now there is a letter of Sir
Charles Wogan's, stating that he first took Pope to Will's; and his
words are, "from our forest." Consequently, at that period, when he
had not completed his twelfth year, Pope was already living in the

From this period, and so long as the genial spirits of youth
lasted, Pope's life must have been one dream of pleasure. He tells
Lord Harvey that his mother did not spoil him; but that was no
doubt because there was no room for wilfulness or waywardness on
either side, when all was one placid scene of parental obedience
and gentle filial authority. We feel persuaded that, if not in
words, in spirit and inclination, they would, in any notes they
might have occasion to write, subscribe themselves "your dutiful
parents." And of what consequence in whose hands were the reins
which were never needed? Every reader must be pleased to know that
these idolizing parents lived to see their son at the very summit
of his public elevation; even his father lived two years and a half
after the publication of his Homer had commenced, and when his
fortune was made; and his mother lived for nearly eighteen years
more. What a felicity for her, how rare and how perfect, to find
that he, who to her maternal eyes was naturally the most perfect of
human beings, and the idol of her heart, had already been the idol
of the nation before he had completed his youth. She had also
another blessing not always commanded by the most devoted love;
many sons there are who think it essential to manliness that they
should treat their mother's doating anxiety with levity, or even
ridicule. But Pope, who was the model of a good son, never swerved
in words, manners, or conduct, from the most respectful tenderness,
or intermitted the piety of his attentions. And so far did he carry
this regard for his mother's comfort, that, well knowing how she
lived upon his presence or by his image, he denied himself for many
years all excursions which could not be fully accomplished within
the revolution of a week. And to this cause, combined with the
excessive length of his mother's life, must be ascribed the fact
that Pope never went abroad; not to Italy with Thomson or with
Berkeley, or any of his diplomatic friends; not to Ireland, where
his presence would have been hailed as a national honor; not even
to France, on a visit to his admiring and admired friend Lord
Bolingbroke. For as to the fear of sea-sickness, _that_ did
not arise until a late period of his life; and at any period would
not have operated to prevent his crossing from Dover to Calais. It
is possible that, in his earlier and more sanguine years, all the
perfection of his filial love may not have availed to prevent him
from now and then breathing a secret murmur at confinement so
constant. But it is certain that, long before he passed the
meridian of his life, Pope had come to view this confinement with
far other thoughts. Experience had then taught him, that to no man
is the privilege granted of possessing more than one or two friends
who are such in extremity. By that time he had come to view his
mother's death with fear and anguish. She, he knew by many a sign,
would have been happy to lay down her life for his sake; but for
others, even those who were the most friendly and the most constant
in their attentions, he felt but too certainly that his death, or
his heavy affliction, might cost them a few sighs, but would not
materially disturb their peace of mind. "It is but in a very narrow
circle," says he, in a confidential letter, "that friendship walks
in this world, and I care not to tread out of it more than I needs
must; knowing well it is but to two or three, (if quite so many,)
that any man's welfare or memory can be of consequence." After such
acknowledgments, we are not surprised to find him writing thus of
his mother, and his fearful struggles to fight off the shock of his
mother's death, at a time when it was rapidly approaching. After
having said of a friend's death, "the subject is beyond writing
upon, beyond cure or ease by reason or reflection, beyond all but
one thought, that it is the will of God," he goes on thus, "So will
the death of my mother be, which now I tremble at, now resign to,
now bring close to me, now set farther off; every day alters, turns
me about, confuses my whole frame of mind." There is no pleasure,
he adds, which the world can give "equivalent to countervail either
the death of one I have so long lived with, or of one I have so
long lived for." How will he comfort himself after her death? "I
have nothing left but to turn my thoughts to one comfort, the last
we usually think of, though the only one we should in wisdom depend
upon. I sit in her room, and she is always present before me but
when I sleep. I wonder I am so well. I have shed many tears; but
now I weep at nothing."

A man, therefore, happier than Pope in his domestic relations
cannot easily have lived. It is true these relations were
circumscribed; had they been wider, they could not have been so
happy. But Pope was equally fortunate in his social relations.
What, indeed, most of all surprises us, is the courteous,
flattering, and even brilliant reception which Pope found from his
earliest boyhood amongst the most accomplished men of the world.
Wits, courtiers, statesmen, grandees the most dignified, and men of
fashion the most brilliant, all alike treated him not only with
pointed kindness, but with a respect that seemed to acknowledge him
as their intellectual superior. Without rank, high birth, fortune,
without even a literary name, and in defiance of a deformed person,
Pope, whilst yet only sixteen years of age, was caressed, and even
honored; and all this with no one recommendation but simply the
knowledge of his dedication to letters, and the premature
expectations which he raised of future excellence. Sir William
Trumbull, a veteran statesman, who had held the highest stations,
both diplomatic and ministerial, made him his daily companion.
Wycherley, the old _roue_ of the town, a second-rate wit, but
not the less jealous on that account, showed the utmost deference
to one whom, as a man of fashion, he must have regarded with
contempt, and between whom and himself there were nearly "fifty
good years of fair and foul weather." Cromwell, [Endnote: 8] a
fox-hunting country gentleman, but uniting with that character the
pretensions of a wit, and affecting also the reputation of a rake,
cultivated his regard with zeal and conscious inferiority. Nay,
which never in any other instance happened to the most fortunate
poet, his very inaugural essays in verse were treated, not as
prelusive efforts of auspicious promise, but as finished works of
art, entitled to take their station amongst the literature of the
land; and in the most worthless of all his poems, Walsh, an
established authority, and whom Dryden pronounced the ablest critic
of the age, found proofs of equality with Virgil.

The literary correspondence with these gentlemen is interesting, as
a model of what once passed for fine letter-writing. Every nerve
was strained to outdo each other in carving all thoughts into a
fillagree work of rhetoric; and the amoebaean contest was like that
between two village cocks from neighboring farms endeavoring to
overcrow each other. To us, in this age of purer and more masculine
taste, the whole scene takes the ludicrous air of old and young
fops dancing a minuet with each other, practising the most
elaborate grimaces, sinkings and risings the most awful, bows the
most overshadowing, until plain walking, running, or the motions of
natural dancing, are thought too insipid for endurance. In this
instance the taste had perhaps really been borrowed from France,
though often enough we impute to France what is the native growth
of all minds placed in similar circumstances. Madame de Sevigne's
Letters were really models of grace. But Balzac, whose letters,
however, are not without interest, had in some measure formed
himself upon the truly magnificent rhetoric of Pliny and Seneca.
Pope and his correspondents, meantime, degraded the dignity of
rhetoric, by applying it to trivial commonplaces of compliment;
whereas Seneca applied it to the grandest themes which life or
contemplation can supply. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, on first
coming amongst the wits of the day, naturally adopted their style.
She found this sort of _euphuism_ established; and it was not
for a very young woman to oppose it. But her masculine
understanding and powerful good sense, shaken free, besides, from
all local follies by travels and extensive commerce with the world,
first threw off these glittering chains of affectation.

Dean Swift, by the very constitution of his mind, plain, sinewy,
nervous, and courting only the strength that allies itself with
homeliness, was always indisposed to this mode of correspondence.
And, finally, Pope himself, as his earlier friends died off, and
his own understanding acquired strength, laid it aside altogether.
One reason doubtless was, that he found it too fatiguing; since in
this way of letter-writing he was put to as much expense of wit in
amusing an individual correspondent, as would for an equal extent
have sufficed to delight the whole world. A funambulist may harass
his muscles and risk his neck on the tight-rope, but hardly to
entertain his own family. Pope, however, had another reason for
declining this showy system of fencing; and strange it is that he
had not discovered this reason from the very first. As life
advanced, it happened unavoidably that real business advanced; the
careless condition of youth prompted no topics, or at least
prescribed none, but such as were agreeable to the taste, and
allowed of an ornamental coloring. But when downright business
occurred, exchequer bills to be sold, meetings to be arranged,
negotiations confided, difficulties to be explained, here and there
by possibility a jest or two might be scattered, a witty allusion
thrown in, or a sentiment interwoven; but for the main body of the
case, it neither could receive any ornamental treatment, nor if, by
any effort of ingenuity, it _had_, could it look otherwise
than silly and unreasonable:

  "Ornari les a ipsa negat, contenta doceri."

Pope's idleness, therefore, on the one hand, concurring with good
sense and the necessities of business on the other, drove him to
quit his gay rhetoric in letter-writing. But there are passages
surviving in his correspondence which indicate, that, after all,
had leisure and the coarse perplexities of life permitted it, he
still looked with partiality upon his youthful style, and cherished
it as a first love. But in this harsh world, as the course of true
love, so that of rhetoric, never did run smooth; and thus it
happened that, with a lingering farewell, he felt himself forced to
bid it adieu. Strange that any man should think his own sincere and
confidential overflowings of thought and feeling upon books, men,
and public affairs, less valuable in a literary view than the
legerdemain of throwing up bubbles into the air for the sake of
watching their prismatic hues, like an Indian juggler with his cups
and balls. We of this age, who have formed our notions of
epistolary excellence from the chastity of Gray's, the brilliancy
of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's during her later life, and the
mingled good sense and fine feeling of Cowper's, value only those
letters of Pope which he himself thought of inferior value. And
even with regard to these, we may say that there is a great mistake
made; the best of those later letters between Pope and Swift, &c.,
are not in themselves at all superior to the letters of sensible
and accomplished women, such as leave every town in the island by
every post. Their chief interest is a derivative one; we are
pleased with any letter, good or bad, which relates to men of such
eminent talent; and sometimes the subjects discussed have a
separate interest for themselves. But as to the quality of the
discussion, apart from the person discussing and the thing
discussed, so trivial is the value of these letters in a large
proportion, that we cannot but wonder at the preposterous value
which was set upon them by the writers. [Endnote: 9] Pope
especially ought not to have his ethereal works loaded by the mass
of trivial prose which is usually attached to them.

This correspondence, meantime, with the wits of the time, though
one mode by which, in the absence of reviews, the reputation of an
author was spread, did not perhaps serve the interests of Pope so
effectually as the poems which in this way he circulated in those
classes of English society whose favor he chiefly courted. One of
his friends, the truly kind and accomplished Sir William Trumbull,
served him in that way, and perhaps in another eventually even more
important. The library of Pope's father was composed exclusively of
polemical divinity, a proof, by the way, that he was not a blind
convert to the Roman Catholic faith; or, if he was so originally,
had reviewed the grounds of it, and adhered to it after strenuous
study. In this dearth of books at his own home, and until he was
able to influence his father in buying more extensively, Pope had
benefited by the loans of his friends; amongst whom it is probable
that Sir William, as one of the best scholars of the whole, might
assist him most. He certainly offered him the most touching
compliment, as it was also the wisest and most paternal counsel,
when he besought him, as one _goddess-born_, to quit the
convivial society of deep-drinkers:

  "Heu, fuge nate dea, teque his, ait, eripe malis."

With these aids from friends of rank, and his way thus laid open to
public favor, in the year 1709 Pope first came forward upon the
stage of literature. The same year which terminated his legal
minority introduced him to the public. _Miscellanies_ in those
days were almost periodical repositories of fugitive verse. Tonson
happened at this time to be publishing one of some extent, the
sixth volume of which offered a sort of ambush to the young
aspirant of Windsor Forest, from which he might watch the public
feeling. The volume was opened by Mr. Ambrose Philips, in the
character of pastoral poet; and in the same character, but
stationed at the end of the volume, and thus covered by his bucolic
leader, as a soldier to the rear by the file in advance, appeared
Pope; so that he might win a little public notice, without too much
seeming to challenge it. This half-clandestine emersion upon the
stage of authorship, and his furtive position, are both mentioned
by Pope as accidents, but as accidents in which he rejoiced, and
not improbably accidents which Tonson had arranged with a view to
his satisfaction.

It must appear strange that Pope at twenty-one should choose to
come forward for the first time with a work composed at sixteen. A
difference of five years at that stage of life is of more effect
than of twenty at a later; and his own expanding judgment could
hardly fail to inform him, that his Pastorals were by far the worst
of his works. In reality, let us not deny, that had Pope never
written any thing else, his name would not have been known as a
name even of promise, but would probably have been redeemed from
oblivion by some satirist or writer of a Dunciad. Were a man to
meet with such a nondescript monster as the following, viz.,"
_Love out of Mount Mlna by Whirlwind_"he would suppose himself
reading the Racing Calendar. Yet this hybrid creature is one of the
many zoological monsters to whom the Pastorals introduce us:

    "I know thee. love! on foreign mountains born.
     Wolves gave thee suck, and savage tigers fed.
     Thou wert from Aetna's burning entrails torn.
     Got by fierce whirlwinds, and in thunder born."

But the very names "Damon" and "Strephon," "Phillis" and "Delia,"
are rank with childishness. Arcadian life is, at the best, a
feeble conception, and rests upon the false principle of crowding
together all the luscious sweets of rural life, undignified by the
danger which attends pastoral life in our climate, and unrelieved
by shades, either moral or physical. And the Arcadia of Pope's age
was the spurious Arcadia of the opera theatre, and, what is worse,
of the French opera.

The hostilities which followed between these rival wooers of the
pastoral muse are well known. Pope, irritated at what he conceived
the partiality shown to Philips in the Guardian, pursued the review
ironically; and, whilst affecting to load his antagonist with
praises, draws into pointed relief some of his most flagrant
faults. The result, however, we cannot believe. That all the wits,
except Addison, were duped by the irony, is quite impossible. Could
any man of sense mistake for praise the remark, that Philips had
imitated "_every_ line of Strada; "that he had introduced
wolves into England, and proved himself the first of gardeners by
making his flowers "blow all in the same season." Or, suppose
those passages unnoticed, could the broad sneer escape him, where
Pope taxes the other writer (viz., himself) with having deviated"
into downright poetry; "or the outrageous ridicule of Philip's
style, as setting up for the ideal type of the pastoral style, the
quotation from Gay, beginning,

  "Rager, go vetch tha kee, or else tha zun
  Will quite bego before ch' 'avs half a don!"

Philips is said to have resented this treatment by threats of
personal chastisement to Pope, and even hanging up a rod at
Button's coffee-house. We may be certain that Philips never
disgraced himself by such ignoble conduct. If the public indeed
were universally duped by the paper, what motive had Philips for
resentment? Or, in any case, what plea had he for attacking Pope,
who had not come forward as the author of the essay? But, from
Pope's confidential account of the matter, we know that Philips saw
him daily, and never offered him "any indecorum;" though, for some
cause or other, Pope pursued Philips with virulence through life.

In the year 1711, Pope published his Essay on Criticism, which some
people have very unreasonably fancied his best performance; and in
the same year his Rape of the Lock, the most exquisite monument of
playful fancy that universal literature offers. It wanted, however,
as yet, the principle of its vitality, in wanting the machinery of
sylphs and gnomes, with which addition it was first published in

In the year 1712, Pope appeared again before the public as the
author of the Temple of Fame, and the Elegy to the Memory of an
Unfortunate Lady. Much speculation has arisen on the question
concerning the name of this lady, and the more interesting question
concerning the nature of the persecutions and misfortunes which she
suffered. Pope appears purposely to decline answering the questions
of his friends upon that point; at least the questions have reached
us, and the answers have not. Joseph Warton supposed himself to
have ascertained four facts about her: that her name was Wainsbury;
that she was deformed in person; that she retired into a convent
from some circumstances connected with an attachment to a young man
of inferior rank; and that she killed herself, not by a sword, as
the poet insinuates, but by a halter. As to the latter statement,
it may very possibly be true; such a change would be a very slight
exercise of the poet's privileges. As to the rest, there are
scarcely grounds enough for an opinion. Pope certainly speaks of
her under the name of Mrs. (_i. e._ Miss) W--, which at least
argues a poetical exaggeration in describing her as a being "that
once had _titles_, honor, wealth, and fame;" and he may as
much have exaggerated her pretensions to beauty. It is indeed
noticeable, that he speaks simply of her _decent_ limbs,
which, in any English use of the word, does not imply much
enthusiasm of praise. She appears to have been the niece of a Lady
A--; and Mr. Craggs, afterwards secretary of state, wrote to Lady
A--on her behalf, and otherwise took an interest in her fate. As to
her being a relative of the Duke of Buckingham's, that rests upon a
mere conjectural interpretation applied to a letter of that
nobleman's. But all things about this unhappy lady are as yet
enveloped in mystery. And not the least part of the mystery is a
letter of Pope's to a Mr. C--, bearing date 1732, that is, just
twenty years after the publication of the poem, in which Pope, in a
manly tone, justifies himself for his estrangement, and presses
against his unknown correspondent the very blame which he had
applied generally to the kinsman of the poor victim in 1712. Now,
unless there is some mistake in the date, how are we to explain
this gentleman's long lethargy, and his sudden sensibility to
Pope's anathema, with which the world had resounded for twenty

Pope had now established his reputation with the public as the
legitimate successor and heir to the poetical supremacy of Dryden.
His Rape of the Lock was unrivalled in ancient or modern
literature, and the time had now arrived when, instead of seeking
to extend his fame, he might count upon a pretty general support in
applying what he had already established to the promotion of his
own interest. Accordingly, in the autumn of 1713, he formed a final
resolution of undertaking a new translation of the Iliad. It must
be observed, that already in 1709, concurrently with his Pastorals,
he had published specimens of such a translation; and these had
been communicated to his friends some time before. In particular,
Sir William Trumbull, on the 9th of April, 1708, urged upon Pope a
complete translation of both Iliad and Odyssey. Defective skill in
the Greek language, exaggeration of the difficulties, and the
timidity of a writer as yet unknown, and not quite twenty years
old, restrained Pope for five years and more. What he had practised
as a sort of _bravura_, for a single effort of display, he
recoiled from as a daily task to be pursued through much toil, and
a considerable section of his life. However, he dallied with the
purpose, starting difficulties in the temper of one who wishes to
hear them undervalued; until at length Sir Richard Steele
determined him to the undertaking, a fact overlooked by the
biographers, but which is ascertained by Ayre's account of that
interview between Pope and Addison, probably in 1716, which sealed
the rupture between them. In the autumn of 1713, he made his design
known amongst his friends. Accordingly, on the 21st of October, we
have Lord Lansdown's letter, expressing his great pleasure at the
communication; on the 26th, we have Addison's letter encouraging
him to the task; and in November of the same year occurs the
amusing scene so graphically described by Bishop Kennet, when Dean
Swift presided in the conversation, and, amongst other indications
of his conscious authority, "instructed a young nobleman, that the
best poet in England was Mr. Pope, who had _begun_ a
translation of Homer into English verse, for which he must have
them all subscribe; for," says he," _the author shall not begin
to print until I have a thousand guineas for him_."

If this were the extent of what Swift anticipated from the work, he
fell miserably below the result. But, perhaps, he spoke only of a
cautionary _arrha_ or earnest. As this was unquestionably the
greatest literary labor, as to profit, ever executed, not excepting
the most lucrative of Sir Walter Scott's, if due allowance be made
for the altered value of money, and if we consider the Odyssey as
forming part of the labor, it may be right to state the particulars
of Pope's contract with Lintot.

The number of subscribers to the Iliad was 575, and the number of
copies subscribed for was 654. The work was to be printed in six
quarto volumes; and the subscription was a guinea a volume.
Consequently by the subscription Pope obtained six times 654
guineas, or 4218L. 6s., (for the guinea then passed for 21s. 6d.);
and for the copyright of each volume Lintot offered 200L,
consequently 1200L for the whole six; so that from the Iliad the
profit exactly amounted to 5310L. 16s. Of the Odyssey, 574 copies
were subscribed for. It was to be printed in five quarto volumes,
and the subscription was a guinea a volume. Consequently by the
subscription Pope obtained five times 574 guineas, or 3085L. 5s.;
and for the copyright Lintot offered 600L. The total sum received,
therefore, by Pope, on account of the Odyssey, was 3685L. 5s. But
in this instance he had two coadjutors, Broome and Fenton; between
them they translated twelve books, leaving twelve to Pope. The
notes also were compiled by Broome; but the Postscript to the notes
was written by Pope. Fenton received 300L, Broome 500L. Such at
least is Warton's account, and more probable than that of Ruffhead,
who not only varies the proportions, but increases the whole sum
given to the assistants by 100L. Thus far we had followed the
guidance of mere probabilities, as they lie upon the face of the
transaction. But we have since detected a written statement of
Pope's, unaccountably overlooked by the biographers, and serving of
itself to show how negligently they have read the works of their
illustrious subject. The statement is entitled to the fullest
attention and confidence, not being a hasty or casual notice of the
transaction, but pointedly shaped to meet a calumnious rumor
against Pope in his character of paymaster; as if he who had found
so much liberality from publishers in his own person, were
niggardly or unjust as soon as he assumed those relations to
others. Broome, it was alleged, had expressed himself dissatisfied
with Pope's remuneration. Perhaps he had. For he would be likely to
frame his estimate for his own services from the scale of Pope's
reputed gains; and those gains would, at any rate, be enormously
exaggerated, as uniformly happens where there is a basis of the
marvellous to begin with. And, secondly, it would be natural enough
to assume the previous result from the Iliad as a fair standard for
computation; but in this, as we know, all parties found themselves
disappointed, and Broome had the less right to murmur at this,
since the arrangement with himself as chief journeyman in the job
was one main cause of the disappointment. There was also another
reason why Broome should be less satisfied than Fenton. Verse for
verse, any one thousand lines of a translation so purely mechanical
might stand against any other thousand; and so far the equation of
claims was easy. A book-keeper, with a pen behind his ear, and
Cocker's Golden Rule open before him, could do full justice to Mr.
Broome _as a poet_ every Saturday night. But Broome had a
separate account current for pure prose against Pope. One he had in
conjunction with Fenton for verses delivered on the premises at so
much per hundred, on which there could be no demur, except as to
the allowance for tare and tret as a discount in favor of Pope. But
the prose account, the account for notes, requiring very various
degrees of reading and research, allowed of no such easy equation.
There it was, we conceive, that Broome's discontent arose. Pope,
however, declares, that he had given him 500L, thus confirming the
proportions of Warton against Ruffhead, (that is, in effect,
Warburton,) and some other advantages which were not in money, nor
deductions at all from his own money profits, but which may have
been worth so much money to Broome, as to give some colorable truth
to Ruffhead's allegation of an additional 100L. In direct money, it
remains certain that Fenton had three, and Broome five hundred
pounds. It follows, therefore, that for the Iliad and Odyssey
jointly he received a sum of 8996L. 1s., and paid for assistance
800L, which leaves to himself a clear sum of 8196L. 1s. And, in
fact, his profits ought to be calculated without deduction, since
it was his own choice, from indolence, to purchase assistance.

The Iliad was commenced about October, 1713. In the summer of the
following year he was so far advanced as to begin making
arrangements with Lintot for the printing; and the first two books,
in manuscript, were put into the hands of Lord Halifax. In June,
1715, between the 10th and 28th, the subscribers received their
copies of the first volume; and in July Lintot began to publish
that volume generally. Some readers will inquire, who paid for the
printing and paper, &c.? All this expense fell upon Lintot, for
whom Pope was superfluously anxious. The sagacious bookseller
understood what he was about; and, when a pirated edition was
published in Holland, he counteracted the injury by printing a
cheap edition, of which 7500 copies were sold in a few weeks; an
extraordinary proof of the extended interest in literature. The
second, third, and fourth volumes of the Iliad, each containing,
like the first, four books, were published successively in 1716,
1717, 1718; and in 1720, Pope completed the work by publishing the
fifth volume, containing five books, and the sixth, containing the
last three, with the requisite supplementary apparatus.

The Odyssey was commenced in 1723, (not 1722, as Mr. Roscoe
virtually asserts at p. 259,) and the publication of it was
finished in 1725. The sale, however, was much inferior to that of
the Iliad; for which more reasons than one might be assigned. But
there can be no doubt that Pope himself depreciated the work, by
his undignified arrangements for working by subordinate hands. Such
a process may answer in sculpture, because there a quantity of
rough-hewing occurs, which can no more be improved by committing it
to a Phidias, than a common shop-bill could be improved in its
arithmetic by Sir Isaac Newton. But in literature such arrangements
are degrading; and, above all, in a work which was but too much
exposed already to the presumption of being a mere effort of
mechanic skill, or (as Curll said to the House of Lords)" _a
knack_; "it was deliberately helping forward that idea to let
off parts of the labor. Only think of Milton letting off by
contract to the lowest offer, and to be delivered by such a day,
(for which good security to be found,) six books of Paradise Lost.
It is true, the great dramatic authors were often
_collaborateurs_, but their case was essentially different.
The loss, however, fell not upon Pope, but upon Lintot, who, on
this occasion, was out of temper, and talked rather broadly of
prosecution. But that was out of the question. Pope had acted
indiscreetly, but nothing could be alleged against his honor; for
he had expressly warned the public, that he did not, as in the
other case, profess _to translate_, but _to undertake
[Endnote: 10] a translation_ of the Odyssey. Lintot, however,
was no loser absolutely, though he might be so in relation to his
expectations; on the contrary, he grew rich, bought land, and
became sheriff of the county in which his estates lay.

We have pursued the Homeric labors uninterruptedly from their
commencement in 1713, till their final termination in 1725, a
period of twelve years or nearly; because this was the task to
which Pope owed the dignity, if not the comforts, of his life,
since it was this which enabled him to decline a pension from all
administrations, and even from his friend Craggs, the secretary, to
decline the express offer of 300L per annum. Indeed Pope is always
proud to own his obligations to Homer. In the interval, however,
between the Iliad and the Odyssey, Pope listened to proposals made
by Jacob Tonson, that he should revise an edition of Shakspeare.
For this, which was in fact the first attempt at establishing the
text of the mighty poet, Pope obtained but little money, and still
less reputation. He received, according to tradition, only 217L.
12s. for his trouble of collation, which must have been
considerable, and some other trifling editorial labor. And the
opinion of all judges, from the first so unfavorable as to have
depreciated the money-value of the book enormously, perhaps from a
prepossession of the public mind against the fitness of Pope for
executing the dull labors of revision, has ever since pronounced
this work the very worst edition in existence. For the edition we
have little to plead; but for the editor it is but just to make
three apologies. In the _first_ place, he wrote a brilliant
preface, which, although (like other works of the same class) too
much occupied in displaying his own ability, and too often, for the
sake of an effective antithesis, doing deep injustice to
Shakspeare, yet undoubtedly, as a whole, extended his fame, by
giving the sanction and countersign of a great wit to the national
admiration. _Secondly_, as Dr. Johnson admits, Pope's failure
pointed out the right road to his successors. _Thirdly_, even
in this failure it is but fair to say, that in a graduated scale of
merit, as distributed amongst the long succession of editors
through that century, Pope holds a rank proportionable to his age.
For the year 1720, he is no otherwise below Theobald, Hanmer,
Capell, Warburton, or even Johnson, than as they are successively
below each other, and all of them as to accuracy below Steevens, as
he again was below Malone and Read.

The gains from Shakspeare would hardly counterbalance the loss
which Pope sustained this year from the South Sea Bubble. One
thing, by the way, is still unaccountably neglected by writers on
this question. How it was that the great Mississippi Bubble, during
the Orleans regency in Paris, should have happened to coincide with
that of London. If this were accident, how marvellous that the same
insanity should possess the two great capitals of Christendom in
the same year? If, again, it were not accident, but due to some
common cause, why is not that cause explained? Pope to his nearest
friends never stated the amount of his loss. The biographers report
that at one time his stock was worth from twenty to thirty thousand
pounds. But that is quite impossible. It is true, that as the stock
rose at one time a thousand per cent., this would not imply on
Pope's part an original purchase beyond twenty-five hundred pounds
or thereabouts. But Pope has furnished an argument against _that,
_ which we shall improve. He quotes, more than once, as
applicable to his own case, the old proverbial riddle of Hesiod,
_----- ----- ------, the half is more than the whole_. What
did he mean by that? We understand it thus: That between the
selling and buying, the variations had been such as to sink his
shares to one half of the price they had once reached, but, even at
that depreciation, to leave him richer on selling out than he had
been at first. But the half of 25,000 would be a far larger sum
than Pope could have ventured to risk upon a fund confessedly
liable to daily fluctuation. 3000 English pounds would be the
utmost he could risk; in which case the half of 25,000 pounds
would have left him so very much richer, that he would have
proclaimed his good fortune as an evidence of his skill and
prudence. Yet, on the contrary, he wished his friends to understand
at times that he had lost. But his friends forgot to ask one
important question: Was the word _loss_ to be understood in
relation to the imaginary and nominal wealth which he once
possessed, or in relation to the absolute sum invested in the South
Sea fund? The truth is, Pope practised on this, as on other
occasions, a little finessing, which is the chief foible in his
character. His object was, that, according to circumstances, he
might vindicate his own freedom from the common mania, in case his
enemies should take that handle for attacking him; or might have it
in his power to plead poverty, and to account for it, in case he
should ever accept that pension which had been so often tendered
but never sternly rejected.

In 1723 Pope lost one of his dearest friends, Bishop Atterbury, by
banishment; a sentence most justly incurred, and mercifully
mitigated by the hostile Whig government. On the bishop's trial a
circumstance occurred to Pope which flagrantly corroborated his own
belief in his natural disqualification for public life. He was
summoned as an evidence on his friend's behalf. He had but a dozen
words to say, simply explaining the general tenor of his lordship's
behavior at Bromley, and yet, under this trivial task, though
supported by the enthusiasm of his friendship, he broke down. Lord
Bolingbroke, returning from exile, met the bishop at the sea-side;
upon which it was wittily remarked that they were "exchanged." Lord
Bolingbroke supplied to Pope the place, or perhaps more than
supplied the place, of the friend he had lost; for Bolingbroke was
a free-thinker, and so far more entertaining to Pope, even whilst
partially dissenting, than Atterbury, whose clerical profession
laid him under restraints of decorum, and latterly, there is reason
to think, of conscience.

In 1725, on closing the Odyssey, Pope announces his intention to
Swift of quitting the labors of a translator, and thenceforwards
applying himself to original composition. This resolution led to
the Essay on Man, which appeared soon afterwards; and, with the
exception of two labors, which occupied Pope in the interval
between 1726 and 1729, the rest of his life may properly be
described as dedicated to the further extension of that Essay. The
two works which he interposed were a collection of the fugitive
papers, whether prose or verse, which he and Dean Swift had
scattered amongst their friends at different periods of life. The
avowed motive for this publication, and, in fact, the secret
motive, as disclosed in Pope's confidential letters, was to make it
impossible thenceforwards for piratical publishers like Curll. Both
Pope and Swift dreaded the malice of Curll in case they should die
before him. It was one of Curll's regular artifices to publish a
heap of trash on the death of any eminent man, under the title of
his Remains; and in allusion to that practice, it was that
Arbuthnot most wittily called Curll "one of the new terrors of
death." By publishing _all_, Pope would have disarmed Curll
beforehand; and that was in fact the purpose; and that plea only
could be offered by two grave authors, one forty, the other sixty
years old, for reprinting _jeux d'esprit_ that never had any
other apology than the youth of their authors. Yet, strange to say,
after all, some were omitted; and the omission of one opened the
door to Curll as well as that of a score. Let Curll have once
inserted the narrow end of the wedge, he would soon have driven it

This Miscellany, however, in three volumes, (published in 1727, but
afterwards increased by a fourth in 1732,) though in itself a
trifling work, had one vast consequence. It drew after it swarms of
libels and lampoons, levelled almost exclusively at Pope, although
the cipher of the joint authors stood entwined upon the title-page.
These libels in _their_ turn produced a second reaction; and,
by stimulating Pope to effectual anger, eventually drew forth, for
the everlasting admiration of posterity, the very greatest of
Pope's works; a monument of satirical power the greatest which man
has produced, not excepting the MacFleckno of Dryden, namely, the
immortal Dunciad.

In October of the year 1727, this poem, in its original form, was
completed. Many editions, not spurious altogether, nor
surreptitious, but with some connivance, not yet explained, from
Pope, were printed in Dublin and in London. But the first quarto
and acknowledged edition was published in London early in "1728-9,"
as the editors choose to write it, that is, (without perplexing the
reader,) in 1729. On March 12 of which year it was presented by the
prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, to the king and queen at St.

Like a hornet, who is said to leave his sting in the wound, and
afterwards to languish away, Pope felt so greatly exhausted by the
efforts connected with the Dunciad, (which are far greater, in
fact, than all his Homeric labors put together,) that he prepared
his friends to expect for the future only an indolent companion and
a hermit. Events rapidly succeeded which tended to strengthen the
impression he had conceived of his own decay, and certainly to
increase his disgust with the world. In 1732 died his friend
Atterbury; and on December the 7th of the same year Gay, the most
unpretending of all the wits whom he knew, and the one with whom he
had at one time been domesticated, expired, after an illness of
three days, which Dr. Arbuthnot declares to have been "the most
precipitate" he ever knew. But in fact Gay had long been decaying,
from the ignoble vice of too much and too luxurious eating. Six
months after this loss, which greatly affected Pope, came the last
deadly wound which this life could inflict, in the death of his
mother. She had for some time been in her dotage, and recognized no
face but that of her son, so that her death was not unexpected; but
that circumstance did not soften the blow of separation to Pope.
She died on the 7th of June, 1733, being then ninety-three years
old. Three days after, writing to Richardson the painter, for the
purpose of urging him to come down and take her portrait before the
coffin was closed, he says, "I thank God, her death was as easy as
her life was innocent; and as it cost her not a groan, nor even a
sigh, there is yet upon her countenance such an expression of
tranquillity," that "it would afford the finest image of a saint
expired that ever painting drew. Adieu, may you die as happily."
The funeral took place on the 11th; Pope then quitted the house,
unable to support the silence of her chamber, and did not return
for months, nor in fact ever reconciled himself to the sight of her
vacant apartment.

Swift also he had virtually lost for ever. In April, 1727, this
unhappy man had visited Pope for the last time. During this visit
occurred the death of George I. Great expectations arose from that
event amongst the Tories, in which, of course,' Swift shared. It
was reckoned upon as a thing of course that Walpole would be
dismissed. But this bright gleam of hope proved as treacherous as
all before; and the anguish of this final disappointment perhaps it
was which brought on a violent attack of Swift's constitutional
malady. On the last of August he quitted Pope's house abruptly,
concealed himself in London, and finally quitted it, as stealthily
as he had before quitted Twickenham, for Ireland, never more to
return. He left a most affectionate letter for Pope; but his
affliction, and his gloomy anticipations of insanity, were too
oppressive to allow of his seeking a personal interview.

Pope might now describe himself pretty nearly as _ultimus
suorum_; and if he would have friends in future, he must seek
them, as he complains bitterly, almost amongst strangers and
another generation. This sense of desolation may account for the
acrimony which too much disfigures his writings henceforward.
Between 1732 and 1740, he was chiefly engaged in satires, which
uniformly speak a high moral tone in the midst of personal
invective; or in poems directly philosophical, which almost as
uniformly speak the bitter tone of satire in the midst of
dispassionate ethics. His Essay on Man was but one link in a
general course which he had projected of moral philosophy, here and
there pursuing his themes into the fields of metaphysics, but no
farther in either field of morals or metaphysics than he could make
compatible with a poetical treatment. These works, however,
naturally entangled him in feuds of various complexions with people
of very various pretensions; and to admirers of Pope so fervent as
we profess ourselves, it is painful to acknowledge that the dignity
of his latter years, and the becoming tranquillity of increasing
age, are sadly disturbed by the petulance and the tone of
irritation which, alike to those in the wrong and in the right,
inevitably besiege all personal disputes. He was agitated, besides,
by a piratical publication of his correspondence. This emanated of
course from the den of Curll, the universal robber and "_blatant
beast_" of those days; and, besides the injury offered to his
feelings by exposing some youthful sallies which he wished to have
suppressed, it drew upon him a far more disgraceful imputation,
most assuredly unfounded, but accredited by Dr. Johnson, and
consequently in full currency to this day, of having acted
collusively with Curll, or at least through Curll, for the
publication of what he wished the world to see, but could not else
have devised any decent pretext for exhibiting. The disturbance of
his mind on this occasion led to a circular request, dispersed
amongst his friends, that they would return his letters. All
complied except Swift. He only delayed, and in fact shuffled. But
it is easy to read in his evasions, and Pope, in spite of his
vexation, read the same tale, viz., that, in consequence of his
recurring attacks and increasing misery, he was himself the victim
of artifices amongst those who surrounded him. What Pope
apprehended happened.

The letters were all published in Dublin and in London, the
originals being then only returned when they had done their work of

Such a tenor of life, so constantly fretted by petty wrongs, or by
leaden insults, to which only the celebrity of their object lent
force or wings, allowed little opportunity to Pope for recalling
his powers from angry themes, and converging them upon others of
more catholic philosophy. To the last he continued to conceal
vipers beneath his flowers; or rather, speaking proportionately to
the case, he continued to sheath amongst the gleaming but innocuous
lightnings of his departing splendors, the thunderbolts which
blasted for ever. His last appearance was his greatest. In 1742 he
published the fourth book of the Dunciad; to which it has with much
reason been objected, that it stands in no obvious relation to the
other three, but which, taken as a separate whole, is by far the
most brilliant and the weightiest of his works. Pope was aware of
the _hiatus_ between this last book and the rest, on which
account he sometimes called it the greater Dunciad; and it would
have been easy for him, with a shallow Warburtonian ingenuity, to
invent links that might have satisfied a mere _verbal_ sense
of connection. But he disdained this puerile expedient. The fact
was, and could not be disguised from any penetrating eye, that the
poem was not a pursuit of the former subjects; it had arisen
spontaneously at various times, by looking at the same general
theme of dulness (which, in Pope's sense, includes all aberrations
of the intellect, nay, even any defective equilibrium amongst the
faculties) under a different angle of observation, and from a
different centre. In this closing book, not only bad authors, as in
the other three, but all abuses of science or antiquarian
knowledge, or connoisseurship in the arts, are attacked. Virtuosi,
medalists, butterfly-hunters, florists, erring metaphysicians, &c.,
are all pierced through and through as with the shafts of Apollo.
But the imperfect plan of the work as to its internal economy, no
less than its exterior relations, is evident in many places; and in
particular the whole catastrophe of the poem, if it can be so
called, is linked to the rest by a most insufficient incident. To
give a closing grandeur to his work, Pope had conceived the idea of
representing the earth as lying universally under the incubation of
one mighty spirit of dulness; a sort of millennium, as we may call
it, for ignorance, error, and stupidity. This would take leave of
the reader with effect; but how was it to be introduced? at what
era? under what exciting cause? As to the eras, Pope could not
settle that; unless it were a _future_ era, the description of
it could not be delivered as a prophecy; and, not being prophetic,
it would want much of its grandeur. Yet, _as_ a part of
futurity, how is it connected with our present times? Do they and
their pursuits lead to it as a possibility, or as a contingency
upon certain habits which we have it in our power to eradicate, (in
which case this vision of dulness has a _practical_ warning,)
or is it a mere necessity, one amongst the many changes attached to
the cycles of human destiny, or which chance brings round with the
revolutions of its wheel? All this Pope could not determine; but
the exciting cause he has determined, and it is preposterously
below the effect. The goddess of dulness yawns; and her yawn,
which, after all, should rather express the fact and state of
universal dulness than its cause, produces a change over all
nations tantamount to a long eclipse. Meantime, with all its
defects of plan, the poem, as to execution, is superior to all
which Pope has done; the composition is much superior to that of
the Essay on Man, and more profoundly poetic. The parodies drawn
from Milton, as also in the former books, have a beauty and effect
which cannot be expressed; and, if a young lady wished to cull for
her album a passage from all Pope's writings, which, without a
trace of irritation or acrimony, should yet present an exquisite
gem of independent beauty, she could not find another passage equal
to the little story of the florist and the butterfly-hunter. They
plead their cause separately before the throne of dulness; the
florist telling how he had reared a superb carnation, which, in
honor of the queen, he called Caroline, when his enemy, pursuing a
butterfly which settled on the carnation, in securing his own
object, had destroyed that of the plaintiff. The defendant replies
with equal beauty; and it may certainly be affirmed, that, for
brilliancy of coloring and the art of poetical narration, the tale
is not surpassed by any in the language.

This was the last effort of Pope worthy of separate notice. He was
now decaying rapidly, and sensible of his own decay. His complaint
was a dropsy of the chest, and he knew it to be incurable. Under
these circumstances, his behavior was admirably philosophical. He
employed himself in revising and burnishing all his later works, as
those upon which he wisely relied for his reputation with future
generations. In this task he was assisted by Dr. Warburton, a new
literary friend, who had introduced himself to the favorable notice
of Pope about four years before, by a defence of the Essay on Man,
which Crousaz had attacked, but in general indirectly and
ineffectually, by attacking it through the blunders of a very
faulty translation. This poem, however, still labors, to religious
readers, under two capital defects. If man, according to Pope, is
now so admirably placed in the universal system of things, that
evil only could result from any change, then it seems to follow,
either that a fall of man is inadmissible; or at least, that, by
placing him in his true centre, it had been a blessing universally.
The other objection lies in this, that if all is right already, and
in this earthly station, then one argument for a future state, as
the scene in which evil is to be redressed, seems weakened or

As the weakness of Pope increased, his nearest friends, Lord
Bolingbroke, and a few others, gathered around him. The last scenes
were passed almost with ease and tranquillity. He dined in company
two days before he died: and on the very day preceding his death he
took an airing on Blackheath. A few mornings before he died, he was
found very early in his library writing on the immortality of the
soul. This was an effort of delirium; and he suffered otherwise
from this affection of the brain, and from inability to think in
his closing hours. But his humanity and goodness, it was remarked,
had survived his intellectual faculties. He died on the 30th of
May, 1744; and so quietly, that the attendants could not
distinguish the exact moment of his dissolution.

We had prepared an account of Pope's quarrels, in which we had
shown that, generally, he was not the aggressor; and often was
atrociously ill used before he retorted. This service to Pope's
memory we had judged important, because it is upon these quarrels
chiefly that the erroneous opinion has built itself of Pope's
fretfulness and irritability. And this unamiable feature of his
nature, together with a proneness to petty manoeuvring, are the
main foibles that malice has been able to charge upon Pope's moral
character. Yet, with no better foundation for their malignity than
these doubtful propensities, of which the first perhaps was a
constitutional defect, a defect of his temperament rather than his
will, and the second has been much exaggerated, many writers have
taken upon themselves to treat Pope as a man, if not absolutely
unprincipled and without moral sensibility, yet as mean,
little-minded, indirect, splenetic, vindictive, and morose. Now the
difference between ourselves and these writers is fundamental. They
fancy that in Pope's character a basis of ignoble qualities was
here and there slightly relieved by a few shining spots; we, on the
contrary, believe that in Pope lay a disposition radically noble
and generous, clouded and overshadowed by superficial foibles, or,
to adopt the distinction of Shakspeare, they see nothing but "dust
a little gilt," and we "gold a little dusted." A very rapid glance
we will throw over the general outline of his character.

As a friend, it is noticed emphatically by Martha Blount and other
contemporaries, who must have had the best means of judging, that
no man was so warm-hearted, or so much sacrificed himself for
others, as Pope; and in fact many of his quarrels grew out of this
trait in his character. For once that he levelled his spear in his
own quarrel, at least twice he did so on behalf of his insulted
parents or his friends. Pope was also noticeable for the duration
of his friendships; [Endnote: 11] some dropped him,--but he never
any throughout his life. And let it be remembered, that amongst
Pope's friends were the men of most eminent talents in those days;
so that envy at least, or jealousy of rival power, was assuredly no
foible of his. In that respect how different from Addison, whose
petty manoeuvring against Pope proceeded entirely from malignant
jealousy. That Addison was more in the wrong even than has
generally been supposed, and Pope more thoroughly innocent as well
as more generous, we have the means at a proper opportunity of
showing decisively. As a son, we need not insist on Pope's
preeminent goodness. Dean Swift, who had lived for months together
at Twickenham, declares that he had not only never witnessed, but
had never heard of anything like it. As a Christian, Pope appears
in a truly estimable light. He found himself a Roman Catholic by
accident of birth; so was his mother; but his father was so upon
personal conviction and conversion, yet not without extensive study
of the questions at issue. It would have laid open the road to
preferment, and preferment was otherwise abundantly before him, if
Pope would have gone over to the Protestant faith. And in his
conscience he found no obstacle to that change; he was a
philosophical Christian, intolerant of nothing but intolerance, a
bigot only against bigots. But he remained true to his baptismal
profession, partly on a general principle of honor in adhering to a
distressed and dishonored party, but chiefly out of reverence and
affection to his mother. In his relation to women, Pope was amiable
and gentlemanly; and accordingly was the object of affectionate
regard and admiration to many of the most accomplished in that sex.
This we mention especially because we would wish to express our
full assent to the manly scorn with which Mr. Roscoe repels the
libellous insinuations against Pope and Miss Martha Blount. A more
innocent connection we do not believe ever existed. As an author,
Warburton has recorded that no man ever displayed more candor or
more docility to criticisms offered in a friendly spirit. Finally,
we sum up all in saying, that Pope retained to the last a true and
diffusive benignity; that this was the quality which survived all
others, notwithstanding the bitter trial which his benignity must
have stood through life, and the excitement to a spiteful reaction
of feeling which was continually pressed upon him by the scorn and
insult which his deformity drew upon him from the unworthy.

But the moral character of Pope is of secondary interest. We are
concerned with it only as connected with his great intellectual
power. There are three errors which seem current upon this subject.
_First_, that Pope drew his impulses from French literature;
_secondly_, that he was a poet of inferior rank;
_thirdly_, that his merit lies in superior "correctness." With
respect to the first notion, it has prevailed by turns in every
literature. One stage of society, in every nation, brings men of
impassioned minds to the contemplation of manners, and of the
social affections of man as exhibited in manners. With this
propensity cooperates, no doubt, some degree of despondency when
looking at the great models of the literature who have usually
preoccupied the grander passions, and displayed their movements in
the earlier periods of literature. Now it happens that the French,
from an extraordinary defect in the higher qualities of passion,
have attracted the notice of foreign nations chiefly to that field
of their literature, in which the taste and the unimpassioned
understanding preside. But in all nations such literature is a
natural growth of the mind, and would arise equally if the French
literature had never existed. The wits of Queen Anne's reign, or
even of Charles II.'s, were not French by their taste or their
imitation. Butler and Dryden were surely not French; and of Milton
we need not speak; as little was Pope French, either by his
institution or by his models. Boileau he certainly admired too
much; and, for the sake of a poor parallelism with a passage about
Greece in Horace, he has falsified history in the most ludicrous
manner, without a shadow of countenance from facts, in order to
make out that we, like the Romans, received laws of taste from
those whom we had conquered. But these are insulated cases and
accidents, not to insist on his known and most profound admiration,
often expressed, for both Chaucer, and Shakspeare, and Milton.
Secondly, that Pope is to be classed as an inferior poet, has
arisen purely from a confusion between the departments of poetry
which he cultivated and the merit of his culture. The first place
must undoubtedly be given for ever,--it cannot be refused,--to the
impassioned movements of the tragic, and to the majestic movements
of the epic muse. We cannot alter the relations of things out of
favor to an individual. But in his own department, whether higher
or lower, that man is supreme who has not yet been surpassed; and
such a man is Pope. As to the final notion, first started by Walsh,
and propagated by Warton, it is the most absurd of all the three;
it is not from superior correctness that Pope is esteemed more
correct, but because the compass and sweep of his performances lies
more within the range of ordinary judgments. Many questions that
have been raised upon Milton or Shakspeare, questions relating to
so subtile a subject as the flux and reflux of human passion, lie
far above the region of ordinary capacities; and the
indeterminateness or even carelessness of the judgment is
transferred by a common confusion to its objects. But waiving this,
let us ask, what is meant by "correctness?" Correctness in what? In
developing the thought? In connecting it, or effecting the
transitions? In the use of words? In the grammar? In the metre?
Under every one of these limitations of the idea, we maintain that
Pope is _not_ distinguished by correctness; nay, that, as
compared with Shakspeare, he is eminently incorrect. Produce us
from any drama of Shakspeare one of those leading passages that all
men have by heart, and show us any eminent defect in the very
sinews of the thought. It is impossible; defects there may be, but
they will always be found irrelevant to the main central thought,
or to its expression. Now turn to Pope; the first striking passage
which offers itself to our memory, is the famous character of
Addison, ending thus:

  "Who would not laugh, if such a man there be,
   Who but must weep if Atticus were he?"

Why must we laugh? Because we find a grotesque assembly of noble
and ignoble qualities. Very well; but why then must we weep?
Because this assemblage is found actually existing in an eminent
man of genius. Well, that is a good reason for weeping; we weep for
the degradation of human nature. But then revolves the question,
why must we laugh? Because, if the belonging to a man of genius
were a sufficient reason for weeping, so much we know from the very
first. The very first line says, "Peace to all such. But were there
one whose fires _true genius kindles_ and fair fame inspires."
Thus falls to the ground the whole antithesis of this famous
character. We are to change our mood from laughter to tears upon a
sudden discovery that the character belonged to a man of genius;
and this we had already known from the beginning. Match us this
prodigious oversight in Shakspeare. Again, take the Essay on
Criticism. It is a collection of independent maxims, tied together
into a fasciculus by the printer, but having no natural order or
logical dependency; generally so vague as to mean nothing. Like the
general rules of justice, &c., in ethics, to which every man
assents; but when the question comes about any practical case,
_is_ it just? The opinions fly asunder far as the poles. And,
what is remarkable, many of the rules are violated by no man so
often as by Pope, and by Pope nowhere so often as in this very
poem. As a single instance, he proscribes monosyllabic lines; and
in no English poem of any pretensions are there so many lines of
that class as in this. We have counted above a score, and the last
line of all is monosyllabic.

Not, therefore, for superior correctness, but for qualities the
very same as belong to his most distinguished brethren, is Pope to
be considered a great poet; for impassioned thinking, powerful
description, pathetic reflection, brilliant narration. His
characteristic difference is simply that he carried these powers
into a different field, and moved chiefly amongst the social paths
of men, and viewed their characters as operating through their
manners. And our obligations to him arise chiefly on this ground,
that having already, in the persons of earlier poets, carried off
the palm in all the grander trials of intellectual strength, for
the majesty of the epopee and the impassioned vehemence of the
tragic drama, to Pope we owe it that we can now claim an equal
preeminence in the sportive and aerial graces of the mock heroic
and satiric muse; that in the Dunciad we possess a peculiar form of
satire, in which (according to a plan unattempted by any other
nation) we see alternately her festive smile and her gloomiest
scowl; that the grave good sense of the nation has here found its
brightest mirror; and, finally, that through Pope the cycle of our
poetry is perfected and made orbicular, that from that day we might
claim the laurel equally, whether for dignity or grace.



Dr. Johnson, however, and Joseph Warton, for reasons not stated,
have placed his birth on the 22d. To this statement, as opposed to
that which comes from the personal friends of Pope, little
attention is due. Ruffhead and Spence, upon such questions, must
always be of higher authority than Johnson and Warton, and _a
fortiori_ than Bowles. But it ought not to be concealed, though
hitherto unnoticed by any person, that some doubt after all remains
whether any of the biographers is right. An anonymous writer,
contemporary with Pope, and evidently familiar with his personal
history, declares that he was born on the 8th of June; and he
connects it with an event that, having a public and a partisan
interest, (the birth of that Prince of Wales, who was known
twenty-seven years afterwards as the Pretender,) would serve to
check his own recollections, and give them a collateral voucher. It
is true he wrote for an ill-natured purpose; but no purpose
whatever could have been promoted by falsifying this particular
date. What is still more noticeable, however, Pope himself puts a
most emphatic negative upon all these statements. In a pathetic
letter to a friend, when his attention could not have been
wandering, for he is expressly insisting upon a sentiment which
will find an echo in many a human heart, viz., that a birthday,
though from habit usually celebrated as a festal day, too often is
secretly a memorial of disappointment, and an anniversary of
sorrowful meaning, he speaks of the very day on which he is then
writing as his own birthday; and indeed what else could give any
propriety to the passage? Now the date of this letter is January 1,
1733. Surely Pope knew his own birthday better than those who have
adopted a random rumor without investigation.

But, whilst we are upon this subject, we must caution the readers
of Pope against too much reliance upon the chronological accuracy
of his editors. _All_ are scandalously careless; and generally
they are faithless. Many allusions are left unnoticed, which a very
little research would have illustrated; many facts are omitted,
even yet recoverable, which are essential to the just appreciation
of Pope's satirical blows; and dates are constantly misstated. Mr.
Roscoe is the most careful of Pope's editors; but even he is often
wrong. For instance, he has taken the trouble to write a note upon
Pope's humorous report to Lord Burlington of his Oxford journey on
horseback with Lintot; and this note involves a sheer
impossibility. The letter is undated, except as to the month; and
Mr. Roscoe directs the reader to supply 1714 as the true date,
which is a gross anachronism. For a ludicrous anecdote is there put
into Lintot's mouth, representing some angry critic, who had been
turning over Pope's Homer, with frequent _pshaws_, as having
been propitiated, by Mr. Lintot's dinner, into a gentler feeling
towards Pope, and, finally, by the mere effect of good cheer,
without an effort on the publisher's part, as coming to a
confession, that what he ate and what he had been reading were
equally excellent. But in the year 1714, _no part_ of Pope's
Homer was printed; June, 1715, was the month in which even the
subscribers first received the four earliest books of the Iliad;
and the public generally not until July. This we notice by way of
specimen; in itself, or as an error of mere negligence, it would be
of little importance; but it is a case to which Mr. Roscoe has
expressly applied his own conjectural skill, and solicited the
attention of his reader. We may judge, therefore, of his accuracy
in other cases which he did not think worthy of examination.

There is another instance, presenting itself in every page, of
ignorance concurring with laziness, on the part of all Pope's
editors, and with the effect not so properly of misleading as of
perplexing the general reader. Until Lord Macclesfield's bill for
altering the style in the very middle of the eighteenth century,
six years, therefore, after the death of Pope, there was a custom,
arising from the collision between the civil and ecclesiastical
year, of dating the whole period that lies between December 31st
and March 25th, (both days _exclusively,_) as belonging
indifferently to the past or the current year. This peculiarity had
nothing to do with the old and new style, but was, we believe,
redressed by the same act of Parliament. Now in Pope's time it was
absolutely necessary that a man should use this double date,
because else he was liable to be seriously misunderstood. For
instance, it was then always said that Charles I had suffered on
the 30th of January 1648/9, and why? Because, had the historian
fixed the date to what it really was, 1649, in that case all those
(a very numerous class) who supposed the year 1649 to commence on
Ladyday, or March 25, would have understood him to mean that this
event happened in what we _now_ call 1650, for not until 1650
was there any January which _they_ would have acknowledged as
belonging to 1649, since _they_ added to the year 1648 all the
days from January 1 to March 24. On the other hand, if he had said
simply that Charles suffered in 1648, he would have been truly
understood by the class we have just mentioned; but by another
class, who began the year from the 1st of January, he would have
been understood to mean what we _now_ mean by the year 1648.
There would have been a sheer difference, not of one, as the reader
might think at first sight, but of _two_ entire years in the
chronology of the two parties; which difference, and all
possibility of doubt, is met and remedied by the fractional date
1648/1649 for that date says in effect it was 1648 to you who do
not open the new year till Ladyday; it was 1649 to you who open it
from January 1. Thus much to explain the real sense of the case,
and it follows from this explanation, that no part of the year ever
_can_ have the fractional or double date except the interval
from January 1 to March 24 inclusively. And hence arises a
practical inference, viz, that the very same reason, and no other,
which formerly enjoined the use of the compound or fractional date,
viz, the prevention of a capital ambiguity or dilemma, now enjoins
its omission. For in our day, when the double opening of the year
is abolished, what sense is there in perplexing a reader by using a
fraction which offers him a choice without directing him how to
choose? In fact, it is the _denominator_ of the fraction, if
one may so style the lower figure, which expresses to a modern eye
the true year. Yet the editors of Pope, as well as many other
writers, have confused their readers by this double date; and why?
Simply because they were confused themselves. (period omitted
in original; but there is a double space following, suggesting one
should have been there) Many errors in literature of large extent
have arisen from this confusion. Thus it was said properly enough
in the contemporary accounts, for instance, in Lord Monmouth's
Memoirs that Queen Elizabeth died on the last day of the year 1602,
for she died on the 24th of March, and by a careful writer this
event would have been dated as March 24, 1602/1603. But many
writers, misled by the phrase above cited, have asserted that James
I. was proclaimed on the 1st of January, 1603. Heber, Bishop of
Calcutta, again, has ruined the entire chronology of the Life of
Jeremy Taylor, and unconsciously vitiated the facts, by not
understanding this fractional date. Mr Roscoe even too often leaves
his readers to collect the true year as they can. Thus, e. g. at p.
509, of his Life, he quotes from Pope's letter to Warburton, in
great vexation for the surreptitious publication of his letters in
Ireland, under date of February 4, 174-0/1. But why not have
printed it intelligibly as 1741? Incidents there are in most men's
lives, which are susceptible of a totally different moral value,
according as the are dated in one year or another That might be a
kind and honorable liberality in 1740, which would be a fraud upon
creditors in 1741. Exile to a distance of ten miles from London in
January, 1744 might argue, that a man was a turbulent citizen, and
suspected of treason, whilst the same exile in January, 1745, would
simply argue that, as a Papist, he had been included amongst his
whole body in a general measure of precaution to meet the public
dangers of that year. This explanation we have thought it right to
make both for its extensive application to all editions of Pope,
and on account of the serious blunders which have arisen from the
case when ill understood, and because, in a work upon education,
written jointly by Messrs Lant Carpenter and Shephard though
generally men of ability and learning, this whole point is
erroneously explained.


It is apparently with allusion to this part of his history, which
he would often have heard from the lips of his own father, that
Pope glances at his uncle's memory somewhat disrespectfully in his
prose letter to Lord Harvey.


Some accounts, however, say to Flanders, in which case, perhaps,
Antwerp or Brussels would have the honor of his conversion.


This however was not Twyford, according to an anonymous pamphleteer
of the times but a Catholic seminary in Devonshire Street that is,
in the Bloomsbury district of London, and the same author asserts,
that the scene of his disgrace as indeed seems probable beforehand,
was not the first but the last of his arenas as a schoolboy Which
indeed was first, and which last, is very unimportant; but with a
view to another point, which is not without interest, namely, as to
the motive of Pope for so bitter a lampoon as we must suppose it to
have been, as well as with regard to the topics which he used to
season it, this anonymous letter throws the only light which has
been offered; and strange it is, that no biographer of Pope should
have hunted upon the traces indicated by him. Any solution of
Pope's virulence, and of the master's bitter retaliation, even
_as_ a solution, is so far entitled to attention; apart from
which the mere straightforwardness of this man's story, and its
minute circumstantiality, weigh greatly in its favor. To our
thinking, he unfolds the whole affair in the simple explanation,
nowhere else to be found, that the master of the school, the mean
avenger of a childish insult by a bestial punishment, was a Mr.
Bromley, one of James II.'s Popish apostates; whilst the particular
statements which he makes with respect to himself and the young
Duke of Norfolk of 1700, as two schoolfellows of Pope at that time
and place, together with his voluntary promise to come forward in
person, and verify his account if it should happen to be
challenged,--are all, we repeat, so many presumptions in favor of
his veracity. "Mr. Alexander Pope," says he, "before he had been
four months at this school, or was able to construe Tully's
Offices, employed his muse in satirizing his master. It was a libel
of at least one hundred verses, which (a fellow-student having
given information of it) was found in his pocket; and the young
satirist was soundly whipped, and kept a prisoner to his room for
seven days; whereupon his father fetched him away, and I have been
told he never went to school more." This Bromley, it has been
ascertained, was the son of a country gentleman in Worcestershire,
and must have had considerable prospects at one time, since it
appears that he had been a gentleman-commoner at Christ's Church,
Oxford. There is an error in the punctuation of the letter we have
just quoted, which affects the sense in a way very important to the
question before us. Bromley is described as "one of King James's
converts in Oxford, some years _after_ that prince's
abdication;" but, if this were really so, he must have been a
conscientious convert. The latter clause should be connected with
what follows:" _Some years after that prince's abdication he kept
a little seminary_; "that is, when his mercenary views in
quitting his religion were effectually defeated, when the Boyne had
sealed his despair, he humbled himself into a petty schoolmaster.
These facts are interesting, because they suggest at once the
motive for the merciless punishment inflicted upon Pope. His own
father was a Papist like Bromley, but a sincere and honest Papist,
who had borne double taxes, legal stigmas, and public hatred for
conscience' sake. His contempt was habitually pointed at those who
tampered with religion for interested purposes. His son inherited
these upright feelings. And we may easily guess what would be the
bitter sting of any satire he would write on Bromley. Such a topic
was too true to be forgiven, and too keenly barbed by Bromley's
conscience. By the way, this writer, like ourselves, reads in this
juvenile adventure a prefiguration of Pope's satirical destiny.


That is, Sheffield, and, legally speaking, of Buckingham
_shire_. For he would not take the title of Buckingham, under
a fear that there was lurking somewhere or other a claim to that
title amongst the connections of the Villiers family. He was a
pompous grandee, who lived in uneasy splendor, and, as a writer,
most extravagantly overrated; accordingly, he is now forgotten.
Such was his vanity, and his ridiculous mania for allying himself
with royalty, that he first of all had the presumption to court the
Princess (afterwards Queen) Anne. Being rejected, he then offered
himself to the illegitimate daughter of James II., by the daughter
of Sir Charles Sedley. She was as ostentatious as himself, and
accepted him.


Meantime, the felicities of this translation are at times perfectly
astonishing; and it would be scarcely possible to express more
nervously or amply the words,

--"_jurisque secundi_
  _Ambitus impatiens_, et summo dulcius unum
  Stare loco,"----

than this child of fourteen has done in the following couplet,
which, most judiciously, by reversing the two clauses, gains the
power of fusing them into connection.

  "And impotent desire to reign alone,
  _That scorns the dull reversion of a throne_."

But the passage for which beyond all others we must make room, is a
series of eight lines, corresponding to six in the original; and
this for two reasons: First, Because Dr. Joseph Warton has
deliberately asserted, that in our whole literature, "we have
scarcely eight more beautiful lines than these;" and though few
readers will subscribe to so sweeping a judgment, yet certainly
these must be wonderful lines for a boy, which could challenge such
commendation from an experienced _polyhistor_ of infinite
reading. Secondly, Because the lines contain a night-scene. Now it
must be well known to many readers, that the famous night scene in
the Iliad, so familiar to every schoolboy, has been made the
subject, for the last thirty years, of severe, and, in many
respects, of just criticisms. This description will therefore have
a double interest by comparison, whilst, whatever may be thought of
either taken separately for itself, considered as a translation,
this which we now quote is as true to Statius as the other is
undoubtedly faithless to Homer

  "_Jamque per emeriti surgens confima Phoebi
  Titanis, late mundo subvecta silenti
  Rorifera gelidum tenuaverat aera biga
  Jam pecudes volucresque tacent. jam somnus avaris
  Inserpit curis, pronusque per aera nutat,
  Grata laboratae referens oblivia vitae_"
              Theb I 336-341.

  "'Twas now the time when Phoebus yields to night,
  And rising Cynthia sheds her silver light,
  Wide o'er the world in solemn pomp she drew
  Her airy chariot hung with pearly dew
  All birds and beasts he hush'd. Sleep steals away
  The wild desires of men and toils of day,
  And brings, descending through the silent air,
  A sweet forgetfulness of human care."


One writer of that age says, in Cheapside, but probably this
difference arose from contemplating Lombard Street as a
prolongation of Cheapside.


Dr Johnson said, that all he could discover about Mr Cromwell, was
the fact of his going a hunting in a tie wig, but Gay has added
another fact to Dr Johnson's, by calling him "Honest _hatless_
Cromwell with red breeches" This epithet has puzzled the
commentators, but its import is obvious enough Cromwell, as we
learn from more than one person, was anxious to be considered a
fine gentleman, and devoted to women. Now it was long the custom in
that age for such persons, when walking with ladies, to carry their
hats in their hand. Louis XV. used to ride by the side of Madame de
Pompadour hat in hand.


It is strange indeed to find, not only that Pope had so frequently
kept rough copies of his own letters, and that he thought so well
of them as to repeat the same letter to different persons, as in
the case of the two lovers killed by lightning, or even to two
sisters, Martha and Therese Blount (who were sure to communicate
their letters,) but that even Swift had retained copies of _his.

NOTE 10.

The word _undertake_ had not yet lost the meaning of
Shakspeare's age, in which it was understood to describe those
cases where, the labor being of a miscellaneous kind, some person
in chief offered to overlook and conduct the whole, whether with or
without personal labor. The modern _undertaker,_ limited to
the care of funerals, was then but one of numerous cases to which
the term was applied.

NOTE 11.

We may illustrate this feature in the behavior of Pope to Savage.
When all else forsook him, when all beside pleaded the insults of
Savage for withdrawing their subscriptions, Pope sent his in
advance. And when Savage had insulted _him_ also, arrogantly
commanding him never "to presume to interfere or meddle in his
affairs," dignity and self-respect made Pope obedient to these
orders, except when there was an occasion of serving Savage. On his
second visit to Bristol (when he returned from Glamorganshire,)
Savage had been thrown into the jail of the city. One person only
interested himself for this hopeless profligate, and was causing an
inquiry to be made about his debts at the time Savage died. So much
Dr. Johnson admits; but he _forgets_ to mention the name of
this long suffering friend. It was Pope. Meantime, let us not be
supposed to believe the lying legend of Savage; he was doubtless no
son of Lady Macclesfield's, but an impostor, who would not be sent
to the tread-mill.


It sounds paradoxical, but is not so in a bad sense, to say, that
in every literature of large compass some authors will be found to
rest much of the interest which surrounds them on their essential
_non_-popularity. They are good for the very reason that they
are not in conformity to the current taste. They interest because
to the world they are _not_ interesting. They attract by means
of their repulsion. Not as though it could separately furnish a
reason for loving a book, that the majority of men had found it
repulsive. _Prima facie_, it must suggest some presumption
_against_ a book, that it has failed to gain public attention.
To have roused hostility indeed, to have kindled a feud against its
own principles or its temper, may happen to be a good sign.
_That_ argues power. Hatred may be promising. The deepest
revolutions of mind sometimes begin in hatred. But simply to have
left a reader unimpressed, is in itself a neutral result, from
which the inference is doubtful. Yet even _that_, even simple
failure to impress, may happen at times to be a result from
positive powers in a writer, from special originalities, such as
rarely reflect themselves in the mirror of the ordinary
understanding. It seems little to be perceived, how much the great
scriptural [Endnote: 1] idea of the _worldly_ and the
_unworldly_ is found to emerge in literature as well as in
life. In reality the very same combinations of moral qualities,
infinitely varied, which compose the harsh physiognomy of what we
call worldliness in the living groups of life, must unavoidably
present themselves in books. A library divides into sections of
worldly and unworldly, even as a crowd of men divides into that
same majority and minority. The world has an instinct for
recognizing its own; and recoils from certain qualities when
exemplified in books, with the same disgust or defective sympathy
as would have governed it in real life. From qualities for instance
of childlike simplicity, of shy profundity, or of inspired
self-communion, the world does and must turn away its face towards
grosser, bolder, more determined, or more intelligible expressions
of character and intellect; and not otherwise in literature, nor at
all less in literature, than it does in the realities of life.

Charles Lamb, if any ever _was_ is amongst the class here
contemplated; he, if any ever _has_, ranks amongst writers
whose works are destined to be forever unpopular, and yet forever
interesting; interesting, moreover, by means of those very
qualities which guarantee their non-popularity. The same qualities
which will be found forbidding to the worldly and the thoughtless,
which will be found insipid to many even amongst robust and
powerful minds, are exactly those which will continue to command a
select audience in every generation. The prose essays, under the
signature of _Elia_, form the most delightful section amongst
Lamb's works. They traverse a peculiar field of observation,
sequestered from general interest; and they are composed in a
spirit too delicate and unobtrusive to catch the ear of the noisy
crowd, clamoring for strong sensations. But this retiring delicacy
itself, the pensiveness chequered by gleams of the fanciful, and
the humor that is touched with cross-lights of pathos, together
with the picturesque quaintness of the objects casually described,
whether men, or things, or usages, and, in the rear of all this,
the constant recurrence to ancient recollections and to decaying
forms of household life, as things retiring before the tumult of
new and revolutionary generations; these traits in combination
communicate to the papers a grace and strength of originality which
nothing in any literature approaches, whether for degree or kind of
excellence, except the most felicitous papers of Addison, such as
those on Sir Roger de Coverly, and some others in the same vein of
composition. They resemble Addison's papers also in the diction,
which is natural and idiomatic, even to carelessness. They are
equally faithful to the truth of nature; and in this only they
differ remarkably--that the sketches of Elia reflect the stamp and
impress of the writer's own character, whereas in all those of
Addison the personal peculiarities of the delineator (though known
to the reader from the beginning through the account of the club)
are nearly quiescent. Now and then they are recalled into a
momentary notice, but they do not act, or at all modify his
pictures of Sir Roger or Will Wimble. _They_ are slightly and
amiably eccentric; but the Spectator him-self, in describing them,
takes the station of an ordinary observer.

Everywhere, indeed, in the writings of Lamb, and not merely in his
_Elia_, the character of the writer cooperates in an under
current to the effect of the thing written. To understand in the
fullest sense either the gaiety or the tenderness of a particular
passage, you must have some insight into the peculiar bias of the
writer's mind, whether native and original, or impressed gradually
by the accidents of situation; whether simply developed out of
predispositions by the action of life, or violently scorched into
the constitution by some fierce fever of calamity. There is in
modern literature a whole class of writers, though not a large one,
standing within the same category; some marked originality of
character in the writer become a coefficient with what he says to a
common result; you must sympathize with this _personality_ in
the author before you can appreciate the most significant parts of
his views. In most books the writer figures as a mere abstraction,
without sex or age or local station, whom the reader banishes from
his thoughts. What is written seems to proceed from a blank
intellect, not from a man clothed with fleshly peculiarities and
differences. These peculiarities and differences neither do, nor
(generally speaking)_could_ intermingle with the texture of
the thoughts so as to modify their force or their direction. In
such books, and they form the vast majority, there is nothing to be
found or to be looked for beyond the direct objective. (_Sit
venia verbo_!) But, in a small section of books, the objective
in the thought becomes confluent with the subjective in the
thinker--the two forces unite for a joint product; and fully to
enjoy that product, or fully to apprehend either element, both must
be known. It is singular, and worth inquiring into, for the reason
that the Greek and Roman literature had no such books. Timon of
Athens, or Diogenes, one may conceive qualified for this mode of
authorship, had journalism existed to rouse them in those days;
their "articles" would no doubt have been fearfully caustic. But,
as _they_ failed to produce anything, and Lucian in an after
age is scarcely characteristic enough for the purpose, perhaps we
may pronounce Rabelais and Montaigne the earliest of writers in the
class described. In the century following _theirs_, came Sir
Thomas Brown, and immediately after _him_ La Fontaine. Then
came Swift, Sterne, with others less distinguished; in Germany,
Hippel, the friend of Kant, Harmann, the obscure; and the greatest
of the whole body--John Paul Fr. Richter. In _him_, from the
strength and determinateness of his nature as well as from the
great extent of his writing, the philosophy of this interaction
between the author as a human agency and his theme as an
intellectual reagency, might best be studied. From _him_ might
be derived the largest number of cases, illustrating boldly this
absorption of the universal into the concrete--of the pure
intellect into the human nature of the author. But nowhere could
illustrations be found more interesting--shy, delicate,
evanescent--shy as lightning, delicate and evanescent as the
colored pencillings on a frosty night from the northern lights,
than in the better parts of Lamb.

To appreciate Lamb, therefore, it is requisite that his character
and temperament should be understood in their coyest and most
wayward features. A capital defect it would be if these could not
be gathered silently from Lamb's works themselves. It would be a
fatal mode of dependency upon an alien and separable accident if
they needed an external commentary. But they do _not_. The
syllables lurk up and down the writings of Lamb which decipher his
eccentric nature. His character lies there dispersed in anagram;
and to any attentive reader the regathering and restoration of the
total word from its scattered parts is inevitable without an
effort. Still it is always a satisfaction in knowing a result, to
know also its _why_ and _how_; and in so far as every
character is likely to be modified by the particular experience,
sad or joyous, through which the life has travelled, it is a good
contribution towards the knowledge of that resulting character as a
whole to have a sketch of that particular experience. What trials
did it impose? What energies did it task? What temptations did it
unfold? These calls upon the moral powers, which in music so
stormy, many a life is doomed to hear, how were they faced? The
character in a capital degree moulds oftentimes the life, but the
life _always_ in a subordinate degree moulds the character.
And the character being in this case of Lamb so much of a key to
the writings, it becomes important that the life should be traced,
however briefly, as a key to the character.

That is _one_ reason for detaining the reader with some slight
record of Lamb's career. Such a record by preference and of right
belongs to a case where the intellectual display, which is the sole
ground of any public interest at all in the man, has been intensely
modified by the _humanities_ and moral _personalities_
distinguishing the subject. We read a Physiology, and need no
information as to the life and conversation of its author; a
meditative poem becomes far better understood by the light of such
information; but a work of genial and at the same time eccentric
sentiment, wandering upon untrodden paths, is barely intelligible
without it. There is a good reason for arresting judgment on the
writer, that the court may receive evidence on the life of the man.
But there is another reason, and, in any other place, a better;
which reason lies in the extraordinary value of the life considered
separately for itself. Logically, it is not allowable to say that
_here;_ and, considering the principal purpose of this paper,
any possible _independent_ value of the life must rank as a
better reason for reporting it. Since, in a case where the original
object is professedly to estimate the writings of a man, whatever
promises to further that object must, merely by that tendency,
have, in relation to that place, a momentary advantage which it
would lose if valued upon a more abstract scale. Liberated from
this casual office of throwing light upon a book--raised to its
grander station of a solemn deposition to the moral capacities of
man in conflict with calamity--viewed as a return made into the
chanceries of heaven--upon an issue directed from that court to try
the amount of power lodged in a poor desolate pair of human
creatures for facing the very anarchy of storms--this obscure life
of the two Lambs, brother and sister, (for the two lives were one
life,) rises into a grandeur that is not paralleled once in a

Rich, indeed, in moral instruction was the life of Charles Lamb;
and perhaps in one chief result it offers to the thoughtful
observer a lesson of consolation that is awful, and of hope that
ought to be immortal, viz., in the record which it furnishes, that
by meekness of submission, and by earnest conflict with evil, in
the spirit of cheerfulness, it is possible ultimately to disarm or
to blunt the very heaviest of curses--even the curse of lunacy. Had
it been whispered, in hours of infancy, to Lamb, by the angel who
stood by his cradle--"Thou, and the sister that walks by ten years
before thee, shall be through life, each to each, the solitary
fountain of comfort; and except it be from this fountain of mutual
love, except it be as brother and sister, ye shall not taste the
cup of peace on earth!"--here, if there was sorrow in reversion,
there was also consolation.

But what funeral swamps would have instantly ingulfed this
consolation, had some meddling fiend prolonged the revelation, and,
holding up the curtain from the sad future a little longer, had
said scornfully--"Peace on earth! Peace for you two, Charles and
Mary Lamb! What peace is possible under the curse which even now
is gathering against your heads? Is there peace on earth for the
lunatic--peace for the parenticide--peace for the girl that,
without warning, and without time granted for a penitential cry to
heaven, sends her mother to the last audit?" And then, without
treachery, speaking bare truth, this prophet of woe might have
added--"Thou also, thyself, Charles Lamb, thou in thy proper
person, shalt enter the skirts of this dreadful hail-storm; even
thou shalt taste the secrets of lunacy, and enter as a captive its
house of bondage; whilst over thy sister the accursed scorpion
shall hang suspended through life, like Death hanging over the beds
of hospitals, striking at times, but more often threatening to
strike; or withdrawing its instant menaces only to lay bare her
mind more bitterly to the persecutions of a haunted memory!"
Considering the nature of the calamity, in the first place;
considering, in the second place, its life-long duration; and, in
the last place, considering the quality of the resistance by which
it was met, and under what circumstances of humble resources in
money or friends--we have come to the deliberate judgment, that the
whole range of history scarcely presents a more affecting spectacle
of perpetual sorrow, humiliation, or conflict, and that was
supported to the end, (that is, through forty years,) with more
resignation, or with more absolute victory.

Charles Lamb was born in February of the year 1775. His immediate
descent was humble; for his father, though on one particular
occasion civilly described as a "scrivener," was in reality a
domestic servant to Mr. Salt--a bencher (and therefore a barrister
of some standing) in the Inner Temple. John Lamb the father
belonged by birth to Lincoln; from which city, being transferred to
London whilst yet a boy, he entered the service of Mr. Salt without
delay; and apparently from this period throughout his life
continued in this good man's household to support the honorable
relation of a Roman client to his _patronus_, much more than
that of a mercenary servant to a transient and capricious master.
The terms on which he seems to live with the family of the Lambs,
argue a kindness and a liberality of nature on both sides. John
Lamb recommended himself as an attendant by the versatility of his
accomplishments; and Mr. Salt, being a widower without children,
which means in effect an old bachelor, naturally valued that
encyclopaedic range of dexterity which made his house independent
of external aid for every mode of service. To kill one's own mutton
is but an operose way of arriving at a dinner, and often a more
costly way; whereas to combine one's own carpenter, locksmith,
hair-dresser, groom, &c., all in one man's person,--to have a
Robinson Crusoe, up to all emergencies of life, always in waiting,
--is a luxury of the highest class for one who values his ease.

A consultation is held more freely with a man familiar to one's
eye, and more profitably with a man aware of one's peculiar habits.
And another advantage from such an arrangement is, that one gets
any little alteration or repair executed on the spot. To hear is to
obey, and by an inversion of Pope's rule--

  "One always _is_, and never _to be_, blest."

People of one sole accomplishment, like the _homo unius libri,
_ are usually within that narrow circle disagreeably perfect,
and therefore apt to be arrogant. People who can do all things,
usually do every one of them ill; and living in a constant effort
to deny this too palpable fact, they become irritably vain. But Mr.
Lamb the elder seems to have been bent on perfection. He did all
things; he did them all well; and yet was neither gloomily
arrogant, nor testily vain. And being conscious apparently that all
mechanic excellencies tend to illiberal results, unless
counteracted by perpetual sacrifices to the muses, he went so far
as to cultivate poetry; he even printed his poems, and were we
possessed of a copy, (which we are _not_, nor probably is the
Vatican,) it would give us pleasure at this point to digress for a
moment, and to cut them up, purely on considerations of respect to
the author's memory. It is hardly to be supposed that they did not
really merit castigation; and we should best show the sincerity of
our respect for Mr. Lamb, senior, in all those cases where we
_could_ conscientiously profess respect by an unlimited
application of the knout in the cases where we could _not_.

The whole family of the Lambs seem to have won from Mr. Salt the
consideration which is granted to humble friends; and from
acquaintances nearer to their own standing, to have won a
tenderness of esteem such as is granted to decayed gentry. Yet
naturally, the social rank of the parents, as people still living,
must have operated disadvantageously for the children. It is hard,
even for the practised philosopher, to distinguish aristocratic
graces of manner, and capacities of delicate feeling, in people
whose very hearth and dress bear witness to the servile humility of
their station. Yet such distinctions as wild gifts of nature,
timidly and half-unconsciously asserted themselves in the
unpretending Lambs. Already in _their_ favor there existed a
silent privilege analogous to the famous one of Lord Kinsale. He,
by special grant from the crown, is allowed, when standing before
the king, to forget that he is not himself a king; the bearer of
that peerage, through all generations, has the privilege of wearing
his hat in the royal presence. By a general though tacit concession
of the same nature, the rising generation of the Lambs, John and
Charles, the two sons, and Mary Lamb, the only daughter, were
permitted to forget that their grandmother had been a housekeeper
for sixty years, and that their father had worn a livery. Charles
Lamb, individually, was so entirely humble, and so careless of
social distinctions, that he has taken pleasure in recurring to
these very facts in the family records amongst the most genial of
his Elia recollections. He only continued to remember, without
shame, and with a peculiar tenderness, these badges of plebeian
rank, when everybody else, amongst the few survivors that could
have known of their existence, had long dismissed them from their

Probably, through Mr. Salt's interest, Charles Lamb, in the autumn
of 1782, when he wanted something more than four months of
completing his eighth year, received a presentation to the
magnificent school of Christ's Hospital. The late Dr. Arnold, when
contrasting the school of his own boyish experience, Winchester,
with Rugby, the school confided to his management, found nothing so
much to regret in the circumstances of the latter as its forlorn
condition with respect to historical traditions. Wherever these
were wanting, and supposing the school of sufficient magnitude, it
occurred to Dr. Arnold that something of a compensatory effect for
impressing the imagination might be obtained by connecting the
school with the nation through the link of annual prizes issuing
from the exchequer. An official basis of national patronage might
prove a substitute for an antiquarian or ancestral basis. Happily
for the great educational foundations of London, none of them is in
the naked condition of Rugby. Westminster, St. Paul's, Merchant
Tailors', the Charter-House, &c., are all crowned with historical
recollections; and Christ's Hospital, besides the original honors
of its foundation, so fitted to a consecrated place in a youthful
imagination--an asylum for boy-students, provided by a
boy-king--innocent, religious, prematurely wise, and prematurely
called away from earth--has also a mode of perpetual connection
with the state. It enjoys, therefore, _both_ of Dr. Arnold's
advantages. Indeed, all the great foundation schools of London,
bearing in their very codes of organization the impress of a double
function--viz., the conservation of sound learning and of pure
religion--wear something of a monastic or cloisteral character in
their aspect and usages, which is peculiarly impressive, and even
pathetic, amidst the uproars of a capital the most colossal and
tumultuous upon earth.

Here Lamb remained until his fifteenth year, which year threw him
on the world, and brought him alongside the golden dawn of the
French Revolution. Here he learned a little elementary Greek, and
of Latin more than a little; for the Latin notes to Mr. Cary (of
Dante celebrity) though brief, are sufficient to reveal a true
sense of what is graceful and idiomatic in Latinity. _We_ say
this, who have studied that subject more than most men. It is not
that Lamb would have found it an easy task to compose a long paper
in Latin--nobody _can,_ find it easy to do what he has no
motive for habitually practising; but a single sentence of Latin
wearing the secret countersign of the "sweet Roman hand,"
ascertains sufficiently that, in reading Latin classics, a man
feels and comprehends their peculiar force or beauty. That is
enough. It is requisite to a man's expansion of mind that he should
make acquaintance with a literature so radically differing from all
modern literatures as is the Latin. It is _not_ requisite that
he should practise Latin composition. Here, therefore, Lamb
obtained in sufficient perfection one priceless accomplishment,
which even singly throws a graceful air of liberality over all the
rest of a man's attainments: having rarely any pecuniary value, it
challenges the more attention to its intellectual value. Here also
Lamb commenced the friendships of his life; and, of all which he
formed, he lost none. Here it was, as the consummation and crown of
his advantages from the time-honored hospital, that he came to know
"Poor S. T. C." [Greek text: ton thaumasiotaton.]

Until 1796, it is probable that he lost sight of Coleridge, who was
then occupied with Cambridge, having been transferred thither as a
"Grecian" from the house of Christ Church. That year, 1796, was a
year of change and fearful calamity for Charles Lamb. On that year
revolved the wheels of his after-life. During the three years
succeeding to his school days, he had held a clerkship in the South
Sea House. In 1795, he was transferred to the India House. As a
junior clerk, he could not receive more than a slender salary; but
even this was important to the support of his parents and sister.
They lived together in lodgings near Holborn; and in the spring of
1796, Miss Lamb, (having previously shown signs of lunacy at
intervals,) in a sudden paroxysm of her disease, seized a knife
from the dinner table, and stabbed her mother, who died upon the
spot. A coroner's inquest easily ascertained the nature of a case
which was transparent in all its circumstances, and never for a
moment indecisive as regarded the medical symptoms. The poor young
lady was transferred to the establishment for lunatics at Hoxton.
She soon recovered, we believe; but her relapses were as sudden as
her recoveries, and she continued through life to revisit, for
periods of uncertain seclusion, this house of woe. This calamity of
his fireside, followed soon after by the death of his father, who
had for some time been in a state of imbecility, determined the
future destiny of Lamb. Apprehending, with the perfect grief of
perfect love, that his sister's fate was sealed for life--viewing
her as his own greatest benefactress, which she really _had_
been through her advantage by ten years of age--yielding with
impassioned readiness to the depth of his fraternal affection, what
at any rate he would have yielded to the sanctities of duty as
interpreted by his own conscience--he resolved forever to resign
all thoughts of marriage with a young lady whom he loved, forever
to abandon all ambitious prospects that might have tempted him into
uncertainties, humbly to content himself with the
_certainties_ of his Indian clerkship, to dedicate himself for
the future to the care of his desolate and prostrate sister, and to
leave the rest to God. These sacrifices he made in no hurry or
tumult, but deliberately, and in religious tranquillity. These
sacrifices were accepted in heaven--and even on this earth they
_had_ their reward. She, for whom he gave up all, in turn gave
up all for _him_. She devoted herself to his comfort. Many
times she returned to the lunatic establishment, but many times she
was restored to illuminate the household hearth for _him_; and
of the happiness which for forty years and more he had, no hour
seemed true that was not derived from her. Hence forwards,
therefore, until he was emancipated by the noble generosity of the
East India Directors, Lamb's time, for nine-and-twenty years, was
given to the India House.

"_O fortunati nimium, sua si bona narint,_" is applicable to
more people than "_agricolae_." Clerks of the India House are
as blind to their own advantages as the blindest of ploughmen. Lamb
was summoned, it is true, through the larger and more genial
section of his life, to the drudgery of a copying clerk--making
confidential entries into mighty folios, on the subject of calicoes
and muslins. By this means, whether he would or not, he became
gradually the author of a great "serial" work, in a frightful
number of volumes, on as dry a department of literature as the
children of the great desert could have suggested. Nobody, he must
have felt, was ever likely to study this great work of his, not
even Dr. Dryasdust. He had written in vain, which is not pleasant
to know. There would be no second edition called for by a
discerning public in Leadenhall Street; not a chance of that. And
consequently the _opera omnia_ of Lamb, drawn up in a hideous
battalion, at the cost of labor so enormous, would be known only to
certain families of spiders in one generation, and of rats in the
next. Such a labor of Sysyphus,--the rolling up a ponderous stone
to the summit of a hill only that it might roll back again by the
gravitation of its own dulness,--seems a bad employment for a man
of genius in his meridian energies. And yet, perhaps not. Perhaps
the collective wisdom of Europe could not have devised for Lamb a
more favorable condition of toil than this very India House
clerkship. His works (his Leadenhall street works) were certainly
not read; popular they _could_ not be, for they were not read
by anybody; but then, to balance _that,_ they were not
reviewed. His folios were of that order, which (in Cowper's words)
"not even critics criticise." Is _that_ nothing? Is it no
happiness to escape the hands of scoundrel reviewers? Many of us
escape being _read;_ the worshipful reviewer does not find
time to read a line of us; but we do not for that reason escape
being criticised, "shown up," and martyred. The list of
_errata_ again, committed by Lamb, was probably of a magnitude
to alarm any possible compositor; and yet these _errata_ will
never be known to mankind. They are dead and buried. They have been
cut off prematurely; and for any effect upon their generation,
might as well never have existed. Then the returns, in a pecuniary
sense, from these folios--how important were _they!_ It is not
common, certainly, to write folios; but neither is it common to
draw a steady income of from 300 _l._ to 400 _l._ per
annum from volumes of any size. This will be admitted; but would it
not have been better to draw the income without the toil? Doubtless
it would always be more agreeable to have the rose without the
thorn. But in the case before us, taken with all its circumstances,
we deny that the toil is truly typified as a thorn; so far from
being a thorn in Lamb's daily life, on the contrary, it was a
second rose ingrafted upon the original rose of the income, that he
had to earn it by a moderate but continued exertion. Holidays, in a
national establishment so great as the India House, and in our too
fervid period, naturally could not be frequent; yet all great
English corporations are gracious masters, and indulgences of this
nature could be obtained on a special application. Not to count
upon these accidents of favor, we find that the regular toil of
those in Lamb's situation, began at ten in the morning and ended as
the clock struck four in the afternoon. Six hours composed the
daily contribution of labor, that is precisely one fourth part of
the total day. Only that, as Sunday was exempted, the rigorous
expression of the quota was one fourth of six-sevenths, which makes
sixty twenty-eighths and not six twenty-fourths of the total time.
Less toil than this would hardly have availed to deepen the sense
of value in that large part of the time still remaining disposable.
Had there been any resumption whatever of labor in the evening,
though but for half an hour, that one encroachment upon the broad
continuous area of the eighteen free hours would have killed the
tranquillity of the whole day, by _sowing_ it (so to speak)
with intermitting anxieties--anxieties that, like tides, would
still be rising and falling. Whereas now, at the early hour of
four, when daylight is yet lingering in the air, even at the dead
of winter, in the latitude of London, and when the _enjoying_
section of the day is barely commencing, everything is left which a
man would care to retain. A mere dilettante or amateur student,
having no mercenary interest concerned, would, upon a refinement of
luxury--would, upon choice, give up so much time to study, were it
only to sharpen the value of what remained for pleasure. And thus
the only difference between the scheme of the India House
distributing his time for Lamb, and the scheme of a wise voluptuary
distributing his time for himself, lay, not in the _amount_ of
time deducted from enjoyment, but in the particular mode of
appropriating that deduction. An _intellectual_ appropriation
of the time, though casually fatiguing, must have pleasures of its
own; pleasures denied to a task so mechanic and so monotonous as
that of reiterating endless records of sales or consignments not
_essentially_ varying from each other. True; it is pleasanter
to pursue an intellectual study than to make entries in a ledger.
But even an intellectual toil is toil; few people can support it
for more than six hours in a day. And the only question, therefore,
after all, is, at what period of the day a man would prefer taking
this pleasure of study. Now, upon that point, as regards the case
of Lamb, there is no opening for doubt. He, amongst his _Popular
Fallacies_, admirably illustrates the necessity of evening and
artificial lights to the prosperity of studies. After exposing,
with the perfection of fun, the savage unsociality of those elder
ancestors who lived (if life it was) before lamp-light was
invented, showing that "jokes came in with candles," since "what
repartees could have passed" when people were "grumbling at one
another in the dark," and "when you must have felt about for a
smile, and handled a neighbor's cheek to be sure that he understood
it?"--he goes on to say," This accounts for the seriousness of the
elder poetry, "viz., because they had no candle-light. Even eating
he objects to as a very imperfect thing in the dark; you are not
convinced that a dish tastes as it should do by the promise of its
name, if you dine in the twilight without candles. Seeing is
believing." The senses absolutely give and take reciprocally. "The
sight guarantees the taste. For instance," Can you tell pork from
veal in the dark, or distinguish Sherries from pure Malaga? "To all
enjoyments whatsoever candles are indispensable as an adjunct; but,
as to _reading_," there is, "says Lamb," absolutely no such
thing but by a candle. We have tried the affectation of a book at
noon-day in gardens, but it was labor thrown away. It is a mockery,
all that is reported of the influential Phoebus. No true poem ever
owed its birth to the sun's light. The mild internal light, that
reveals the fine shapings of poetry, like fires on the domestic
hearth, goes out in the sunshine. Milton's morning hymn in
Paradise, we would hold a good wager, was penned at midnight; and
Taylor's rich description of a sunrise smells decidedly of the
taper. "This view of evening and candle-light as involved in
literature may seem no more than a pleasant extravaganza; and no
doubt it is in the nature of such gayeties to travel a little into
exaggeration, but substantially it is certain that Lamb's feelings
pointed habitually in the direction here indicated. His literary
studies, whether taking the color of tasks or diversions, courted
the aid of evening, which, by means of physical weariness, produces
a more luxurious state of repose than belong to the labor hours of
day, and courted the aid of lamp-light, which, as Lord Bacon
remarked, gives a gorgeousness to human pomps and pleasures, such
as would be vainly sought from the homeliness of day-light. The
hours, therefore, which were withdrawn from his own control by the
India House, happened to be exactly that part of the day which Lamb
least valued, and could least have turned to account.

The account given of Lamb's friends, of those whom he endeavored to
love because he admired them, or to esteem intellectually because
he loved them personally, is too much colored for general
acquiescence by Sergeant Talfourd's own early prepossessions. It is
natural that an intellectual man like the Sergeant, personally made
known in youth to people, whom from childhood he had regarded as
powers in the ideal world, and in some instances as representing
the eternities of human speculation, since their names had perhaps
dawned upon his mind in concurrence with the very earliest
suggestion of topics which they had treated, should overrate their
intrinsic grandeur. Hazlitt accordingly is styled "The great
thinker." But had he been such potentially, there was an absolute
bar to his achievement of that station in act and consummation. No
man _can_ be a great thinker in our days upon large and
elaborate questions without being also a great student. To think
profoundly, it is indispensable that a man should have read down to
his own starting point, and have read as a collating student to the
particular stage at which he himself takes up the subject. At this
moment, for instance, how could geology be treated otherwise than
childishly by one who should rely upon the encyclopaedias of 1800?
or comparative physiology by the most ingenious of men unacquainted
with Marshall Hall, and with the apocalyptic glimpses of secrets
unfolding under the hands of Professor Owen? In such a condition of
undisciplined thinking, the ablest man thinks to no purpose. He
lingers upon parts of the inquiry that have lost the importance
which once they had, under imperfect charts of the subject; he
wastes his strength upon problems that have become obsolete; he
loses his way in paths that are not in the line of direction upon
which the improved speculation is moving; or he gives narrow
conjectural solutions of difficulties that have long since received
sure and comprehensive ones. It is as if a man should in these days
attempt to colonize, and yet, through inertia or through ignorance,
should leave behind him all modern resources of chemistry, of
chemical agriculture, or of steam-power. Hazlitt had read nothing.
Unacquainted with Grecian philosophy, with Scholastic philosophy,
and with the recomposition of these philosophies in the looms of
Germany during the last sixty and odd years, trusting merely to the
unrestrained instincts of keen mother-wit--whence should Hazlitt
have had the materials for great thinking? It is through the
collation of many abortive voyages to polar regions that a man
gains his first chance of entering the polar basin, or of running
ahead on the true line of approach to it. The very reason for
Hazlitt's defect in eloquence as a lecturer, is sufficient also as
a reason why he could not have been a comprehensive thinker. "He
was not eloquent," says the Sergeant, "in the true sense of the
term." But why? Because it seems "his thoughts were too weighty to
be moved along by the shallow stream of feeling which an evening's
excitement can rouse,"--an explanation which leaves us in doubt
whether Hazlitt forfeited his chance of eloquence by accommodating
himself to this evening's excitement, or by gloomily resisting it.
Our own explanation is different, Hazlitt was not eloquent, because
he was discontinuous. No man can he eloquent whose thoughts are
abrupt, insulated, capricious, and (to borrow an impressive word
from Coleridge) non-sequacious. Eloquence resides not in separate
or fractional ideas, but in the relations of manifold ideas, and in
the mode of their evolution from each other. It is not indeed
enough that the ideas should be many, and their relations coherent;
the main condition lies in the key of the evolution, in the
_law_ of the succession. The elements are nothing without the
atmosphere that moulds, and the dynamic forces that combine. Now
Hazlitt's brilliancy is seen chiefly in separate splinterings of
phrase or image which throw upon the eye a vitreous scintillation
for a moment, but spread no deep suffusions of color, and
distribute no masses of mighty shadow. A flash, a solitary flash,
and all is gone. Rhetoric, according to its quality, stands in many
degrees of relation to the permanencies of truth; and all rhetoric,
like all flesh, is partly unreal, and the glory of both is
fleeting. Even the mighty rhetoric of Sir Thomas Brown, or Jeremy
Taylor, to whom only it has been granted to open the trumpet-stop
on that great organ of passion, oftentimes leaves behind it the
sense of sadness which belongs to beautiful apparitions starting
out of darkness upon the morbid eye, only to be reclaimed by
darkness in the instant of their birth, or which belongs to
pageantries in the clouds. But if all rhetoric is a mode of
pyrotechny, and all pyrotechnics are by necessity fugacious, yet
even in these frail pomps, there are many degrees of frailty. Some
fireworks require an hour's duration for the expansion of their
glory; others, as if formed from fulminating powder, expire in the
very act of birth. Precisely on that scale of duration and of power
stand the glitterings of rhetoric that are not worked into the
texture, but washed on from the outside. Hazlitt's thoughts were of
the same fractured and discontinuous order as his illustrative
images--seldom or never self-diffusive; and _that_ is a
sufficient argument that he had never cultivated philosophic

Not, however, to conceal any part of the truth, we are bound to
acknowledge that Lamb thought otherwise on this point, manifesting
what seemed to us an extravagant admiration of Hazlitt, and perhaps
even in part for that very glitter which we are denouncing--at
least he did so in a conversation with ourselves. But, on the other
hand, as this conversation travelled a little into the tone of a
disputation, and _our_ frost on this point might seem to
justify some undue fervor by way of balance, it is very possible
that Lamb did not speak his absolute and most dispassionate
judgment. And yet again, if he _did_, may we, with all
reverence for Lamb's exquisite genius, have permission to say--that
his own constitution of intellect sinned by this very habit of
discontinuity. It was a habit of mind not unlikely to be cherished
by his habits of life. Amongst these habits was the excess of his
social kindness. He scorned so much to deny his company and his
redundant hospitality to any man who manifested a wish for either
by calling upon him, that he almost seemed to think it a
criminality in himself if, by accident, he really _was_ from
home on your visit, rather than by possibility a negligence in you,
that had not forewarned him of your intention. All his life, from
this and other causes, he must have read in the spirit of one
liable to sudden interruption; like a dragoon, in fact, reading
with one foot in the stirrup, when expecting momentarily a summons
to mount for action. In such situations, reading by snatches, and
by intervals of precarious leisure, people form the habit of
seeking and unduly valuing condensations of the meaning, where in
reality the truth suffers by this short-hand exhibition, or else
they demand too vivid illustrations of the meaning. Lord
Chesterfield himself, so brilliant a man by nature, already
therefore making a morbid estimate of brilliancy, and so hurried
throughout his life as a public man, read under this double
coercion for craving instantaneous effects. At one period, his only
time for reading was in the morning, whilst under the hands of his
hair-dresser; compelled to take the hastiest of flying shots at his
author, naturally he demanded a very conspicuous mark to fire at.
But the author could not, in so brief a space, be always sure to
crowd any very prominent objects on the eye, unless by being
audaciously oracular and peremptory as regarded the sentiment, or
flashy in excess as regarded its expression. "Come now, my friend,"
was Lord Chesterfield's morning adjuration to his author;" come
now, cut it short--don't prose--don't hum and haw. "The author had
doubtless no ambition to enter his name on the honorable and
ancient roll of gentlemen prosers; probably he conceived himself
not at all tainted with the asthmatic infirmity of humming and
hawing; but, as to "cutting it short," how could he be sure of
meeting his lordship's expectations in that point, unless by
dismissing the limitations that might be requisite to fit the idea
for use, or the adjuncts that might be requisite to integrate its
truth, or the final consequences that might involve some deep
_arriere pensee_, which, coming last in the succession, might
oftentimes be calculated to lie deepest on the mind. To be lawfully
and usefully brilliant after this rapid fashion, a man must come
forward as a refresher of old truths, where _his_ suppressions
are supplied by the reader's memory; not as an expounder of new
truths, where oftentimes a dislocated fraction of the true is more
dangerous than the false itself.

To read therefore habitually, by hurried instalments, has this bad
tendency--that it is likely to found a taste for modes of
composition too artificially irritating, and to disturb the
equilibrium of the judgment in relation to the colorings of style.
Lamb, however, whose constitution of mind was even ideally sound in
reference to the natural, the simple, the genuine, might seem of
all men least liable to a taint in this direction. And undoubtedly
he _was_ so, as regarded those modes of beauty which nature
had specially qualified him for apprehending. Else, and in relation
to other modes of beauty, where his sense of the true, and of its
distinction from the spurious, had been an acquired sense, it is
impossible for us to hide from ourselves--that not through habits
only, not through stress of injurious accidents only, but by
original structure and temperament of mind, Lamb had a bias towards
those very defects on which rested the startling characteristics of
style which we have been noticing. He himself, we fear, not bribed
by indulgent feelings to another, not moved by friendship, but by
native tendency, shrank from the continuous, from the sustained,
from the elaborate.

The elaborate, indeed, without which much truth and beauty must
perish in germ, was by name the object of his invectives. The
instances are many, in his own beautiful essays, where he literally
collapses, literally sinks away from openings suddenly offering
themselves to flights of pathos or solemnity in direct prosecution
of his own theme. On any such summons, where an ascending impulse,
and an untired pinion were required, he _refuses_ himself (to
use military language) invariably. The least observing reader of
_Elia_ cannot have failed to notice that the most felicitous
passages always accomplish their circuit in a few sentences. The
gyration within which his sentiment wheels, no matter of what kind
it may be, is always the shortest possible. It does not prolong
itself, and it does not repeat itself. But in fact, other features
in Lamb's mind would have argued this feature by analogy, had we by
accident been left unaware of it directly. It is not by chance, or
without a deep ground in his nature, _common_ to all his
qualities, both affirmative and negative, that Lamb had an
insensibility to music more absolute than can have been often
shared by any human creature, or perhaps than was ever before
acknowledged so candidly. The sense of music,--as a pleasurable
sense, or as any sense at all other than of certain unmeaning and
impertinent differences in respect to high and low, sharp or flat,
--was utterly obliterated as with a sponge by nature herself from
Lamb's organization. It was a corollary, from the same large
_substratum_ in his nature, that Lamb had no sense of the
rhythmical in prose composition. Rhythmus, or pomp of cadence, or
sonorous ascent of clauses, in the structure of sentences, were
effects of art as much thrown away upon him as the voice of the
charmer upon the deaf adder. We ourselves, occupying the very
station of polar opposition to that of Lamb, being as morbidly,
perhaps, in the one excess as he in the other, naturally detected
this omission in Lamb's nature at an early stage of our
acquaintance. Not the fabled Regulus, with his eyelids torn away,
and his uncurtained eye-balls exposed to the noon-tide glare of a
Carthaginian sun, could have shrieked with more anguish of recoil
from torture than we from certain sentences and periods in which
Lamb perceived no fault at all. _Pomp_, in our apprehension,
was an idea of two categories; the pompous might be spurious, but
it might also be genuine. It is well to love the simple--_we_
love it; nor is there any opposition at all between _that_ and
the very glory of pomp. But, as we once put the case to Lamb, if,
as a musician, as the leader of a mighty orchestra, you had this
theme offered to you--"Belshazzar the king gave a great feast to a
thousand of his lords"--or this," And on a certain day, Marcus
Cicero stood up, and in a set speech rendered solemn thanks to
Caius Caesar for Quintus Ligarius pardoned, and for Marcus
Marcellus restored "--surely no man would deny that, in such a
case, simplicity, though in a passive sense not lawfully absent,
must stand aside as totally insufficient for the positive part.
Simplicity might guide, even here, but could not furnish the power;
a rudder it might be, but not an oar or a sail. This, Lamb was
ready to allow; as an intellectual _quiddity_, he recognized
pomp in the character of a privileged thing; he was obliged to do
so; for take away from great ceremonial festivals, such as the
solemn rendering of thanks, the celebration of national
anniversaries, the commemoration of public benefactors, &c., the
element of pomp, and you take away their very meaning and life;
but, whilst allowing a place for it in the rubric of the logician,
it is certain that, _sensuously_, Lamb would not have
sympathized with it, nor have _felt_ its justification in any
concrete instance. We find a difficulty in pursuing this subject,
without greatly exceeding our limits. We pause, therefore, and add
only this one suggestion as partly explanatory of the case. Lamb
had the dramatic intellect and taste, perhaps in perfection; of the
Epic, he had none at all. Here, as happens sometimes to men of
genius preternaturally endowed in one direction, he might be
considered as almost starved. A favorite of nature, so eminent in
some directions, by what right could he complain that her bounties
were not indiscriminate? From this defect in his nature it arose,
that, except by culture and by reflection, Lamb had no genial
appreciation of Milton. The solemn planetary wheelings of the
Paradise Lost were not to his taste. What he _did_ comprehend,
were the motions like those of lightning, the fierce angular
coruscations of that wild agency which comes forward so vividly in
the sudden _peripetteia_, in the revolutionary catastrophe,
and in the tumultuous conflicts, through persons or through
situations, of the tragic drama.

There is another vice in Mr. Hazlitt's mode of composition, viz.,
the habit of trite quotation, too common to have challenged much
notice, were it not for these reasons: 1st, That Sergeant Talfourd
speaks of it in equivocal terms, as a fault perhaps, but as a
"felicitous" fault, "trailing after it a line of golden
associations;" 2dly, because the practice involves a dishonesty. On
occasion of No. 1, we must profess our belief that a more ample
explanation from the Sergeant would have left him in substantial
harmony with ourselves. We cannot conceive the author of Ion, and
the friend of Wordsworth, seriously to countenance that paralytic
"mouth-diarrhoea," (to borrow a phrase of Coleridge's)--that
_fluxe de bouche_(to borrow an earlier phrase of Archbishop
Huet's) which places the reader at the mercy of a man's tritest
remembrances from his most school-boy reading. To have the verbal
memory infested with tags of verse and "cues" of rhyme is in
itself an infirmity as vulgar and as morbid as the stableboy's
habit of whistling slang airs upon the mere mechanical excitement
of a bar or two whistled by some other blockhead in some other
stable. The very stage has grown weary of ridiculing a folly, that
having been long since expelled from decent society has taken
refuge amongst the most imbecile of authors. Was Mr. Hazlitt then
of that class? No; he was a man of great talents, and of capacity
for greater things than he ever attempted, though without any
pretensions of the philosophic kind ascribed to him by the
Sergeant. Meantime the reason for resisting the example and
practice of Hazlitt lies in this--that essentially it is at war
with sincerity, the foundation of all good writing, to express
one's own thoughts by another man's words. This dilemma arises. The
thought is, or it is not, worthy of that emphasis which belongs to
a metrical expression of it. If it is _not_, then we shall be
guilty of a mere folly in pushing into strong relief that which
confessedly cannot support it. If it _is_, then how incredible
that a thought strongly conceived, and bearing about it the impress
of one's own individuality, should naturally, and without
dissimulation or falsehood, bend to another man's expression of it!
Simply to back one's own view by a similar view derived from
another, may be useful; a quotation that repeats one's own
sentiment, but in a varied form, has the grace which belongs to the
_idem in alio_, the same radical idea expressed with a
difference--similarity in dissimilarity; but to throw one's own
thoughts, matter, and form, through alien organs so absolutely as
to make another man one's interpreter for evil and good, is either
to confess a singular laxity of thinking that can so flexibly adapt
itself to any casual form of words, or else to confess that sort of
carelessness about the expression which draws its real origin from
a sense of indifference about the things to be expressed. Utterly
at war this distressing practice is with all simplicity and
earnestness of writing; it argues a state of indolent ease
inconsistent with the pressure and coercion of strong fermenting
thoughts, before we can be at leisure for idle or chance
quotations. But lastly, in reference to No. 2, we must add that the
practice is signally dishonest. It "trails after it a line of
golden associations." Yes, and the burglar, who leaves an
army-tailor's after a midnight visit, trails after him perhaps a
long roll of gold bullion epaulettes which may look pretty by
lamplight. But _that_, in the present condition of moral
philosophy amongst the police, is accounted robbery; and to benefit
too much by quotations is little less. At this moment we have in
our eye a work, at one time not without celebrity, which is one
continued _cento_ of splendid passages from other people. The
natural effect from so much fine writing is, that the reader rises
with the impression of having been engaged upon a most eloquent
work. Meantime the whole is a series of mosaics; a tessellation
made up from borrowed fragments: and first, when the reader's
attention is expressly directed upon the fact, he becomes aware
that the nominal author has contributed nothing more to the book
than a few passages of transition or brief clauses of connection.

In the year 1796, the main incident occurring of any importance for
English literature was the publication by Southey of an epic poem.
This poem, the _Joan of Arc_, was the earliest work of much
pretension amongst all that Southey wrote; and by many degrees it
was the worst. In the four great narrative poems of his later
years, there is a combination of two striking qualities, viz., a
peculiar command over the _visually_ splendid, connected with
a deep-toned grandeur of moral pathos. Especially we find this
union in the _Thalaba_ and the _Roderick_; but in the
_Joan of Arc_ we miss it. What splendor there is for the fancy
and the eye belongs chiefly to the Vision, contributed by
Coleridge, and this was subsequently withdrawn. The fault lay in
Southey's political relations at that era; his sympathy with the
French Revolution in its earlier stages had been boundless; in all
respects it was a noble sympathy, fading only as the gorgeous
coloring faded from the emblazonries of that awful event, drooping
only when the promises of that golden dawn sickened under
stationary eclipse. In 1796, Southey was yet under the tyranny of
his own earliest fascination: in _his_ eyes the Revolution had
suffered a momentary blight from refluxes of panic; but blight of
some kind is incident to every harvest on which human hopes are
suspended. Bad auguries were also ascending from the unchaining of
martial instincts. But that the Revolution, having ploughed its way
through unparalleled storms, was preparing to face other storms,
did but quicken the apprehensiveness of his love--did but quicken
the duty of giving utterance to this love. Hence came the rapid
composition of the poem, which cost less time in writing than in
printing. Hence, also, came the choice of his heroine. What he
needed in his central character was, a heart with a capacity for
the wrath of Hebrew prophets applied to ancient abuses, and for
evangelic pity applied to the sufferings of nations. This heart,
with this double capacity--where should he seek it? A French heart
it must be, or how should it follow with its sympathies a French
movement? _There_ lay Southey's reason for adopting the Maid
of Orleans as the depositary of hopes and aspirations on behalf of
France as fervid as his own. In choosing this heroine, so
inadequately known at that time, Southey testified at least his own
nobility of feeling; [Endnote: 3] but in executing his choice, he
and his friends overlooked two faults fatal to his purpose. One was
this: sympathy with the French Revolution meant sympathy with the
opening prospects of man--meant sympathy with the Pariah of every
clime--with all that suffered social wrong, or saddened in hopeless

That was the movement at work in the French Revolution. But the
movement of Joanne d'Arc took a different direction. In her day
also, it is true, the human heart had yearned after the same vast
enfranchisement for the children of labor as afterwards worked in
the great vision of the French Revolution. In her days also, and
shortly before them, the human hand had sought by bloody acts to
realize this dream of the heart. And in her childhood, Joanna had
not been insensible to these premature motions upon a path too
bloody and too dark to be safe. But this view of human misery had
been utterly absorbed to _her_ by the special misery then
desolating France. The lilies of France had been trampled under
foot by the conquering stranger. Within fifty years, in three
pitched battles that resounded to the ends of the earth, the
chivalry of France had been exterminated. Her oriflamme had been
dragged through the dust. The eldest son of Baptism had been
prostrated. The daughter of France had been surrendered on coercion
as a bride to her English conqueror. The child of that marriage, so
ignominious to the land, was King of France by the consent of
Christendom; that child's uncle domineered as regent of France; and
that child's armies were in military possession of the land. But
were they undisputed masters? No; and there precisely lay the
sorrow of the time. Under a perfect conquest there would have been
repose; whereas the presence of the English armies did but furnish
a plea, masking itself in patriotism, for gatherings everywhere of
lawless marauders; of soldiers that had deserted their banners; and
of robbers by profession. This was the woe of France more even than
the military dishonor. That dishonor had been palliated from the
first by the genealogical pretensions of the English royal family
to the French throne, and these pretensions were strengthened in
the person of the present claimant. But the military desolation of
France, this it was that woke the faith of Joanna in her own
heavenly mission of deliverance. It was the attitude of her
prostrate country, crying night and day for purification from
blood, and not from feudal oppression, that swallowed up the
thoughts of the impassioned girl. But _that_ was not the cry
that uttered itself afterwards in the French Revolution. In
Joanna's days, the first step towards rest for France was by
expulsion of the foreigner. Independence of a foreign yoke,
liberation as between people and people, was the one ransom to be
paid for French honor and peace. _That_ debt settled, there
might come a time for thinking of civil liberties. But this time
was not within the prospects of the poor shepherdess The field--the
area of her sympathies never coincided with that of the
Revolutionary period. It followed therefore, that Southey
_could_ not have raided Joanna (with her condition of feeling)
by any management, into the interpreter of his own. That was the
first error in his poem, and it was irremediable. The second
was--and strangely enough this also escaped notice--that the
heroine of Southey is made to close her career precisely at the
point when its grandeur commences. She believed herself to have a
mission for the deliverance of France; and the great instrument
which she was authorized to use towards this end, was the king,
Charles VII. Him she was to crown. With this coronation, her
triumph, in the plain historical sense, ended. And _there_
ends Southey's poem. But exactly at this point, the grander stage
of her mission commences, viz., the ransom which she, a solitary
girl, paid in her own person for the national deliverance. The
grander half of the story was thus sacrificed, as being irrelevant
to Southey's political object; and yet, after all, the half which
he retained did not at all symbolize that object. It is singular,
indeed, to find a long poem, on an ancient subject, adapting itself
hieroglyphically to a modern purpose; 2dly, to find it failing of
this purpose; and 3dly, if it had not failed, so planned that it
could have succeeded only by a sacrifice of all that was grandest
in the theme.

To these capital oversights, Southey, Coleridge, and Lamb, were all
joint parties; the two first as concerned in the composition, the
last as a frank though friendly reviewer of it in his private
correspondence with Coleridge. It is, however, some palliation of
these oversights, and a very singular fact in itself, that neither
from English authorities nor from French, though the two nations
were equally brought into close connection with the career of that
extraordinary girl, could any adequate view be obtained of her
character and acts. The official records of her trial, apart from
which nothing can be depended upon, were first in the course of
publication from the Paris press during the currency of last year.
First in 1847, about four hundred and sixteen years after her ashes
had been dispersed to the winds, could it be seen distinctly,
through the clouds of fierce partisanships and national prejudices,
what had been the frenzy of the persecution against her, and the
utter desolation of her position; what had been the grandeur of her
conscientious resistance.

Anxious that our readers should see Lamb from as many angles as
possible, we have obtained from an old friend of his a
memorial--slight, but such as the circumstances allowed--of an
evening spent with Charles and Mary Lamb, in the winter of 1821-22.
The record is of the most unambitious character; it pretends to
nothing, as the reader will see, not so much as to a pun, which it
really required some singularity of luck to have missed from
Charles Lamb, who often continued to fire puns, as minute guns, all
through the evening. But the more unpretending this record is, the
more appropriate it becomes by that very fact to the memory of
_him_ who, amongst all authors, was the humblest and least
pretending. We have often thought that the famous epitaph written
for his grave by Piron, the cynical author of _La Metromanie_,
might have come from Lamb, were it not for one objection; Lamb's
benign heart would have recoiled from a sarcasm, however effective,
inscribed upon a grave-stone; or from a jest, however playful, that
tended to a vindictive sneer amongst his own farewell words. We
once translated this Piron epitaph into a kind of rambling Drayton
couplet; and the only point needing explanation is, that, from the
accident of scientific men, Fellows of the Royal Society being
usually very solemn men, with an extra chance, therefore, for being
dull men in conversation, naturally it arose that some wit amongst
our great-grandfathers translated F. R. S. into a short-hand
expression for a Fellow Remarkably Stupid; to which version of the
three letters our English epitaph alludes. The French original of
Piron is this:

   "Ci git Piron; qui ne fut rien;
   Pas meme acadamicien."

The bitter arrow of the second line was feathered to hit the French
Acadamie, who had declined to elect him a member. Our translation
is this:

   "Here lies Piron; who was--nothing; or, if _that_ could be,
      was  less:
   How!--nothing? Yes, nothing; not so much as F. R. S."

But now to our friend's memorandum:

October 6, 1848.

MY DEAR X.--You ask me for some memorial, however trivial, of any
dinner party, supper party, water party, no matter what, that I can
circumstantially recall to recollection, by any features whatever,
puns or repartees, wisdom or wit, connecting it with Charles Lamb.
I grieve to say that my meetings of any sort with Lamb were few,
though spread through a score of years. That sounds odd for one
that loved Lamb so entirely, and so much venerated his character.
But the reason was, that I so seldom visited London, and Lamb so
seldom quitted it. Somewhere about 1810 and 1812 I must have met
Lamb repeatedly at the _Courier Office_ in the Strand; that
is, at Coleridge's, to whom, as an intimate friend, Mr. Stuart (a
proprietor of the paper) gave up for a time the use of some rooms
in the office. Thither, in the London season, (May especially and
June,) resorted Lamb, Godwin, Sir H. Davy, and, once or twice,
Wordsworth, who visited Sir George Beaumont's Leicestershire
residence of Coleorton early in the spring, and then travelled up
to Grosvenor Square with Sir George and Lady Beaumont; _spectatum
veniens, veniens spectetur ut ipse_.

But in these miscellaneous gatherings, Lamb said little, except
when an opening arose for a pun. And how effectual that sort of
small shot was from _him_, I need not say to anybody who
remembers his infirmity of stammering, and his dexterous management
of it for purposes of light and shade. He was often able to train
the roll of stammers into settling upon the words immediately
preceding the effective one; by which means the key-note of the
jest or sarcasm, benefiting by the sudden liberation of his
embargoed voice, was delivered with the force of a pistol shot.
That stammer was worth an annuity to him as an ally of his wit.
Firing under cover of that advantage, he did triple execution; for,
in the first place, the distressing sympathy of the hearers with
_his_ distress of utterance won for him unavoidably the
silence of deep attention; and then, whilst he had us all hoaxed
into this attitude of mute suspense by an appearance of distress
that he perhaps did not really feel, down came a plunging shot into
the very thick of us, with ten times the effect it would else have
had. If his stammering, however, often did him true "yeoman's
service," sometimes it led him into scrapes. Coleridge told me of a
ludicrous embarrassment which it caused him at Hastings. Lamb had
been medically advised to a course of sea-bathing; and accordingly
at the door of his bathing machine, whilst he stood shivering with
cold, two stout fellows laid hold of him, one at each shoulder,
like heraldic supporters; they waited for the word of command from
their principal, who began the following oration to them: "Hear me,
men! Take notice of this--I am to be dipped." What more he would
have said is unknown to land or sea or bathing machines; for having
reached the word dipped, he commenced such a rolling fire of
Di--di--di--di, that when at length he descended _a plomb_
upon the full word _dipped_, the two men, rather tired of the
long suspense, became satisfied that they had reached what lawyers
call the "operative" clause of the sentence; and both exclaiming at
once, "Oh yes, Sir, we're quite aware of _that_," down they
plunged him into the sea. On emerging, Lamb sobbed so much from the
cold, that he found no voice suitable to his indignation; from
necessity he seemed tranquil; and again addressing the men, who
stood respectfully listening, he began thus: "Men! is it possible
to obtain your attention?" "Oh surely, Sir, by all means." "Then
listen: once more I tell you, I am to be di--di--di--"--and then,
with a burst of indignation," dipped, I tell you,"--"Oh decidedly,
Sir," rejoined the men, "decidedly," and down the stammerer went
for the second time. Petrified with cold and wrath, once more Lamb
made a feeble attempt at explanation--" Grant me pa--pa--patience;
is it mum--um--murder you me--me--mean? Again and a--ga--ga--gain,
I tell you, I'm to be di--di--di--dipped," now speaking furiously,
with the voice of an injured man. "Oh yes, Sir," the men replied,
"we know that, we fully understood it," and for the third time down
went Lamb into the sea." Oh limbs of Satan!" he said, on coming up
for the third time, "it's now too late; I tell you that I am--no,
that I _was_--to be di--di--di--dipped only _once_."

Since the rencontres with Lamb at Coleridge's, I had met him once
or twice at literary dinner parties. One of these occurred at the
house of Messrs. Taylor & Hessey, the publishers. I myself was
suffering too much from illness at the time to take any pleasure in
what passed, or to notice it with any vigilance of attention. Lamb,
I remember, as usual, was full of gayety; and as usual he rose too
rapidly to the zenith of his gayety; for he shot upwards like a
rocket, and, as usual, people said he was "tipsy." To me Lamb never
seemed intoxicated, but at most arborily elevated. He never talked
nonsense, which is a great point gained; nor polemically, which is
a greater; for it is a dreadful thing to find a drunken man bent
upon converting oneself; nor sentimentally, which is greatest of
all. You can stand a man's fraternizing with you; or if he swears
an eternal friendship, only once in an hour, you do not think of
calling the police; but once in every three minutes is too much
(period omitted here in original, but there is a double space
following for a new sentence) Lamb did none of these things; he was
always rational, quiet, and gentlemanly in his habits. Nothing
memorable, I am sure, passed upon this occasion, which was in
November of 1821; and yet the dinner was memorable by means of one
fact not discovered until many years later. Amongst the company,
all literary men, sate a murderer, and a murderer of a freezing
class; cool, calculating, wholesale in his operations, and moving
all along under the advantages of unsuspecting domestic confidence
and domestic opportunities. This was Mr. Wainwright, who was
subsequently brought to trial, but not for any of his murders, and
transported for life. The story has been told both by Sergeant
Talfourd, in the second volume of these "Final Memoirs," and
previously by Sir Edward B. Lytton. Both have been much blamed for
the use made of this extraordinary case; but we know not why. In
itself it is a most remarkable case for more reasons than one. It
is remarkable for the appalling revelation which it makes of power
spread through the hands of people not liable to suspicion, for
purposes the most dreadful. It is remarkable also by the contrast
which existed in this case between the murderer's appearance and
the terrific purposes with which he was always dallying. He was a
contributor to a journal in which I also had written several
papers. This formed a shadowy link between us; and, ill as I was, I
looked more attentively at _him_ than at anybody else. Yet
there were several men of wit and genius present, amongst whom Lamb
(as I have said) and Thomas Hood, Hamilton Reynolds, and Allan
Cunningham. But _them_ I already knew, whereas Mr. W. I now
saw for the first time and the last. What interested me about
_him_ was this, the papers which had been pointed out to me as
his, (signed _Janus Weathercock, Vinklooms_, &c.) were written
in a spirit of coxcombry that did not so much disgust as amuse. The
writer could not conceal the ostentatious pleasure which he took in
the luxurious fittings-up of his rooms, in the fancied splendor of
his _bijouterie_, &c. Yet it was easy for a man of any
experience to read two facts in all this idle _etalage_; one
being, that his finery was but of a second-rate order; the other,
that he was a parvenu, not at home even amongst his second-rate
splendor. So far there was nothing to distinguish Mr. W--'s papers
from the papers of other triflers. But in this point there was,
viz., that in his judgments upon the great Italian masters of
painting, Da Vinci, Titian, &c., there seemed a tone of sincerity
and of native sensibility, as in one who spoke from himself, and
was not merely a copier from books. This it was that interested me;
as also his reviews of the chief Italian engravers, Morghen,
Volpato, &c.; not for the manner, which overflowed with levities
and impertinence, but for the substance of his judgments in those
cases where I happened to have had an opportunity of judging for
myself. Here arose also a claim upon Lamb's attention; for Lamb and
his sister had a deep feeling for what was excellent in painting.
Accordingly Lamb paid him a great deal of attention, and continued
to speak of him for years with an interest that seemed
disproportioned to his pretensions. This might be owing in part to
an indirect compliment paid to Miss Lamb in one of W--'s papers;
else his appearance would rather have repelled Lamb; it was
commonplace, and better suited to express the dandyism which
overspread the surface of his manner, than the unaffected
sensibility which apparently lay in his nature. Dandy or not,
however, this man, on account of the schism in his papers, so much
amiable puppyism on one side, so much deep feeling on the other,
(feeling, applied to some of the grandest objects that earth has to
show,) did really move a trifle of interest in me, on a day when I
hated the face of man and woman. Yet again, if I had known this man
for the murderer that even then he was, what sudden loss of
interest, what sudden growth of another interest, would have
changed the face of that party! Trivial creature, that didst carry
thy dreadful eye kindling with perpetual treasons! Dreadful
creature, that didst carry thy trivial eye, mantling with eternal
levity, over the sleeping surfaces of confiding household life--oh,
what a revolution for man wouldst thou have accomplished had thy
deep wickedness prospered! What _was_ that wickedness? In a
few words I will say.

At this time (October, 1848) the whole British island is appalled
by a new chapter in the history of poisoning. Locusta in ancient
Rome, Madame Brinvilliers in Paris, were people of original genius:
not in any new artifice of toxicology, not in the mere management
of poisons, was the audacity of their genius displayed. No; but in
profiting by domestic openings for murder, unsuspected through
their very atrocity. Such an opening was made some years ago by
those who saw the possibility of founding purses for parents upon
the murder of their children. This was done upon a larger scale
than had been suspected, and upon a plausible pretence. To bury a
corpse is costly; but of a hundred children only a few, in the
ordinary course of mortality, will die within a given time. Five
shillings a-piece will produce 25L annually, and _that_ will
bury a considerable number. On this principle arose Infant Burial
Societies. For a few shillings annually, a parent could secure a
funeral for every child. If the child died, a few guineas fell due
to the parent, and the funeral was accomplished without cost of
_his_. But on this arose the suggestion--Why not execute an
insurance of this nature twenty times over? One single insurance
pays for the funeral--the other nineteen are so much clear gain, a
_lucro ponatur_, for the parents. Yes; but on the supposition
that the child died! twenty are no better than one, unless they are
gathered into the garner. Now, if the child died naturally, all was
right; but how, if the child did _not_ die? Why, clearly this,
--the child that _can_ die, and won't die, may be made to die.
There are many ways of doing that; and it is shocking to know,
that, according to recent discoveries, poison is comparatively a
very merciful mode of murder. Six years ago a dreadful
communication was made to the public by a medical man, viz., that
three thousand children were annually burned to death under
circumstances showing too clearly that they had been left by their
mothers with the means and the temptations to set themselves on
fire in her absence. But more shocking, because more lingering, are
the deaths by artificial appliances of wet, cold, hunger, bad diet,
and disturbed sleep, to the frail constitutions of children. By
that machinery it is, and not by poison, that the majority qualify
themselves for claiming the funeral allowances. Here, however,
there occur to any man, on reflection, two eventual restraints on
the extension of this domestic curse:--1st, as there is no pretext
for wanting more than one funeral on account of one child, any
insurances beyond one are in themselves a ground of suspicion. Now,
if any plan were devised for securing the _publication_ of
such insurances, the suspicions would travel as fast as the grounds
for them. 2dly, it occurs, that eventually the evil checks itself,
since a society established on the ordinary rates of mortality
would be ruined when a murderous stimulation was applied to that
rate too extensively. Still it is certain that, for a season, this
atrocity _has_ prospered in manufacturing districts for some
years, and more recently, as judicial investigations have shown, in
one agricultural district of Essex. Now, Mr. W--'s scheme of murder
was, in its outline, the very same, but not applied to the narrow
purpose of obtaining burials from a public fund He persuaded, for
instance, two beautiful young ladies, visitors in his family, to
insure their lives for a short period of two years. This insurance
was repeated in several different offices, until a sum of 18,000
pounds had been secured in the event of their deaths within the two
years. Mr. W--took care that they _should_ die, and very
suddenly, within that period; and then, having previously secured
from his victims an assignment to himself of this claim, he
endeavored to make this assignment available. But the offices,
which had vainly endeavored to extract from the young ladies any
satisfactory account of the reasons for this limited insurance, had
their suspicions at last strongly roused. One office had recently
experienced a case of the same nature, in which also the young lady
had been poisoned by the man in whose behalf she had effected the
insurance; all the offices declined to pay; actions at law arose;
in the course of the investigation which followed, Mr. W--'s
character was fully exposed. Finally, in the midst of the
embarrassments which ensued, he committed forgery, and was

From this Mr. W--, some few days afterwards, I received an
invitation to a dinner party, expressed in terms that were
obligingly earnest. He mentioned the names of his principal guests,
and amongst them rested most upon those of Lamb and Sir David
Wilkie. From an accident I was unable to attend, and greatly
regretted it. Sir David one might rarely happen to see, except at a
crowded party. But as regarded Lamb, I was sure to see him or to
hear of him again in some way or other within a short time. This
opportunity, in fact, offered itself within a month through the
kindness of the Lambs themselves. They had heard of my being in
solitary lodgings, and insisted on my coming to dine with them,
which more than once I did in the winter of 1821-22.

The mere reception by the Lambs was so full of goodness and
hospitable feeling, that it kindled animation in the most cheerless
or torpid of invalids. I cannot imagine that any _memorabilia_
occurred during the visit; but I will use the time that would else
be lost upon the settling of that point, in putting down any
triviality that occurs to my recollection. Both Lamb and myself had
a furious love for nonsense, headlong nonsense. Excepting Professor
Wilson, I have known nobody who had the same passion to the same
extent. And things of that nature better illustrate the
_realities_ of Lamb's social life than the gravities, which
weighing so sadly on his solitary hours he sought to banish from
his moments of relaxation.

There were no strangers; Charles Lamb, his sister, and myself made
up the party. Even this was done in kindness. They knew that I
should have been oppressed by an effort such as must be made in the
society of strangers; and they placed me by their own fireside,
where I could say as little or as much as I pleased.

We dined about five o'clock, and it was one of the hospitalities
inevitable to the Lambs, that any game which they might receive
from rural friends in the course of the week, was reserved for the
day of a friend's dining with them.

In regard to wine, Lamb and myself had the same habit--perhaps it
rose to the dignity of a principle--viz., to take a great deal
_during_ dinner--none _after_ it. Consequently, as Miss
Lamb (who drank only water) retired almost with the dinner itself,
nothing remained for men of our principles, the rigor of which we
had illustrated by taking rather too much of old port before the
cloth was drawn, except talking; amoebaean colloquy, or, in Dr.
Johnson's phrase, a dialogue of "brisk reciprocation." But this was
impossible; over Lamb, at this period of his life, there passed
regularly, after taking wine, a brief eclipse of sleep. It
descended upon him as softly as a shadow. In a gross person, laden
with superfluous flesh, and sleeping heavily, this would have been
disagreeable; but in Lamb, thin even to meagreness, spare and wiry
as an Arab of the desert, or as Thomas Aquinas, wasted by
scholastic vigils, the affection of sleep seemed rather a network
of aerial gossamer than of earthly cobweb--more like a golden haze
falling upon him gently from the heavens than a cloud exhaling
upwards from the flesh. Motionless in his chair as a bust,
breathing so gently as scarcely to seem certainly alive, he
presented the image of repose midway between life and death, like
the repose of sculpture; and to one who knew his history a repose
affectingly contrasting with the calamities and internal storms of
his life. I have heard more persons than I can now distinctly
recall, observe of Lamb when sleeping, that his countenance in that
state assumed an expression almost seraphic, from its intellectual
beauty of outline, its childlike simplicity, and its benignity. It
could not be called a transfiguration that sleep had worked in his
face; for the features wore essentially the same expression when
waking; but sleep spiritualized that expression, exalted it, and
also harmonized it. Much of the change lay in that last process.
The eyes it was that disturbed the unity of effect in Lamb's waking
face. They gave a restlessness to the character of his intellect,
shifting, like northern lights, through every mode of combination
with fantastic playfulness, and sometimes by fiery gleams
obliterating for the moment that pure light of benignity which was
the predominant reading on his features. Some people have supposed
that Lamb had Jewish blood in his veins, which seemed to account
for his gleaming eyes. It might be so; but this notion found little
countenance in Lamb's own way of treating the gloomy medieval
traditions propagated throughout Europe about the Jews, and their
secret enmity to Christian races. Lamb, indeed, might not be more
serious than Shakspeare is supposed to have been in his Shylock;
yet he spoke at times as from a station of wilful bigotry, and
seemed (whether laughingly or not) to sympathize with the barbarous
Christian superstitions upon the pretended bloody practices of the
Jews, and of the early Jewish physicians. Being himself a Lincoln
man, he treated Sir Hugh [Endnote: 4] of Lincoln, the young child
that suffered death by secret assassination in the Jewish quarter
rather than suppress his daily anthems to the Virgin, as a true
historical personage on the rolls of martyrdom; careless that this
fable, like that of the apprentice murdered out of jealousy by his
master, the architect, had destroyed its own authority by
ubiquitous diffusion. All over Europe the same legend of the
murdered apprentice and the martyred child reappears under
different names--so that in effect the verification of the tale is
none at all, because it is unanimous; is too narrow, because it is
too impossibly broad. Lamb, however, though it was often hard to
say whether he were not secretly laughing, swore to the truth of
all these old fables, and treated the liberalities of the present
generation on such points as mere fantastic and effeminate
affectations, which, no doubt, they often are as regards the
sincerity of those who profess them. The bigotry, which it pleased
his fancy to assume, he used like a sword against the Jew, as the
official weapon of the Christian, upon the same principle that a
Capulet would have drawn upon a Montague, without conceiving it any
duty of _his_ to rip up the grounds of so ancient a quarrel;
it was a feud handed down to him by his ancestors, and it was
_their_ business to see that originally it had been an honest
feud. I cannot yet believe that Lamb, if seriously aware of any
family interconnection with Jewish blood, would, even in jest, have
held that one-sided language. More probable it is, that the fiery
eye recorded not any alliance with Jewish blood, but that
disastrous alliance with insanity which tainted his own life, and
laid desolate his sister's.

On awakening from his brief slumber, Lamb sat for some time in
profound silence, and then, with the most startling rapidity, sang
out--"Diddle, diddle, dumpkins;" not looking at me, but as if
soliloquizing. For five minutes he relapsed into the same deep
silence; from which again he started up into the same abrupt
utterance of--"Diddle, diddle, dumpkins." I could not help laughing
aloud at the extreme energy of this sudden communication,
contrasted with the deep silence that went before and followed.
Lamb smilingly begged to know what I was laughing at, and with a
look of as much surprise as if it were I that had done something
unaccountable, and not himself. I told him (as was the truth) that
there had suddenly occurred to me the possibility of my being in
some future period or other called on to give an account of this
very evening before some literary committee. The committee might
say to me--(supposing the case that I outlived him)--"You dined
with Mr. Lamb in January, 1822; now, can you remember any remark or
memorable observation which that celebrated man made before or
after dinner?"

I as _respondent_. "Oh yes, I can."

_Com_. "What was it?"

_Resp_. "Diddle, diddle, dumpkins."

_Com_. "And was this his only observation? Did Mr. Lamb not
strengthen this remark by some other of the same nature?"

_Resp_. "Yes, he did."

_Com_. "And what was it?"

_Resp_. "Diddle, diddle, dumpkins."

_Com_. "What is your secret opinion of Dumpkins?"

_Com_. "Do you conceive Dumpkins to have been a thing or a

_Resp_. "I conceive Dumpkins to have been a person, having the
rights of a person."

_Com_. "Capable, for instance, of suing and being sued?"

_Resp_. "Yes, capable of both; though I have reason to think
there would have been very little use in suing Dumpkins."

_Com_. "How so? Are the committee to understand that you, the
respondent, in your own case, have found it a vain speculation,
countenanced only by visionary lawyers, to sue Dumpkins?"

_Resp_. "No; I never lost a shilling by Dumpkins, the reason
for which may be that Dumpkins never owed me a shilling; but from
his _pronomen_ of 'diddle,' I apprehend that he was too well
acquainted with joint-stock companies!"

_Com_. "And your opinion is, that he may have diddled Mr.

_Resp_. "I conceive it to be not unlikely."

_Com_. "And, perhaps, from Mr. Lamb's pathetic reiteration of
his name, 'Diddle, diddle,' you would be disposed to infer that
Dumpkins had practised his diddling talents upon Mr. L. more than

_Resp_. "I think it probable."

Lamb laughed, and brightened up; tea was announced; Miss Lamb
returned. The cloud had passed away from Lamb's spirits, and again
he realized the pleasure of evening, which, in _his_
apprehension, was so essential to the pleasure of literature.

On the table lay a copy of Wordsworth, in two volumes; it was the
edition of Longman, printed about the time of Waterloo. Wordsworth
was held in little consideration, I believe, amongst the house of
Longman; at any rate, _their_ editions of his works were got
up in the most slovenly manner. In particular, the table of
contents was drawn up like a short-hand bill of parcels. By
accident the book lay open at a part of this table, where the
sonnet beginning--

  "Alas! what boots the long laborious quest"--

had been entered with mercantile speed, as--

  "Alas! what boots,"----

"Yes," said Lamb, reading this entry in a dolorous tone of voice, "he
may well say _that_. I paid Hoby three guineas for a pair that
tore like blotting paper, when I was leaping a ditch to escape a
farmer that pursued me with a pitch-fork for trespassing. But why
should W. wear boots in Westmoreland? Pray, advise him to patronize

The mercurialities of Lamb were infinite, and always uttered in a
spirit of absolute recklessness for the quality or the prosperity
of the sally. It seemed to liberate his spirits from some burthen
of blackest melancholy which oppressed it, when he had thrown off a
jest: he would not stop one instant to improve it; nor did he care
the value of a straw whether it were good enough to be remembered,
or so mediocre as to extort high moral indignation from a collector
who refused to receive into his collection of jests and puns any
that were not felicitously good or revoltingly bad.

After tea, Lamb read to me a number of beautiful compositions,
which he had himself taken the trouble to copy out into a blank
paper folio from unsuccessful authors. Neglected people in every
class won the sympathy of Lamb. One of the poems, I remember, was a
very beautiful sonnet from a volume recently published by Lord
Thurlow--which, and Lamb's just remarks upon it, I could almost
repeat _verbatim_ at this moment, nearly twenty-seven years
later, if your limits would allow me. But these, you tell me, allow
of no such thing; at the utmost they allow only twelve lines more.
Now all the world knows that the sonnet itself would require
fourteen lines; but take fourteen from twelve, and there remains
very little, I fear; besides which, I am afraid two of my twelve
are already exhausted. This forces me to interrupt my account of
Lamb's reading, by reporting the very accident that _did_
interrupt it in fact; since that no less characteristically
expressed Lamb's peculiar spirit of kindness, (always quickening
itself towards the ill-used or the down-trodden,) than it had
previously expressed itself in his choice of obscure readings. Two
ladies came in, one of whom at least had sunk in the scale of
worldly consideration. They were ladies who would not have found
much recreation in literary discussions; elderly, and habitually
depressed. On _their_ account, Lamb proposed whist, and in
that kind effort to amuse them, which naturally drew forth some
momentary gayeties from himself, but not of a kind to impress
themselves on the recollection, the evening terminated.

We have left ourselves no room for a special examination of Lamb's
writings, some of which were failures, and some were so memorably
beautiful as to be unique in their class. The character of Lamb it
is, and the life-struggle of Lamb, that must fix the attention of
many, even amongst those wanting in sensibility to his intellectual
merits. This character and this struggle, as we have already
observed, impress many traces of themselves upon Lamb's writings.
Even in that view, therefore, they have a ministerial value; but
separately, for themselves, they have an independent value of the
highest order. Upon this point we gladly adopt the eloquent words
of Sergeant Talfourd:--

"The sweetness of Lamb's character, breathed through his writings,
was felt even by strangers; but its heroic aspect was unguessed
even by many of his friends. Let them now consider it, and ask if
the annals of self-sacrifice can show anything in human action and
endurance more lovely than its self-devotion exhibits? It was not
merely that he saw, through the ensanguined cloud of misfortune
which had fallen upon his family, the unstained excellence of his
sister, whose madness had caused it; that he was ready to take her
to his own home with reverential affection, and cherish her through
life; and he gave up, for _her_ sake, all meaner and more
selfish love, and all the hopes which youth blends with the passion
which disturbs and ennobles it; not even that he did all this
cheerfully, without pluming himself upon his brotherly nobleness as
a virtue, or seeking to repay himself (as some uneasy martyrs do)
by small instalments of long repining; but that he carried the
spirit of the hour in which he first knew and took his course to
his last. So far from thinking that his sacrifice of youth and love
to his sister gave him a license to follow his own caprice at the
expense of her feelings, even in the lightest matters, he always
wrote and spoke of her as his wiser self, his generous
benefactress, of whose protecting care he was scarcely worthy."

It must be remembered, also, which the Sergeant does not overlook,
that Lamb's efforts for the becoming support of his sister lasted
through a period of forty years. Twelve years before his death, the
munificence of the India House, by granting him a liberal retiring
allowance, had placed his own support under shelter from accidents
of any kind. But this died with himself; and he could not venture
to suppose that, in the event of his own death, the India House
would grant to his sister the same allowance as by custom is
granted to a wife. This they did; but not venturing to calculate
upon such nobility of patronage, Lamb had applied himself through
life to the saving of a provision for his sister under any accident
to himself. And this he did with a persevering prudence, so little
known in the literary class, amongst a continued tenor of
generosities, often so princely as to be scarcely known in any

Was this man, so memorably good by life-long sacrifice of himself,
in any profound sense a Christian? The impression is, that he was
_not_. We, from private communications with him, can undertake
to say that, according to his knowledge and opportunities for the
study of Christianity, he _was_. What has injured Lamb on this
point is, that his early opinions (which, however, from the first
were united with the deepest piety) are read by the inattentive, as
if they had been the opinions of his mature days; secondly, that he
had few religious persons amongst his friends, which made him
reserved in the expression of his own views; thirdly, that in any
case where he altered opinions for the better, the credit of the
improvement is assigned to Coleridge. Lamb, for example, beginning
life as a Unitarian, in not many years became a Trinitarian.
Coleridge passed through the same changes in the same order; and,
here, at least, Lamb is supposed simply to have obeyed the
influence, confessedly great, of Coleridge. This, on our own
knowledge of Lamb's views, we pronounce to be an error. And the
following extracts from Lamb's letters will show, not only that he
was religiously disposed on impulses self-derived, but that, so far
from obeying the bias of Coleridge, he ventured, on this one
subject, firmly as regarded the matter, though humbly as regarded
the manner, affectionately to reprove Coleridge.

In a letter to Coleridge, written in 1797, the year after his first
great affliction, he says:

"Coleridge, I have not one truly elevated character among my
acquaintance; not one Christian; not one but undervalues
Christianity. Singly, what am I to do? Wesley--[have you read his
life?]--was not he an elevated character? Wesley has said religion
was not a solitary thing. Alas! it is necessarily so with me, or
next to solitary. 'Tis true you write to me; but correspondence by
letter and personal intimacy are widely different. Do, do write to
me; and do some good to my mind--already how much 'warped and
relaxed' by the world!"

In a letter written about three months previously, he had not
scrupled to blame Coleridge at some length for audacities of
religious speculation, which seemed to him at war with the
simplicities of pure religion. He says:

"Do continue to write to me. I read your letters with my sister,
and they give us both abundance of delight. Especially they please
us two when you talk in a religious strain. Not but we are offended
occasionally with a certain freedom of expression, a certain air of
mysticism, more consonant to the conceits of pagan philosophy than
consistent with the humility of genuine piety."

Then, after some instances of what he blames, he says:

"Be not angry with me, Coleridge. I wish not to cavil; I know I
cannot instruct you; I only wish to remind you of that humility
which best becometh the Christian character. God, in the New
Testament, our best guide, is represented to us in the kind,
condescending, amiable, familiar light of a parent; and, in my poor
mind, 'tis best for us so to consider him as our heavenly Father,
and our best friend, without indulging too bold conceptions of his

About a month later, he says:

"Few but laugh at me for reading my Testament. They talk a language
I understand not; I conceal sentiments that would be a puzzle to

We see by this last quotation _where_ it was that Lamb
originally sought for consolation. We personally can vouch that, at
a maturer period, when he was approaching his fiftieth year, no
change had affected his opinions upon that point; and, on the other
hand, that no changes had occurred in his needs for consolation, we
see, alas! in the records of his life. Whither, indeed, could he
fly for comfort, if not to his Bible? And to whom was the Bible an
indispensable resource, if not to Lamb? We do not undertake to say,
that in his knowledge of Christianity he was everywhere profound or
consistent, but he was always earnest in his aspirations after its
spiritualities, and had an apprehensive sense of its power.

Charles Lamb is gone; his life was a continued struggle in the
service of love the purest, and within a sphere visited by little
of contemporary applause. Even his intellectual displays won but a
narrow sympathy at any time, and in his earlier period were saluted
with positive derision and contumely on the few occasions when they
were not oppressed by entire neglect. But slowly all things right
themselves. All merit, which is founded in truth, and is strong
enough, reaches by sweet exhalations in the end a higher sensory;
reaches higher organs of discernment, lodged in a selecter
audience. But the original obtuseness or vulgarity of feeling that
thwarted Lamb's just estimation in life, will continue to thwart
its popular diffusion. There are even some that continue to regard
him with the old hostility. And we, therefore, standing by the side
of Lamb's grave, seemed to hear, on one side, (but in abated tones,
) strains of the ancient malice--"This man, that thought himself to
be somebody, is dead--is buried--is forgotten!" and, on the other
side, seemed to hear ascending, as with the solemnity of an
anthem--"This man, that thought himself to be nobody, is dead--is
buried; his life has been searched; and his memory is hallowed



"_Scriptural_" we call it, because this element of thought, so
indispensable to a profound philosophy of morals, is not simply
_more_ used in Scripture than elsewhere, but is so exclusively
significant or intelligible amidst the correlative ideas of
Scripture, as to be absolutely insusceptible of translation into
classical Greek or classical Latin. It is disgraceful that more
reflection has not been directed to the vast causes and
consequences of so pregnant a truth.


"_Poor S T. C._"-The affecting expression by which Coleridge
indicates himself in the few lines written during his last illness
for an inscription upon his grave, lines ill constructed in point
of diction and compression, but otherwise speaking from the depths
Of his heart.


It is right to remind the reader of this, for a reason applying
forcibly to the present moment Michelet has taxed Englishmen with
yielding to national animosities in the case of Joan, having no
plea whatever for that insinuation but the single one drawn from
Shakspeare's Henry VI. To this the answer is, first, that
Shakspeare's share in that trilogy is not nicely ascertained
Secondly, that M Michelet forgot (or, which is far worse,
_not_ forgetting it, he dissembled) the fact, that in
undertaking a series of dramas upon the basis avowedly of national
chronicles, and for the very purpose of profiting by old
traditionary recollections connected with ancestral glories, it was
mere lunacy to recast the circumstances at the bidding of
antiquarian research, so as entirely to disturb these glories.
Besides that, to Shakspeare's age no such spirit of research had
blossomed. Writing for the stage, a man would have risked
lapidation by uttering a whisper in that direction. And, even if
not, what sense could there have been in openly running counter to
the very motive that had originally prompted that particular class
of chronicle plays? Thirdly, if one Englishman had, in a memorable
situation, adopted the popular view of Joan's conduct,
(_popular_ as much in France as in England;) on the other
hand, fifty years before M. Michelet was writing this flagrant
injustice, another Englishman (viz., Southey) had, in an epic poem,
reversed this mis-judgment, and invested the shepherd girl with a
glory nowhere else accorded to her, unless indeed by Schiller.
Fourthly, we are not entitled to view as an _attack_ upon
Joanna, what, in the worst construction, is but an unexamining
adoption of the contemporary historical accounts. A poet or a
dramatist is not responsible for the accuracy of chronicles. But
what _is_ an attack upon Joan, being briefly the foulest and
obscenest attempt ever made to stifle the grandeur of a great human
struggle, viz., the French burlesque poem of _La
Pucelle_--what memorable man was it that wrote _that_? Was
he a Frenchman, or was he not? That M. Michelet should
_pretend_ to have forgotten this vilest of pasquinades, is
more shocking to the general sense of justice than any special
untruth as to Shakspeare _can_ be to the particular
nationality of an Englishman.


The story which furnishes a basis to the fine ballad in Percy's
Reliques, and to the Canterbury Tale of Chaucer's Lady Abbess.


John Wolfgang von Goethe, a man of commanding influence in the
literature of modern Germany throughout the latter half of his long
life, and possessing two separate claims upon our notice; one in
right of his own unquestionable talents; and another much stronger,
though less direct, arising out of his position, and the
extravagant partisanship put forward on his behalf for the last
forty years. The literary body in all countries, and for reasons
which rest upon a sounder basis than that of private jealousies,
have always been disposed to a republican simplicity in all that
regards the assumption of rank and personal pretensions. _Valeat
quantum valere potest_, is the form of license to every man's
ambition, coupled with its caution. Let his influence and authority
be commensurate with his attested value; and, because no man in the
present infinity of human speculation, and the present multiformity
of human power, can hope for more than a very limited superiority,
there is an end at once to all _absolute_ dictatorship. The
dictatorship in any case could be only _relative_, and in
relation to a single department of art or knowledge; and this for a
reason stronger even than that already noticed, viz., the vast
extent of the field on which the intellect is now summoned to
employ itself. That objection, as it applies only to the
_degree_ of the difficulty, might be met by a corresponding
degree of mental energy; such a thing may be supposed, at least.
But another difficulty there is, of a profounder character, which
cannot be so easily parried. Those who have reflected at all upon
the fine arts, know that power of one kind is often inconsistent,
positively incompatible, with power of another kind. For example,
the _dramatic_ mind is incompatible with the _epic_. And
though we should consent to suppose that some intellect might arise
endowed upon a scale of such angelic comprehensiveness, as to
vibrate equally and indifferently towards either pole, still it is
next to impossible, in the exercise and culture of the two powers,
but some bias must arise which would give that advantage to the one
over the other which the right arm has over the left. But the
supposition, the very case put, is baseless, and countenanced by no
precedent. Yet, under this previous difficulty, and with regard to
a literature convulsed, if any ever was, by an almost total
anarchy, it is a fact notorious to all who take an interest in
Germany and its concerns, that Goethe did in one way or other,
through the length and breadth of that vast country, establish a
supremacy of influence wholly unexampled; a supremacy indeed
perilous in a less honorable man, to those whom he might chance to
hate, and with regard to himself thus far unfortunate, that it
conferred upon every work proceeding from his pen a sort of papal
indulgence, an immunity from criticism, or even from the appeals of
good sense, such as it is not wholesome that any man should enjoy.
Yet we repeat that German literature was and is in a condition of
total anarchy. With this solitary exception, no name, even in the
most narrow section of knowledge or of power, has ever been able in
that country to challenge unconditional reverence; whereas, with us
and in France, name the science, name the art, and we will name the
dominant professor; a difference which partly arises out of the
fact that England and France are governed in their opinions by two
or three capital cities, whilst Germany looks for its leadership to
as many cities as there are _residenzen_ and universities. For
instance, the little territory with which Goethe was connected
presented no less than two such public lights; Weimar, the
_residenz_ or privileged abode of the Grand Duke, and Jena,
the university founded by that house. Partly, however, this
difference may be due to the greater restlessness, and to the
greater energy as respects mere speculation, of the German mind.
But no matter whence arising, or how interpreted, the fact is what
we have described; absolute confusion, the "anarch old" of Milton,
is the one deity whose sceptre is there paramount; and yet
_there_ it was, in that very realm of chaos, that Goethe built
his throne. That he must have looked with trepidation and
perplexity upon his wild empire and its "dark foundations," may be
supposed. The tenure was uncertain to _him_ as regarded its
duration; to us it is equally uncertain, and in fact mysterious, as
regards its origin. Meantime the mere fact, contrasted with the
general tendencies of the German literary world, is sufficient to
justify a notice, somewhat circumstantial, of the man in whose
favor, whether naturally by force of genius, or by accident
concurring with intrigue, so unexampled a result was effected.

Goethe was born at noonday on the 28th of August, 1749, in his
father's house at Frankfort on the Maine. The circumstances of his
birth were thus far remarkable, that, unless Goethe's vanity
deceived him, they led to a happy revolution hitherto retarded by
female delicacy falsely directed. From some error of the midwife
who attended his mother, the infant Goethe appeared to be
still-born. Sons there were as yet none from this marriage;
everybody was therefore interested in the child's life; and the
panic which arose in consequence, having survived its immediate
occasion, was improved into a public resolution, (for which no
doubt society stood ready at that moment,) to found some course of
public instruction from this time forward for those who undertook
professionally the critical duties of accoucheur.

We have noticed the house in which Goethe was born, as well as the
city. Both were remarkable, and fitted to leave lasting impressions
upon a young person of sensibility. As to the city, its antiquity
is not merely venerable, but almost mysterious; towers were at that
time to be found in the mouldering lines of its earliest defences,
which belonged to the age of Charlemagne, or one still earlier;
battlements adapted to a mode of warfare anterior even to that of
feudalism or romance. The customs, usages, and local privileges of
Frankfort, and the rural districts adjacent, were of a
corresponding character. Festivals were annually celebrated at a
short distance from the walls, which had descended from a dateless
antiquity. Every thing which met the eye spoke the language of
elder ages; whilst the river on which the place was seated, its
great fair, which still held the rank of the greatest in
Christendom, and its connection with the throne of Caesar and his
inauguration, by giving to Frankfort an interest and a public
character in the eyes of all Germany, had the effect of
countersigning, as it were, by state authority, the importance
which she otherwise challenged to her ancestral distinctions. Fit
house for such a city, and in due keeping with the general scenery,
was that of Goethe's father. It had in fact been composed out of
two contiguous houses; that accident had made it spacious and
rambling in its plan; whilst a further irregularity had grown out
of the original difference in point of level between the
corresponding stories of the two houses, making it necessary to
connect the rooms of the same _suite_ by short flights of
steps. Some of these features were no doubt removed by the recast
of the house under the name of "repairs," (to evade a city bye-law,
) afterwards executed by his father; but such was the house of
Goethe's infancy, and in all other circumstances of style and
furnishing equally antique.

The spirit of society in Frankfort, without a court, a university,
or a learned body of any extent, or a resident nobility in its
neighborhood, could not be expected to display any very high
standard of polish. Yet, on the other hand, as an independent city,
governed by its own separate laws and tribunals, (that privilege of
_autonomy_ so dearly valued by ancient Greece,) and possessing
besides a resident corps of jurisprudents and of agents in various
ranks for managing the interests of the German emperor and other
princes, Frankfort had the means within herself of giving a liberal
tone to the pursuits of her superior citizens, and of cooperating
in no inconsiderable degree with the general movement of the times,
political or intellectual. The memoirs of Goethe himself, and in
particular the picture there given of his own family, as well as
other contemporary glimpses of German domestic society in those
days, are sufficient to show that much knowledge, much true
cultivation of mind, much sound refinement of taste, were then
distributed through the middle classes of German society; meaning
by that very indeterminate expression those classes which for
Frankfort composed the aristocracy, viz., all who had daily
leisure, and regular funds for employing it to advantage. It is not
necessary to add, because that is a fact applicable to all stages
of society, that Frankfort presented many and various specimens of
original talent, moving upon all directions of human speculation.

Yet, with this general allowance made for the capacities of the
place, it is too evident that, for the most part, they lay inert
and undeveloped. In many respects Frankfort resembled an English
cathedral city, according to the standard of such places seventy
years ago, not, that is to say, like Carlisle in this day, where a
considerable manufacture exists, but like Chester as it is yet. The
chapter of a cathedral, the resident ecclesiastics attached to the
duties of so large an establishment, men always well educated, and
generally having families, compose the original _nucleus_,
around which soon gathers all that part of the local gentry who,
for any purpose, whether of education for their children, or of
social enjoyment for themselves, seek the advantages of a town.
Hither resort all the timid old ladies who wish for conversation,
or other forms of social amusement; hither resort the
valetudinarians, male or female, by way of commanding superior
medical advice at a cost not absolutely ruinous to themselves; and
multitudes besides, with narrow incomes, to whom these quiet
retreats are so many cities of refuge.

Such, in one view, they really are; and yet in another they have a
vicious constitution. Cathedral cities in England, imperial cities
without manufactures in Germany, are all in an improgressive
condition. The public employments of every class in such places
continue the same from generation to generation. The amount of
superior families oscillates rather than changes; that is, it
fluctuates within fixed limits; and, for all inferior families,
being composed either of shopkeepers or of menial servants, they
are determined by the number, or, which, on a large average, is the
same, by the pecuniary power, of their employers. Hence it arises,
that room is made for one man, in whatever line of dependence, only
by the death of another; and the constant increments of the
population are carried off into other cities. Not less is the
difference of such cities as regards the standard of manners. How
striking is the soft and urbane tone of the lower orders in a
cathedral city, or in a watering place dependent upon ladies,
contrasted with the bold, often insolent, demeanor of a
self-dependent artisan or mutinous mechanic of Manchester and

Children, however, are interested in the state of society around
them, chiefly as it affects their parents. Those of Goethe were
respectable, and perhaps tolerably representative of the general
condition in their own rank. An English authoress of great talent,
in her _Characteristics of Goethe_, has too much countenanced
the notion that he owed his intellectual advantages exclusively to
his mother. Of this there is no proof. His mother wins more esteem
from the reader of this day, because she was a cheerful woman, of
serene temper, brought into advantageous comparison with a husband
much older than herself, whom circumstances had rendered moody,
fitful, sometimes capricious, and confessedly obstinate in that
degree which Pope has taught us to think connected with inveterate

    "Stiff in opinion, always in the wrong,"

unhappily presents an association too often actually occurring in
nature, to leave much chance for error in presuming either quality
from the other. And, in fact, Goethe's father was so uniformly
obstinate in pressing his own views upon all who belonged to him,
whenever he did come forward in an attitude of activity, that his
family had much reason to be thankful for the rarity of such
displays. Fortunately for them, his indolence neutralized his
obstinacy. And the worst shape in which his troublesome temper
showed itself, was in what concerned the religious reading of the
family. Once begun, the worst book as well as the best, the longest
no less than the shortest, was to be steadfastly read through to
the last word of the last volume; no excess of yawning availed to
obtain a reprieve, not, adds his son, though he were himself the
leader of the yawners. As an illustration, he mentions Bowyer's
_History of the Popes_; which awful series of records, the
catacombs, as it were, in the palace of history, were actually
traversed from one end to the other of the endless suite by the
unfortunate house of Goethe. Allowing, however, for the father's
unamiableness in this one point, upon all intellectual ground both
parents seem to have met very much upon a level. Two illustrations
may suffice, one of which occurred during the infancy of Goethe.
The science of education was at that time making its first rude
motions towards an ampler development; and, amongst other reforms
then floating in the general mind, was one for eradicating the
childish fear of ghosts, &c. The young Goethes, as it happened,
slept not in separate beds only, but in separate rooms; and not
unfrequently the poor children, under the stinging terrors of their
lonely situation, stole away from their "forms," to speak in the
hunter's phrase, and sought to rejoin each other. But in these
attempts they were liable to surprises from the enemy; papa and
mamma were both on the alert, and often intercepted the young
deserter by a cross march or an ambuscade; in which cases each had
a separate policy for enforcing obedience. The father, upon his
general system of "perseverance," compelled the fugitive back to
his quarters, and, in effect, exhorted him to persist in being
frightened out of his wits. To his wife's gentle heart that course
appeared cruel, and she reclaimed the delinquent by bribes; the
peaches which her garden walls produced being the fund from which
she chiefly drew her supplies for this branch of the secret
service. What were her winter bribes, when the long nights would
seem to lie heaviest on the exchequer, is not said. Speaking
seriously, no man of sense can suppose that a course of suffering
from terrors the most awful, under whatever influence supported,
whether under the naked force of compulsion, or of _that_
connected with bribes, could have any final effect in mitigating
the passion of awe, connected, by our very dreams, with the shadowy
and the invisible, or in tranquillizing the infantine imagination.

A second illustration involves a great moral event in the history
of Goethe, as it was, in fact, the first occasion of his receiving
impressions at war with his religious creed. Piety is so beautiful
an ornament of the youthful mind, doubt or distrust so unnatural a
growth from confiding innocence, that an infant freethinker is
heard of not so much with disgust as with perplexity. A sense of
the ludicrous is apt to intermingle; and we lose our natural horror
of the result in wonder at its origin. Yet in this instance there
is no room for doubt; the fact and the occasion are both on record;
there can be no question about the date; and, finally, the accuser
is no other than the accused. Goethe's own pen it is which
proclaims, that already, in the early part of his seventh year, his
reliance upon God as a moral governor had suffered a violent shock,
was shaken, if not undermined. On the 1st of November, 1755,
occurred the great earthquake at Lisbon. Upon a double account,
this event occupied the thoughts of all Europe for an unusual term
of time; both as an expression upon a larger scale than usual of
the mysterious physical agency concerned in earthquakes, and also
for the awful human tragedy [Endnote: 5] Of this no picture can ever
hope to rival that hasty one sketched in the letter of the chaplain
to the Lisbon factory. The plague of Athens as painted by
Thucydides or Lucretius, nay even the fabulous plague of London by
De Foe, contain no scenes or situations equal in effect to some in
this plain historic statement. Nay, it would perhaps be difficult
to produce a passage from Ezekiel, from Aeschylus, or from
Shakspeare, which would so profoundly startle the sense of
sublimity as one or two of his incidents, which attended either
the earthquake itself, or its immediate sequel in the sudden
irruption of the Tagus. Sixty thousand persons, victims to the dark
power in its first or its second _avatar_, attested the
Titanic scale upon which it worked. Here it was that the shallow
piety of the Germans found a stumbling-block. Those who have read
any circumstantial history of the physical signs which preceded
this earthquake, are aware that in England and Northern Germany
many singular phenomena were observed, more or less manifestly
connected with the same dark agency which terminated at Lisbon, and
running before this final catastrophe at times so accurately
varying with the distances, as to furnish something like a scale
for measuring the velocity with which it moved. These German
phenomena, circulated rapidly over all Germany by the journals of
every class, had seemed to give to the Germans a nearer and more
domestic interest in the great event, than belonged to them merely
in their universal character of humanity. It is also well known to
observers of national characteristics, that amongst the Germans the
household charities, the _pieties of the hearth_, as they may
be called, exist, if not really in greater strength, yet with much
less of the usual balances or restraints. A German father, for
example, is like the grandfather of other nations; and thus a
piety, which in its own nature scarcely seems liable to excess,
takes, in its external aspect, too often an air of effeminate
imbecility. These two considerations are necessary to explain the
intensity with which this Lisbon tragedy laid hold of the German
mind, and chiefly under the one single aspect of its
_undistinguishing_ fury. Women, children, old men--these,
doubtless, had been largely involved in the perishing sixty
thousand; and that reflection, it would seem from Goethe's account,
had so far embittered the sympathy of the Germans with their
distant Portuguese brethren, that, in the Frankfort discussions,
sullen murmurs had gradually ripened into bold impeachments of
Providence. There can be no gloomier form of infidelity than that
which questions the moral attributes of the Great Being, in whose
hands are the final destinies of us all. Such, however, was the
form of Goethe's earliest scepticism, such its origin; caught up
from the very echoes which rang through the streets of Frankfort
when the subject occupied all men's minds. And such, for anything
that appears, continued to be its form thenceforwards to the close
of his life, if speculations so crude could be said to have any
form at all. Many are the analogies, some close ones, between
England and Germany with regard to the circle of changes they have
run through, political or social, for a century back. The
challenges are frequent to a comparison; and sometimes the result
would be to the advantage of Germany, more often to ours. But in
religious philosophy, which in reality is the true _popular_
philosophy, how vast is the superiority on the side of this
country. Not a shopkeeper or mechanic, we may venture to say, but
would have felt this obvious truth, that surely the Lisbon
earthquake yielded no fresh lesson, no peculiar moral, beyond what
belonged to every man's experience in every age. A passage in the
New Testament about the fall of the tower of Siloam, and the just
construction of that event, had already anticipated the difficulty,
if such it could be thought. Not to mention, that calamities upon
the same scale in the earliest age of Christianity, the fall of the
amphitheatre at Fidenae, or the destruction of Pompeii, had
presented the same problem at the Lisbon earthquake. Nay, it is
presented daily in the humblest individual case, where wrong is
triumphant over right, or innocence confounded with guilt in one
common disaster. And that the parents of Goethe should have
authorized his error, if only by their silence, argues a degree of
ignorance in them, which could not have co-existed with much
superior knowledge in the public mind.

Goethe, in his Memoirs, (Book VI.,) commends his father for the
zeal with which he superintended the education of his children. But
apparently it was a zeal without knowledge. Many things were taught
imperfectly, but all casually, and as chance suggested them.
Italian was studied a little, because the elder Goethe had made an
Italian tour, and had collected some Italian books, and engravings
by Italian masters. Hebrew was studied a little, because Goethe the
son had a fancy for it, partly with a view to theology, and partly
because there was a Jewish quarter, gloomy and sequestrated, in the
city of Frankfort. French offered itself no doubt on many
suggestions, but originally on occasion of a French theatre,
supported by the staff of the French army when quartered in the
same city. Latin was gathered in a random way from a daily sense of
its necessity. English upon the temptation of a stranger's
advertisement, promising upon moderate terms to teach that language
in four weeks; a proof, by the way, that the system of bold
innovations in the art of tuition had already commenced. Riding and
fencing were also attempted under masters apparently not very highly
qualified, and in the same desultory style of application. Dancing
was taught to his family, strange as it may seem, by Mr. Goethe
himself. There is good reason to believe that not one of all these
accomplishments was possessed by Goethe, when ready to visit the
university, in a degree which made it practically of any use to
him. Drawing and music were pursued confessedly as amusements; and
it would be difficult to mention any attainment whatsoever which
Goethe had carried to a point of excellence in the years which he
spent under his father's care, unless it were his mastery over the
common artifices of metre and the common topics of rhetoric, which
fitted him for writing what are called occasional poems and
_impromptus_. This talent he possessed in a remarkable degree,
and at an early age; but he owed its cultivation entirely to

In a city so orderly as Frankfort, and in a station privileged from
all the common hardships of poverty, it can hardly be expected that
many incidents should arise, of much separate importance in
themselves, to break the monotony of life; and the mind of Goethe
was not contemplative enough to create a value for common
occurrences through any peculiar impressions which he had derived
from them. In the years 1763 and 1764, when he must have been from
fourteen to fifteen years old, Goethe witnessed the inauguration
and coronation of a king of the Romans, a solemn spectacle
connected by prescription with the city of Frankfort. He describes
it circumstantially, but with very little feeling, in his Memoirs.
Probably the prevailing sentiment, on looking back at least to this
transitory splendor of dress, processions, and ceremonial forms,
was one of cynical contempt. But this he could not express, as a
person closely connected with a German court, without giving much
and various offence. It is with some timidity even that he hazards
a criticism upon single parts of the costume adopted by some of the
actors in that gorgeous scene. White silk stockings, and pumps of
the common form, he objects to as out of harmony with the antique
and heraldic aspects of the general costume, and ventures to
suggest either boots or sandals as an improvement. Had Goethe felt
himself at liberty from all restraints of private consideration in
composing these Memoirs, can it be doubted that he would have taken
his retrospect of this Frankfort inauguration from a different
station; from the station of that stern revolution which, within
his own time, and partly under his own eyes, had shattered the
whole imperial system of thrones, in whose equipage this gay
pageant made so principal a figure, had humbled Caesar himself to
the dust, and left him an emperor without an empire? We at least,
for our parts, could not read without some emotion one little
incident of these gorgeous scenes recorded by Goethe, namely, that
when the emperor, on rejoining his wife for a few moments, held up
to her notice his own hands and arms arrayed in the antique
habiliments of Charlemagne, Maria Theresa--she whose children where
summoned to so sad a share in the coming changes--gave way to
sudden bursts of loud laughter, audible to the whole populace below
her. That laugh on surveying the departing pomps of Charlemagne,
must, in any contemplative ear, have rung with a sound of deep
significance, and with something of the same effect which belongs
to a figure of death introduced by a painter, as mixing in the
festal dances of a bridal assembly.

These pageants of 1763-64 occupy a considerable space in Goethe's
Memoirs, and with some _logical_ propriety at least, in
consideration of their being exclusively attached to Frankfort, and
connected by manifold links of person and office with the
privileged character of the city. Perhaps he might feel a sort of
narrow local patriotism in recalling these scenes to public notice
by description, at a time when they had been irretrievably
extinguished as realities. But, after making every allowance for
their local value to a Frankfort family, and for their memorable
splendor, we may venture to suppose that by far the most impressive
remembrances which had gathered about the boyhood of Goethe, were
those which pointed to Frederick of Prussia. This singular man, so
imbecile as a pretender to philosophy and new lights, so truly
heroic under misfortunes, was the first German who created a German
interest, and gave a transient unity to the German name, under all
its multiplied divisions. Were it only for this conquest of
difficulties so peculiar, he would deserve his German designation
of Fred. the Unique, (_Fritz der einzige_.) He had been
partially tried and known previously; but it was the Seven Years'
War which made him the popular idol. This began in 1756; and to
Frankfort, in a very peculiar way, that war brought dissensions and
heart-burnings in its train. The imperial connections of the city
with many public and private interests, pledged it to the
anti-Prussian cause. It happened also that the truly German
character of the reigning imperial family, the domestic habits of
the empress and her young daughters, and other circumstances, were
of a nature to endear the ties of policy; self-interest and
affection pointed in the same direction. And yet were all these
considerations allowed to melt away before the brilliant qualities
of one man, and the romantic enthusiasm kindled by his victories.
Frankfort was divided within herself; the young and the generous
were all dedicated to Frederick. A smaller party, more cautious and
prudent, were for the imperialists. Families were divided upon this
question against families, and often against themselves; feuds,
begun in private, issued often into public violence; and, according
to Goethe's own illustration, the streets were vexed by daily
brawls, as hot and as personal as of old between the Capulets and

These dissensions, however, were pursued with not much personal
risk to any of the Goethes, until a French army passed the Rhine as
allies of the imperialists. One corps of this force took up their
quarters in Frankfort; and the Comte Thorane, who held a high
appointment on the staff, settled himself for a long period of time
in the spacious mansion of Goethe's father. This officer, whom his
place made responsible for the discipline of the army in relation
to the citizens, was naturally by temper disposed to moderation and
forbearance. He was indeed a favorable specimen of French military
officers under the old system; well bred, not arrogant, well
informed, and a friend of the fine arts. For painting, in
particular, he professed great regard and some knowledge. The
Goethes were able to forward his views amongst German artists;
whilst, on the other hand, they were pleased to have thus an
opportunity of directing his patronage towards some of their own
needy connections. In this exchange of good offices, the two
parties were for some time able to maintain a fair appearance of
reciprocal good-will. This on the comte's side, if not particularly
warm, was probably sincere; but in Goethe the father it was a
masque for inveterate dislike. A natural ground of this existed in
the original relations between them. Under whatever disguise or
pretext, the Frenchman was in fact a military intruder. He occupied
the best suite of rooms in the house, used the furniture as his
own; and, though upon private motives he abstained from doing all
the injury which his situation authorized, (so as in particular to
have spread his fine military maps upon the floor, rather than
disfigure the decorated walls by nails,) still he claimed credit,
if not services of requital, for all such instances of forbearance.
Here were grievances enough; but, in addition to these, the comte's
official appointments drew upon him a weight of daily business,
which kept the house in a continual uproar. Farewell to the quiet
of a literary amateur, and the orderliness of a German household.
Finally, the comte was a Frenchman. These were too many assaults
upon one man's patience. It Will be readily understood, therefore,
how it happened, that, whilst Goethe's gentle minded mother, with
her flock of children, continued to be on the best terms with Comte
Thorane, the master of the house kept moodily aloof, and retreated
from all intercourse.

Goethe, in his own Memoir, enters into large details upon this
subject; and from him we shall borrow the _denouement_ of the
tale. A crisis had for some time been lowering over the French
affairs in Frankfort; things seemed ripening for a battle; and at
last it came. Flight, siege, bombardment, possibly a storm, all
danced before the eyes of the terrified citizens. Fortunately,
however, the battle took place at the distance of four or five
miles from Frankfort. Monsieur le Comte was absent, of course, on
the field of battle. His unwilling host thought that on such an
occasion he also might go out in quality of spectator; and with
this purpose he connected another, worthy of a Parson Adams. It is
his son who tells the story, whose filial duty was not proof
against his sense of the ludicrous. The old gentleman's hatred of
the French had by this time brought him over to his son's
admiration of the Prussian hero. Not doubting for an instant that
victory would follow that standard, he resolved on this day to
offer in person his congratulations to the Prussian army, whom he
already viewed as his liberator from a domestic nuisance. So
purposing, he made his way cautiously to the suburbs; from the
suburbs, still listening at each advance, he went forward to the
country; totally forgetting, as his son insists, that, however
completely beaten, the French army must still occupy some situation
or other between himself and his German deliverer. Coming, however,
at length to a heath, he found some of those marauders usually to
be met with in the rear of armies, prowling about, and at intervals
amusing themselves with shooting at a mark. For want of a better,
it seemed not improbable that a large German head might answer
their purpose. Certain signs admonished him of this, and the old
gentleman crept back to Frankfort. Not many hours after came back
also the comte, by no means creeping, however; on the contrary,
crowing with all his might for a victory which he averred himself
to have won. There had in fact been an affair, but on no very great
scale, and with no distinguished results. Some prisoners, however,
he brought, together with some wounded; and naturally he expected
all well disposed persons to make their compliments of
congratulation upon this triumph. Of this duty poor Mrs. Goethe and
her children cheerfully acquitted themselves that same night; and
Monsieur le Comte was so well pleased with the sound opinions of
the little Goethes, that he sent them in return a collection of
sweetmeats and fruits. All promised to go well; intentions, after
all, are not acts; and there certainly is not, nor ever was, any
treason in taking a morning's walk. But, as ill luck would have it,
just as Mr. Goethe was passing the comte's door, out came the comte
in person, purely by accident, as we are told; but we suspect that
the surly old German, either under his morning hopes or his evening
disappointments, had talked with more frankness than prudence.
"Good evening to you, Herr Goethe," said the comte; "you are come,
I see, to pay your tribute of congratulation. Somewhat of the
latest, to be sure; but no matter." "By no means," replied the
German;" by no means; _mit nichten_. Heartily I wished, the
whole day long, that you and your cursed gang might all go to the
devil together. "Here was plain speaking, at least. The Comte
Thorane could no longer complain of dissimulation. His first
movement was to order an arrest; and the official interpreter of
the French army took to himself the whole credit that he did not
carry it into effect. Goethe takes the trouble to report a
dialogue, of length and dulness absolutely incredible, between this
interpreter and the comte. No such dialogue, we may be assured,
ever took place. Goethe may, however, be right in supposing that,
amongst a foreign soldiery, irritated by the pointed contrasts
between the Frankfort treatment of their own wounded, and of their
prisoners who happened to be in the same circumstances, and under a
military council not held to any rigorous responsibility, his
father might have found no very favorable consideration of his
case. It is well, therefore, that after some struggle the comte's
better nature triumphed. He suffered Mrs. Goethe's merits to
outweigh her husband's delinquency; countermanded the order for
arrest, and, during the remainder of their connection, kept at such
a distance from his moody host as was equally desirable for both.
Fortunately that remainder was not very long. Comte Thorane was
soon displaced; and the whole army was soon afterwards withdrawn
from Frankfort.

In his fifteenth year Goethe was entangled in some connection with
young people of inferior rank, amongst whom was Margaret, a young
girl about two years older than himself, and the object of his
first love. The whole affair, as told by Goethe, is somewhat
mysterious. What might be the final views of the elder parties it
is difficult to say; but Goethe assures us that they used his
services only in writing an occasional epithalamium, the pecuniary
acknowledgment for which was spent jovially in a general banquet.
The magistrates, however, interfered, and endeavored to extort a
confession from Goethe. He, as the son of a respectable family, was
to be pardoned; the others to be punished. No confession, however,
could be extorted; and for his own part he declares that, beyond
the offence of forming a clandestine connection, he had nothing to
confess. The affair terminated, as regarded himself, in a severe
illness. Of the others we hear no more.

The next event of importance in Goethe's life was his removal to
college. His own wishes pointed to Goettingen, but his father
preferred Leipsic. Thither accordingly he went, but he carried his
obedience no farther. Declining the study of jurisprudence, he
attached himself to general literature. Subsequently he removed to
the university of Strasburg; but in neither place could it be said
that he pursued any regular course of study. His health suffered at
times during this period of his life; at first from an affection of
the chest, caused by an accident on his first journey to Leipsic;
the carriage had stuck fast in the muddy roads, and Goethe exerted
himself too much in assisting to extricate the wheels. A second
illness connected with the digestive organs brought him into
considerable danger.

After his return to Frankfort, Goethe commenced his career as an
author. In 1773, and the following year, he made his maiden essay
in _Goetz of Berlichingen_, a drama, (the translation of
which, remarkably enough, was destined to be the literary _coup
d'essai_ of Sir Walter Scott,) and in the far-famed
_Werther_. The first of these was pirated; and in consequence
the author found some difficulty in paying for the paper of the
genuine edition, which part of the expense, by his contract with
the publisher, fell upon himself. The general and early popularity
of the second work is well known. Yet, except in so far as it might
spread his name abroad, it cannot be supposed to have had much
influence in attracting that potent patronage which now began to
determine the course of his future life. So much we collect from
the account which Goethe himself has left us of this affair in its
earliest stages.

"I was sitting alone in my room," says he, "at my father's house in
Frankfort, when a gentleman entered, whom at first I took for
Frederick Jacobi, but soon discovered by the dubious light to be a
stranger. He had a military air; and announcing himself by the name
of Von Knebel, gave me to understand in a short explanation, that
being in the Prussian service, he had connected himself, during a
long residence at Berlin and Potsdam, with the literati of those
places; but that at present he held the appointment from the court
of Weimar of travelling tutor to the Prince Constantine. This I
heard with pleasure; for many of our friends had brought us the
most interesting accounts from Weimar, in particular that the
Duchess Amelia, mother of the young grand duke and his brother,
summoned to her assistance in educating her sons the most
distinguished men in Germany; and that the university of Jena
cooperated powerfully in all her liberal plans. I was aware also
that Wieland was in high favor; and that the German Mercury (a
literary journal of eminence) was itself highly creditable to the
city of Jena, from which it issued. A beautiful and well-conducted
theatre had besides, as I knew, been lately established at Weimar.
This, it was true, had been destroyed; but that event, under common
circumstances so likely to be fatal as respected the present, had
served only to call forth the general expression of confidence in
the young prince as a restorer and upholder of all great interests,
and true to his purposes under any calamity." Thinking thus, and
thus prepossessed in favor of Weimar, it was natural that Goethe
should be eager to see the prince. Nothing was easier. It happened
that he and his brother Constantine were at this moment in
Frankfort, and Von Knebel willingly offered to present Goethe. No
sooner said than done; they repaired to the hotel, where they found
the illustrious travellers, with Count Goertz, the tutor of the

Upon this occasion an accident, rather than any previous reputation
of Goethe, was probably the determining occasion which led to his
favor with the future sovereign of Weimar. A new book lay upon the
table; that none of the strangers had read it, Goethe inferred from
observing that the leaves were as yet uncut. It was a work of
Moser, (_Patriotische Phantasien_;) and, being political
rather than literary in its topics, it presented to Goethe,
previously acquainted with its outline, an opportunity for
conversing with the prince upon subjects nearest to his heart, and
of showing that he was not himself a mere studious recluse. The
opportunity was not lost; the prince and his tutor were much
interested, and perhaps a little surprised. Such subjects have the
further advantage, according to Goethe's own illustration, that,
like the Arabian thousand and one nights, as conducted by Sultana
Scheherezade, "never ending, still beginning," they rarely come to
any absolute close, but so interweave one into another, as still to
leave behind a large arrear of interest In order to pursue the
conversation, Goethe was invited to meet them soon after at Mentz.
He kept the appointment punctually; made himself even more
agreeable; and finally received a formal invitation to enter the
service of this excellent prince, who was now beginning to collect
around him all those persons who have since made Weimar so
distinguished a name in connection with the German literature. With
some opposition from his father, who held up the rupture between
Voltaire and Frederick of Prussia as a precedent applying to all
possible connections of princes and literati, Goethe accepted the
invitation; and hence forwards, for upwards of fifty-five years, his
fortunes were bound up with those of the ducal house of Weimar.

The noble part which that house played in the great modern drama of
German politics is well known, and would have been better known had
its power been greater. But the moral value of its sacrifices and
its risks is not the less. Had greater potentates shown equal
firmness, Germany would not have been laid at the feet of Napoleon.
In 1806 the grand duke was aware of the peril which awaited the
allies of Prussia; but neither his heart nor his conscience would
allow of his deserting a friend in whose army he held a principal
command. The decisive battle took place in his own territory, and
not far from his own palace and city of Weimar. Personally he was
with the Prussian army; but his excellent consort stayed in the
palace to encourage her subjects, and as far as possible to
conciliate the enemy by her presence. The fortune of that great
day, the 14th of October, 1806, was decided early; and the awful
event was announced by a hot retreat and a murderous pursuit
through the streets of the town. In the evening Napoleon arrived in
person; and now came the trying moment. "The duchess," says an
Englishman well acquainted with Weimar and its court, "placed
herself on the top of the staircase to greet him with the formality
of a courtly reception. Napoleon started when he beheld her, _Qui
etes vous_? he exclaimed with characteristic abruptness. _Je
suis la Duchesse de Weimar. Je vous plains_, he retorted
fiercely, J'ecraserai votre mari; he then added, 'I shall dine in
my apartment,' and rushed by her. The night was spent on the part
of the soldiery in all the horrid excesses of rapine. In the
morning the duchess sent to inquire concerning the health of his
majesty the emperor, and to solicit an audience. He, who had now
benefited by his dreams, or by his reflections, returned a gracious
answer, and invited himself to breakfast with her in her
apartment." In the conversation which ensued, Napoleon asked her if
her husband were mad, upon which she justified the duke by
appealing to his own magnanimity, asking in her turn if his majesty
would have approved of his deserting the king of Prussia at the
moment when he was attacked by so potent a monarch as himself. The
rest of the conversation was in the same spirit, uniting with a
sufficient concession to the circumstances of the moment a
dignified vindication of a high-minded policy. Napoleon was deeply
impressed with respect for her, and loudly expressed it. For her
sake, indeed, he even affected to pardon her husband, thus making a
merit with her of the necessity which he felt, from other motives,
for showing forbearance towards a family so nearly allied to that
of St. Petersburg. In 1813 the grand duke was found at his post in
that great gathering of the nations which took place on the
stupendous fields of Leipsic, and was complimented by the allied
sovereigns as one of the most faithful amongst the faithful to the
great cause, yet undecided, of national independence.

With respect to Goethe, as a councillor so near the duke's person,
it may be supposed that his presence was never wanting where it
promised to be useful. In the earlier campaigns of the duke, Goethe
was his companion; but in the final contest with Napoleon be was
unequal to the fatigues of such a post. In all the functions of
peace, however, he continued to be a useful servant to the last,
though long released from all official duties. Each had indeed most
honorably earned the gratitude of the other. Goethe had surrendered
the flower of his years and the best energies of his mind to the
service of his serene master. On the other hand, that master had to
him been at once his Augustus and his Maecenas; such is his own
expression. Under him he had founded a family, raised an estate,
obtained titles and decorations from various courts; and in the
very vigor of his life he had been allowed to retire, with all the
honors of long service, to the sanctuary of his own study, and to
the cultivation of his leisure, as the very highest mode in which
he could further the public interest.

The life of Goethe was so quiet and so uniform after the year 1775,
when he may first be said to have entered into active life, by
taking service with the Duke of Weimar, that a biographer will
find hardly any event to notice, except two journeys to Italy, and
one campaign in 1792, until he draws near the close of his long
career. It cannot interest an English reader to see the dates of
his successive appointments. It is enough to know that they soon
raised him to as high a station as was consistent with literary
leisure; and that he had from the beginning enjoyed the unlimited
confidence of his sovereign. Nothing remained, in fact, for the
subject to desire which the prince had not previously volunteered.
In 1825, they were able to look back upon a course of uninterrupted
friendship, maintained through good and evil fortunes, unexampled
in their agitation and interest for fifty years. The duke
commemorated this remarkable event by a jubilee, and by a medal in
honor of Goethe. Full of years and honor, this eminent man might
now begin to think of his departure. However, his serenity
continued unbroken nearly for two years more, when his illustrious
patron died. That shock was the first which put his fortitude to
trial. In 1830 others followed; the duchess, who had won so much
admiration from Napoleon, died; then followed his own son; and
there remained little now to connect his wishes with the earth. The
family of his patron he had lived to see flourishing in his
descendants to the fourth generation. His own grandchildren were
prosperous and happy. His intellectual labors were now
accomplished. All that remained to wish for was a gentle
dismission. This he found in the spring of 1832. After a six days'
illness, which caused him no apparent suffering, on the morning of
the 22d of March he breathed away as if into a gentle sleep,
surrounded by his daughter-in-law and her children. Never was a
death more in harmony with the life it closed; both had the same
character of deep and absolute serenity.

Such is the outline of Goethe's life, traced through its principal
events. But as these events, after all, borrow their interest
mainly from the consideration allowed to Goethe as an author, and
as a model in the German literature,--_that_ being the centre
about which all secondary feelings of interest in the man must
finally revolve,--it thus becomes a duty to throw a glance over his
principal works. Dismissing his songs, to which has been ascribed
by some critics a very high value for their variety and their
lyrical enthusiasm; dismissing also a large body of short
miscellaneous poems, suited to the occasional circumstances in
which they arose; we may throw the capital works of Goethe into two
classes, philosophic novels, and dramas. The novels, which we call
_philosophic_ by way of expressing their main characteristic
in being written to serve a preconceived purpose, or to embody some
peculiar views of life, or some aspects of philosophic truth, are
three, viz., the _Werther's Leiden_; secondly, the _Wilhelm
Meister_; and, lastly, the _Wahloer-wand-schaften_. The
first two exist in English translations; and though the
_Werther_ had the disadvantage of coming to us through a
French version, already, perhaps, somewhat colored and distorted to
meet the Parisian standards of sentiment, yet, as respects Goethe
and his reputation amongst us, this wrong has been redressed, or
compensated at least, by the good fortune of his _Wilhelm
Meister_, in falling into the hands of a translator whose
original genius qualified him for sympathizing even to excess with
any real merits in that work. This novel is in its own nature and
purpose sufficiently obscure; and the commentaries which have been
written upon it by the Hurnboldts, Schlegels, &c., make the enigma
still more enigmatical. We shall not venture abroad upon an ocean
of discussion so truly dark, and at the same time so illimitable.
Whether it be qualified to excite any deep and _sincere_
feeling of one kind or another in the German mind,--in a mind
trained under German discipline,--this we will consent to waive as
a question not immediately interesting to ourselves. Enough that it
has not gained, and will not gain, any attention in this country;
and this not only because it is thoroughly deficient in all points
of attraction to readers formed upon our English literature, but
because in some capital circumstances it is absolutely repulsive.
We do not wish to offend the admirers of Goethe; but the simplicity
of truth will not allow us to conceal, that in various points of
description or illustration, and sometimes in the very outline of
the story, the _Wilhelm Meister_ is at open war, not with
decorum and good taste merely, but with moral purity and the
dignity of human nature. As a novelist, Goethe and his reputation
are problems, and likely to continue such, to the countrymen of
Mrs. Inchbald, Miss Harriet Lee, Miss Edgeworth, and Sir Walter
Scott. To the dramatic works of Goethe we are disposed to pay more
homage; but neither in the absolute amount of our homage at all
professing to approach his public admirers, nor to distribute the
proportions of this homage amongst his several performances
according to the graduations of _their_ scale. The
_Iphigenie_ is built upon the old subject of Iphigenia in
Tauris, as treated by Euripides and other Grecian dramatists; and,
if we are to believe a Schlegel, it is in beauty and effect a mere
echo or reverberation from the finest strains of the old Grecian
music. That it is somewhat nearer to the Greek model than a play
after the fashion of Racine, we grant. Setting aside such faithful
transcripts from the antique as the Samson Agonistes, we might
consent to view Goethe as that one amongst the moderns who had made
the closest approximation to the Greek stage. _Proximus_, we
might say, with Quintilian, but with him we must add," _sed lango
intervallo_; "and if in the second rank, yet nearer to the third
than to the first. Two other dramas, the _Clavigo_ and the
_Egmont_, fall below the _Iphigenie_ by the very
character of their pretensions; the first as too openly renouncing
the grandeurs of the ideal; the second as confessedly violating the
historic truth of character, without temptation to do so, and
without any consequent indemnification. The _Tasso_ has been
supposed to realize an Italian beauty of genial warmth and of sunny
repose; but from the common defect of German criticism--the absence
of all sufficient illustrations--it is as difficult to understand
the true nature and constituents of the supposed Italian standard
set up for the regulation of our judgments, as it is to measure the
degree of approach made to that standard in this particular work.
_Eugenie_ is celebrated for the artificial burnish of the
style, but otherwise has been little relished. It has the beauty of
marble sculpture, say the critics of Goethe, but also the coldness.
We are not often disposed to quarrel with these critics as
_below_ the truth in their praises; in this instance we are.
The _Eugenie_ is a fragment, or (as Goethe himself called it
in conversation) a _torso_, being only the first drama in a
trilogy or series of three dramas, each having a separate plot,
whilst all are parts of a more general and comprehensive plan. It
may be charged with languor in the movement of the action, and with
excess of illustration. Thus, _e. g_. the grief of the prince
for the supposed death of his daughter, is the monotonous topic
which occupies one entire act. But the situations, though not those
of _scenical_ distress, are so far from being unexciting,
that, on the contrary, they are too powerfully afflicting.

The lustre of all these performances, however, is eclipsed by the
unrivalled celebrity amongst German critics of the _Faust_.
Upon this it is better to say nothing than too little. How trifling
an advance has been made towards clearing the ground for any sane
criticism, may be understood from this fact, that as yet no two
people have agreed about the meaning of any separate scene, or
about the drift of the whole. Neither is this explained by saying,
that until lately the _Faust_ was a fragment; for no
additional light has dawned upon the main question since the
publication of the latter part.

One work there is of Goethe's which falls into neither of the
classes here noticed; we mean the _Hermann and Dorothea_, a
narrative poem, in hexameter verse. This appears to have given more
pleasure to readers not critical, than any other work of its
author; and it is remarkable that it traverses humbler ground, as
respects both its subject, its characters, and its scenery. From
this, and other indications of the same kind, we are disposed to
infer that Goethe mistook his destination; that his aspiring nature
misled him; and that his success would have been greater had he
confined himself to the _real_ in domestic life, without
raising his eyes to the _ideal_.

We must also mention, that Goethe threw out some novel speculations
in physical science, and particularly in physiology, in the
doctrine of colors, and in comparative anatomy, which have divided
the opinions of critics even more than any of those questions which
have arisen upon points more directly connected with his avowed
character of poet.

It now remains to say a few words by way of summing up his
pretensions as a man, and his intellectual power in the age to
which he belonged. His rank and value as a moral being are so plain
as to be legible to him who runs. Everybody must feel that his
temperament and constitutional tendency was of that happy quality,
the animal so nicely balanced with the intellectual, that with any
ordinary measure of prosperity he could not be otherwise than a
good man. He speaks himself of his own "virtue," _sans
phrase_; and we tax him with no vanity in doing so. As a young
man even at the universities, which at that time were barbarously
sensual in Germany, he was (for so much we collect from his own
Memoirs) eminently capable of self-restraint. He preserves a tone
of gravity, of sincerity, of respect for female dignity, which we
never find associated with the levity and recklessness of vice. We
feel throughout, the presence of one who, in respecting others,
respects himself; and the cheerfulness of the presiding tone
persuades us at once that the narrator is in a healthy moral
condition, fears no ill, and is conscious of having meditated none.
Yet at the same time we cannot disguise from ourselves, that the
moral temperament of Goethe was one which demanded prosperity. Had
he been called to face great afflictions, singular temptations, or
a billowy and agitated course of life, our belief is that his
nature would have been found unequal to the strife; he would have
repeated the mixed and moody character of his father. Sunny
prosperity was essential to his nature; his virtues were adapted to
that condition. And happily that was his fate. He had no personal
misfortunes; his path was joyous in this life; and even the reflex
sorrow from the calamities of his friends did not press too heavily
on his sympathies; none of these were in excess either as to degree
or duration.

In this estimate of Goethe as a moral being, few people will differ
with us, unless it were the religious bigot. And to him we must
concede thus much, that Goethe was not that religious creature
which by nature he was intended to become. This is to be regretted.
Goethe was naturally pious, and reverential towards higher natures;
and it was in the mere levity or wantonness of youthful power,
partly also through that early false bias growing out of the Lisbon
earthquake, that he falsified his original destination. Do we mean,
then, that a childish error could permanently master his
understanding? Not so; _that_ would have been corrected with
his growing strength. But having once arisen, it must for a long
time have moulded his feelings; _until_ corrected, it must
have impressed a corresponding false bias upon his practical way of
viewing things; and that sort of false bias, once established,
might long survive a mere error of the understanding. One thing is
undeniable,--Goethe had so far corrupted and clouded his natural
mind, that he did not look up to God, or the system of things
beyond the grave, with the interest of reverence and awe, but with
the interest of curiosity.

Goethe, however, in a moral estimate, will be viewed pretty
uniformly. But Goethe intellectually, Goethe as a power acting upon
the age in which he lived, that is another question. Let us put a
case; suppose that Goethe's death had occurred fifty years ago,
that is, in the year 1785, what would have been the general
impression? Would Europe have felt a shock? Would Europe have been
sensible even of the event? Not at all; it would have been
obscurely noticed in the newspapers of Germany, as the death of a
novelist who had produced some effect about ten years before. In
1832, it was announced by the post-horns of all Europe as the death
of him who had written the _Wilhelm Meister_, the
_Iphigenie_, and the _Faust_, and who had been enthroned
by some of his admirers on the same seat with Homer and Shakspeare,
as composing what they termed the _trinity of men of genius_.
And yet it is a fact, that, in the opinion of some amongst the
acknowledged leaders of our own literature for the last twenty-five
years, the _Werther_ was superior to all which followed it,
and for mere power was the paramount work of Goethe. For ourselves,
we must acknowledge our assent upon the whole to this verdict; and
at the same time we will avow our belief that the reputation of
Goethe must decline for the next generation or two, until it
reaches its just level. Three causes, we are persuaded, have
concurred to push it so far beyond the proportion of real and
genuine interest attached to his works, for in Germany his works
are little read, and in this country not at all. _First_, his
extraordinary age; for the last twenty years Goethe had been the
patriarch of the German literature. _Secondly_, the splendor
of his official rank at the court of Weimar; he was the minister
and private friend of the patriot sovereign amongst the princes of
Germany. _Thirdly_, the quantity of enigmatical and
unintelligible writing which he has designedly thrown into his
latter works, by way of keeping up a system of discussion and
strife upon his own meaning amongst the critics of his country.
These disputes, had his meaning been of any value in his own eyes,
he would naturally have settled by a few authoritative words from
himself; but it was his policy to keep alive the feud in a case
where it was of importance, that his name should continue to
agitate the world, but of none at all that he should be rightly


John Christopher Frederick von Schiller, was born at Marbach, a
small town in the duchy of Wurtemberg, on the 10th day of November,
1759. It will aid the reader in synchronizing the periods of this
great man's life with the corresponding events throughout
Christendom, if we direct his attention to the fact, that
Schiller's birth nearly coincided in point of time with that of
Robert Burns, and that it preceded that of Napoleon by about ten

The position of Schiller is remarkable. In the land of his birth,
by those who undervalue him the most, he is ranked as the second
name in German literature; everywhere else he is ranked as the
first. For us, who are aliens to Germany, Schiller is the
representative of the German intellect in its highest form; and to
him, at all events, whether first or second, it is certainly due,
that the German intellect has become a known power, and a power of
growing magnitude, for the great commonwealth of Christendom.
Luther and Kepler, potent intellects as they were, did not make
themselves known as Germans. The revolutionary vigor of the one,
the starry lustre of the other, blended with the convulsions of
reformation, or with the aurora of ascending science, in too kindly
and genial a tone to call off the attention from the work which
they performed, from the service which they promoted, to the
circumstances of their personal position. Their country, their
birth, their abode, even their separate existence, was merged in
the mighty cause to which they lent their cooperation. And thus at
the beginning of the sixteenth century, thus at the beginning of
the seventeenth, did the Titan sons of Germany defeat their own
private pretensions by the very grandeur of their merits. Their
interest as patriots was lost and confounded in their paramount
interest as cosmopolites. What they did for man and for human
dignity eclipsed what they had designed for Germany. After them
there was a long interlunar period of darkness for the land of the
Rhine and the Danube. The German energy, too spasmodically excited,
suffered a collapse. Throughout the whole of the seventeenth
century, but one vigorous mind arose for permanent effects in
literature. This was Opitz, a poet who deserves even yet to be read
with attention, but who is no more worthy to be classed as the
Dryden, whom his too partial countrymen have styled him, than the
Germany of the Thirty Years' War of taking rank by the side of
civilized and cultured England during the Cromwellian era, or
Klopstock of sitting on the same throne with Milton. Leibnitz was
the one sole potentate in the fields of intellect whom the Germany
of this country produced; and he, like Luther and Kepler, impresses
us rather as a European than as a German mind, partly perhaps from
his having pursued his self-development in foreign lands, partly
from his large circle of foreign connections, but most of all from
his having written chiefly in French or in Latin. Passing onwards
to the eighteenth century, we find, through its earlier half, an
absolute wilderness, unreclaimed and without promise of natural
vegetation, as the barren arena on which the few insipid writers of
Germany paraded. The torpor of academic dulness domineered over the
length and breadth of the land. And as these academic bodies were
universally found harnessed in the equipage of petty courts, it
followed that the lethargies of pedantic dulness were uniformly
deepened by the lethargies of aulic and ceremonial dulness; so
that, if the reader represents to himself the very abstract of
birthday odes, sycophantish dedications, and court sermons, he will
have some adequate idea of the sterility and the mechanical
formality which at that era spread the sleep of death over German
literature. Literature, the very word literature, points the
laughter of scorn to what passed under that name during the period
of Gottsched. That such a man indeed as this Gottsched, equal at
the best to the composition of a Latin grammar or a school
arithmetic, should for a moment have presided over the German
muses, stands out as in itself a brief and significant memorial,
too certain for contradiction, and yet almost too gross for belief,
of the apoplectic sleep under which the mind of central Europe at
that era lay oppressed. The rust of disuse had corroded the very
principles of activity.

And, as if the double night of academic dulness, combined with the
dulness of court inanities, had not been sufficient for the
stifling of all native energies, the feebleness of French models
(and of these moreover naturalized through still feebler
imitations) had become the law and standard for all attempts at
original composition. The darkness of night, it is usually said,
grows deeper as it approaches the dawn; and the very enormity of
that prostration under which the German intellect at this time
groaned, was the most certain pledge to any observing eye of that
intense reaction soon to stir and kindle among the smouldering
activities of this spell-bound people. This re-action, however, was
not abrupt and theatrical. It moved through slow stages and by
equable gradations. It might be said to commence from the middle of
the eighteenth century, that is, about nine years before the birth
of Schiller; but a progress of forty years had not carried it so
far towards its meridian altitude, as that the sympathetic shock
from the French Revolution was by one fraction more rude and
shattering than the public torpor still demanded. There is a
memorable correspondency throughout all members of Protestant
Christendom in whatsoever relates to literature and intellectual
advance. However imperfect the organization which binds them
together, it was sufficient even in these elder times to transmit
reciprocally from one to every other, so much of that illumination
which could be gathered into books, that no Christian state could
be much in advance of another, supposing that Popery opposed no
barriers to free communication, unless only in those points which
depended upon local gifts of nature, upon the genius of a
particular people, or upon the excellence of its institutions.
These advantages were incommunicable, let the freedom of
intercourse have been what it might. England could not send off by
posts or by heralds her iron and coals; she could not send the
indomitable energy of her population; she could not send the
absolute security of property; she could not send the good faith of
her parliaments. These were gifts indigenous to herself, either
through the temperament of her people, or through the original
endowments of her soil. But her condition of moral sentiment, her
high-toned civic elevation, her atmosphere of political feeling and
popular boldness; much of these she could and did transmit, by the
radiation of the press, to the very extremities of the German
empire. Not only were our books translated, but it is notorious to
those acquainted with German novels, or other pictures of German
society, that as early as the Seven Years' War, (1756-1763,) in
fact, from the very era when Cave and Dr. Johnson first made the
parliamentary debates accessible to the English themselves, most of
the German journals repeated, and sent forward as by telegraph,
these senatorial displays to every village throughout Germany. From
the polar latitudes to the Mediterranean, from the mouths of the
Rhine to the Euxine, there was no other exhibition of free
deliberative eloquence in any popular assembly. And the
_Luise_ of Voss alone, a metrical idyl not less valued for its
truth of portraiture than our own Vicar of Wakefield, will show,
that the most sequestered clergyman of a rural parish did not think
his breakfast equipage complete without the latest report from the
great senate that sat in London. Hence we need not be astonished
that German and English literature were found by the French
Revolution in pretty nearly the same condition of semi-vigilance
and imperfect animation. That mighty event reached us both, reached
us all, we may say, (speaking of Protestant states,) at the same
moment, by the same tremendous galvanism. The snake, the
intellectual snake, that lay in ambush among all nations, roused
itself, sloughed itself, renewed its youth, in all of them at the
same period. A new world opened upon us all; new revolutions of
thought arose; new and nobler activities were born; "and other
palms were won."

But by and through Schiller it was, as its main organ, that this
great revolutionary impulse expressed itself. Already, as we have
said, not less than forty years before the earthquake by which
France exploded and projected the scoria of her huge crater over
all Christian lands, a stirring had commenced among the dry bones
of intellectual Germany; and symptoms arose that the breath of life
would soon disturb, by nobler agitations than by petty personal
quarrels, the deathlike repose even of the German universities.
Precisely in those bodies, however, it was, in those as connected
with tyrannical governments, each academic body being shackled to
its own petty centre of local despotism, that the old spells
remained unlinked; and to them, equally remarkable as firm trustees
of truth, and as obstinate depositories of darkness or of
superannuated prejudice, we must ascribe the slowness of the German
movement on the path of reascent. Meantime the earliest
torch-bearer to the murky literature of this great land, this
crystallization of political states, was Bodmer. This man had no
demoniac genius, such as the service required; but he had some
taste, and, what was better, he had some sensibility. He lived
among the Alps; and his reading lay among the alpine sublimities of
Milton and Shakspeare. Through his very eyes he imbibed a daily
scorn of Gottsched and his monstrous compound of German coarseness
with French sensual levity. He could not look at his native Alps,
but he saw in them, and their austere grandeurs or their dread
realities, a spiritual reproach to the hollowness and falsehood of
that dull imposture which Gottsched offered by way of substitute
for nature. He was taught by the Alps to crave for something nobler
and deeper. Bodmer, though far below such a function, rose by favor
of circumstances into an apostle or missionary of truth for
Germany. He translated passages of English literature. He
inoculated with his own sympathies the more fervent mind of the
youthful Klopstock, who visited him in Switzerland. And it soon
became evident that Germany was not dead, but sleeping; and once
again, legibly for any eye, the pulses of life began to play freely
through the vast organization of central Europe.

Klopstock, however, though a fervid, a religious, and for that
reason an anti-Gallican mind, was himself an abortion. Such at
least is our own opinion of this poet. He was the child and
creature of enthusiasm, but of enthusiasm not allied with a
masculine intellect, or any organ for that capacious vision and
meditative range which his subjects demanded. He vas essentially
thoughtless, betrays everywhere a most effeminate quality of
sensibility, and is the sport of that pseudo-enthusiasm and
baseless rapture which we see so often allied with the excitement
of strong liquors. In taste, or the sense of proportions and
congruencies, or the harmonious adaptations, he is perhaps the most
defective writer extant.

But if no patriarch of German literature, in the sense of having
shaped the moulds in which it was to flow, in the sense of having
disciplined its taste or excited its rivalship by classical models
of excellence, or raised a finished standard of style, perhaps we
must concede that, on a minor scale, Klopstock did something of
that service in every one of these departments. His works were at
least Miltonic in their choice of subjects, if ludicrously
non-Miltonic in their treatment of those subjects. And, whether due
to him or not, it is undeniable that in his time the mother-tongue
of Germany revived from the most absolute degradation on record, to
its ancient purity. In the time of Gottsched, the authors of
Germany wrote a macaronic jargon, in which French and Latin made up
a considerable proportion of every sentence: nay, it happened often
that foreign words were inflected with German forms; and the whole
result was such as to remind the reader of the medical examination
in the _Malade Imaginaire_ of Moliere,

  "Quid poetea est a faire?
  Ensuita purgare," &c.

Now is it reasonable to ascribe some share in the restoration of
good to Klopstock, both because his own writings exhibit nothing of
this most abject euphuism, (a euphuism expressing itself not in
fantastic refinements on the staple of the language, but altogether
in rejecting it for foreign words and idioms,) and because he wrote
expressly on the subject of style and composition?

Wieland, meantime, if not enjoying so intense an acceptation as
Klopstock, had a more extensive one; and it is in vain to deny him
the praise of a festive, brilliant, and most versatile wit. The
Schlegels showed the haughty malignity of their ungenerous natures,
in depreciating Wieland, at a time when old age had laid a freezing
hand upon the energy which he would once have put forth in
defending himself. He was the Voltaire of Germany, and very much
more than the Voltaire; for his romantic and legendary poems are
above the level of Voltaire. But, on the other hand, he was a
Voltaire in sensual impurity. To work, to carry on a plot, to
affect his readers by voluptuous impressions,--these were the
unworthy aims of Wieland; and though a good-natured critic would
not refuse to make some allowance for a youthful poet's aberrations
in this respect, yet the indulgence cannot extend itself to mature
years. An old man corrupting his readers, attempting to corrupt
them, or relying for his effect upon corruptions already effected,
in the purity of their affections, is a hideous object; and that
must be a precarious influence indeed which depends for its
durability upon the licentiousness of men. Wieland, therefore,
except in parts, will not last as a national idol; but such he was
nevertheless for a time.

Burger wrote too little of any expansive compass to give the
measure of his powers, or to found national impression;
Lichtenberg, though a very sagacious observer, never rose into what
can be called a power, he did not modify his age; yet these were
both men of extraordinary talent, and Burger a man of undoubted
genius. On the other hand, Lessing was merely a man of talent, but
of talent in the highest degree adapted to popularity. His very
defects, and the shallowness of his philosophy, promoted his
popularity; and by comparison with the French critics on the
dramatic or scenical proprieties he is ever profound. His plummet,
if not suited to the soundless depths of Shakspeare, was able ten
times over to fathom the little rivulets of Parisian philosophy.
This he did effectually, and thus unconsciously levelled the paths
for Shakspeare, and for that supreme dominion which he has since
held over the German stage, by crushing with his sarcastic
shrewdness the pretensions of all who stood in the way. At that
time, and even yet, the functions of a literary man were very
important in Germany; the popular mind and the popular instinct
pointed one way, those of the little courts another. Multitudes of
little German states (many of which were absorbed since 1816 by the
process of _mediatizing_) made it their ambition to play at
keeping mimic armies in their pay, and to ape the greater military
sovereigns, by encouraging French literature only, and the French
language at their courts. It was this latter propensity which had
generated the anomalous macaronic dialect, of which we have already
spoken as a characteristic circumstance in the social features of
literary Germany during the first half of the eighteenth century.
Nowhere else, within the records of human follies, do we find a
corresponding case, in which the government and the patrician
orders in the state, taking for granted, and absolutely postulating
the utter worthlessness for intellectual aims of those in and by
whom they maintained their own grandeur and independence,
undisguisedly and even professedly sought to ally themselves with a
foreign literature, foreign literati, and a foreign language. In
this unexampled display of scorn for native resources, and the
consequent collision between the two principles of action, all
depended upon the people themselves. For a time the wicked and most
profligate contempt of the local governments for that native merit
which it was their duty to evoke and to cherish, naturally enough
produced its own justification. Like Jews or slaves, whom all the
world have agreed to hold contemptible, the German literati found
it hard to make head against so obstinate a prejudgment; and too
often they became all that they were presumed to be. _Sint
Maecenates, non deerunt, Flacce, Marones._ And the converse too
often holds good--that when all who should have smiled scowl upon a
man, he turns out the abject thing they have predicted. Where
Frenchified Fredericks sit upon German thrones, it should not
surprise us to see a crop of Gottscheds arise as the best fruitage
of the land. But when there is any latent nobility in the popular
mind, such scorn, by its very extremity, will call forth its own
counteraction. It was perhaps good for Germany that a prince so
eminent in one aspect as _Fritz der einziger,_[Footnote: _"
Freddy the unique;"_ which is the name by which the Prussians
expressed their admiration of the martial and indomitable, though
somewhat fantastic, king.] should put on record so emphatically his
intense conviction, that no good thing could arise out of Germany.
This creed was expressed by the quality of the French minds which
he attracted to his court. The very refuse and dregs of the
Parisian coteries satisfied his hunger for French garbage; the very
offal of their shambles met the demand of his palate; even a
Maupertuis, so long as he could produce a French baptismal
certificate, was good enough to manufacture into the president of a
Berlin academy. Such scorn challenged a reaction: the contest lay
between the thrones of Germany and the popular intellect, and the
final result was inevitable. Once aware that they were insulted,
once enlightened to the full consciousness of the scorn which
trampled on them as intellectual and predestined Helots, even the
mild-tempered Germans became fierce, and now began to aspire, not
merely under the ordinary instincts of personal ambition, but with
a vindictive feeling, and as conscious agents of retribution. It
became a pleasure with the German author, that the very same works
which elevated himself, wreaked his nation upon their princes, and
poured retorted scorn upon their most ungenerous and unparental
sovereigns. Already, in the reign of the martial Frederick, the men
who put most weight of authority into his contempt of Germans,
--Euler, the matchless Euler, Lambert, and Immanuel Kant,--had
vindicated the preeminence of German mathematics. Already, in 1755,
had the same Immanuel Kant, whilst yet a probationer for the chair
of logic in a Prussian university, sketched the outline of that
philosophy which has secured the admiration, though not the assent
of all men known and proved to have understood it, of all men able
to state its doctrines in terms admissible by its disciples.
Already, and even previously, had Haller, who wrote in German,
placed himself at the head of the current physiology. And in the
fields of science or of philosophy, the victory was already decided
for the German intellect in competition with the French.

But the fields of literature were still comparatively barren.
Klopstock was at least an anomaly; Lessing did not present himself
in the impassioned walks of literature; Herder was viewed too much
in the exclusive and professional light of a clergyman; and, with
the exception of John Paul Bichter, a man of most original genius,
but quite unfitted for general popularity, no commanding mind arose
in Germany with powers for levying homage from foreign nations,
until the appearance, as a great scenical poet, of Frederick

The father of this great poet was Caspar Schiller, an officer in
the military service of the Duke of Wurtemberg. He had previously
served as a surgeon in the Bavarian army; but on his final return
to his native country of Wurtemberg, and to the service of his
native prince, he laid aside his medical character for ever, and
obtained a commission as ensign and adjutant. In 1763, the peace of
Paris threw him out of his military employment, with the nominal
rank of captain. But, having conciliated the duke's favor, he was
still borne on the books of the ducal establishment; and, as a
planner of ornamental gardens, or in some other civil capacity, he
continued to serve his serene highness for the rest of his life.

The parents of Schiller were both pious, upright persons, with that
loyal fidelity to duty, and that humble simplicity of demeanor
towards their superiors, which is so often found among the
unpretending natives of Germany. It is probable, however, that
Schiller owed to his mother exclusively the preternatural
endowments of his intellect. She was of humble origin, the daughter
of a baker, and not so fortunate as to have received much
education. But she was apparently rich in gifts of the heart and
the understanding. She read poetry with delight; and through the
profound filial love with which she had inspired her son, she found
it easy to communicate her own literary tastes. Her husband was not
illiterate, and had in mature life so laudably applied himself to
the improvement of his own defective knowledge, that at length he
thought himself capable of appearing before the public as an
author. His book related simply to the subjects of his professional
experience as a horticulturist, and was entitled _Die Baumzurht
im Grossen_(On the Management of Forests.) Some merit we must
suppose it to have had, since the public called for a second
edition of it long after his own death, and even after that of his
illustrious son. And although he was a plain man, of no
pretensions, and possibly even of slow faculties, he has left
behind him a prayer, in which there is one petition of sublime and
pathetic piety, worthy to be remembered by the side of Agar's wise
prayer against the almost equal temptations of poverty and riches.
At the birth of his son, he had been reflecting with sorrowful
anxiety, not unmingled with self-reproach, on his own many
disqualifications for conducting the education of the child.

But at length, reading in his own manifold imperfections but so
many reiterations of the necessity that he should rely upon God's
bounty, converting his very defects into so many arguments of hope
and confidence in heaven, he prayed thus: "Oh God, that knowest my
poverty in good gifts for my son's inheritance, graciously permit
that, even as the want of bread became to thy Son's hunger-stricken
flock in the wilderness the pledge of overflowing abundance, so
likewise my darkness may, in its sad extremity, carry with it the
measure of thy unfathomable light; and because I, thy worm, cannot
give to my son the least of blessings, do thou give the greatest;
because in my hands there is not any thing, do thou from thine pour
out all things; and that temple of a new-born spirit, which I
cannot adorn even with earthly ornaments of dust and ashes, do thou
irradiate with the celestial adornment of thy presence, and finally
with that peace that passeth all understanding." Reared at the feet
of parents so pious and affectionate, Schiller would doubtless pass
a happy childhood; and probably to this utter tranquillity of his
earlier years, to his seclusion from all that could create pain, or
even anxiety, we must ascribe the unusual dearth of anecdotes from
this period of his life; a dearth which has tempted some of his
biographers into improving and embellishing some puerile stories,
which a man of sense will inevitably reject as too trivial for his
gravity or too fantastical for his faith. That nation is happy,
according to a common adage, which furnishes little business to the
historian; for such a vacuity in facts argues a condition of
perfect peace and silent prosperity. That childhood is happy, or
may generally be presumed such, which has furnished few records of
external experience, little that has appeared in doing or in
suffering to the eyes of companions; for the child who has been
made happy by early thoughtfulness, and by infantine struggles with
the great ideas of his origin and his destination, (ideas which
settle with a deep, dove-like brooding upon the mind of childhood,
more than of mature life, vexed with inroads from the noisy world,)
will not manifest the workings of his spirit by much of external
activity. The _fallentis semita vitae_, that path of noiseless
life, which eludes and deceives the conscious notice both of its
subject and of all around him, opens equally to the man and to the
child; and the happiest of all childhoods will have been that of
which the happiness has survived and expressed itself, not in
distinct records, but in deep affection, in abiding love, and the
hauntings of meditative power.

Such a childhood, in the bosom of maternal tenderness, was probably
passed by Schiller; and his first awaking to the world of strife
and perplexity happened in his fourteenth year. Up to that period
his life had been vagrant, agreeably to the shifting necessities of
the ducal service, and his education desultory and domestic. But in
the year 1773 he was solemnly entered as a member of a new
academical institution, founded by the reigning duke, and recently
translated to his little capital of Stuttgard. This change took
place at the special request of the duke, who, under the mask of
patronage, took upon himself the severe control of the whole simple
family. The parents were probably both too humble and dutiful in
spirit towards one whom they regarded in the double light of
sovereign lord and of personal benefactor, ever to murmur at the
ducal behests, far less to resist them. The duke was for them an
earthly providence; and they resigned themselves, together with
their child, to the disposal of him who dispensed their earthly
blessings, not less meekly than of Him whose vicegerent they
presumed him to be. In such a frame of mind, requests are but
another name for commands; and thus it happened that a second
change arose upon the first, even more determinately fatal to the
young Schiller's happiness. Hitherto he had cherished a day-dream
pointing to the pastoral office in some rural district, as that
which would harmonize best with his intellectual purposes, with his
love of quiet, and by means of its preparatory requirements, best
also with his own peculiar choice of studies. But this scheme he
now found himself compelled to sacrifice; and the two evils which
fell upon him concurrently in his new situation were, first, the
formal military discipline and monotonous routine of duty;
secondly, the uncongenial direction of the studies, which were
shaped entirely to the attainment of legal knowledge, and the
narrow service of the local tribunals. So illiberal and so
exclusive a system of education was revolting to the expansive mind
of Schiller; and the military bondage under which this system was
enforced, shocked the aspiring nobility of his moral nature, not
less than the technical narrowness of the studies shocked his
understanding. In point of expense the whole establishment cost
nothing at all to those parents who were privileged servants of the
duke: in this number were the parents of Schiller, and that single
consideration weighed too powerfully upon his filial piety to allow
of his openly murmuring at his lot; while on _their_ part the
parents were equally shy of encouraging a disgust which too
obviously tended to defeat the promises of ducal favor. This system
of monotonous confinement was therefore carried to its completion,
and the murmurs of the young Schiller were either dutifully
suppressed, or found vent only in secret letters to a friend. In
one point only Schiller was able to improve his condition; jointly
with the juristic department, was another for training young
aspirants to the medical profession. To this, as promising a more
enlarged scheme of study, Schiller by permission transferred
himself in 1775. But whatever relief he might find in the nature of
his new studies, he found none at all in the system of personal
discipline which prevailed.

Under the oppression of this detested system, and by pure reaction
against its wearing persecutions, we learn from Schiller himself,
that in his nineteenth year he undertook the earliest of his
surviving plays, the Robbers, beyond doubt the most tempestuous,
the most volcanic, we might say, of all juvenile creations anywhere
recorded. He himself calls it "a monster," and a monster it is; but
a monster which has never failed to convulse the heart of young
readers with the temperament of intellectual enthusiasm and
sensibility. True it is, and nobody was more aware of that fact
than Schiller himself in after years, the characters of the three
Moors, father and sons, are mere impossibilities; and some readers,
in whom the judicious acquaintance with human life in its realities
has outrun the sensibilities, are so much shocked by these
hypernatural phenomena, that they are incapable of enjoying the
terrific sublimities which on that basis of the visionary do really
exist. A poet, perhaps Schiller might have alleged, is entitled to
assume hypothetically so much in the previous positions or
circumstances of his agents as is requisite to the basis from which
he starts. It is undeniable that Shakspeare and others have availed
themselves of this principle, and with memorable success.
Shakspeare, for instance, _postulates_ his witches, his
Caliban, his Ariel: grant, he virtually says, such modes of
spiritual existence or of spiritual relations as a possibility; do
not expect me to demonstrate this, and upon that single concession
I will rear a superstructure that shall be self-consistent; every
thing shall be _internally_ coherent and reconciled, whatever
be its _external_ relations as to our human experience. But
this species of assumption, on the largest scale, is more within
the limits of credibility and plausible verisimilitude when applied
to modes of existence, which, after all, are in such total darkness
to us, (the limits of the possible being so undefined and shadowy
as to what can or cannot exist,) than the very slightest liberties
taken with human character, or with those principles of action,
motives, and feelings, upon which men would move under given
circumstances, or with the modes of action which in common prudence
they would be likely to adopt. The truth is, that, as a coherent
work of art, the Robbers is indefensible; but, however monstrous it
may be pronounced, it possesses a power to agitate and convulse,
which will always obliterate its great faults to the young, and to
all whose judgment is not too much developed. And the best apology
for Schiller is found in his own words, in recording the
circumstances and causes under which this anomalous production
arose. "To escape," says he, "from the formalities of a discipline
which was odious to my heart, I sought a retreat in the world of
ideas and shadowy possibilities, while as yet I knew nothing at all
of that human world from which I was harshly secluded by iron bars.
Of men, the actual men in this world below, I knew absolutely
nothing at the time when I composed my Robbers. Four hundred human
beings, it is true, were my fellow-prisoners in this abode; but
they were mere tautologies and reiterations of the self-same
mechanic creature, and like so many plaster casts from the same
original statue. Thus situated, of necessity I failed. In making
the attempt, my chisel brought out a monster, of which [and that
was fortunate] the world had no type or resemblance to show."

Meantime this demoniac drama produced very opposite results to
Schiller's reputation. Among the young men of Germany it was
received with an enthusiasm absolutely unparalleled, though it is
perfectly untrue that it excited some persons of rank and splendid
expectations (as a current fable asserted) to imitate Charles Moor
in becoming robbers. On the other hand, the play was of too
powerful a cast not in any case to have alarmed his serenity the
Duke of Wurtemberg; for it argued a most revolutionary mind, and
the utmost audacity of self-will. But besides this general ground
of censure, there arose a special one, in a quarter so remote, that
this one fact may serve to evidence the extent as well as intensity
of the impression made. The territory of the Grisons had been
called by Spiegelberg, one of the robbers, "the Thief's Athens."
Upon this the magistrates of that country presented a complaint to
the duke; and his highness having cited Schiller to his presence,
and severely reprimanded him, issued a decree that this dangerous
young student should henceforth confine himself to his medical

The persecution which followed exhibits such extraordinary
exertions of despotism, even for that land of irresponsible power,
that we must presume the duke to have relied more upon the hold
which he had upon Schiller through his affection for parents so
absolutely dependent on his highness's power, than upon any laws,
good or bad, which he could have pleaded as his warrant. Germany,
however, thought otherwise of the new tragedy than the serene
critic of Wurtemburg: it was performed with vast applause at the
neighboring city of Mannheim; and thither, under a most excusable
interest in his own play, the young poet clandestinely went. On his
return he was placed under arrest. And soon afterwards, being now
thoroughly disgusted, and, with some reason, alarmed by the tyranny
of the duke, Schiller finally eloped to Mannheim, availing himself
of the confusion created in Stuttgard by the visit of a foreign

At Mannheim he lived in the house of Dalberg, a man of some rank
and of sounding titles, but in Mannheim known chiefly as the
literary manager (or what is called director) of the theatre. This
connection aided in determining the subsequent direction of
Schiller's talents; and his Fiesco, his Intrigue and Love, his Don
Carlos, and his Maria Stuart, followed within a short period of
years. None of these are so far free from the faults of the Robbers
as to merit a separate notice; for with less power, they are almost
equally licentious.

Finally, however, he brought out his Wallenstein, an immortal
drama, and, beyond all competition, the nearest in point of
excellence to the dramas of Shakspeare. The position of the
characters of Max Piccolomini and the Princess Thekla is the finest
instance of what, in a critical sense, is called _relief,_
that literature offers. Young, innocent, unfortunate, among a camp
of ambitious, guilty, and blood-stained men, they offer a depth and
solemnity of impression which is equally required by way of
contrast and of final repose.

From Mannheim, where he had a transient love affair with Laura
Dalberg, the daughter of his friend the director, Schiller removed
to Jena, the celebrated university in the territory of Weimar. The
grand duke of that German Florence was at this time gathering
around him the most eminent of the German intellects; and he was
eager to enroll Schiller in the body of his professors. In 1799
Schiller received the chair of civil history; and not long after he
married Miss Lengefeld, with whom he had been for some time
acquainted. In 1803 he was ennobled; that is, he was raised to the
rank of gentleman, and entitled to attach the prefix of _Von_
to his name. His income was now sufficient for domestic comfort and
respectable independence; while in the society of Goethe, Herder,
and other eminent wits, he found even more relaxation for his
intellect, than his intellect, so fervent and so self-sustained,
could require.

Meantime the health of Schiller was gradually undermined: his lungs
had been long subject to attacks of disease; and the warning
indications which constantly arose of some deep-seated organic
injuries in his pulmonary system ought to have put him on his guard
for some years before his death. Of all men, however, it is
remarkable that Schiller was the most criminally negligent of his
health; remarkable, we say, because for a period of four years
Schiller had applied himself seriously to the study of medicine.
The strong coffee, and the wine, which he drank, may not have been
so injurious as his biographers suppose; but his habit of sitting
up through the night, and defrauding his wasted frame of all
natural and restorative sleep, had something in it of that guilt
which belongs to suicide. On the 9th of May, 1805, his complaint
reached its crisis. Early in the morning he became delirious; at
noon his delirium abated; and at four in the afternoon he fell into
a gentle unagitated sleep, from which he soon awoke. Conscious that
he now stood on the very edge of the grave, he calmly and fervently
took a last farewell of his friends. At six in the evening he fell
again into sleep, from which, however, he again awoke once more to
utter the memorable declaration, "that many things were growing
plain and clear to his understanding." After this the cloud of
sleep again settled upon him; a sleep which soon changed into the
cloud of death.

This event produced a profound impression throughout Germany. The
theatres were closed at Weimar, and the funeral was conducted with
public honors. The position in point of time, and the peculiar
services of Schiller to the German literature, we have already
stated: it remains to add, that in person he was tall, and of a
strong bony structure, but not muscular, and strikingly lean. His
forehead was lofty, his nose aquiline, and his mouth almost of
Grecian beauty. With other good points about his face, and with
auburn hair, it may be presumed that his whole appearance was pleasing
and impressive, while in latter years the character of sadness and
contemplative sensibility deepened the impression of his
countenance. We have said enough of his intellectual merit, which
places him in our judgment at the head of the Trans-Rhenish
literature. But we add in concluding, that Frederick von Schiller
was something more than a great author; he was also in an eminent
sense a great man; and his works are not more worthy of being
studied for their singular force and originality, than his moral
character from its nobility and aspiring grandeur.

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can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.