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“We approached the church through an avenue of limes, and entered by a Gothic porch, highly ornamented, with carved doors of massive oak. The interior is spacious, and the architecture and embellishments superior to those of most country churches. There are several ancient monuments of nobility and gentry, over some of which hang funeral escutcheons, and banners dropping piecemeal from the walls. The tomb of Shakspeare is in the chancel. The place is solemn and sepulchral. Tall elms wave before the pointed windows; and the Avon, which runs at a short distance from the walls, keeps up a low perpetual
A flat stone marks the spot where the bard is buried. There are four lines inscribed on it, said to have been written by himself, and which have in them something extremely awful. If they are indeed his own, they show that solicitude about the quiet grave which seems natural to fine sensibilities and thoughtful
Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
“Just over the grave, in a niche of the wall, is a bust of Shakspeare, put up shortly after his death, and considered as a resemblance. The aspect is pleasant and serene, with a finely-arched forehead; and I thought I could read in it clear indications of that cheerful, social disposition by which he was as much characterized among his contemporaries as by the vastness of his genius. The inscription mentions his age at the time of his decease-fifty-three years; an untimely death for the world; for what fruit might not have been expected from the golden autumn of such a mind, sheltered as it was from the stormy vicissitudes of life, and flourishing in the sunshine of popular and royal favour? The inscription on the tombstone has not been without its effect. It has prevented the removal of his remains from the bosom of his native place to Westminster Abbey, which was at one time contemplated. A few years since also, as some labourers were digging to
make an adjoining vault, the earth caved in, so as to leave a vacant space almost like an arch, through which one might have reached into his
grave. No one, however, presumed to meddle with his remains, so awfully guarded by a malediction; and lest any of the idle or the curious, or any collector of relics, should be tempted to commit depredations, the old sexton kept watch over the place for two days, until the vault was finished, and the aperture closed again, He told me that he had made bold to look in at the hole, but could see neither coffin nor bones; nothing but dust. It was something, I thought, to have seen the dust of Shakspeare.
“Next to his grave are those of his wife, his favourite daughter, Mrs. Hall, and others of his family. On a tomb close by, also, is a full-length effigy of his old friend John Combe, of usurious memory; on whom he is said to have written a ludicrous epitaph. There are other monuments around, but the mind refuses to dwell on any thing that is not connected with Shakspeare. His idea pervades the place: the whole pile seems but as his mausoleum. The feelings, no longer checked and thwarted by doubt, here indulge in perfect confidence; other traces of him may be false or dubious, but here is palpable evidence and absolute certainty. As I trod the sounding pavement, there was something intense and thrilling in the idea, that, in very truth, the remains of Shakspeare were mouldering beneath my feet. It was a long time before I could prevail upon myself to leave the place; and as I passed through the churchyard I plucked a branch from one of the yew u ees, the only relic I have brought from Stratford. He who has sought renown about the world, and has reaped a full harvest of worldly favour, will find, after all
, there is no love, no admiration, no applause, so sweet to the soul as that which springs up in his native place. It is there that he seeks to be gathered in
peace and honour among his kindred and his early friends. And when the.weary heart and failing head begin to warn him that the evening of life is drawing on, he turns, as fondly as does the infant to the mother's arms, to sink to sleep in the bosom of the scene of his childhood.
How would it have cheered the spirit of the youthful bard, when, wandering forth in disgrace upon a doubtful world, he cast back a heavy look upon his paternal home, could he have foreseen that, before many years, he should return to it covered with renown; that his name should become the boast and glory of his native place; that his ashes should be religiously guarded as its most precious treasure; and that its lessening spire, on which his eyes were fixed in tearful contemplation, should one day become the beacon, towering amidst the gentle landscape, to guide the literary pilgrim of every nation to his tomb !"
The critics upon the works of Shakspeare, both among the writers of his own day, and in modern times, are too numerous to particularize. The scholars of Germany, France, and other European countries, have composed philosophical and brilliant dissertations on his genius. These tributes to the memory of the most original and extraordinary writer the world ever produced, if collected together, would form a volume of no inconsiderable magnitude. Dr. Drake published, some years ago, a most interesting work, containing a great variety of memorials of this description. Of the many eminent English authors, who have endeavoured to do justice to the merits of Shakspeare, may be mentioned Dr. Johnson. His preface to Shakspeare's works, which he proposed to edit, is a masterpiece of critical composition. We select the following extracts :
“ Voltaire expresses his wonder that our author's extravagances are endured by a nation which has seen the tragedy of Cato.' Let him be answered, that Addison speaks the language of poets, and Shakspeare of men.
We find in Cato innumerable beauties which enamour us of its author, but we see nothing that acquaints us with human sentiments or human actions; we place it with the fairest and the noblest progeny which judgment propagates by conjunction with learning; but 'Othello' is the vigorous and vivacious offspring of observation impregnated by genius. 'Cato' affords a splendid exhibition of artificial and fictitious manners, and delivers just and noble sentiments, in
diction easy, elevated, and harmonious, but its hopes and fears communicate no vibration to the heart; the composition refers us only to the writer; we pronounce the name of Cato, but we think of Addison.
“The work of a correct and regular writer is a garden accurately formed and diligently planted, varied with shades, and scented with flowers. The composition of Shakspeare is a forest, in which oaks extend their branches, and pines tower in the air, interspersed sometimes with weeds and brambles, and sometimes giving shelter to myrtles and to roses ; filling the eye with awful
pomp, and gratifying the mind with endless diversity. Other poets display cabinets of precious rarities, minutely finished, wrought into shape, and polished into brightness. Shakspeare opens a mine which contains gold and diamonds in inexhaustible plenty, though clouded by incrustations, debased by impurities, and mingled with a mass of meaner minerals."
“The sand heaped by one flood is scattered by another, but the rock always continues in its place. The stream of time, which is continually washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakspeare. If there be in every nation a style which never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so consonant and congenial to the analogy and principles of its respective language, as to remain settled and unaltered; this style is probably to be sought in the common intercourse of life, among those who speak only to be understood, without ambition of elegance. The polite are always catching modish innovations, and the learned depart from established forms of speech in hope of finding or making better; those who wish for distinction forsake the vulgar, when the vulgar is right; but there is a conversation above grossness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and where this poet seems to have gathered his comic dialogue. He is, therefore, more agreeable to the ears of the present age than any other author equally remote; and among his other excellences deserves to be studied as one of the original masters of our language.”
Dryden, who was an accurate judge of true poetical genius, thus speaks of the greatest of all dramatic writers :
“He was the man, who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily. When he describes any thing, you more than see it you feel it too. Those who accuse him of having wanted learning, give him the greater commendation. naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him an injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him; no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as higb above the rest of the poets
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.
“ The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better done in Shakspeare; and however others are now generally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem. And in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation was at its highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakspeare far above him."
To the universal genius of Shakspeare, there was never a more eloquent tribute written than the subjoined from the pen of Lord Jeffrey, published in vol. 28 of “The Edinburgh Review.” The article from which it is taken is a masterly critique on Hazlitt's “ Lectures on the British Poets," —oneo the most pleasing works upon English literature in our language :-“Many persons are very sensible of the effect of fine poetry upon their